Mar 022015
 

Travel Photography with Medium Format Color Film

By: Logan Norton

www.seeingthelightworkshops.com

As someone who has done quite a bit of photography oriented travel, I have experimented with many different gear configurations in search of the most suitable solution for my travel needs. I have found that using medium format (120/220) color negative film (c-41) offers me the most versatility while ensuring that I can achieve the “look” that I desire. I know that many of you will probably have serious doubts about the practicality/convenience/wisdom of this choice, but I can assure you that I have tried just about every other format and, for me, this is the one that fits the best.

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Knowing that the digital vs. film debate will inevitably arise from this post is, I would like to address that a little before we get any further. This is not meant to be an endorsement of film over digital. I don’t believe there is a universal truth that one format is better than the other. They are both tools with advantages and disadvantages and the beautiful thing is that they both exist. You have a choice as to how you will achieve the goals you seek through the use of one or the other, or both. I have taken a Nikon D800 and a Think Tank bag full of lenses on a two week Costa Rica trip. I’ve spent a week shooting in Austin, TX with a Fuji X100s and I took a Leica M9 and a 1950’s 50mm summicron on a roadtrip up the west coast for two weeks. Recently I spent a couple weekends in San Francisco with nothing but a Leica MM Monochrom and a 35mm cron and these days, the majority of my shooting is done with a Leica M2 loaded with Kodak 400tx and an older 35mm summicron – a setup that I love for its simplicity.

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The point I am trying to make here is that I have enjoyed an assortment of equipment configurations, both film and digital, and I have been able to create wonderful images with each, despite that fact that all of them have unique challenges. Anytime you seek to find the most appropriate tool for a specific job you have to weigh the negatives against the positives for each option. I spent quite a bit of time doing just that before a recent trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I wanted to simplify my travel setup; I didn’t want to carry multiple cameras with different film format, battery or memory card needs. I wanted something that would not distract me from enjoying the process of traveling and photographing.

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The first question was film vs digital. I realized that I didn’t want to be tempted to spend my evenings poring over the thousands of images I had downloaded into my computer, or to spend my lunches thumbing through pictures on my camera screen. It was important to me that I enjoy the experience of traveling while also taking pictures, rather than being preoccupied with the pictures I was taking on my travels. I also knew that I didn’t want to be reliant on batteries as I often spend long days shooting without any opportunity for charging. Another consideration was that a huge amount of travel photography occurs during the brightest part of the day in very changeable light conditions. Film is able to handle these changes more consistently and pleasingly than any digital format I have experimented with. The latitude that film allows, along with its ability to smoothly control transitions between shadows, mid-tones and highlights makes it a more effective tool for mid-day shooting, in my opinion. I also considered the difference in the way I work with film as opposed to digital. With digital I have a tendency to shoot everything knowing that I have virtually unlimited capacity for recording.

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When I’m using film, however, I find my process slows substantially. I search each setting/situation for the right moment, knowing that my shots are limited. I find that film forces me to really get into each moment and to stay there longer, something that I find incredibly important when I travel. In the end, these considerations led me to choose film as the medium for my travel photography needs.

Next I had to settle on the format. 35mm would allow for smaller, lighter gear and many more shots per roll. Medium format would give me incredible dynamic range, detail and latitude while forcing me to be extremely critical while shooting. In the end, the technical advantages of the medium format option won out over the convenience of 35mm. I knew it was going to be medium format film, and because I was going to the amazingly colorful town of San Miguel I knew I wanted color film. I chose to bring Kodak Portra 400 as my only film stock as it affords exceptionally smooth renderings at low iso while also providing excellent push-ability, fantastic highlight retention (imperative for the bright Mexican sun), and great colors. It also translates very well to black and white Continuing my theme of keeping things simple, I chose a Fuji GW670ii rangefinder camera for the trip. These “texas leicas” are all mechanical so there was no battery life to worry about. Since rangefinder cameras are mirrorless, they are nearly silent in operation and they allow the user to utilize slower shutter speeds with less vibration than slr cameras. These cameras all feature a fixed 90mm Fujinon lens that is incredibly sharp with fantastic bokeh characteristics and color rendition.

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Armed with my newly simplified kit I headed off to San Miguel de Allende for 12 days of exploration and shooting. I would be lying if I said I didn’t immediately question my decision upon leaving the rest of my gear behind, but after the first day I was convinced I had made the right choice. The Portra performed as well as I’d hoped in capturing the beautiful colonial architecture and brightly colored haciendas of San Miguel. When shooting in the mid-day sun I was able to rate it at 100 iso without any need to pull the processing when I got home (which was critical while using the Fuji which has a top shutter speed of 1/500) and it produced amazing results pushed as high as 6400 iso at I spent countless hours walking San Miguel’s beautiful cobblestone streets, sampling the local cuisine, meeting locals, and capturing amazing images. I found it to be one of the most welcoming and warm environments for travel that I have ever experienced. My days were spent exploring the magnificent el Charco del Ingenio Botanical Gardens; the el Tianguis Tuesday Market, a huge bazaar that features a little bit of everything; and the central square known as El Jardin that sits right next to the beautiful Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel cathedral, the main architectural landmark of the city. During my trip I was privileged to witness two daylong celebrations in and around this immaculately maintained square, as well as a traditional Mexican wedding at the church. These events provided further insight into Mexican culture and afforded me some amazing photographic opportunities.

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Spread around the city are a number of other spectacular cathedrals, as well as a number of other squares where people gather. I could not help but fall in love with the uniqueness and beauty of the city and its people; and I returned home with 53 rolls of film filled with amazing memories from my time there. I cannot wait for Ultimately I was incredibly happy with my decision to simplify my travel photography setup. I believe that the careful process of selecting the right tools afforded me the ability to be in the moment more during this trip than any other before it.

Mar 022015
 

Olympus dramatic filter in black and white

By Anne-Catherin

Bonjour !

After years of traveling with cheap compact cameras, I bought an OM-D E-M5 in October 2012 and I fell in love with it. Since I am too lazy and incompetent to edit my pictures afterwards, I often shoot with Olympus art filters. You will find hereby attached three landscape shots taken with the Olympus dramatic filter in black and white (during recent travels to Uzbekistan and Cuba). Please enjoy and tell me what I can do better.

I also like very much the pinhole filter, by far my favourite. Can anybody tell me how to reproduce the nice colour-rendering of this filter but without the vignetting ?

Many thanks for your inspiring website,

Anne-Catherine from Geneva, Switzerland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mar 022015
 

The Sony A7 meets Maceo Parker

By Christoph Baechtle

Hello Steve,

First of all I would like to thank you for your website. Plenty of interesting and helpful information, real live reviews and expert knowledge you share with your community. My name is Christoph and I live in the southwest of Germany and started with photography in my childhood. At some point I took a long break but returned to it about 25 years ago. Back then, with analog Minoltas. As you might know it took its time until Minolta decided to give up its analog system. These were tough times for Minolta users who waited impatiently for the first DSLR from Minolta. Nikon and Canon were already in the trade. When Minolta started its DSLR business I purchased a Dynax 7D with its 6 MP CCD-sensor. Today I use the old 24 MP workhorse Sony a900 (I still love this camera at ISO 100 to 400) and the mirrorless Sony a7 which is in my opinion a wonderful camera – although the successor enters the market.

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I took some pictures with the a7 at a concert of Maceo Parker, one oft he former saxophone players of James Brown. He played in a music club called „Scala“ in Ludwigsburg. It’s about 15 kilometers from Stuttgart in the southwest of Germany. I only used the Sony 1,8/55 Zeiss lens. Unfortunately there is actually no short-range-telelens available but due to the excellent quality of the sensor and the Zeiss 1,8/55 there is a huge potential for cropping the files. All shots were taken as jpgs at ISO 1600 or 3200 and were processed in LR5.

As usual for Maceo Parker he played for nearly three hours. You really get a lot of funky party music for your money. The show was a kind of family concert as Maceos niece Darliene Parker performed as a singer and his nephew Marcus Parker played the drums. By the way his solo on a drum computer with vocal-like sounds was very impressive. If you like Maceo’s „2% Jazz, 98% funky stuff“, check Maceo’s tour dates. As you see on the pictures he and his band really know to party.

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Compared to the a900 the image quality of the a7 at ISO 1600 or 3200 is outstanding. For a long time Minolta/Sony user it’s a new experience for me to turn the wheel up to ISO 3200. No more hard noise-troubleshooting in lightroom late in the evening – just enjoying the files. Quite a lot E-mount-users are wondering if the A-mount is an obsolescent model. I don’t think so. One unbeatable advantage of the E-mount is the compact size of a mirrorless camera without restraining the technological power. Using wide angle or 50 mm lenses won’t affect the handiness of the mirrorless cameras even at large apertures as 1,8 or 2,8. But using a fast portrait, short tele or macro lens like the announced 2,8/90 mm or a high-speed 200 mm telelens with a diameter of 72mm on the slender sony a7 is a little bit contradictory. That’s like Goliath sitting on David’s lap.

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If I have the choice between shooting at f2,8 at ISO 1600 or f4 at 3200 I would prefer the 2,8/1600 combination. But I expect that for the E-mount system Sony will concentrate on telelenses providing only f4 as fastest stop. Really fast lenses as a 1,4/50 or a 1,8/135 or a 2,8/200 will remain A-mount business. So I think there are still good reasons for the A-mount and I hope Sony won’t drop it.

Please find some more pictures taken with the Sony a7 and the Sony a900 in my flickr

photostream: https://www.flickr.com/photos/baechtle/

and on my website: www.baechtle.com

Feb 272015
 

Kids & Flash

By Warren Street

Love the site and look often. Very informative and fair in an unpretentious way. So right up my alley.

I recently bought a flash cord for my D3100 after seeing some of Larry Finks photos and loving the look and feel that to me really highlight emotions.

Being a 9 to 5 Dad of 3 kids means I’m not home a lot but when I am home it’s my job to get the kids ready for bed. One of the things that strike me is the number of different emotions we go through as we get ready and it’s a perfect time to put the camera in one hand and the flash in the other. I’m always amazed at the results I get. When you look at these you can really see so much. From what’s obvious to the subtleties between the kids.

From a technique perspective I shoot manual so I can stop motion(it’s action after all) and also have a decent depth of field as focus is not always so sharp. I’ve shot a couple of parties just for friend(I’m not a pro) and they always come out interesting and unique.

I hope you enjoy.

Warren Street.

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Feb 272015
 

The Moose That Got Away

by R.Luther

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(From Steve: This is a cool little post from Site Sponsor, rluther.com. He makes amazing little buttons to add to your mirrorless cameras for improved tactile feel and control. I have a set on my Sony A7s and A7II, love them. You can see more at his website HERE.)

Okay, it really wasn’t a Moose! It’s just that when you grow-up in a large city, (in this case Pittsburgh) ya think of all large four-legged animals with antlers pokin’ out of their heads as a “Moose”. It was probably a large elk. A really, really big Elk. We’ll get back to this mammoth mammal in a moment. But… Here’s how this true story really begins.

Sometime in February, 2012 I spotted in a photo magazine what I’ve been dreaming of my entire photographic life. Sony, in their divine, creative engineering wisdom, was offering a camera that I was sure I could not live without. A very small, twenty-four megapixel, Tri-nav….yada, yada The “Sony NEX-7 24.3 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera”.

The links below compelled me to lose touch with my normally prudent senses.

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/23/the-sony-nex-7-digital-camera-review-by-steve-huff/
http://www.cnet.com/products/sony-alpha-nex-7/

The Cactus

Next, came the very unpleasant task of convincing “the wife” that there’s a big difference between our definition of “need” and “want”. I would surely rather sit naked on a cactus! Persistence is key in these matters! After creating a solid week of sound arguments (mostly bullshit), I could tell that she was tiring. Persistence! Finally she gave in, but made it quite clear that all of my Nikon gear had to be “sacrificed” on Craigslist ASAP! What could I do? That’s right, I offered my Nikon D300 and all lenses on the www. I guess I under priced this equipment, because within a week or so I had more than enough funds for my new “dream camera”.

Then the floods came

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/20/sony-nex-7-majorly-delayed-due-to-flood/

The wrath of Mother Nature decided to super-soak Thailand and brought the Sony NEX production to an unexpected screeching halt. My disappointment was painful. Sometimes “bad” news can be good news in disguise and this delay actually turned out to be “a good thing”. While anxiously awaiting Amazon’s pre-order announcement, I began reading everything I could about Sony’s new offering. It soon became very obvious that they (Sony) weren’t thinking very hard or clearly when it came to the placement of the “Record” button. This “flaw” was reported by everyone everywhere.

An opportunity was revealed

This nuisance button placement needed a solution and re-ignited my dormant entrepreneurial spirit. It took a few drinks, a few days, and dozens of sketches, but voila, I felt good enough about my design/solution to begin production. “The Guard” was born! It was/is a success! Luck counts too. http://www.rluther.com/

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Finally

On Monday Sept 12, 2012 Amazon notifies me that they have a few NEX-7 bodies available and within two minutes my finger was pressing the “Buy Now With 1-Click” button. (Prime/No Shipping) for $1199.99. Now I’ll be happy! Within a few long days I ordered 3 “E” lenses. Even my wife thought that it was the coolest little camera she had ever seen. It’s all good.

I love that truck!

We live on an acre of high plains property in New Mexico and our neighbors are sparse. I mention this because it helps explain how the faint sound of a strangely colored truck could be heard miles away. To be fair, you need to know that the “Track Package” feature at the “Your Orders” page at Amazon gave me a “heads/ears-up”. Ya just gotta love that Jeff Bezos!
Robert, my UPS driver was grinning as broadly as I was when he pulled his beautiful “Toy Truck” (my wife calls it “Rick’s Toy Truck”) on to our property. I think they may be on to me. It was like Christmas morning! It was here!

Getting acquainted

It didn’t take long to not read the manual and installing the “Guard” was just as easy as I had been telling our customers. (note: I borrowed a NEX from a friend of mine that worked at Best Buy to develop the Guard). Before the sun settled on the horizon, I managed to take the obligatory 150+ pics of our four cats, 55 lawn furniture pics, & 88 sunsets. I believed I was ready.

Vacation time

On Sunday 6-24-12, after loading-up our Jeep Liberty with probably 72% of everything we own, (I’m not sure why, but my wife has this “disorder” that results in her thinking that when we take a vacation, we are permanently relocating. Very peculiar!) we headed North. Our destination was a time-share resort in Estes Park, Colorado. Very nice! We settled in and rested-up for the hiking we would do the next day.

 

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The beast and the buttons

It’s just my opinion, but I think that cameras & hiking get along better than most any married couple that I’ve ever met. I’m just sayin’! The forest trails in Estes Park were almost as beautiful as my new NEX-7 but much more challenging. We hiked for hours when I heard something that sounded like it might be a lot larger than us and I quickly, but cautiously turned to see a monster of a Moose (Elk). It really was very probably the largest animal I ever made eye-contact with. Regaining my composure, I reached for the almost new camera and decided to use the attached lens, a 55mm f3.5-5.6. As I was getting the camera ready for the “shot of a lifetime”, I realized the “flush” setting buttons didn’t allow the quick access I needed for “the perfect shot”. The f@#$* setting buttons were “hiding” from me! The big beast patiently looked at me as if he knew he would have to pose a bit longer, but as I struggled with the “invisible” buttons he decided that he had lost patience with me and my new NEX, and wandered off leaving me with only an unbelievable mega-Moose (Elk) story to tell. Without the photographic evidence, no one was ever going to believe me. Damn!

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We hiked awhile as I cursed the stupid buttons.

On the way back to the condo I decided that subtle modifications could be made to my “baby” that would very likely preclude ever missing “the Moose shot of a lifetime”.

Goodwill, a manicure set & some toothpaste

Since we were staying in CO. for another week or so, I thought I’d put on my designer/entrepreneur hat once again and started drinking, thinking and sketching. I’m a big fan of all the used stuff at Goodwill and decided that would be the best place to begin. It was just down the road. Rummaging through a bunch of small junk, raw materials appeared that could be “whittled on” to produce my first, second, and third prototype. A bit of toothpaste and a hairdryer and Voila the four not so shiny buttons came to life. They looked like crap but added the tactile feel that I was looking for and needed to “find” the buttons. YES! My “missing the Moose” days were over and another simple but clever product began its infancy.

Home sweet home
Time to go to work. Taking some of the “Guard” profits, I ordered some materials for final button prototypes. After considering every conceivable material, I decided CRES (stainless-steel) would be the best choice. The production of these flawless buttons wasn’t as easy as you might think and I won’t bore you with details, but here are a few photos to illustrate some of the difficulties:

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See the finished product at http://www.rluther.com

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I love that Moose! …. The End

Feb 272015
 

Back to Sony after 30 years away and why the RX10 works for me

By Chris Lamle

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What? I hear you cry… but Sony didn’t make cameras 30 years ago! It’s true, they didn’t, but way back when I was an graphic design student I had 2nd hand Minolta XG-7 (see the Sony connection?), upon which I cut my photographic teeth and learned the basics of taking photographs as well as processing and printing the images.

Fast forward a few years and there’s marriage and kids. The Minolta has long since died and I ditch my wifes’s Canon AE-1 for a Pentax compact (what was I thinking!). Sacriledge I know, but I was looking for something easier and simpler to use and that had autofocus and a zoom. I guess I was a lazy photographer.

Fast forward a few more years and a succession of film compacts, an early Minolta Dimage bridge camera (Sony again!!!), various other digital compacts and a Fuji bridge camera. All were pretty convenient and took, to my eyes at the time, pretty ok snapshots.

I had always enjoyed taking photographs but never considered myself an enthusiast and had only minimal knowledge of such basics as ISO, noise, sensor size and suchlike. I just stuck the camera in ‘P’ and hoped for the best.

It was only after briefly using a friend’s Nikon D90 that I realised that I was missing something. Well a lot really… like rich colours, image detail, bokeh, low light performance, a decent viewfinder. You name it.

So I decided that I would take my photography more seriously and started reading up. And boy did I read… magazines, websites, online reviews, offline reviews, watched video reviews and became immersed in everything to do with photography and cameras, to understand what I was missing.

So what was I looking for in a camera (in no particular order)?

Image quality
Convenience
Versatility
Usability
Quality
Shooting experience

What I didn’t want:

Bulk
Weight
Faffing about

After what seemed like months of research I came within a hairs breadth of getting a E-M5. And probably would not have regretted buying it. Then a friend mentioned the RX10. This, he said, was the Holy Grail for what I was looking for.

So I read up all I could on the RX10, including Steve’s review here. And took the plunge. A big deal for me, especially as I paid launch price for it. That was 4 times more than I’d EVER spent on a camera in my life.

The Basics:

I won’t detail full specs here as there are plenty of online reviews that go into much greater detail. For those unfamiliar with the RX10, it is basically the RX100’s big brother. The headline features are the same 1” 20Mp sensor as the RX100, but paired with a constant F2.8 Zeiss 24-200 equivalent zoom.

So why does the RX10 work for me?
Convenience.
Just 1 camera for stills and video. 1 fixed lens for pretty much all the situations that I like to shoot, whether it be portraits, street photography, landscapes, architecture. It’s reasonably compact, especially given the extra lenses you’d need to bring along from a comparable ILC system. And then there’d be the tiresome bother of changing lenses. Some people argue that the electronic zoom is slow. And it is, compared to a manual zoom. But people forget that while you’re changing out your 24-70mm for a 70-200mm, you’ve just missed the shot that I just got. And the zoom, in video mode, is pretty much silent.

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Versatility.

It’s the Swiss Army Knife or Gerber Multitool of cameras. Excellent at lots of things and just really handy to have around… need more reach and better quality than a compact? Yep. Want better video than an E-M5? Yep. Full manual controls like a full sized DSLR? Yep. Good EVF so you can shoot in bright sunshine, or because your eyesight is so poor you can’t see an LCD screen without glasses? Yep. It can’t take stones out of horses hooves, but there’s not much it isn’t capable of tackling… high speed sports and wildlife excepted.

Usability.

The RX10 scores really well here. Buttons and controls are numerous and customisable. I particularly like the aperture ring on the lens and the dedicated exposure compensation dial. Combine these with the function buttons and dials and I can easily change camera parameters without taking my eye from the viewfinder or delving into menus. And the camera isn’t overloaded with buttons.

The Sony menus seem intuitive and easy to navigate. Plus there is a Fn button that brings up a customisable view of functions that you can change quickly – like metering, drive mode, special effect, ISO, ND filter on/off. Nice.

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Quality.

I’ll divide this into build quality and image quality. Build quality is superb, as to be expected from a camera at this launch price. But it’s a really great feeling piece of kit. It features a magnesium body overlaid with high grade plastics. The Panasonic GH series cameras and entry level DSLRs are like plastic toys in comparison. The lens is a precision engineered chunk of glass and metal befitting its Zeiss badge, with the electronic zoom and aperture ring feeling very slick. The peripheral dials and buttons have that ‘hewn from solid’ feel that you know will last.

Image quality.

The pairing of Sony’s excellent 1” sensor and 24-200 Zeiss lens make a winning combination. The lens is sharp and produces punchy images. I shoot a mix of Raw and JPEG. I find the JPEG processing, although a little mushy when you’re pixel peeping, is more than adequate if I’m taking photos at a social event where the images are only going on Facebook. For landscape shoots or when I want to control the final image more, I’ll shoot RAW. There’s more noise than you would get from a bigger sensor, obviously, but at the A3 sizes I print it’s fine for me. I reckon I can recover plenty of shadow detail from Raw images – see sample of the Cabo Sao Vicente – Europe’s most south westerly point.

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I’ve also included (shock horror on Steve Huff Photo) images of a brick wall!!! I know this isn’t meant to be a hugely technical review and my comparison isn’t hugely scientific or methodical, but shows how how the RX10 stacks up against an APSC camera (in the shape of an EOS M) at ISO 200 and ISO 1600, all SOOC JPEGs. There’s a smidge more noise at 1600, but damn this 1” sensor stacks up well given it’s half the size. The image from the RX10 is actually punchier and more contrasty to boot.

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Shooting Experience

So it may have all these great features, but what’s it like to shoot with? The size is more traditional DSLR than an M4/3 system, but then it does come with a 24-200 F2.8 lens built-in. To to add that range onto a DSLR or even an M4/3 body will add more weight combined, than the RX10 alone. At around 800 grams it feels comfortable to use all day. It doesn’t drag on my neck and neither does it feel heavy to hold for long periods. The grip is a good size and feels nice and comfortable in the hand. Well my hand anyway. The dials and buttons all feel ‘right’ and in the right place. The buttons actuate precisely without any sponginess, ditto the dials which I’ve never had accidentally shift to another setting.

Being a mirrorless camera it has an EVF. Not as bright as an OVF, but good enough for me, and even better than an OVF in low light. The live view is brilliant for getting a more realistic idea of what your image will turn out. Subtle adjustments to aperture and the EV compensation and you can instantly see changes to exposure and/or depth of field. All without taking your eye away from the scene in the viewfinder.

Autofocus speed is good. Maybe it’s not as snappy as an E M5 or an A6000, but it’s good. I rarely find myself thinking ‘just bloody focus will you’. The only times have been at the tele end in low light and low contrast.

There’s also the option of the excellent manual focusing, which you can use with focus enlargement or focus peaking. I haven’t really got the hang of focus peaking yet, either that or it doesn’t work for stills. It never seems to be in quite in focus using this method. Maybe there’s a technique I’ve missed.

Tracking focus is another story. But then this camera is not really aimed at sports or wildlife, which probably includes kids and dogs. You need to take a different approach to this type of shooting, either using zone focusing or presetting a focus point, which I used in the pool shot.

So what do I think it’s good for?
Landscapes. Good dynamic range and an excellent focal length range means it’s great for anything from stunning wide vistas to detail shots, both inside and out.

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Street shooting: the near silent shutter is a bonus, but the fact it looks more like a DSLR and the size make it a little more obvious and intrusive. But, again, the focal range means you can be switching between views and grabbing open street scenes or more intimate moments

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Portraits: subject isolation is possible at its widest aperture and a longer focal length.

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Events and social gatherings: the zoom range and wide aperture makes it great for capturing people at social events. Again the near silent shutter is great here.

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What it’s not so great for:

Basically anything requiring 200mm+ reach is out.
Fast moving subjects using tracking focus
Fitting in your pocket. This is strictly a bag only cam.
If you want ultimate low noise high ISO image quality

A few more images..

All the images have all been taken over the last year and have mainly been taken in Spain, in and around a small town in Andalucia called Olvera. Others are from my home in West Yorkshire and from a short trip to Portugal. It’s a mixed bag as you can see, with a bit of everything from food photography for a local bar, to friends and family, people and places. Sharp eyed Game of Thrones fans may even spot Missandei (actress Nathalie Emmanuel) when we did a spot of papparazzi as the show was being filmed in our neck of the woods in Spain.

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Downsides

OK, so there are some. It’s size does mean it’s not at all pocketable. So maybe I’ll get an RX100 one day as a companion. Ideal for simply popping in a shirt pocket. Battery life is barely a day. Typical for a mirrorless camera I guess. But batteries are cheap enough that it’s not an issue. The switch that alternates the clicky/clickless option on the aperture ring is prone to be activated accidentally. Again, it’s a nitpick really. You need to remember to pull the LCD screen away from the camera before mounting on a tripod, as it won’t slide out otherwise. Not sure if the focus peaking actually works properly, or whether it’s just me. The screen isn’t fully articulated, where I guess most videomeisters would prefer it was.

Conclusions

A great travel and family camera in a moderately compact form. It offers a real step up in quality from a standard P&S, and is not that far behind M4/3 and APSc. For many people it’s literally all the camera they could ever need. No need to bother with lens swapping, no need for a separate video camera. Just get it out and start taking great pictures. Yet it also enables advanced users the option to get fully creative with the manual controls, which are all to hand like a ‘proper’ camera. It’s great for both stills and video.

Talking of video… why no mention of it. Well (cough, shuffles feet), I’ve barely done any. The few clips I’ve done look excellent to me, but I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what it does video-wise. But it’s nice to know it’s very capable, should I get the urge to create a movie sometime. Despite the lack of 4K video it offers serious pro-level features, like a clickless aperture ring. silent zoom, headphone socket, no line skipping full sensor readout.

At the price I paid I thought it was a great all-in-one camera. At its current price of around £650 in the UK, it’s a positive steal.

Hope you enjoyed the review, and the pics.

Thanks Steve.

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B&H Photo has the RX10 for $999 – See Steve’s original RX10 Review HERE.

Feb 262015
 

My Dad’s Camera. Sliding back to the future

by Mark Farnell

 Kodak Retinette

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Minolta XD with 50mm 1.7 lens

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One of my enduring memories growing up was slide nights following my father’s return from an overseas work trip. The film of choice was always Kodachrome 64, and the main camera was a Kodak Retinette with a fixed 45mm Schneider lens. The photos of faraway places, and the battle to focus the projector or retrieve a slide jammed in the mechanism became a home-coming ritual.

Fast forward forty years and dad had taken up golf leaving boxes of slides and camera gear hidden in a cupboard. Being a lad of the digital age I bought a Nikon 4000 ED scanner, secretly removed the boxes from his home and proceeded to digitize the photos for his eightieth birthday. I selectively edited, cropped and processed the images and all was revealed at the party. A great success!

Now I had a scanner and guardianship of a collection of film cameras, one of them a Minolta XD which had been a gift to my father for his work in Japan in the seventies. All appeared in good order, so now for the price of some film I could have a full frame camera without the $2500 price tag. I found some Fuji superior 200 film in a box (probably 10 years out of date) and loaded the camera to see what would happen. The Minolta XD can work in aperture or shutter priority auto, and was the first camera in the world to do so. I chose to use manual mode with the aid of the exposure guide in the viewfinder. My theory was that there would be enough latitude in the neg to make up for my ineptitude.

First up, there are no menus to delve into, there isn’t even a power switch. Press the shutter release and some silver halide crystals are changed to form an image; provided I remembered to advance the film. Then there is judging exposure. Is the subject key lit or back lit? What is the meter reading, how much do I need to allow for the dark green foliage? All things a modern camera will take in its stride and then give you a chance to look and check immediately. Then there is the waiting. It took me over a week to finish a roll and get it processed, which builds a feeling of excitement and anticipation that doesn’t exist when modern cameras can share an image wirelessly in an instant. Delayed gratification has a certain appeal.

My initial scans left me with huge 100mb files that didn’t impress greatly. Multiple passes which I thought would give a better result gave files full of artifacts, which could be down to my scanner. Should I use eight bit or fourteen bit, Tiff or NEF, digital ice or not. Getting an exposure is just the start.

Highlight recovery seems non-existent, and the files don’t seem as easy to manipulate as I am used to. Viewing at %100 shows a lot of grain I didn’t expect. But its early days yet in my re-learning curve. I plan to buy some in date Porta 400 and get the lab to scan it and see how that goes. Here are some of the images.

 my cat in the sun, minimum subject distance, f5.6

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 backlit yucca plant opened up 2 stops

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 my son practicing, f1.7, 1/30th, underexposed 1 stop. Miss being able to bump the ISO

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 sunset at a salt lake, exposure readings taken from grass and clouds then balanced to see what latitude I could expect

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 my son getting sick of dad taking photos. Available indirect light.

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Feb 262015
 

Using Sony NEX cameras as a digital back for 4×5″ Sinar

By Dierk Topp

What do you get:

The possibility of the use of most of the movements of a large format 4×5″ camera!
And to get very high resolution images (300 MPixel or more) for very large prints. I printed up to 2m wide, I love to “walk” around with my eyes on high res prints :-)

Where and for what can it be used?

for any static object, ideal for studio work and stills
the weight of my set up with tripod is about 10kg, not usable for hiking (the gear of Ansel Adams was 20kg and more, as far as I know)
Therefor for landscapes I use the normal technique shooting hand held or with a tripod and just shift the whole camera.

but:

you should have some experiences with large format and/or want to learn more about it
you have to invest some time for set up and camera alignment
you want to slow down for taking pictures

How do you use it?

set up the camera on a tripod
set the camera on all manual and RAW
use the ground glass of the Rhinocam for rough positioning (the normal ground glass of the Sinar is useless, it is not at the position of the sensor)
move the NEX into position
use the display of the NEX for first focusing
move the camera to the outer edges of the Rhinocam and control the framing of the whole image
use the shift and tilt mechanics of the camera for the desired plane of focus
control the framing again
use the focus lope for exact and final focusing
stop down the lens and do a test shot of an important area for exposure control
adjust flash and or aperture or exposure time for outdoor shots
if necessary, do a test shot with gray card or Colorchecker for color management

You may just shoot the 6 or 8 images by using the movements of the camera within the Rhinocam and get a high res image. If you want or need higher resolution, you move the camera closer to the object. In order to cover the same scene you have to shoot extra rows and columns by shifting the camera rear standard in x and y direction and will end up with 20 or 30 images. The parallax is no problem, as all the images are coming out of the same image circle! Using large format you will know, that the lenses have a huge image circle, in which you may shift the film or today the digital camera.
For example the image circle of the Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm is 214mm at f/22! (more here: http://www.prograf.ru/rodenstock/largeformat_en.html )
More on Schneider Symmar lenses is here: http://www.schneiderkreuznach.com/en/photo-imaging/product-field/photo-lenses/products/large-format-lenses/analog-lenses/apo-symmar-l/

Sorry, if this is not clear enough, but I tried my very best (and sorry for any strange English :-) ).
The different image sizes of the following images below depend of the use of this shift technique and multi row shooting.

What gear do I use?

a Sony NEX camera (I use the NEX-6)
a 4×5 Sinar P (or Gandolfi Variant) with standard back mount
I prefer the Sinar P, as all movements are geared and can be controlled perfectly
a Rhinocam adapter (there are other adapters, that could be used as well, but I only know and use the Rhinocam today)
a large format lens with 150mm or more for infinity shots,
for studio or close up shots 120mm or less is possible
a good tripod with a good head (Manfroto 055 with Arca Swiss Monoball P0)
two soft boxes for studio work and a remote flash trigger
the X-rite Colorchekcker or gray card for perfect color management
a software for stitching images (ICE from MS for Windows, PTGui, PS or many others)

How much does it cost?
Here are my “investments”:

the price of a APS-C NEX depends on the model and condition
the Sinar P was about 650€ used in perfect condition
the price of the Rhinocam depends on where you buy it
the price of my Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 120mm/5.6 was 350€ (like new)
the price of a tripod and head depends on many factors (if you don’t have a tripod)

you may find more images in my Sinar album at flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157641670093123/
and the Gandolfi album:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157641081324295/

There is not much more to say. Here are some of my results:
all images are multi row and multi columns stitches images. That is the reason, why the image sizes vary.

Table Top Examples

This is about my standard set up. Only the flash trigger is not mounted. With flash trigger you can only use the camera in landscape orientation as the trigger will hit the ground glass, when you try to rotate the camera into portrait orientation.

in this case the rear standard of the camera is tilted by about 15°, as you can see it on the scale at the bottom of the image

lens used: Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 120mm/5.6

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This is the result
Sinar 4×5″ with Rhinocam adapter and Sony NEX-6, Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 120mm/5.6@ f/11
stitch of 20 images, 15.000×10.000 pixel  = 150 Mpixel

Sinar tilted, f/22

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 5,6/120mm @f/11,
13.000×8.500 pixel = 110 MPixel

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a 1:1 crop

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 5,6/120mm @f/16,
12.000×7.000 pixel = 91 Mpixel

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 5,6/120mm @f/11,
10.000×7.700 pixel = 77 MPixel

80 MPix, stitch of 9 images

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with  Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm/3.5 MC@f/13,
13.200×7.500 pixel = 99 MPixel

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider APO-SYMMAR MC 5.6/210 @f/16,
13.200×6.000 pixel = 80 MPixel

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This is a test image for the ultimate control of the focus plane by tilting the front and/or rear standard, the focus is exactly parallel to the surface of the book and it looks like the apple was “photoshopped” into the image, but the apple really lies on the book!

Besides control of exposure and contrast this is, what comes out of the camera after stitching the images!

NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider APO-SYMMAR MC 5.6/210 @f/8,
11.500×7.800 pixel = 90 MPixel

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider APO-SYMMAR MC 5.6/210 @f/8,
13.300×7.600 pixel = 100 MPixel

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NEX-6 with Rhinocam on Sinar P 4×5″ with Schneider APO-SYMMAR MC 5.6/210 @f/16,
19.000×8.000 pixel = 150 MPixel

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another set up for the following picture

making of

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NEX-6 on Rhinocam adapter on Sinar P with Schneider Makro-Symmar HM MC 120mm@f/11
stitch of 15 images, 13.400×11.500 pixel = 154 MPixel (I would like to print it in 2x2m :-) )

f/22, stitch of 15 images, 150 MPix

and a 1:1 crop

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this is one of a few outdoor imagesthe set up

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the result, tilted for the focus plane on the ground
NEX-6 on Rhinocam adapter on Sinar P with  Schneider APO-Symmar 210/5.6
13.600×7.800 = 106 MPixel (printed 1,80m wide)

stitch of 2x4 images

this is a comparison of two different tilt settings, where you can see, how easy it is to control the focus with focus peaking
while you tilt the camera, the focus is moving till you see the whole desired plane in focus peaking color
compare this with a dark cloth over your head and a magnifying glass on the ground glass.

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and just for fun, if you want to take your 4×5″ camera into the field, there is a nice “little” box for all that stuff :-)
you may find the tiny NEX somewhere on this picture

my "new" camera bag, very handy for my nex hicking tour :-)

and an explanation, how to use this box for shooting :-)

my "new" camera bag, very handy for my nex hicking tour :-)

and last but not least my little large format camera collection
left the Sinar P, in the middle an old wooden camera and on the right the Gandolfi Variant field camera

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I hope, you enjoyed it and thanks for looking

dierk

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/

Feb 252015
 

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Low light photography with the Nikon V3

By Aspen Z

Hi Steve and Brandon, it’s great to be here again! The last time I posted was when I took the V2 to South Africa where it did the entirety of the trip. Since then, I’ve done many more excursions with it and from the tone of that post it shouldn’t be a surprise that I upgraded to the V3 as soon as it was out.

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Most recently, I embarked on a solo trip to Norway with the primary intention of seeing (weather/solar activity permitting) the auroras- a phenomenon I’ve always been fascinated with since young and somewhat sceptical of. Dancing lights of varying colours? Hmm…

There was just a single snowy day spent in Stockholm mainly for ease of flights, but it turned out to be very interesting a place and I’m definitely gonna give it a proper visit someday. For some reason, none of the locals knew where the Nobel Museum was and I found it in a square after crossing a secluded alleyway in Gamla Stan.

Arriving in Tromsø, with skies deep blue, I was abruptly reminded of the possible challenges ahead; polar night just ended and there was no true day to speak of. It meant working with ISOs I’m not usually comfortable with on the V3. I’d admit that there were at least two occasions before the trip I hesitated getting another camera (namely D750) so that I wouldn’t need to fret about noise. Besides, I’ve never photographed the auroras before and common advice online suggested full-frame cameras, fast lenses and possible weather-proofing. There was no telling if the V3 would fail me on multiple levels.

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I did learn a few things, some are tips from the perspective of a first-time aurora shooter, others just discoveries in general.

1) Unofficially, the V3 handles up to -16°C or heavy snow with no problem. I frankly believe most modern cameras can perform in conditions beyond their ‘limits’, much like how the Galaxy S5 can go underwater but isn’t given a special mention for it likely due to unnecessary warranty claims.

2) Test run a shot, i.e. do the highest ISO possible on your camera with a shorter shutter speed and adjust as needed. Suggestions of ISOs, exposure times and other aspects vary wildly from site to site and there’s no telling what light conditions were present or lens they used for such settings. Unfortunately for the V3, the sightings were during the new moon so the landscapes were very dark. Worse still, there’s not a fast ultra-wide lens for the N1 and it meant working with a relatively slow f/3.5. 90% of my shots warranted 15-30 seconds shutter speed with ISOs 1600/3200. These settings are typically not recommended due to noise (and they’re referring to full-frame!) but I knew trying ISO 800 and pushing up exposure was much worse in the V3. My focus was manually adjusted to infinity dialled back a notch. Be sure to check beforehand how long a shutter speed you can pull off before star trails become a problem.

2) The V3’s virtual level was immensely helpful (note: not the same as grid lines!). Except for the occasional compositional advantage, I couldn’t afford to crop with such light conditions/settings and wasting it on straightening horizons is entirely avoidable! Also, the tiltable touchscreen meant easy adjustments and no need for remote shutter.

3) The batteries drain faster but no faster than constantly using AF-C for motorsports/birding (in terms of duration). Warming up a frigid battery did restore some of its charge. I got through a night with two batteries, each left with the final bar of charge.

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Autofocus, as with its predecessors, was a joy to use and very swift even in poor light. At no point did the V3 falter and the magical twilight colours of Tromsø were captured accurately. The N1 lenses in general have stunningly good stabilization (rivalling IBIS?) and typically give you 5 stops of advantage (with the infrequent 6-7 stops from time to time on telephoto lenses). Viewing Tromsø after a cable car ride, I decided to settle with the 32 prime for composition, forcing ISO 6400 due to no stabilization, and it was then I really missed the lenses with VR. Reine was my last destination and I was greeted with much milder weather. The days were just a bit longer and the bright red Rorbu cabins with seaweed sprawling along the intertidal zone lent contrast to the dull light and snowy mountains.

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The auroras were indescribably amazing, with many colours in every form and shape, and they would disappear, capriciously, at times, only to reappear with greater intensity than before. They renewed in me a sense of awe so rarely experienced after childhood. My photos might have been better with a full-frame camera but I’m pleased with the V3’s output and glad that it shared such an experience with me.

More photos to be found here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aspenz/sets/

BUY: The Nikon V3 is available at Amazon.

Feb 242015
 

My Canon A1 and Good Old Film!

By Philipp Wortmann

Hi Brandon,

Today I’d like to share a couple of slightly random Black and White Film photos that I dug up on my hard drive. I think a hard drive is just a horrible place for photos to live so I figured your website might be a better place for them ;). When I first started shooting film I shot almost 100% black and white, which was awesome because it was just an entirely different approach from my dslr back than.

These days I mostly shoot color films but looking back at these images really made me want to go back to black and white, which I will probably do for my next trip along the California coast in march – already stocked up on Tri-X!

Most of these images were shot on Agfa APX 100 black and white film with a Canon A1 between 2013 and 2014.

If you’d like to check out some of my more colorful photos you can do so here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/ or http://lifeon35.tumblr.com/ or for the more mobile and digital folks here http://instagram.com/derphilipppp/.

Thank you and best regards,

Philipp

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Feb 172015
 

00_PlastiM240_Cover

The Leica M 240 – Plasti Dipped!

By Darren Wong

As an industrial designer, ux architect and general photo dude, I’m pretty fond of the processes and physical tools in which we create our work, be it our phones, computers, kitchen knives, pens, or cameras. These tools themselves can be a treasured item to be coddled or handed down to the next or an object that inspires confidence to go out and use them; some of the greater designs out there can be a bit of both. In the end though, tools are just that: a means to create something meaningful in our lives and possibly others.

However, as a lot of folks on this site and other gearheads know, we like to make the tools that we use our own complete with fancy or functional straps, bags, gaffers tape, bling, or sharpies. When the day came to upgrade my Black M9-P, I was presented with the opportunity to score one of the first Silver M240s here in LA and as soon as it popped out of the box, I stripped the red paint off the dot for an instant pseudo M240-P look even before Leica slapped a giant 300 dollar screw on theirs maybe a year later. Since then it’s never really left my side in my daily life and travels and his been a great companion scarred with use. However classic, iconic and beautiful any Silver Leica looks, I couldn’t help but feel it did indeed get a bit more attention while walking around and it was about time for an experiment.

I was looking for a solution that was preferably non-permanent and even though I’ve spent many of hours around model shops and paint booths, I was a bit less familiar with Plasti Dip, a spray-on or paint-on rubberized substance that’s graced the surfaces of workshop tools and used by custom car enthusiasts alike. Known for it’s grippy and durable finish, it’s also completely removable on most finished surfaces leaving little to no residue if the coating is thick enough (~2+ m). My biggest concern was the resolution of pigment in the atomized spray as I didn’t want to gum up any of buttons or internals. I took to the internets to find any information on spraying this stuff on cameras, but came up short with only a few dudes using them on GoPros, repairing camera bellows, and coating circuit boards – at least I knew it wouldn’t affect any of the circuitry if it did happen to penetrate. After a successful test on a beater Nikkormat, it was time to get down on the M240!

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[DISCLAIMER: Use this information at your own risk. I or this site take no responsibility messing up your camera. I have somewhat decent modeling experience but even I was a pretty cautious and/or crazy throughout the process.]

Supplies: M240, Pocket rocket blower thing, Isopropyl 95% alcohol, microfiber cloth, Plasti Dip, carbide Xacto, a standard ¼”-20 screw, some painters/artist tape, some toothpicks, and some scrap wood to mount the parts on. Not in anyway sponsored by any of the above products – brand names are just for contextual use.

With some quick masking of the middle section and a once over with an alcohol wipe to make sure the body was entirely clean (super important), in a well ventilated area away from dust, it took about 3-5 coats at 6 inches with a set time of ~15mins between coats, per surface starting with the small delicate parts first (buttons, toggles, small radii, etc.) and then moving on to the coating the larger body panels. Luckily with the pretty tight tolerances between the buttons and switches on most cameras, Plasti Dip didn’t seem to give me too much of a problem, the spray is thick enough to cover most part-lines without going any deeper or gumming up things like the menu buttons, shutter speed. About 45 mins after the last coat I took my Xacto knife and carefully score around all the (sapphire) windows and used a sharp piece of plastic to score around the non-glass edges. Using the toothpicks, delicately peeled away from all the parts I wanted to leave uncoated. It’s important to score, release buttons, and peel off the rubber at this stage as it’s easier to get cleaner lines around these delicate parts.

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Left to finish curing for another 4 hours or so, I’m pretty stoked. The result is an almost fully murdered out soft-touch rubberized Leica M240 with an overall grippier feel, a bit more durable, and best of all completely reversible! It’s definitely a process but possibly a nice alternative to sharpies, gaffed up bodies, and DigitalRev style pinkentas!

Thanks for letting me share Steve! Shouts to the Todd Hatakeyama and the LA Photo Gang!
Cheers,
Darren Wong

Twitter & Instagram: @sticboy
[email protected]
sticboy.com | zeroninefive.com

Cheers,
Darren Wong

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Feb 172015
 

Another photographer’s 365 project.

By Hilmar Buch

I can hear you guys sighing… but please keeping reading.

As many other photographers I decided to do a 365 project which for me meant to take a photo every single day throughout the entire year of 2013. Yes, we are talking 2013. It’s only a few days ago that I eventually finished off this project. Of course, I took all the photos in 2013 but editing and processing my images took until this time of year (February 2015).

01 January Binoculars

Apart from some wedding jobs I love to do as the primary shooter for friends and colleagues I am not a professional photographer. Thus, carrying out a 365 days photo project forced me to cope with the normal workload in my regular job as well as to convince myself to look for photo opportunities regardless of whether I felt tired or unmotivated. And I can tell you that this happened rather often.

For example, my girlfriend and I did some extensive traveling in 2013 to Namibia (see my earlier report on Steve’s website HERE.  Also Portugal HERE. As easy as it is to go with the flow on your vacation and feel inspired by the people you meet and the landscapes you see, the difficult it is to withstand the creative gap after being back home. If you have a look at the photos I took the days right after returning home, you can clearly see how bad these photos are because I did not feel inspired at all.

02 February Travelling across the universe

Or imagine your regular work day that sometimes can be really challenging. Feeling extremely exhausted when leaving the office in the cold dark winter night makes it hard to feel motivated to find a great photo opportunity, in particular if you only want to get home as fast as possible or have other personal obligations to meet. Taking a decent photo under these circumstances is not easy and a few times I felt like stopping my photo project from one day to another.

03 March Munich in the 1960s

These are the bad feeling that naturally arose but I do not want to complain at all as I enjoyed doing what I did! I did not give up.

I did the project just for myself in order to progress and to work with continuity on my photography skills. It definitely paid off I find. Although I do not know whether I got any better in the course of 2013 I can say that going out and just doing it yielded some photos I would never have gotten if I had not taken the effort to try. Without carrying out the project I would have taken far less photos and I would not have carried the camera with me almost all the time (I rather wore the camera than just took it with me…).

04 April Crane Stories - old vs new

05 Mai The silhouette

And often when I had no desire to shoot and when I was sure I would not enjoy it I was rewarded big time. My mood changed while I was taking photos and sometimes I met interesting people or found interesting places I would never have seen if I had stayed at home. So this was something I learned. By hindsight this experience means more to me than improving my photography skills although the latter were the primary reason for getting me started.

07 July Untouchable

09 September Street portrait

10 Oktober Lisboa you love or hate it

When I have a look at my photos these days, I am of course not content with every photo I took. Most of the photos are not special and just depict everyday life. But that is absolutely alright with me. I must not forget that for an entire year I got off my backside every single day and tried to capture something. The project is not about the single image but about my feelings, my challenge for power of endurance and me trying to do the best under the specific conditions.

06 June No standing

As I cannot show off all the photos I took in 2013, I chose one picture per month. If you want to have a look at the entire project, please follow the link to my website which can be found here:
http://hilminson.com/album/threesixfive-13?p=1

Cheers,
Hilmar

Feb 162015
 

Back from Japan

By Dan Bar

Hello Brandon & Steve

Just got back from Japan with my Leica MM and Leica 240 M-P!  What can i say , Japan is simply beautiful , lovely polite people willing to help, extremely clean. I fell in love with this fantastic country. Only problem is the 15 hours flight from Israel, It is too much.

All the photos were taken with the Leica MM + Lux 50 ASPH.

On my way to Tokyo I stopped at Wetzlar Germany , they checked my MM and said there was a problem with my sensor, instead of fixing it they simply replaced the old MM with a new one.

Good for you Leica!

Danny

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Feb 162015
 

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Testing the Zeiss Loxia 2/35 Biogon: the future of manual focusing

By Dirk De Paepe

Loxia. The name that enthused me the most during the last year. It’s the lens line that my life long favorite manufacturer, Zeiss, dedicates to my favorite camera, the Sony A7R. I love Sony for daring to explore new paths, resulting in the launch of the A7 family, the full frame/compact size bodies that finally offered a worthy alternative for the Leica M, and… at a reasonable price! I love Zeiss for believing in Sony’s boldness, and supporting them with excellent glass, Loxia being the most recent in the line.

From the moment they were launched, I knew this was it for me. That’s why I ordered them right away, both A7r and Loxia, and up till now, I didn’t regret it for one moment.
For this article, I did some shooting with the second and latest addition to the still young Loxia line, the 2/35 Biogon. And of course I shot it with my Sony A7r. The pictures that go with this review are all shot at the Antwerp Central Station (more info in the last paragraph of this article), and are available at a larger resolution on my flickr pages

(https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/).  I gathered them in a dedicated album, named “Loxia 2/35 Biogon at the Antwerp Central Station”. Quite some of those pics are in full resolution, i.e. as a full 36MP file. Please check them out for image details and exif data, if you want, by clicking here.https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157650231351238/

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The importance of Loxia
Loxia is Zeiss’s lens line, dedicated to mirrorless camera bodies, like ZE/ZF.2 is a line for classic DSLRs and ZM is for rangefinders. When first announced, I read that some publishers doubted if it really was going to happen, if Zeiss was going to push through with it, creating a whole line for “yet another” new Sony development. In other words, they adviced their readers to be cautious and not buy a system that was not fully deployed yet. I have never shared their opinion. From the start, I was absolutely convinced that fullframe E mount was going to be very important and therefore that the Loxia line was going to be thé way to go for me. I’ll explain why.

It all begins with the most important evolution in photography of the last decades: the digital sensor and its dramatic progression in two domains: resolution and ISO. Although ISO has the most impact on the IQ, resolution has the biggest commercial impact and is responsible for the decline of the film camera. Nevertheless, many masterly pictures have been made with a lot less MPs than today’s average, which causes the reaction amongst many serious photographers that you’d better go for ISO than for MP – or, regarding the A7 line, that you’d better go for the A7s than for the A7r. (I’m not referring to the A7II here because this is just the next evolution of the hardware, with indeed some significant improvements, but eventually we will see those in all A7 models. At this point, I’m purely referring to ISO versus MP.) Personally, I want them both, ISO and MP. So I bought the A7r. And I still would buy it today, because it kind of offers me both. How so? Well, when shooting at high ISO, one càn apply some noise reduction (I prefer to do it in post production), when shooting with the A7r. This is often being contested, because NR reduces the detail of your picture. But this occurs at pixel level, which means that you will partly loose the benefit of your extra MPs. Correct. When shooting for instance at 3200 ISO, after some carefully dosed NR, I reduce the picture size to 66%, and get a pretty clean image, significantly diminishing the gap with the A7s in this regard and ending up with a 16MP file, which is still more than the resolution the A7s offers.

As a matter of fact, the higher the ISO, the smaller my files will get, if I want them to be pretty clean, but that counts for every sensor, also the A7s’s. So I prefer the A7r, because at least it gives me the opportunity to also go for a large, detailed 36MP file, when there is sufficient light, which mostly is the case. So in the A7 family, I prefer the higher resolution. And let’s not kid ourselves, this increase of MPs will not stop! Yes, it asks for more processing power, but the processing speed of computers will further improve as well. Anyway, with my iMac, I experience not the slightest problem, when processing the A7r’s files. I’m sure my next computer won’t have problems with my next sensor neither…

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The increase of MPs is a fact. Even the “low MP” A7s offers a multitude of the pixels, of what we had a few years back. Let’s not deny this any further. We will all shoot at higher MPs ten years from now. But this has consequences regarding focusing. The more pixels in our frame, the more critical the focusing gets. If you wanna focus very precisely at high MP, you need to do this manually. Although the AF systems will further improve, critical focusing also means selective focusing, and there will always be photographers that want to keep things 100% under control and perform the focusing themselves, not relying on whatever sophisticated system. To perform this kind of critical focusing, an optical viewfinder simply doesn’t do the job. That’s why the EVF is mandatory. There has been a lot of criticism, with many photographers rejecting the EVF. I believe they’re wrong. Already today, the EVF outclasses the OVF, regarding focusing precision. And the EVF quality will only further improve. The gap with the OVF will further increase and eventually the OVF will become totally obsolete. Is that a bad thing? I don’t see why. We’re talking about digital images anyway. One can argue that the OVF is closer to reality, but the EVF is surely closer to the final picture. And photography is all about creating a picture. So I see only advantages here.

Let’s resume. MPs will further increase and this will make the OVF obsolete. This means that the mirror is no longer needed in the camera body. Or in other words: mirrorless is the future! IMO this is ineluctable. And I believe that Zeiss nows this as well. And Sony is leading the pack in this department. Well, guys. That’s why I firmly believe in the Sony E mount, and that’s why I’m absolutely sure that Zeiss will further develop the Loxia range to become a very comprehensive product line. BTW, from what I read, the sales numbers of both the A7 family and the Loxias significantly surpass the initial  expectations, (hense the backorders for Loxia), which further confirms my point.
The importance of Loxia is that it will be thė MF lens line for the camera system of the future: mirrorless.

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Classic lenses versus Loxia
For many manual A7x shooters, M-mount lenses seem to be the preferred choice, because their compact size matches the compact A7x bodies very well. But we all now about the “issues” that arise with most wide angle M-mount lenses on the A7x, especially the A7r: corner color shift and smearing. At the Photokina Zeiss booth, I was told that the ZM line was, as a matter of fact, developed for film camera’s, not for sensors, and that they are therefore not intended to be used with modern sensors. I guess this also counts for (most of the) Leica M-lenses, because the digital Leica M-bodies correct their lenses with dedicated profiles. Loxia is completely issue free in this regard. But besides offering issue free lenses for modern mirrorless fullframe bodies, Zeiss announced from the start that the Loxia lenses would render state-of-the-art IQ. And I have to say: as far as now, they deliver! The 2/50 Planar is a clear step forward from the very familiar ZM Planar – what I didn’t expect, as you can read in my formar post. (http://www.stevehuffphoto. com/2014/12/10/ten-weeks-with- the-zeiss-loxia-planar-250- and-the-sony-a7r-by-dirk-de- paepe/) This Loxia 2/50 Planar made me think of Otus more than once. And how the 2/35 Biogon performs, is what I’m about to report here. But I can already tell you that this one surprised me even more!

Besides M-mounts, there are so many other lenses to be used with the A7x. All that beautiful classic glass, with so many different characters, that now can be shot on modern sensors, isn’t it wonderful?! For me too, this is a very important motivation to go for mirrorless bodies: thanks to their short FFD (flange focal distance), virtually all classic lenses can be mounted, with the right adapter. Those lenses often have a unique character, which I guess we all can quite appreciate and would like to exploit. However, most of the time, when used on modern hi-res sensors, those “classics” fall short in the IQ department. I own a few very nice vintage Jupiter lenses, with lovely signature, but it really makes no sense to go for the full 36MP resolution with them, since you simply can’t get a detailed image, when looking at full size. Luckily, most of the time, we don’t really need that much pixels, so I keep on using them from time to time. Classic glass on the A7x is absolutely a go!

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However, with Loxia, I experience something else. This is modern glass, completely up to date, regarding functionality ànd performance. To me, this is a joy of shooting beyond compare and with a fantastic image quality, at par with the modern hi-res sensors. IMO their IQ is only topped by Otus (although Loxia makes me think of Otus more than once). Add to that their compact size and a weight of roughly 1/3 of Otus and you can image that nowadays I prefer to put my Loxia 2/50 in my bag, rather than my Otus 55. So I use the Otus a lot less these days: really only when I have a very specific project at hand, where  the highest possible IQ is mandatory and gear transportation is no issue. Loxia is thàt good that I have even considered selling my Otus. But as far as now, it still feels good owning it, for those very special occasions.

Of course, Otus typically is a DSLR lens. But why not using SLR lenses on the A7X?! Think of old Leica R glass for instance. Makes a lot of sense, although of course we have to take the extra size and weight for granted with those SLR lenses.
What counts for all those classic lenses, is that they lack the data communication, which means that they can’t allow the “modern manual focusing” features that contribute to the joy of shooting with Loxia.

Loxia offers advanced functionality (top level in manual focusing) in a pretty compact package (only slightly outdone by M-mount) with excellent IQ (IMO only slightly surpassed by Otus). All in all, Loxia is undoubtably the best choice for MF shooting with fullframe E-mount camera’s, by combining in a unique way great performance in functionality, size and IQ. Nothing else comes close.

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General Loxia features
Of course many of the features of the new 2/35 Biogon are common with the Loxia 2/50 Planar, that was the subject of my latest article, published on this website. Since I already talked about general Loxia features in formar posts, I’ll confine myself to resuming the most important general Loxia features here.
The Loxia lenses are intended for manual shooting. They have no Auto Focus, and even don’t offer Auto Aperture. So you have to shoot in Aperture Priority mode or in Manual. No Shutter Priority available. If you’re not feeling happy with this, there’s only one simple conclusion to make: don’t buy Loxia. But if you want to have 100% control about everything, those Loxias are a dream come thru.

The Loxias not only match the A7x style perfectly, from an aesthetical point of view, they also bring manual shooting ergonomics to a height, never known before. This is thanks to the automatic “VF-zooming” feature, when moving the focus ring (a function that you can turn on/off in the menu), and also thanks to the perfectly designed and smoothly operating focus and aperture rings. They allow almost simultaneous “one finger” ajustment, thus featuring the fastest thinkable way of manual focusing and DOF determining. (Again, read my 2/50 article for more details, please.) The de-click option of the aperture ring (normally in 1/3 stop steps) will in certain ultra-critical situations allow for hyper precise determining of the dof  – of course besides it’s applications for filming, but that’s not my thing. The data exchange between lens and body, necessary to perform the automatic VF zooming, at the same time enables full exif data transmission.
When shooting with a hi-res sensor, like the 36MP one of the A7r, manual shooting is the way to go for critical focusing and, as I said, as well is the electronic viewfinder. The automatic zooming in the VF and the focus peaking add to that and together they make for very precise focusing. When you wanna shoot full frame in this way, with a pretty compact system, there is only one combination today: the A7x and Loxia.

Last advantage of the Loxias, compared to there ZM sisters, is their closer minimal focus distance. For the 2/35 Biogon, this is 30cm, compared to 70cm for the ZM. Big difference!
As a critical remark, again in comparison with ZM, I need to say that the Loxias are bigger (thicker, that is) ànd heavier. This makes your total system less compact than when using ZMs. In my smallest bag, I used to cary three ZM lenses plus body. With Loxia, that’s only two. A bit less compact indeed, but offering a better feeling. I guess this size must be about the ideal compromise between size, weight and ergonomics.

BTW the A7x/Loxia system still has a very big advantage, compared to a DSLR system, in this regard. The handling is still typically that of a handy, compact camera. Compared to a clumsy DSLR with big, heavy lenses, this is heaven on earth to me.

The Loxia 2/35 Biogon performance
Like the 2/50 Planar, this Loxia 2/35 Biogon was derived from its M-mount counterpart, the Biogon 2/35 ZM. But this doesn’t mean at all that it’s just an “adaption” of this lens. No way! Although those two Loxia lenses are admittedly familiar with the ZMs, they are thoroughly reworked. I don’t own the ZM 2/35 Biogon, so I couldn’t make a direct comparison, but I do own both 2/50 Planars (ZM and Loxia) and although there were no optical issues with the ZM Planar on the A7x, I could clearly see the difference in IQ and even in view angle. (Again, read my 2/50 article for details.) The ZM Biogons on the other hand unmistakably pose problems with the A7r: the known corner color shift and smearing. One could work around them and correct a great deal in post production, but franckly, this  was not to be preferred, as I experienced with my ZM 2.8/28 Biogon. So I was very anxious about the Loxia 2/35, when I read, just before its launch at Photokina, that it was going to be a Biogon design. So I went to Photokina, to do a few quick shots – just to see if there was going to be corner problems. In “Testing the Zeiss Loxia, ZM 35 1.4 and Otus lenses on the A7R” (click here to read this article on this website http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/10/03/testing-the-zeiss-loxia-zm-35-1-4-and-otus-lenses-on-the-a7r-by-dirk-de-paepe/) I reported that there was no question of color shift, nor smearing with the 2/35. A great relief that made me order both Loxias right away. But of course, I couldn’t be absolutely conclusive after only a few quick shots. Owning the new 2/35 Biogon for some weeks now, I can report with a bit more background. So let’s go a bit more in detail.

Color shift. There is no color shift what so ever. Never, at no matter what aperture. I can be very conclusive about this. I never noticed the slightest corner color shift in any picture I took. None of my pics in this review were corrected for color shift, not even in the slightest way. So no color shift. Period.

Distortion. There’s no distortion – well, nothing that matters. I add quite some pictures here for this report, with straight lines at the borders. In none of my pics, I performed any compensation for barrel distortion. Zero. So to me, in this regard, the performance is simply perfect. Look for yourself. I have to say that I did as a matter of fact perform quite some test shots with grids, to check for distortion. Well, indeed a few times I noticed a minimum of inverse distortion, barely noticeable though. I think I push it over the edge, to even mention it here. In real life pictures, even the very demanding once like the Station’s front view from behind the window, nobody can or will speak of even the slightest distortion. This is an excellent performance IMO. It makes this lens very suitable for shooting buildings and the like.

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Fringing. OK, there is some fringing, mainly at larger apertures. But it’s very limited and very controllable, should you want to correct it. IMO fringing mainly matters when shooting with large DOF, because then, you want a lot of cleanness and detail on all plans. You’ll find quite some pictures here, that I shot hyperfocally. On my flickr page, you can look at some at full size. I think in this regard, this Biogon’s performance is really amazing. Look for instance at the “Swirl” picture (placed first after the “Detail” paragraph), go to the right upper side to see a zone with great contrasts, very sensitive for fringing. I think the lens’s performance is astonishing here. In another picture, Left Arm (first image after the “Bokeh” paragraph), you can see about the maximum of fringing I got (green fringing here). Of course this was shot at f/2, with very close focusing, so that the out of focus effect was about maximal. It was still pretty easily correctable, but in a bokeh shot, I feel no need to correct any fringing, so what you see is what you get here. And in a third shot, Coffee Addiction (pictured hereunder), also shot at f/2 you get some magenta fringing around the lamps. Well, I don’t feel the need to correct this neither, but again, this can very easily be done, should you want it. So IMO the fringing with this Biogon is very limited, always easily correctable if you’d want, and at larger DOF non-existing or only very slightly visible, and only when looking at 100%. I think this is an excellent performance in this department.

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Color signature and nuances. This 2/35 Biogon clearly has its own color signature. There’s a kind of slight silky softness in the colors, which goes together with very subtile nuances. An absolute joy to watch, IMO. It’s different than the Planar, that is more cool and strict, always correct and neutral. But I honestly can’t say that the Biogon is incorrect in any way. Of course performing “laboratory test shots”, with the necessary measurements could give more precise information. In real life though, I can only say, those “somewhat silky” colors please me a lot. And, BTW, with very little input, you can correct or change or enhance those colors in any direction you like. Everything you need is there, to be processed in any way you want. In every picture, I could easily get the final look, that I had in mind. One consideration though, when a lens has a specific signature, probably it will be disliked by some – the more by those who are stuck to the signature of another lens that they already own. With every new lens, I’m trying to keep an open mind and see what this lens can do for me. With every picture that I take with this Biogon, I enjoy the aesthetics of the colors, I feel inspired by them and I quickly get the exact image that I want. The words that pop into my mind, thinking about this Biogon’s color signature are: pictorial, subtle, versatile, silky. All are very positive. The latter involves personal taste. I like it very much.

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Detail. In a former article, published on this site, I reported about this lens, after some quick shots at Photokina. I wrote that the 2/35 renders a somewhat softer detail than the Planar. Well, I have to correct this. I guess I was misled by its silkier color signature and because one always get less detail, when shooting out of hand (all shots at Photokina were OOH). I invite you to look in detail to some pics, shot with tripod. Go to my flickr page and select the full size image. You’ll find a “36MP file” indication at the full size pictures. Again, I didn’t perform measurements, but I have the strong impression that this Biogon produces as much detail as the Planar. And (!) it performs even better in the corners – there’s a bit more softening in the very deep corners with the Planar IMO. This was a big surprise to me. Maybe it is a small fraction softer all over, but really, with the bare eye and in normal pictures, like published here, I really couldn’t tell. Maybe it even renders a fraction more. But I càn tell you about the better performance in the corners, although the Planar was already outstanding there. To me it’s clear, detail is no issue at all –  not in the slightest way. Incredible detail, when using a tripod, but also OOH, when taking care, the detail is still pretty amazing. The first picture in this post was shot OOH – you can get a 36MP from my flickr account. BTW, with its closest focusing distance of 30 cm, the minimal FOV can even be smaller than with the Planar, revealing even more detail of a certain object for sure! Regarding detail, this Loxia 2/35 is high class! As good as it gets!

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Aperture range. We often think about a lens having a sweet spot, i.e. the aperture at which the performance is at its best. The designated way to determine the sweet spot is by performing specific test shots to measure, which I didn’t do. I just took “normal” shots throughout the whole aperture range. But I looked in detail and the results were pretty remarkable. Concerning detail, the 2/35 definitely renders a softer image wide open, at f/2. But already when closing one click (f/2.2), you can see a clear increase of detail. At f/4, you get as much detail as you’ll ever get (looking at 100%). Regarding detail, this stays that way up till f/16. Closing further towards f/22, the diffraction gradually occurs, with some loss of detail. Also the color dynamic range gets a bit poorer. I’d say the dynamic range is virtually optimal as from f/14 and wider. Regarding vignetting, there indeed is some at wide apertures. By f/3.5 I’d say it’s negligible and past f/4 it’s completely gone. As from f/2.8 you can completely correct the vignetting in the Adobe raw-converter, if you’d want. I’d say, the vignetting is never a problem. So what is the sweet spot of this Loxia 2/35? Well, I couldn’t tell. I’d rather speak about a “sweet zone”, that I’d place from f/4 to f/13, with this regard that the outer zones still produce very acceptable IQ, performing ever better than many “classic” lenses. The wideness of this sweet zone really surprised me. This means that I can use this lens at whatever DOF (at f/13 you can have acceptable focus from about 1,5m to infinite) and never have to worry about lesser IQ. Wow!

Large DOF shooting. This lens is really at its best, IMO, when zone focusing or even hyperfocusing. I thank Zeiss for continuing to put a DOF scale on their MF lenses – a great tool for zone and hyperfocusing! With its focal length and speed range, this lens is about ideal for street shooting, IMO. Again, I invite you to look in detail to some of the pictures here, that I shot with large DOF. On my flickr page is indicated which ones are shot with tripod and have a full 36MP resolution. Some of them, like the station front from behind the window (called “Dirty windows”) is a remarkable illustration hereof. This picture was shot a few hours after a melting snow storm. When looking at full size, you can clearly see the dirt that the storm left on the windows in the front plan and at the same time, you get tremendous detail from the station’s facade in the hind plan.
This lens’s ability to render amazing detail with constant clearness from front to hind plan is incredible. Again, I was quite astonished here. I can say it outclasses anything I saw up till now. (Again, I didn’t try every lens on the market, of course.) But what’s remarkable here is that one often (rightfully) speaks about acceptable focus, when talking about hyperfocusing and that some photographers even doubt that hyperfocusing is still possible anyway with a 36MP image, because “acceptible focus” becomes trickier as resolution increases – something I experienced clearly when upgrading from a 24 to a 36MP sensor. But this Biogon surprised me again! Indeed, I could realize pictures that showed clear detail all over – with no visible loss in IQ throughout the plans, even when looking at 100%. Simply jawdropping!

Smearing.This is really non existing. When I’m absolutely critical, I think I can see a very, ever so slight softening in the deepest corners, and only when looking at full size, like I mentioned above. I feel almost ashamed to mention this. Either way, I now of no lens that performs better in this department (of course I didn’t try all possible lenses). But smearing, I just don’t see any, up till the very tip of the corners. IMO, this performance is no less than Otus level. A big, very pleasant surprise to me, after what we’ve seen from the ZM Biogons. Also the Leica 2/35 Summicron, that I owned for a while, performed really not good in this department (on my A7r, that is) – that’s why I sold it.

Bokeh. Let’s be clear. This is no bokeh monster. It’s just not that kind of lens. Wide angle and f/2, what do you expect?! If you really want to create and explicit bokeh with this 2/35, you need to focus very close (or very far with very close OOF objects). But when you really go for it, like in the “Left Arm” and “Coffee Addiction” pictures, you get a really beautiful and soft bokeh IMO, both in front and hind. I believe it’s even softer than the Planar’s. But again, you really need to go looking for the right circumstances to achieve this. And in my kind of shooting, the bokeh is always a result, not a goal. BTW, even at f/2, the detail is not bad at all, as you can see, when looking at the next two pictures in full size, via my flickr account.

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Low light and artificial light shots. I wanna talk about this for two reasons. First, low light almost automatically means artificial light. And artificial light implies specific white balance. When it gets dark, the Antwerp Central Station is illuminated by many different kinds of light, each requiring a specific white balance. Some of the shots combine different light sources in one picture. Colors created by artificial light are different from daylight colors, but still they require a correct white balance to make them look right. Therefore a specific post processing was mandatory for those picture, and to perform this, the basic material, provided by the raw-file, must be of good quality. Well, the files that the Biogon/A7r provided me, gave me the impression that I could do whatever I wanted. What a joy to work with! Oh, and another thing that I wanted to do, was showing the high ISO capabilities of the A7r. I’d like to illustrate this with “Evening Hall” (next picture). This was shot at 4000 ISO. After some processing, I reduced the file to 66%, ending up with a 16MP file (still 4MP more than what the A7s delivers!) and I must say that I’m very pleased with the result – cleanness, detail and overall rendering. I hope you understand why I prefer the A7r above the A7s, offering me the best of both worlds. On my flickr page, you can see this picture in full 16MP format.

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Black and White. Concerning black and white shooting, let me first tell you that I deliberately had to decide to add some B&W pictures here, because in every shot, I loved the colors that much, that I just wanted to keep them. Of course, when you intentionally go shooting for B&W pictures, this is another matter, but I didn’t do that for this review – I was just trying out my newest lens. :-) Anyway, IMO, when shooting for B&W with a color sensor, you first need to get a good color balance, before converting the picture to B&W. The files you get from this Loxia 2/35 are a pleasure to work with, also in this regard.

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The figures

The Zeiss online lens shop announces this Loxia 2/35 Biogon for €1149,- which is considerably more than the €849,- for the Loxia 2/50 Planar. But this difference is well justified, because the Biogon features 9 elements in 6 groups, whereas the Planar 6 elements in 4 groups. Nevertheless, the Biogon weighs a bit less: 320gr instead of 340gr for the Planar. This is probably due to the lens elements being a lot smaller in diameter and probably also in thickness. I don’t know if the lens shade, obviously being shorter for a wider angle lens, place a roll herein a well. Measurements are the same: 66x62mm, caps included.

Conclusion

Like with the Loxia 2/50 Planar (and I’m sure this will count for all future Loxias), it’s a tremendous joy to shoot with this Loxia 2/35 Biogon. Thanks to its great ergonomics and advanced features, it really accomplishes what I call “modern manual focusing”. In combination with the A7x, this is a wonderful and very powerful performance machine for so many different kinds of shooting. But I’m convinced that Zeiss mainly had the kind of photographer in mind, that takes profit from a compact camera. The OOH street shooter is probably the stereotype hereof. Although I wouldn’t be surprised when the wonderful colors would convert quite some B&W shooters.  :-) Thanks to its compact size, out of hand street shooting is a great joy, as I said. This is probably the most handy combination on the market today for this kind of shooting, but at the same time it offers a remarkable IQ, at a surprisingly wide aperture range. So this is also a great choice for tripod work. This Biogon reveals itself in that case as a very precise tool with a very beautiful color palette and a personal signature, that I love.
I am so very glad that I immediately ordered this Loxia 2/35 Biogon!

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Shooting at the Antwerp Central Station

For this article, I gave myself an assignment: making a kind of pictural essay of the Antwerp Central Train Station. So all shots were taken of or in the station building. I like working at assignments and thought this was a nice one. Indeed, Antwerp Central is one of greatest stations in the world.
The original building of the Antwerp Central Station was constructed between 1895 and 1905 as a terminal train station. The hall is 75m (246 ft) high, while the tracks and platforms are covered by a vast iron and glass trainshed of 185m (607 ft) long and 44m (144 ft) high. The complex has for more than a century been regarded as one of the finest examples of railway architecture in Europe. Between 1998 and 2007, large scale reconstruction works converted the station from a terminus to a through station, allowing high-speed trains to frequent Antwerp Central without the need to turn around. To accomplish this goal, a tunnel has been excavated under the station and a good part of the city, with added platforms on two underground levels. A central pit under the glass roof brings daylight to the underground platforms. Since the reconstruction, the station has 14 tracks and 4 levels. Today the Antwerp Central Station is an even more impressive infrastructure than it has been in the last century. In 2009 the American magazine Newsweek judged it the world’s fourth greatest train station and, according to the Brittish/American newssite Mashable, it’s even the most beautiful train station in the world. That aside, to me it’s as impressive as it is beautiful and a real “feel-good” place. If you ever can spare some time in Belgium, I advice you to make a train trip from Antwerp to Liege, to visit two exceptional stations.

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Feb 132015
 

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens Quick Review

by Brad Husick

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I have been a pro sports photographer for years and I always rely on the big hardware to get the job done right. For me that has been the Canon EOS series and the Nikon D3 and D4. I have switched between them several times looking for the next advancement in IQ or speed.

When the Fuji X-T1 was announced I was intrigued by the compactness and the manual controls of the camera so I bought one and tried it out on indoor sports. The early firmware wasn’t allowing the camera to keep up and the Fuji 55-200 f/3.5-4.8 lens wasn’t fast enough to keep pace with the Nikon D4. I wrote a review here on SteveHuffPhoto at that time.

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A lot has changed since then. The newest firmware gives the camera an electronic shutter option that’s silent and super-fast (up to 1/32,000 sec). Just as important, the new 50-140mm (76-213mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens with OIS is certainly up to the task. The focusing is lightning quick and the OIS is working extremely well. I have included some samples taking indoors in very poor light. The camera was set to ISO 6400 and the distance to the subject was 11 feet, shot handheld. The zoom was set to 140mm. As you can see, everything is tack sharp even at f/11 and 1/9 second exposure – handheld. I have also included an f/22 at 0.5 second exposure and there is some motion blur, but it’s surprisingly good for a half-second shot not on a tripod or resting on a bean bag.

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I have yet to try it in a challenging indoor sports arena, but my initial tests bode quite well for this setup.
Physically, the lens is very good to hold with smooth and surprisingly short throws for the zoom and the focus. The all-metal construction looks like it would withstand the rigors of shooting and it’s weather sealed as well with 20 seals. It’s also rated for low temperature environments down to 14 degrees F. I won’t go into a lot of the specs because it’s easy to look those up.

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Compared to the Fuji 55-200 f/3.5-4.8 lens, this is a major step up. The new lens doesn’t grow larger when you zoom – the 55-200 gets to be just as long as the 50-140 when fully zoomed. The new lens is weather sealed and to me the OIS works better. The new lens has a full marked aperture ring with the A setting at the end. The old lens has a separate switch for A mode and an unlabeled aperture ring. Most importantly, the new lens is much faster to focus and it’s an f/2.8 after all. The 55-200 is $699, so it’s considerably less expensive than the 50-140 ($1599). If the 70-200mm focal length is important to you I suggest you save your pennies and buy the 50-140mm lens.

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Compared to my Nikon 70-200 f/4 VR lens, it’s almost the same size and weight (both about 2.5 pounds). The Fuji of course is giving us a full stop more light albeit in the APS-C format. To get a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in the full frame world, count on a much bigger and heavier (3.4 lbs) lens. I have included comparison photos of the Fuji and Nikon f/4 lenses side by side.

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The lens hood on the Fuji has an interesting feature – a small removable door on the bottom that allows you to stick your finger inside and rotate a polarizing filter if you use one. It’s a clever idea and the door is held in with enough force that it’s unlikely you will lose it when attached to the hood. I do think the hood is a bit large, but I don’t know what design tradeoffs Fuji made with it. The lens cap fits tightly and has nice large grips for removing it.

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When the lens is mounted to the X-T1 and the hood is used it’s almost comically large compared to the camera but the handling is still very good and the light weight of the setup compared to a full-frame DSLR is greatly appreciated. The case on my X-T1 is the Gariz which I do recommend. It extends the bottom of the camera just enough, and if this is not sufficient then you can attach the battery grip instead.

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I must thank my good friend Tony Rose at Popflash Photo (www.popflash.com) for loaning me this new lens for this test and review. Tony earned my business long ago when Leica had some defective sensors and Tony replaced my camera long before Leica even acknowledged a problem. This is a perfect example of the difference between a great dealer and a box-shipper.

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