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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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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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.

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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Mar 182014
 

Quick updates on the Fuji X-T1

by Brad Husick

(see Brad’s initial thoughts at the bottom of my X-T1 review HERE)

I am still loving my new X-T1 and the results I am getting with Leica glass are fantastic. Here are three quick updates:

1) The new Fuji MHG-XT handgrip (the one without the battery) has arrived and I can say that although it’s fairly expensive for a non-electronic item, it is very well built and well thought-out. The mount screw is a hex and is fully recessed into the bottom to allow easy mounting to Arca-Swiss style heads. The left side (as viewed from the back of the camera) is nicely tapered and smoothed for a good feel in the hand. The front of the grip comes up just high enough to wrap your middle finger over the top. The box even comes with the proper hex key for mounting. I’d say this grip is a fantastic addition to the handling of the camera without making the overall package too large. I was worried about this when considering the battery grip.

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2) The light leak issue from inside the left door (as viewed from the back) is real. You can test this by turning on the camera and leaving the lens cap or body cap in place, then opening the door and shining a flashlight into the top portion of the ports. I have attached a photo to show this. The good news is that Fuji is fixing all the cameras with this issue and when I spoke with them yesterday they said they are taking names and addresses to send out mailing labels when the replacement parts get to New Jersey from Japan. It shouldn’t be long now before that happens. In the mean time, just leave the cap closed when shooting and you shouldn’t have any troubles.

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3) I re-ran my indoor sports shooting test (see Steve’s review article near the bottom for my section) this time shooting at f/4 and ISO 6400 with the camera set to “high performance” mode and JPEG only capture. The results were better but still not up to the level of full size Nikon or Canon DSLR sports performance. Frame rates were high (but not 8 fps) and the buffer allowed for 10 to 15 shots. I suspect that with one of the new Sandisk UHS-2 SDXC cards (280MB/sec) we would see that number skyrocket, but these cards aren’t shipping just yet. My conclusion on indoor sports shooting with the X-T1 remains – we need faster zooms (f/2.8) and I am not selling my D4 any time soon.

Brad

 

03/20: UPDATE:

The lacrosse photos were taken with the kit zoom, as was the restaurant photo. The photo of me was taken with the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH lens at f/1.4. The full frames are that – full frame. The “zoomed” images are screen captures at 100% in Lightroom. Minimal processing was done.

Thanks,

Brad

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Mar 142014
 

The Me-Foto Road Trip tripod review

By  Zev Hoover

Hello everyone! I have had the MeFoto Road Trip tripod since December, but I didn’t really see any point in making a first impressions type review, because the true test of a tripod is how it holds up over time. I have used it for almost every photo shoot since I got it, and my sister has used it for over 100 days of her 365 project. it has seen quite a bit of use. Let’s jump right in. (note, all measurements and weights are calculated by myself, not from the manufacturer)

The folded tripod (shown here with banana for scale), comes in at a puny 40cm (15.5″ish) with qr (quick release) plate. it manages to get so small by inverting the legs upwards. a really nice design I think, as it means the center column is already extended and ready for use. it fits inside carry on luggage with ease, in fact I kept it in my personal item backpack when I have flown trans-continental with it.

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It comes with a lovely orange trimmed bag, a hex key for adjusting the leg tension, and spiked feet to replace the rubber ones if needed. the extra feet and hex key come in a nice little package that fits into an inside pouch of the bag. the rubber feet that it has work alright, but because the bottom leg section can turn, there really can’t be that much rubber on the ground plane, only a small section. this is an advantage of tripods with D shaped leg sections. more rubber on the ground = more grip = more stability. as you can see in the below picture, there isn’t a hex key. this is because security in Bergamo airport (Italy) confiscated it. No idea what they were thinking, and I doubt this is ordinary procedure anywhere else in the world. anyway, you don’t really need to adjust your leg angle tension on the go, so I should have just left it at home.

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The head that comes with the tripod is really quite nice. it has separate pan and ball locks, a ball friction knob, a bubble level and very smooth movements all round. It takes the Arca Swiss style qr plate, which isn’t my favorite but is pretty much industry standard and does the job. it locks onto the ball head with a knob, not a lever. this works flawlessly, and is very easy to tighten it to a point where there is no chance of the camera slipping, without busting your fingers.

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The only real disappointments with the tripod were with the qr plate. it doesn’t have the right rubber on top, so no matter how hard you crank it onto your camera, after a shoot or two (especially if you are shooting vertical) it will be loose. not a huge issue, right? just tighten it up. well, no. for some reason it requires a key or coin to turn it. this is the reason I don’t like Arca Swiss style plates, they all seem to not have hand operable knobs for tightening them on your camera. the turning problem can be solved by buying another brand’s plate, and if you are only using one tripod system, the fact that it needs a coin to operate won’t be an issue. but for me, it was a pretty big annoyance (as I do switch systems) so I went ahead and switched the plate holder from an old Manfrotto ball head and screwed it onto the lovely MeFoto ball head. perfect.

this is the original qr plate

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the Manfrotto plate holder on the MeFoto

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hand adjustability!

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The leg angle locks work perfectly, they can be either at a normal tripod angle (30 degrees ish) and the low down 80-ish degree angle. they are not sprung, so they don’t ‘click’ into place, but they feel very solid and work very well. the leg length locks also work well. it takes about a half of a turn to lock/unlock the legs, and they lock very solidly. I have used the tripod in heavy rain and snow, with no ill effects, and occasionally in sea water, but in those cases I always have been careful to not let the sea into the leg locks, other than on one occasion but I disassembled it and cleaned it afterwards (according to this fantastic guide on the MeFoto blog. shouldn’t every product come with a disassembly guide?). the leg locks feel as smooth and precise as new (which is to say, smoooth).

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One really cool feature of the tripod is that it can convert to a monopod! just unscrew one of the legs, take out the center column and put them together! it works very well, though I don’t really have much need for a monopod. speaking of the center column, the locking mechanism on it i not as nice as the ones on the legs. it feels like it takes about 3/4 of a turn to lock and unlock it, unlike the legs half of a turn.

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the carbon fibre version I have weighs in at 1.389kg (3.0625 pounds) with head. the tripod itself weighs 1.066kg (2.35 pounds) and the head weighs 323g (0.7125 pounds). the cheaper aluminum model apparently weighs 1.633kg (3.6 pounds). I am not sure if the difference of 0.5 pounds really is worth the difference in price of $140, but that is up to you. there certainly are more budget options in the world of carbon travel pods, but the aluminum one is a very good deal. also, for some reason the carbon isn’t available in all those awesome colors, which is a shame.

the tripod has a maximum hight of 153.7cm (60.5 inches), and a minimum of 38.7cm (15.25 inches) the monopod’s max hight is 161.3cm (63.5 inches) and its minimum is 71cm (28 inches). basically, the tripod is tall enough for any travel pod use, but maybe not short enough for a landscape enthusiast. a shorter center column would be a fantastic add-on. the monopod is tall enough for really anything, and I don’t know anyone who uses a monopod at anything but full extension.

over all, it is the nicest tripod I have owned (I have had a manfrotto 294 and an old aluminum gitzo) or used. for what I do, with the qr plate holder swap, it is pretty near perfect and I can’t see needing to upgrade unless my camera system gets a lot bigger. any light tripod will blow over easier, and not be as stable as a heavier one, but that is a compromise I am okay with making.

Thanks for reading!

Zev Hoover

You can purchase the Road Trip direct from MeFoto HERE, or at Amazon HERE.  You can see Steve’s early impressions on the Me-Foto tripod HERE. 

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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