Mar 262014
 

A Month on the Road with the Fuji x100/Why It Is Still My Soulmate

By Andy Eclov

Hi Steve, thanks for the opportunity to share my story!

My name is Andy, I’m a 21-year-old musician from Chicago. I spend about 3-5 months out of the year touring with my band and, for a while, I would bring my 1D with several lenses and two-speed lights on tour, but that was ultimately too much to lug around and too much to risk losing.

I then spent about a year shooting photos only with my shiny new iPhone 5 so that I would be forced to compose with the provided lens, and have to work to get nice lighting situations. Just like Steve said in his recent article, I sometimes focus too much on the beauty and acquisition of photography gear and not enough on the process.

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The convenience was obviously there with the iPhone, but the quality was suffering, and so was my interest in taking photos. Being able to shoot a photo, edit it in-hand, and upload it to my blog in less than 5 minutes was an undeniable benefit that I didn’t want to go without by going back to the Canon gear. So I spent my countless hours of research and review-reading focused on the mirrorless systems. The Fuji x100 was an easy choice. It stood out to me physically, the viewfinder is attractive, and the photos have a certain sparkle to them when compared to similar cameras’ photos. Being a collector of 35mm rangefinders and SLRs made the Fuji impossible to pass up.

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I spent a couple of months carrying the x100 with me everywhere, spending as much time as possible getting to know it and it’s quirks. I scoured the internet in search of every accessory I could justify (or afford).

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But before too long, the snowy and freezing Chicago suburbs got in the way of any motivation to go out and take photos every day. Besides the studio project from time to time, my x100 was bound to taking photos of my puppy in the kitchen for a while.

Finally the time came to head out on another tour, and I was delighted to finally have an opportunity to shoot with the Fuji. I appreciate that I was able to spend so much time getting the camera set up just right for my exact specifications, it seems like a very customizable interface – once you get the hang of it.

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The camera came out every time I got out of our van. No matter what the scenario, it was beautiful to see it through that viewfinder. It gave me a reason to be the first one awake every day. I’d try to get an idea of what the city we were in each night was like, and then the next morning I’d walk and snap photos for a while before we moved on to the next place.

I used my wifi SD card to send my images from my camera to my phone, where I would edit them with VSCO cam and some other apps, and then post them to my blog right away. Before long I couldn’t stand the quality I was losing by compressing the original files through my iPhone anymore and decided to take the time to shoot RAW and edit more carefully and selectively.

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I think shooting with the Fuji x100 has made me a better photographer and I think it will continue to do so. More than anything, it keeps me in love with my photography. Though it may be nearly outdated already by some’s standards, I think this camera will stay with me for a long, long time.

I keep a detailed blog of my travels here: noctevolant.tumblr.com

 

Mar 212014
 

The CosySpeed Camslinger Camera Holster Review

The new CosySpeed Camslinger series of camera bags are here and they are quite unique and different from your ordinary camera bag that slings over your shoulder or chest. The Camslinger series is designed for use on your HIP, just like in the good old wild west days when cowboys wore a six-shooter on the hip. Instead of a gun, the Camslinger bags allow you to store your mirror less camera inside, sort of like a holster, where it is ready to rock and roll at any given moment.

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There are some very cool things about these new bags and I am always a fan of “different” and even though there were a couple of small irritations, I found them to be a very enjoyable product. Basically, these bags are are pretty nice and affordable solutions to carrying around a small mirror less system without the weight on your upper body.

The Camslinger comes in two sizes. The smaller 105 and the larger 160. I was able to fit a Leica M and one lens inside of the larger 160 bag. The smaller 105 is meant for smaller cameras and lenses, much like an Olympus E-M1 or E-P5. Think “mirrorless” as this is what the bags were designed for. Small system cameras and a lens or two. For this it works very well. I took out the 160 for a couple of days and it held an E-M10 and 12-40 zoom. It held it perfectly even with the larger zoom and I had it at my hip and at the ready at any given moment.

While at a party a few asked me a question when they saw me: “since when do you wear fanny packs”?

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Yep. It does look like a fanny pack and I am not a fan of fanny packs. As useful as they are I am just not the fanny pack kind of guy. With that said, I personally did not feel like I was wearing a fanny pack because I knew what it was and I knew that my camera was there at all times without me even realizing it. The fact is that while wearing the camslinger it literally put no weight on my body. I felt like I was out without my camera but there it was the whole time, on my side. I also had a lens pouch attached holding an additional lens.

These bags are aimed at street shooters and owners of mirror less cameras. I would also aim this bag at wedding shooters as with the accessories you can add to the belt it makes for one hell of a wedding set up (if you do not use large DSLR’s of course).

Would I use these on the street? Possibly… most likely. If I were going to bring one camera and two lenses, sure. If I were going to shoot somewhere that required walking around, for sure. It is so comfortable to use and wear as well as being 100% functional  that it was a pleasure to wear and walk around all day with.

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BUT, I do have a couple of niggles..

If you are out and about with this around you then every time you want to sit down (comfortably) you will need to remove it but to be fair, same goes with a traditional camera bag.  Also, sometimes the bag latch is a but tricky to unlatch and latch as it requires a pull out before unlatching (for safety reasons, which is good) but also, with practice it gets easier.

It’s a great concept and the company seems very well planned out with the two sizes, accessories to hold lenses, flash, memory or what have you. It is a complete camera holster system for mirror less cameras.

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They also sent me a very nice “cam pillow” which was pretty cool. It came with paperwork describing what it is and how it was made and a picture of the woman who made it along with her story. I really enjoyed that and thought it was a nice touch. I probably will not use it much, if at all, but again, nice touch.

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The Camslinger bags could be just what some of you have been waiting for. They are well made, adjustable, easy to wear and use (once you get the hang of the belt) and are a quality product that will not cost you an arm and a leg.

To read much more about them and order them visit CosySpeed HERE.  The USA order page is HERE.

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.

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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. 

Mar 122014
 

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The new ONA Berlin Leica M System Bag

The new ONA Berlin is now available and I have had one for the past 7-10 days putting it through its paces around town. This is a bag made for the Leica M system, but could be used for just about any mirror less system available right now. So Leica, Fuji. Olympus, Sony, etc. BUT, this bag was “designed” to be a Leica M system bag right down to the red dot on the buckle strap and shoulder pad and what a beauty of a bag it is.

Excuse the lighting and poor color in the video below, I will be re-doing this video in the next few days  - going through some medical/health issues right now and when I did this I just got back from Doc/ER – sorry!

I love ONA bags as they are well made, look handsome and rugged and are one of the few brands that offer a taste of the higher end in the bag world. A bag that is not only functional, but stylish and looks good around your body. The new Berlin sits right in with the other luxury offerings from ONA and this is a GOOD thing because ONA makes some of the best bags in the camera bag business.

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ONA states that this is a limited edition bag and below are the specs from their website and description page of the “Berlin”…

Created to celebrate 100 years of Leica photography, the Berlin is a limited-edition ONA bag designed for the Leica M-System. The Berlin is handcrafted with full-grain leather that will develop a rich patina over time.

The signature Leica red interior is fully customizable, padded with premium closed-cell foam, and can accommodate one Leica M-System camera, two to three lenses, an iPad and small personal items. The Berlin also features a zipped organizer pocket, a convenient removable top-grab handle, antique brass buckles, red rivet accents and a streamlined back pocket.

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Handcrafted with full-grain leather

Designed for Leica M-System

Removable top-grab handle

Exterior dimensions: 12.5″L x 10″ H x 4.5″ D

Interior dimensions: 11″ L x 8.5″ H x 3.5″D

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I like that it can hold an iPad as well as your M and 2-3 lenses along with other necessities such as your phone, battery charger, and even some film if you so desire. This is a bag that feels a little stiff out of the box but over time it will soften up and develop a patina while wearing in and showing that wear. The one I have been using still looks new but it has only been on a couple of local trips with me. I examined the bag inside and out and it is up to the same Ona standards as the Brixton leather, but smaller and lighter (which is good). If leather is your thing, and you own a Leica M system, this is a bag that may just be the “one” you have been waiting for.

But quality does not come cheap at $369. This is a luxury designer limited edition full-grain leather bag. This is not a cheap fabric bag but more of a “functional statement piece” much like Fogg and Billingham bags. Fogg bags are now running into the $600′s and up for cloth and leather (but they are beautiful bags) and Billingnam round the gamut from $250-$600 or so for a good M bag. The ONA bag is created to celebrate the Leica M, and it looks, feels and plays the part well. If you have invested thousands in your Leica M system, why not dress it up with a new bag?

I think it is gorgeous but I am a fan of the leather camera bags. To me it sort of looks a bit old school and new school and the red interior is gorgeous but the cool thing here is that this bag will AGE VERY WELL. In 5-10-20 years it will look like a true well worn classic bag, even if you have the M 980 in it by then.

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When I took out the bag I had my M 240, 50 Nokton, 90 Summarit and an E-M10 inside with a lens. I also had an iPad mini, my phone and a charger for the M. I had some room to spare yet the bag is not huge and unruly. I think those that appreciate quality and function will really be into this bag. I have used a ton of bags over the years and for quality of build, the ONA is up there with the best I have used and tested. I love Fogg, I like Billingham and I enjoy Artistan & Artist but for the money spent, it is tough to beat the ONA for a mix of everything. I previously reviewed the Union Street and Bowery HERE but those were not the leather versions. I also bought and owned the all leather Brixton which traveled with me to Ireland, New York ad other parts of the world. It wore in quite nicely and now looks like a 20 year old leather bag. That Brixton received MANY compliments during my travels and I am confident that the Berlin will as well.

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For Leica M owners, the Berlin is a fabulous carry case for your valuable camera and lenses, if you like that sort of thing.

You heard it here first...I asked ONA to make this in black as I would personally prefer a black version with the red dots and red interior. It would look striking I think but this normal leather version is also VERY cool and classic..retro..M. How limited is it? Not sure, but if it catches your fancy, take further look at the ONA website.  You can read more or buy it.  $369.

As for my black request, only time will tell.

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Feb 172014
 

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My favorite ND filter for fast Leica lenses!

Finally! I found THE ND filter to own for my fast Leica glass (Thanks Ken Hansen)! Yes my friends, in the past I have owned many ND filters and I always had to figure out which one I would get. When shooting a Summilux lens or Noctilux lens an ND filter is MANDATORY if you want to shoot your ones wide open where they were designed and optimized to be shot. Over the last few years I have had MANY e-mails come in asking me “which ND filter should I get”..and I am happy to say that the one I own now is hands down my #1 favorite that I have ever owned/used.

It is a made in Germany Heliopan Variable ND filter that gives you a range to work with..from 0.3 all the way up to 1.8 or from 1 to 6 stops. This means you can use this single one ND filter for all of your ND filter needs. From slight brightness to brutal harsh light (like I shot the images in below), this ND filter will give you what you need with a smooth twist of the front ring. When Ken Hansen told me about it I had to give it a shot.

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If you are not familiar with the purpose of an ND filter I will break it down for you very quickly.

Let’s say you love shooting your Leica and Noctilux but you love shooting that lens wide open at f/0.95. If it is sunny outside or the light is bright you will not be able to shoot wide open because the shutter speed in your 9 or M 240 only goes to 1/4000s. This means that without an ND filter you will have to stop down the lens to f/4 or f/5.6 or in some situations even f/8.

With an ND filter in place you can shoot that lens wide open as the filter blocks some of the light. With this particular filter you can adjust how much light gets let in and it is marked from 1-10. I tested this filter in the super harsh mid day sun of Phoenix AZ and my filter was usually between #3 and #6 with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5.

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Using this filter it allowed me to shoot wide open to retain that classic Zeiss Sonnar look that disappears once the lens is stopped down. I shot the SLR Magic Hyperprime 0.95 M lens a couple of years ago with an ND filter as well, and all of the images shot in that report were with a Leica M9, the images below were shot with an M 240 and the Zeiss.

You can also use an ND filter if you want to shoot at longer shutter speeds, for example, a running waterfall. The ND will block the light to your sensor and allow you to drag out that shutter for as long as you need.

Anyway, this is an amazing ND filter and is the only one you will need for ANY situation. No need for 2-4 ND’s, just one. The build is superb and of very high quality, the ring to adjust the strength of the filter is smooth as silk and this filter is available from Ken Hansen in the two sizes any Leica shooter would need. 46mm (35 Summilux, 50 Summilux) or 60mm (Noctilux 0.95). These filters are NOT cheap but no good ND filter is. I believe this one goes for $260 but I found it to be a very worthwhile investment because it is the last ND I will ever need and will fit any 46mm lens I attach to my camera.

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I tested it with the Zeiss 50 ZM Sonnar which also has a 46mm filter thread and the filter presented no issues or problems at all. The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is a very unique lens and when shot wide open at f/1.5 it almost resembles a Noctilux in its rendering. Not quite, but close. The best part is that the Sonnar comes in at around $1100. B&H is back-ordered but Tony at PopFlash has one or two in stock right now (in silver) for anyone looking for this now legendary classic lens.

You can e-mail Ken Hansen here if you want one or have a question. ([email protected]) Not sure how many he has but he did tell me he had a “few” available in 46mm and 60mm filter thread sizes and I recommend this filter 100% for ANY users of these filter size fast lenses (Leica). 

Below are the images I shot with the ND attached, all with the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm ZM and all wide open at f/1.5 at the local Ren Fair here in AZ. BTW, it was almost 90 degrees in mid Feb and the sun was HARSH. AZ mid day sun sucks for taking photos, but I purposely took these at the worst time to test this filter, which did fantastic. 

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Jan 162014
 

Max HeMe-Foto Tripod Review and Give-Away!

At the end of this review there is a link where I am giving away a free MeFoto tripod on Facebook! Be sure to enter to win the exact tripod you see below!

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I admit..I am not a huge fan of tripods for my photography. I rarely ever use them (for photos) and in the past 10 years I probably used a tripod a handful of times and that was mainly due to HAVING to use them at specific events or for camera tests. Nope, just give me a nice light camera, a lens and some memory or film and I am off and running  - nice and light.

But even though I do not use them often I do indeed own a tripod and have had the same one for 15 years! I use it mainly for video and it has come in handy for that when I needed to stabilize my camcorder. There are times when long exposures also get me to pull out the trusty tripod as it is the only way to do such photography and get good results. Long story short, my tripod experience is limited as I just do not like to lug them and use them. I am not a landscape guy nor a long exposure guy so keep that in mind when reading this. All in all, this will be my quick thoughts on using the MeFoto tripods but remember, I have limited experience with other brands of tripod.

My intro to MeFoto

A few months ago I ran into a rep from MeFoto and he offered to send me a couple of tripods for review. I was hesitant (because I never use them) but when I saw the tripod he had in his camera bag (yes, in his camera bag) I immediately had to know more about these small and tiny wonders. As I looked at the smallest model called “The Day Trip” I instantly wanted one. Why? I am not sure but I instantly fell for the design, colors and teeny size/ease of use. Maybe the reason I never use tripods is because I did not want to lug around my beast. Hmmmm. After a demo and a few words he promised to send a couple my way and that he did.

The small and tiny “DayTrip” will  hold up to 8.8lbs and can be used almost anywhere. At $119 it is a great buy in the small tripod world and is super cool at the same time. Ball head, smooth controls and a well made feeling makes these tripods a contender for those looking for small, light and quality.

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Over the past couple of months I have been in possession of three tripods from Me Foto. The Daytrip, the Backpacker and the Road Trip. All three are very nice, very well made and VERY affordable. No, these are not $1500 rock solid big and heavy tripods. Instead they are small genius designs that are light, easy to carry and they simply just work.

For tripod and landscape gurus these may not be the #1 choice but for those who are like me, and prefer a small and light tripod to stabilize their camera then the MeFoto line is right up our alley. They will not break the bank, they will work very well and they are small and attractive as well. The few times I was able to get out and use them I had no problems, issues or complications. They are simple to use as the legs pull out with a simple twist lock. Twist and the legs fall out, twist again to lock in place. The Ball Head is smooth and easy to position and the bubble level helps to make sure you are level. The #1 thing that I love about these tripods is the weight. They are light yet feel solid and they fold up nicely to be very compact. For example…

The little DayTrip tripod is TINY and will fit inside most camera bags. It is not a full size tripod but will do for those times when you just needs something to hold your camera.

The Road Trip is full size and will even quickly convert to a monopod, which I find extremely useful and cool. At $189 it is a full featured tripod that would be all many of us need. I really love this model and in Titanium it very nice to look at as well.

They are sleek, cool, fun, small, light and functional. My only gripe is that you need an allen wrench to loosen and tighten the mounting plate to your camera. The tripods come with the tool but I lost two of them already and on one occasion could not get the plate off of my camera because I did not have the wrench. Throwing on a hand tightening mechanism would be much better IMO. They do come with a carrying case to hold the tool but I always find a way  to lose small little items and I never did use the carrying case as the tripod resided in my bag most of the time.

From tripod to monobod in seconds..

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Besides that little niggle I love these things and not only are they great buys and a bargain for someone seeking a light and very portable tripod,  one of these now resides in my own stable :) Good stuff and highly recommended!

Features and operation Breakdown: It is a tripod. You open the legs, attach your camera, set it up where you want it and shoot :) They are lightweight, have a built in bubble level, have an included very nice carrying case, 360 degree panning capability, two leg angle positions, a hook for adding more weight to the center for stability (or to hang your bag), easy twist leg locks. Great bang for the buck. You can see feature details HERE.

In use they are light and easy to carry (as mentioned) and even has a very nice carrying case that comes along with each and every tripod. I had no issues bringing any of these along with me. My son Brandon is using one for long exposures and even for his binoculars for night sky viewing. He really loved his time with the MeFoto as well.

All in all, a wonderful product that is very functional. If it had a finger screw base plate for attaching the camera  it would be perfect!

So there you go..my quick look. There really is nothing to dislike about these.

I did take many more photos of the tripods in use but somehow the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4 I was using missed focus in half of the product shots. (focused behind the subject). That means I will be going back to my tried and true Olympus E-M1 for product shots in my reviews! :)

Specs and Cost:

Day Trip – Max Load – 8.8 Lbs. – Max Height 24″ – Min. Height 9.4″ – 1.8 Lbs – $119

BackPacker – Max Load – 8.8lbs – Max Height 51.2″ – Min. Height 17.3″ – 2.6lbs – $139

Road Trip – Max Load  - 17.6 lbs – Max Height 61.6″ – Min. Height 15.4″ – 3.1lbs – $189 (the sweet spot in the line up IMO)

Globe Trotter - Max Load 26.4 lbs – Max Height 64.2″ – Min. Height 16.1″ – 3.7lbs – $209

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Where to Buy MeFoto and how to WIN one!

You can buy the MeFoto tripods at B&H Photo HERE

You can buy them at Amazon HERE

You can buy direct from MeFoto HERE (as well as see all of the color options, sizes and even Carbon Fiber versions)

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WIN A FREE DAYTRIP Tripod!

Win a free DayTrip Tripod courtesy of MeFoto and SteveHuffPhoto! Click HERE to enter on Facebook!

Jan 162014
 

How about some Canon or Nikon Coffee? Great deals on these LenZcups!

Just noticed that B&H Photo are now selling these famous lens cups/mugs and thermos bottles and at pretty nice prices. If anyone reading this is like me…then these may be something cool to grab (I ordered two t his morning). Every morning I wake up and within 2 minutes am at my machine making my 1st cup of coffee. Being such a photography and camera gear geek I wondered just today why I never picked up one of these cups! Especially since most of these are under $13!

I have seen these in the flesh before and they felt solid and nice. They are more of a conversation starter or for those of you who live to shoot. The thermos? Also very cool as you can bring it along on your photo journeys. Who here has ever left the house at 4Am in search of some nice scenery? I have and having a camera lens thermos would have pepped me up that extra percent :)

In any case these are now for sale and in stock at B&H photo starting at under $13. So click the link here to SEE ALL OF THEM! 

Enjoy!

PS – If you are a Leica shooter, yes, you can get a Leica mug as well – check it out HERE.  (image of Leica directly below)

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and the Canon/Nikon offerings…

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Dec 262013
 

Will the Smartphone ever replace the camera?

By Ibraar Hussain

For enthusiastic amateurs and those with more than a snap shooting interest in Photography, I’d say no, not now, not ever.

There are certain things Smart Phones lack, and even if you gave a Smart Phone Full Frame and a gazillion Mega Pixels; it’ll still never pass the test – I consider Ergonomics a powerful feature no amount of technical advancement can compete with.

Anyway, this isn’t a discourse on Smart Phones and Photography, it’s about Hipstamatic on the iPhone.

Hipstamatic, in my opinion, is the best thing about Smart Phone photography – and unfortunately at the time of writing it is only (to my knowledge) available for the iPhone, so sorry Androids and Windows.

If you haven’t used it before, it’s a Square Format Camera Application which mimics toy camera’s and vintage snap shot cameras of yore, with choices of lens, Flash and Film which one can select for so many different combinations.

The combinations and options are phenomenal, brilliant in simplicity, ease of selection and results.

We have BW Films galore, colour, cooked ones, XP, IR, expired, different flash types, and lenses ranging from soft ones, to vignetting or ones giving an illusion of shallow depth of field, ones that leak light and others that are completely bizarre – and the range vast, with creative possibilities limitless.

Want moody black and white Noir-ish Film with strong vignetting? Want a platinum look print with soft tones? Want a punchy Velvia like look with sharp lens? A burnt out vintage 70s look with a multi hued flash effect? Or a Polaroid look with loads of colour? It’s all there – and to make things even more interesting, you can order prints on-the-fly, from within the Application.

It’s all great fun and has a superb interface – simply look through the square viewfinder (on the screen) and press the yellow button – and press a button to flip over so you can change film, lens and flash with a swipe.

And of course, you can buy more and more stuff.

With use you’ll start knowing which combination to use for which subject and have personal favourites, and to be honest, even the most mediocre snaps can be made to look superb with the colour and effect possibilities.

There is some creative control – touch a part of the Viewfinder image and it’ll focus and expose for that, move the iPhone up and down and you’ll see the exposure change in real time.

Anyway, that’s all the fun and funky stuff out-of-the-way, you can have all the funky effect things in the world but ultimately, if you lack even a microgram of creativity and talent, it’ll all look somewhat like a turd rolled in glitter.

What I really love about Hipstamatic, is the ability to work on composition using the brilliant Square Format, and this is what I use it for (apart from family and friends and such snaps).

The 6×6 Square is a great compositional aspect ratio – there’s no room for messing around, and the simplicity enables framing to be easier than oblong aspect ratios.

One, with the large square view finder of Hipstamatic, can really go to town on working on composition, framing, using key subjects, lead in lines, rule of thirds – and one can do it with the minimum of fuss and headache – just open the Application and off you go.

And the user can select the appropriate ‘Film’ to take the scene using the different creative Film/Lens or Filters available, and interpret the scene however they wish and easily.

I have been working on composition with this Hipstamatic for a while now, and I think it has improved my ability to see and express a scene more so than traditionally (with a real camera Film or Digital).

I don’t worry about sharpness or resolution – as such things really don’t matter one iota to me, sure to others they may well do – colour, composition, mood, tones and subject matter make sense to me and for this, Hipstamatic on the iPhone 5 is what I enjoy using as and when I require it.

I’ve included several shots here, just detailing the sort of things I tend to work on, composition, arranging elements in a scene, subject matter, colour, light and tone. With some studies of different places (Stone henge for example)

Cheers!

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Dec 072013
 

Using a Nokia N86 for Photography

By Dougie Digital Dawg

Three years ago I wanted to get a mobile phone which would take decent photos.

By chance I read David Bailey had done an exhibiton called Alive at Night using a Nokia N86.

Nokia N86 announced February 2009, has a Zeiss Tessar 28mm F2.4-F4.8 8MP with Auto Focus. It also has a close up capability which I find useful. There’s no touch screen which I prefer for photogrpahy.

Whereas for various scenarios a much larger sensor, far higher dynamic range, and high iso capability is significantly useful, I have found a small sensor useful in so many scenarios. Small sensor compacts may sometimes get knocked down, especially the megazooms with 1/2.3″ sensor and slow lens such as Sony X50V 24-720mm however they do represent excellent photo taking capabilities.

It really does depend on the way we photograph and our subject.

dgd aka Dougie Digital Dawg.

Nokia N86 boat

Nokia N86 pavement

Nokia N86 leaf

Nokia N86 post cctv

Nokia N86 underpass

Nokia N86 sunset

Nokia N86 highstreet

Nov 122013
 

Get a grip! The J.B. grip for the Olympus E-M1 is here!

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A couple of weeks ago while searching on Amazon for accessories to go along with the awesomely delicious Olympus E-M1 I found a listing for a grip that adds a little height to the camera but no more bulk. It had a slot at the bottom for easy access to the battery and was made in the U.S.A. by J.B. Camera Designs. 

I checked out the images of it and said “THIS is what I need”. I really have no interest for the Olympus battery grip as it makes the camera bulkier and fatter..more DSLR like. But this J.B. grip looked cool..solid..sleeker. So I ordered it and Amazon told me it was set to be released and shipped ion November 14th.

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I never had any contact with JB camera designs but have seen images of their previous grips and they looked great so I was excited to see if this one stood up to what others have raved about. Well, the grip arrived on November 9th, 5 days early along with a note from J.B. thanking me for the order and to let me know he is a fan of this website! How cool is that?

Anyway, the case came packaged in a nice box as well as a new shiny penny that is used to screw the grip onto the camera. The grip is HEAVY duty and EXTREMELY well made. I paid $46.95 for this and I have seen some Leica accessories, not as well made, sell for 5X this amount. If it were me, I would have priced it at $74.95. It is VERY well made, feels great and fits perfectly to the E-M1.

So at $46 it is a steal for anyone who wants a grip added to their E-M1 without adding bulk and fatness. This grip allows a place for your pinky to rest when holding the camera. It works very well. I HIGHLY recommend this grip!

For those that want one, you can order it HERE on Amazon. 

The images below are direct from the JB camera designs website. 

EM1 Grip Base-8

EM1 Grip Base-7

EM1 Grip Base-3

EM1 Grip Base-6

EM1 Grip Base-4

  • Grip-Base adds better grip, protection and ergonomics to your E-M1
  • Grip-Base design allows full access to the battery compartment and tripod threads while attached
  • Grip-Base works perfectly with the size of Four Thirds Lenses when used on the E-M1
  • Adds protection and that little bit of extra Grip that improves camera handling and only weighs 2.2 ounces
  • Hand poured and hand finished parts – Made in the USA

 

Nov 062013
 

My Budget Strobist Shoot

by Will Db

His website is HERE

I’ve been playing with flashes for a while now, and have been buying bits and bobs from ebay. The kit I have so far includes three Minolta AF4000 flashes (costing about £15 each), generic radio controllers from China (brand name – ‘Nice’! – £15 for a three of them), and a flash stand (I ended up spending more than I would have liked on this as I needed one quickly for a proposed shoot – which ended up being cancelled). I also have a couple of white umbrellas and a honeycomb grid, again cheapies from ebay.

I had put out an advert for a model simply to help me get used to using this kit, and after a while with no response, I was contacted on Thursday night by a model/actor called Tomasz looking for a shoot the following day. He lives in Nottingham and I was struggling to think of a location, but he said he was interested in shooting in some sort of derelict industrial place.

As luck would have it, I had found just such a place a matter of hours before he contacted me! On Thursday evening I had gone for a walk in some woods where I used to spend a lot of time as a child, and found that the old abandoned factories I remembered there had not been demolished, and even better, were easy to get into.

I showed some pictures of the location to Tomasz and he loved tit, and agreed to meet me there the following day.

It turned out he needed to get underwear shots to send out to an agency. Luckily I was so involved in setting up the lights and shot set ups, that I didn’t have time to get embarrassed.

I shot with my K10D and Tamron 17-50, and Pentax F 35-105mm. Generally I used two stobes either side, one above and slightly to the front, one a tad lower and slightly to the back. I also used a Sony NEX and lens turbo adapter and Pentax K 135/2.5 for available light shots

The shoot went very well, and ended up helping Tomasz get signed up to the modelling agency. We actually returned the following week to take some more creative shots with a ‘paint spatter’ theme – something I had never really thought about trying but I loved the results!

Shoot 1.6 Pentax k10D Tamron 17-50

Shoot 2.3 Pentax K10 Tamron 17-50

Shoot 1.4 NEX Lensturbo SMC 135 f2.5

Shoot 2.2 Pentax k10D Tamron 17-50

 

Oct 242013
 

Some images from Photo Plus in NYC today. Sony, Zeiss, Leica…

What a day! Whew…

Yesterday I flew out of Sunny AZ at 6am headed to NYC for the Photo Plus show going on this week. When I arrived in NY I did a big “UH OH” because I realized I only brought a light jacket with me, and here I was in NYC in 48 degree weather! The good thing is that it was not THAT cold so I survived a short walk to dinner with some friends and had a great evening. As always, I had a camera with me so for the chilly walk back I snapped a shot or two..

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This morning I woke up later than I expected, around 8:30AM. Had a business phone call at 9 through 9:30 and by the time I headed out to the show it was 10:30.

On my way I had to take a picture of myself in front of B&H Photo, the “Candy Land” for photo and tech geeks!

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I only had a 15 minute walk to the convention center from my hotel, and was cool that B&H is one block from my hotel. Makes it too easy to spend money though!

As I walked I snapped a few shots with a fisheye that I have been playing around with…

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When I arrived to Photo Plus I saw a few familiar faces and made my way to pick up my press pass.

I ended up walking around and it seemed every few steps someone who knew me would walk up to me to chat! Was so cool to meet so many readers of this site today, all were super nice and wonderful people.

I eventually found my way to the most crowded section of the show (from what I saw) and it was the Sony Booth. They had the A7 and A7r on display, as well as the new RX10 (which is  looking better and better to me the more I mess with it). I even had a chance to borrow a Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar from a woman who was testing some old lenses on the A7. She was kind enough to let me take a shot or two with her lens mounted on the A7.

I snapped a shot of a guy who was chatting with me (a reader here) at 1.5, wide open. Sony would NOT let me put an SD card in the camera (they are saying the camera is still not FINAL in FW, so pre-production) but when I saw the playback it had the full on Zeiss character and was beautiful. I am telling you this..the camera was a breeze to manually focus with this Zeiss ZM lens. No focus shift because you are using Live View, so what you see is what you get.

The OOF transitions were creamy, the color was nice for being indoors with horrible light and I can tell that this camera is going to deliver on IQ, no doubt in my mind at all. After more hands on time with the A7 and A7r I can tell you that yes, the A7r does have metal dials on top where the A7 has plastic. They both feel great and I noticed no difference in feel or build when in my hand. I have a feeling that the a7r is going to be the Godzilla of resolution. A beast.

Shot with the 50 Zeiss Zm Sonnar at 1.5

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So after messing around and chatting with a few folks a woman walks up from Zeiss to show me the new Otus lens. This lens is a statement piece from Zeiss and coming in at $4000. The 55 1.4 design is gorgeous but man, this lens is HUGE (though light).

She wanted me to try it on the A7r and I used the Metabones Adapter to do so. When I looked at the results on the screen..WOWOWOWOWOW. This lens is something the perfectionist will want. Those who want ultimate IQ..this lens will do the trick and seeing that it is a pro manual focus lens (NO AF), it feels REALLY good in use. It is just large.

I HEARD MUMBLINGS…Sony was telling Zeiss..MAKE THIS FOR FE MOUNT! So we shall see. Below is the lens with hood attached and Metabones EF to E mount adapter. I may get to shoot with this lens on the A7r NEXT WEEK and this time, with an SD card in the camera :)

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So as I left Sony I headed toward Nikon, Canon, Fuji and Panasonic. Not much new there. Saw the GX7 but I already reviewed it here. I saw the All weather Nikon 1 which was larger and much more solid than I expected and I saw a few other things around the convention center that were more interesting than what Nikon was offering..

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I stopped by the Olympus booth and they were busy with everyone checking out the E-M1 and even E-P5. I saw quite a few walking around today with OM-D E-M5′s and E-P5′s. The woman above was doing an act for Olympus demoing their wifi smartphone/ipad remote feature. Before I shot this I cracked a joke which was probably not good because she could have lost her concentration :) But she didn’t. Behind here you can see every Olympus Micro 4/3 and 4/3 lens ever made.

The Leica booth had a few gawkers but they were not showing anything new besides their “Glossy Black” D-Lux 6. Yet another refresh of the same old D-Lux 6 which appeared to be slapped together just for the show..I mean, they had to have SOMETHING new right?

They did have this on display…

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I stopped by Fuji as well and took a look at the new X-E2. Looks and feels like an X-E1. Same build. AF seemed faster but not a dramatic difference. The new 23 1.4 was fantastic though.  This is a lens I would buy if I owned a Fuji. Smaller than you think as well.

So after the show I walked back to my room, stopped off at B&H Photo once again and am now laying in my hotel bed writing this update. What I learned today from Photo Plus is that there is MASS interest in the Sony A7 and A7r as well as  the new RX10. Olympus is hot with the E-M1 and Nikon and Canon are still Nikon and Canon with their usual DSLR updates. (yawwwn)

Leica is holding steady with M sales doing very well for them and Panasonic had quite the crowd as well.

So without a doubt, the biggest thing here this year is the Sony A7 and A7r. Sales are STRONG, results are looking AMAZING and the camera is well made, solid and has very fast AF. When something this good comes along, it gets noticed and the people I spoke with today who were giving it a spin all said the same thing..”I pre ordered one already”. They were all happy with the fact that they did.

Remember, starting on the 28th I will have loads of samples and news and videos on the new A7 and A7r and RX10, so bookmark and come back because you will NOT want to miss it.

For those wondering, all photos posted here were shot with an Olympus E-P5.

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I will beheading back to the show tomorrow morning to throw a Voigtlander 12mm on the Sony A7 and A7r and to see what I see on the LCD. Of course, what I see you will see here right after :)

 

Oct 232013
 

USER REPORT: B-Grip Belt Holster Review

by Shawn Reynolds

The Nikon D700 is, quite simply, a legendary camera. Released in 2008 it is still preferred by many over the current D600 due it’s more pro-oriented ergonomics, faster shutter speeds and proven field-tested ruggedness and reliability. Its thrifty 12MP sensor still, yes STILL!, ranks in the Top-10 for low light photography at DXO Mark (almost unthinkable for a 5-year-old sensor in today’s world!)

But this review isn’t about the D700. Rather, this review is about how a $25 piece of equipment re-united two old friends. This review is about the B-Grip Camera Holster. And don’t worry, we’ll get to that… in due course.

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The D700 (affectionately known hereafter as ‘Dee’) and I grew-up together in a sense. There was a time when the two of us were inseparable. We did everything together. But as early relationships often do, we began growing apart over time. As my interest grew in taking long trips, full-day excursions, 8 hour walks and 16 hour events Dee became… well… a bit of a pain. Dee’s thing seemed to be more scheduled shoots, road-trips, and shorter outings; not long marches or laying siege to a convention centre.

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We tried to bridge the gap, to find some way to make these two worlds one. I started with the classic Domke Gripper strap, but alas, I still felt Dee slipping away (BTW, I think her 5lb decked-out weight is just perfect, and ‘no’, the 80-200mm does not make her look fat!)

The BlackRapid strap made me feel like a kid again… in the sense that it was like trying to remove your girlfriend’s seemingly unnecessarily-complex bra… for the very first time… subtly… with one hand… quickly before the movie ends and the lights come back on… but instead just end up spilling your popcorn.

The highly regarded Lowepro Flipside Sport (which I love) works well in those situations where a backpack is an almost-necessity, but is too cumbersome for crowded shoulder-to-shoulder events and doesn’t provide enough air-flow when exerting yourself in the disparaging heat and humidity of the tropics despite the fact that it comes with a Smirnoff Ice Hydration Pocket.

The Tamrac sling pack is a nice design, but just isn’t secure enough when hiking up steep inclines, climbing fences, or doing even moderate activity where it would always swing free, to-and-fro, and bounce around everywhere (for some unknown reason, the AC/DC song ‘Big Balls’ would continually play through my head when wearing this pack)

The Think Tank Speed Demon belt pack fit securely, and distributed the weight nicely, but even that was a little bulkier than I’d like when walking in the hustle and bustle of some streets or in crowded areas (a great feature for this pouch in future would be a touch/bump activated “Excuse me, I’m sorry” sound… maybe with an alternate Tickle Me Elmo setting just for fun)

Having tried all these things, Dee and I just couldn’t seem to make things click, and it was then I admit that I began spending more time with other cameras. “Hello Micro 4/3, you have such beautiful eyes!” “Hello NEX, I love your exotic look.” and even… “Hi, Nikon1 – you’re D700′s younger cousin, aren’t you?”

And then one day, a bit of serendipity happened. While I wasn’t planning on buying/trying another carrying system, I none-the-less came across one when rummaging through the discount bins at a photo show. It was the B-Grip holster system (1st / original version), and it was marked-down to $25!

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I had seen holster systems before (such as the Spider Holster) but they were expensive, and having invested in and tried so many other solutions I wasn’t willing to put out that much cash on yet something else that probably wouldn’t work. But $25?? That was worth the gamble, especially considering all that I’d vested in Dee over the years, who, sadly, in Howard-Hughesian fashion, had become quite reclusive lately. So I made the purchase if for nothing else as a ‘proof of concept’ (if the belt holster concept worked for me in general, I could always buy a more deluxe one in future if need-be).

At that same event I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Peter Dering, a very nice guy, and the founder and creator of the Peak Design Capture system (which looks amazing). The Peak Design system is, without a doubt, a top-notch, high quality mount and bracket that I’d consider in future, IF a belt system worked for me. And that was the ‘$25 Question’ – would a belt holster work for Dee and I??


Peter Dering from Peak Design? Or Jim from ‘The Office’??
The B-Grip system came complete, with everything I needed. The ‘base’ and ‘quick release plate’ which is the heart of the system, a nylon-webbing tactical belt with (plastic) quick release buckle, and even a rain cover! I liked that it came complete and ready-to-use out of the box, and the rain-cover was a very nice touch.

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The build materials are nothing ‘fancy’ or expensive (especially compared to something like the Peak Design Capture system) – the belt being made from (heavy duty) nylon webbing, and the buckle and quick release from (high impact?) plastic. However, from the materials to the design it has a very practical and utilitarian feel which really appeals to me. It absolutely has a ‘real-world-use’ vibe, and not a ‘Barbie-fashion-accessory’ one.

You attach the camera to the ‘quick release’ plate via the camera’s tripod socket, and then the plate clips in (using a quick release lever mechanism) to a bracket attached to the belt. The lever on top is very easy and smooth to operate. The newer version also has a ‘safety lock’. This version doesn’t, nor have I ever needed it.

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As stated in the ‘Reviews: Introduction’ I won’t go over the technical specs of the products in detail here – there are a lot of other places where you can find that info. I will say that there are accessories you can get for the B-Grip to allow you to attach it to your backpack strap for example, as well as a hand grip… and that although I personally like the belt provided – the plate and bracket can be easily removed and attached another belt of your choosing. Also, the newer / current version (the “B-Grip EVO”) retails for about $50. I’ll cut-to-the-chase now, and the ‘big question’ which is… does it ‘work’? (and by that I mean, does it work to MY expectations – does it work for ME?)

DOES IT WORK?

The answer to that is… yes – it works beautifully. It’s a life-saver or, at the very least, a neck and back saver. I’ve used it when walking on busy city streets for hours on end. I’ve used it at shoulder-to-shoulder-events such as the Photo Exposure Show, and Fan Expo. I’ve walked with it, I’ve run with it, I’ve climbed hills with it. Carrying the ‘weight at the waist’ is absolutely the way to go in my opinion. I’ve worn the belt (camera attached) for 12 hours straight with no fatigue. The quick release mechanism is easy and quick to use, and holds the camera with heavy lens securely. Batman could wear this while fighting crime.

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You do HOWEVER need to ensure that the plate is very tightly screwed into the tripod socket.

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There was one time when mine was attached ‘finger tight only’, and after walking and jostling for a few hours it worked its way loose, the D700 and 80-200 falling from waist height onto the concrete sidewalk – OUCH! Luckily both the body and lens survive without so much as a scratch. Since then though, I always make sure to tighten it super-tight, using a quarter in the slot to get that extra torque, and checking it periodically to make sure it’s still snug (common sense really, which apparently I lack along with the ability to read instruction manuals). And of course if you’re taking more than one lens, or any other gear, you’ll need a lens pouch or some other way to store and carry it (along with your spare battery, cards, etc.) With those two minor points noted, I’d say the B-Grip was a very worthwhile purchase.

And as for Dee and I? We’re now reunited… and it feels soooooo good.

PROS:

- Great utilitarian design

- Looks kind of cool

- Comfortable to wear, even with heavy gear for long periods of time

- Quick and easy camera access for rapid fire

- Reasonable price

CONS:

- Make sure the plate is very tightly threaded into your camera socket

RATING: ** ROCK STAR **

http://www.bgrip.com/bhbeltholster/

May 272013
 

Hi Steve,

My name is Jason Wang and I live in Shanghai, China.

I write this mail to you because I am a fan of Mirror less Camera and I am a fan of you too! There is an optical factory in China they made their own Lens Convertor for Sony NEX system recently and this convertor is called ‘Lens Turbo’, almost the same like ‘Metabones Speed Boster’ which you might heard about it before.

The ‘lens turbo’ mounted between NEX and a SLR lens, it increases maximum aperture by 1 stop, increases MTF and makes lens wider by a factor of 0.71x. So if you mount a Nikon full frame lens on the NEX, it will make the NEX have the same angle of view and the same field of depth like a full frame Nikon camera. No 1.5X any more.

It is also at a very low-cost level, only about 130 USD here in China market. And after I tested this product today, I am very pleased for the image quality it brings to me!

Here is the image of my own NEX-6 + Lens Turbo + Nikkor 35mm F2D

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Check this images below of my test for this converter using Nikkor 35mm F2D & Nikkor 50mm F1.4D.

Two old enough Film Camera Lens. All of the pictures are OOC JPEG and did a little bit adjustment for the exposure only.

Two of my colleagues, 35mm F2, wide open @F2, finally I could enjoy this 3D feel on such a wide-angle lens. To be honest, even with Sony Zeiss 24mm F1.8, I could not have this 3D feel @F1.8.

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BELOW: 35mm @F2 wide open in the restaurant, one of my colleague. I will show you the 100% crop next.

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and the 100% crop – very sharp

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BELOW: And mounted on the 50mm F1.4D, @1.4 it is soft, but could make the background blur enough

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This lens converter really could make those SLR lens to be fully used on current mirrorless camera.

From my test, I found it only suffer a bit for the corner image solutions wide open. For normal use, it is really great and I really enjoyed to use it together with Sony’s peak focusing functions.

Have a nice day!

THX

Jason Wang

 

May 022013
 

maintitlenikkor

The Canon 50 1.8 LTM & W-Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM Lens on the Monochrom – Character galore!

Ahhh, old classic lenses. Sometimes you just gotta love them, sometimes you just gotta hate them, and other times you just want to use them for their unique classic character to inject something cool and different into your photos. True, some of these lenses are gorgeous and some are not so gorgeous but the fact remains. You can get a classic unique rendering and many times on the cheap, especially when compared to big money Leica modern glass.

Since shooting the Leica Monochrom I have discovered, thanks to Ashwin Rao, that sometimes old classics will perform better on this camera than the newest ASPH versions. When I say “perform better” I do not mean “technically” because in that area, the newest lenses from Leica are tough to beat, by anyone. When you want perfection, sharpness and amazing micro contrast it is tough to beat modern Leica glass. Lenses like the 50 Lux ASPH and 35 Lux ASPH FLE are just plain perfection but I remember Ashwin telling me months ago that the modern Leica glass can (at times)  look harsh on the Monochrom and that old glass is where it was at for this camera.

My 1st thoughts were..Hmmm, what about the Leica 50 APO masterpiece? I know that lens rocks on the MM but the more I thought about it the more I was intrigued simply because old classic lenses are MUCH cheaper (usually) than the modern counterparts. A few months ago I was using the beautiful Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE on the MM exclusively and did think that some of my results were harsh, mostly the ones in high contrast situations, which makes sense. High contrast lenses like those Leica ASPH lenses can be a bit too much contrast in bright conditions.

When the MM arrived in my hands once again a few weeks ago I was off to KEH, looking for some good cheap glass that I could use on the MM. The hard part is finding it though as many shooters out there buy these lenses up as soon as they appear on the site, but if you check every day you may just find something. I managed to find a Canon 50 1.8 LTM lens for $250. Yep, a teeny tiny fast 50 for $250. Much smaller than my Summilux but I just knew there was no way in hell this lens would even come close to the Lux. I imagined soft wide open, hazy and nasty Bokeh. The lens is a LTM” (Leica Thread mount) so it is not compatible with a Leica M camera as is but a $10-$20 adapter will solve this easily. In the video above I show the adapter and take it on and off. You can see how tiny it is.

The adapter I bought for my Canon 50 is the Voigtlander HERE. More pricey but I like Voigtlander :) You can also buy them cheaply on Amazon HERE. Many prefer the Voigtlander to avoid any focus issues.

So..how did the 50 18 work out for me? I will let you know in a bit but also wanted to talk about another little gem of a lens..a rare gem indeed. A Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens, which is rare and damn expensive for being so old.

allthreelenses

The W-Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM

I was not aware of this little lens until an e-mail came in from Ashwin where he mentioned that once again, KEH had it. Curiosity got the best of me and there it was..a classic Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens but man, it was $1599! It was recently reduced (I was told) from $1799 so this is considered a “deal”. Why so high for an old and aging 35 1.8 lens? Well, this one was rated as “EX” and I guess it is a legendary lens with only 1600 copies ever made worldwide. Before purchasing I made sure I knew the return policy because spending $1700 on a classic old lens is not something I take lightly. If the lens arrived in “BGN” condition or had issues with focus I wanted to make sure it could be refunded. Luckily, KEH has an excellent return policy so my worries were gone. KEH also has a great rep so I was not worried anyway, but still, $1599 for an old lens is nothing to scoff at.

I took it out and tested it out with an ND filter to tame the AZ sun. I wanted to see what this lens would do wide open in regards to Bokeh and character. If usable at 1.8, I would most likely keep it. Below are some samples, click them for larger. The Bokeh is interesting to say the least. VERY classic. When shot in B&W it gives off a nostalgic feel and vibe and on the Monochrom it can indeed take you back. Check out the images below and look at the tones in the image. The contrast with this lens is about perfect.

As always, click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions

One side of the immigration reform fence…

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I did some research and could not find too much but did see some on e-bay listed at over $2000 so I guess the pricing was on par, if not better at KEH.

So what did I have to lose? Nothing. What did I have to gain? Maybe a kick ass vintage lens that could indeed  be quite special. I took the risk. Besides, my taxes are paid. My new iMac is installed and all paid for, and I just made the last payment for my Son’s Japan trip. I had a little left over to play with so why not? I placed the order and waited. When it arrived I was shocked at how tiny it is..man, it is SMALL. Much like the old Summilux PRE-ASPH lens from Leica, a lens I have always wanted to own but never could muster up the courage to spend $2300 for a decent copy of. I love the old lenses that have some glow and flare..I call it “character”. The old pre-asph Lux has it in spades but does the Nikkor? Not so much “glow” but it does have a unique rendering that is plenty sharp for what I shoot.

Fast Fact: The Nikon W-Nikkor.C 1:1.8 35mm uses a 7 element 5 group design. The lens also uses rare earth Lanthanum glass to improve performance, which is supposed to help with sharpness and flatness. Pretty cool huh?

…and the other…

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In use the lens is very small and compact, much like the classic Leica Summilux Pre-Asph. It is chrome, solid and beautiful to look at. The image quality is indeed different from ANY modern Leica but that is what I like about it. It has some serious character and works very well on the Monochrom. One thing to note is that the aperture dial is in reverse from your normal Leica lenses so you will be twisting the aperture dial in the opposite direction to change the aperture. Doesn’t bother me at all though, especially when I mainly shoot wide open. That is where most of the character lies with this lens, between f/1.8 and f/2.8.

Damn, this lens got me…

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So is the lens staying with me? Most likely as I feel it renders in a beautiful and unique way, especially for B&W. It is gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to use and it gives me something totally different from something like a 35 Lux, 35 Cron or Zeiss 35. It gives me a classic look to the images that I quite enjoy. May not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me, it is a winner. Ashwin Rao is also getting to play with one of these this week. I will be looking forward to his shots with this lens. If there is anything I can say about this lens that I am not a fan of..and could be a “make or break” thing for many is that it has a minimum focus distance of 1m like most older RF lenses. The newer 35′s from Leica, Voigtlander and Zeiss focus to .7 meters and allows you to get close. Something to keep in mind.

*If you find one for sale be aware they are sort of rare and do not show up often. Also be aware there are TWO versions. An “S” version for a Nikon Rangefinder and the LTM version. You can not use the S version with your Leica, so if you buy one for your M use be sure it is a LTM version.

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The Canon 50 1.8 LTM on the Monochrom

The Canon 50 1.8 LTM is a double whammy lens because is gorgeous AND cheap!  Teeny tiny, solid, metal build, and pretty fast at 1.8. No, it is not a 1.4 but Canon also makes a 1.4 LTM that is supposed to be superb-o. But I am not disappointed in the slightest with the 1.8, in fact, I am beyond thrilled. For $250 plus adapter cost I have a lens that renders beautifully on the MM. I also tried it on the M 240 and found it to be nice there as well, but the color was a little different from what came from the Lux. The contrast is softer but the lens is still sharp. Below are a few test snaps I shot, you can click them for larger views. I do know the last two were at 1.8 and the 1st one may have been at f/2 or 2.8. At $250 this lens is a no brainer if you want to test out some vintage glass.

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I find the Bokeh pleasant, the lens is plenty sharp enough wide open and it gives us a little of that classic MOJO many of us like from time to time. Even shooting at night at ISO 1600 you can get a very nice look and honestly, not far off from some much more expensive glass.  The 1st image below is an OOC JPEG from the MM at 1.8 using the Canon 50 1.8 LTM, the 2nd one is wide open at 1.8 from my “glasses” series using the same glasses on all who I meet or can talk into wearing them for a snapshot :)

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So as you may have guessed, I highly recommend this lens on the Monochrom. It has character (but not too much) and it has most of the things we look for in a Leica lens. Small size, quality build and feel, sharpness, contrast and pleasant bokeh. In fact, I find the bokeh to be gorgeous. Maybe I got a good copy but I hope they are all like this one. At $25o I find it the Deal of the Century in the world of classic Leica glass.

On the Leica M 240:

The lens on the M 240 will give you a low contrast look with decent sharpness and a more “vintage” type of color, which is usually more washed out. But I find the results pleasing and a break from the “Hyper Contrast and Color” norm:

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But do not take my word for it, hear what Ashwin Rao has to say as he has been shooting this lens much longer than me…

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Words on the Canon 50 1.8 LTM by Ashwin Rao

Hi everyone, I wanted to provide a second perspective of the diminutive but fantastic Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM lens. I have become a huge fan of Canon rangefinder lenses in my journeys with the Leica M Monochrom, and the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is no exception. This particular lens was designed by one of Canon’s legendary lens designers, Hiroshi Ito, who is credited with many designs that rivaled or even surpassed the performance of Leitz glass of the same era. The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM remained in the lens line up for many years, undergoing cosmetic changes while the optical formula remained the same. For those of you who care about such details, The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is a double-gaussian design, which is also today called a “Planar” design. While the glass used and exact placement of lens elements varies a bit from lens to lens, planar lenses retain a certain look and richness that’s a product of their formulation.

In considering my options for the M Monochrom, I wanted to build a stable of vintage lenses through which to see the world in black and white. Whenever I used more modern lenses, I found their character to be too clinical or too contrasty on the monochromatic sensor. While others have been able to make this combination of modern glass and monochrome sensor work, I have had a harder time, and so I turned to older lenses. What I have discovered has been a revelation to me. These older lenses often resolve quite well, in fact impressively well, while imparting a wonderful character that’s more classic and filled with character than their modern brethren. Sometimes, the character is harsh, and at other times, it’s surprisingly pleasant. Such is the case with the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, one of the most pleasant rendering lenses on the MM. I have really enjoyed how the lens renders skin tones (almost looks like silver halide prints, where skin tones really shimmer). Out of focus elements (i.e. “bokeh” ) can be fantastic or jarring, depending on the context, but more often than not, everything is quite pleasing in a vintage sort of way. One of the biggest surprises that I experienced with this lens on the MM is how well it resolves. This is a lens that keeps up with the sensor, even when used wide open. It’s really incredible, and one of the mysteries that I have discovered with the Monochrom’s sensor. Some lenses that appear to perform poorly on the M9 really impress on the MM’s sensor, and I would put this lens in that category.

I find it to perform adequately on my M9, but it’s not a lens that I’d typically reach for on that camera. On the MM, it’s almost always one of the first lenses that I consider. The fact that it’s tiny, well-built, and images on part with such legends as the Leica and Leitz Summicron lenses makes it a worthy companion for the MM. I picked mine up from KEH for less that $250, and my copy is a later design with a black and chrome coloring (rather than all chrome). So for those of you who are looking for a bargain now that you may have invested heavily in the M Monochrom, this is most certainly a lens to consider adding. I have enjoyed it more than Canon’s more extensive faster offerings (50 mm f/1.2, 50, mm f/1.4, and 50 mm f/1.5), and it can be had for a very pleasing price. Pleasing images & pleasing price: what more could one ask for?!?

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