Jul 282014
 

Good Things Come in Small Packages: My Sony RX1R Experience

 

by Daniel Stainer – His website is HERE.

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

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

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

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

Rhyolite Ghost Town (Beatty, Nevada)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carny (Big Butler Fair) (1 of 1)

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

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Kennywood Amusement Park (Pittsburgh, PA) (1 of 1)

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

On Top of Old Baldie (Big Butler Fair) (1 of 1)

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

Abandoned Fun Park Mansion (Salvo, NC)

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

Faded Glory (Salvo, NC)

Daniel Stainer

Jul 242014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Out of the Box impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dramatic color and tones…JPEG

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

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TECH SPECS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoyed having 24mm for the wide end…

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Do you dislike larger and heavier cameras?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Pros and Cons of the RX100 III

Pros

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

cons

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

 

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My final conclusion on the RX100 III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 212014
 

My few days with the very fun Leica C Camera

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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

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

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

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

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

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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

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

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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

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

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

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

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Runner Ups

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

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

Jul 012014
 

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The Sony A7s Review. Wow. Period.

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

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

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

My video intro and overview of the Sony A7s

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

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

A7s and 55 1.8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISO 8,000 with the 15mm Voigtlander.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All were shot as JPEG

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

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 f 0.95

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mitakon at 0.95

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

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The 55 1.8 at f/2, OOC JPEG

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

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

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Another with the Ziess Planar 45

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

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

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55 1.8 using C-AF

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

How about video? This camera shoots 4k?

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

Only 12MP? Is that enough for larger prints?

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

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

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

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

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

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Shooting with the Voigtlander 15 VM Leica Mount Lens

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

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

Below are all JPEGS from camera.

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Side by side with the Leica M 240

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

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

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Issues with the Sony A7s?

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

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

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Bottom Line Conclusion on the Sony A7s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon

Buy the Sony A7s at B&H Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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Thank you all! – Steve

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Jun 252014
 

Still enjoying my Leica M8

By Jochen Utecht

Dear Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The forbidden city is always a joy to walk around. I usually hate images taken from behind. They are cowardish and mostly don´t say anything than that the photographer was there and didn´t have the guts to ask for permission. But sometimes you cannot do anything else and the picture still works.
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The same goes for this one. This Panorama was also with the 21/4. I stitched it from 6 portait-style images. There is barely any distortion in the VC21/4, so PS didn´t have problems putting it together. I don´t mind that some people appear as doublettes. Next time I might bring a tripod and blur the people.

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First of all I asked for permission to take a picture of these beauties. After a posing picture was taken they immediately went back to watching their smartphones and I could capture the scene I had been seeing before.
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Sometimes you get nice results if you hand the M8 to a stranger to have your picture taken. This was on the first of May. I even had to tell that chinese fellow which button to press, but made the settings prior to handing the camera over. It would have been a fun pic if my face had been replacing Mao. I will try that next time. That might not be possible with a rangefinder camera though.
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I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you don´t want to show all 6 pictures, feel free to choose three of them.

Thanks, Jochen
5intheworld.de

Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

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Greetings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jun 132014
 

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(From Steve: So I received this email the other day from Allan and really enjoyed the article and the photos. Allan has submitted a daily inspiration before that you can see HERE but this post really struck a chord with me as I get this question constantly! “What camera should I buy”. I was asked about 18 times last week and 11 out of those 18 times I said “Sony RX100″, and there are many reasons for this. First, price. At $500 it is a GREAT buy. Second, it is very versatile and does so much so right. THIRD, it shoots decent video. It fits in your pocket, looks nice, feels nice and does good even in lower light. For most who are looking for an every day camera..those who are not complete photo nerds and enthusiasts and those who want a great all around family or vacation or even semi serious camera, the RX100 is fantastic. Yes, the RX100 III is out any day now and you get even more but it also comes in at $300 more. Then you have the Stellar, which is a pimped out RX100 V1 for $2k. ;) Any way you slice it, the RX100 is a great little camera and Allan’s shots below are some of my fave I have seen from this camera. Enjoy his article and be sure to visit his blog HERE or his Flickr HERE to see more from him!)

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What camera should I buy? Why, the RX100 of course!

by Allan Mcleod Roney – His website is HERE

A question I receive regularly, and one I always give a dishonest answer to.

It’s not that it’s my intention to obfuscate. It’s just that the right answer is invariably the one the requestor doesn’t want to hear. A good example of this was one of the more recent “what camera should I buy” questions I received.

“Hi Al, I love your Flickr (always a good start), and I was wondering, should I get a Nikon DXXX or a Canon XXXD?”

“Well, what are you wanting to do with the new camera?”

“I’m wanting to shoot pictures of my pals on holiday, maybe take it hillwalking etc. And if I like that, maybe teach myself photography”

So usually at this point, I will go into my usual spiel about “well, you know, these cameras are ‘much of a muchness’, it’s really based on preferences”. Those preferences usually relate to functionalities of the type a novice really won’t understand. Essentially, they’re the same. This time, I thought I’d try giving them my honest answer;

“You know, there’s another option. Buy yourself a quality compact. Not one of those ‘useless after a hot day’ compacts, but one of the top quality ‘premium’ compacts”

“yeah, but I want a DSLR”

I could regale you of a myriad of people who have taken my advice to buy a Nikon or Canon DSLR, who subsequently had a honeymoon period with said camera, then left it on a shelf to gather dust. The problem is that DSLR’s are big cameras. They’re not made to keep on your person. They only tend to be taken anywhere when your primary motive is to take photos, and given that most times we leave the house is for reasons other than photography, it gets left on the shelf.

I suggest a compact for a very simple reason – it will go most places with you. You don’t need a reason to take it. You just stick it in a bag or pocket, and it’s there with you wherever you go. Of course there’s a natural counter argument that is “I have an 8MP phone”. Yes, you do. But it doesn’t have an optical zoom, it doesn’t quite have the picture quality if you’re ‘thinking of taking it seriously’, and you can’t take photos in less than ideal light.

So for the price of a cheap DSLR kit, you can get yourself a quality compact. My favourite (and most used) camera is my wee compact, a Sony RX100 (now available for about £300 or $500 US) – I’ve added photos below taken with this camera where I wouldn’t have got the shot if I had a DSLR – it simply would not have been on me at the time. You’ll take on your holidays, you’ll take it on your hill walks and if you’re serious about taking photos as a hobby, you’ll concentrate on the basics of light & composition with a camera that will serve you better that a DSLR will. And that’s my honest advice.

As always, click-through for larger pictures:

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Jun 132014
 

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Friday Film: Hunza And Gojal

By Ibraar Hussain

Part 2: NAGAR, HUNZA AND GOJAL – See Part 1 HERE

The farther north one goes, the more magnificent the Karakoram scenery becomes. Leaving Shina speaking Chilas and Gilgit and the green Alpine Himalayas behind, with only backward glances revealing Nanga Parbat dominating the southern horizon and the line of the Himalaya.

North from Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway one follows the Hunza River, flanked on either side by the Hunza and Nagar Valleys. These valleys are absolutely gorgeous, full of tall graceful Poplars, Cherry, Walnut, Mulberry and especially Apricot trees.

The way is dominated by Rakaposhi, a 25,551 foot snow Giant, and flanked by His peaks, including Spantik or Golden peak, Diran, Ultar and Lady Finger Peak. The people of these valleys speak Burushuski along with the lingua franca of the North – Shina.

Hunza is famous for it’s Apricots, longevity and lifespan of it’s people and the astounding beauty of it’s country. just as Vigne described Nanga Parbat 150 years ago as ‘the most awful and most magnificent sight to be met with in the Himalayas.’ The Greats Eric Shipton, HW Tilman and Francis Younghusband along with Lord Curzon all acknowledged (amongst other explorers) that Hunza was probably the most beautiful country in the world.

From Karimabad and it’s Baltit and Altit forts one crosses the KKH until it joins the ancient Silk Route and they merge into one through Upper Hunza or Gojal where the people speak Wakhi, and onto Gulmit and Passu where one has to ford the Atabad Lake by boat. (This is a new lake caused by earth quakes, as the mountain sides collapsed damming th e Hunza river, and destroying the KKH and villages in the process).

This area is dominated by the Passu Cathedrals; a line of unclimbed jagged peaks which are a thing of exquisite beauty. Photographs cannot do this area any justice at all.

 

Faces from Hunza, Nagar and Gojal
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektachrome e100vs
Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm Planar Agfa Ultra 50

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The Atabad Lake and River Hunza, Gojal
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The Passu Cathedrals, Passu, Gojal, Upper Hunza by the Karakoram Highway/ Silk Road
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The Altit Fort and The Hunza Valley from The Baltit Fort at Karimabad.
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The Hunza Valley and Rakaposhi
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The Baltit Fort and Ultar Peak Hunza
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Atabad lake, Gojal, Upper Hunza. Rolleiflex 3.5F Agfa Ultra 50. lab Scan

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Jun 122014
 

Update on the Pentax K-3 “Mirror-Flop” from Amy Medina

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IMPORTANT UPDATE (as of June 11th, 2014)

Just wanted to come back and fill you all in on what has happened since writing this article.

First, reports have continued to come in on the Forum Post I started on PentaxForums.com… we are up to a total of 114 members of that forum who have encountered the problem, with three people possibly having other more severe problems occurring to their cameras as a result of the mirror-flapping. Reports and all the information are here:
http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/172-pentax-k-3/254464-k3-crazy-mirror-sickness-mirror-flapping-lockup-report-yours-here.html

More importantly though, as of last week, Pentax is now responding differently to people who report the problem directly to them. This started with someone from Germany reporting that he was told he could send his camera in for repair, specifically for the mirror-flapping problem, and that it would be a software-fix that could only be done at a service center. He sent me copies of his paperwork, which seemed to confirm the issue being addressed was mirror-flapping.

I then contact the rep I’ve been dealing with at Pentax USA who replied and informed me that indeed they were offering a fix now for the crazy mirror-flapping. Though the email is a bit vague in its nature, at least progress. There is no indication as to what the cause is, or what exactly is being fixed/adjusted. The part of evaluation and testing is a bit concerning, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Another member also inquired about a fix for the problem received a similar reply.

Below are copies of the emalis:

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Thanks for the followup. I can confirm that U.S. customers who are experiencing the “mirror-flop” issue (evaluation and testing are still ongoing) with their K-3s will be advised to send their cameras into our main service center in Chandler, AZ for adjustment to help resolve the issue.

Thanks again,

Mark Davis
Product Specialist
RICOH IMAGING AMERICAS CORPORATION

Thank you for contacting RICOH.

We have been informed that there is now a shop adjustment that can be made to help resolve/reduce the reported K-3 “mirror-flop” issue. I recommend you return your camera directly to RICOH Imaging Company at the address listed below for examination.

RICOH Service Department
250 North 54th St.
Chandler, AZ 85226

Jun 112014
 

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So who owns a Hasselblad Stellar? C’mon, be honest!

UPDATE: According to the poll below almost 50 of my readers here have purchased and bought the Stellar. Guess that they have been selling as this poll only represents the readers HERE. Thanks for voting!

So I was going through e-mails today and someone I know purchased an orange special edition Hasselblad Stellar. You know, the Sony RX100 clone made by Hasselblad for 4X the cost of the Sony RX100. Well, the RX100 can be had for $500 today and the standard Stellar goes for $1995.00 yet it is the SAME exact camera with some added bling and flash and pizazz. Believe it or not, some do care about these things as when you have a good-looking cameras that also performs well, it does indeed inspire confidence in those who like this kind of stuff. No, it does not create better photos than a Sony RX100 as it is the exact same camera on the inside and besides, it is the photographer than makes the photos and creates the images, NOT the camera.

I was remembering my time with the original Sony RX100 and thinking back to how great of a camera that it is. Now with the RX100 III coming out, I am excited to see the latest evolution of the model. The new RX100 III will feature the integrated EVF and other new features and it will come in at $798. If it lives up to the RX100 1, then it will be well worth the cost for those who want a high quality pocket rocket of a camera. The original RX100 is a HUGELY capable camera that some dismiss due to size yet it does so many things so well…I expect the III to be amazing.

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Which leads me back to Hasselblad and the Stellar. I was in NYC a while ago and was able to go into a shop and handle and examine the Stellar. At $2000 I was having a HARD time understating it and trying to figure out WHO would buy one and why. I asked the shop owner if he sold many and he said that yes indeed, it was much more successful than even Hasselblad had hoped. Well, I called BS and chalked it up to sales talk.

To put things into perspective Leica has the X2 which is $2000 new yet I prefer the Sony RX100 to the X2 for the speed, size, low light ability and overall versatility (video , macro, etc)  - so if I had $2000 and had to choose between only a Leica X2 or Stellar, I would take the stellar and I would have just as handsome of a camera with an equal build, more solid feel, faster AF, video capability, better lowlight, closer focusing ability and better resale.

Back to my handling with the Stellar…The shop owner pulled out the black carbon fiber version and the camera was housed in a glossy all wooden box. Had to be the fanciest packaging I have come across to date, even putting to shame Leica packaging. When I opened this box, the camera was perfectly nestled in its location with a luxurious and soft leather strap attached. I picked it up, turned it on and saw the “HASSELBLAD” logo pop on the screen. I have to admit, it felt much nicer than the Sony version. It was more solid and hefty and the grip was quite handsome. Still, 4X the cost of the RX100 (at the time it was 3X the cost) was overboard and I was not getting it. Sure we have the fancy luxury packaging. Sure we have the Hasselblad name and logo and yes we had the much more solid buttons and a better tactile feel to them. The fancy choice in wooden grips was also very cool. Wait.. now I was getting it.

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The more I held it and thought about it, the more I started to understand why some would choose to buy such a camera. It looked the part, it felt the part and it had the name that many associate with incredible cameras and optics. It was a much better feeling and looking RX100 and it gave a sense of pride. Of course, I did not buy one but I did try to get a discount offering to review it for the shop if he sold it to me at a discounted price. He offered me $22 off the price, and of course I declined. :) I was hoping for 50% off which I knew would never happen.

While I do not think I could or would ever spend 4X the cost of the RX100 for a “Stellar”, especially since the improved RX100 III is almost here for $798 I do understand it more after handling it and seeing what it was all about. I would pay about $1000 for one personally, as I did love the look and feel of the black one. The RX100, even Version 1 is still a pretty “stellar” camera as it is and capable of fantastic IQ. To have one in a more hefty and better made body wold be nice, and the grip felt great.

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I mean, would we expect Hassleblad to release it at $500? No! $1000? No, as it would not be worth it to them due to the added expense of the wood grip, packaging and the fact that they pay Sony to be able to use the body. Their price of $2000 is a little much IMO but about right for what you get. Those who DO buy it will value things like exclusivity and style and NAME. Leica does the same with some of their cameras. Models like the D-Lux are rebranded Panasonic models that go for a few hundred more than the Panasonic version. Leica offers a better warranty, lightroom software and better design and they charge $400-$500 for this. Hasselblad is charging a $1500 premium but there is a MUCH smaller market for the Hasselblad Stellar than there is the Leica D-Lux 6, so they will never sell as many which means they have to price it higher.

Now the new “Special Edition” stellar is here and comes in at $3300! Insane.

This takes me back to the start of this article. A guy I know and respect bought one and LOVES it. He had the RX100 and has a Leica M as well. He was thrilled with the orange SE stellar and had zero buyers remorse. He is not a rich guy, just an average guy who really loves to shoot. He loves his Sony RX100 so much he decided to splurge for one in his favorite color of orange. He is as happy as a man can be.

The bottom line is that when we use and shoot with what makes us happy then WE are at our happiest and most positive. This helps to motivate and the result CAN BE better photos. So nothing wrong with someone buying what they want and what they enjoy as long as it makes them happy. Many love to bash these cameras but there is no point to that really. Those who bash it are NOT the target market for the camera. Just as those who bash Leica will never buy one or own one. The fact is that there are those who do buy them and do love them and even if that number is very small in the grand scheme of things it just adds to the value of the item, even if it is a rip off of a dated camera :)

BTW, I will be reviewing the RX100 III and A7s soon and am looking forward to it.

So my question is to the readers out there:

WHO HERE HAS BOUGHT A STELLAR? Hasselblad says it has been a huge success, so who has bought one? Anyone here? If so, answer the poll below with a yes or no! 

Jun 102014
 

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Yogyakarta Black Valentine with Ricoh GR

by William Christiansen

I’ve been using Ricoh GR for almost a year and the camera has always been in my bag. There’s no reason to not bringing the camera because it’s so small yet very capable. I use it alternately with the Leica M9 especially when the condition is so dark which requires me to bump up the ISO or use the flash.

On 14th of February 2014, which was supposed to be Valentine Day, Mount Kelud erupted. The mountain sent its ash and grit to nearby cities including Yogyakarta, my hometown. Coincidentally, it’s also the last day of Chinese New Year celebration which supposedly to be the biggest event as it’s the closing ceremony. It’s really a special day of the year.

Usually I will bring Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron ASPH with me when I go to the street or travelling, but this time I felt that the camera was not suitable for the current condition, so I brought my Ricoh GR to the street.

Ergonomically, the camera is so right on my hand and with the condition, dusty and gritty, because I need to hold the camera by using only one hand while the other hand mostly covering my eye to prevent the grit coming to my eyes.

I set the three customisable user slots to these settings:

Setting1 – For taking picture during the bright light – Aperture priority, F/8, ISO1600, Auto-focus.
Setting2 – For taking picture indoor or relatively dark condition – Aperture priority, F/2.8 ISO3200, Auto-focus.
Setting3 – For taking picture using flash or when the there’s almost no light – F11 , 1/10, ISO1600, Zone focusing set to around 1.5 meter.

For me, these three settings have already covered all possible lighting condition I might encounter. In the morning until afternoon, I will use Setting1, and then afternoon and night-time, I will use either Setting2 or Setting3. The auto-focus of the Ricoh GR is quite good especially when taking photo in the bright light but when the light is lacking, sometimes it will focus on the background rather than the object. It is the reason why I use the Setting3, to take photo quickly in the dark condition without relying on its auto-focus at all. I will surely miss the photo opportunity of the hungry cat if I had been using the Setting2 because there’s almost no light when I took the photo.

I always shoot in raw and process later in Lightroom. I am quite surprised seeing the files from this little camera because it’s really sharp. I converted all the images to black and white in Lightroom and even added some grain to bring more emotion to the images because at ISO3200 the file is relatively clean.

In conclusion, the Ricoh GR is a great camera if you are used to stick to the 28mm focal length. The flash metering is really great, the ISO capability is more than enough and it tooks a really sharp image. It is a really great secondary camera considering it is so small and quite light (you have no reason to not bringing it) and even as a primary camera (highly printable, sharp and great manual settings).

If you want to see more photos from my travelling and street photography, you can visit my website at http://www.touristwith.camera

Thanks, Steve!

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Jun 092014
 

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The Phoenix Comicon. Portraits with the Leica M, 50 APO and Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Hey guys, I know it is only a few days after I posted Part 1 of the Leica 50 Summciron APO review but I just wanted to sit down and write-up a quick photo article as I just got in from shooting the M 240 and 50 APO at the Phoenix Comicon and once again, the lens continues to impress me when used on the M 240. Take this as a companion to part one of the review. Part 2 is still to come! 

Make sure you click on each image to see it larger. A few of these have a filter applied (where noted) using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 film filter set. I have used Alien Skin Exposure since Version 1 and love it. You can download a free trial of the new Version 6 HERE.

Shooting the 50 APO on the M is a dream. The focus is easy and I used the Rangefinder 100% of the time. Take a look at the image below which was shot wide open, all natural light. A quick grab shot and it has that medium format look. This was shot in the sun at 2PM in Phx, AZ so you know it is harsh light. This combo did excellent. 1st a B&W conversion, and 2nd, direct color out of the M 240.

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Again, the color is superb. Add to that the sharpness without being harsh or analytical and you have a winning combo. I used the Alien Skin Exposure 6 Astia preset for this one. 

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Click the images to see them larger, PLEASE! They look much better ;) The detail in the full size shot of this one is amazing. To see that full size, click the image below (open in new window for best view)

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The Bokeh of the 50 APO is ethereal with some similarities to the Noctilux (when the Noct is at f/2 or so). For this one I used an Alien Skin filter but can not remember which one. There are so many to choose from and it is fun just experimenting with them all. 

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1st…Here is an OOC JPEG, cropped. The 2nd is using a film filter from VSCO. Not Alien Skin but VSCO, which is a bit different as it applies the filter to the RAW file itself.

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Had some shade for this one..again a B&W conversion using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 (I have used Alien Skin since Version 1, and love it). Below it the color version. 

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Again, the harsh sun..no problem even with the high contrast of the 50 APO.

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Beautiful detail, tones and color once again in less than perfect light. I do not use flashes, ever. 

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Every one of the images here were shot at f/2, wide open where this lens is designed to be shot. In fact. I am not seeing more sharpness at f/4. You just lose the oh so slight vignette that is there at f/2.

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Two girls having fun taking a selfie with a dude wondering why I am taking their picture ;) He looks confused. 

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As hundreds were in line shuffling in I was snapping images from anyone who looked my way. Alien Skin B&W filter without the noise added.

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A Mother and Son who were exited for the event. I wish they had these events when I was young, my Mom would have so taken me in costume!

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This guy asked ME to take his image..

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There were tens of thousands of people at the event. I believe there was an estimated 70,000 there on Saturday. Next year I am going for all three days and hanging out for a few hours a day. Not only did I get to see some cool costumes and take photos, I met a couple of other photographers as well! This couple went all out…

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The color, Bokeh (see the reflection in the BG), the sharpness from edge to edge..nice. 

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I meant to take a picture of the Minecraft head guy, but noticed the other kid smiling at the camera, so focused on him instead. 

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In the harshest most brutal mid day Phx AZ sun…I did not use an ND filter. Used an Alien Skin Neopan filter minus the grain. 

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and inside just ONE of the many sections/buildings – it was a MADHOUSE!

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Inside this guy looked a little spooked when he saw me pointing the camera at him..

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So there are just a few photos from my hour or two at the Phoenix Comicon. I was not prepared for the mass amounts of people so did not enjoy it inside so much but it was a blast outside. Next year I am going all three days just to hang outside. If any local Phx area shooters want to go with, let me know! Will be a blast. The M 240 and 50 APO is as one would expect, a rock solid pairing. The lens is also literally made for the Monochrom. But I will state again as I did in part one of my review for the lens…you do not need a lens of this caliber to get good photos. The old Summicron is also lovely as is the 50 Summilux. The old cron can be had for about 1/4 the price so it is up to you to decide if the perfection and qualities of the 50 APO are worth it to you in money and in the long wait required to get one.

Happy Monday!

Steve

Apr 082014
 

Sony RX100: The Ultimate Everyday Family Camera

By Jonathan Acierto

Hello Steve, I’m a hobbyist photographer, DSLR owner, and a father of 2 toddlers. Ever since 2008, when I got my first DSLR (Canon Rebel XT), I’ve been looking for a pocket camera that would be a good everyday camera to substitute for the DSLR. Call me lazy, but I just don’t want to lug around the DSLR all the time with a bunch of lenses just to take photos of the kids. Since I have a Canon DSLR, I have owned various Canon compact cameras over the years: Powershot A540, A590IS, SX110IS, SX200IS, G9, and S95. I enjoyed using each one for a time, but was always missing the image quality, low light performance, and operational speed of my DSLR. Sure, my iPhone 4S takes fantastic photos too and I still take a lot of photos with it, but I still find I need a real camera for capturing photos of the kids in demanding situations (ie. low light).

Mirrorless camera systems and the Fuji X100S are excellent options available now, but I did not want to buy into another whole camera system (having kids really drains the wallet!) and the Fuji X100S was still a little bigger than what I wanted for a compact camera. If I was going to carry a camera on my shoulder, I might as well just bring the DSLR (I currently own a Canon 6D). The Ricoh GR looked really tempting with such a small package and APS-C sensor, but the lens was fixed and a little wider than I would like. The Fuji X20 at least had a zoom lens, but the sensor still seemed a little small and the camera itself wasn’t that small. I also love shooting analog. I have a Canon QL17 GIII rangefinder that I love to use and it’s fairly compact, but still requires a shoulder strap and requires money to be spent on film and developing. With that much expense, my wife would kill me if I shot analog all the time!

Then the Sony RX100 was release in 2012 and ever since then, I have been seeing nothing but praise for the camera. After reading a lot of reviews (including Steve’s), looking at a lot of sample photos, and waiting for a used RX100 in excellent condition to become available on KEH, I finally was able to buy one in January of this year.

The camera has not disappointed me. Image quality from such a small camera is excellent, light years ahead compared to my previous compact cameras, but excellent IQ seems to be a given nowadays from any camera with a 1″ or bigger sensor. What really impresses me about the Sony RX100 is the operational speed. With a DSLR, there is hardly any shutter lag and almost no waiting on the camera between shots. With all the Canon compact cameras I used, shutterlag was not a problem, but it seemed like I waited forever for the photos to be written to the card before I could take another shot. With fast-moving toddlers, this could get frustrating. With the Sony RX100, shutterlag is non-existent and I no longer have that waiting time for the photos to be saved to the card. The camera is ready for the next shot as soon as I left my finger off the shutter button. I can just keep snapping photos of the kids and the camera keeps up. Finally, a fast operating pocket camera that actually fits in my pocket!

Steve has written the RX100 is the best pocket digital compact camera ever, and speaking as a parent who needs a fast performing camera to capture toddlers, I wholeheartedly agree. The pocket camera segment is disappearing because of smartphones, but I truly think if the camera companies would get their act together and make pocket cameras as good as the Sony RX100, then regular people with families would want to buy compact cameras again. I know parents who have bought mirrorless system cameras or DSLR’s, but they only use the kit lens and haven’t bought any more lenses. Believe me, I have tried to convince them they need to get better glass! Honestly, why do they need a mirrorless system or DSLR camera when they aren’t going to upgrade the glass? Speaking as a parent, I think most parents would be better served getting a Sony RX100, or maybe the new Sony RX10 if they wanted more focal length.

Please enjoy the photos of the my kids! I may be biased, but they’re the cutest subjects in the world.

To see more of my photography, please visit my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/samuraislice/sets/

Jonathan V. Acierto

My daughter’s hands as she plays with her camera.

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The kids eating cupcakes, I wouldn’t have been able to grab this moment with a slower camera.

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My wife holding my son

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My son zoning out a little bit, love his hands in this photo
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My kids riding off into the sunset

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Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon stevehuffphoto.com and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.

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So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.

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Reliability

The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.

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Precision

Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.

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Quality

Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.

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Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

If you want to check out my websites:

http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/

http://www.hochzeitsfotograf-rs.de/

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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