May 062016
 

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Crazy Comparison! Voigtlander 15 E Mount, Sony 16-35, Olympus 7-14!

Hey guys! Happy Friday! This has been a hectic week for me, so there have been fewer posts this week but have no fear, a CRAZY COMPARISON is here to kick off your weekend! Hehe. Since I have a serious combo of wide angle lenses here I figured I’s step out in my backyard this morning (while still in my Pajamas) and take a few side by side shots with these lenses.

The new Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 for E mount is here, the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 has been with me since it was launched (I use this lens often for video) and the Olympus PEN-F and 7-14 happened to be in front of me as well. So why not take them out in the back and see how they stack up with some real world silly snapshots? This is not a scientific hardcore test, it is for fun.

All images are from RAW, none have any post processing and yes, I am barefoot because it’s already hot here in Phoenix, with temps already hitting triple digits earlier in the week..so no socks for me ;)

When going out my thought was that the Olympus would provide the sharpest of the images due  to the Micro 4/3 sensor which is small compared to a full frame like we have in the Sony, and we all know that ultra wides and full frame cameras are still nowhere near perfect at the edges. After this test it just solidifies my belief that Olympus and Panasonic have a great thing going with Micro 4/3. The only weaknesses it has over the mighty Sony is low light, where the Sony just kills the Olympus (or Panasonic) and for SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD, which is MUCH easier to obtain on a full frame camera. Other than that, the little PEN-F is still impressing me.

So let’s get to these silly shots..

1st Up, around 8:50 AM in the corner of my backyard. Wanted to look at the edges a bit as I was seeing the Voigtlander, upon close inspection had some soft edges. You can click on the images below to see them larger with full 100% crops. I noticed the Voigtlander underexposes a bit when using the A7RII meter (as we all do). It’s also softer in the edges than the Sony/Zeiss 16-35. The Olympus, here, IMO is the best in the corners and the overall image/color/vibrance but less res of course than the full frame Sony beast. 

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Yep, my bare feet..it’s HOT in Phoenix AZ this time of year. View at your own risk but if you want to take that dare, click the images for larger versions. Again, the Olympus, to me, did the best but also, less resolution. That Olympus 7-14 is a stunner and the best built of the three as well. 

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Let’s look at some prices of these kits:

The Sony A7RII is $3198 at Amazon.  For me, it has been well worth it as it is my #1 goto. I have a few Sony cameras, a couple of Olympus, a couple Leica and today my lens collection is quite large. I used to sell off lenses as I stopped using them, then I realized I usually regretted selling them. But the Sony A7RII is my most used camera for all of my shooting. Olympus comes next with the PEN-F and then the Leica SL. That’s my gear list as of now.

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4 comes in at $1248 at Amazon.  So add this to the A7RII and we are looking at $4450. That’s a ton of cash for a camera and one F/4 wide angle lens, but again, this combo has given me LOADS of use for video work where I needed Auto Focus.

The Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 for E mount is $799 at CameraQuest.com – It’s much smaller than the Sony, and lighter. It is manual focus but it zooms in as soon as you turn the focus dial, making manual focus a breeze. This lens and an A7RII comes in at around $4000. Quite pricey still.

The Olympus PEN-F comes in at $1199 at Amazon.  For $2,000 less than an A7RII you will have a smaller, sleeker and just as capable camera in most light. Sure, it’s not full frame and you will suffer in low light or when you want massive bokeh blow out, but other than that these Micro 4/3 cameras are quiet stunning.

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The Olympus 7-14 is an f/2.8 lens, and in their PRO line. It is STUNNING. It comes in at $1199, same as the PEN-F.  Cost of this lens and the PEN-F? $2400, almost half of the Sony/Zeiss setup. STILL expensive when you consider most use a cel phone and a wide angle lens adapter for these types of things these days :)

I love them all and feel lucky to have tools to choose from these days and I feel lucky to be a camera nerd. :) Today we have the best digital solutions we have ever had.

Let’s do one more comparison…

Looking at this we can see what we know, that smaller sensors can do wide angle with less issues..click them for larger. I prefer the Olympus here for tonality, and the way the image is presented. THOUGH the Olympus was the only one to flare here. 

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At the end of the day, in this world of cel phone cameras and less and less of the world interested in megabuck cameras, I feel the entire higher end digital market is going the way of the true enthusiast. There are many of us that would NEVER use our phone as our main camera just as there are many who would never buy a $4000 setup to take some snaps of their dogs or kids. Sure, I use my iPhone on occasion, when I do not have my real camera. But never have I taken an iPhone shot and said “WOW, this looks like my Leica and Noctilux”! Hehehe. I see cameras and lenses such as the ones discussed here for the ENTHUSIAST, like me. We love well made gear, we love a camera that fits our hand like a glove and we love a REAL camera that does what we want it to. So these cameras and lenses are still going strong even though I get emails daily asking me to review cel phones, yes I do.

I love them all, and they all have their strengths, like the bodies and lenses above. I still prefer my Sony 16-35 over the new Voigtlander for E mount though. The Voigtlander is underexposing on occasion, does have some slightly soft corners (as does the Zeiss) and is not as vibrant as what I get from the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 (My review of that lens is HERE). With that said, the Voigtlander is a joy to use, is smaller and lighter and less expensive. I could be happy with either for wide angle use. Then we have the little PEN and the 7-14 which I feel is giving me the best IQ for my tastes (with ultra wide – but the least resolution due to the smaller sensor)! I am going to have to start using it more ;)

What do you guys use as your wide angle solution in the 15mm range?

REFERENCE: Sony 16-35 Review, Sony A7RII Review, Olympus PEN-F Review, Olympus 7-14 Review, 1st look Voigtlander.

Feb 232016
 
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Follow Up! Using the Leica 55-135 T Lens on the T! Latest firmware 1.5, more

By Steve Huff

NOTE: All images here are straight from RAW without any PP

How lucky am I?!? I like to say I am blessed as I have the opportunity to do what I love to do every day, at my own pace and my own style. I even go to work in my Pajamas on many days ;) I have no complaints but this post is not about me working in my PJ’s…

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Last week I received a giant box from Leica Camera and inside was a Leica T and a few lenses. Leica asked me if I wanted to check out the T again since it has been a long while since I last used it. My original and LONG review is HERE. Since then Leica has vastly improved the firmware, so I wanted to take a peek again. I really enjoyed the T and found it, at the time of its release, to be a VERY unique and stunning image maker. Many found it odd with its iPhone style of navigating the menu. The T has no buttons on the back. Just a huge wide touchscreen where all settings are made. Of course we have the two control dials up top to set your aperture and shutter speed. A video button and the shutter button also reside up top.

“Sleeping Beauty” – Click for larger, the T with the 55-135

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The T was launched to what seemed to be a lukewarm response. I really enjoyed it but many thought it was too pricey or a gimmick. The reality is that the T is a powerful camera if you can deal with its control and layout, as well as body shape.

Unlike the super hot Leica Q, the T never really took off though. I feel this is due to a couple reasons…one of course, which is always a Leica thing is COST. The T which does not have a built in EVF or VF and is has an APS-C sensor (not full frame) comes in at $1700 for the body only. NO lens. The EVF that is an external model and sits on top of the T is over $500. The lenses, most of which are zooms are also quite pricey. The 18-56 Zoom which has an aperture range of f/3.5-5.6 is $1500. Ouch. This is what I feel slowed the sales of the T, the slow lenses and the cost of the lenses. It also had slower AF when compared to todays cameras. Not full frame, but APS-C…. makes it a tough sell TODAY at this price level. BUT, look at the Fuji X-Pro 2. It comes in at $1699 and is also an APS-C. Which would yield better IQ?

“Trapped” – Leica T with 55-135

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Id go for the Leica T but the cost of the lenses is WAY out there when compared to Fuji glass which is also VERY good. So you would spend less on a Fuji X-Pro 2 and three lenses over a T with three new lenses. But the T offers a uniqueness some Leica fans will appreciate, but not all. :)

So how does Leica plan on continuing the T line? By improving it via firmware, creating new lenses that we want, like a 35  Summilux and others. Hopefully, eventually they will update the camera itself with a built in EVF, at which point it will be like an APS-C Interchangeable lens Q. You can not dispute the performance of the T. Or the Build. Or the company behind it, as they do know Photography.

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Onto using the T..again

So after a few days of the big Leica box sitting in my office I finally was able to get around  to checking it all out. One lens that grabbed my attention was the 55-135 F/3.5-5.6, which seemed like a versatile zoom range for this camera. This lens comes in at nearly $1800, so I wanted to see if it performed up to the normal Leica level I have grown accustomed to. One thing many will never dispute is that Leica glass is TOP notch. I wanted to see how the AF speed was, how the camera reviewed images on the LCD and I wanted to make sure there was no lag or glitches. The early firmware did have some slowdown and glitches here and there. I have not used the T since the original launch firmware, so will be seeing all of the improvements from all updates including nearly DOUBLE AF speed to improved touch sensitivity, to faster wake up, etc. 

With FW Update 1.5 Leica has increased data transfer speeds with external hotspots as well.

Also, the T now creates its own hotspot, for use with the Leica T app.

I am happy to say that the latest firmware since launch makes the T much snappier and quicker than ever before. In my use this week, I noticed MUCH faster AF, MUCH snappier all around response, touch screen was VERY snappy as well, no glitches. Start up time was much faster, under 1 second for sure. This is much quicker than when it was launched. So bravo to Leica for improving the T so those who own it can continue to grow with the camera without frustrations.

Leica did not send me the EVF for this (re)Evaluation which is a bummer as it kind of sucks shooting a $3800 camera rig like a tourist, holding out the camera at arms length…even so, never had one issue. The T was quick, and the touchscreen was smooth as silk. The IQ? Lovely, just as I remembered but this 55-110 lens is a stunner. Worth the cost? Up to you, but I enjoyed shooting it.

This shot  – I love the color, the look and feel..reminds me of the look of the latest cameras from Leica like the Q which put out stunning IQ – click it for larger

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The T with 55-135

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The way the lens and sensor capture light is very LEICA

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Quick, fast AF was no issue and locked on very quickly, even with the 55-135 maxed out at 135. 

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The Leica T of today is much better than the Leica T of yesterday but only you can decide if the T fits your groove, your mojo, your vibe. Plenty of competition is out there but for the Leica fans, this may be worth a new look with the new firmware updates as it does indeed make it much snappier, faster and the IQ is still delicious. I find it to be a fun, capable, original and quality camera throughout. It is made from a solid block of aluminum after all! ;) The IQ is pure Leica.

If you are interested in the T, I recommend the dealers below:

Ken Hansen – [email protected]

PopFlash.com

B&H Photo

AMAZON

Feb 232016
 
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More thoughts and images from the Lomography Jupiter 3+ Lens

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Been messing around with the lovely Jupiter 3+ from Lomography more and more and I have come to the conclusion that if you are one of those who like the character of the Jupiter 3, then you will NOT find a better copy of the lens than this one. Made of brass for a solid build/feel, super smooth focusing, and the full Jupiter 3 character but without worries of issues. This is the sharpest (in the very center) Jupiter I have ever used. The best made/built, and the best looking. It’s a gorgeous lens in a great little package and while not cheap at a somewhat far fetched $649, if you love the Jupiter 3, and want one without issues and one with a warranty while offering the best IQ of any Jupiter 3 out there, this is the one ;)

If you missed it, here is my 1st look video on the Lomo Jupiter 3+

Below are a few snaps from the past few days using the Jupiter 3+, all on a Sony A7RII. Yes, the lens is made for Leica M mount (well, screw mount but comes with adapter for M) but at this time I do not have a Leica M, so using it on mirrorless seems like a no brainer. It works well. ;)

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The only issue with the Jupiter 3+ is the fact that it is not an every day or all the time kind of lens. It is a character lens, much like THIS ONE but it is tiny and offers this “artsy” look whenever you want it.

 

You can order the Lomo Jupiter 3+ where mine came from, CAMERAQUEST.COM  – Right here. 

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Jan 022016
 
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A look at the Zeiss 50 Sonnar ZM on the Leica SL

By Steve Huff

Ahhh the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM lens. A sort of “classic” in the way it renders and draws, especially wide open with its classical bokeh and subject isolation. I reviewed this lens around 7-8 years ago at my original website and I loved this lens on my Leica M8 and M9 back in the day for its unique way that it would render a portrait. My original review is long gone, but my follow-up on the M 240 and MM can be seen HERE.

Not everyone is a fan of this lens as it has a way of creating bokeh that can, at times, be nervous and odd. But on many occasions, it can create an image with gorgeous beauty in the way it will deliver the subject and background, usually allowing the subject to POP off the screen.

The Leica SL with 50 Sonnar. Nope, can’t shoot THIS lens on a Nikon or Canon ;) Works amazing on the SL. Click image for better version..

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After testing this lens on the M8, M9 and 240 I wondered what it would be like on the Leica SL. I feel the SL sensor is a mix between the M9 and M 240 with much more contrast and pop than the 240 but much nicer color than the M9 (IMO). The SL feels like a 3rd gen product and while it is a first gen, the camera is amazingly intuitive and delivers consistent results. Since I love the 50mm focal length, I am testing all of my fave M 50’s on the SL this year and will be doing little follow ups like this all year with the SL and Leica M lenses. The  fact is, these lenses render much differently on each Leica camera. The way a 50 Lux renders on an M8 is not the way it renders on an M9 or M 240 or SL. So with the little Zeiss, I wanted to see just what the Sonnar gave me and I have to say, I really really love what it can do, though it has some negatives I will touch on in a few…

Good ol’ Olive. She has learned to sit still and pose for me as I have been shooting pictures of her since she was a puppy. This was at night, in my bedroom, shot at f/1.5

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Last week I wrote a refresh on the Leica 50 APO. The world’s best 50mm lens with the world highest 50mm price of $8200. The Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar, luckily, comes in at around $1200 and it is worth every cent of that $1200, especially when you compare it to other Leica big money lenses. But those who ADORE something like a 50 APO may not jive with the 50 Sonnar as it is much different. Expect soft corners in detail landscape shots, expect Bokeh that is a tad busy at times and get ready to take a step back as the close focus distance is 1 meter, not the usual .7 or .5 meters of many M lenses.

Ashwin Rao during his visit to AZ. We hung out all day with Jurt Kamka and shot with SL’s and an S006 (Kurt’s). It was a Leica day for sure ;) 

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Kurt Kamka talking with Ashwin. This is an OOC JPEG, f/1.5 

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Just a cowboy at Goldfield Ghost Town in AZ, shot wide open at 1.5. This should put to rest the myth that this lens is soft at 1.5. On the SL or A7RII, there is no softness issues as focus can be spot on every time.

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If you are OK with the 1m minimum focus and the unique classical bokeh, the 50 Sonnar is quite nice. Some would say “special” as it is for many, one of those “artistic” lenses allowing you to create very unique photos as nothing renders like a 50 Sonnar. The C in the name stands for COMPACT and CLASSIC. This lens is tiny, and on the SL it worked out fantastic. Focusing with the EVF was a breeze and very quick and easy. I have gotten the hang of focusing with the SL and M lenses without using magnification and I can be quite quick if I need be.

Saw this poodle who had sandals on and snapped even though I blurred out the sandals! Even so, the lens shows it can be quite sharp in the center of  the frame ;) 

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Ashwin Rao and Kurt Kamka. Two names you probably know if you have been in the Leica community for a while. Both great guys with a serious passion for photography. I shot these wide open with an ND filter. 

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The Zeiss 5o Sonnar is a lens that everyone who shoots and M or SL should at least try. While it it not technical perfection like a 50 APO, and while it is not quite like a 50 Lux in character or bokeh, it does render so pleasantly at times I feel like I want one around at all times for when I want that look that this lens can give (but of course I do not NEED one). In some ways, I prefer this to the APO or any 50 made. In other ways, I do not but even so, it’s a lens one can use for low light or portraits or street as it will offer you a look that no other modern production lens can. At times, it appears to have the bokeh of an f/1.2 lens and I have seen some call it the poor mans Noctilux for the dreamy cool look it can give, but I would never compare it to the Noct as its not a Noct.

I would say that if you want a fast 50, and do not want to spend $4000 and up, take a long hard look at the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C and see if it works for YOU. I can tell you that it does very well on the SL. It’s a lovely lens. Jewel like in its build and feel and as I said, under $1200.

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AND NOW A FEW FROM THE LENS ON MY SONY A7RII – ALL AT f/1.5

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You can buy the 50 Sonnar ZM at B&H Photo HERE.  This is where mine came from ;) More on this lens from me can be seen HERE!

Dec 242015
 
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Through the Looking Glass – A In-Depth Review of the Leica SL

By Ashwin Rao

Dear friends, I am here with a review of the Leica SL, Leica’s latest system camera and its first serious foray into the mirrorless digital interchangeable camera market – if you don’t count its rangefinder cameras. By now, you know that the SL is Steve’s 2015 Camera of the Year. He praises the camera for its design, build, utilization, and amazing VF, as well as its overall implementation. I wanted to offer my own experience with the camera, having spent several weeks using the camera with its native 24-90 lens, a variety of modern and vintage Leica M lenses, and several Leica R lenses. I have found the Leica SL to be the modern evolution of Leica’s ethos and vision, representing both its present and its drive to create a bright future.

Leica’s marketing campaign for the SL highlighted its professional attributes and its ‘mirror-less’ designation. For Leica, this is much like viewing the story of Alice in Wonderland “Through the Looking Glass”, in which Alice climbs through the mirror into the new and fantastic alternate world beyond. This turns out to be a very appropriate analogy for Leica’s effort with the SL.

If you are not interested in reading past this first paragraph, I will say this: The Leica SL is a highly useable, well-built, well-conceived, functional camera that targets both M users and new users seeking the Leica brand with autofocus implementation. Its clean design harkens to such well-designed cameras as Leicaflex and subsequent R system cameras. However, some of its design queues come from the M system. Its layout, once learned, allows the user to meld his or her photographic style and eccentricities with the camera’s functionality. In many ways, as I will come to discuss, the Leica SL represents Leica’s ultimate bridge camera, a “Jack-of-all-trades” device that ties together many systems into a cohesive package. And, you know what? It does a great job accomplishing this task in a way that only Leica can achieve.

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At first glance….

I first caught wind of the SL like many of you, in the weeks preceding its official announcement. Reading the tealeaves and given the recent release of the incredible Leica Q, I presumed that Leica was set to release an interchangeable Q or something of a Q/M hybrid. It only made sense to carve out a niche aimed squarely at Leica’s base, that is many of us who enjoy quality craftsmanship coupled with the Joy of photography. Given Leica’s install base of rangefinder users, many of us who are not getting any younger, a mirrorless camera, less reliant on the RF focusing mechanism, made sense to permit its users to focus their manual focus lenses with precision while being afforded an opportunity to use newly designed AF lenses. A compact, sleek competitor to steal back those of us, including myself, who had taken to using our M lenses on Sony A-series bodies for a compact solution.

Well, Leica certainly threw most of us a curve ball when they officially announced the SL. At first glance, I was dismissive. Here was a camera, that looked much like an overweight Sony A series body. It seemed boring in its design, offering nothing new that others had not already designed. I was doubtful that it would be ergonomically useful for M lenses. I was uncertain that a camera/lens system using contrast-detect focus only could achieve reliable and quick focus. As much as I love the size and functionality of many Leica cameras, including the M series, I also am a huge fan of a camera’s haptics (how it feels in hand) and design cues (how it looks). With the Leica SL, I was far from convinced on first viewing. However, coming from my overwhelmingly positive experience with the incredible Leica Q, I decided to reserve judgment and keep my order in place with Ken Hansen (honestly, one of the best Leica dealers on the planet) to see what Leica had up its sleeve.

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In the weeks that followed, the initial reviews by such great reviewers as Jono Slack, Kristian Dowling, Sean Reid, Jeff Keller (DP Review), Jim Fisher (PC Mag), and Lori Grunin (CNET), who had the privilege of first trying the camera, were overwhelmingly positive Despite its new release, it was never described as a limited first generation product. Very few bugs were encountered, other than those described as issues related to user preference (grip size, for example). The camera was described as operationally fast, built to the highest standard, and remarkably facile as an image-maker.

I was able first to test out the Leica at the Leica Store Bellevue (another great dealer) when the regional representative, Brad Weeks, brought in the camera for a first look. My first impression on holding the camera was…doubt. Yes, on first handling, I admit that I became even more uncertain about the camera. While I found that it was incredibly well built, it felt immediately larger than expected. The body itself is not much bigger than a Leica M, until you factor in its large grip. At first, the grip was a turn off, to be honest, but over time, I have found it to be very well implemented (more on this later). Further, as I attached the SL 24-90 mm lens, the only lens available for the camera on launch, onto the SL, I was daunted by how large the camera felt…It felt like a bulky SLR!!!!

I had given up on such cameras due to size years ago, as I found that I could produce more pleasing images with smaller cameras. Now, here in my hands was Leica’s SL (minus the R)…a funny play on words/letters/what have you, but drats, it felt like an SLR. Next up on my concern list was the button system and menu layout. On first handling the camera, I found the lack of clarity and definition around the buttons to be frustrating. I was not sure what buttons to press, or how to press them to get the camera to do what I wanted. I was quickly told how to focus magnify, and then futzed around, taking a few shots, leaving me with an uneasy sense that I was not sure how to use the camera…
Bummer, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all… Read on…..

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Learning the interface, and giving the camera second chance

I must say that the Leica elves in Wetzlar sure had magic up their sleeves. The more that I ended up using the camera which I first doubted, the more I began to see an output that is a genius of design implementation. Let’s get into this a bit more….
Let me come out and say it right away. The Leica SL is not an immediately intuitive camera. However, in the case of useability, all good things come to those who wait and who actually use this camera. At first, I was daunted by the camera’s “4 button” (IT’s actually got a few more than 4) interface, but as I began to sort the camera out things became clear.

1. Each button has different purposes. A quick push gives you one level of access, primarily allowing you to get into the camera’s menus. A LONGER push & hold allows custom assigned tasks to come to light. Even better, one can custom-set each of the button’s functions to suit one’s user preference. For me, I set the camera’s principal 4 back buttons to select: 1) ISO, 2) Exposure Comp, 3) lens selection – to choose what M lens or R lens, if such a lens was not coded), 4) white balance. I set the front black button to select metering mode.

2. The rear scroll wheel, if pressed and held, allows access to P, A, S, M modes. When shooting with M or R lenses, I generally use aperture priority or manual modes (with aperture set to whatever I want). In Aperture priority mode, the camera can be set to recognize the 6-bit coding of a lens and correspondingly set minimal shutter speed to 1/focal length or other options. I personally chose 1/2x-focal length)

3. The top scroll wheel is not active for aperture priority mode with manual lenses, but in manual mode becomes a shutter speed dial. Nice implementation again…

4. The joystick: Another great way to move around in the menu systems, as well as a way to review and zoom through images. It also functions as an AEL button. Now, with an updated firmware, the joystick is repurposed to allow focus magnification with Manual lenses mounted…This is a great update and allows one to use his/her thumb to zoom in without having to use his/her other hand to magnify field of view and achieve critical focus.

5. Menus. Once you get used to moving around in the menus, using both the 4 buttons and the scroll wheel, things become gradually more and more easy.

The Leica SL represents a product of clean, modern, minimalistic design. I found that it took me a few days to adjust to the menu design and layout of the camera, but once set, I have not had to make any changes, save for updating the firmware and thus permitting use of the joystick for focus magnification, making the camera even more pleasurable to use.

In the end, I settled on the following configuration for my assigned custom functions:

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Key feature – the viewfinder

Many of you have experienced the Leica SL’s incredible 4.4 megapixel “EyeRes” electronic viewfinder. In my opinion, the SL’s viewfinder represents the state of the art as of 2016. In decent light, the viewfinder’s refresh rate seems fantastic, and there’s no lagginess. Even in low light, the EVF performs admirably. Leica has even implemented a focus aid that many have not talked about. When magnifying the image (when an M or L lens is mounted), the image is artificially brightened. This effective trick is effective even in the lowest of light, and such enables accurate focus with M and R lenses in circumstances in which focusing may not be otherwise achievable.

When you first stare through the EVF, you’ll be amazed. It’s much like viewing a 4K TV for the first time. The experience is a bit overwhelming, and while it’s not quite as clear as looking through an optical viewfinder in good light, the benefits of being able to “see” in any light with the added perk of additional focus aids or shooting information makes the EVF spectacular.

Further, the viewfinder feels HUGE, providing a 0.8x magnification, one of the best available on the market, far surpassing the EVF’s produced for Sony and Fuji cameras. Thus, we have a huge viewfinder, capable of providing the user with accurate and precise focus in any light. Might this sound like a great non-rangefinder solution for your M lenses? Um, yes!

On further use with M lenses, I found that I could achieve my post precise focus with lenses with narrow depth of field. Lenses such as the Leica Noctilux, Konica Hexanon 60 mm f/1.2, and all Summilux lenses, have dramatically shallow depth of field that is incredibly easy to focus using the EyeRes view finder. In fact, it could be said that slower lenses with deeper depth of field (particularly wide lenses), take a bit more effort to focus critically, and one should be sure to focus-magnify to confirm critical focus.

Speaking of focusing aids, the EyeRes EVF permits focus peaking. However, when enabled (somewhat awkwardly by selecting different views by quick pressing the bottom right button), focus peaking effects are quite light. For me, using the “red” focus peaking permitted the easiest-to-see focus peaking effect. That being said, I am not sure that most people would need to use focus peaking to confidently achieve focus with their manual focus lenses on the SL. The viewfinder is that good, and the EyeRes viewfinder sees the plane of focus quite easily.

Manual focusing with the SL is a true joy, and the SL’s viewfinder is a convincing complement for autofocus composition as well.

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Haptics (How the SL feels in hand with SL, M, and R lenses)

In hand, The Leica SL is a surprisingly comfortable and responsive camera. It’s equally nimble working as an autofocus camera, when the SL 24-90 mm lens is mounted, though in this manner, it become a large, hefty camera, very similar in field to most medium size SLR cameras. Thankfully, it’s as responsive as most of its SLR cousins, though I’d imagine that a Nikon D3 series or Canon 1D series may be more responsive for sports shooting.

Make no mistake. The SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4 lens is bulky. It’s not terribly heavy, though when mounted on the camera, the set up does feel somewhat front heavy. I certainly do hope that Leica future lens efforts for this system balance somewhat better and are somewhat smaller, though I suspect that Leica is not going for a size win with the SL. The upcoming SL 50 mm f/1.4, which is rumored to be the optically best 50 mm lens ever made, looks rather bulky. Certainly with all of the extra real estate, Leica can really push the performance of these lenses to the bleeding edge.

The camera does change character when using Leica M lenses. Instead of feeling large and voluminous, as it feels with the 24-90, it becomes far more nimble. The SL body in fact occupies a footprint that’s not all that dissimilar to a Leica M with half case added (with grip), and thus, after using the camera with M lenses via the M-adapter-T accessory, the camera began to feel like a great option with larger M lenses, such as the Noctilux. Even smaller M lenses, including the 50 mm f/2 APO Summicron, feel like nice fits for the camera, though truth be told, they seem slightly small on this body.

With R lenses, the difference is split. R lenses seem, in many ways, to be a natural fit for the camera. They are mounted using a slightly awkward dual lens adapter setup, coupling the M-adapter T to the R-adapter-M. Doing so then permits access to the R lens menu, which allows the camera to correct appropriately for any lens specific aberrations. Thankfully, the dual adapter set up works well, though I am personally waiting for the R-adapter-SL to be introduced to make things simpler and potentially to enable additional features in ROM lenses. With R lenses mounted, the SL is transformed into a “small SLR” in terms of feel. R lenses seem to be appropriately sized for the SL, particularly its prime lenses, and are a joy to use on this camera. For those of you looking for a more permanent set up for your R lenses, the SL is a far better body for your lenses that the M240 body.

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Image quality

So how does the Leica SL perform? How is image quality? I can say convincingly that the camera’s sensor performs admirably, producing fantastic, beautiful, natural colors in outdoor/natural light. Some inconsistency is encountered, particularly in skin tones, when certain indoor lighting or mixed lighting is present. Skin tones, as with many digital sensors, tend to take on an orange hue, and the red channel seems overemphasized. Some have commented on a “tomato face” tendency of recent Leica sensors (M240, in particular), and at times, in artificial light, the SL does not escape this. It takes a bit of effort to adjust colors to obtain pleasing skin tones. Yet the possibilities are there. All of that said, I continue to prefer the M9’s color palette to the current Leica offerings, but the SL does reasonably well to produce nice colors most of the time.

Such affects are generally abated through careful selection of white balance. The SL adds a nice “Grey Card” white balancing feature which can be very helpful in achieving consistent white balance. Colors coming from the sensor behave much in the same way as output from the Leica Q, and as many have postulated, I suspect that the sensors are very similar or exactly the same.

However, I will say that the high ISO and shadow performance of the SL surpasses the Q, with less banding when underexposures or shadows are lifted. In general, the camera does a great job at suppressing noise or producing tasteful grain-like noise through ISO 3200. At ISO 6400, dynamic range is noticeably decreased, through grain is reasonably controlled and detail remains crisp.

In good light, the SL is a dream camera, producing some of the most natural and convincing images, regardless of lens used. I have used modern and vintage M glass, R lenses, and the SL24-90, and the sensor seems to play quite well with many types of glass from many different eras. In darker, muddier light, the SL tends to perform well through ISO 6400, and I generally have avoided ISO’s higher than 6400.

Many of you would ask if I prefer the output of the SL at base ISO to the venerable Leica M9? For me, finally, I have found a camera rivals the M9 in its color and crispness reproduction and sensor that suits me so well for my M lenses. I loved my M9, using it steadily for 5 years, but ultimately moved on to try new gear due to the limitations and issues with the M9’s sensor (limited ISO, corrosion). I was first impressed by the output of the Q, and now, I am equally impressed, if not more so, by the SL, which improves upon the Q’s sensor performance while performing admirably with SL, M, and R lenses. Colors are natural, and white balance is more consistent than the M9. Images from the SL do pop in that 3 dimensional way, much like M9 files. And to benefit the SL, ISO performance FAR exceeds the M9’s CCD sensor output. Summicron lenses are capable in low light. Noctilux lenses can see in the deepest and darkest of nights, in the shadows of this mirrorless world.

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Autofocus performance

The Leica SL achieves accurate autofocus of daily life activities without any issues, as long as a scene is reasonably light with reasonable contrast. I would say that AF is quite convincing in bright light almost all of the time. I have only occasionally had issues achieving infinity focus when shooting low contrast images (such as a hazy horizon), but this is a rare occurrence.
The Leica SL’s focus algorithms are challenged by very fast moving subjects coming in and out of plane (such as a sporting event), and I am yet to be sold on the camera as an autofocus option for fast moving sports (US football, soccer, basketball) That being said, it’s quite possible that my own technique is the limiting factor, though my hit rate, using both AF-S and AF-C, with various frame rates, was variable at best. I suspect that for slower moving action (such as fashion shows, slower moving sports, and weddings). Ultimately, I do not believe that the SL is designed with sports photographers in mind. After all, how many sports photographers would shoot a 1 lens rig (24-90 is all that’s available) at a 12,800 price tag? Not many that I know, especially when Canon and Nikon offer so many more options.

That being said, there are many professionals who will adore the SL and will find its autofocus capabilities to be exemplary. I suspect that the camera may well be aimed at professional wedding photographers, particularly those who can afford an expensive rig. Destination photographers and fashion photographers would be likely added targets. In fact, most pros that have invested in a Leica S system may well be suited for using the SL as a back up or second body, particularly when an S lens adapter is made available.

All in all, I have found autofocus performance with the Leica SL and 24-90 to be more than adequate for most shooting circumstances, save very fast moving sports in which the action is unpredictably moving in and out of the plane of focus.

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SL lens performance

While I can honestly say the the SL 24-90 lens deserves its own review, I will say that performance of the SL is equal to having a selection of primes within the focal length range. If you are willing to live with the size of the SL 24-90 and its variable and somewhat slow aperture, the lens produces incredible results on the SL, with pleasing out of focus (bokeh) areas and critically sharp in-focus areas (save at 90 mm, were there’s a subtle drop off in sharpness, which I’d call minor).

A camera with Multiple Personalities

The Leica SL is truly a camera with multiple personalities, depending on what system of lenses is employed on the camera. As mentioned earlier, the system feels very much like a pro SLR rig when the 24-90 lens is used. I can see this as a perfect camera set up for wedding and landscape or wildlife photographers, who benefit from weather sealing, fast autofocus, and incredibly image quality of the SL lens.
The camera becomes a “big” M camera when using M lenses. With R lenses, the camera feels like a compact SLR.

As mentioned above, performance of the Leica SL 24-90 mm lens is admirable. Similarly, Leica M lenses perform very well on the SL, and I have yet to see any images, which would have been improved by using the M240/9/Monochrom sensor, in terms of edge performance. I have found that using the SL with M lenses provides a different, yet equally effective way of seeing the world with M lenses. Many will prefer the rangefinder focusing method, particularly those with good eye sight and familiary with RF focusing, but for most others, it will be easier to focus your M lenses on an SL body with far more consistency.

R lenses perform equally well. To date, I have tested the 50 summicron R, the 80-200 Vario Elmar f/4, the 60 mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit R, and the 180 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt lenses. Leica R lenses are known to be exemplary performers and will surely do well on this 24 megapixel sensor, which does not stretch the lesnes’ resolving powers to the max. Given the telecentric design of R lenses, they are likely to perform marginally better at the corners than M lenses, though many, including Sean Reid and Jono Slack, have tested M lenses and found them to perform well on the SL (and not as well on Sony full frame bodies).

All in all, the Leica SL performs admirable in all of these venues. It’s truly Leica’s bridge camera, allowing users to tie many systems together, use any number of lenses on the body with adequate to admirable performance. Leica should be applauded for managing such a feat in a body that’s designed to be its own high performance pro camera. Color me impressed…

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Who is this camera for?

I can see the Leica SL as an appealing camera for several types of customers.

1. Leica brand loyalists who wish for a bridge camera with the Leica badge
2. Individuals with reduced eye-sight and a large install of M lenses or R lenses
3. Previously abandoned R lens users
4. Wealthy amateurs or pros who want the Leica brand in a pro rig
5. Leica S users wanting a second body
6. Individuals not pleased with M240 image rendering (preferring the M9’s rendering…this camera is closer to that)
7. Landscape and destination photographers who benefit from weather sealing
8. Wedding photographers seeking brand identity and the highest possible IQ

Ultimately, the market will dictate the case regarding who the SL is aimed at. I consider myself to be a Leica brand loyalist, and I am a dedicated M camera shooter. My eyesight (so far) is fine, and I don’t have a large install of M lenses. I occasionally shoot professionally, but most of what I shoot is for my own pleasure. Leica’s are my one life’s guilty pleasure, and thus, I am inclined to try what they offer as long as their offerings provide a new appeal. The Leica SL is a camera with great appeal, a camera that will likely grow on you with time. I imagine that a mature SL line may eventually steal some M users, but at the end of the day, may create more fans of the Leica brand by offering a camera that’s capable of broad appeal and impressive functionality.

Pros
1. Incredible EyeRes EVF – 4.4 megapixels, 0.8x magnification, minimal lag – best in class (for now)
2. Build quality – Built like a tank
3. Weather sealed for use in all conditions (with SL lens mounted)
4. “Jack-of-all-trades camera” – Can take M, R, SL, Cine and eventually S lenses. Works well in many settings, using different approaches to imaging focus and composition.
5. Clean interface (once you are used to it)
6. Color reproduction, particularly in natural light
7. Robust high ISO images.

Cons
1. Bulky if thought of as an M camera replacement
2. Grip may not suit everyone. Best for big hands
3. Haptics with small M lenses is a bit unusual, though functional
4. Learning curve. The camera is not immediately intuitive
5. Very limited native lens selection

Pride of Ownership

Over the years, I have owned and used many camera systems from many manufacturers. Each camera that I have used has had its merits and weaknesses, and some have engendered an intense pride in ownership, given a number of factors that made me excited and motivated to take photos. For me, the ultimate example of such a camera for me was the original M Monochrom. I found intense joy from this camera, as it both challenged and inspired me to become a better photographer. I was and am proud to own one, and when showing off photos taken with the camera, I will happy report that the image was made with this camera.

Each camera engenders a joy of ownership for different reasons. It’s the rare camera that engenders a pride of ownership. The Leica SL is such a camera. When you use it, you feel the confident build of the camera. You experience the detail and effort that was put into designing a tool for you, the photographer. You sense the history of the Leica brand as it stands by this product, with Leica’s incredibly rich history to back up and substantiate the camera’s existence. Yes, the Leica SL is a 1st generation product. While it may be the natural successor to the Leica R system, it’s really a unique system with its own strengths and weaknesses. Sure, it’s not as compact as an M system camera. Yet, it uses M lenses with aplomb. Sure, it does not have the R system’s amazing optical viewfinders, but this mirrorless camera offers a novel way of seeing, with a clarity not seen before. The fact that you can use literally any Leica lens within Leica’s own ecosystem engenders further confidence that this is a camera that has enormous capabilities. In your hand will be a camera that can handle many styles, many perspectives. IT can serve as a color solution for your M lenses. It can serve to give re-birth to your dormant R lenses. The SL 24-90 may be the best performing normal zoom lens ever designed.

All in all, I am proud to own the Leica SL. I am excited to present the images here as representations of how the camera has inspired me. I am sure that if you elect to pay the steep price for this camera, you will be similarly motivated to go out and shoot, and that you will be impressed by the results coming from the camera. I hope to see you out and about, Leica SL in hand. Ready!….Aim!….Image Capture!

Best,
Ashwin

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Nov 242015
 
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sony

From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

by Ben Jacobsen – See more: http://www.benjacobsenphoto.com/ and his flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/benjacobsen

 

The Sony switch… As most of you know I’m a long time canon shooter that made the mirrorless switch to fuji last year. The majority of my photography business is based around shooting architecture with a UWA zoom. My switch to fuji happened as soon as their 10-24mm was available (as well as their XT1 promising fast AF). I shot with a complete fuji setup last year for weddings, architecture and landscape work as well as for my personal images. While I was happy with my switch away from canon (I wasn’t using my DSLR for anything but paid work because of it’s size) I wasn’t quite happy with the AF speed and files quality I was getting. They were good enough but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Then last year at photo expo in NYC I stumbled into the Sony booth and saw their brand new 16-35mm f/4. This lens paired with an a7r was practically the same size as my XT1 and 10-24mm but it had a full frame 36mp sensor… Then I walked over to their dark room focus torture test and saw how well the a7s could focus in ridiculously low light and I was sold…

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I got home and ordered an a7 thinking it’d be the best all around camera for me. I’d been more than happy with my 5DIII’s 24mp so it seemed like the best compromise with better AF over the a7r and more resolution than the a7s. When it arrived I noticed a flaw in the sensor and AA filter design that caused it to have what I call “green ghost flares” where the flare from a light source gets this very weird green flare. This is NOT lens flare and it is a huge issue for me with architectural images. So I tried the a7r next… and LOVED it’s sensor (and w/o an AA filter the green flare was gone) but it’s AF was far too slow to shoot people with for me. Next was the a7s which was great, crazy high ISOs, good enough AF and no ghost flares. But before a week was up with it the a7II was announced and I was hoping they’d fixed the green/ghost flare issue so I preordered it and waited… It came and is/was a GREAT camera. Middle of the road MP, great DR, good enough ISOs, and the best AF to date (the a7rii beats it but came out later). The reworked sensor and AA filter fixed the ghost flare issue. I was happy. Then the a7rII was announced and I knew that the combination of the best AF in the series in combination with the best sensor would be the best fit for me. Not only does the a7rII have the most MP but somehow it’s ISOs are cleaner up high -vs- the a7II. I’ve had it since August 6th (3 months, 7,517 shots taken) and I’m here to share my thoughts!

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That Sensor!

Let me start off by saying that I’m thrilled with the sensor in the a7rII and it’s AF has done nothing but impress me so far! While I’ve always said I don’t need more resolution -vs- what my canon or fuji have provided in the past, it does make for some GORGEOUS prints! I have a 32″x48″ canvas from the a7rII in my house and the added detail is noticeable if you look for it. You also get dynamic range that the canon couldn’t dream of touching and it’s ahead of the fuji as well. I’ve had some architectural shoots where I’ve bracketed a shot thinking I’d need to HDR it and in post I can +99 the shadows and blacks of the shot with the best detail in the highlights and get basically the same look! Sure there’s some noise in the shadows when you do this but it’s just insane as a former canon shooter that you can do this without seeing crazy patterned noise. Now the ISOs are also very good. I shoot up to 12,800 without a concern. There’s luminance noise at that point and you lose some of the pop from the colors but there’s zero chroma noise at all! On top of all that without an AA filter there’s no green or ghost flare issues with the a7rII.

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Now this can’t be a proper a7rII review without at least mentioning compression of the raw files! Personally I haven’t had a problem with the 14-bit compressed files we’ve had since the beginning. I know you have to shoot with the camera in single shot mode, no bulb, no long exposure noise reduction and no high ISO noise reduction to get true 14-bit files. This is how I shoot my landscapes. Sony has now released an uncompressed option that’s basically putting the 14-bits into a 16-bit file which means the files go from ~45mb to ~90mb… It’s up to you if you need it. I’m using 14-bit compressed for landscape and architectural work and then 12-bit for weddings. I don’t need the extra depth there and the files are smaller and faster to process in 12. I use either silent shooting mode or either L or H FPS modes to “force” the camera into 12-bit mode as needed.

Auto Focus

The auto focus on the a7rII is amazing. I know a lot of guys will say that it can’t keep up with a pro series DSLR but at this point it really makes me wonder. I’m not saying it’ll track a subject that’s moving quickly at 11fps because the body can only shoot 5fps. What I am saying is that in just about any light I’ve had very little problems with the AF with this camera and I’m coming home with much fewer out of focus shots. Even -vs- my old 5DIII! I remember shooting wedding receptions with my 5DIII (once we’d given up on ambient light and gone all flash) where I’d switch to my 16-35mm 2.8 only because it focused a lot quicker in low light -vs- my primes. With the sony I can shoot with my 25mm f/2, 55mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 and they all lock on and stay locked on during low light reception shots with little to no lag at all. I’ve been VERY impressed! I’m coming home from weddings with hardly any shots that are out of focus. I’m talking less than 5% (and some of that can be blamed on me pressing the shutter before it locked).

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That’s not to say it’s perfect though. Sony has added so many bells and whistles to it’s AF system it can be very confusing at first. Face detect, eye AF, center lock on AF, expandable flexible spot, the list goes on and on! While it’s taken a little getting used to and some manual reading (yes, I admit it) and I STILL don’t know all the functions of this AF system, I will say it works really well. The other odd thing I’ve noticed is out of focus shots when shooting architecture. With my canon and fuji setups I would manually focus the first image and basically leave the lens alone for the rest of the shoot and I’d be all set (focused about ~6′ into a scene stopped down to f/16 on full frame). With the sony I’ll AF the first shot and I’ve noticed every once in a while when I go to the next shot the focus will be way off (nothing in focus at all, even at f/16). This happens in both MF modes and AF modes. I’m not sure if I’m bumping the focus ring or if it’s refocusing on something at a bad distance or what. I’ve learned to just ALWAYS use the AF after each new shot to be sure and I’ve been fine since, but it’s worth mentioning…

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Manual Focus

Some of you need to just skip right past this section as you won’t all use manual focus. I manually focus a lot of my landscape and architecture shots. EVFs and LCDs have made this easier in some ways but the “focus by wire” design of the lenses make it much harder at times. If you’re coming from a canikon DSLR your lenses are not drive by wire. You physically move a ring that moves the elements inside the lens to make it focus. This works with the lens on or off a body (without power). With mirrorless cameras they use the camera’s power to move the parts inside the lens. The ring you move is just telling the computer in the camera to move the elements in the lens in a certain direction. It’s a bit slower and harder to get “perfect” vs the old way… I find myself getting really close to just right pretty quickly but then I go back and forth from too far to too close a few times before settling in on “good enough”. Peaking can help in a lot of situations but it can also hurt in others (it won’t work at all for stars). The camera also has a function called “bright monitoring” that basically uses a very slow frame rate so it can gather more light and show you a very dark scene better but it’s very laggy (due to the slow frame rate) which means it’s hard to see your focusing changes because there’s a much longer delay. This function is also only available on the full view (ie you can’t zoom in). I’ve since learned to focus stars accurately you need to turn peaking OFF (yes off), then zoom in on the brightest star in the frame and manually focus until it becomes the smallest point it can. Peaking needs to be off because it works by showing you points with good contrast because those tend to be in focus. Even with peaking set to the minimum it’ll tell you a star is in focus well before it is as well as long after it’s no longer sharp. Simply turning it off and zooming in will get you great results.

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My other complaint with manually focusing on the sony cameras is the information they show on the rear LCD is terrible. You get a gray bar on the back of the screen with head on the left end (for the close end) and a mountain on the right end (for far). There’s then a white bar that moves back and forth as you focus the lens and it tells you the distance you’re focused at. This bar is always the same thickness at all times. It should get wider if you stop down and it should also get wider as you focus further away! They also only tell you the distance you’ve got your lens focused at but they do not tell you the near or far limits of the DOF (and it’s in meters only with no way to change to feet that I’ve found?). If you’re focusing for a landscape image you want the most DOF possible. To get this you want the far end of your DOF at infinity. With sony’s display it’s impossible to know where this is without using a DOF calculator of some sort (app or website) which is a PITA. Colby Brown shared with me that setting the focus distance to the first number displayed that’s less than infinity seems to work pretty well for him (and I agree). If the lenses had a scale on them physically it would help a lot. Zeiss has OLED screens on their lenses that do this. Their display also shows you the near and far limits as well as the distance you’re set to. It’s as simple as focusing until infinity is on the long end and you’re done with one of the batis (I’d kill for them to remake the 16-35mm with sony and remove the OSS and add in the OLED!).

The body

The sony full frame cameras are built “good enough”. They’re strong and solid and great but not quiiiite as solid as my old 5Diii. They’re sealed though as are all their lenses and I’ve certainly had no issues with them. The II version have a much nicer grip on them as well as IBIS or in body stabilization. For a lot of you IBIS is probably a huge deal and crucial. Personally I’m either shooting people where I’m using a shutter speed well over 1/focal length or I’m using a tripod. That’s not to say I’m not a fan, I’ve just been happy with it in my lenses in the past. What really confuses me here is if all three of the current bodies have IBIS why’d they build OSS into a lot of their lenses (my 16-35mm, 24-240mm, and 85mm all have it)? It’s extra optics and cost and weight… I will say however that the fact that the sensor moves makes it a LOT harder or maybe just weirder to clean your sensor. It moves now! The SD door on the a7rii is also nice and firm now. I mention that because they changed it’s orientation on the II versions. The a7/a7s/a7r were rock solid, but the a7ii had a tendency to open on me. The a7rii’s door is a bit more solid now and I’ve yet to have an issue with it.

The viewfinder is bigger and better but it’s still not as nice as fuji’s. I’m a fan of EVFs but sony’s doesn’t have the tricks and display modes that fuji has baked into theirs. Remembering AF points for vertical -vs- horizontal compositions would be great! The eye cup on the a7rII also seems to be better built -vs- the a7II where the rubber liked to pull away from the frame. The tilt out screen is WONDERFUL for architectural and landscape shooters. I’ve gone from preferring the simple slide up/down style sony’s used on the a7 series to wanting one that flips out with a side hinge so it can work for vertical shots as well… One complaint with the EVF/rear LCD is the sensor for the automatic switch is far too sensitive on these cameras. When I’m backed into a corner of a room it’ll see my chest with the sensor and switch to EVF mode even though I’m ~6″+ away from it. I’ve assigned the viewfinder switch to C2 so I can cycle it back to the rear LCD but if the sensitivity was just turned down a bit (to fuji levels) it’d be great.

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The Customization options on this camera are almost perfect. There’s two custom buttons up top near the shutter (I have mine set to the brightness monitor and switching between the EVF, LCD and auto display modes). Then on the back there’s C3 (set to focus magnification), AF/MF (set to switch between AF and MF for me), AEL (hold to AF, release to stop AFing) and the C4 button (eye focus). I’ve got the 4 way buttons set as labeled but down is set to face detect for me. The center button is set to “default” which means pushing it allows me to then move the AF point with the 4-way which is great (and hitting delete short cuts to the center AF point). The reason this setup is NOT perfect is because the list of things you can assign to buttons is limited. You can not for example set the aps-c option to any button in the camera (it can’t even go on the Fn menu). This is something I use quite a bit and would LOVE to have on a button! You also have to OK the options once you hit the button. You should have an option to have them be quick changes where one button press changes the setting if it’s only got 2 options.

Menus

A lot of people like to say that the sony menus are a hot mess. While they’re certainly not as good as they could be I don’t really see them as a mess. I’ll add to this though that I’ve been a sony/NEX user since the very first NEX5… The old NEX menus were terrible… The new tabbed layout is very similar to canon and works quite well. I will say it’s missing a “my menu” option where I can pick a page worth of options for myself and to have that always be the first menu page that comes up when I hit menu. Sony will argue that the Fn menu handles this task but it only allows about half the options from the full menu to be put as options in it (and it’s crucially missing the option for APS-C/super 35 crop to be on or off!!!). I’ll add that I prefer sony’s menus over fujis. You can learn where everything is in either over time but I prefer sony’s. The Fn menu itself should allow you to set ANY function to it’s 12 spots (and I’d personally like an option for 1 2 or 3 rows, you’re locked into 2). Some of the options need some help as well. I have steady shot set to my top left spot so I can turn it off when needed. The next spot over is then the setting for automatic or manual focal length detection (if you’re using non E or FE or adapter A mount lenses you need manual), then the THIRD spot over is for the focal length if using the manual option…. Why all three of these functions couldn’t be part of the same steady shot menu I don’t know (steady shot options: off, on-auto FL, on-manual FL with a list).

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Necessary Accessories

There are always a few accessories that you need to complete your system but there are a few with mirrorless cameras in general and specifically the Sony system that I’d say are must haves. The first on the list would be a great battery charger and plenty of spares. I’ve had a watson dual desk charger since my fuji days and it’s a life saver. Charge a battery that’s close to full in the provided wall charger and it’ll be blinking full almost immediately. Toss it in the watson and it’ll tell you the % it’s at an actually top it off to full power. Before the watson I’d use 6~8 batteries at a wedding with my X-T1. With the watson this has gone down to 4. The sony now uses the same 4 batteries as I’d use with the fuji. The great thing with the watson is that it takes ~$2 plates to change it from a sony to fuji to ricoh to canon charger! Of course put extra batteries in this section as well. I have ~7 sony batteries at last count. I keep 1 in each camera (I also have an a6000) and 4 in my think tank photo battery holder. The dual battery wallet is also nice for family outings.

Second up for me would be grips and plates. When I shoot a wedding I use the neewer (mine says meike on it?) battery grip. I’ve never really been a grip user with DSLRs (I have always preferred smaller lighter cameras). With these mirrorless cameras getting as small as they are and shooting with it all day at a wedding the added grip is great but the fact it doubles the battery capacity is awesome. I have noticed though that my grip will change the aperture setting when in Av w/o me touching it… For this reason I generally leave it’s buttons switched off and I’m considering the $300 sony version… Switching the buttons off isn’t a deal breaker for me though as I’ve never really used a grip much so I’m not used to the second shutter button but the other very strange thing is once you get used to using the EV dial on the body it’s very odd not having it near the second shutter on the grip. Whenever I’m not shooting a wedding specifically I’ve got my neewer L-bracket on the camera. L-brackets have been on all my cameras for years now as it makes switching from a vertical to horizontal composition a snap with my tripod head. I’m using the neewer l-bracket that came in a kit with the grip for $85. It’s $63 for just the battery grip, and $22 for just the l-bracket.

The third accessory I’d call a “must have” if you use flash would be any flash with a “Multi-Interface Shoe”. This is what sony calls their hot shoe with the data connection at the front. The reason this is important is it tells the camera there’s a flash involved. You can use “dumb”/manual flashes without this shoe without an issue (I do with my neewers) but because they don’t have the data connection the camera doesn’t put itself into two crucial modes: Flash WB and “setting effects off” for the live view. The first should be pretty obvious. Without knowing you’re using a flash the camera will be in AWB mode and the flash results won’t be consistent. Yes it’s an easy fix in lightroom by syncing the images and telling LR they all need flash WB but it’s much easier when the camera does this for you. The second and much more important option is that the “setting effect off” means the camera will artificially boost the ISO so you can see through the EVF to compose the shot. If this is left on, when you dial in your flash exposure you’ll be looking at a very dark (black!) viewfinder. With a normal/dumb flash you have to switch this mode on/off every time you mount/remove your flash. But with a “smart” flash with the correct shoe it’s automatic. For me this makes the nissin i40 the obvious choice as it’s TINY! It’s slightly less powerful -vs- the big speedlights but I’ve found with 1/8th power (and 1/4 when needed) it keeps up recycle time wise and I don’t need to boost the ISOs too high.

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If you’re a landscape shooter or the thought of a flash just seems silly to you, then I’ve got a different option for you… Filters! I’ve got a full set of Lee filters I carry in my mindshift filter hive. I’m also using some great new filter adapters from “the filter dude” on amazon. They’re $20 and the same as the wide version of the lee adapters (that cost ~$68) with the exception that the filter dude rings also have a set of threads on the outside of the ring so you can mount a traditional filter to them once they’re on your lens. Let me explain it this way: you’re shooting a waterfall and your panel or 105mm CP gets spray on it as does the front element of your lens. If you’ve got a 77mm CP in your filter hive you can thread it onto the filter guy ring with the ring still on your lens and there won’t be any way from spray to get onto anything but the outside of the round filter! I use this trick all the time shooting waterfalls! Once you’ve got the ring on your lens, don’t bother ever taking it off. Get some of these Lens Coat medium lens caps and use them over your rings. Makes it much easier than dealing with lens caps and threading on a filter ring in the cold dark morning before your coffee has kicked in. For any of you who’ve made it this far into a section about filters, grab some gaffers tape and tape over the logos on the front of your lenses… Those obnoxious white logos will reflect back at your filters and you’ll be able to see the text in the images (bottom right corner in the rocks there’s an orangish semi circle that’s the reflection of the words on the lens)!!!

sensor cleaning supplies… If you’ve ever made the jump from an APS-C body to full frame before you know full frame sensors collect dust at a much faster rate. If you’ve ever made the jump from a DSLR to a mirrorless/EVIL body before you know that EVIL’s have their sensor hanging out in the open when you change lenses… Combine the two and it’s a recipe for dust! I’ve got three things I use to work on the dust issue: 1) Sensor pen and loupe, 2) rocket blower, 3)gel stick. The gel stick is new to me and so far it’s been amazing. Make sure you get the orange sony version. The rocket blower gets off the easy stuff but I’ve found if the camera’s sensor cleaning function can’t get it off the rocket air usually can’t either.

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Big and fast SD cards… 42mp files can chew through a lot of space in a hurry. With the new uncompressed option they’re now twice as big (~90mb now -vs- 45mb uncompressed). Make sure you get cards with a ~90mb/s read AND write time! A lot of the cards offer that as a read speed but not write which is what matters most to the camera. I wish sony had used the faster tech fuji has in the XT1’s SD slot (250mb/s). I’ve got three 64mb 90mb/s SD cards that I’m happy with so far. I keep them in a “lenscoat memory card wallet SD9” that can hold 9 SD cards. I used to be a big think tank pixel pocket rocket user in my CF card days but the lenscoat SD card option is much smaller so I prefer it. Whichever wallet you go with MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A FEW BUSINESS CARDS IN IT!!! If you ever lose it you’ll at least have a chance at getting it back. The think tank option does have a nice strap on it so you can secure it to your bag but it’s a velcro closure which I don’t like at weddings. The lenscoat wallet uses an elastic that just loops over the end so it’s dead silent.

While we’re on the subject of memory let me talk about importing these massive files into your computer! Having a fast card does you no good if you don’t have a fast card reader to go with it. I’m a mac guy and I’m using an older iMac with the original thunderbolt port and USB 2.0 ports (or maybe even originals). Thunderbolt is my fastest option. I have a drobo 5D running on a thunderbolt connection. I then have this awesome lexar workflow hub withthree SD card readers (which can be used on their own with their supplied USB cord when you’re away from your desk). I have three readers because there’s a lot of times when I end up with three cards to import from between the drone, the a7rii and the a6000.

I also use the trick Dan Carr taught me about importing from more than one card at a time in LR which is a LIFESAVER!!! The one problem I have is that the lexar hub is USB3.0 so in order to take advantage of it’s speed I need to adapter it to thunderbolt so I’m using this belkin dock. I know these parts aren’t cheap (it’s about $500 for the hub and reader before you get to my external storage) but even since I upgraded to this setup last year my import times have become comically fast. Even with three filled cards. Of course it still takes lightroom forever to build previews but that’s another story. LR is slow to work with these monster files so be ready to throw some money at your computer if it’s not up to the task… I’ll be getting a new machine in a few months (retina iMac) and can’t wait.

The last accessory I’ll talk about is how moving to a mirrorless system can change your whole system in terms of tripods and bags. I’ve added a small travel carbon fiber tripod to my kit since going mirrorless. The camera is enough lighter I get enough support from a much smaller tripod and it can now fit inside my camera bag! This has also meant (for me) that I’ve moved to larger camera bags. Not for the camera, but because it means I can use one bag to carry all my gear for non photography purposes as well as my photo kit in a single bag. So rethink your bags and support, going to a bigger bag with a smaller tripod might mean everything can now fit inside one stealth bag!

Some notes:

  • 42mp is OMG WHOA! resolution… Even if you use the 18mp aps-c mode it’s still an amazing file with plenty of detail.
  • The DR of this sensor is crazy. The a7ii I’d been using was good, better than canon and fuji (no pattern noise like canon) but the a7rii is a level above that easily.
  • ISOs are ALSO really good and easily beat my a7ii, 5Diii and the fujis.
  • For a full frame body this thing is amazing small. I switch to fuji because I never used my 5Diii unless I was on a paid shoot due to size. This body brings the best full frame sensor in the market (all around, MP, DR, ISOs) to a tiny body. It’s the same size with the 16-35mm as my old X-T1 was with fuji’s 10-24mm.
  • AF is very good even in low light at wedding receptions… Canon has the “red ring of fire”, well sony has the “green boxes of focus”. It just works.
  • AWB feels like it’s maybe not quite as good as the a7ii? I’ve never shot them side by side though but it’s a gut feeling I get…
  • My AF buttons setup has the AF turned off on the shutter button. AEL is my focus but only when held down. It’s the basic rear button AF from my DSLR.
    all custom buttons
  • Fn Menu row 1: SS on/off, SS Adjust (manual/Auto for non sony lenses), OSS FL (for non sony lenses), Focus Mode, Focus Area, Center Lock-on AF
  • Fn Menu row 2: Silent Shooting, Peaking Level, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Quality, Smile/Face Detect
  • Custom Keys: Shutter AF off, C1 = bright monitoring, C2 = Finder/Monitor Sel., C3 = focus magnifier, C4 = eye AF, Center button = standard (lets me choose AF point), left = drive, right = ISO, down = smile/face detect, AEL button = AF on, AF/MF Button = AF/MF control Hold
  • Battery grip is great for weddings, but the neewer version adjusts the aperture w/o touching buttons on me….
  • AEL button is hard to feel on the neewer grip. Awkward with EV dial only usable in horizontal mode…
  • you “need” to use a sony shoe capable flash. With a “dumb”/manual flash the flash doesn’t sit right in the shoe (too far back) but it also doesn’t auto switch the camera to flash WB and it also doesn’t change the viewfinder setting from
  • “live view display: setting effect on” to off for flash (setting is in the gear -> page 3, option 1). Using the nissin i40 does both automatically!
  • get a watson charger NOW!
  • get a nissin i40 for any on camera flash NOW! It’s tiny and light and perfect. Just don’t turn it up above 1/4 or the recycle time gets slow (but we have plenty of ISO on the a7rii). 1/8th is great.
  • magnification during replay is painfully slow!
  • buy a 90mb/s write speed SD card…
  • battery life is what it is but with a watson charger it’s 4 batteries for a wedding even at 2.5k+ images… You can also charge via the USB port WHILE SHOOTING for timelapse guys or if you’re hurting and out of normal sony batteries…
  • SD card door tighter -vs- a7ii where it opened on me quite a bit (but never on the a7/a7r/a7s because it opened the other direction).
  • eye cup rubber/shape is better than a7ii.
  • silent shutter is DEAD silent… subjects will actually keep posing after a shot because they’re waiting for the noise.
  • sigma and tamron need to start making their lenses in FE and E versions. They offer a mount conversion process for existing lenses which suggests the lenses are all the same and the mounts are the only difference. This makes me wonder if sony/minolta has some weird difference in their mount that makes it so making just the mount for the existing lenses doesn’t work? I’d prefer mirrorless specific versions anyway though (so they can be smaller/lighter).
  • Sony needs to make either the 70-300 or 70-400 in an FE mount. The longest FE lens right now is the 24-240mm (which has terrible sun stars but is a great travel all in one otherwise).
  • I’ve seen some very weird hunting with my zeiss batis 85mm in vertical/portrait mode that goes away instantly once the camera is horizontal but comes right back again when back to vertical. I’ve spoken with zeiss and sony about it and zeiss has been able to replicate the issue (only happens in super low light).

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Things to fix via a firmware:

  • APS-C mode (setting -> gear -> tab 6 -> option 4) should be allowed on the Fn menu or as a custom key. I use APS-C for weddings a lot as I don’t need more than 18mp there (I used mRAW on the 5Diii for 10mp).
  • mRAW options? You can force 18mp via the APS-C mode but there should also be smaller RAW options that use the full frame.
  • Add the option for a third row in the Fn menu (and also the option to drop to 1 for those who’d want that). There’s a LOT of menu options I use a lot and I need more space than the 2 rows provided for what I use regularly.
  • Add a “my menu” option similar to canon’s that gives me a traditional menu page where I choose everything on it but I get to choose from ANYTHING in the menus… Also, don’t limit it to a page (let it scroll if I want more than 6 options) and let me set it up so pressing menu always brings up this screen first.
  • EVF auto switch sensitivity is too high. I’ll be in a corner doing architecture work and it’ll see my body and switch to the EVF from the rear screen. EVF switch should NEVER activate when the rear LCD is opened either way (because if it’s open you’re using that and not the EVF).
  • The added 14-bit uncompressed option is great for those screaming for it (I never felt the compression caused any issues?). I’d love to see true 14-bit with lossless compression as well. Personally I’d also love to see an option for force 12-bit when you want it as well. For weddings I shoot RAW but don’t need 14 bit so I use the slow FPS mode to force 12 bits most of the day, then silent shutter mode during the ceremony (turning on long exposure noise reduction, high ISO noise reduction, bulb, any burst mode over single shot or silent shutter all force 12-bit mode).
  • During a long exposure the rear LCD is still powered on but black. This wastes power from a camera that uses a lot and uses small batteries already. Please turn OFF the screen during an exposure! -or- give the option to have it show a counter for the shutter length so I know when a 30s exposure is almost over. During bulb count up with that counter!
  • The manual focus distance scale display is terrible! It’s always a white line of a set width that doesn’t get thicker (showing more DOF) as you go wider with focal length, farther with focus or stop the lens down. It’s always the same size!
  • The zeiss batis lenses have GREAT OLED displays with GREAT info shown, copy that on the rear screen! Also make the white bar/line get thicker as you change settings accordingly (like fuji does).
  • allow the use of the manual focus assist view (magnified live view) to be used with “bright monitoring” (where it drags the shutter is super low light so you can focus) so you can use both and really nail MF in pitch black settings.
  • allow users to turn off the non whole stop ISOs for faster ISO selection… going from auto ISO (how I shoot wedding w/o flash) to ISO 800 (how I typically shoot reception shots) is 13 button presses when it would be 4 if the non whole ISOs were out of that list. Canon and fuji both allow this.
  • option for a quick delete w/o needing to “ok” anything…
  • Option to turn off some of the AF points. I always “watered down” my 5Diii to just the more sensitive points and the ones in the corners. Something like 25 (5×5 grid) would be perfect with the a7rii. But 399, especially when you use the small box makes it slow to move your selected AF point from one side to the other.
  • To go with the above, allow the user to “wrap” the AF point selection from one side of the frame to the other. IE if I’m using a point on the left side of the frame and I press left again it should “wrap” around to the point on the far right.
    allow customization of the dial directions. The shutter speeds on the rear dial in M are backwards for me… I’m re-learning but it’s taking a while!!!
    faster read and write speed. Feels like I’m waiting for the red light quite a bit. And the A7rii takes longer to write it’s 18mp aps-c files than the a6000 does to write it’s 24mp aps-c files… Use the UHS-I U3 cards that fuji put into it’s X-T1.
  • create a hyperfocal AF mode where the camera looks at the focal length and aperture and keeps the focus dialed into whatever distance puts infinity right at the far edge of the DOF. This would be a huge advantage for landscape shooters.
  • Allow the viewfinder to store which AF point is used for vertical and horizontal shots separately (canon and fuji do this).

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

I’m currently shooting with an a7rii with both the Meike/neewer battery grip (for weddings/events) and the Neewer L-Bracket for everything else. Lens wise the Sony (by Zeiss) 16-35mm is my go to wide angle zoom and what I shoot my architecture and landscape work with. I have the sony 24-240 as my light weight long reach lens and the tamron 150-600 as a no compromise I need reach lens with a Sony LAEA3 adapter. For wedding work I have the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, Sony (by Zeiss) 55mm 1.8 and the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8. I shoot weddings using the aps-c crop mode 95% of the time so this trio works out to be 35mm/85mm/135mm effective. I’ve basically added the Zeiss 85mm as a longer option -vs- what I shot with both canon (35/85) and fuji (23/56).

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The other great thing with this setup is I can shoot the 25mm in full frame mode for those few shots where I “need” a wide prime and the 16-35mm becomes a pretty versatile mid range zoom for those reception flash shots at the end of the night. For flashes I still have my Neewer TT850s with their awesome Lion battery packs (that last for ~600 shots!) with their wireless transmitters but I only use those off camera now (they’re massive on this smaller platform). I picked up the nissin i40 for on camera (bounced) which is great because it automagically switches the camera’s WB setting to flash as well as setting the viewfinder mode to NOT reflect your settings (since the flash isn’t flashing as you compose you end up with a black view if settings are reflected). It’s also pint sized and light which is great, but also just powerful enough I can use 1/8 or 1/4 when needed to keep recycle rates fast enough and it’ll survive and entire reception with one set of AAs for me. I’ve also kept two aps-c wide angle lenses that play nice on full frame. The first is the sony 10-18mm f/4. It’s meant to be an effective 15-27mm f/4 lens but it also covers full frame from 12mm to 16mm and is nice and small! It’s a great lens for shooting milky way shots for me as I need the added width there. I’ve been toying with it on arch shoots where 16mm on full frame isn’t quite wide enough as well. The other aps-c wide lens I’m using is the rokinon 8mm fisheye. You’ll notice shots of the 12mm fisheye in the gallery below as well. I tried both and while the 12mm is slightly nicer optically (perfect sun stars) it’s just so much bigger and bulkier that it won’t get brought along as much and you can’t use a lens you don’t have! The 8mm is tiny and lives tucked away in a corner of my bag.

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Wrap Up…

Sony has a long way to go in terms of dialing in this camera to the extent that I have zero issues with it. BUT! The vast majority of these items are very minor details (which way dials turn etc). The camera is a great tool and the more I use it the more I learn and adapt to how it’s different and the less these issues matter. That’s not to say I don’t want them fixed (and please, via firmware so I don’t need to buy my sixth a7 body in a two year span!). It’s that I can work with what I have. The sensor and the AF are fantastic and will keep me in this system for the long haul. Sony is catching up with lenses (70-300 next please?!) and each new firmware update brings new features. It’s an exciting time to be photographer!

This camera finally delivers better image quality than what I had with my DSLR (5Diii) in terms of dynamic range, clean ISOs AND more resolution. It also gives me auto focus I can trust in pretty much any situation. I have more issues manually focusing thanks to the focus by wire design and the uninformative display. All in all I’m the happiest I’ve been with a camera since the 5Diii (my only complaint there was size/weight).

You can buy a Sony A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo 

Sep 092015
 

titlesebastien

Dismaland with the Hasselblad Stellar

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

(From Steve: B&H Photo has a load of new Stellar special editions on close out for $895, check them out here if interested)

Dear Steve,

I just came back from a visit to Banksy’ s Dismaland and thought that it could be interesting to share it with the readers of stevehuffphoto.com.

Dismaland is a giant art exhibition (featuring 50 guest artists) disguised into a post apocalypse theme park (or the other way around). It has been created by Banksy in an abandoned open air swimming pool in Weston-Super-Mare (UK, close to Bristol) and will only last for 5 weeks.

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Banksy is a very controversial artist; some see him as a living genius (paying close to 2MM USD for his painting “keep it spotless”), others as a maker of politically cheesy stencils with a big ego.

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I’ll not engage in any kind of artistic judgement here, let’s say that I partly agree with both of the above statements but was curious enough to fly from Zurich to the middle of nowhere in the UK to see it by myself.

Let’s not make any suspense: Yes the messages are quite basic (War is bad, pollution is bad, consumerism is bad, Lasagna are made of horse meat) but I’ve been thrilled by the experience!

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Dismaland feels like going to DisnXXLand after a zombie outbreak. It’s weird, surprising and looking at artworks in a semi-devastated environment gives you a strange feeling of freedom.

Both the public (a mix of art collectors, punks/weirdos and families with baby strollers) and the artworks made it a very exciting place to shoot as well, which is all it is about at the end.

Not being sure about the photography policy of the site and not wanting to cary my DSLR all day long I used my wife’s posh Sony aka the Hasselblad Stellar for the whole visit.

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I started photography with a Canon G5 back in 2004, but never used a camera without optical finder ever since. It took some time getting familiar with the framing on the LCD screen, but overall this little Sonelblad has been very pleasing to use in this context. I really liked the ring around the lens to set my aperture. Zoom and autofocus are quite useful as well (I usually use manual primes) but the best aspect is really that nobody pays attention to what your doing with such an “amateur” camera!

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Of course there are physical limits to what a small sensor can achieve, and IQ is not getting close to what I’m used to get from my main gear… But I’ve to admit that I’m know wondering if the IQ difference is not outweighed by the convenience of the “no brainer” use…At least on some occasions… Let’s say that I might actually borrow it a bit more often now that I had a chance to play with it.

Thanks for reading,

Sebastien

More of my work here: https://www.facebook.com/lumiere.exterieure

Sep 082015
 

Six weeks in San Francisco with a Hasselblad Xpan and a Mamiya 7

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

For the second time I spent six weeks in San Francisco, photographing. Last time, two years ago, I used a digital Olympus PEN with Canon FD lenses. Now, I wanted to go with my Linhof Technikardan technical camera, but I got cold feet. I just didn’t have enough experience with that camera. So, I took my two favorite fun camera’s, the Hasselblad Xpan and the Mamiya 7.

For the Xpan I bought the 90mm lens, which turned out a very good choice, as I used it 90% of the time. I shot Kodak Ektar with it. The Mamiya 7, I have the 43mm superwide, and I used it with Kodak Tmax 400 black and white, pushed one stop because I’m crazy about grain, and an orange filter.

I didn’t bring a digital camera, which turned out a very good decision.

I walked the city for about five hours each day.

Well, let’s start with the Xpan.

In the beginning I carried the 45mm and the 90mm, but the last three weeks I just took the 90mm. This lens is equivalent (on 35mm) to a 50mm horizontally. Panoramically, the limited height of your image always makes for very nice framing, you can really get into details. Shooting the Xpan is immense fun, it’s a gem of a camera. I took some 220 images with it, only shooting when I had something which was really worth recording and taking great care of composition.

The colors of the Ektar 100 film are real nice and saturated.

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I saw the extremely colorful tattoos on the arm of this British guy and I asked him if I could shoot him during the ferry ride to Sausalito. I got him with the Golden Gate Bridge behind.

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Also on the ferry, this lady with fluorescent sunglasses. This is not a real panorama, but I like the calming width to the image.

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Segway expeditions you meet regularly. This is my best shot of them.

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Due to public transport schedules, because I had to get back to Pacifica every day I couldn’t really shoot during the perfect hours of the afternoon. Only a few times my ex-wife took me downtown between 3 and 6PM. The light is just incredible, then. I did this trip on a minimum budget, sleeping in a little tent on a deck at my son’s, but next time, I’ll go three weeks instead of six and spend the money on a rented car so I can go at any time and also explore the surroundings of S.F.

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Golden Gate Park. Lots of opportunities. Still some poppies: the Xpan can also be used for other things than landscape.

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I also continuously search for abstract opportunities. This is just a piece of pavement in deep shade.

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The Mamiya 7

For some reason I’ve never used with anything else than black and white film. It’s strange, I have camera’s which feel like color and camera’s which feel black and white. Like my Mamiya C330 I have only used with Fuji Velvia so far. Shooting black and white is always very serious to me. These images are quickly postprocessed, the prints, I spend many hours on, perfecting.

Of course, I shot the Golden Gate Bridge.

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See the grain in the sky? Love it.

The next picture I discovered with Easter, when I spent two weeks there. Now I had the Mamiya with me, and did it in black and white.

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In a shopping center I saw a reflection of myself in an elevator door; I held the camera at my waist, after all I had a superwide, and got this shot: I look like a security officer.

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I spent a weekend in Ukiah, about 130 miles from San Francisco. Nature was beautiful, and there was a park with Redwoods. Not like Muir woods, but here, there was no one and I could go averywhere. This is the first time I got good redwood shots. Next time, I’lll try it with someone posing to get the size. I shot from a tripod, with an orange filter, and a spotmeter. Shutter times were from 1/60th to 4 seconds. No way you can do this without a tripod. The orange filter made for very smooth images with lots of nice grey tones. There is a severe drought in California, and I read in the Scientific American that the Redwoods are beginning to die. Isn’t it horrible?

These trees are there from before Jesus Christ, and we manage to destroy them in 30 years. Bravo, Humanity!

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The shot above and the one below are my two favorite ones from the trip. I’ll print them 4 foot longest side on Hahnemühle Baryta and hang them together. The lower shot, my son discovered when he saw the shade of the building on the sidewalk; He photographed it with his Iphone; it looked real nice, so I did it too. The iphone is an amazing camera. I made this composition in three tries, just not having the sun in and aiming for maximum diagonals:

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A last one which is also a favorite, in the graveyard of Mission Dolores, a 300 year old grave.

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Well, that’s it.

Which one is my favorite camera? The Xpan or the Mamiya? They’re both. I do very different things with them. The Xpan is very playful. The Mamiya can get very serious. I used it to its limit this trip, and I’m amazed by what is possible with it. So, they’re both my favorite camera. On trips, when it’s at all possible, I’ll take both. If I can only take one, like on a bicycling trip, it’s an extremely difficult decision.

The Mamiya images are so good that the urge to take the Linhof has gotten less. But I’ll spend a vacation in S.F. with that camera, with a car. The perspective correction possibilities and infinite DOF would do great things in the Redwood forest.

Bye,

Dirk.

Sep 082015
 

A Visual Review of the Sony a7RII

By Marc Weisberg

Steve and Brandon, thank you for the opportunity to post with you for a second time. What you do for the photography community worldwide, is raise the bar on awareness and vision and provide an opportunity to be seen and heard. I applaud your continued efforts. I know first hand that it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and passion to keep fresh content on your site, and that it is a labor of love.

I’ve always believed in picking the best tool for the job. Since selling all my Canon gear last January {and I had lots} I’ve slowly purchased many new tools. To wit: Sony a6000, Sony a7s, Sony a7II and recently I acquired the a7RII.

My Sony glass collection has also grown to include: Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA, Sony FE 16-35mm f/4.0 Z OSS, FE 24-70mm f/2.8 Z OSS, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA , Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS {for me is a life changing lens} I use the 90 for portraits, landscapes and macro photography, and the Sony 70-200 f/4.0 G OSS.

You may be thinking….”Hey dude. Overkill!” However, I use everybody and every lens for specific purposes. I have five different photography sites and specialize in a broad range of photography. Broad range – specialize…oxymoron? As I mentioned above the right tool for the right job.

Recently I headed out on a 2,700 mile road trip with my family. Orange County, CA –> Moab –> Aspen–> Denver –> Albuquerque –> Sedona for twelve days. In the first two days I photographed over 128gb of RAW images on the a7RII. I brought two bodies with me the a7RII and the a7s and all my lenses, sans the Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA.

How is the a7RII Compared to the Sony a7II and Sony a7s?

The a7RII has a more pro feel to it. For all purposed the a7RII exterior body is identical to the a7II in feel and texture. Both have a more beefier grip than the a7s and the same matte finish. External buttons and controls are the same too with the exception of a lock button that now resides in the middle of the top wheel that controls M,S,A,P etc. Its what’s inside the camera that make the a7RII a megapixel beast compared to the a7II and a7s. I’ve never used the original a7R nor even held it in my hands so I can not speak to the differences between the original a7R and the new a7RII. The one thing that sticks out to me that is quite different is the shutter sound. Its more of a soft mechanical Shushing sound reminiscent of a mechanical film camera. A welcomed and reassuring sound.

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The menu system has some welcomed upgrades {9 frame built-in bracketing, bracketing with self timer and many, many more,} a new full-frame backlit CMOS sensor, in camera stabilization, amazing dynamic range, 4k video capabilities and the 42.3 megapixels {which have the ability to capture stunning clarity and detail} that is sending shockwaves through the photographic community. And yes there are 399 focusing points, on sensor phase detection for faster auto focusing, as well as contrast detection. The a7RII also allows any lens, Canon, Nikon, Leica, vintage etc. to be used on the body via an adapter. Essentially making its usage available every person who delights in using their favorite lens or lenses.

To see a full list of menu upgrades head on over to my friend and fellow Sony Artisan Brian Smith’s (http://briansmith.com/ten-great-new-settings-on-sony-a7rii/) web page. And of course Silent Mode is built into the a7RII body so you can shoot in complete silence. No sound…not even a whisper.

The Proof

Although I pride myself on knowing the technical aspects and details of the craft of photography…for me the proof is always in the captured image. I’m simply blown away by the amazing detail and clarity of imagery I’m able to capture with the Sony a7RII and Sony lens line up. Now I know what all the fuss is with fan boys about medium format digital cameras. The detail and clarity is amazing. Each time I brought up an image on screen from the a7RII I would sit in front of my computer and go WOW! I’ve been photographing for 17 years now and for 15 years professionally. I started out with Canon 35mm, moved to a Hasselblad 503, then got the first Canon 1D when it came out. But never have I owned a camera this capable or seen this type of detail and clarity which is coming out of the a7RII.

Below I’ll share a few single capture images from the a7RII. Each image is captured RAW. I’m a RAW shooter period. Images are culled in PhotoMechanic and post processed in Lightroom 6.1.1 Crops are 100% to show the clarity, detail and dynamic range of each image. After the A7RII images I’ll discuss briefly why I have so many bodies and what I use them for.

IMAGE 1. Moab, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. a7RII, 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS, ISO 100, 1/125th/sec, f/6.3. Tripod.

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IMAGE 2. 100% crop.

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IMAGE 3. Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO. a7RII, FE 16-35mm f/4.0 Z OSS, ISO 200, 1/3 sec. f/16. Tripod.

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IMAGE 4. 100% crop.

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IMAGE 5. Independence Pass, Aspen, CO. a7RII, Sony 70-200 f/4.0 G OSS, ISO 400, 1.160th/sec, f/10. Tripod.

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IMAGE 6. 100% crop.

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IMAGE 7. Abandoned home, 1800’s Stage Coach town, Lake County, CO. a7RII, Sony 70-200 f/4.0 G OSS, ISO 400, 1/160th/sec. f/10. Handheld.

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IMAGE 8. 100% crop.

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IMAGE 9. Old silver and gold mining town of Leadville, CO. a7RII, FE 24-70mm f/2.8 Z OSS, ISO 200, 1/160th/sec., f/10. Handheld.

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IMAGE 10. 100% crop.

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IMAGE 11. 100% crop.

IMAGE 12. Enchantment Resort, Sedona AZ. a7RII, Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. ISO 200, 1/250th/sec., f/14. Hand held.

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IMAGE 13. 100% crop.

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The Verdict

The a7RII produces stellar, clean files with superb clarity and detail. I haven’t profiled the camera for my computer yet. But noticed that I do need to spend a bit more time getting the landscape colors where I wanted them. The files from the a7RII are almost 2x the size of my a7II and almost 4x the size of my a7s.

The only thing that I noticed on ingest into Adobe LR 6.1.1 is when building the previews, it took substantially longer than my a7II and a7s files. But that is to be expected when you are dealing with 42.3 megapixel files. When taking successive shots with the a7RII the buffer will take a while to store the images to the SD card. During this time menus can not be accessed. During my 12 days on the road and pressing the camera into use in severe locations with 102 degree temperatures I experienced ZERO glitches. The a7RII performed perfectly. Battery life appears to be the same for the a7RII as for my other a7 series cameras. Shooting in harsh conditions, sensor dust is expected and was easily blown off. Once during my trip I wet cleaned both sensors. Again, to be expected for 12 days of continuous outdoor shooting in harsh element.

The Proper Tool for the Job

As I mentioned above I have five different sites: my overall site, luxury real estate and architectural photography, pet photography, weddings and wine and food. During the course of a month I typically am photographing a weddings, family and children’s portraits, ridiculously wonderful pet photography ®, doing video and stills for wine and food, and several luxury real estate and architectural shoots destined for web and print. Often during the course of the month I’ll be photographing for magazines, both articles and cover images. And to satisfy my soul, I’ll throw some street photography into the mix.

Wedding & Family Photography

a7s can capture clean images up to ISO 51,200. Light is always changing and its my go to event camera. I may purchase a second a7s body. A7RII for portraits at weddings and for families and children – on a tripod. A7II is my back up camera for family portraits and children’s portraits – on a tripod

Luxury Real Estate Photography

a7s because of its low light capabilities and super clean files. a7RII for luxury real estate photography magazine work.

Pet Photography

a7s for quick focusing clean files in changing outdoor lighting conditions, and the a7RII, if it will be for a magazine cover work.

Wine and Food Photography

a7s for on location shooting 1080p video. And the a7RII for tripod macro stills and 4k video.

Personal Work and Street Shooting

The a6000 with the Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA. Super compact, highly capable set up and very discreet.

About Marc

Marc Weisberg is a photographer, photography educator and blogger based in Irvine, California. He specializes in a broad genre of photography including luxury real estate photography, wine & food, family events, and ridiculously wonderful pet photography. You’ll find Marc’s trademark – magazine style imagery published internationally in books and magazines. In early 2015 Marc aligned with Sony to become a member of the Sony Artisan of Imagery program. You can see more of Marc’s work at www.marcweisberg.com

Aug 242015
 

User Report: My 1st Leica Q Shots

by Yoon-Chou Chong

Got the Q just a day before the family holidays which was just as well to test how easy it is to pick up and go. The early pictures in Sydney were mainly from JPEG and although I have heard of Leica’s limits it was ok and does give it the ‘look’ (vs say the RX1 which probably matches in sharpness). Funny thing is when I am defaulting to Program, it always starts with F1.7 which if you aren’t thinking too much of your shots (that is pretty much what happens if you are shuffling with a 5 year old). The EVF was wonderful, and it brought me back to looking into it (rather than lazily on the screen).

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Aug 142015
 
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A Sony A7RII Review

by Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Blasphemy be damned, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t all that excited about the Sony a7R II prior to its release.

I’m a simple stills guy so the 4k video is wasted on me; I also like my fat pixel 12mp a7S files just fine, thank you and I dreaded having to deal with both the processing and storage requirements of a 42mp image. Furthermore, I already enjoy the refreshed body style and IBIS on the a7 II and I’m not a switcher – been shooting Sony for a few years now and sold all my Canon L lenses long ago.

My prior detachment aside, the release of this camera is a watershed moment in the mirrorless epoch. The a7R II spec sheet reads like something out of the future, a no compromise piece of kit that is both evolutionary and revolutionary at the same time. Who wouldn’t be interested in this camera? As professionals or even enthusiasts, we desire the best and this camera promises to be that at a great many things. Even if it falls short in a single category like low light (little brother a7S still reigns supreme), its second best still trumps most everything else on the market.

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So yeah, I want the best and I want it compact and rugged and efficient and with a great compliment of lenses. I know it will eventually be eclipsed by something newer and greater but at this point in time, I can with a good conscience state that it is the best digital camera I have ever owned.

I’m not going to do a detailed review, many others are far better at that, but I can share some thoughts and photos that I hope will be helpful. All images have been edited from RAW to my personal taste.

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In the pro column, the camera is mature. Sony has had time since the release of the a7 (their first full frame mirrorless system camera) to evolve and improve on many aspects of the platform. The menu system is by now second nature to me but more importantly, with the release of the a7R II, Sony has vastly expanded the level of button configuration. Virtually every physical control on the camera has some level of customization. This means that for all but the most arcane settings, there are direct physical controls. We’ve all seen the comments labeling Sony products as computers or gadgets, compared to other brands’ “real cameras”. The truth is that all modern digital cameras, yes I’m looking at you too Leica, are electronic, computer controlled devices. With the a7R II, I can hide that electronic menu interface for 99% of the photography I do while still harnessing secondary features like IBIS, focus magnification or display options with physical buttons. The closest example of this type of physical control from the golden age of the 35mm film world was the Minolta Maxxum 7 (also known as the a-7!) which was laden with physical controls for every imaginable setting. For the uninitiated, Sony purchased Minolta’s camera and lens line in 2006 – check out this report from way back then – Farewell Konica Minolta.

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The a7R II is the second camera in the line to be blessed with IBIS or SteadyShot, also a Minolta invention. Once you’ve used IBIS there’s simply no going back. Hand holding a 135mm lens at 1/5th is doable with IBIS and good technique – amazing. For some of the photos here, I used the lovely Batis 85mm which has its own optical image stabilization that works in tandem with IBIS for even greater control. The jittery view of a long lens simply melts away to calm when IBIS kicks in. Sony saves battery life by engaging the IBIS function only when the shutter is half-depressed so you can see the effect in realtime, before and after you engage focus.

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The original a7R suffered a heavy shutter action that was quite loud. Having never owned that model, I can’t comment but I will say that the a7R II has one of the sweetest sounding shutters I have heard. It sounds something like this: shhtiiiickkk. Really, take my word, it is wonderful – quiet and refined. Some people have even confused the normal shutter sound with the silent shutter feature which is incorrect as the silent shutter is just that: silent. And on the topic of the Silent Shutter setting, yes there are some compromises such as a restriction to single shot mode but come on, the use cases for silent high speed shooting have got to be minuscule.

Another aspect of the camera that impresses me is the new EVF magnification. At .78 it is the largest magnification of any modern camera, DSLR or mirrorless (the Nikon D810 comes in at .70) which results in a large comfortable view of the scene with excellent eye relief. This feature did have me excited and I’ll have a hard time looking through a view with lesser magnification now.

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The autofocus speed seems on par with the a7 II but tracking looks to be improved thanks to the 399 on-sensor phase detect points. I’ll need to do more shooting to be sure and I also want to do some concerts in low light, but for now I’m very pleased. Using the gorgeous new Zeiss Batis lenses for these first shots in Ogunquit, Maine resulted in quick, sure focus on the 25mm, with the 85mm a bit slower (common for longer focal lengths moving more lens mass) but still speedy. I’m finding that the Batis 25mm truly shines on the a7R II – sharp, sharp, sharp right to the corners with manageable distortion and excellent color. The ability to dial in hyperfocal setting in 2 seconds using the OLED is a nice feature that I used often on some of these tourist landscape shots. If you are looking for a top quality standard wide for the a7 platform, this is your lens. Overall, I’m very pleased with this combination and look forward to more options in the Batis lineup.

One of the big features of the new camera is its claimed compatibility (with an adapter) to Canon EF lenses. The previous a7 models also had this compatibility but the AF speed left much to be desired. With the a7R II, Sony is taking a broad shot across Canon’s bow, claiming much improvement, approaching native AF speed using EF lenses. Since I don’t have any Canon lenses I can’t comment with any authority but there seems to be a consensus in early reviews that the performance claims are accurate. Since the a7R II will be the first Sony camera for many Canon switchers I can only implore them to enjoy the compatibility with their existing lenses but do not ignore some of the class leading native FE lenses that are now available.

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Back to the a7R II – what about all of those pixels? The good news is that I’m seeing nothing but sharpness, no shutter shock or blurred details – and my MacBook Pro seems to be chugging along just fine so far. I get a longer delay when rendering a 100% view but for standard editing I haven’t noticed any speed bumps. The level of clarity and detail from the combination of this 42mp sensor and the Batis lenses has been simply astounding and will eclipse the performance of many Medium Format systems. Dynamic range has also been top notch and I expect it to be measured in the 14+ stop range at base ISO.

Shadow boosting and highlight recovery is child’s play with these Sony sensors and the a7R II doesn’t look to be compromising dynamic range or low light performance for high resolution. Check out the before and after sample below illustrating shadow boost at base ISO.

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No camera is perfect and I expect there to be a few niggles here and there but as I mentioned earlier, the a7R II is remarkably mature. As a photographer with some manual focus rangefinder lenses I do find that the new larger EVF has an unfortunate downside that lessens the shimmering effect of the older displays. This effect was from edge artifacts and could help the photographer determine when they had manual focused accurately without relying on focus peaking. The extra EVF magnification eliminates those edge artifacts making it more challenging to determine manual focus accuracy without entering one of the focus magnification modes. Now to be clear, Sony never advertised or even hinted of this EVF shimmering effect as a tool for focus, this is simply a trick that I and others have used for our benefit so we can’t berate Sony for eliminating what some may have thought was an annoyance.

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Aside from my gripe about manual focusing with the new EVF, I’ve discovered no significant faults that impact operation or lessen my enjoyment of the camera. My initial impression is that Sony has set a new high bar with the a7R II – a camera that will suit many, but of course not all styles of photography. For those that specialize in landscape, architecture, wedding or portraits, as well as the run and gun videographer, this could well be the one and only camera that you need in your bag. And let’s not forget, that bag is going to be a lot lighter.

Chad Wadsworth

Aug 052015
 
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Day 3 With the Sony A7RII. Just some quick Samples..

So day three with the A7RII here in Portland just ended, and I am tired. So tired that I am now in my pajamas laying in bed and dozing off as I write this. Because I am so beat, I will keep the text short and let the images speak for themselves.

Also, for those who have been asking, I will post full res files in my full review in 2-3 weeks. I will test certain Leica lenses on the camera as well. So stay tuned for that.

For now, just a few more images from today. Myself and almost everyone here is loving this camera. Was speaking with some well known camera reviewer names today and they agree that this is a phenomenal camera. From its snappy AF, to excellent tracking C-AF to it much better build, quieter shutter, superb high ISO performance and great video it is so much different than the 1st gen A7 bodies…AND THIS IS GOOD.

Stay tuned for my full review soon.

For now, take a look at some images from today and yesterday afternoon with various lenses.

You can order the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo. They just started shipping today!

 All EXIF is embedded. Lenses used were the Zeiss Batis 25 and 85, Sony Zeiss 35 1.4, Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2, Zeiss 16-35

TO SEE THESE CORRECTLY YOU MUST CLICK ON THEM TO SEE THEM LARGER!! IF YOU DO NOT THEY WILL NOT LOOK AS INTENDED. Thank You!

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Aug 042015
 

Day Two with the Sony A7RII…so far. WOW!

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Yesterday I posted my very 1st views and thoughts on the new powerhouse Sony A7RII camera. After shooting with it all day today for the past 6 hours I have more images and thoughts and they are all GOOD.

I am currently on a bus with 30-40 other journalists and Sony as we had to Mt. Hood for more shooting (in snow) with the A7RII. Since we have a 2 hour drive I decided to use my iPhone 6 as a hotspot and update you guys on how it went this morning with the camera.

One test I wanted to try was to shoot the Voigtlander 15 4.5 VIII on the A7rII as I was hearing rumblings about how the new sensor design fixes most of the issues with wide-angle Leica M glass. I have the 15 III on me, so more Leica tests will happen next week when I am home but for now, the 15 is looking AWESOME on the A7RII.

click image for larger…

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As I walked around the Japanese Garden this morning with the A7RII, 15 III, Batis 85 and Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 and 24-70 I was BLOWN AWAY at the camera. This is without a doubt, the BEST A7 camera EVER made. In fact, since I am in the honeymoon phase, I feel it is one of the best, if not the best camera I have ever used. SO many reasons why. Will I feel like this in 2 weeks? I think so, but who knows. I am just so excited by what this camera is giving me I look at it sitting here next to me and say “I WILL NEVER NEED MORE THAN THIS”.

I mean, I just want an A7RII  and some AMAZING glass to go with it, and there is TONS of glass you can shoot on the A7RII. Thousands of lenses from all manufacturers can be mounted with the right adapters and with the new sensor design, man… this is one powerful tool.

Even with its 42 MP the camera is responsive, quick and never feels sluggish. Manual focus is a breeze with the large clear EVF and low light is so much better than I thought it would be, I mean..it seems to be better than my A7II at high ISO, nearing the A7S (but not quite).

THIS CAMERA excels with out of camera quality. These are all from camera JPEGS, look at the color, the depth and the incredible medium format like IQ…click them for larger!

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It has been a lackluster year for cameras so far. I mean, we have had some amazing cameras come out..the Leica Q…a few others..but THIS is a game changer and when something like the A7RII comes along, it excites me and that excitement translates to these pages and the words I write.

I have shot with everything over the years and believe me when I say, so far, from two days with this A7RII, it is a special camera that has capabilities that far exceed my skill set. The video capabilities alone are incredible. The sensor is outstanding. They did their homework and listened to A7 users, and then they delivered this. THANK YOU SONY!

1st shot below was with the 35 1.4 Zeiss at 1.4. THIS is my fave 35 1.4 ever. 

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Here is a shot with the Canon 50 1.2 EF lens at 1.2. What is really incredible? Myself and all here agree, this lens focuses faster on the A7RII than it does on the Canon 5D series. Faster and more accurate. I borrowed this lens from someone here and now will go buy one as it is amazing on the camera. click it, and yes, this is an OOC JPEG.

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What I have been enjoying most is the rich color, deep IQ and lovely transitions. This sensor is just “WOW”. 

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So here I am still on the bus and with my laptop battery draining and my hotspot racking up data feeds I will close this out now with a couple more images from today. Tomorrow I will post more from this evening and tomorrow as we have so many events planned to use these cameras. I will also have a look at the RX10II as that is also sitting in my bag beside me.

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Believe the hype my friends, the A7RII is a take no prisoners camera and I see nothing out there that can do all it does, how it does it and do so with amazing and fun usability.

You can order the A7RII below from my recommended and trusted Sony dealers: 

B&H Photo A7RII ORDER PAGE!

Amazon A7RII

Jul 302015
 

My First Impressions – Zeiss Batis 25/2

By Bob Israel

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Getting a new lens is always exciting. You read the reviews (including Steve’s), you ponder whether your excitement is from the hype from the previews of others. You ponder whether this is really a ‘need to have’ vs. ‘want to have’ lens. Finally, you make the decision and place your preorder. Then you wait . . . and read some more . . . and wait some more . . . and see some images . . . and wait . . . and then . . . it arrives.

First, it’s the unboxing, not like you see on you tube videos but the anticipation of holding the lens in your own hands for the very first time. Today I received the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. I’ve had a love affair with Zeiss for a long time shooting contax C/Y, Zeiss ZE and ZM lenses. But the Batis 25/2 is the first I’ve owned that will autofocus on the Sony A7 series. To say I was looking forward to this day is an understatement.

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The lens is a thing of beauty. It has a modern look and feel and the OLED display just seems cool (yes, I’m a techie). The lens is much lighter in weight than I expected but it feels perfect on my A7II. I went out at lunch today and took a few shots. Nothing earth shattering but an assortment of wide open, closed down and into the sun variety.

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Then I looked at the images on my laptop. I got the same feeling and excitement as when I first shot with the Zeiss ZE line. It was an OMG moment. The colors are rich and the lens is sharp even wide open. The lens is marvelous when shooting into the sun. OK, I realize I’ve only taken about 40 images, but so far, it’s an instant love affair with Zeiss . . . all over again.

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-Bob Israel

Bob Israel
RJI Photography

http://www.rjiphotography.com
http://​w​ww.facebook.com/rjiphotography​
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjiphotography

See Steve’s full review of the Batis 25 and 85 HERE

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

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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