Apr 212015
 

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The Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE Lens Review. Best 35mm Lens Ever.

Yep. I said it. The spoiler. This is the best full frame 35mm lens I have ever used in my life. But remember, I only review items I love and adore, so if there is something out there I have not reviewed it is because I am not a fan of it, plain and simple. Before anyone says “you like everything you review” – well, YES this is true as I have said over 1,000 times here. If this lens was a dog it would not have been reviewed. So what you see me review on these pages is all gear that I love and adore because if it sucks, it is not worth my time, my 40-60 hours that it takes to do a review like this. With that said, this lens is indeed the best 35 OPTICALLY I have ever used.

This image was shot indoor, f/1.4, and with only a bit of natural light coming in from my kitchen door window. Click it for larger. 

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Yes.

Better than ANY 35mm lens I have used in life, and that includes those from Nikon, Canon, Leica, or whoever…and I have used the best of the best. At f/1.4 it is stunning. Absolutely stunning. The lens is a masterpiece of optical quality from detail to color to bokeh. It is auto focus and the ONLY weakness it has is that it is quite large. I am used to Leica lenses, or smaller Sony lenses and this guy is a beast. No bigger than a Nikon or Canon or any DSLR lens, in fact, it is a teeny bit smaller than those beats income ways but not by much. Weight is around the same with this lens being about a few ounces heavier than the Canon and Nikon. (1.32lbs  vs 1.4lbs). Even so, after 2+ months with the lens, I am so impressed that I can confidently say this IS INDEED the best 35mm lens I have ever used, or reviewed or held. Yes, beats the Sigma 35 1.4 Art lens for those that were about to ask.

Below is the video I made for my 1st look report which was published HERE

Paired with the Sony A7, A7r, A7II or A7s, this lens delivers the goods but I especially loved it on the A7II. To me, the A7II is the pinnacle of the A7 series. The build, design, features, 5 Axis IS, Af speed, and superb low light capabilities really flesh out this system and mature it to another level. Yes, I own an A7s as well and have shot with the A7R and A7 extensively but the A7II, for me, is the most polished and nice A7 body yet. Notice I said YET as I know there is something else on the way,  I feel it in my bones, and hey, this is Sony..and they are on a roll..and I bet they want to strike while the iron is HOT. In the mirrorless world I feel Sony and Olympus are on fire with Fuji right behind. Nikon and Canon are seriously MIA with nothing new, fresh or competitive and the others keep releasing cameras hoping they will stick, and they never do. Leica is always beautiful but most can not afford a Leica setup. Sony is doing most things RIGHT today from design, performance, new lenses and price.

This lens is a tour de force of a 35mm. Versatile for low light and AF which is accurate and pretty fast for a 35 1.4 design. This was shot inside a limo at night. No problem ;) ISO 4000, ZERO NR, f/1.4

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Want to get up close and personal? The 35 1.4 has a minimum focus distance of .3 Meters which is GOOD.  1.4

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AF is snappy, even in dim light on the A7II – 1.4

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We can no longer say that “There is a lack of lenses for the Sony FE system”..because they now have MANY amazing lenses. The A7 system is less than two years old and Sony now has SO many good lenses..

1. The 55 1.8 Zeiss – A fantastic and sharp lens that gets rave reviews. 

2. The 35 2.8 Zeiss – Another fantastic sharp lens with the Zeiss pop. 

3. The 16-35 Zeiss – a superb wide-angle zoom, this one is one of the best I have tested for Ultra wide. (Review)

4. The 28 f/2 (stunner for cheap) – This is a must own lens, a superb value for under $450 (Review)

5. The new 35 1.4 (this review)

6. A new 90mm Macro! (Review soon)

7. Wide angle and fish attachment for the 28 (Review soon)

8. A pro level 70-200 – The standard 70-200 and this one is also fantastic.

8. Some mega pro zooms and some kit zooms

10. Zeiss Loxia Primes, the 35 and 50 (review of the 35 is HERE, the 50 is HERE)

and more.. From fisheye to ultra wide to telephoto to Macro Sony is now fleshing out the FE full frame lens system for the A7 series. They released lenses pretty fast and more will be on the way as there are many more planned lenses coming like a fast portrait prime. I feel an 85 and 135 will be here eventually, sooner rather than later.

This lens is stunning. This time at f/2. Crisp all the way around.

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I have quite a few image of Katie in this review as I used the lens for some of her Prom images..this one, f/1.4, converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure

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The Zeiss Magic & Pop Will Wow You

This lens is a Sony/Zeiss collaboration and it shows. Zeiss is a legend and has always been lumped in with Leica when it comes to image quality though they have always had their differences. With Zeiss you will usually get more 3D pop, richer and warmer color and USUALLY they are a tad softer than the Leica counterpart. With this lens, you are getting all of the 3D pop and color but even more detail where you need it over a Leica or other lens. At f/1.4 this lens could NOT be sharper. If it was, it would not be a good thing. As it is, it is PERFECT. When focusing on eyes (see and click on the very 1st image in this review) you can see what I mean. But it is here in all images I have shot with the lens so far and I have not had one hiccup with this lens, at all.

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With this lens, shooting wide open is where you will get the true character of the lens. If you want to shoot at f/2.8, you would be better off with the much smaller and lighter Zeiss 35 2.8 or Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia. THIS lens, the f/1.4 Zeiss, seems optimized for wide open shooting, and this is where its beauty lies. Much like the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux FLE which is the lens that used to hold my title for best 35mm lens ever made for full frame digital. Today the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 take that title as it is just so good, again, with the only weakness being the size. There is no distortion, there is no offending CA or problems, there is no vignetting and there is no softness or focus issues. I feel the reason for all of this is because Sony and Zeiss REALLY took their time with it and wanted it to be a WOW kind of lens. This is also why it is large. If it were smaller it would have issues like distortion and other things so I think it is fantastic that Sony chose to go the route of optical beauty vs optical issues.

I have seen 1-2 reports of people buying this lens and saying it is “soft”. This is so not the case. If you are getting soft images with this lens you either have a bad copy, have an issue with your camera body, are not focusing in the right spot (shallow DOF here is VERY THIN at 1.4) or you are mistaking Bokeh for being Out of Focus. There is nothing soft about this lens in any way, shape or form.

As I look over the images I have shot with the lens I am thrilled that Sony did what they had to do as they created a masterpiece. Anyone who loves t he 35mm focal length will be THRILLED with this lens on any A7 series body. I used it mainly on my A7II which is the A7 I use 90% of the time these days. Still own and love my A7s  but the A7II just clicks all of my boxes.

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This lens is good for color or for B&W conversions as you can see above and below. You can go light on the contrast or heavy on the contrast. By default, this lens puts out a medium contrast  – not too hard and not too soft.

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But one thing remains a constant with this lens. It delivers the goods each and every time I bring it out or use it. From deep rich color, to beautiful black and white to nice creamy bokeh (background blur) that will not give you a headache, this lens shows what the Sony A7 system is capable of. I have tried the Sigma Art lenses. I have shot with the Canon 35L on a 5DII, I have shot with the Nikon 35 1.4 on a D800 as well as the Zeiss ZF 35 1.4. I have owned and shot with the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, all versions. It is safe to say that I have had great experience with all full frame 35 1.4 lenses.

This Sony is the best one I have ever used for my tastes as it does everything right. Period. The one that comes closest is the Zeiss 35 1.4 Zf, then the Sigma Art 35 1.4. Last place would be the Canon 35L as it is getting a but long in the tooth, even when used on a 5DII or III. The size of the DSLR 35 1.4’s range from Large to Beastly and this Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 is at the large end. It’s a beast, and a few ounces heavier than the Nikon or Canon (1.4 vs 1.32lbs). After a few snaps you do get used to the size, though I admit I will always prefer a smaller lens. If this lens could be made in a small size it would be one of those legendary must own lenses.

The Leica 35 Lux is small, but manual focus only, a not so close minimum focus distance (.7 meters vs .3 of the Sony) and it does not offer the overall total IQ of this Sony/Zeiss. It is also $5400, so quite a bit more expensive. It is a jewel though, a beautiful legendary lens that was at the top of the heap for IQ. It is good to know that this Sony is up there in the same league as the Leica at a fraction of the cost.

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Before I end this quick lens review, let me show you a few comparison shots. Below you will find the same image taken with the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, the Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia, the 35 2.8 Zeiss, the 16-35 at 35mm and for grins, the Leica 35 Summicron at f/2 (I do not own the Lux). I will show each lens shot at f/2 to keep it the same aperture except the 16-35 will be at f/4 as  that is wide open for that particular lens and the 35 2.8 at 2.8 for the same reason.

It is a LARGE lens  – left to right: Leica 35 Cron, Zeiss 35 2.8, Zeiss Loxia 35, Zeiss 16-35, Zeiss 35 1.4

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I am not looking for detail or sharpness here, as ANY of these lenses will deliver on that. ALL are fantastic in their own right. But I am looking at color, pop, depth, bokeh, and overall character of image, which is why 99% of us buy these types of lenses…character. A lens like this is not bought for low light or high ISO use, it is mainly bought because so many of us LOVE the character of a fast lens.

YOU MUST click images for the correct view..

1st the 35 1.4 at f/2 on the A7II

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Now the Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 at f/2 on the A7II

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Now the 35 2.8 on the A7II (at 2.8)

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Now the 16-35 at 35 at f/4

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and finally, the 35 Summicron on the A7II

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Which do YOU prefer? 

I still prefer the Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 but ALL are great, even the 16-35 at 35mm and f/4 renders a great image with contrast and pop. To me, the most amount of depth and 3D comes from the Sony 35 1.4 but all are great and most would have a hard time figuring out which is which. Goes to show, most lenses made today are good and get the job done though these lenses above are all $800 and up, all the way to $3300 for the Leica 35 Cron (though it is my #2 pick as the IQ is fantastic and the size is TINY). I will say if all you care about is corner to corner perfection your best bet is the Sony 35 2.8, but it will lack in Character compared to the 35 1.4, Zeiss Loxia, Leica cron, etc.

DETAILS!

Below is a 100% crop from this 35 1.4 Zeiss on the A7II. Plenty of detail for me! THIS is wide open!

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My Final Word on the Zeiss 35 1.4 for the Sony FE System

I love this lens. Period. For me, it is the absolute best 35mm 1.4 lens I have ever shot with, used or tested when it comes to image quality. As you know, I do not go by charts or graphs, I go by real world shooting. Using a camera and lens for what they are meant to be used for..images..memories…the main reason we take pictures! For pros, if you have a 35mm in your kit you owe it to yourself to give this one a try. It is a beauty of a lens and now takes the title as the best 35mm lens I have tested or used. THAT says a lot. If you have this lens and you are not getting astounding quality with it then you may have a dud, which is not cool, but it is NOT the norm for this piece of glass. For me, this lens is perfect for just about anything you want to shoot. Environmental portraits, fashion, every day life, landscapes, still life or what have you.

This lens takes the A7 series to the next level. AF is speedy for a 35 1.4 (bested the Art 35 1.4 when I used it on the Canon 6D) and 100% accurate on my A7II. Never did I get a misfocus. I also shot some personal images on my A7s and the results were just as fantastic as they were on the A7Ii with a slightly different feel due to the different look of the A7s sensor (slight).

So I highly recommend this lens. It’s the best of the native lenses I have used for the FE system. $1600 is expensive but cheaper than the competition while being better. Bam. Sony did it again.

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Where to buy?

You can BUY/ORDER OR PRE-ORDER this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

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

Hello to all! For the past 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.

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Apr 172015
 

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Mamiya 6 with Rollei Crossbird

By Frank Stelzer

Hi Steve, Brandon,

Being a long time follower, I thought I submit a story for your Film Friday series. I have been enjoying your site since 2010, when I was soaking in your Leica M9 and lens reviews all night. It was the first time that I got to know about Leica in detail; what they are, what you can do and what you cannot do, and I have been infected with the Leica virus ever since. I also value your Daily Inspirations and Film Friday series as platform to get to know other approaches, techniques and cameras.

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Quickly about myself, I have been fascinated with the process of making photographs since I was a teenager. My first equipment has been a viewfinder film camera in the 1980’s. I basically clicked what I found interesting enough to preserve as a memory. In the late 90’s I made the move from an Olympus mju-I to a film Pentax SLR and a monster 28-200 3.8- 5.6, because I thought, the bigger the camera and the lens, the better my photos. Little to nothing I knew about film sizes, f-stops and most importantly light. This changed gradually over the past 15 years, but there is still so much to learn. Somewhere in between I jumped on the digital bandwagon, enjoying the instant gratification of seeing the image immediately.

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I don’t remember since when I had this growing curiosity about medium format film, maybe it was your GF670 review. But it really accelerated after getting Jonathan Canlas’ book “Film is not dead” two years ago. Since then I gathered information about MF from almost everywhere.
I thought a portable camera would be nice, so I can easily take it with me when travelling. This sort of narrowed it down to a couple of rangefinder cameras: Fujifilm GF670, Mamiya 6 and 7.  I went for the Mamiya 6, which ticked the boxes in my book. It just feels right in your hand. The grip is fantastic, letting your hand mold around it nicely. Not only while shooting, but also when just walking around with the camera in the hand and the strap around the wrist. That’s one of the differences which made me go for the Mamiya instead of the Fujifilm GF670. One reason I preferred the Mamiya 6 over the Mamiya 7 was the retractable lens of the former, making it easy to put into a messenger bag (with Hadley Pro insert) without getting too bulky.

I only got the 75mm lens. There are also 2 more lenses (50mm and 150mm) available for the Mamiya 6, making it a nice system. There is a dark slide in the Mamiya 6 that you have to open and close manually when changing lenses when there is film inside the camera. This could lead to missing shots if you forgot to open the dark slides after a lens change. But for me it was not a problem with one lens only. The RF patch had a bit less contrast for my taste, which made focusing taking a bit longer at times. I did not consider 645 format at that time, since I was intrigued by the bigger 6×6/6×7 format.

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When my wife and I visited Australia last year, I decided to try Rollei Crossbird film for shooting some urban landscape. I never did cross-processing before, but I was curious to see what color-shift effects I would get. This film is marketed especially for cross-processing, but at the end you can take any film and cross-process it. As it seems, this film has a tendency to develop a green cast and also some visible grain. Nothing you can’t do with a digital camera and Lightroom, but definitely more fun. I am more than happy about the result I got with the Mamiya 6 and Rollei Crossbird. It’s sounds strange, but limiting yourself can be quite liberating. When shooting digital, there are endless post-processing options, that it’s easy to get carried away if you don’t know exactly what you are aiming for.

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Many people say that shooting film is a different experience compared to a digital camera. And I totally agree with them. I take more time thinking about the composition and exposure settings. Then there is the uncertainty and waiting for the film getting developed. Well, you could put tape on your DSLR’s screen and wait a week or so putting the SD card into your computer, but it’s not the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to start any film vs. digital discussion. For me it’s both film and digital. Since I am an amateur, I have the freedom to decide depending on my mood, whether to go out with film or digital camera. I enjoy both. We live in a time where we have all these many different photographic tools and formats available, where everybody can find something according to his/her own interest and budget. The good thing about film cameras is that you can sell them almost at the same price you bought them, because they don’t depreciate anymore. This makes it easy to try different formats and systems until you find the one you like most.

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I should mention that I sold the Mamiya 6 meanwhile. Not because I didn’t like it, but because the shooting experience was very similar to the Leica, both being rangefinder cameras. I wanted something more challenging for my medium format adventures, so I traded it for a Hasselblad 503CX. Admittedly, it’s a not as travel-friendly as the Mamiya 6. In fact, it is a completely different beast and lets me discover photography from another angle. But that might be another Film Friday story.

My social media links:
Website: www.frankstelzerphotography.com
Instagram: https://instagram.com/frankstelzer
Twitter: https://twitter.com/frankstelzer

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Apr 152015
 

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

The 2015 Moto GP with the Sony A7II

By Chad Wadsworth – His Website is HERE

With overcast skies, rain and major storms threatening all weekend, the 2015 Moto GP Grand Prix of the Americas went off with only a minor hitch (debris on the track prior to start). Just before the race, the skies opened up and the sun broke through, lighting up the brilliant red, white and blue track elements. Red Bull racer, Spaniard Marc Marquez, pulled off the “three-peat” with his third consecutive victory at the annual event held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX.

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Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

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I packed relatively light for the event, considering the number of 600mm bazookas being hauled around by circuit photographers. The Sony A7II, A7S, the new FE 28mm f2, FE 55mm f1.8, Minolta High Speed APO 200mm f2.8 (A-mount) and rain gear were all stashed away into a small Think Tank backpack.

For Saturday’s qualifying, using the adapted Minolta (a legendary lens) was like bringing a knife to a gunfight. The combination of 1987 screw drive AF motor and adapter just couldn’t keep up with the action, even with the a7II advanced AF tracking. Luckily, Sony had the FE 70-200mm f4 enroute, with a just-in-time delivery for Sunday.

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What a difference the native FE lens made for AF tracking. On the A7II using Pre-AF, CAF and tracking, the lens picked up focus almost instantly and was able to stay on subject during some of the fastest racing (220mph on the straights) on the planet. Certainly, the combination had its limits but I was shocked at the number of keepers it produced. At the end of the day, I walked away confident in the current ability of the alpha platform and optimistic about future capabilities.

Until Sony has big gun lenses and a true professional body, this solution is not ideal for the tiny percentage of working pros who deal with these ultra high-speed environments but the writing is on the wall – expect that improvements in processing speed, hardware and software will soon make these cameras viable at the extreme niches of photography.

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Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

The combination of small, lightweight bodies and lenses was a boon for reportage style coverage of the event. The new FE 28mm continues to amaze with sharp rendering that reminds me of my old Ricoh GR1 and Minolta TC-1. The quick focus also came in handy when shooting some flatland BMX and Trials demos. I was just feet away from the bikes (another photographer got his foot run over) and the camera nailed focus every time. This lens is such a tremendous value! Mate the 28mm with the 55mm f1.8 and you have a dynamic duo that covers four useful focal lengths (28mm, 40mm, 55mm, 83mm) if you utilize APS-C mode on occasion.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

By the end of the race, I was exhausted but high on the adrenaline from covering this prestigious event. The Circuit of the Americas is one of the finest tracks in the world and still under appreciated by the US motorsport community. If you are a fan, you owe it to yourself to make it out to Austin for the upcoming American LeMans and Formula One races later this year.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Apr 132015
 

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The NEW Leica Summarit Lenses. 35, 50, 75 and 90 2.4. Part 1.

These lenses were sent to me to review by Leica Dealer Ken Hansen. He has these and many other Leica items in stock, so email him if interested at [email protected].

**This review will be in two parts. This part will mainly focus on the 35 and 50 with a few 75 samples thrown in. I will show many images and talk about the character of the lenses. Part 2 will feature more 75 and 90 and go over my final thoughts on the Summarit line as well as some comparisons. So my conclusion, comparisons, and more images will be in part 2 in about 1-2 weeks. Enjoy!**

1st, a video showing the Summarits with my new Safari Leica M-P 240 

Man, these brand new 2015 Summarit lenses from Leica REALLY surprised me, and these days it takes A LOT to Surprise me. The fit, the finish, the build, the design, the smoothness, the hood’s, the caps, the whole package with these little Summarit line has gotten better than ever before with the new improvements. Optically they are STUNNERS and IMO beat many of the classic Leica lenses. For example, I prefer the new 2.4 Summarit 50 to the older 50 Summicron f/2 (non APO). The 35 Summarit is TINY but STUNNINGLY sharp. The 75 is probably the coolest of the lot with its 2.4 aperture, close focusing distance of .7 and the slim slender profile. I loved the old summarit line (which are not really that old) that Leica introduced at the end of the M8.2’s life as they released them to create a more affordable lens for what would be the M9. They did a great thing with that lens line as they were Semi Affordable in Leica terms and they were fantastic performers. 

The new line is even better with a new design, new metal hood designs, new metal lens caps, new silver or black finish, improved optics, new closer focusing distances, and each lens comes with a real Leica leather case (the old line came with a bag). So the prices have went up from $2000-$2350 but they are still the least expensive REAL Leica lenses made today for the M and they give up nothing in performance to their more expensive siblings.

The 35, 50, 75 ad 90..look at the stunning silver finish. I am not a HUGE fan of the black focusing rings on the silver body but I would still choose Silver for my Safari M-P. 

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After shooting with the 35, 50, 75 and 90 I can say that I would love to own the 50 and 75 AND 90, but may end up buying the 50 for now, and one of the other telephoto options later. I own a 35 Summicron so do not need another 35 but man oh man. The details and color..some of these have that old M9 pop that many look for IMO – all from Leica’s latest and most affordable lens line for the M.

Click this image for a larger 1800 pixel size to see the details, and depth. This was with the 50 f/2.4 and it is STUNNING at any price. If Leica packaged this as an all new special 50 with a new name, they could have priced it at $3000. It is crisper than a Summilux, sharper and has better color than the old 50 Summicron, along with a smoother Bokeh and it is smaller and sleeker and looks amazingly beautiful on the camera. Click the image of the Cowboy to see the depth, detail and character of his face. Amazing lens. 

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When you view the above image, you will see that Leica pop and look from the contrast, sharpness, color and the WOW. It is in a class of it’s own. The gentle transitions from focus to out of focus is organic, the color is scrumptious and the glow is here as well. Take a look and click on the image below. From raw, wide open at f/2.4 on the new 50 Summarit.

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But let us keep going as I think I want to make this review more image based as the images are what tell the tale.

Click on the image below for a larger sized version. Here, you can see Leica’s color signature, the glow, the detail (see the eyes) and the smooth transition from sharp to butter. :) This 50 2.4 is a smashing lens. Many will feel they need a Summicron or Lux and they will miss out. Today, there is no need to spend more for better. Each Leica lens, the Summarit, Summicron and Summilux each have a different character, but ALL are stellar and better than any DSLR 50 ;) 

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The 35 Summarit inside at ISO 2000. Still crisp, still “leica” in the feeling. Nothing special about the image but it does show that even in dark indoor interiors the 35 Summarit and M 240 can pull it off.

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Always love old doors and this one was taken in Tombstone, AZ at an old abandoned building. The 35 now has a .8 meter close focus distance, is made to a higher standard, has improved optics and again, comes with metal hood, leather case and the full Leica treatment. This 35 goes for $2250, much less than the 35 Summicron or 35 Summilux. This lens feels amazing on the M. Small, solid, smooth focus. Not much more you could ask for. Click images for larger. 

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Another with the 35, right out of the camera (RAW)…

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The 50 has its own unique mojo and character that sets it apart from the Summicron and Summilux. I know of one guy who has ALL of the Leica 50;s and chooses which one he wants to shoot depending on what he is going for in looks. For me, the 50 Summarit provides a crisp and “perfect” style of image while not being analytical or hard in any way. Look at the image below. The man WAS this red as he had a slight sunburn and he was HOT wearing his MARSHALL uniform. The Leica did color here better than my A7II did the same day and place. So Leica has finally got the old color issues settled. Now I see Leica color I remember. 

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Another with the 50, which became the most used Summarit for me while having them all. I shot with the 90 the least as I never use 90 but it is beautiful none the less. Look again at the detail the Summarit gives as well as the overall character of the rendering. 

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A quick grab shot this guy was a blast. He hung around all day dancing and playing his finger instruments. Never hounding anyone for money, just smiling for all who passed by. I used the 50 here again. 

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These two were on the street in the harsh AZ sun and I thought there is no way this image would come out OK. Usually these harsh sun images lead to faces in shadow, uneven exposure, etc. When I arrived home I was able to easily pull out the shadows on the faces while retaining highlights. 

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RICH reds here with the 50

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Again, the 50 shooting a happy young man on the Trolley Tour. LOVE the way the 50 renders images..so crisp and so colorful..with ACCURATE color. I think Leica enhanced these for use on the M 240 as the color that comes from these lenses is superb. 

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The 75 is a lens I have a love hate relationship with. Not because it is a bad lens, because it is SO GOOD and SO gorgeous, I want it. Problem is, I rarely use anything above 50. Even so, I will own this lens one day. I loved the old version of the 75 Summarit and this one is even better. Retains the Summarit look of crispness, great color, smooth transitions and this time with the new 75 we get .7 meter close focus, which is AWESOME. 

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Horse with the 75 in the direct sun. Look at how it handles the harsh light. Contrast is a but high but that is what gives these lenses the pop and 3D separation. 

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The local high school band from Nogales Mexico in Tombstone. They sounded great! The 75, even from across the street gave me detail, snap and pop. Color is spot on and the M handled the harsh light VERY well.

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I saw this lady having a BLAST watching the parade..she had her bubble machine and was getting the biggest kick out of it. She was enjoying life with a smile. I snapped this one with the 50..

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One more with the 50..love the dog ;) 

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Just a simple shot to show the detail and the Bokeh of the 75mm at 2.4

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…and a shot with a 100% crop from the 75 inside my home, no special light. Wide open at f/2.4. 

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It is safe to say that I am enjoying these Summarit lenses. I will be shooting over the next few days with the 75 and 90 more so my next report, which will be part 2, will go over these lenses more as well as a couple of comparison like the 35 Summarit vs the 35 Summicron vs the Zeiss 35 Loxia on the A7II.

REFERENCE: My old 35 Summarit review is HERE. My old 50 Summarit review is HERE. My old 90 Summarit review is HERE.

So that is all I have for now on these fantastic new lenses from Leica. ALL are stunning in their build, performance, styling and included accessories (Hood, caps, leather case, etc). The Summarits are now better than ever and are in no way handicapped by the more expensive line besides being a tad slower at f/2.4 vs f/2 or f/1.4.

If you want to save some cash and some weight, you will still get that Leica quality from the entire line of Summarit lenses. Watch for part 2 SOON which will have more on these beauties. Again, these came from Ken Hansen, email him and mention me for a GREAT buying experience ;) His email is [email protected].

MORE SOON!

Steve

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Apr 102015
 

JB Designs Leica M 240 Grip & HoldFastGear Roamographer Mini in the house!

It’s Friday and what a great beautiful sunny mid 80 degree day here in Phoenix AZ! Also a great day as I had several surprises in the mail today. First up, a slew of new hand-made in the USA grips for my Leica M 240, my A7II, the Olympus E-M5II and the Olympus E-M1, and JB Designs has been stepping up their game lately with BEAUTIFUL new designs. The Leica M 240 Grip is FANTASTIC and beats Leica’s own grip at a much lower price! It fits perfect, it looks beautiful and it feels so natural and smooth. The smell is amazing to boot. I also received the new Roamographer Mini bag from Hold Fast Gear. WOW, what a stunning bag. A work of art.

Up 1st…

JB DESIGNS LEICA M 240 GRIP

I was sent a slew of new designs from JB Designs and have to say, I love the M 240 and E-M5II grip the most. Gorgeous. But do not take my word for it, take a look for yourself and see what it looks like on my Safari M…

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Makes the M feel so much nicer. The best part? He sells these on Amazon for $85 and each one is hand made in the good old USA.

You can see it or buy it on Amazon HERE.  

At the time of this writing he has 6 in Bamboo left. The version you see here is his latest creation, with the darker Brazilian Chestnut wood. Stunning. You can see more at the JB Website HERE.  If you own an M 240 and want a unique, great feeling and beautifully made wooden grip, this is IT and it is a GREAT price for a wonderful hand crafted product.

He also has a fantastic grip for the E-M5II as well..on Amazon HERE. $85 and in stock in the new dark Brazilian Chestnut. Six left in stock there. A bargain.

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JB Designs is fantastic. A USA company that takes pride in their work, keeps prices decent and delivers a super good looking and functional product. Awesome.

HOLD FAST GEAR – ROAMOGRAPHER MINI

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The new Roamographer Mini from HOLD FAST GEAR is a stunning “mini” version of the original Roamographer that I reviewed a while back. GORGEOUS bags but the original is LARGE. The Mini is PERFECT. Hand made in the good old USA, I may not have seen another bag like this that was under $1500. This one comes in at $525 but it screams beauty, quality, pride, and is quite functional as well. Sure, you can go get a canvas bag for $50 but this is for the discriminating enthusiast or professional who wants a bag to last them their lifetime, and then they children lifetime. This is one of those bags that will be handed down generation to generation. Imagine what the bag above will look like in 50 years ;)

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I love this company and what they stand for and the owner, Matt Swaggart is a super nice guy. I own the Money Maker Strap, the large Roamographer and now the Mini. Along with Wotancraft, this is one of my all time fave bag maker (and straps). Check out all they have to offer at HOLDFASTGEAR.com!!

THIS IS QUALITY and as I always say, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

Apr 092015
 

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Leica M-P Safari Set & Summarit Lenses Hands On Video Overview

My Safari set came from PopFlash.com 

The Leica brand has always been known for crazy special edition versions of their M camera line. Some speculate they do them when they want to clear some stock of bodies (and paint them to match the special editions) and some just accept it as part of Leica’s way of doing business. Like it or not, Leica has a base of fans and buyers who LOVE the special edition sets. From the Titanium M7 and M9 to the Stainless Steel M 60 to the Safari sets that go back to even the R bodies.

My video look at the Safari and Summarit Lenses

I remember when Leica released the Safari M8.2 and I wanted it badly. At the time, it came with a silver 28 Elmarit and was under $10k if I remember correctly. I loved the Olive Drab color and thought it was a great looking camera while others thought it was tacky and ugly.

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When Leica released the M9 there were no Safari sets but they did release many M9 and M9-P special editions such as the all WHITE edition and the Hammertoe LE set. Today Leica has the Lenny Kravitz Correspondent edition as well as the new M-P 240 Safari and of course the M 60. Out of these sets, the best value is with the Safari because it actually comes in CHEAPER then if you were to buy the pieces in the set separate in a normal standard production run color.

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The M-P 240 is a Leica M-P 240 ($8000) with a Leica 35 Summicron f/2 Lens in Silver with an old school Lens hood and metal lens cap included. This lens in standard black will set you back $3200, so already with the M-P and 35 Cron we are looking at $11, 200. Add in the strap and accessories and you can easily add another $300. So say $11, 500. THAT is if you went out and bought a standard black or silver set yet this special limited run of Safari sets will set you back $9800, or in some cases a little less. So yes, it is odd that Leica did this as usually their special editions cost you MORE, by anywhere from $1000 to $10,000. So if you can deal with the Army green color you will save a couple thousand dollars, and have a limited edition to boot!

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The set is complete with an amazing display box, typical of Leica Special Edition cameras. Open the top box and you will see the camera in Olive green with silver knobs and dials. You will see a 35 Summicron with old school metal lens hood and metal cap. An exclusive Leica leather strap and wallet is also included. I acquired this set in a trade deal from POPFLASH.COM. They had six of these in stock when I acquired this one, not sure how many they have now but I do know the Safari set has sold pretty well considering Leica sales have been slowing lately (just due to not having anything new and WOW….yet).

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I like the fact that Leica did the Safari in the M-P style and not the standard M 240 style. So we get the Leica log engraved up top and the special Sapphire LCD as well. So if you have the itch for a new Leica M, and want to save a couple grand over a black or silver and do not mind the Olive Green, this set is actually the rare deal from Leica where you will spend less and get more. I think this may be a first ever. ;)

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This set came from PopFlash.com and they are a fantastic Leica dealer, highly recommended. Their Safari set page is HERE. You can also pick this up from Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]), Pro ShopLeica Store Miami and B&H Photo. 

Also, all four of the new Summarit lenses have come in for review, so you will see them here soon (they are also shown in the video above, beautiful set of lenses)

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Apr 082015
 

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Kathmandu, Nepal with the Sony A7s and the Mitakon 50mm f.95

by Judd Weiss

These Nepal photos probably would not exist if not for this site. Steve Huff’s blog and wider sharing community has been the single largest influence on my photography. I don’t connect with the approach of most photography communities online. But this community of mirrorless enthusiasts has continued to inspire me and push me to keep going further with this photography obsession. I’m still relatively new to photography, starting about 4.5 years ago when I picked up the first Sony NEX-3. For about a year I treated it more like a higher quality point and shoot for parties. Since I’ve discovered Steve’s site, I’ve become a daily addict, pouring over the daily inspirations and user reports, trying to understand new perspectives, obsessively studying how you impressive bastards pull it off. I’ve never taken a real course in photography, this blog has been my photography school. It’s possible I might still be shooting glorified point and shoot style photos without it. And all the beautiful photos in my life that I cherish might never have been if not for the influence of the community here. So thank you Steve and everyone else who has contributed inspiring photos in guest posts here. I’m honored to offer my small contribution to the mix.

Despite all of my public statements at the beginning of 2015 that I’m going to tone down this photography obsession and focus more on business, I just can’t help it. I want to do everything at once. When you’re doing something you’re proud of and excited about, it feels like a crime to restrain yourself. And there was just no way I could turn down this trip to Nepal. I didn’t know anything about Nepal except that it’s north of India and that some very different world awaits.

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I didn’t Google or Wikipedia anything about Nepal. Nothing. I didn’t want any movie spoilers, I just wanted the experience to be fresh. I was brought to Nepal to shoot a conference. I’m not a career photographer, I don’t market myself as a photographer or even have a proper portfolio site online at the moment. I’m not a professional, this is not my profession. I’m an enthusiast, I’m always obsessively trying to create beautiful compelling photos to the best of my ability. And that’s exactly what the conference organizers wanted. It’s a crazy expense to bring someone from the other side of the planet out to photograph your event in a 3rd world nation, so I knew I had some huge pressure to make sure I deliver.

The photos in this post are an album separate from the conference, purely the scenic photos of Nepal I captured outside of the conference.

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I am hopelessly in love with my Sony A7s. The lowlight ability is not a leap in technology, this is some kind of magic voodoo shit. I don’t know what dark forces Sony has negotiated with to let us finally see clearly in the dark, but I’m not going to ask too many question. It’s amazing, and 12MP is actually still overkill when most of my images appear online and are seen at less than 2MP. I’m not limited by that sensor. On the contrary, the limits of light are pretty much gone. I only shoot with manual lenses. Most photographers don’t believe me when I tell them that using manual lenses is tremendously FASTER than autofocus but it’s the truth. Unless you’re center focusing ever shot, autofocus slows you down and limits your ability to compose a scene where the point of focus is anywhere but the dead center. Believe it or not, 1/3 of the photos in this post were shot from the front seat of a moving car. Autofocus would have slowed me down and outright prevented me from composing the shots the way I wanted while everything is literally speeding by me. Focus peaking, I can’t live without it.

I only brought 2 lenses, and almost exclusively used only 1, the Mitakon 50mm f.95. I suppose there may be snobs that don’t like that it’s not an $11,000 Leica, but what I do know is that this lens helps me produce images that make my heart skip a beat. I also use the Voigtlander 21mm f1.8, but rarely. I love the wide Voigtlander, and I plan to keep it even though I rarely use it. I suppose the way I often think about the lens combo is that I like to take a couple 21mm wide shots to establish the entirety of the scene. And then I go through with the 50mm and focus in on the details. I’ve taken many critical photos with the 21mm, but the Mitakon 50mm is my new baby virtually permanently attached to my camera (replacing the status previously held by my Voigtlander 35mm f1.2).

One note about the Mitakon 50mm, I’ve been chasing wider and wider aperture lenses since I got started a few years ago, and now I’ve finally gone too far. f.95 is ridiculous. I usually don’t go beyond f1.4 as f.95 is just too insane, and not the kind of shot I usually want. I suppose I like the luxury of knowing that I can totally abandon reality and push completely into a dream world by going to f.95, but I would also be totally fine constrained to a maximum aperture of f1.4. The wide aperture chase is now over for me.

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Most of these photos were taken in a single day devoted to exploring Kathmandu. I knew I wouldn’t have much chance to explore the city while I was at the conference, so I gave myself 2 extra days in Kathmandu to see and capture whatever I could. Unfortunately, due to some serious incompetence and dishonesty from a tour guide, an early morning hike out in the rural mountains surrounding Kathmandu turned into an all day affair that caused me to cancel my packed schedule of sights I planned to see in my precious remaining few hours on my last day in the country. Stuck all day in the middle of nowhere, I was furious to waste most of one of my only 2 sightseeing days, but it’s a lesson in relying on your common sense over and above the assurances of strangers who act like they know what they’re talking about when it doesn’t make sense. Even when you’re in a totally foreign land. But I digress. I did manage to get good shots of the rural mountain villages and some groups of cute kids after they got out of school for the day. I have no shame, I just go up to groups of random school kids and ask who wants to be famous. They get ecstatic when I show them nice shots of themselves and their friends in my camera. No one asked for my info to get the photos, they seemed happy just that these photos of them would be seen by people in America.

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One thing I totally didn’t expect was the weather. I knew I was going to the Himalayas. In January. I packed for very cold weather (I remember surviving the coldest winter on record in Romania), but it wasn’t that cold in Kathmandu. Once I was there I was told that Kathmandu is the valley surrounded by the mountains, and that it’s relatively warm. No snow ever falls in Kathmandu. It felt more desert like, maybe a little chilly at night, but no big deal. I had full body thermal underwear packed, but I wish I brought sandals instead.

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I didn’t have time to check out any other city, though I’m told there are some real treasures throughout Nepal. Kathmandu was both beautiful and gritty. The poverty is pretty extreme, people often live on $80 a month. There is trash everywhere. Los Angeles is not exactly a clean city, but it feels like a sterile sanitary clean room by comparison. I’ve seen plenty of stray dogs and cats in other countries, but all the stray cows was actually pretty cool. The warmth of the Nepali people was striking. Everyone was extremely friendly and graciously greeted me with a Namaste and a bow. I’m talking about the random strangers I approached with my camera. I learned to reply back “Thank you friend” in their language, which people enjoyed.

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The temples swarming with monkeys was a highlight. They’re really cute until you get up close. I was warned repeatedly not to get too close, but I didn’t listen, and one angry monkey tried to grab my camera from me. I was ready to fight him to the death, he’s not taking that (I did get a powerful angry picture of him, see below). The monkeys are rude. They are all unfriendly little shits actually. I can see why our society has so many problems, if we evolved from these bastards. Adorable as they are.

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I took a $200 sight seeing flight to Mount Everest with a few friends. I regretted it immediately afterwards. We didn’t get that close, I’ve seen mountains from a plane window before, I wasn’t that impressed, and I really could have used the sleep instead of waking up so early for a delayed and pointless flight. But when I got back to Los Angeles and saw the photos I took of these majestic mountain ridges, I’m glad I did it. I shot those mountains totally sleep deprived, wishing I was back in a bed instead of a freezing cold plane to nowhere, but I managed to still capture a few shots that are priceless to me.

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One night some of the conference attendees went out to a bar that had a local metal band playing. We were out on the patio where we could talk, which was my intention so that we weren’t drowned out by whatever crappy local band was set to play. But I was surprised and impressed with how good the local band actually was. I picked up my camera and started taking some shots of them, and damn did that amazing low light combo came in handy. They reminded me of some sort of a Nepalese Deftones. A throwback to 90s Numetal when it was still artistic, but driving and aggressive. And the guys were actually talented, the music was great, and fans were in a trance and pumped. I really didn’t expect that when I heard a local metal band was playing that night. I found the guitarist after the show and showed him a few shots I took, and he flipped out, immediately bringing me over to the singer to show him my camera screen. I promised they would eventually get these, and they invited me to share a joint with them. I got a picture of that too ;)

Pretty cool the places a little device in your hand will take you.

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One of the craziest things I saw was a citywide protest that shut down all major streets on my last morning there, while I was rushing to get to the airport. Fortunately they were letting tourists through (the protesters don’t want to look like they’re cutting off vital income to the country). The protests were orchestrated by Maoists. Not Socialists, not Communists, but Maoists. With flags and banners of Mao. I’m just going out on a limb here, but it felt like it had to be China’s influence to me. Nepal is safe from out right occupation since it’s so closely linked to the massive India, but that doesn’t mean China isn’t going to meddle. Purely my speculation, but seeing very poor people that live off less than $100 a month carry around printed flags and banners of China’s Chairman Mao leads me to assume who’s funding this…

I WISH I had walked around and captured some compelling shots of the protests, but I was rushing to the airport, worried about catching my flight, and could only get a few imperfect shots as my taxi sped by.

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Anyway, these pictures are worth more than any of my words. This is a landmark album for me, and easily the most exotic photos I’ve ever taken. I hope they help you get a better idea of the experience of this different world.

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

http://hustlebear.com/2015/03/12/kathmandu-nepal-january-2015/

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

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

[All the rest of the images in order (excluding those already used and excluding nepal-2015-1029.jpg):

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This final shot was a defocused cityscape take-off from my connecting flight in Guangzhou, China.

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Apr 062015
 

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The Sony 28mm F/2 FE Lens Review

By Steve Huff – Pre-order this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE!

Wow. If I were to tell you that I have a lens here that gives some of the best quality I have seen in any 28mm lens, yet it comes in at around $450, would you believe me? I have been shooting with the small compact Sony 28mm f/2 lens and WOW, this guy is pretty incredible for the size, the cost and the lightweight build. In other words, the image quality is WOW!!! But! It is not perfect and has flaws, but these flaws are to me, nothing to worry about.

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When I saw that Sony was going to release a wide-angle f/2 prime, and it did not have the Zeiss or G moniker attached to it, I assumed it would be an average lens. Cheap build, large size and soft performance wide open. Little did I know that this lens would deliver some of the sharpest results I have seen in any 28mm lens. While not perfect, as in an “optical masterpiece” the cons are few and the pros are many. So take a look at some images I was able to get with the lens as well as my thoughts on this new semi-wide angle from Sony. :)

The Mighty 28mm f/2

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This little lens is just that. Small. While not as tiny as a Leica lens, this guy is basically a tad longer than the 35 f/2.8 Zeiss, which is tiny. The 28 is longer but not wider and it ships with a plastic petal type lens hood. The review unit was sent to me without a retail box but seeing that the lens ships in May (and my review unit was sent to me in March) they may not have had them made up yet.

Upon taking it out of the box I was surprised at the small size and light weight. BUT, I liked it as I love small lenses. Still, I “assumed” it would be soft at f/2, which is where I would want to shoot it.

I attached it to my A7II, took a few test snaps in my backyard and when I came in to look at the JPEGS I was WOWED! The sharpness, pop, detail, contrast, color and overall vibe was superb. For black and white the contrast is just right out of the camera, giving your photos some real pop.

Brandon – 28 f/2 – Sony A7II – B&W JPEG

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Debby – Color is great as well, and this was on a bright harsh day out in the desert. 

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I am not usually a 28mm guy but I have been tempted to order the Leica 28 Elmarit for my M but at $2200 I did not feel I would use it enough to warrant a purchase. With this new Sony 28mm, at $450 it is a NO BRAINER. I can shoot with the 28 when I like and will never feel guilty about breaking the bank for the lens. In fact, the 28mm f/2 shows some of the same character as my Leica 35 Summicron. Again, all for $450. Sony may have been wanting to make a statement with this one, showing us that they can produce a small fast prime, on the cheap, that delivers pro quality.

In fact, I have been shooting it quite a bit and I have not noticed any major issues. NO CA issues, NO speed issues (the AF is fast with this lens on my A7II and A7S) and no busy bokeh, no off color…this is a solid lens in ALMOST all aspects.

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So what IS wrong with the lens?

When I review lenses I just get out there and shoot them. I do not go set up a studio scene to test for detail (others do that), I do not shoot resolution charts (others do that) and I do not talk all scientific using big words that confuse many readers (others do that as well). What I prefer to do is USE the lens! When the lens was made it was built for one purpose…to mount on your camera and make memories. So I take photos with the lens and look at the quality, color, distortion, sharpness, pop, contrast and bokeh. I can instantly tell from the get go if a lens is a MUST OWN or NEVER OWN type of lenses.

Today there are so many lenses out there to choose from. Expensive, cheap, off brands…lots of jewels and lots of garbage. With a 28mm focal length and a speed of f/2, we usually have some kind of issues whether it is vignetting, soft corners, or distortion. So what is wrong with the Sony 28?

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It has some distortion. If you shoot JPEG in your Sony A7 series camera you will never see it, as the camera corrects for this automatically, and I admit, sometimes the JPEGS out of the A7II look better than my processed RAW files so shooting JPEG for me is not an issue. But since the lens is not yet shipping, there is no lens profile in Lightroom or ACR for this lens, so when shooting RAW, right now, you will see distortion. Much like the powerhouse Sony RX1 and RX1r, the lens will show some barrel distortion and it needs correction. I used the profile for the Sony 28-70 and it took care of it pretty good  – but even so, if you shoot RAW, the lens will need a lens profile to fix the distortion.

Below is a sample shot – One from RAW without any lens correction, one out of camera JPEG with the distortion fixed. This way you can see what to expect if you shoot raw and do not use correction. Click them for larger.

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As you can see, there is distortion but as I said, even the now legendary RX1 has this issue if you shoot RAW. MANY cameras do this today, have in camera lens profiles that fix the issues automatically. With lenses being made smaller, compromises have to be made and I will take in camera  profile correction any day over a lens that would be 4X the size. This is one reason why Leica lenses are so expensive. They are all optically superior lenses that will not distort and do not need correction. They are already corrected..and small. But the drawback is that they are UBER EXPENSIVE. The 28 f/2 from Leica is $4300. The Sony? $450 or almost 10X less expensive. So do not expect optical perfection, instead, expect a lens that will give you fantastic out of camera quality that is sharp, colorful, higher contrast and has load of pop.

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How could this lens be so good for under $450?

It just is. Sony has created a fantastic lens here. It is fast with AF, locked on quickly every time. It is light and compact and it provides smashing color, contrast and pop. Some may think it has too much contrast so you may want to lower the contrast in your favorite editor.

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So I am excited about this lens. After shooting it for 2 weeks I do not want to be without it as it has become glued to my A7II. The 35 1.4 Zeiss is stuck on my A7s. Both lenses are fantastic that propel the A7 system into the stratosphere in my opinion.

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Sony is maturing their FE line and it is looking fantastic. All kinds of lenses, all kinds of choices, the new bodies with more to come. They are on a non stop roll and if they keep it up, this will be the system to beat. Many predicted Sony’s doom, many said they can’t compete with Fuji or Leica.

WRONG!

Not only are they competing with Fuji and Leica, they are surpassing them quickly. The quality from a camera like the A7II and these new Sony FE lenses is nothing short of astonishing. If the A7II and 28 f/2 came out 10 years ago, we would be saying “THIS IS COMPACT MEDIUM FORMAT” and it would have skyrocketed to the top. But of course this new tech in sensors and bodies did not exist then, but I predict Sony has another Ace up their sleeve as they are always thinking forward and to the future which is the way to do it. I know many photo geeks who are thrilled to death with their Sony A7s and A7II cameras whether they use Leica glass, Sony glass or Zeiss glass.

My son Brandon, now almost 19 (where has the time gone)? Shot at f/2 with the 28 on the A7II – he never likes to make a serious face these days :) 

Click image to see the 100% crop.

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Another with a 100% crop embedded – click it

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At night in my bedroom. As I prepare for bed my dog took it upon herself to lay on my pillows. Used the light from the lamp on the nightstand. ISO 800 at f/2. Focus was quick and accurate. 

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Pros and Cons of the Sony 28 f/2 Lens

Pros

  1. Small and Light
  2. Priced RIGHT at $450
  3. Extremely sharp lens, even at f/2
  4. Higher contrast, deep color, rich POP
  5. Close focus ability of 0.96 foot.
  6. Smooth creamy Bokeh
  7. Fast AF, Accurate AF
  8. Seems like a perfect size for the A7 series

Cons

  1. Has distortion with RAW files  – needs a profile. JPEGS are fixed in camera
  2. Build quality is that of a $450 lens. Not tank like in any way.

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My Final Word on the Sony 28mm f/2 Lens

Sony has come a long way since the NEX-3 and 5 from when they started on this mirrorless path. Little did we know that a few years after these tiny cameras Sony would release a full frame system that no one else has yet to compete with. Not Fuji, not Leica, not Nikon, not Canon, not Ricoh, not Pentax, not Olympus..NO ONE. So for now, here in 2015, Sony is gaining serious steam. I see it in comments, in sales and in clicks. Sony is leading the pack in the enthusiast market.

Many used to complain that Sony did not have enough lenses for the FE system yet here we are a year and half from the start of this brand new system and we have tons of lenses to choose from. Many GREAT, some GOOD and some average. But the choices are there. We now have this 28mm, which has add ons for wider views and even fisheye effects. We have the 16-35 Zeiss and we have the 24-70 Zeiss and the 28-70 more affordable option. We have the 35 2.8, the 35 1.4 and the Zeiss Loxia 35 and 50 f/2. We have the 55 1.8, the  90 Macro (coming) and the supremos and even pro 70-200. There are more and more to be announced.

As for this 28mm, it is to me, a no brainer at $450. You will not find a better new production 28mm for full frame for this price, period. While not perfect due to the distortion that is present without correction or using a lens profile, it is easily overcome. Shoot JPEG and they are perfect out of the camera. Shoot RAW and you will need to apply the camera lens profile to fix the distortion, but when it is fixed the images will be gorgeous.

I liked shooting this lens JPEG as the color and pop right from camera was fantastic. I also shot RAW, and those were great as well. For me, this 28mm is a must own, and my pre-order is in. It will ship in May and is priced at $450.

Where to Buy the 28?

You can pre-order it at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

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

Hello to all! For the past 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)

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Apr 062015
 

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A Change Of Perspective – The Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 III

By Alan Schaller – My Flickr linkhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/alanschaller/

Buy the 15 lens HERE at CameraQuest or HERE at B&H Photo

Hello everyone. First off, a big thank you to Steve for giving me the opportunity to write again on his great site.

I heard very good things about the first and second versions of the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5, namely their low price, compact size and classy rendering. They were however known to colour shift on the M9, M240 and the A7 series, meaning many digital users used the lens as a black and white tool. From what I can tell from my pictures colour shifting has been completely sorted in this third version of the lens, which of course is a great thing. Also worth mentioning is the incredible lack of distortion.

I happened to have a holiday booked to the South of France a few days after I received my lens, and thought it would be the perfect place to let this super wide-angle flex its muscles! The region I went to (The Côte d’Azur) features crazily photogenic villages, street scenes, the sea and mountainous areas, so I had a lot fun shooting in a variety of environments with the 15mm on my Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom. The shots in this review were all taken on that trip.

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I had not extensively used a lens wider than a 35mm before getting this 15mm prime. My main reason for buying a super wide angle lens was to shake up my shooting style. I can confirm that it has, and recommend trying one if you haven’t already! I enjoy the 50mm focal length most of all, and being so used to looking for photo opportunities through the ‘eye’ of a 50, what I was seeing through the 15mm viewfinder initially seemed almost comical. The first day I had the lens, I walked around London with it on the Monochrom, initially marvelling like a child at how I could get whole buildings in frame whilst standing a few meters away from them.

I eventually calmed down and started thinking about how I could get the most out of my new lens. It seemed immediately obvious that it would be useful for shooting landscapes or epic sky scenes, but being primarily a street photographer, I wanted to try and use it on the streets too. Initial test shots proved this to be tricky! A lot of the time you have to get extremely close to the subject to make an interesting shot. The silent shutter on the A7s made me feel more confident to do so. It’s something I am going to enjoy experimenting with.

The thing I have found most interesting and creatively rewarding about using this super wide angle lens is the way it presents an image with such an unfamiliar perspective to the human eye. A 50mm lens is great as it is so familiar to our field of view, but I am really interested by the way this lens is so unfamiliar. Certain scenes that would be very mundane with a standard focal length can become surprisingly interesting when you use a super wide angle. This one was taken on the plane going to France:

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The Monochrom gets on very nicely with this lens! Images are detailed and have great contrast. If you stop down to f/8 the depth of field is impressive. Also, as the DOF is so deep on a lens this wide, at f8 the lens is focusing from its closest point of 0.5 meters all the way to infinity, so there is zero need to adjust focus! This is a welcome attribute as it takes more consideration to get a shot perfect with a 15mm due to the extra surrounding context inevitably being in frame, and not having to worry about nailing focus helps speed up the whole process.

I have found sharpening to be totally unnecessary when using this lens on the Mono. This lens and camera combo feels great to use, and is perfect in terms of size and weight. They feel seriously solid together in the hand, and look great too! Same goes when it is used on the A7s. It feels well-balanced.

I expected the lens to work fantastically on the Monochrom (as the previous version did too), but I have been super impressed with the results on my Sony A7s. The colour is to die for!

Sony A7s – ISO 100 – f/8 – 1/200 sec

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Sony A7s – ISO 100 – f/8 – 1/250 sec

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As many people know the A7s is a low light monster, which meant I could shoot at any time of night despite the fact that this is a pretty slow lens. Simply crank the ISO to 8 or 10 thousand and snap away handheld, knowing the images will retain great detail and colour. Simple! As I mentioned before, the edges retain their colour well, even under pixel peeping scrutiny, so hats off to Voigtlander for taking the time and putting in the R&D to revise this lens so well for digital sensors. Chromatic aberration seems very well controlled, but can still be spotted if you pixel peep. I am sure Voigtlander will sell many of these, as the price, although an increase from the previous generations of the f/4.5 15, is still way way below the outlay for similar offerings from Leica or Zeiss. Despite being relatively cheap, the lens is built excellently, has a metal hood and body, and takes sensible 58mm filters. Most importantly, from what I can tell, the image quality is right up there with those more pricey offerings from Leica and Zeiss.

Leica Monchrom – ISO 320 – f/5.7 – 1/125 sec

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I can already tell that this lens is a keeper, which means more of my shots taken with this lens will be going up on my Flickr page for the foreseeable future! So if you are interested in seeing more shots, feel free to have a look!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alanschaller/

Mar 312015
 

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DUAL Review: Zeiss Loxia 50 F/2

by Bill Danby and Steve Huff

Hey everyone! I have been shooting the Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2 for 2-3 weeks now and LOVE it. I also received a guest report on the Loxia 50 and decided to post both my thoughts and Bill Danby’s thoughts at the same time. First, I will let Bill say what he thinks about the Loxia 50 as he says all that needs to be said! Enjoy!

Bill Danby Loxia Review:

Just about every discussion of the Loxia 50mm also mentions the most likely alternative, the Sony/Zeiss 55mm. (And now, I suppose, I have too.) But this is very rarefied air we’re breathing here. They’re both outstanding lenses designed specifically for the Sony A7 series cameras. Any idea that one will leave the other in the dust is entirely misplaced.

I have used my 55mm extensively; but this will not be a “This vs That” review. Just because there’s an elephant in the room, doesn’t mean you have to pet it.

I don’t do video, so this review won’t be helpful for photographers looking to use the Loxia for that.

I’m not going to be coy. I REALLY like this lens. But I’m not going to recommend it willy-nilly. I’d like to tell you about the lens, and let you decide. But as they say in the small print: The following is provided on an “as is” basis. Your mileage may vary, etc.

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So, why the Loxia 50mm?

The “Ifs:”
If you prefer primes lenses; and
if you prefer a “normal” (50mm) lens; and
if the manual focus is a serious plus for you; and
if you can live without some of the very attractive features of autofocus; and
if only having a manual aperture isn’t a practical negative,
then the Loxia 50mm might be the lens for you.

Image quality

The most important thing to know about the Loxia 50mm is that it’s balanced in terms of its qualities. Zeiss calls it a “flexible all-rounder.” There’s a lot of truth in that; but only for those that got through the “ifs” without having to think too hard about it.

The Loxia’s colour rendering and contrast are both great, and it has its share of Zeiss “pop.” Not OMG “pop;” but it’s a Zeiss Planar and it does what Zeiss Planar lenses do. Apparently the present level of contrast is more the result of the coating than the Planar design. The Planar design has almost 120 years of history and the Zeiss T* coating goes back almost 80 years.

It has extremely low distortion and very little chromatic aberration.

F/2.0 is pretty fast. To get to f/1.4 would have required a bigger lens and that would not have been in keeping with the brief. This is the same speed as its sister, the Loxia 35mm. You have to keep in mind that this is f/2.0 on a full-frame. That means that at f/2.0 on the full frame camera, depth-of-field is slightly more shallow than at f/1.4 with a 32mm (50mm equivalent) lens on an APS-C (crop sensor) camera. So, this affords acceptably narrow depth of field for isolation of a subject, such as for some portraits.

Apparently, the Inuit people have at least 53 words for snow. We seem to be working toward that number of adjectives to describe bokeh. The Loxia’s bokeh isn’t the very creamy style prized by some; but it’s not “nervous” either. I find the bokeh from the Loxia to be both attractive and useful.

This is an outstandingly sharp lens, with a slight softening at the corners, wide open. I had to look for it. It’s not a problem for me.

The lens is an equal partner for the Sony A7II. And from the other reports I’ve read, it also meets the demands of the A7r (which I don’t have).

It’s not a zoom

Prime lenses held pride of place for many years, but times have changed. The quality improvements in zooms have been revolutionary. So now, while there’s a bit of image quality in it, the main difference is lens speed.

Zooms for the A7 series (even the lowly 28-70mm kit lens) usually have their own stabilisation. So if you’re not going to be using an A7II (or, seemingly soon, the A7rII), then using the Loxia over a zoom will cost you the stabilisation as well.

Almost everyone who has had occasion to use my camera, has asked where the zoom ring is. Their reaction on learning there isn’t one, can only be described as pitying. Now, with the Loxia, they’ll be wondering why it isn’t focusing. (I fear that things will be moving from pity to something else.)

Manual focus

Manual focusing seems to have “old school” written all over it. It’s unfortunate that some think that manual focusing is just for “old guys” (apologies for the sexist terminology) trying to recapture their experiences from the day. Feeding such a view is the fact that old guys started in photography without any autofocus. So, they, or those with experience in using legacy lenses, adjust to manual focus more quickly.

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I hate thinking I’ve nailed the focus on a shot, only to find out when I get it into Lightroom that the system has chosen something else to focus on. (That, of course, is the camera rather than the lens.) So, while I still may occasionally miss the exact focus with the Loxia, I don’t get those surprises.

Any movement of the focus ring triggers an immediate magnified view. And a half-press of the shutter button brings you back the full view ahead of whatever timing you’ve set. You can, of course, turn that off and magnify when you want.

It took me a little time to get used to that magnification arrangement because I had been used to giving the shutter a half-press to force an autofocus.

Focusing with the Loxia is fast. It’s not always as fast as some autofocus systems, but it’s more reliable. Manual focus, however, rarely gets lost in the hunt. I usually leave focus peaking on, but I depend on the magnified view.

I’ve also assigned the magnified view to the A7II’s “C1″ soft key. That allows me to get an even higher magnification quickly when I need it.

If you’ve come to depend on Sony’s great, eye-focus feature (or faces, or smiles, or face recognition, or tracking focus), those don’t happen with the Loxia. Except for the loss of the eye focus (which is very accurate, and simple even on a tripod), I’m relieved. There’s no grid of phase detection points, or boxes around people’s faces, or green dots to signal focus.

It’s just point, focus, and shoot.

Zone focusing is not just for street photographers. Once you get used to a hard infinity limit and a hard close focus limit (at about 18 inches), then it’s easy to estimate where a shot is going to be.

I haven’t tried astrophotography, but my lens sets accurately to infinity. So, if you’re trying to focus on the stars, it’ll probably be easier on the Loxia.

It’s ironic for me that after years of watching the developments and discussing the relative merits of phase detection and contrast detection autofocus, I’ve decided to skip both — just when they’re getting really fast.

Handling

The lens is all metal, so it’s relatively heavy, although Zeiss calls it light. Zeiss says it’s 320gm, but with the hood and front lens cap mine was 358gm). My kit (the A7II with the Loxia, but without a strap, ) comes in at 970gm. With the strap, call it a kilogram (2.2lbs).

I find that the on-camera balance is perfect.

I’ve heard the lens called ugly. That, of course, is personal taste; but it doesn’t seem ugly to me.

The focus ring is well placed and wide enough. The ring begins just behind the lens hood when the hood’s attached, so the ring is quick to find. Yes, yes, the focus ring is very smooth. It’s a Zeiss manual lens — it needed to be.

The full, focus rotation for the Loxia is 180 degrees — a manageable spin. But, that’s not the useful information. What you need to know is that the focus rotation to go from 2 meters (6 feet) to infinity is only about 35 degrees (about a tenth of a turn of the focus ring). This means that for most situations I can focus within that range without taking my fingers off the lens.

I wouldn’t have minded a slightly wider aperture ring. No big thing.

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Manual aperture

If you’re not a dedicated aperture-priority shooter, then the Loxia isn’t the lens for you. It’s an absolute manual aperture.

The Loxia’s manual aperture benefit, as with manual focus, is that you not only set it on the lens, you can see what you set; and you can see it even if the camera is “sleeping,” or off.

With an auto lens you can select aperture priority, or not. No such choice with a Loxia. (This means that you can’t put the camera on “auto” to hand to a bystander to take your picture.)

I rarely use the video on my camera, so I don’t need to switch off the aperture clicks. But I was curious to see if the small screwdriver from my Swiss Army Knife (usually used to tighten the screws on eye glasses) would work on the Loxia’s click/declick selector switch, that’s located on the lens mount. It’s not a great fit, but it does.

Exif data reporting

Because the lens reports the exif data to the camera, the f/stop appears in the electronic viewfinder as well. Cool.

The exif data, however, is not just information for idle curiosity. The information feeds the exposure calculations. And when images arrive in Lightroom, you’ll have aperture data with those shots.

The focus data is also used by the A7II’s stabilisation to afford the full, five-axis assistance, rather than the three-axis available to other manual focus lenses. This also means that when you attach a Loxia, the Sony recognises it and sets the system to the lens just as it does for Sony lenses.

The details

The lens shade is metal, but light. It reverses, but the hood is deep. So, when it’s reversed it pretty much covers the focusing ring. There’s only the slightest sliver of ring available in a pinch. You really have to remove the hood to focus the lens. I mentioned that it’s metal, but it has a plastic ring on the inside for the actual connection to the lens. The inside of the barrel of the shade feels as if it has a coating and it’s BLACK. It takes a quarter turn to lock it into place, so if you start with the Zeiss logo at the top, then a quarter-turn will lock it into place and bring the “Loxia 2/50″ to the top.

I shoot almost exclusively in RAW, so most of the “features” of the camera are irrelevant to me. I love the manual focus and I welcome the manual aperture because I used to shoot in aperture priority anyway.

On A7 lens mounts there’s a white dot for aligning the lens when attaching. The corresponding dot on the Loxia 50mm is blue, and almost invisible in poor light. I use the words “E-mount” in (noticeable) white lettering that’s right next to the blue dot as my guide.

The Loxia is a much tighter fit on the A7II than on the A7. That’s a good thing, because the lens mount has been strengthened on the A7II. The only problem is that there’s very little finger purchase on the Loxia 50mm in the space between the aperture ring and the camera for giving it that twist. It’s a bit easier to use the space between the aperture ring and the focus ring.

I haven’t done any testing, but without an autofocus motor, I think I’m getting better battery life.

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Conclusion

I have the Loxia, and I’m keeping it. It’s my everyday, “walking around” lens. And, I’m hoping for Zeiss to release a Loxia 85mm in the future.

I’d like to think that after reading this, you’ll come away with an idea about whether this is a lens for you. But it’s serious money, so if you’re in a big city, you might want to rent one for a couple of days.

Alternatively, when these lenses are more available, head to your local dealer, put one on your Sony, and take it for a spin (focus-ring play-on-words intended).

I have to agree that autofocus has become incredibly good on mirrorless cameras, and you can still manually focus those lenses with fly-by-wire. So, I admit that the Loxia’s manual focus may provide more lens control than actual photographic control. But I’ve used fly-by-wire manual focusing as an adjunct to “auto” on many autofocus lenses, and I don’t miss those experiences.

Good luck with your Loxia, or whatever lens you choose.

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Steve’s thoughts on the Loxia 50:

After my 35 Loxia review I knew I would have fun using the 50 Loxia. For me, this lens is fantastic in size, feel build, and use. I am one who is used to manual focus primes, so this is always my preference. I love Leica M glass and using them, so the Loxia was a natural fit for me and my uses and tastes.

The build is fantastic, feels almost like a Leica lens. At least feels as good as the standard 50 Summicron. Image quality wise it is also fantastic with very little CA, distortion and the lens is razor sharp.

My 1st shot with the 50 Loxia gave me 50 APO detail and rendering, all on my Sony A7S

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I will not repeat what Bill said above as he nailed it when he described the lens qualities. He basically said what I would have said, which is cool as now I do not have to write it all ;) Even so, this lens is priced VERY RIGHT at $949. For under $1,000 you can get a lens that performs almost to the level of  the Leica 50 APO which comes in at $7500 or so. See Brad Husik’s test HERE between this lens and the 50 APO. 

The A7II and the Loxia is a match made in heaven. Color, detail and pop. 

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The build and feel is much nicer than the M mount version from Zeiss. It is a perfect match for the Sony A7 system, and it works well on my A7s and A7II. Beautiful. From the packaging to the all metal lens hood to the silky manual focus feel to the auto magnify when you touch the focus ring, this lens is a winner in every way. If you love manual focus primes with some speed, then this is a lens you will adore. For me, this lens and my A7II is really all I ever need. Sure, I own wide-angle lenses and longer lenses but for me, the 50mm is the true classic prime delivering closest to what our eyes see.

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During my use with the lens I enjoyed every second of it. I never once had frustration nor did I ever wish I had a faster or different lens. I never yearned for auto focus as this lens is as easy to AF as the 35 was, and these rank among the easiest MF lenses I have used. With the auto magnify of the A7 series, it was a breeze to lock in critical focus. It is really quite fun to use the Loxia line.

All images below from the A7II and Zeiss Loxia at f/2 – Various ISO EXIF is embedded.

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Color is delicious, typical of Zeiss glass. It has the sharpness and detail, the build and feel, the great usability and the super pop and color that one would expect. All in a small prime under $950. A must buy for those who love this type of lens. I would take this over a Leica M 50 converted for use on the A7 series. Easy. In fact, this is one of my favorite lenses for the A7 series camera. I enjoy it much more than the Sony 55 1.8 (which I own) as the build is nicer, the lens is smaller yet heavier (better build) and again, I prefer the manual focus. I also feel the images have more character than the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8. Price wise, they are about the same.

Below are more of my photos with the 50 Loxia during my time with it. All on the Sony A7II (my #1 camera of choice today) – my A7II review is HERE.

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Where to Buy the Loxia Lenses:

PopFlash.com is an authorized Zeiss dealer and they carry the Loxia line HERE

B&H Photo also sells the Zeiss Loxia line HERE

Mar 302015
 

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The Angelo Pelle Sony A7II Luxury Case. Gorgeous Craftmanship.

Order one HERE

Any reader who has stuck with me for a while knows that I LOVE CASES for my cameras. Not just normal cases, but NICE cases that have beautiful hand made workmanship and fit the cameras like a glove. I have bought many cases to test over the years and my all time favorite has been the Arte Di Mano cases for the Leica M. With the soft leather and “fit like a glove” appearance, they are amazing. The only problem with the Arte Di Mano cases is the cost, but when you spend $12k on a camera and lens, $500 for a case to protect it really is not that big of a deal. I mean, you do want to protect your investment do you not?

But what about with a camera like the Sony A7II? At $1699, it is nowhere near the cost of a Leica M so should we spend $500+ on a case for them? No, I wouldn’t. But around half of that or a little more I would if the case was hand-made, beautiful and fit like a glove…oh and came with a strap!

The case I am writing about today is the new Angelo Pelle A7II case and strap set, and let me say that while they will  not be for everyone, it is a gorgeous case that has a premium luxury feel and fit and it protects the camera fully while giving it some extra “grippage” and it meets my criteria for what I was looking for.

The case color I chose was the “Testa Di Moro Waxed” version and WOW. When it arrived in its deluxe box and bag I knew it was going to be good. When I first put my A7II inside the case it seemed bulky and fat (and I am not a fan of this). When the case arrived, I was told it would take 1-2 weeks to settle in and fit the camera like a glove. Those words were correct. Today, after a solid week of use, it fits my A7II like a glove and it’s so gorgeous (to my eyes, not everyone will like it as we all have personal tastes)…

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One thing that I love is that the case also has a snap on back cover. I have been using it this way all week and this way I avoid “chimping”. When my camera is set, it is set. I shoot in Aperture Priority mode and all I need is my aperture dial at the ready. I shoot RAW and JPEG and have no need for menu settings. Even my ISO is always on AUTO. So shooting with the back on is OK for me but others will only leave it on for traveling or carrying the camera for LCD protection, which is probably what it was designed for anyway :)

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Without the back cover on the buttons are there and available but the Fn button IS covered by the case. Still, its easy to activate just by pushing the leather where the button is. Easy as pie.

The case comes in a variety of colors and finishes and also comes with a strap. The strap is a very soft leather that feels amazing and never puts any strain on my shoulder. It compliments the case perfectly.

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The Camo looks pretty sweet and you can see how well the case fits here. I had a Gariz A7II case but this case beats it in all areas as it offers full protection of the front, back, sides..all the way to the top. It never gets in the way and it is at the perfect WOW accessory to dress up your A7II as well as protect it. It also gives it a beefier feel in the hand, but not too much. Over time the leather will wear in more and more and will eventually develop a Patina showing your months and years of use.

I highly recommend this case to anyone who owns an A7II that loves a hand-made amazing quality case. It is that simple. The only weakness I found with this case  that can be frustrating is you have to remove the case to get to the battery and memory card. For me, I was out shooting all week and it did not bother me as I did not need to get to those items until the end of the day. But at home, if I take a few shots and then want to check them I have to remove the case each time. For this reason, I leave the case off if shooting around the house but when traveling or going out of the house, it is one for full protection.

If Angelo Pelle created a way to allow SD card access it would have no weakness ;) Even so, I still recommend this case. It’s a beauty! When I ordered mine it took a few days to arrive. Pretty quick!

You can see all options for this case or order it at the Angelo Pelle A7II page HERE. 

Mar 272015
 

cam3voigt

Add-on Review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7II

by Brad Husick

Recently Steve Huff wrote an extensive review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7S.  Rather than repeat his conclusions, with which I agree, my intent here is to add on to his review by shooting the lens on the Sony A7II.

The photos here were taken at ISO 100, RAW, auto-exposure. The lens does not communicate aperture to the camera. They were opened in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.1 with Camera Raw 8.8. No adjustments were made in Lightroom. In the first series across the lake, the images were shot at f/2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11,16, 22. In all the subsequent series the images were captured at f/2.8, 5.6, 11, 22. In each case you first see the entire frame at f/2.8 followed by 100% crops.

The lens displays some interesting characteristics. There is vignetting when wide open at f/2.8 but not severe. The camera chooses an exposure for f/2.8 that is different from all the stopped down exposures and you can see this in the crops. I did not adjust for this in Lightroom so that you could see the effect.

cam1voigt

Also when wide open the focus plane is not uniform across the image when focused on infinity. There are some areas in focus and some out of focus as you travel across the image from left to right. This variation settles down as you stop down the lens, nearly disappearing by the time you get to f/8. This behavior is far less obvious when focusing on closer subjects.

By the time you stop down to the lens’ limit of f/22 you have passed the diffraction limit of the sensor. Without going into gory technical detail, the final image degrades at f/22 so you’re better off limiting yourself to f/16 or so. The lens does not have click stops in the aperture ring, so you can stop anywhere you like. It does have a tendency to move rather freely, so check each time when shooting.

Overall the lens produces lovely images and is about as compact as a lens could possibly be. Build quality is superb and typical for Voigtlander. The nickel finish adds a nice retro look to the camera. I shot all of these images in overcast / light rain conditions with the small built-in hood rather than the longer metal hood and lens cap provided with the lens. My objective was to keep the package as small as possible since that’s one of the key selling features of this lens. If you own the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter for the Sony E mount (which you really should own as it is superb) then adding the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 lens should be a natural addition for your setup. You can almost stick the Sony A7II with the collapsed Heliar in a jacket pocket. Note: the lens REQUIRES the aforementioned adapter to enable focusing and it will not function properly without such an adapter.

Thank you to Stephen Gandy of CameraQuest.com for instantly loaning me the lens for review. He’s the best source for Voigtlander and always provides the best customer service. Shop there with confidence. 

The case in the photos is the Angelo Pelle leather half case for the A7II.

ALL IMAGES BELOW should be CLICKED on to see them the right way. Details are on the photos upper left text

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SET 2

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SET 3

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SET 4

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SET 5

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SET 6

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Mar 262015
 

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

USER REPORT: The New Sony 28 f/2 on the Sony A7S and A7II…BAM!

by Chad Wadsworth – his website is HERE!

Last week the FedEx guy delivered a box on loan from Sony containing a couple of much-anticipated new FE primes. The 35/1.4 is as good as Steve reported – a near perfect balance of center resolution and bokeh – but what about the little FE 28/2?

61om6hVbFkL._SL1200_

I’m a big fan of the 28mm fov and have owned a few highly regarded lenses (C/Y Zeiss 28/2.8, Zeiss 28/2.8 G, M-Rokkor 28/2.8 & Minolta AF 28/2) and film compacts (Minolta TC-1, Ricoh GR1), so there was a personal expectation for Sony to deliver a modern equivalent of the Minolta AF 28/2.

After a few days shooting and editing, a few things are clear: this little guy is shockingly sharp, renders out of focus transitions smoothly and transmits color with pop. With a price tag under $450, compact size and quick AF, there is little fault to find with. You will notice some minor distortion that should easily be handled by a PS or LR profile, but other than that…no complaints. (Pre-Order it Here at Amazon) – (Pre-order it HERE at B&H Photo)

Early web samples had some forum “experts” calling the bokeh nervous, but my results indicate a good amount of “cream” especially in the foreground. A 28mm is never going to draw the bokeh of a portrait lens but what this lens does produce is attractive to my taste. Samples here are from RAW and processed in LR – most are shot wide open. Stopping down quickly improves the corners but even at f/2 the subject sharpness is just amazing. (From Steve: I also have this lens now and it is just as Chad Describes..a MUST OWN for any A7 series shooter)

With this kind of price/performance level, I hope users reward the FE 28mm with big sales and Sony takes note of the demand for compact, high quality f/2 lenses at reasonable price points. Up to now, I’ve held onto my Minolta AF 28/2, waiting to see if this new FE 28/2 could replace it – I think it is time to let it go…

click images for larger and much better and sharper view!

1st FOUR were shot on the A7II, rest were A7s

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Venue

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mar 252015
 

DSC07321

The Wotancraft RAVEN Mirrorless Camera Bag Video Review

Hey guys! I am back yet again with another video review of a GREAT Wotancraft bag. I have to say, these guys make the best bags I have ever used. Not only are they gorgeous in their design and workmanship, they are very functional and useful, which is what they go for. A perfect mix of style, quality and functionality.

In the past I have reviewed the Ryker, The Thor and others and today I am talking about the new small bag they call “RAVEN”. The Raven is all leather, all hand-made, all 100% quality construction and materials. It comes in at $279 US and is perfect for a mirrorless or Leica system. In fact, the small Raven puts most “boutique” bags to shame with its amazing feel and design. Like a baby Ryker!

Check out the video below as well as images below it. You can order the Ryker at WOTANCRAFT HERE.

 My video review of the Raven

You can see my Ryker review HERE. My THOR Review is HERE.
buc003-style
buc003-back
buc003-designs
buc003-gear
buc003-flapedge

Mar 242015
 

paul

LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

This is my second user report I’ve written for your great site but this one is quite different from my last one (An Englishman in New York).

I’ve been a Canon user for years having had a 5DMK II, a 7DMK I and the camera I shot for part of this review the excellent Canon 5D MKIII. I have a little Olympus E-PL 1 and a Canon G11 too but my pride and joy is my Leica M240. That camera is the second M I have owned having upgraded from an M9 about 18 months ago. And what an upgrade! I really can’t understand those who prefer the M9, the colours, the noise, the dynamic range – all much better on the M240 to my mind, with live view to boot with EVF support (this is important for this article).

I’m not exaggerating when I say the Leica M240 is the camera I had hoped the M9 would have been, but whenever I shot with the M9 I found the images a little muddy in their tones – like the files were missing some information – not so with the M240.

After bumping along happily with both the 5D MKIII and the Leica M240, I realised the Canon was mostly staying in its foam-lined drawer in my study, I preferred to shoot with the M240. This wasn’t something that had happened with the M9 – the 5D MKIII gave me better images, but not so when compared to the M240. So, I began to wonder whether I actually needed the 5D MKIII… Of course letting go of the body was one thing but letting go of the lenses was quite another. At this point in time I owned a 300mm f/2.8L (easy to get rid of, I seldom shoot long), a 24-105 f/4L – a nice enough lens but not one that I actually used that much, a 16-35mm f/2.8L II – a lens I was nervous to lose (the widest I had for the Leica was 28mm) and a 85mm f/1.2L II – a gem of a lens that I loved. These two lenses were the anchor of my Canon system – they were preventing me from moving on.

However, when I sat down and worked out how much I would get by selling the Canon kit new possibilities opened up, but first I needed to see whether I could fill the niches of my Canon anchor lenses with a couple of Leica compatible lenses. Here’s what I bought: For the wide end a Voigtlander 21mm f/1.9 and for the fast portrait niche a Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R (with a Novoflex R to M adaptor) – my EVF for my little Olympus would be put to good use! These two lenses complemented my existing M lenses – a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, a Jupiter 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 (calibrated to f/1.5) and a Jupiter 85mm f/2. To be honest, I never really used the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 that much – too long for street work and for portraits I found it to have too much contrast for my taste.

Once I’d secured the lenses I thought I would do a comparison shoot before I made a decision whether I could/should divest myself of the Canon kit (although by this point the 300mm had already gone). So, I booked a model that I’d worked with on previous occasions and set to work. Some notes first though… I’d never done a lens test before so apologies for any errors in the process I may have made, also – the M240 doesn’t record lens data from my non-coded lenses and estimates the aperture based on the exposure settings. In some of the pictures my model Holly is holding up fingers to help me record the aperture I was shooting at.

Long end first – the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/2.8 at 21mm (TOP) vs the Voigtlander 21mm @ f/2.8 (Bottom) – click images for larger!

Canon21mmf2.8

Voigt21mmf2.8

Of course with all of the camera and lens changes, I forgot to let Holly know that the Canon would collect its own data! Indeed the EXIF data let me know that I was actually at 22mm, not 21mm.

I don’t think there is that much in it in terms of sharpness but the Canon lens shows less divergence of vertical. Nonetheless I prefer the tones from the Leica. I also think more shadow detail is captured, look at the purple sofa and Holly’s dress in the Leica/Voigt. combination. Unsurprisingly, both lenses show some chromatic aberration in the window frame.

At f/5.6 both lenses now have the chromatic aberration broadly under control:

Top is Canon, bottom is Voigtlander. Click images for larger!

Canon21mmf5.6

Voigt21mmf5.6

Differences in colour balance / colour rendering aside, the Leica/Voigt. combination seems to hold much more detail now and is much sharper at the edges of the frame, look at the green Tibetan chair-bed bottom left.

Peripheral sharpness picks up on the Canon at f/8 (TOP) but it is still outperformed by the Voigtlander (BOTTOM):

Canon21mmf8

Voigt21mmf8

This was enough to convince me that despite the 16mm to 21mm wide end variance, the Leica and Voigtlander would look after me. And…. The Voigtlander could shoot at f/1.9:

Voigt21mmf1.9

I then went a little longer and compared the mid-range of the Canon with my Zeiss 28mm f/2.8. First, wide open. TOP is CANON, bottom is ZEISS, both at f/2.8:

Canon28mmf2.8

Zeiss28mmf2.8

Here, it’s a mixed picture, more chromatic aberration in the window frame with the Canon but it is giving better shadow detail (look at the front of the cabinet) and it is sharper in the peripheries of the frame. The Zeiss is sharper in the middle and could be said to have greater contrast (the flip side of the lower shadow detail). I prefer the colours with the Leica/Zeiss combo though.

At f/5.6, the Canon looks really good, the chromatic aberration is under control , central sharpness is higher too. Slight exposure differences aside, the Canon is still showing less contrast than the Zeiss – which is now showing sharpness to rival the Canon right across the frame.

At f/8, it’s really only the higher contrast of the Zeiss that is separating them:

Canon28mmf5.6

Zeiss28mmf5.6

So, after all that I felt I was OK at medium wide – especially give the relative sizes of the two setups!

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the long end of the Canon 16-35mm with my diminutive vintage Soviet – the Jupiter 35mm f/2.8 – I was not expecting comparable images and the differences were clear at f/2.8. Canon on top, Jupiter and M on the bottom:

Canon35mmf2.8

Jupiter35mmf2.8

The Canon, even wide open at the long end of its zoom range, seems to control chromatic aberration well and is offering significantly more contrast than when zoomed out. It’s pretty sharp right across the frame too. The Jupiter is another story altogether, unable to control the bright window light, the veiling flare lowers the contrast significantly and although centre sharpness is at least as high as with the Canon, it drops off drastically as we move away from the centre. Look at the candle on the left and even Holly’s feet on the right. I do like that vintage look though, it’s why I bought the lens.

Canon35mmf5.6

Jupiter35mmf5.6

As shown above, at f/5.6 there’s little to complain about with the Canon and it is significantly sharper than the Jupiter everywhere, including in the centre of the frame. And although contrast and sharpness is better with the Jupiter than it was at f/2.8 it can’t keep up with the Canon. This is the same for f/8 too, as shown below. Canon is the 1st image, the Jupiter is the 2nd.

Canon35mmf8

Jupiter35mmf8

Of course, the Jupiter was never going to be the equivalent of the Canon, but it is a fun little lens to have nonetheless. However, I may need to get myself a higher fidelity M lens if I want to shoot with precision at that focal length.

Now for what I think is probably the main event of this head-to-head review – a comparison of portrait lenses. Mainly, it’s about comparing the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II with the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. But, I’m going to throw in the Soviet 85mm f/2 for good measure too.

First of all, at the widest common aperture of f/2, they really are quite different. The Canon is sharp and exhibits high contrast – it is crisp, as one might expect. But when you cast your eye from that image to the clearly softer and lower contrast Leica image, the Canon begins to look a little ‘crunchy’ – I wonder if others would agree? Then comes the Jupiter, like its 35mm cousin it is low in contrast, but nonetheless it does appear to be pretty sharp:

TOP: Canon 85 L at f/2, MIDDLE: Leica R 80mm at f/2, BOTTOM: Jupiter 85 at f/2

Canon85mmf2

leica80mmf2

Jupiter85mmf2

At f/2.8 things aren’t particularly changed – same differences, perhaps just a little less extreme:

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

Canon85mmf2.8

leica80mmf2.8

Jupiter85mmf2.8

Of course, one really buys these lenses to shoot wide open – we’ve seen the Jupiter wide open but what about the other two? Firstly, both at f/1.4:

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

Canon85mmf1.4

leica80mmf1.4

I don’t believe the Canon is any sharper now – look at Holly’s eyes on both. The Canon still has more contrast, but I am struck by the sophistication of the Leica image – sharp and soft and the same time. Also, look at the decoration on the wall and the edge of the sunlight, the Canon is exhibiting some chromatic aberration. OK, let’s see the Canon at f/1.2 – that aperture is the reason for buying this lens after all:

Canon85mmf1.2

To me, on the eyes – this looks a bit sharper that the f/1.4 shot. I was shooting from a tripod but perhaps this is just the difference between hitting the eyeball with the focus point rather than the eyelashes. I just don’t know – although Holly’s mouth is sharper too.

All this out of camera comparison is a bit artificial though isn’t it? I’m never going to shoot models (or any portraits for that matter) without editing – I pretty much edit everything. So, given that – if I had to work on the three wide open images from each lens (I pretty much always shoot portraits wide open), what do I get? I’ve deliberately over-edited a little – particularly the eyes (using a detail extractor) because I wanted to see what information was there to be had and to share it with you. They are all edited slightly differently but with the aim of them bringing the best out of the lenses while getting them to a fairly similar end point:

1st CANON, 2nd LEICA, 3rd JUPITER – all wide open

Canon85mmf1.2Edited

leica80mmf1.4Edited

Jupiter85mmf2Edited

I found the results surprising. The ‘crunchiness’ of the Canon (something I’d have never attributed to it prior to putting it against the Leica) was difficult to overcome. Transitions between light and shade seemed to accentuate really easily in the edit and I found the highlights difficult to control too (perhaps related to the sensor rather than the lens). The Leica on the other hand is, I think, quite beautiful – I’ve been able to reveal the sharpness of the lens (look at the eyes) but the softness and smoothness puts the Canon to shame – at least in my view. Then there’s the Jupiter – a dark horse: with a careful edit, it performs really well. Given that it cost me less than 5% of either the Canon (new) or Leica (used) that’s remarkable. I should say I used the EVF for both the Jupiter and the Leica. The Leica isn’t coupled so that was a must, but my Jupiter was designed for another camera and can be a bit focus shifted on an M.

For me the quality of the Leica has surprised me and shows that sharpness on its own can leave you wanting. This test allowed me to be happy to let the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II go, and with it the 5D III and the other lenses too. That’s allowed me to buy a Sony A7 II, a Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, a Voigtlander close focus M to E adaptor and a Canon 50mm f/0.95 rangefinder coupled lens, which I will get back in a few days when its conversion to M mount is done. I’ve also bought a dinky Nippon Kogaku (Nikkor) 5cm f/1.4 SC for a bit of fun after having let my Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar go too. I’m finding I’m preferring a more classic low contrast look nowadays. So with those bits of kit and some LTM to M adapter rings, I can use all but the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 on both cameras and I’ve kept some autofocus capability for shooting moving targets too. Additionally, I think the A7 II with its in-body stabilisation might be useful for some low light work when the need calls.

Altogether I feel I have gained flexibility from making the change.

A final word on the Leica 80mm f/1.4 though… It might not stay. I love how it looks, I’ve included a couple of real (non-test) shots below, but as an R lens it is a bit of a pain to use. Shooting it wide open requires precise focus and it doesn’t exhibit enough contrast for focus peaking to be effective so focusing through the EVF (it can’t be done any other way) needs to be done in zoom. Since there is no coupling, this requires the button on the front of the camera to be pressed, the eyes located, precise focus found (without peaking), the button pressed again to de-zoom, and the frame recomposed. By which time your subject is frustrated. As am I.

So there you have it, a long and rambling lens comparison posting that started out as an exercise for me to inform myself. I hope sharing it will be of interest to others too. I’m not sure how many comparisons between those particular portrait lenses are out there – I haven’t come across any.

At the moment then, I’m really looking forward to getting the 0.95 Canon back, something I wouldn’t have been able to justify buying without selling on the Canon SLR kit and I do feel broadly happy with the lenses I have. I may yet get a stronger 35mm and I may yet swap out the Leica R too.

So, thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a couple of shots that I made with the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. After all, I may not be keeping it for long…

Canal1

Canal2

I hope this reads alright Steve. I’ll send the images on in following emails – it might take two or three.

I hope you will be able to let me know whether you think it is suitable – I hope it is!

Cheers

Paul

—–

From Steve: As always, for your Leica needs I recommend Ken Hanson, PopFlash.com and LeicaStoreMiami.com

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved