Aug 272014
 

Shooting Cinema Film

By Mark Ewanchuk

Hi Brandon and Steve–I hope this email finds you well!

Inspired by prior posts from Brett Price and others, I decided to attempt to shoot and process cinema film. I have included five recent images, but this is more of a “how-to” for those so inclined.

More details may be found on my site at http://iftimestoodstill.net/developing-cinema-film/

The two main questions that I had getting started were:
How do I get the film off the 400+ ft roll, and into my bulk-loader?
How do I remove the Remjet with minimal mess and difficulty?
One of your readers (Thanks, Dominic!) http://blog.wakingmist.com/?p=1481 was most helpful in addressing some of these concerns.
I have since acquired large rolls of Kodak Vision3 500T, and Vision2 200T–of the two, I must say I prefer the 200T for it’s slightly finer grain structure.

As far as Question #1 goes: Into your standard changing bag, you will require:

Your bulk roll of cinema film (Take the sealing tape off the film tin, but don’t open it yet!!)
Your bulk loader
Some scissors
Some cellophane tape
An empty inner spool or roll, which will fit easily into your bulk loader. I used the plastic roll from a standard film canister–I had to drill out the core to ensure that it would slide freely onto the post of my bulk loader.
White cotton gloves (from eBay!) to avoid marking the film.
Once all above in the bag, open the film tin, then the inner bag, and find the end of the film reel. Next, (using a small piece of cellophane tape…) tape the leader to the inner reel you’ve set aside. Start rolling the film tightly onto the reel, ensuring that the inner surface (the emulsion side) stays IN. This will likely take you ~10 min to transfer ~50 feet of film, and make the roll approximately the same size as your bulk loader. When finished, cut the film, and load into your bulk loader in the usual fashion. Don’t forget to re-package and seal the bulk roll into the tin!!

The next part, you know how to do: Load your film into canisters, and shoot away!

As far as development goes, standard home C-41 works fine (I use the Tetanal kits)–but you need to get the Remjet off first. (Thanks again to Dominic for the tip!) I use 2 litres of SUPER HOT water, to which 2 tablespoons of standard, garden variety (well, home variety, I guess…) Baking Soda has been added. This step must be done before your standard pre-soak. Two litres should give you about six washes. The water will start black, turn to pinkish-grey, and should be clear by the final wash.

Process according to your standard method, then stop after your final wash (and before your stabilizer). Remove the film from the development canister and hang–wipe once with a soft sponge as carefully described on my site. Re-thread the roll, and run through the stabilizer…Surfactant and distilled water to finish up, and you’re all done!

Yes, it’s a lot of effort…but I really do enjoy the results.

;)

The film has a unique character, and really affords you some creative latitude. Thanks to all who have contributed to this ongoing odyssey.

Best regards,
Mark

PS: If anyone wants a roll or two, shoot me a line…I’m sure we can work something out!

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Aug 262014
 

Flashback: The Fuji S5 Pro. Gorgeous color reproduction

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Many of you may be surprised but one of my favorite digital cameras ever is a camera that I feel had the best Fuji color ever, even better than what we get with the newer X series. Yep, the now classic Fuji S5 Pro was built-in a Nikon D200 body, was slow to operate (for a DSLR) and did not have the most/highest resolution BUT it was and still is a camera capable of tremendous color reproduction. My time with the Fuji was spent back in 2007 and 2008 and during this time I also owned the Nikon D300, which had a better body, was faster, and did everything better than the Fuji, well, except for the color and Dynamic Range.

Direct from camera color taken on a gorgeous fall day in Wheatfield Indiana

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Before Fuji had the X100, X-E1, Xt1 or any X camera they were using Nikon bodies and producing DSLR’s with their own unique sensor. The lens mount was Nikon so all Nikon glass would work on the Fuji S1, S2, S3 and S5. (I have owned the S2, 3 and 5). When I started doing comparisons between the S5 Pro and the Nikon D300, I preferred the S5Pro in the IQ department but loved the D300 for its speed and higher resolution. At that time I ended up sticking with the S5 Pro longer than I did the D300 but I do remember coming back to the D300 later on.

Still, as I look back at my photos on an old hard drive I noticed a few POP OUT from my screen, and then I remembered…ahhhh yes, the Fuji S5 Pro!  Today you can still find S5′s for sale used and the prices range anywhere from $300 to $550 depending on condition. After looking back at some memories shot with the S5 I may one day buy one of the used ones up for an occasional burst of beautiful Fuji color. It isn’t so shabby in N&W either!

Who here has shot with or has owned the Fuji S1, S2, S3 or S5 Pro? If so, leave a comment and let me know what YOU think of the classic Fuji digital cameras! 

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Aug 222014
 

Unpolished pictures of unpolished people in unpolished Copenhagen

by Thorkil Brodersen

I felt that I just had to get up from the deep coach, when reading the article from 12. Aug. 14 by Howard Shooter, where he provoked by claiming that Copenhagen is spotlessly clean and beautiful, so are the buildings and even the people.

Therefore I just had to grab down in the picture-pile, to claim he is totally wrong.

Copenhagen, but I have only lived in it and close around it for about 45 years, is a living organism full of life and contrasts, but yes in this our highly praised welfare state, things are getting departed, the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, and the middle class too. And the poor and “normal” people are getting pushed out of the center while this is getting more expensive, and objects of speculation.

But the city has its own life hidden in the old streets, the old areas, the old walls and the hidden places. You just have to dip your toes a step further down and under the surface. You have to avoid the fancy places. You just have to sense the atmosphere, give yourself time to go inside cityrooms, backyards and old bar’s

Taken with Ricoh GR and GRIV

Best, Thorkil

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Aug 192014
 

Shooting with The Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 and the Sony A7 

By Doug Frost

I’ve been a happy owner of the Sony A7 since last December. For me, it won out over the A7r because of its slightly quieter and lower vibration shutter. It seemed better suited for handheld shooting than its 36mp sibling. And frankly, 24mp is plenty for me in most situations. I had been using the A7 with a variety of lenses with adapters. I have a few Zeiss Alphas which I love and I occasionally use it with my 50mm Zeiss Planar M-mount and a variety of vintage Nikon AI lenses. All great glass. I’ve always preferred shooting manual focus, and the A7 with its EVF and focus peaking makes it super easy to do.

But the one thing I lacked in my camera bag was a native FE mount lens. I had been considering buying the Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.8 FE. The reviews of that lens have been very positive, and I was on the verge on buying one when Steve posted his first look preview of the Mitakon Speedmaster last April. I was immediately intrigued by the Mitakon. It wasn’t the sharpest 50mm lens by any means. It suffered from some light falloff at f/0.95, the bokeh could be a little quirky in some situations and it didn’t come with a lens hood. But there was a quality in the look of the sample shots I was seeing on Steve’s site and elsewhere that I really liked, especially when used wide open.

So, to make a long story a bit longer, I decided to get in on the pre-order discount price, and waited. And waited. And waited. The June delivery date came and went. The revised date in mid-July passed, and still no lens. The distributor, MXCamera, was apologetic. Their factory was having trouble getting the lens coatings right and they were shipping at a fraction of the anticipated rate. Finally, on August 6th, three months after I placed my order, I emailed them saying I was tired of waiting. To my surprise they replied the next day and said they just got a few units in from the factory and they’d ship one to me ASAP and gave me a tracking number. I was delighted.

The following day, MXCamera dropped a bit of a bombshell. The Mitakon Speedmaster had been discontinued! It was being replaced by a redesigned “pro” version of the lens that they dubbed “The Dark Knight”. Not only that, but everyone who had still not received the original version they ordered would now be getting a Dark Knight in its place!

Wow, I was taken aback. At first I was annoyed. Maybe if I hadn’t emailed them they would have sent me a Dark Knight instead. It was an odd situation, because a lens I had waited three months for, and was now finally enroute to me, had been discontinued before it even arrived!

But now that I have my Mitakon and shot with it, all is forgiven. I’ve decided that henceforth it will be known as the “Mitakon Speedmaster Classic”, a rare and highly coveted beast. Will The Dark Knight prove to be a better lens than the Classic? (It has yet to be reviewed as I write this.) Maybe. I have no idea, but more importantly, I don’t care. I love what my Mitakon does for me and that’s all that counts in the end.

I’m fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s one of the most beautiful regions on the planet and San Francisco is one of the biggest tourist destinations of all. For this user report I wanted to show what the Mitakon could do when used wide open in low light. I decided on ISO 1600 for all of the shots, because the A7 does very well at that speed and at f/0.95 I figured it would be fast enough.

I decided to shoot in the evening in a San Francisco neighborhood where there would be lots of tourists milling about on the street, so someone wandering around with an A7 would hardly be noticed, and that meant Fisherman’s Wharf. Me and my buddy Chris arrived at dusk on a Saturday to explore it with our cameras. As anticipated, the Wharf was swarming with tourists. Perfect for people watching. I always shoot in aperture priority mode, and I’m happy to report that the A7’s shutter speed never dipped below 1/400 the whole time, even when I was shooting inside the Museé Mécanique arcade, where the light is low.

I hope you enjoy these photographs. I had an absolute blast taking them. If you’d like to see more of my work, I invite you to check out my gallery: http://dougfrost.tumblr.com

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Aug 182014
 

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Got IQ? The Sigma DP2 Quattro Review. 

Here I am again with yet another Sigma DP body. This time, the newest super funky DP2 Quattro model. I have never seen ANYTHING quite like the design of this Quattro and after using it and shooting with it I can state up front that I actually adore the style and design. For my hands, it feels superb when out shooting and when held correctly it really is easy to shoot with, and a joy. The last time I was with a Sigma camera it was when I reviewed the DP2 Merrill. I loved the Merrill for its amazing image quality, which was the best I have seen in any small camera. Very much like Medium Format and in some ways even better.  Now the Quattro has taken that image quality, improved the AF speed and other aspects and then jammed it into an all new body that is worthy of a whole conversation in itself.

Out of camera JPEG of my Fiancee’ Debby. This is complete OOC. Just resized to 1800 pixels wide and no sharpening. You can see the larger size if you click the image. For me, this is gorgeous out of camera color and IQ. From detail to color to bokeh. It looks fabulous. 

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So what is the Quattro?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a super funky designed camera that houses a new Foveon sensor and it will give you some of the best image quality you have ever seen, period. Even when shooting JPEGS. IN fact, I much preferred shooting the enhanced resolution JPEG’s over shooting RAW as shooting RAW is a process. Why you ask? Well, shooting RAW means you have to process those files in the Sigma Slow Photo Pro software as the files from the Foveon chip are not compatible with any other software. This means, no using lightroom for your Sigma DP2 files.

The Quattro has a 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS image sensor which will give you 5424X3616 files. The color and detail in these files is absolutely beautiful. Some of the best I have ever seen.

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The Quattro has a unique design as well and does not look like any other camera I have seen or used. It is long, oddball and with a strange reverse grip. When I first held it I was saying “OH NO! What have they done? The grip does not feel right”!. Then after  few hours of use I was saying “This feels great! Shooting with two hands feels natural and easy”.

My Quattro Video Overview

Basically, the design..while odd..is very effective for me. I have small hands but the camera fits me well and the buttons and dials are easily within reach.

Image quality is through the roof and when browsing over images I took, which were mainly quick snapshots, I was continually blown away by the complete lack of adjusting the photos. No need for changing or adjusting color, no need to sharpen, no need to fix exposure and no need to change ANYTHING. Out of camera JPEGS were just so pleasing with a rich file and crisp 3D feeling images. The Quattro, IMO, offers the most pleasing IQ from any DP camera to date though I have found the Dynamic Range to be on the lower side when compared to other cameras like the E-M1, A7, etc. When you blow a highlight you will not be able to bring back the detail if it is severely blown.

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The lens is a 30mm f/2.8 that gives us the equivalent of a 40mm 2.8 with the APS-C sized sensor. The lens is sharp and with great color and rendering. The Bokeh is smooth and pleasing and there is plenty of detail to be found here. No complaints on the lens at all.

Build quality is also fantastic and a step up from the previous versions. It feels solid and well made but I do have one major complaint. I feel it is a big one. The door that houses the SD card is not a door at all but a rubber flap that has to be pulled out and moved to the side to access the SD card. Over time this rubber will break off and this will mean that the SD card compartment will be exposed to the elements of dust, dirt and moisture. Horrible design on the SD card part. Sigma should actually fix this in the current production and replace it with a legit door. Not sure who designed that or who approved of it but it is the worst design SD card compartment cover I have seen.

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The Sigma is also missing any kind of EVF or OVF and the LCD does not tilt or swivel. If Sigma would have added these two things they would have had a serious camera that would be tough to pass up for those who love their image quality. The brand spanking new Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is quite a bit different from the previous Foveon sensor due to a new top layer with a higher res. This should now give more detailed results with faster image processing and overall speed. So Sigma has reworked their sensor tech and the 29MP Quattro is said to give the results and resolution of a 39 MP normal sensor. Pretty cool.

Here is what Sigma says about their creation:

“Unique and without peer among image sensors, the Foveon direct image sensor is similar to traditional color film in that its multiple layers capture all of the information that visible light transmits. Vertical color separation technology produces incredibly rich color gradations, which in turn make possible texture and expressive power that are immediately apparent to the eye. Even when you are photographing an object with a single color, the sensor captures the full gradation perfectly, with no discordant jumps between lighter and darker areas. Proof that capturing color accurately one pixel at a time really makes a difference, these perfect gradations are at the heart of what we call “full-bodied image quality.”

While delivering this rich, colorful, ultra-high resolution that optimally replicates what you see in the real world, the new dp offers image files of a reasonable size in an easy-to-process format. To achieve this combination, we thoroughly rethought and redesigned every aspect of the camera, including the sensor, engine, lens, body, and interior layout. The result is a camera that carries on the dp tradition and gives you unprecedented image quality.

To a radical degree, the new-generation dp series embodies SIGMA’s philosophy of creating cameras that produce works of art. Featuring the highest level of fundamental performance, this series unites artistic expression and daily experience as no other cameras can.”

As it stands, the camera produces some of the most gorgeous colors and files I have seen…comparable to real medium format files but are the weaknesses enough to put you off from buying it? Let us take a look at everything in a little bit more detail.

My son Brandon and my Nephew John while visiting the domes of Casa Grande, AZ. Sigma Sp2 Quattro at 2.8. This is from RAW. Click it for larger!

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The Auto Focus speed of the Quattro

With the DP2 Merrill the AF speed is what killed it for me. Even the write times to the card were horrible. I wanted to love the DP2 Merrill and buy one as I started to get addicted to the image quality. At the end of the day I could not do it as when it launched it was $999 and for me to spend a grand I need a camera that will not frustrate the hell out of me to get a shot. The DP2 Merrill with its quirks and annoyances put me off from buying one, even at the current price of $699. It is just too slow and doesn’t feel right in the hand to me. You can read my review of that camera HERE.

With the Quattro I had hoped that Sigma improved the Auto Focus speed. If not, it would be the same thing for me and the design would not have saved it.

After shooting the Quattro in many different conditions I have found the AF to be much better this time around but still on the slow side of the tracks. It will not compete in AF speed with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the Fuji X-T1 or the Nikon 1 series. It is nowhere near DSLR Focus speeds either, but it is much better than the old DP2 Merrill. The camera is full of flaws but IQ is not one of them.

When shooting in decent light it is quick enough to get a grab shot though not fast enough to catch a super quick moment. Even with the speed increase, which also is seen in write times, it does not even come close to making the Quattro any sort of action camera. I still say that this camera is best for static subjects. Portraits, scenes, landscapes, urban decay, etc. This is where the camera will excel. I have found the images to have a medium format feel in color and details. In fact, the IQ is so special with this camera that I feel the speed increases seen, while still slow, make the camera worth a purchase for those who value superb color and IQ. For portraits this camera just gets it right and if used from ISO 100-800 you will not be let down by the IQ. If coming from a Merrill of even older DP2 you will find the speed increases very welcome indeed. Just do not expect a speed demon, as it is in NO WAY a speedy camera in operation.

The next three images..all OOC JPEG

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What the DP2 Quattro is missing, in my opinion

While I have been enjoying my time with the little Quattro I have been wishing that it has a few things that it does not, and if it did, it would make it complete IMO. For one, I love the fact that it is so simple. It is a device built for one thing, all out image quality without any stress of color, sharpness or quality. In this regard, it just works. Image after image, even of plain old mundane subjects looked superb, reminding me of the old Leica M9 in many ways with the crisp yet pleasing details and slide like film color. Add in some medium format smoothness and you have a camera that REALLY delivers in the IQ department. I know I said this already but for me, the IQ is almost worth the asking price alone here. Add in the funky design (which I love) and the ease of use and you have a real camera that photo geeks and enthusiasts will really enjoy when shooting in good light.

But the DP2 is not perfect, far from it.

For starters, there is no EVF  here. An EVF embedded into the body would have just added so much to the experience. When out in bright light the LCD gets hard to see and framing your shot is basically not possible. It turns into a guessing game for everything. An EVF would have solved this and made it more enjoyable to shoot. Sigma is releasing an OVF (Optical View Finder) for the Quattro but there are issues to using an OVF with a digital camera.  For starters, let’s say you shot with the LCD off (which is as easy as a button press away) and wanted to frame with the OVF. You will not get an exact framing nor will you know where the camera focused. If you want precise focus you will need to use the LCD. An EVF would have been perfect.

Also, the LCD does not swivel and while I appreciate this being done to keep clean lines and save on thickness, it hurts the usability because without the EVF or a tilt LCD it takes away points for versatility. Then we have the shoddy high ISO performance. I have been using the Sony A7s as my main camera for months now and have become quite spoiled with the ability to shoot anywhere and at anytime. With the DP2 Quattro forget low light interior shots or ISO above 800. After ISO 800 the noise gets nasty and even with color I would prefer to stop at ISO 400. This is one area where the Foveon sensors just have not been able to improve upon. At base ISO and up to 400 the file quality is outstanding in color or B&W. After 400-800 you will want to go B&W only, and yes, you can get good results at ISO 3200 with B&W. OOC B&W mode looks great.

So while the IQ and design is beautiful (for me and my tastes) the camera still lacks due to not having an EVF, swivel LCD and not so great high ISO performance.

With that out-of-the-way, if one wants a camera for certain subjects like portraits, landscape or scenic type of stuff then the Quattro will deliver better than almost any other camera. I feel it has better IQ than the Leica M9 that came in at $7k. From color to detail, it is stupendous. If we treat it like a “Mini Medium Format” then it is understandable  that it is lacking in many ways but up there with the best of the best in other ways.

As long as you know what you are getting with the Quattro then it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed with it. I recently saw a YouTube video review of this camera and the guy concluded with “It’s a piece of crap”. I have never seen such a horrible review as the guy had no idea how to use it to its potential. The Quattro is far from a piece of crap and is highly capable when it comes to making/creating an image. From the color to the detail to the rich file. You just have to realize what it is and what it is not!

The NONO’s: No action shots, no low light interior or night shots, no easy framing in harsh sun. Battery life is below average but camera comes with two of them.

The WOW’s!: Gorgeous MF like IQ & color, unique design and simple menu setup. OOC JPEGS look fantastic.

There more OOC JPEGS…

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The Shooting experience with the Quattro

The DP2 Quattro, as previously stated, is a unique design. I am a HUGE fan of those companies that go outside of the box when it does to design and features. I love to see companies push the envelope and do or try things that no one else does. When I saw the design of the Quattro before it was released I was very excited about it because it was something different from the normal ho hum camera shape. I found the DP2 Merrill to have an awful body design. The Quattro, while odd at first while holding it soon becomes comfy and natural. I had zero issues using the body, holding the body or controlling the camera. The magnesium alloy body feels solid and secure and everything is top quality (besides the dumb rubber SD card cover).

Brandon getting the shot with his Diana camera. OOC JPEG. Blown highlights outside in the sun. 

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Using Auto Focus with the Quattro is a much nicer experience over the DP2 Merrill, which was borderline unusable for most situations. At least now we have a somewhat snappy AF and while it will hunt in low light, it is not bad at all. I expected worse, so it exceeded my expectations in the Auto Focus speed department. The Quattro does not do the fancy tricks that other cameras do. Video? Nope. Fancy built-in effects? Nope. No panorama, no smile detect, etc. It is a simple camera with a simple design and button layout.

The Menu system is superb. Clean, elegant and easy to browse. I wish all were like this. It reminds me of a Leica menu in its simplicity and the quick menu is so clean, so easy to navigate and make changes. I love it.

When I washout shooting with the DP2 Quattro I always loved taking it out of my bag to shoot and I even had a few people ask me what it was I was taking pictures with. It is a conversation starter and stare getter for sure, so forget about being stealth with the Quattro. Never once did I have an issue with anything and it always delivered the goods. I had a wonderful time shooting with it unlike the previous DP2 Merrill.

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It’s all in the details

Even when shooting JPEG you can see the immense detail in the image. Below are three images with 100% crops embedded. You must click the image to see it with the crop. Remember, these are from JPEG!

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High ISO Test and Crops

The Sigma DP2 Quattro, or any DP camera for that matter is NOT a camera made for low light shooting. In fact, for best IQ keep this camera set to ISO 100-400 and no more than that. Yes, very low on the ISO scale but there are always trade offs as there are no perfect cameras. The DP2 Quattro is a camera to pull out of the bag when there is good light available. Then it will reward you with beautiful colors and results.

I am posting a few high ISO files below starting with base ISO 100. I them move on to 400, 800. 1600, 3200 and 6400. The best are 100 and 400 but see for yourself. Once you get to ISO 1600 problems start to creep in including odd color shifts and reduced DR. Stick from 100-800 and you will be just fine.

For best viewing experience, right-click and open each image in a new window. These are full size files from the camera, OOC JPEG

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JPEG vs RAW comparison

I have found that shooting the Quattro in JPEG  to be quite good. In fact, with all of the hassles of processing the RAW files of the DP2 Quattro I would just shoot JPEG for 95% of what I shoot. If I was shooting something very special that I was going to print large t hen I would process the RAW file for sure. Below are two images, one out of camera JPEG and one processed from RAW.

JPEG is up top, RAW underneath. Right click and open in a new window to see the files in their full size. 

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding Medium Format image quality!
  • Unique design and shape that works well for my hands
  • Conversation starter
  • Detail, color and 3D feel is all here
  • Camera ships with two batteries and full charger
  • 30mm f/2.8 lens is sharp corner to corner
  • Sigma’s best DP to date
  • Faster Af and processing over previous DP cameras
  • Great JPEG engine
  • Super JPEG size:  7,680×5,120
  • Superb for B&W shooting
  • OVF is available for those that want one
  • Good Dynamic Range up to ISO 800
  • Menu system is simple, clean and elegant
  • Most Unique camera of 2014!
  • IQ puts most other cameras to shame…really.

Cons

  • Still slow to AF compared to other (non DP) cameras
  • No swivel LCD
  • Must get exposure correct as it is tough to recover highlights
  • SD Card rubber “door” will break eventually
  • No kind of EVF even possible
  • Shape may be trouble for some
  • Battery life is not the best, sucks down quick.
  • Fixed lens means only 40mm equivalent
  • Limited ISO use, best from 100-400
  • Dynamic Range suffers after ISO 800+
  • RAW files can only be opened and processed by Sigma Software, which is SLOW as molasses.

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Who is this camera for?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a camera for camera pros, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It is not a P&S for a new camera buyer or for someone without any knowledge of how a camera works. It is for those who crave detail, rich color and unreal micro contrast. It is for those who want a Medium Format look and feel in a camera that is much smaller and lighter, as well as cheaper. It is a camera for portraits, landscapes or still life. It is not for someone who wants to shoot running kids inside the house. No way, no how. If you shoot outdoor scenes, landscape or people and you want a camera that will deliver some of the most beautiful files you have seen, the this may be your camera. I find it works great as a 2nd camera for special situations or those moments when something like this will work for you.

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Final Word

As I sit here and think about my time with the DP2 Quattro I am extremely pleased and happy with the image quality. It exceeded every expectation and beats out some much more expensive cameras when shooting in the iSO 100-400 range. For IQ, this is one of those camera that just scream out with it. It doesn’t get better in IQ even in the 3K range! It was reminding me of such cameras as the Leica M9, Sony RX1R and even a few Medium Format cameras when it comes to IQ. That is some pretty impressive company, especially when you consider that the camera sells for $999. Well under the others I mentioned.

But will the IQ be enough for most of you who are in the market for a new camera? Probably not. The Sigma DP Quattro would not make for a good “one camera” to own because it limits your shooting to daytime or good light, ISO 100-800 for color shooting and it does not offer an EVF or swivel LCD. The Battery life is tough (but it does ship with two) and the camera does not do video or the gimmicky tricks that some other cameras do so well.

The DP Quattro is about one thing and one thing only…making memories in decent light with the best quality possible in this size and format for under $1000.

The Auto Focus has improved greatly from the DP2 Merrill I tested but it is still lacking in speed when compared to other cameras. I never found it unusable or missing the shot, not at all, but again…it is only good for still shots, NOT action or moving subjects and in low light it slows down and hunts. The DP2 Quattro has the all new sensor that delivers faster speed and better performance across the board and the 29 MP Foveon sensor is said to give the same results as a standard 39MP sensor. I would not argue that point. The battery life has improved from the Merril’s 50-60 shots per charge and now I can get about 120-140 shots per charge The two batteries supplied should be good for a day of shooting as long as you are not a speed demon machine gun shooter (if so, this is NOT your camera).

Shooting the Quattro is something you will either LOVE or HATE. If you can get along with the funkytown design then you will enjoy shooting with the Quattro. If you find the grip odd or off, then forget it.

Me, I love the design. I think it is the loveliest camera design of 2014.

So will I buy one? When B&H Photo sent me this camera to review I assumed I would “like” it but not “love” it. Well, I fell hard for the special image quality which does have some magic embedded in it. I also enjoyed the faster AF and write times and beefier design. I hate the flimsy rubber SD card “door” but overall enjoyed my time with the camera. I feel it is worth the $999 if you are after IQ for landscapes or portraits and as a 2nd camera for those times when you want the Foveon Look. So I have to ask myself if I would use it enough. I have a Leica, I have a Sony A7s and still have an Olympus E-M1 lying around. Do I need this one? NO, not at all. Do I want it? Sure, I would love to own it just for the IQ, color and design. I feel one day this camera will sit in a museum for its unique yet oddball design! It may be a flop sales wise but it sure is unique ;)

So would I buy one? Yes indeed, if I had the spare $1k to spend, without hesitation. If I can save some cash I may just go for it. I passed on all previous DP models but this one is my favorite without question. I can not image ANYONE being disappointed with the image quality. Just beware that you will need light because after ISO 400 or 800 the IQ degrades fast.

I would love to test this camera and the upcoming DP1 (28mm equivalent)  during my upcoming Southwest workshop as it would create some breathtaking images I am sure. I may have to buy one just for that trip :)

WHEN YOU SIT AND THINK ABOUT IT…the Sigma DP Quattro beats the Leica M 240, Sony A7 and others for Image Quality, has Auto Focus (the Leica does not) and comes in at $6k less (than the Leica) but includes a lens where the Leica does not. When you look at it in this way then it is a no brainer and worth the cost if you value high image quality above all. Just be ready for what this camera does NOT do well (low light, action, etc).

Overall it gets a recommendation from me, and a high one..but only if your main concern is image quality and you do not need a camera for low light or for fast moving subjects.

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Where to Buy

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is available at the links below from my recommended dealers:

B&H Photo – You can see or buy the Dp2 Quattro at B&H Photo HERE

Amazon – Buy the Quattro at Amazon by using my link HERE

Outside the USA? Use my Amazon UK, Germany and Canada links HERE.

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

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Aug 132014
 

A Pair of Fujis in Paris

By James Conley

France’s importance in the history of photography cannot be overstated. Some of the most significant documentary images in the history of photography were made in Paris, and it was the home of photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Today, the city is full of commercial galleries dedicated to photography. During any given week there are dozens of elaborate exhibitions and public displays of images. Photography is respected as an art, and it is actively promoted. Indeed, France is home to Jean-François Leroy, the founder and sponsor of Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan. Paris is at odds with itself, however. It’s an easy city to shoot, but a frustrating city to shoot in.

~First, the backdrop.~

Paris is divided by the Seine. The right bank is to the north, and the left to the south. The left tends to be rather rich (read: touristy) and the right bank tends to be more artsy (and frequently seedier). The right has interesting places like the medieval-streeted Marais, and the left was Hemingway’s stomping ground. The right is hillier, the left flatter.

Regardless of where you go, though, Paris is a victim/beneficiary of Georges Eugene Haussmann. Until the middle of the 1800’s, Paris had the same structure as it had during the Middle Ages—small, interwoven streets and cramped buildings. In 1794, under the influence of the miasma theory of the day that the tight quarters were the cause of illness, a Commission of Artists came up with a plan for redoing the streets. Nothing happened with the plan until Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became emperor in 1852. He wanted the government to better control a capital where several regimes had been overthrown since 1789, and wanted wide avenues through which to move troops.

Napoleon III tasked Haussmann with reurbanization, and gave him broad powers to implement the plans. Haussmann used that power to seize property, require owners to make changes to building facades, and to completely level and rebuild parts of the city. Haussmann defined the maximum height of buildings, and their features—including balconies and roof pitch—was mandated. Neighboring buildings had to have floors at the same height, as well as matching exterior lines. Quarry stone was mandatory along the avenues. Wide boulevards, landscaped gardens, and monuments were designed to frame France’s imperial history. The plan and its result made the city look like an extensive palace.

What all this means from a photographer’s point of view is that the city provides a fetching backdrop for almost any picture, no matter what part of the city you’re in. It also means that no matter what part of the city you’re in, it runs the risk of looking remarkably like any other part. The buildings are beautiful in their own way, but they lack individuality. It’s as though Disney had the power to reface a major city.

Paris has some of the worst traffic of any major city. Cars are numerous, but mopeds and motorbikes are a close second. They are everywhere. Vehicles clog the streets and they park in any available place. Because of the chaos of so much traffic, Paris has placed a seemingly infinite number of three-foot tall poles to block walkways from vehicle parking. Parking on the streets is relatively unlimited, however, and there is almost no street that doesn’t have cars or mopeds lining it. This means that nearly every street scene will be blocked by either a pole or a vehicle.

Light is also an issue. Paris is a very northerly city. It is on a latitude similar to that of the U.S./Canadian border. In the autumn, this means that the sun is low in the sky, but it’s very bright. Shadows are strong, and highlights are glaring. Dealing with the contrast is not an insignificant challenge. Partly overcast is a friend to the limited dynamic range of a digital sensor.

Most of the traditional sites are worth seeing, even if their inspiration to make images is low. The Eiffel Tower is impressive. The Louvre is stunning. (Outside, at least. I think the Met is better curated, regardless of the difference in volume.) The city’s elaborate gardens are interesting and relatively attractive, if a rigid approach to horticultural design appeals to you. The streets are obtuse and there is no grid, which makes for convenient backdrops. The Latin Quarter and Ile Saint Louis stand out as particularly photogenic. As discussed below, however, many of the sites aren’t accessible to photographers. For example, Sacre Coeur doesn’t allow photography inside, nor does the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. The Louvre, however, does. Most storefront businesses do not allow photography—including of the street. Most people out on the street will wave you off if they see you taking pictures.

~Second, the law.~

Contrary to France’s very welcoming approach to photography as art, it is also the home of two laws which restrict it: Droit d’image and La Loi Vie Privée. Basically, a French citizen can sue a photographer for using any image which includes the citizen or his property in the picture.  So, for example, you see an interesting farmhouse in Versailles. You snap a picture, and then want to use it on a blog which has advertising from which you profit. Unless you have the written permission of the owner of the property, under French law you can’t use the image. And what if the property gets sold later? That’s right—you have to get the new property owner’s permission.

The law against using someone’s likeness commercially is not particularly different from the protection other countries provide: you can’t associate someone with a commercial product without a model release. The French people, however, generally fail to understand that taking pictures of someone in a public space and using it for an artistic or editorial purpose is allowed. The French assume they have the right to interfere with all photography.

This confusion has led many photographers to avoid France, and to not publish their work in France. Whether or not these laws would be enforced against a particular photographer with a particular image, it certainly casts a pall over the desire to make images.

~Third, the people.~

Paris is a busy city. The streets are full of a variety of shops. People live in the city, and despite their cars, they shop very locally. The Haussmann design leaves little interior space for working at home, so people are out and about. Cafe tables are plentiful, and people loiter for hours working or talking. Pedestrian traffic is heavy, as is bicycle and motorized transport. Shops tend to close around 6 p.m., but cafes and restaurants are open later.

Despite (or because of) the number of tourists, people tend to be fairly aware of photographers. More so than in cities like New York, Parisians seem to be constantly on the lookout for someone taking a photo. There are few smiles in Paris, and even fewer when a camera is around. Shopkeepers will confront you if they even see a camera. They’ll also come out of the store if they see you taking pictures in the street. Signs forbidding photography are everywhere.

Outside of stores, the people on the streets are less confrontational, but it’s wise to be aware and not push the issue. It’s best to follow the fancy footwork of Cartier-Bresson and blend blend. He was a master at taking photos fast, with his subjects unaware they were being photographed. Zone focusing and the use of the rear LCD display on cameras so equipped is required practice. Waiting in the right spot for the right time is also handy—people get used to your presence and pay less attention.

~The Fujis~

I took an XE-1 and an X100s to Paris for two weeks. and racked up over 100 miles of walking around the city and its environs. I shot with two lenses on the XE-1: an 8mm Rokinon and 18-55mm Fuji. The X100s has a fixed 23mm. I found the Fuji X cameras to be very adept at the kind of speed required for Parisian street photography. The small bodies go unnoticed, and as mirrorless cameras the Fujis are quiet. The X100s is particularly easy to adjust for zone focusing and is virtually silent. The rangefinder style X series in general are well-suited to be quick to the eye, making stealth shooting easier.

Like any city, the best way to approach Paris as a photographer is to walk. There are opportunities for images on the plentiful buses and metros, but the action (as always) is out on the street. Having lugged 35mm and DSLR equipment for more years than I care to remember, the small and light Fujis are much easier on the shoulder and the back for extensive city walking.

Paris is a great city. The air and the water make delicious pastries and bread. The streets are picturesque, and there are interesting places to see. The art is impressive and ubiquitous. It’s worth a visit to the galleries and museums. But it’s a tough city to work in. The people are not friendly to photographers, and the traffic and poles make it a challenge to find a clean foreground, much less a background. The pollution is horrendous, and the noise is incessant. The most photographed places are the most accessible, which means being original is not just a challenge—it’s risky. Having a street confrontation in a foreign language does not a good trip make. But Paris is worth the challenge, and forewarned is forearmed.

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

—James

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A woman on the Paris Metro reads among a plethora of geometric patterns.

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Aug 122014
 

Copenhagen with the Leica M 240 and 50 APO Summicron

by Howard Shooter

Copenhagen is a difficult city to shoot. The buildings are spotlessly clean and beautiful, the roads are spotlessly clean and beautiful and guess what…the people are spotlessly clean and beautiful.

This presents the street photographer with a problem; no urban decay, no old men with interesting creases which tell the story of their lives and therefore no photography which is focusing on the contrast of modern society. Denmark, like their most famous invention, Lego, is designed beautifully.

My wife and I managed our lucky annual weekend away without our gorgeous children to have a little of us time leaving our three children, happy as could be with the grandparents.

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Copenhagen is famous for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, Canals that look like they are straight out of Amsterdam, (as a result of the Dutch building some of them), interior shops, posh designer food, beer beer beer, bicycles and a design ethos which is evident everywhere.

I was looking forward to using and testing my newly acquired Holy Grail of lenses, the Leica 50mm APO Summicron with the Leica M240.

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These shots are a miss mash of images and colours taken from around the city. I didn’t take hundreds of shots as I was there to relax and soak up the atmosphere rather than document it but I was pleased and I’m still learning all the time what this lens is capable of. I feel I always need about six months to a year to understand a lenses characteristics and this little gem is no different.

Now I think this is a lens which once purchased needs some financial justification as it is stupidly priced. I am not rich, I am quite sane (sometimes), and I am not a man who easily jumps on bandwagons. However I am a professional food photographer, I did sell two lenses to help pay for this piece of glass and I do use the Leica for the odd professional celeb chef portrait when the opportunity arises. I had ordered one of these, cancelled it and then six months later wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

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I think with lenses there is a misconception about what quality is all about when all of these graphs and charts and grids are produced by scientists who are comparing various tolerances across various apertures. I’ve seen enough shots of bookcases and scenes of toys with colour charts to last me a lifetime. Lenses are not solely about sharpness and yet this lens is sold partly because of its incredible sharpness. This, in the grand scheme of things definitely isn’t the main part of this lens that interests me. I did have a Leica 50mm Summilux and on the M240 it does display a little softness but it is a beautiful, quiet lens displaying subtlety and beautiful bokeh which is arguably nicer than the 50mm APO.

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What this lens does better than any other on the M240 is incredible dynamic range to the point where shots properly look like medium format film. The bokeh is nice but not incredible in my opinion, but the 3D pop combined with the sharpness and dynamic range is remarkable. It gives this lens a versatility like no other. Images can be deliberately overexposed and look subtle and beautiful without the whites bleaching out, and yet dark shots are rich and saturated with black blacks and eye popping colour. Black and white converted RAW shots look so authentically Bressonesque in their tonal values that the digital Leica feels like it has come of age.

The big question surely is “is it worth the money?”….. well for me it makes using extra lenses on the Leica seem superfluous and to that extent if you have a few lenses and traded up to the 50mm APO you wouldn’t be disappointed… I wasn’t… but blimey…. how much!

Howard Shooter

www.HowardShooter.com

Aug 072014
 

Why cameras are important!

By Rudiger Wolf

Steve,

Your site really does provide inspiration. After the A7s review, I decided to try the low light monster. I had hefted the A7 before, and it just did not feel/sound quite right. The A7s arrived just before our annual family pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe. We try to enjoy family time together at Lake Tahoe every summer. This time it would be especially fun, because the grandkids are getting old enough to enjoy the festivities (2 and 5 years old). Many years ago, I read an article wondering why some professional photographers use the best cameras and lenses on their clients, and then use lower quality gear for pictures of their families… pictures that could bless the lives of family members for generations to come, long after the value of client pictures are gone. I took that lesson to heart, and use the best equipment I can on my own family. Here then, are a few pictures of our recent trip to Lake Tahoe, using the A7s and Zeiss 24-70.

Ok, well not quite always that camera and lens combination. In this case, it was the A7s with Leica 21mm f3.4. Shot at ISO 3,200, F3.4, 20 sec.

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This is my 5 year old grand-daughter. She woke up early one morning. I was already working on the images from the previous day. The light streaming through the glass doors looked like it might offer some interesting images. She is an absolute sweetheart, and agreed to model for our photo shoot. I used the A7s and Leica glass, but ultimately, this is one of my favorite shots. Leica M240 with 90mm at f3.4, 1/30 sec at ISO 800. The colors on the A7s just did not match up as well.

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There is no intention of a fake out here. The A7s is an impressive instrument. I did have the chance to use the A7s exactly as I imagined it. Auto ISO, shutter speed fast enough to capture the active grandkids, Zeiss zoom lens for auto focus and flexibility. It all came together with a series of shots in a pretty dark room and my two grandsons…cousins. Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70, 1/125 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800! This one will last a lifetime! Where is the grain? Awesome.

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Obviously, we also watched the fireworks. I had tried to get them from the boat before with my D800e. Don’t get me wrong, I love that camera. Like any camera, it has limitations. Again, the A7s showed it’s capability. This was shot with Zeiss 24-70 at 1/125 sec, f4.0 at ISO 51,200! Just a fantastic camera for low light.

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Did I mention my grand kids? They loved the show! Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70 at 1/40 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800.

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To wrap this up… Thanks for the recommendation on the Sony A7s. It has enabled me to capture images I will treasure for a long time. My kids and their kids will see these, and remember the great times we have had together as a family. I can think of no loftier goal than to invoke those memories and feeling of joy and love together as a family.

Rudy

digitalwolftracks.smugmug.com
Rudiger Wolf

Jul 282014
 

Good Things Come in Small Packages: My Sony RX1R Experience

 

by Daniel Stainer – His website is HERE.

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From the scorching Nevada desert to the sandy shores of Outer Banks North Carolina, I’ve had six months to put the amazing Sony RX1R through its paces.

For my landscape work, I mainly shoot with the equally capable (but different) Nikon D800e, although I find it a bit bulky for spontaneous street and travel work. I always say that when you’re working the street with a larger-sized DSLR, people either want to mug you or they think you’re a member of the paparazzi. Either way, larger cameras are not as discreet and can often impact the subtle dynamic and interaction between photographer and subject. This is where the smaller Sony RX1R really shines.

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So after six months, you’re probably wondering…what is my overall opinion of the RX1R? In a nutshell, It’s like owning a Leica M with a 35mm F/1.4 Lux lens, but at a fraction of the expense (so long as you’re fine using a slightly slower fixed prime). For those of you with Leica lens lust like myself, this is certainly a viable alternative – and one that won’t elicit buyer’s remorse.

While I won’t go all DxO on you with lens peeping comparisons, I can tell you that the Zeiss optics and image characteristics are simply stunning – as is the camera body fit and finish. Dynamic range and low-light/high-ISO capability is quite frankly excellent – as is color rendering and micro contrast. Much like Leica, the bokeh characteristics have a 3D quality that really pops. I can’t believe Sony was able to fit such a good 24MP FX sensor into such a small body.

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Surprisingly (and as many users have already noted), the camera was actually too small for my hands weighted against the built-in Zeiss lens. Paired with a Really Right Stuff L-bracket and grip, it now balances out perfectly without compromising on the small footprint or good looks. I did initially purchase the stylish Gariz leather half-case, although I ended up selling it because I found the RRS bracket set-up to be more practical for my tripod work (boasting better hand-held stability).

Some would call the slower AF system the Achilles Heel – and I would somewhat disagree. While it’s not as blazingly fast as some of the Nikon/Canon DSLRs out there, it is very respectable (especially once you get a feel for things). I tried it out many times in lower light, and it seemed to track well – especially when coupled with Auto ISO to maintain an optimal hand-held shutter speed.

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I absolutely love Sony’s Auto ISO capability. Shooting in aperture priority or manual, there’s not much this camera can’t handle – and even the high ISO shots are very clean – just about on par with my former Nikon D4 up to about ISO 6400. Combined with the speed priority continuous burst drive setting, and you’ll have a formidable dual weapon for sharply stopping action dead in its tracks.

Truth be told, the AF is not nearly as lackluster as many have reported. That’s not to say that a faster and more responsive AF wouldn’t be a welcome enhancement for fast action or street-shooting scenarios. But you can manage and mitigate these shortcomings with the right settings and technique.

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As for other weaknesses, some argue that the lack of built-in OVF/EVF is a deal breaker. I did get Sony’s optional EVF – which is pretty sweet. It does make the camera a bit more bulky, but the fact that you can take it on and off and go stealthy is a nice thing IMHO. Shooting from the hip or via the beautiful-rendering LCD can also have its benefits when you’re trying to blend in. So maybe not ideal for some, it was not a show stopper for me.

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So what didn’t I like? Well – I’m not crazy about the organization of the menu system (being spoiled by Nikon). Too many non-intuitive tabs. Also, I think the camera has too many features and options (if you’re a JPEG shooter, you’ll love all the cool filters and snazzy pre-sets). But like anything else, you can choose to ignore most of them and focus on basic minimalist RAW settings. And if B&W photography is your thing, the RX1R converted RAW files are breathtaking – with deep dark blacks and plenty of contrast to satisfy even the most discriminating user.
Probably the biggest miss from Sony is the lack of proper weathersealing. As I’m writing this review, my RX1R has been mailed to Sony service to clean up some rather noticeable dust bunnies that made their way deep onto the sensor/inner lens element. I was hoping to avoid these issues with the attached lens construction.

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If you shoot wide open at F/2 everyday, all day – you probably won’t notice any dust. But if you stop down for any landscape work (even urban landscapes), they could become glaringly obvious. In all fairness to Sony, taking a non weather sealed camera to the desert or beach was probably ill-advised on my part. Even if you treat the camera with kid gloves, the RX1R was not designed for extreme environments (wind, sand, dust, water). Just don’t tell that to all the pros, semi-pros and advanced amateurs out there who refuse to put their cameras behind a museum display case. When all else fails, you’ve always got the clone/heal tool.

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Lastly, I wanted to talk about the price. Sure, the camera with accessories can cost a small fortune. And I would agree that some of the accessories (like the obnoxiously-priced lens hood or lack of standalone charger) should be included. But when you consider the amazing optics and capabilities – it’s a veritable bargain. That Leica lens I referenced above cost $5,150 from B&H, without the camera.

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Make no mistake – Sony has created something very special in the RX1R. For those looking to augment their larger DSLR system for more discreet street and travel work, I can’t think of anything better than the Sony RX1R. It’s not perfect – but what camera ever is? But in the area that really matters (image quality and lens rendering characteristics), the Sony RX1R is the king of mirrorless as far as I’m concerned – and a very strong contender to the best that Leica (or any manufacturer, for that matter) can offer.

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Best of all, you won’t have to sell off your first-born to own one (ha-ha), although you might have to sell a few knickknacks on eBay to cover the rather pricy accessories. This is one camera I won’t be parting with anytime soon – even given its quirks.

Faded Glory (Salvo, NC)

Daniel Stainer

Jul 242014
 

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The Sony RX100 III Review. The best pocket camera ever?

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

Man oh man oh man! Sony is on fire and hotter than ever (Sony A7s just recently and now this) and while the RX100 III is sort of older news already, as in, it has been released and in the hands of many shooters for a while now it is just now that I have been able to sit down, relax, and write down my thoughts about it after using it for 2-3 weeks. As many of you know, the RX100 III is the latest and greatest version of the Sony RX100, a true pocket rocket of a camera. In my review of the original RX100, I praised it up and down for what it was, what it could do and how it could do it, all while fitting in a front pocket. You can read that review here and to be honest, the original is still a damn fine camera today and can be had at a much better price than when it was launched.

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After the original RX100 came the RX100 II and after I had one for 2-3 weeks I found it was NOT enough of an upgrade to the 1st version to warrant the expense. With version II Sony added the capability to use an external EVF and improved the sensor slightly, but for me, I preferred the original sensor. Odd huh? Because of this, I never really reviewed it. Instead I took a quick look at it HERE. 

Now with version III Sony has given us a pop up EVF which is absolute GENIUS! It stays hidden until you want to use it, and then you flick it up with a switch on the side. It pops up just like a pop up flash would and then you pull it out to use it. It is a very welcome addition to the camera and for me, makes the upgrade worth it right there! But Sony did not stop there as they also changed out the lens, which is now a 24-70 equivalent ranging from f/1.8 to f/2.8. Even at 70mm you can stay at f/2.8, which will allow more light to come in. Faster is always a good thing when it comes to aperture. So while we lose some of the reach of the Version I and II RX100, we gain speed and IMO some slight improvements to the lens quality.

We still have the same RX100 size, tilt LCD, selfie mode, and all of the usual Sony features and gimmicks. The lens barrel rotates and can control just about anything you want it to. I have it set to aperture but you can also set it to control color mode, or even ISO. The camera is a VERY polished and “finished” type of design. Smooth jpeg files as well with plenty of pop for a small sensor camera, and do remember that this is a small 1″ sensor camera that is not meant to replace a larger sensor mirrorless or DSLR as it does have limitations when compared to its larger cousins.

One of the 1st shots I snapped in JPEG with the RX100 III. Our new puppy “Olive” – Was in some weird mode so high contrast..

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One in High Contrast B&W Mode (JPEG) – click for larger. Focus was on the hair (of the wig) in front of his eye. Even with the small sensor you get some shallow DOF at the widest 24mm setting.

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Since the RX100 III is basically an RX100 with an improved sensor, new lens and new EVF it is still at its heart, an RX100. Same idea, same body, same concept, same shooting experience. So to read about all of that, click here to read what I said about the original in regards to all of that. In use, the new III is not only just as fun, fast and slick to use as the I and II, but even more so. While it may be small for some hands, there are a few grip options out there including Sony’s own grip made for the camera. There are also cases, and my fave is the one made by Gariz, which you can see below and order HERE. It’s really an attractive and useful accessory for the RX100 III and makes the camera look “luxury”. Much like a Leica ;) If it had a red dot…Hmmmm.

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Out of the Box impressions

The RX100 III arrived in a TINY cute Sony box and when I opened it I was welcomed by a familiar shape and design. As I stated before, the RX100 III is the same shape and design as the original, but in its III form it is like a “Super RX100″. In fact, I will call it the “Super 100″ from here on out as I feel it is so jam-packed with features that PHOTOGRAPHERS want. Nice fast Zeiss zoom, pop up EVF, swivel screen, fast and accurate AF, slim design, high quality video, etc. After taking it from the box I charged inserted a battery (I have six of them from my previous RX100) and popped the camera in my pocket. I shot a couple of frames at a KISS concert (though had seats off to the side) and around town during  my day-to-day errands. I shot JPEG 100% of the time.

For me, a camera like this should be able to do JPEG well, and the RX100 does indeed do it well. For me it offers a fun factor and stress free experience, which is good. While it does not compete with a DSLR or one of the larger sensor mirrorless cameras it does blow away any other point and shoot style camera out of the water. Forget Canon, forget Nikon and yes, this one even smokes any Olympus compact I have tried. This “Super 100″ is on another level from any other P&S and is still the best there is in this area. It has class, style, grace and it performs without breaking a sweat. The build feels solid and nothing about it feels cheap or hollow. I like this.

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Using the selfie mode, the LCD flips up so you can see it and  then the camera counts down  - 3-2-1 on the screen. This is a useful little mode that sounds silly to some, but I used it 4 times in my 2 weeks with the camera. 

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Did a similar shot in my review of the RX100 I so I figured I would do the same here, why not? Excuse the dirty mirror.

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This “Super 100″ (RX100 III) is perfect for an EVERY DAY camera. Phone? Naaaaaaa.

Do you want something of high quality, something that is small and hassle free to carry yet offers you a huge improvement over your cel phone for images? You want ease of use, HD video, a fast lens and great low light performance? Look no further my friends as the RX100 III can do it all, and it does it so much better than your phone. While the most popular camera today is the iPhone, there are still those out there that care about quality, and I am one of them. There are those who want a viewfinder, who want the experience that once upon a time came with photography. A phone does not give you that experience and while it may be capable and easy, it is not like using a real camera.

For me, memories are meant to be captured and preserved. Not everyone wants to carry a large DSLR or mirrorless but something like this RX100 III takes all of those issues away. It can take nice quality photos, without using a flash, in almost any light. While it will not be an “in the dark” shooter, it will give you so much better results than your phone in 99% of situations.

BTW, Every image in this review was shot as an OOC JPEG.

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The image below was shot by Bill Goodman, a local Phx photographer who was checking out the RX100 III when I brought it to Az Hi Fi 

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The color, the smooth files and the dynamic range are fantastic for what this little guy is. I was finding that the “clear” JPEG setting was giving me rich and punchy results that I liked. The way the RX100 III handles light and shadows can indeed be dramatic and very pleasing to the eye…it’s funny but there are times when the images I took with the RX100 III looked better in the final file over my Leica M 240 for resized web images! The color and smooth look is a signature of the RX100 series. With only a 1″ sensor it punches well above its weight class, for sure. When compared to a Nikon V1 or V2 or V3, the RX100 series presents images in a smoother way, reminding me of a larger sensor without the grit.

Dramatic color and tones…JPEG

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Shot in CLEAR JPEG mode..which is what gives it the look you see…

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TECH SPECS

Below are the tech specs of the RX100 III, or the Super RX100 :) I highlighted in BOLD the features that are worth mentioning and remembering as to me, these are what make the camera.

20.1MP 1″ Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor
The large 20.1 megapixel 1″ Exmor R CMOS sensor features backside-illuminated technology to enhance its low-light capabilities to a native ISO 12800 while still retaining vivid clarity. Using Sony’s Column A/D Conversion and area-specified noise reduction, images are rendered with impressive quality and smooth gradations between tones and colors due to the marked, intelligent reduction in apparent noise. Further enhancing imaging quality, detail reproduction technology works to increase the fine detail rendering capabilities for a more three-dimensional, realistic image quality while diffraction-reducing technology helps to enhance the optical qualities of the lens by suppressing diffraction that is common when working at smaller apertures. Additionally, aiding working in difficult lighting conditions, the sensitivity can be extended to an effective ISO 25600 when using Multi-Frame NR, which records and composites sequential images in order to attain high sensitivity with minimal noise.

Also benefitting the image quality, as well as overall camera performance, is the BIONZ X image processor, which provides continuous shooting up to 10 fps in Speed Priority Mode, 2.9 fps shooting with single-shot AF, a shutter lag time of just 0.008 sec., and a start-up time of 1.6 sec.

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
The built-in Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-70mm, covering wide-angle to portrait length perspectives to suit working in a wide variety of shooting conditions. An f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions throughout the entire zoom range and also enables greater control over focus placement for shallow depth of field imagery, which is further accentuated by a seven-blade diaphragm to produce a smooth out-of-focus quality. Nine aspherical elements, including two cemented AA (advanced aspherical) elements, are incorporated into the lens design to minimize chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range to benefit creating sharp, clear imagery. The lens also features a Zeiss T* anti-reflective multi-layered coating to help minimize lens flare and ghosting in order to produce imagery with rich contrast and color neutrality.

Benefitting the 2.9x reach of this lens, as well as supporting working in difficult lighting conditions and with longer shutter speeds, is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which helps to offset the effects of camera shake. When recording movies, the image stabilization utilizes an Intelligent Active Mode, which also uses electronic image stabilization to compensate for both camera shake and rolling shutter effects.

Additionally, a neutral density 0.9 filter is incorporated into the camera’s design, which provides a reduction of three stops in exposure to enable working in bright conditions with wider aperture settings and for greater control over how subject movement is rendered.

Direct OOC color from the RX100 III JPEG – this one was shot in VIVID mode.

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Camera Design
Within the compact design of the RX100 III is both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a large rear LCD monitor. The 0.39″ 1,440k-dot SVGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF provides a bright, clear means for eye-level monitoring, which is well-suited to critical compositions and working in bright conditions. It features 100% frame coverage, a unique pop-up mechanism, and a Zeiss T* coating on the optics to reduce surface reflections and flare for enhanced visibility. Alternatively, a 3.0″ 1,229k-dot Xtra Fine LCD screen is also available and features a tilting design (180° up, 45° down) to benefit working from high, low, and front-facing angles. WhiteMagic technology has been applied to the LCD’s design, too, to increase effective brightness for easier viewing in bright lighting. When working with both viewing means, an integrated eye sensor automatically switches between both the EVF and LCD. Additionally, the camera can be turned on simply by popping the EVF into place.

For intuitive, SLR-like adjustments over a variety of camera settings, a manual control ring surrounds the lens and features a smooth, click-less design for quick and quiet changing of settings. The ring can be assigned to control a variety of features, at different values, such as zoom, aperture, and Picture Effects. A step-zoom feature can be utilized, too, to allow instant switching between commonly used focal lengths.

Full HD Video Recording
Full HD 1920 x 1080 movies can be recorded in the high-quality XAVC S format, which uses a Long GOP (Group of Pictures) structure, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression, and linear PCM audio compression, and saves within the MP4 container format. These compressed files permit recording times up to 29 minutes while allowing 50 Mbps video recording at 1080/60p, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, and 720/120p frame rates. Full-pixel readout helps to minimize any artifacts in recordings due to the ability to utilize data from the entire image sensor, which ultimately results in smooth, high-resolution recordings. Movies can also be recorded in the AVCHD format, which is ideal for HDTV playback and Blu-ray disc burning, and the MP4 format, which is ideal for uploading online. Additionally, when shooting for two purposes in mind, dual recording is possible in different formats-XAVC S and MP4 or AVCHD and MP4-for the ability to instantly share footage while also having a higher quality version for subsequent editing.

Benefitting advanced video applications, the RX100 III also supports clean HDMI output for recording uncompressed video via an optional external recorder and for real-time viewing on an accessory monitor. Recording frame rates include 24p, 60p, and 60i, and the shooting info display can be turned off during recording for a cleaner view when utilizing an external monitor.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables instant transferring of imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices, with no complex set-up required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and, using Smart Remote Control, remotely control the camera’s shutter release.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

Other Camera Features
A contrast-detection autofocus system works to acquire precise focus using single-shot or continuous AF modes. When working with moving subjects, Lock-on AF, with wide, center, and flexible spots, adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame. Face detection and face registration technologies can be used to base focus on recognized faces and Eye AF is also available, which is a detail-oriented focusing function that prioritizes and dedicates focusing performance on a subject’s pupil for sharply-rendered portraits.
For manual focus control, DMF (Direct Manual Focus) and standard manual focus options are available. Benefitting precise manual focus, focus peaking can be used, which highlights edges of contrast within the frame for a more objective means of determining critical sharpness, or MF Assist is available, which enlarges the image for a better view of important details.

A zebra function can be used for easier detection of exposure clipping to prevent overexposure.

A dedicated Custom button permits assigning of one of 42 possible functions for instant, one-touch access to a chosen control.

A digital level gauge detects pitch and roll types of movement and helps to produce even, consistent horizons and plumb verticals.

Smile Shutter technology enables the camera to automatically release the shutter when a subject’s smile is detected

Multi Frame NR records consecutive images at a reduced ISO sensitivity and then composites them into a single image to realize higher effective sensitivity (up to an equivalent ISO 25600) with minimal image noise. Standard image compositing is comprised of four exposures and High image compositing utilizes 12 distinct exposures.

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.

Picture Effect modes allow you to apply creative settings and emphasize certain facets of individual images for a richer, more aesthetic picture quality. Posterization (Color/B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration modes are available.

Creative Style settings provide control over how the camera processes images based on different predetermined styles: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia, and Style Box. Within these settings, contrast, saturation, and sharpness can also be adjusted depending on personal preference.

To extend the effective reach of the optical zoom lens, Clear Image digital zoom can be used to intelligently magnify scenes up to 5.8x at full-resolution. This digital zoom technology uses an intelligent interpolation process to minimize the amount of image degradation in order to produce realistic, high-quality images.

In-camera creation of 4K slide shows is possible for rich playback to ultra high definition televisions. An HDMI port is incorporated into the camera’s design, too, to enable direct connection to HDTVs.

TRILUMINOS Color support is supported to produce rich, natural colors when imagery is viewed on a TRILUMINOS Display.

I enjoyed having 24mm for the wide end…

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For me, the new EVF rocks..though it is SMALL

As soon as I saw that Sony included a new pop up EVF in this model I was instantly attracted to the camera. If this one feature was NOT put in then the RX100 III would not have generated as much attention as it has and the camera would not be worthy of the III name, it would be more like an RX100 II. The new pop up EVF if really an awesome and fantastic addition to an already great camera model. The coolest part is that if you do not want to use it then it stays hidden. There are no humps, no evidence it is even in the camera. Without using it no one would even know it was there but flick a switch located on the left side and BAM! There you have it, instant EVF. Now you can put it up to your eye and frame with a viewfinder. The EVF is very small but much better than something you will see in a Leica C for example.

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The color is good, the clarity is good and i used the EVF quite often..and I can prove it! See my reflections in the window shots below? Look how small and compact the RX100 III is here! It is small but feels nice and weighty in the hand. The lens offers great clarity and snap and the EVF takes this model over the top.

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Is this camera for you? Answer these questions to find out!

The RX100 III is not a cheap camera, in build or design or in cost. It will cost you about $799 to purchase the greatest Point and Shoot of all time, but to see if this is worth it to you, answer the following questions, if you answer yes to ALL then you would benefit from an RX100 III.

1. Do you want a pocket-size travel type of camera to take anywhere?

2. Do you dislike larger and heavier cameras?

3. Do you value QUALITY when it comes to images? As in, IMAGE QUALITY?

4. Do you like having a convenient and fast zoom?

5. Do you like to shoot hassle free, and even shoot JPEG?

6. Do you often want the “best” you can get to avoid making mistakes in purchases?

7. Do you value having an electronic viewfinder to frame with?

If you answered YES to ALL of the questions then you would not be sorry with the RX100 III. In fact, I guarantee it!

Again, to get what the RX100 III is all about, read my RX100 review. Most of the camera is the same in regards to what it is, what it does and why it is so awesome :) This is a “light” review going over the new features only!

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The Pros and Cons of the RX100 III

Pros

  • It is small and fits in a front pocket
  • Pop Up EVF addition is AWESOME!
  • Camera AF is fast and accurate
  • Tilt LCD is very useful, even selfie mode
  • Build quality is good
  • Lens 24-70 1.8-2.8..nice
  • pop up flash if needed/wanted!
  • HD video is nice with optical steady shot!
  • WiFi built in, works well
  • Camera apps can be downloaded and used
  • Built in ND filter for when the sun gets bright, automatic
  • Smooth control dial on lens will control almost anything you desire
  • Many cases and grips made by third parties
  • Batteries are small, and cheap (third party sellers)
  • Best in class image quality and color

cons

  • Price of $798 is a little high for a P&S
  • Small sensor cannot compete with larger sensors for DR or ISO NOISE
  • Not the best for really low light, NR gets aggressive
  • Can be too small for some with large hands
  • Does not come with dedicated charger

 

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My final conclusion on the RX100 III

The newest RX100, or what I call it,  “the Super 100″ (RX100 III) is a genuine masterpiece of a point and shoot. It does NOT get better than this in a pocket P&S camera, period. From the design, the build, the EVF, the swivel LCD to the fast lens and punchy color and pop from the files, the RX100 III is the real deal. Once again Sony hits it out of the park here, as they have been doing for 2-3 years now. Sony is surpassing companies like Nikon, Canon, Leica in many areas with some of their recent cameras and they are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping and I think…yes I think..they are just getting started. Call it intuition but I have a feeling something ver special is coming in the high-end arena from Sony..very soon.

Keep in mind, the RX100 III will not and can not replace an APS-C or full frame camera (get the same results) as you just do not get the dynamic range, ISO performance or depth of field possibilities with the smaller sensor RX100 III. What you do get is a camera that is perfect for family use, vacations, world travel, and every day shooting. I have seen images from the RX100 (original) that blew away images I have seen from large DSLR’s, but that was from a VERY talented photographer. It seems that if you really know what you are doing then the RX100 III will reward you with its capabilities. I have noticed the DR is not up there with larger sensors as highlights can get blown, but it is not a big deal or deal breaker. The files from the RX100III are sublime and as good as you can get from a camera of this size.

The lens is fast with a versatile and normal 24-70mm range. With an aperture starting at f/1.8 and slowing down to only 2.8, the camera is highly capable even in low light. The EVF works great and stays out-of-the-way until you need it. It is not the largest thing ever but it works and works well. The design is genius! The RX100 III also has a built in ND filter which will automatically activate when needed. You have all of the Sony usual tricks here as well like panorama, color modes, art modes and intelligent auto modes. This camera can be used by amateur and pro alike. In other words, Sony makes it easy to either pick up and shoot in full auto or delve into the camera and use manual features.

All in all, this is indeed the best pocket camera ever made in the digital world. The price is steep at $798, but if you want the best P&S available and do not want to mess with lens swapping and larger bodies, this is one way to go that will leave you satisfied.

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

The Sony RX100 III gets my highest recommendation for this class of camera. Way to go Sony!

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

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Jul 212014
 

My few days with the very fun Leica C Camera

By Steve Huff

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A couple of months back I had the opportunity to try out the Leica C for a few days. Usually, I am not a BIG fan of small P&S cameras as they always lack something in regards to image quality. For me, I would normally rather take out a camera that is slightly larger as there are many that will give me much better performance, then again, sometimes we want to go SMALL, and the Leica C is a very attractive came that also happens to perform very well for a small and tiny P&S. It even has an integrated EVF (though not to the level of the Sony RX100 III, which my review IS coming soon).

The Leica C is basically a Panasonic LF1 with a new facelift and design on the outer shell. The Leica has some snazzy accessories available for it as well where the Panasonic is sort of “plain jane” when it comes to appearances. If you want to stick out in a crowd and say “look at my beautiful camera” the Leica would be the one to get over the Panasonic, which to my eye is sort of plain and dull looking. We all know that the looks of a camera do not make the images, YOU DO and the cameras guts, or internals, is what pumps out the files for you. IN that regard, the two cameras are the same. Period.

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The LF1 comes in at $319. A very good price for this camera as I found it to be quick, stealthy, quiet and with very nice image quality for a small sensor P&S camera/

The Leica C comes in at $699, NEARLY $400 MORE. So what do you get for that $400? For starters you get Adobe Lightroom software, a better warranty and the Leica design. For some, this is worth it as many “want” a Leica. While not a “real” Leica, it does have the red dot which tells everyone else who has no clue about the details, that yes, this is a Leica.

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The good thing is that it does look like a Leica camera, and if that inspires you to get out and shoot more, then yes, it could be worth it. Just remember though that the Panasonic is $380 less, and is in reality, the same camera besides for the outer design.

With that out-of-the-way, this is not going to be a “review” but my thoughts on the camera after a few days of real world use while on vacation a while back.

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The Leica C is beautiful to look at and hold. It is small but felt nice in my hand. I found it to be quick, snappy, and with a nice menu layout. The EVF was a but on the almost too small side but would do in a pinch. For 90% of shots I used the LCD. The LCD does not swivel, so that was one thing I missed but for a small P&S, this was a little firecracker and while not up to the level of the $798 Sony RX100 III, it had its moments.

I enjoyed shooting this camera in high contrast B&W, which is where it did really well for OOC images. I also found the OOC JPEGS to be crisp with great color. Probably my 2nd fave P&S camera ever, next to the new Sony RX100 III which is the smarter buy at about $100 more, but then again, the Sony doesn’t have the red dot!

Below are a few images I snapped with the Leica C. I had fun with it, and for me that is key. If I can have fun with a camera instead of having frustration, then it goes on my list of “must think about” cameras. The Leica C is not a low light type of camera but it is an every day, take everywhere camera.

You can buy it from Ken Hansen, PopFlash, The Pro Shop, B&H Photo or Amazon! It also comes in a cool dark black or a nice white. There are also deals to be had and you should not have to pay retail on this guy. For example, Amazon has them for $590 right now, using Prime. 

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Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

Wow. It is already mid 2014. Half of this year has whizzed by faster than ever and as always we have a ton of cameras that we can choose from when it comes to photography. If we want something small that packs a punch, we have that. If we want something for low light, we have that as well. If we want something that is a joy to shoot, hold and use, well, we also have that. Do we have it all in one single camera yet? Well, not really.

There are always new camera seeing released though maybe not as many as the years past. DSLR production, as in new models, has seemed to slow down some from the constant barrage of new models that we used to see. Well, at least it seems like it. Even mirrorless offerings seem to be lasting a little longer between releases these days, and this is GOOD as we are at the point now where almost any camera will give us better results than most of us even need.

So far in 2014 we have had some cool releases and there are still fantastic cameras that were released in the past that are still perfectly usable. The question you need to ask yourself when deciding on a new camera is “What will I be shooting with it”, also “Do I value usability more than overall versatility”? “Will I be shooting mostly low light or in good light”? “Does it need to fit in my pocket”?

Once you decide what it is you want to use the camera for, be it portraits, your kids, vacations, or just an everyday shooter then you need to decide if you want simplicity in a fixed lens model or something that will allow you to choose and change lenses. The choice is yours as there is something out there to fit your needs, and I am going to talk about the cameras I like as of July 2014 with the reasons WHY I really like, if not love them.

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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Micro 4/3, Olympus E-M and E-P series

My favorite camera for ALL OUT versatility as of today is still the Olympus E-M1 or even E-P5. These cameras are beautifully made with a solid feel and gorgeous looks (in the case of the E-P5). They have some of the best lenses made for any system next to Leica from fisheye to telephoto and everything in between including some super fast primes like the Nocticron f/1.2 that is one of the best lenses I have ever used. With Micro 4/3 you have speed, you have the lenses, you have the build, you have the amazing 5-AXIS Image Stabilization and you have a smaller size. The lenses are so good, and not so astronomically priced. The color reproduction is beautiful and the B&W is not too shabby either. A camera like the E-M1 has it all and the only real weakness of this camera is that the sensor is smaller than full frame and smaller than APS-C. For this reason you lose out on some shallow depth of field and the images will be a bit more noisy at high ISO than full frame cameras.

Even so, if you shoot mostly in good light and want one hell of a system with unlimited lens choice and an all around great experience with pro image quality results, the E-M1 is still a gorgeous camera. The E-M10 and E-M5 are as well. I reviewed them all and you can read my reviews of these models HERE, HERE and HERE. Yes, you can indeed get DSLR quality and beyond with these models.

You can buy the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from Micro 4/3 – Super versatile cameras that do it all. 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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My fave camera for Point & Shoot, Vacation and SMALL SIZE!

Sony takes it here for me with the new advanced pocket rocket, the RX100 III. 

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The new Sony RX100 III is a hell of a camera in almost every way. It is small, made very well, has a pop up EVF, tilt LCD and stellar IQ for a small pocket camera. It’s a handsome camera as well and gives us an f/1.8 to f/2.8 lens from 24-70 (ff equiv). What is not to like? The color is great. the files are nice and I have seen some do amazing work with the RX100 version 1 and now Version III improves on that model in every way. This is, hands down, the best pocket camera I have ever seen or used, ever. Video is good as well. It does it all but will not give you the all out versatility or IQ of something like a Micro 4/3 or full frame model. For what it is though, it is the perfect camera for every day shooting, vacation, kids, family, events, etc. Whoever buys an RX100 III will not be disappointed. It is the real deal. I have been able to use one for a but thanks to B&H Photo but have not had serious time yet with it. Will be doing that this week. You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo or Amazon.

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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The Leica M, any of them from film to the M 240 or Monochrom take this one for me in a huge way. These cameras are ones that you cherish and create an emotional bond with. For those who think that is nonsense, then you have never had that bond with a camera, and yes, it is real. The Leica M is a masterpiece of design, build, and usability. All manual focus using a rangefinder it is a very precision tool that actually can teach you a think or two about photography, framing and exposure. It is a tool one can use for a lifetime if you choose a film model, as they last forever. While the price is off-putting to many, think about it in a new way. This is a camera that will give you the most enjoyment from any camera ever..well, it has for me and not everyone is the same. From the moment you take it from its box all of your regrets of the money spent fade away.

The Leica M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, M240 and Mono will give you that Leica experience that no other camera will give you. As for IQ, others can meet or exceed the Leica in that area but nothing can beat it for usability or for creating that emotional connection. You can buy a Leica from many places these days but my faves have always been Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop and Leica Store Miami. These guys will treat you right.

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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You guys know how much I adore the Sony A7s and while it is not the most versatile (only due to lack of native lenses when compared to others such as Micro 4/3) camera it is indeed quite powerful. There is no low light situation that this camera can not tackle, period. When used with the 50 0.95 Mitakon I can see in the dark and when used with the native Sony lenses such as the 35 2.8 or 55 1.8 the camera will even AF in the dark. Amazing. The A7 also has better color performance than the A7 and A7r , better AWB, faster AF and better M mount lens compatibility. You can read my review here to see what it is all about but I now have one of these bad boys with a few lenses and love it to pieces. As I said in the review, the A7s is probably puns for pound, dollar for dollar my favorite camera that I have ever reviewed.

Low light shooters, this is a must try or own. The camera also is excellent in daytime shots and video. If more native lenses were around it would be unbeatable for me as of July 2014.

You can buy the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from the A7s, 1st one using the Voigtlander 35 1.2 wide open and a 100% OOC JPEG. 2nd one is from the Mitakon 50 0.95 and third and fourth is from the Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5. 

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Runner Ups

The Fuji X-T1 and Leica T are also very cool and very capable cameras. The Leica is different than other cameras in its interface and joy of use. It is a Leica and gives you the Leica style of IQ and pride of ownership. The Fuji is still a lightweight in the build but for Fuji fans, this is the best of the lot when it comes to Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

Of course these are not the only cameras I like, but they are my faves as of July 2014. The Sony, the Leica, the Olympus..all superb in so many ways and unlikely  to leave anyone disappointed as long as you use them with good glass. The key is to get out and use them (for me it has been tough since it has been 110-112 every day and me and extreme oven like heat do not jive well for more than 5-10 minutes) and have fun using what you do own. The key is you more than anything, not the gear..though I admit..it is very fun to test and try new cameras!

Jul 012014
 

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The Sony A7s Review. Wow. Period.

The most creative digital photographic tool ever made for my uses!

You can order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

It has been almost a year since the Sony A7 and A7r have been released (See my review HERE) and in that time many have jumped in and purchased one of the A7 cameras. What they have brought to photographers is a chance to get into full frame sensor performance while keeping the size small and the weight much lighter than a DSLR camera. The A7 series has been fantastic but at the same time, they have had their quirks and problems from time to time.

My video intro and overview of the Sony A7s

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When I shot and tested the A7 and A7r I loved the cameras as they were highly capable devices that were crazy versatile with the ability to use 3rd party lenses like Leica lenses, Canon lenses, Nikon lenses, etc. With the full frame sensors we were able to get that creamy shallow depth of field look and it was pretty cool to have all of these capabilities in a small, nicely made body. The main issues with the A7 and A7r is that they were a bit slow to Auto Focus when compared to other current cameras from companies like Olympus and Pentax. They were also, while very very good, not the best (when compared to other FF offerings like the RX1)  in low light or high ISO and while nice in low light, they were not “WOW” in low light. The AF would slow down a bit and the high ISO noise was worse than it was in the previous RX1.

I was very close to dumping my Leica M 240 for an A7 or A7r at that time but ultimately decided that would not be a good idea. But I was SO CLOSE. The AF speed and file size and loud shutter of the A7 and A7r soon made me realize even more the beauty of the Leica M system, even if the IQ of the Sony was just as good, and in many ways it was and in some ways it was even better.

A7s and 55 1.8

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OOC JPEG – Sony A7s with the Sony 55 1.8 using C-AF

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The Sony A7r also had the file size issue for many and while you could crop to your hearts content, managing those files meant you needed a pretty nice and powerful computer (which many of us DO have). Let us not forget the very loud shutter on the A7r and the less but still loud shutter of the A7 which irritated many who used the cameras.

Well, Sony seemed to listen to what many of the A7 users wanted and now we have yet another new model from them.

Yep, Sony brings us the A7s with ISO capability to over ISO 400,000 (Usable 102k)

So now Sony has released the A7s and it has just started shipping TODAY, July 1st 2014. I have been shooting with one for the past 2-3 weeks as I am lucky to be a camera reviewer, so I get them a little early ;) For me the Sony A7s ticks all of the right boxes on paper..again, FOR ME. Only 12MP resolution which offers us nice details, pretty large print size and SMALL file size (one of my fave cameras of the past is the Nikon D2hs at 4MP). Because of this small megapixel count Sony has managed to give us the best low light performance of any camera made today, and this is a fact. While not a huge massive jump from the Nikon Df for low light, it is for sure definite bump up, especially when you start getting to extremes. ISO on the A7s can go up to over 400,000 and is usable for me in LOW LOW light up to 102,400. This is huge. This is a game changer for me, and will be for many others as well. In this review I will go over what is new and changed or improved over the A7 and A7r instead of doing a whole huge review that rehashes the camera. At its heart it is an A7. Same body, same feel, same LCD and EVF and same controls and menu. All that is new is the Sensor, and because of the sensor we now benefit from massive improvements such as a new silent electronic shutter that can be turned on or off, world class nothing quite like it high ISO and low light capabilities, faster Auto Focus over the A7 and A7s and insane video capabilities in ANY lighting scenario. The A7s is 4K video capable.

So what is new in the A7s from the A7 and A7r?

  • New 12Mp High Performance Sensor with superb color, Dynamic Range and low light Capability. Bionz X processor. 
  • Silent Shooting mode with electronic shutter allowing you to shoot in total silence. 
  • Shoots 4K Video with external recorder. Full pixel read out.
  • 120 FPS video for slow motion.
  • Customizable Color Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma for video.
  • Audio Input & Headphone Jack
  • ISO Capability up to 402,000 ISO. Usable at 102,000!
  • Faster AF speed over A7 and A7r with Sony lenses.
  • Seems like the shutter is quieter as well, more damped. 

Other than that, the A7s is just like the A7 and A7r in body, build, and feel. Controls are the same and LCD and EVF are the same. Basically what you are getting is a supercharged A7 with intense low light capabilities as well as stellar video options. Leica M mount lenses also seem to work much better on this body than the A7 or A7r.

ISO 8,000 with the 15mm Voigtlander.

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So first, let us talk about the #1 main reason to like the A7s. LOW LIGHT capability. 

FACT: With the Sony A7s I am now able to shoot in near darkness without a flash and without even using the annoying red AF light! The A7s simply rocks and is in its element in low light scenarios. I had this camera in almost pitch black conditions. The camera still managed to auto focus without using the AF assist light! AMAZING! Below is one image sample that was shot in a VERY VERY low light room. In the room it was what I would call “dark” with some slight ambient lighting but when looking at the scene, I could not make out anyones faces. I cranked the camera to ISO 80,000 to get 1/10s with the Voigtlander 15 VM at f/4.5 (wide open). I had the silent shutter activated and no one knew that I snapped a picture. In fact, if I told anyone that I did they would never have believed me as most would think it to be impossible without a flash. The image looks like the room was bright but it was in NO WAY bright! It was super dim and near dark. In fact, I also was shooting video with my camcorder in this room and I had to engage night vision with an external IR light.  The image below is the result of the ISO 80,000 at 1/10s with the 15 VM. Click it for larger. 

Sony A7s, Voigtlander 15VM (with M adapter) and 1/10s. OOC JPEG, NR on lowest in cam setting.

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Sure you will see some noise and loss of detail but THIS IS 80,000 ISO! No other camera in this price range could even get close to this. In fact, I am not so sure any other camera at all could get this type of performance at ISO 80,000. If so, I have not seen it. Even MC Hammer would say that the Nikon Df can’t touch this. Others who say that the A7r or A7 or Canon 5D MkIII can do this..well, they are 100% incorrect. From noise to Af in this kind of light, they can not do it, period.

ISO 4000, Sony A7s, 35 2.8 Zeiss

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The A7s in real world near darkness use – Photo.-

When the camera arrived my 1st order of business was to take this A7s and find a place I can shoot it at that has something interesting to shoot, in literally near darkness. A local friend of mine, Bill Goodman, who is also a photographer (shoots with many cameras but loves his Canon 6D) recommended I go shoot some music clubs in town. He recommended a few places and away I went, and I loved it! The people, the music, the beer, the ambience and the experience was rather therapeutic for me and started to bring back some of the fun of photography for me after so many years of doing reviews (yes, six years of shooting for reviews can start to take away some of the fun in photography). The A7s never gave me a problem, even in situations that had me shooting at ISO 102k with AF and the AF assist light turned OFF. The Af of the A7s is amazingly good..and accurate. It is not a blazing speed demon in darkness but it gets the job done. I also tested the Mitakon 50 0.95, serial #00001 and this lens along with the A7s is a match made for the night. Not “Noctilux” quality but at $795 a no brainer for low light work if you have an A7 or A7s camera. It is a full frame 50 0.95 lens and built like a tank.

Some low light samples at high ISO. Keep in mind that this club was near dark. It was tough to see this band, Copper & Congress with my own eyes! The club is the “Lost Leaf” in Phx AZ and there is live music every night. I tested the A7s here so it could be like a torture test “worst of the worst” conditions. I had to crank the ISO and use the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens. Below are some OOC JPEGS in B&W. ISO is listed above each photo.

Katie from Copper & Congress doing a sound check at the Lost Leaf in Phx AZ. ISO – Mitakon 50 0.95 was used for these.

All were shot as JPEG

1st image is at ISO 32,000  - f/0.95 – click for larger!

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 f 0.95

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ISO 1600 for the next two. 1st one was using the 35 2.8 and 2nd the Mitakon wide open

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The A7s is TRULY the new King of the Nighttime World – in Color or B&W!

The more I used the A7s the more I started to appreciate it for what it can do, in any light..and I mean ANY light. It showed me that it excelled in bright light with an amazing Dynamic Range and it showed me it can do any light scenario in between from bright to almost total darkness. Below are three more photos showing ISO 64,000, ISO 12,800, 4000 and ISO 1600. All look fantastic. All are OOC JPEGS!

The A7s with 15 VM..ISO 64,000 in Boiler Room #3 abroad the Queen Mary at around 3 AM all by my lonesome. Color remains rich at this high ISO which is unheard of. **OOC JPEG**

THIS IS A FULL SIZE 12MP FILE so you get to see the nitty gritty of ISO 64,000 – OOC JPEG! Yes, look at the color and DR at ISO 64,000. THIS IS HUGE and I have never seen anything like it. VIVID MODE

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ISO 12,800 hand held in the desert at midnight.

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Below a measly ISO 4000 which does not even make the A7s break a sweat. OOC JPEG here..35 2.8

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Using the Leica 50 APO at ISO 3200 and F/2, the color is sublime even at ISO 3200! This was shot in a very low light location.

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ISO 1600? Looks like base ISO of some cameras :) – 35 2.8 – MUST click for larger! Color is FANTASTIC as is the AWB in this tricky lighting! VIVID MODE

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Ok, so what about using the A7s for other thing such as in normal light, action shooting or video?

Of course many will say “I do not need high ISO capability” – why would I want a Sony A7s? My answer to you is “you probably wouldn’t”!

In all seriousness, the A7s is the best low light camera I have ever used, period. It beats any other digital from Leica, any previous Sony and any Canon, Nikon or other brand of camera as of July of 2014. But what about if you do not need low light use? Well, I used to say all of the time that I never needed more than ISO 3200. I now realize that while true (it is not NEEDED)…after using the A7s I realize that I have no more limitations. After I realized the situations where I could now shoot images, using the Sony A7s, in total silence and in near darkness, it opened up new possibilities that I never even thought of. Total darkness, hand held shooting. AMAZING! ISO 80,000 is similar to ISO 1600 in the film world. This is huge. Believe me, it is. I am flabbergasted at what this A7s can do.

So while I never “needed” more than ISO 3200 in life, I realized that after a couple of weeks with the A7s that I loved having that capability. Photos in the dark or video in the dark. It was and is easy for the A7s. This opens up ALL KINDS of possibilities. But what if you never ever shoot in low light?

Well, the kicker here is that the A7s also does amazingly good in normal light. The Auto White Balance is superb, probably the best I have seen to date and beats the pats off of my Leica M 240 in this area. Color is nice and seemingly changed a bit from previous Sony cameras.

This review will be more on photo’s than words  this time around as I said so much in my A7 and A7r reviews. This time I will let the photos speak for  themselves, and keep in mind, 98% of these are OOC JPEGS so it only gets better. As for action shooting, no, the A7s will not be the end all of sports shooting for a couple of reasons. First, there are not yet any long telephoto lenses out for sports shooting and the Continuous AF is not as blazing as something like a pro Canon 1d or Nikon D4 series camera. (Many new lenses are on the way though in 2014 and 2015). I did shoot some kids at a skate park using C-AF (some samples in this review) and while all I had was the 55 1.8, it seemed to do the job well though some shots were missed as the kids were flying in the sky.

Below are quite a few image samples in good light, ALL JPEGS! Click them to see them correctly!

Low ISO has the pop you would expect from any full frame camera.

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Using C-AF and the 55 1.8 I was able to get some cool action shots with depth and great color and bite. The A7s was responsive and felt great while shooting. 

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The Mitakon at 0.95

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35 2.8

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A mother and daughter on the way to the beach – Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar (using M mount adapter) – Vivid

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The 55 1.8 at f/2, OOC JPEG

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Saw this cute guy on the beach in Summerland, CA. He only had three legs but was having a great time in the water and sand. Used a manual focus Zeiss Planar 45 f/2 that a reader sent in for me to test.

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With the Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar. Great color out of camera! JPEG!

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Another with the Ziess Planar 45

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Look at the reds and the way this one rendered with the 35 2.8 – Gorgeous color and tone!

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The Voigtlander 15 is AWESOME with the A7s. Click it to see the sharpness in the eyes here. 

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55 1.8 using C-AF

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So my thoughts on the A7s in normal light is just as positive as it is for low light. Great AF speed, responsive overall feel and great color and IQ.

How about video? This camera shoots 4k?

The A7s is 4K capable with an external recorder but I am not a video guy who is serious enough to use that at this time in my life. I can say that shooting normal video is fantastic. Good light or low light, ISO 80,000? Sure. I shot a few video clips at varying ISO ranges but have not delved into the serious video tools such as the gamma color options. But this camera is a serious video tool and full frame to boot. Below is a sample video clip with clips ranging from base ISO to ISO 102,000 just using 1080P at 24 fps.

Only 12MP? Is that enough for larger prints?

I have been getting the megapixel question on this camera at least 5X a day. So, is 12MP enough for todays hobbyist, enthusiast or even pro? OF COURSE IT IS! Many get hung up on viewing images at 100% on screen, a way that NO ONE views your photos. We get “addicted” in a way to looking at the files at 100% and saying “WOW, look! I can see every eyelash on her face in extreme detail”!  But in  reality, none of that makes a good photo! All it does is make for a good WOW moment to YOU when viewing at 100% or sharing crops. In actual photography, 10MP is plenty and 12 is more than enough. My favorite sweet spot is 16MP but the Sony’s 12 MP here is a very very good 12mp.

Back in the day I had a ikon D2hs that was 4 MP and I printed 20X30′s from that camera all the time (was in a print frenzy at the time to prove that yes, a good 4MP cam print large) so the Sony A7s will never leave me wanting for Megapixels unless I am looking for that 100% screen viewing WOW moment, which you will not get with the A7s as you will with an A7r. I also really love the little Nikon V1 which is 10 MP. Never had an issue with images or the few prints I made. I think I have a 16X20 from the V1 that is gorgeous.

The A7s does so much right…”a jack of all trades and master of all” sort of camera…well, except for super crazy blazing Canon 1D style fast C-Af sports or action, but it is still not bad at all in that area. It has taken ANYTHING I have thrown at it, spitted it out and said “Is that all you got”? For me, there are way too many positives to having 12MP here that going back to 16, 24 or 36 would take away most of it. Sony knew what they were doing when they gave this camera a 12MP sensor. I am here to tell you that massive MP counts is not required for normal photography and large prints. Even with prints on a wall, who walks up to them to study details 2″ from the print? No one, except the ones who made the prints if they are obsessed with this sort of thing.

12 MP is a good number for me. May not be for you but for me, I really do not need more than 12 and the A7s is what has showed me this fact. I may not see every super fine detail or hair in a full size image but what I do see is good enough for 99.6% of anything I will ever shoot.

Below is a 100% OOC JPEG..yes, JPEG. So this will not be as sharp as the RAW file, but this is an idea of what you can get out of the camera. You must click it to see the crop correctly! 

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Shooting with the Voigtlander 15 VM Leica Mount Lens

The one lens that is pretty popular due to its small size and price and total lack of wide distortion is the Voigtlander 15mm Vm Lens. It is one of my faves and I have used one since my Leica M 7 days. On the M8, M9 and previous Sony A7′s the lens was virtually unusable due to color shifts and edges but here on the A7s the color shifts are 98% gone. This means that this is the first full frame digital that this lens will work on! The lens is $600 or so and can be bought at Cameraquest HERE. I highly recommend it for Leica Monochrome users or those with a crop sensor. But now, for the A7s, it is a great lens to have. Below are some shots with the 15mm on the A7s. Some are at very high ISO and the EXIF is there.

I have not been able to use any other Leica M mount wide angles yet but had a blast using the 15. I will test more soon and post that at a later date.

Below are all JPEGS from camera.

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Side by side with the Leica M 240

Below is a quick comparison I shot just for fun and due to many requests. It is with the Sony A7s and 55 1.8, then with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar and then one with the Leica M 240 and 50 Summicron APO. The Leica kit comes in at $15,000. The Sony kit at $3600. This is a just for fun test BTW..click them for larger. I posted this as a “Crazy Comparison” here. These were from RAW.

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Below, Sony A7s with Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar at 1.5 – beautiful rendering.

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Issues with the Sony A7s?

The Sony A7s really has no deal breaker issues but there are some things to be aware of.

First, when using the Electronic Silent shutter in extreme situations, such as very high ISO and shooting moving subjects, there can be a rolling shutter effect that will ruin your shot. If you are shooting fast moving subjects in low light, just use the standard shutter. Second, well, there really is no second issue as that is the only one I have found.

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Bottom Line Conclusion on the Sony A7s

The quick answer? The best camera, for my purposes, that I have ever tested, used, or reviewed. Period. Ever. Notice that I said “My Purposes”!

Strong strong words here but for me it comes down to the fact that in 3 weeks of use the Sony A7s never let me down, even when in near pitch blackness. It delivered insanely good results in any light situation. It never failed me in focusing. It adapted the M mount lenses I had on hand without major issues, even the “never worked on a full frame digital Voigtlander 15 M mount lens”. The Sony A7s opens up so many new possibilities that many never even knew existed. Sure, it is only 12MP and you will lose cropping power. Sure, that 12MP will not give pixel peepers the WOW moments and sure, it is yet another Sony camera promising big things.

But this time, the Sony A7s delivers on all promises made.

The shutter seems quieter or more damped. The new silent mode is amazing, drop dead silent. The AWB is fantastic and the focus speed is the fastest of any Sony full frame model E mount to date. It will even AF in darkness without fail. For video, it is exceptional and while I am not video whiz, it is beyond my capabilities in this area. The build, feel, manus and controls are the same on the A7s as the A7 and A7r, so the only thing that has changed is the sensor and electronic modes and video. These things open up this camera to ANYTIME, ANYWHERE use and I was not able to find any situation where I could not use the camera, NONE.

I have never in my life experienced this level of low light use. One that keeps color and DR even at ISO 80,000.

Sony has some new lenses planned for 2014 and 2015, one of then being an ultra wide zoom and a Zeiss 50 1.2. I am already drooling at the possibilities. The A7s has won my heart, much more so than the A7 and A7r. With the A7s I can use Leica glass, I can shoot in the dark, I can take gorgeous video all without worrying about color, mis-focus or other issues. Even when using C-AF I was able to shoot some kids at a skate park with great accuracy. But again, do not expect a blazing C-AF machine. This is still not a DSLR!

The A7s is not perfect though, if it had Olympus Image Stabilisation it would just about be! Yes, that, for me, would be the PERFECT camera. The A7s with the 5 Axis IS from Olympus. The A7s is a wonder. I have never seen anything like it for low light use. In good light it produces wonderful quality JPEGS and even better RAW files. Just do not expect the eye popping details that come with 36 MP cameras. Remember, images here were JPEG besides for the Leica comparison, those were shot RAW.

For me, this is the camera to beat for 2014. So far, my pick for camera of the year. For me, if I add in the Voigtlander 15, Voigtlander 35 1.2 and the Sony 55 1.8 and I have a camera and lens combo that can do just about anything I ask of it, for my needs. 

It is not for long tele users or super fast action shooters. It is also not for those who need and love super resolution, pixel peepers.

Sony just keeps on pushing those limits and just like Olympus, they are pushing past the normal crowd of cameras to create something special and revolutionary, and yes, the A7s is revolutionary. Try one for a week. You will be hooked and it will be tough to go back to having limits to your photography. To those online who are saying the A&s has bad image quality and is only for video guys, well, quite frankly..they must know NOTHING about photography or image quality.

The A7s has fabulous IQ, capabilities and is my #1 these days and after over a month of constant use I still love it.

You can order the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo using the instant links below. IT IS NOW SHIPPING!

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon

Buy the Sony A7s at B&H Photo

Buy the Sony 55 1.8 Lens (great on the A7s, and highly recommended)

Buy the Gariz Sony A7 case at Amazon - beautiful cases for the A7

Buy the Voigtlander 15 VM Lens HERE, and the best M to E mount adapter I have found HERE.

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I will leave you with more images from the Sony A7s. ALL JPEGS! Enjoy! BTW, I will be testing the A7s with wide angle Leica M lenses SOON and will make a new post on it when I do. I have not had access to the wide angles over the past three weeks, but should have some in July. 

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

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Thank you all! – Steve

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Jun 252014
 

Still enjoying my Leica M8

By Jochen Utecht

Dear Steve,

It has been a while since you published my latest “inspirational” email (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/14/daily-inspiration-494-by-jochen-utecht/). This time I would like to share a few images taken with my Leica M8, which I love and hate at the same time. If I had to decide which camera to keep, it would be the Fujifilm X100s. But the M8 is capable of outstanding quality. It only is a slow and quirky device, which sometimes is a good thing.

You can hardly push the ISO beyond 640. There is too much noise showing up. Focusing often takes too much time for snapshots. But prefocusing can make looking through the viewfinder obsolete. Compared to the X100 it is a heavy piece of metal. But it feels soo good!

I don´t have Leica lenses, because I am by no means rich if money matters. But I could get hold of a few nice lenses second hand:
Voigtländer 21/4, VC 15/4.5, Minolta 28/2.8 and Minolta 40/2.0. The Minolta´s are the same in quality as Leica glass. And the 15/4.5 is fantastic. Very sharp lens. I use the 21 and the 28 most of the time.

Usually I shoot RAW (DNG). The wide-angle lenses from Voigtländer get a treatment with CornerFix first. Then I develop a bit with Photoshop (Camera Raw). After that I go into Picasa and make some adjustments to the jpg´s. (First I try the I´m-feeling-lucky-button) That works well enough for me at least.

VC 21/4, edited in PS (correction of converging lines)

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They don´t earn much money, but are really childloving people.
Minolta 28mm/2.8, prefocused image.

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The forbidden city is always a joy to walk around. I usually hate images taken from behind. They are cowardish and mostly don´t say anything than that the photographer was there and didn´t have the guts to ask for permission. But sometimes you cannot do anything else and the picture still works.
VC 21/4.

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The same goes for this one. This Panorama was also with the 21/4. I stitched it from 6 portait-style images. There is barely any distortion in the VC21/4, so PS didn´t have problems putting it together. I don´t mind that some people appear as doublettes. Next time I might bring a tripod and blur the people.

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First of all I asked for permission to take a picture of these beauties. After a posing picture was taken they immediately went back to watching their smartphones and I could capture the scene I had been seeing before.
Minolta 28/2.8

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Sometimes you get nice results if you hand the M8 to a stranger to have your picture taken. This was on the first of May. I even had to tell that chinese fellow which button to press, but made the settings prior to handing the camera over. It would have been a fun pic if my face had been replacing Mao. I will try that next time. That might not be possible with a rangefinder camera though.
VC 21/4

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I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you don´t want to show all 6 pictures, feel free to choose three of them.

Thanks, Jochen
5intheworld.de

Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

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Greetings!

As long time follower of your site, I am excited at my first opportunity to contribute. I have written an article about the Leica X1, titled “Yesterday’s News: The Leica X1 Review”. Below is the review for your, um, review.  Yesterday’s news: The Leica X1 review!

Released 09/09/09, the Leica X1 is certainly not today’s hot topic (the T is the current title holder now) and has likely been forgotten about as yesterday’s news by most of the photographic community. Heralding in a new era of the digital camera world with its fixed focal length, APS-C sensor in a small body, retro look and manual controls, it was considered to be the first of its kind that started a trend continuing through today. As the Leica T system ushers in a new kind of interface to the photographic world, I thought it would be relevant to share my experiences with this quirky but still very capable camera that was the talk of the town in 2009.

My experience with the X1 started in late 2010, well after its initial release. Not being able to financially justify the hefty price tag of a new X1, I patiently waited until the price in the used market came down to what I considered to be reasonable enough to make the jump. At that time, the camera brought me mixed feelings. The image quality was outstanding when everything came together, but most other times it was maddeningly frustrating. Maybe because I expected it to be as quick and versatile as my trusty old DLUX 4, or as reliable as my M8, but my initial experience left me wanting. After a few months of dedicated use, I decided to sell the X1 and chase photographic glory elsewhere.

So began my search for the ultimate APS-C fixed focal length camera. This journey took me through almost every form of the genre released on the market; from the retro-rific Fuji X100, to the uber-compact powerhouse Ricoh GR. Even the X1′s replacement model the Leica X2 passed through my hands at one point. All of the cameras had their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them really grabbed me, not even the X2 (a whole other story).

The closest camera that came close to staying in my stable was the Ricoh GR; what an amazing camera! It bests the X1 in many ways but it still did not have that feeling; the tactility in my hands, the manual controls, the desire to go out and take pictures with it. Something was always missing with the other cameras. You know, that elusive feeling that comes every so often when you really connect with a camera.

So what brought me back to the X1? It took an epiphany while shooting with the venerable Contax T2 (a fixed lens compact film camera) to see what I have been missing all along; stop trying to use the camera like a modern digital and shoot it like a film camera. Use a slower, more deliberate style of shooting. After coming to this realization, I had only one camera in mind to test my theory out. The X1.

Fast forward to February 2014. Found a great deal on a black X1 and went into the experience with a new mindset; don’t treat the camera like an automatic small-sensor point and shoot, treat it as a film camera like the Contax T2. Guess what? Yep, things went much better. Where blood pressure raising frustration used to kick in, now the zen calm of measured photography took place. Is the camera perfect? No. Will it hit the 100% “keeper” zone, especially with my ever-moving two-year-old? Certainly not. That being said, I find my keeper ratio close to that of my film cameras, even with the toddler in questionable light. I only use a 2 or 4GB card to ensure that I do not get in the digital “shoot, chimp, dump and repeat” mindset.

For those that may want to look at the X1, here are a few tips to get you on your way. First, keep your shutter speed above 1/60. Although you may think that 1/30 would work (as it does for me with Leica rangefinders), it tends to let the image get blurry quick, especially if the light is less than optimal.

Second, shot in DNG, all the time. No, really, all the time. Unfortunately the camera only takes DNG+JPG, and not just DNG (something about the camera’s software that cannot preview DNG files, so it grabs a stinky JPG). Delete the JPG and keep the DNG, even for black and white conversions. The latitude that the X1 DNG files give is pretty amazing. I have taken some photos in the unforgiving Florida sun and have been able to recover most of the blown highlights or deep shadows from most areas. The X1 can be frustrating, and a lot of shots can be missed if the camera is not understood. Used properly the X1 will reward you with some amazing photographs. My first time with the X1 stands testament to that, which is a good part of the reason why I came back.

The hype and fervor surrounding the Leica T is reminiscent of what the X1 went through in 2009. As a photographer, I look for cameras that create a connection with me. While the Leica T will one day end up in my hands, the X1 will still be in my bag bringing me exceptional photos that will last a lifetime for me and my family.

my photo blog can be found at www.uninspired.me

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