Dec 192014
 

The Linhof Technikardan 69 and Schneider Super-Angulon 65mm f/5.6

By Dirk Dom

Hi, everyone!

About half a year ago I decided to go into serious black and white landscape. First I wanted to buy a Sony A7R, with a Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens. That would have cost me some 6,000 Euro’s. But my love for black and white film (You can’t emulate grain) and mechanical camera’s made me change my mind and I bought a Linhof Technikardan 6×9, which shoots 6×9 on rollfilm.

I had a 150mm lens (equivalent to a 60mm on 35mm) and I proceeded to shoot this camera.

It was a disappointing experience. I put the camera on my big tripod and with that combination on my shoulder I walked around. After an hour I was in pain and I was exhausted. Setting up tripod with the camera on it was very difficult.

Then, last month, I got the idea of putting camera and everything in a Lowepro backpack and walk around with backpack, and tripod in hand, and setting up, getting everything out of the backpack, shooting, and putting everything back into the backpack. This worked, now I didn’t get tired anymore and could really shoot with this camera.

I’m working on a project: shooting San Francisco. Two years ago I spent six weeks there with my Olympus PEN and FD lenses, I’m going back for two weeks with Easter to shoot Spring there, and next summer I’m going back for another six weeks. Now that I had the logistics of the Linhof figured out, I want to spend the summer six weeks in San Francisco shooting black and white with it.

I want to shoot with four lenses (on a walk I always carry one lens), a 47mm (eq. to 19mm), a 65 (eq. to 26mm), my 150mm, and a 300, eq. to 120mm.

Today my 65mm arrived.

This is it

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On the camera it is like this

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I went to the forest to shoot it. There was a lot of traffic and I only got there at 3PM, so there wasn’t much light anymore. I had left my spotmeter on, and the battery was dead, I had to guess the light. The negs came out good.

Here’s my first shots with the 65mm: At last a wide angle on this camera!

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Here I used tilt to get more DOF, but I overdid it. With the wide lens the edges of the image on the ground glass are very dark, and there was only little light. The top of the trees is unsharp. Focusing with this lens must be real accurate, much more than with the 150mm.

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And here I did some serious burning in Photoshop.

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I scan the negs on an Epson 750 flatbed at 2,400PPI, this gives me enough for an enlargement of 2 ft 4 inches at 300DPI.

Everything you read on the Net about these camera’s slowing you down is true. Shooting with the Linhof is a unique experience, not in the least to work with a piece of fine mechanics. I know that image quality wise, the Leica M240 or the Sony A7R are better than this camera, but I’m glad I decided for the Linhof.

Bye,
Dirk.

 

Dec 182014
 

The Joy of Shooting Photos

By Dennie Mullete

My name is Dennie, I’m from Bandung, Indonesia. And sorry if my English not so good …

When the first time I found this site, I was searching for a pocket camera with good high ISO performance, and I found Steve reviewing the Olympus PEN E-PL1 … I so impress with the result, even Steve said that E-PL1 has a  really good jpeg engine that time and I was looking for a camera like this from the start… But I still did not know anything about aperture, bokeh, fastlens etc. I’m blind at that time, know nothing about photography. What I know is high ISO is needed when you want to take pictures without flash in low light, so I bought it …

Fast forward, now I have a Canon 6D that really help me when shot low light, and I keep telling myself I’m not a photographer, I’m just taking pictures :) … but I must say … sometimes … the joy, the fun, the mood, the inspiration is the main control about the picture I wanna take, that really takes effect to the result … coz I have the time when mood is down, no joy when shooting … I have 1 or 2 hundred frames but nothing to be keeping … that was a big hit for my photography experience … and I say … I would pick Olympus pen E-PL5 rather than my 6D … just because the joy … the fun to use … I’m not say about the IQ, I’m just saying about the “fun factor” that really take effect of the result … :)

Enough said. I hope u like my pictures and thank you Steve, you are really my Inspiration … for about 3 years now … and I am waiting for your Sony A7 mk II review. Cheers

It’s taken about 10 PM, really dark, at local restaurant, light source from the light garden, and the back is city of bandung, really nice place, the air a bit freezing, the place called “Balakecrakan”, sundanese language, mean “eat together-nes”, 35mm f2 @f2, ISO 12800, 1/60, develop from RAW

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Taken in my friend place, just hang out, and try snapshot with one source light, the hanging light on the middle room, so i tell my friend to dress like a mob … do u think it’s look like a mob ? :) 35mm f2 @f2, ISO 6400, 1/100, develop from RAW

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 “Bandung Caang”, sundaese, mean “Bandung Bright”, spend time with family, is something I must do, family … all the work I do, all my effort, is for my family, so what do the best beside hang out with family ? :) 85mm f1.8@f2, ISO 3200, 1/160 Straight JPEG

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See my facebook https://www.facebook.com/denie.mullete

Dec 182014
 

From a Nikon D800 (DSLR) to Olympus and Fuji (Mirrorless)

by Robin Schimko

Three months ago I had the opportunity to do a reportage on a sailing boat cruising along the coastline of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea. Last year I did the same thing in the Caribbean but this time I didn’t bring a heavy and bulky DSLR, since I‘ve gone fully mirrorless at the beginning of 2014. For this trip I brought a Fuji X-T1, 23/1.4, Samyang 12/2, Samyang 8/2.8 fisheye and of course my Olympus E-M1, 42.5/1.2 and 75/1.8 with me. I was basically covered for almost any possible situation and at the same time my kit was relatively lightweight and compact.

The day I arrived I met up with my client and the moment he saw my gear he became skeptical. For him it was hard to believe that a camera this small is able to deliver good image quality and a certain look that screams “professionally” taken images. He was very pleased with the images I took in the Caribbean with my D800. So I gave him my tablet to have a look at some of my pictures I took prior this trip just to make him feel more secure and it worked fine.

So, how did it work out?

Well, the mirroless set up had two major advantages over my former D800. The first one is really obvious and that is the small form factor and the light weight. Compared to my DSLR, the Fuji for instance with attached lens is less than half the weight and that makes a huge difference. On a shaky sailing boat it can be really tough to move around safely, especially if you’re carrying heavy gear which needs to be secured with one hand to make sure it’s not bumping into something or someone. The mirrorless kit was much easier to handle and it was a breeze to use. Attached to the Fuji was the Easy Slider by Artisan & Artist which allowed me fit the camera very tightly to my chest, so I could use both hands to secure myself in case I needed to. With a bulky DSLR that would have been much more uncomfortable over the duration of a whole day or at least a couple of hours. The second advantage was the ability to shoot from the hip incorporating the tilting screen. When you look through the viewfinder it can easily happen that you punch yourself in the face with the camera and yeah that had happened to me in the past. :D Like I wrote before, the boat is constantly shaking around and the intensity of those shakes can vary randomly.

In two weeks there was only one thing I wasn’t really keen about and that’s the battery life. Especially the X-T1 tends to eat batteries very quickly and that did concern me. One could say that this is not a big issue if you bring enough spare ones. That’s totally true and I had five batteries with me, but I had no idea that these batteries had to last up to three days. Last year I could recharge every day, but not this time. The boat was quite old and electricity was only available every now and then. That was indeed the only issue I had using mirrorless cameras.

The sailing itself again was a very nice experience. The first week the weather was crazy good and we did sail a lot. The second week everything changed dramatically not just the crew and the second boat that joined us, but also the weather. There was a storm approaching and we couldn’t leave the harbor for two days. Eventually we left on the third day, but the sea was still very rough and half of the crew got seasick. Luckily I wasn’t one of them, but taking photos was almost impossible without a waterproof housing, because every couple of minutes there was a big wave coming in.

Here are some shots I took during my trip and if you like my work, you can follow me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture)
or check out my blog (http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/)

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Dec 172014
 

Quick User Report: Using the Voigtlander 40 1.4 on the Sony A7s

by Devin Jameson

Just wanted to post a few images recently made with the Sony a7s and Nokton 40mm 1.4 SC.

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Pros:

Sharp at the focus point, even wide open—IF you nail the focus

Sharpness picks up quickly when stopped down if you prefer a clinical look or are shooting landscapes (also vignetting goes away by f/2.8 or so)

Very compact size, even with the Voigtlander Close-Focus adapter

Character is very “interesting”

Great build quality with smooth focusing ring and aperture clicks

Randomness factor–you never know what you might get when shooting wide open!

0.7 meter minimum focus distance—closer to 0.3 meter with VM-E adapter

 

Cons:

It’s not a Leica 50 Lux

Rather heavy vignetting

Bokeh is somewhat nervous (I’ve learned to love this)

Flare (I like the randomness of flare, so this isn’t a con for me)

I expect to see a 50mm focal length, so the transition to 40mm is a little tough, but should be fine in time

All in all, it’s a fun lens that lives on my a7s. Check out the sample images below—most were shot wide open.

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Dec 162014
 

Wedding photography with Nikon Df and AIS lenses

By Peter Patenaude

I recently had the opportunity to photograph a wedding in Greece. As the title suggests, I photograph with two Nikon Dfs paired with only manual AIS lenses, for this wedding the 20mm 2.8, the 50mm 1.2 and the 105mm 2.8. Of course, what is used to take a photograph matters and can have a large impact on how a picture translates. Everyone on this website I am sure has much more knowledge about lens and camera characteristics than I do, so I won’t even try to speak about that. But maybe this article is more about the characteristics of people, selfishly myself, and how this has a much greater impact on the nature of my photography in both the images that I make, as well as the tools I am compelled to use.

I have never been fond of anything that I cannot connect with in some personal way- I have always struggled with this, however, as it poses a risk of being too romantic in life. Regardless, I find myself photographing with manual equipment. I think, for me, the feel of the scene, and of taking the picture is different- and this ultimately has an impact on the images I make. The best way I can describe it, being an avid outdoorsman as well, is that the difference can be likened to fishing. I have coached people when they were reeling in a fish, through the ice, on a fly or on a worm- it does not matter and it is very exciting. Even though I am not the one actually bringing the fish in, I am deeply connected to the moment by relaying to the other angler when to set the hook, how much tension to have on the line, when to reel in and when to let the fish run. As amazing as this is, the other angler still acts as a filter and barrier between me and the fish and so it still does not compare to actually feeling the fish hit the line myself, and feeling each and every dart and dash it makes. When the fish takes my line I am in full control, and the decisions that I make are based more on intuition after getting a sense of its personality- because of this I am able to react more effectively, and yes, if I make a mistake, I cannot blame the other angler reeling it in, I have only myself to hold responsible.

Of course, I am not a stickler for sharpness. In fact, I have never admired a photograph for being sharp- I save that admiration for trout knives and musical notes.

I hope that you enjoy these images, and if you would like to see the rest from this set, they can be seen here: http://bootandcanoephotography.com/northern-greece-wedding/

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Dec 152014
 

Alzheimer’s photo project using d800 and Sony A7/A7s.

By William Yianni Binks

Three years ago I took a photo of my Yiayia (Greek grama) on her 75th birthday.  The photo didn’t do so well with the family when they noticed quiet abruptly that her eyes were NOT even in the final photograph.  I explained that the photo was purposely edited as such to create more of a visual reconstructing of the viewer’s grandmother, not only my own.  Without the ‘windows’ to the soul, the viewer could interpret whoever they felt would purposely fit the image.  Suffice it to say; my family understood the art, but still reached out for a photo of her with her eyes in it- I sent the raw photo..

I wont give away too much on my project, nor any images from the actual internal project itself here. Although I thought it would be of interest to elaborate on the projects roots briefly and some of the photo’s that had been taken leading up to the project. After the infamous birthday photo with no eyes, as I am sure it will be remembered, I instantly got the idea of taking similar photographs of her on her following birthdays.  I would push this further by trying to incorporate more elements of family into the scene, and always try to take them in the same place- her knitting corner (Where the first birthday photo was taken).  I was always fascinated with an image I had taken in Victoria, British Columbia of three generations of one family within one photo, but placed in a triangle and in different levels of focus.  (If anyone knows me you’ll know strong cinematic images and even further those, which contain visual triangles, are my go to style).   A funny background story to this photo is that I didn’t realize the figure in the top of the photo was the little girls mom until later at the hotel where I found all three in a photo moments prior linking hands swining the little girl in the middle as they walked to the steps where the final photo was created.

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Anyhow, this image got me thinking about ways I could incorporate this sort of triangle and elements that felt almost apart of my YiaYia adding a feeling of independence within the isolated corner she knits.  As her Alzheimer’s worsens, the fact she still can knit, and sometimes in complicated ways (intricate hat’s etc) has always left me intrigued.  It is truly incredible how the mind can hold onto certain delicate details regardless of the forces at play.  As for the triangle, you will find it in multiple images from the set, first implemented below in a photo of her. The isolation of her corner will become apparent all but within one photo- from her 77th birthday.  In this photo only, the outside world comes into play, with my mom reaching in with the birthday cake. Now, where is the triangle you’ll say? Well, look a bit closer and in small detail behind her my brother and are I seen in baby photo’s. There is it, the 3 Generations within one photo.  So, I had my triangle and my overlapping birthday photo’s of her, which could become a set in themselves, but I wanted to dig deeper. It was at a film shoot three years later after the original ‘photo with no eyes’ that I finally got the spark and push I needed..

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I was talking to a man at a pop up shop taking place in a photo gallery I was filming at.  The man seemed to know his stuff about photography so we started talking about what we shoot. Eventually I ended up showed him some of the photo’s of my Grama I had shot on her birthday’s from my phone and he was beyond interested.  I further found out he was in fact the owner of the gallery itself!  I had to laugh at the thought, here I am interested this man knows photography so well all the while I’m in his studio.  I thought up the idea on the spot about continuing the project and morphing it into something even more contained. The spark from the family triangle photo along with her birthday photo’s got me thinking.

We talked and the idea came along that a project enclosed within a certain time period such as the birthday photo’s would lead an interesting visual piece.  I would shoot photo’s of her throughout one month showing her knitting habit which has now engrossed most of her days.  I felt this would also be an interesting view on a disease, which is growing in popularity sadly, and in a way a project that, just like the birthday photos without eyes would again become relatable to many.  The man told me to push the project and if it worked out come back to him with prints to perhaps show in a gallery one day.  I lit up, I finally had my next art project.  More so even then the photographs it would become something I would always look back on, doubling as important family photo’s.  More so even though to personal importance it could have a larger reach and spread awareness of this disease on memory.  The entire project felt as if it could come full circle in its meaning, acting AS a memory item (photographs) and about something which takes AWAY the memories themselves (Alzheimer’s)

I won’t say too much more about the project except I have finished the photographs and will be editing them soon.  They contain various daily portraits, as well as documented photography of the incredibly large amount of knitting taking place within the chronological time frame of the shoots.  The project, if successful will speak too each individual however they like, but at its heart it will be a combination of memory, family, disease, generations and the inevitability of old age.

Here are some of the photographs that will accompany the project, some side lining the display and other’s actually being incorporated into the timeline…

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Thanks guys:)
All the best,
William Yianni Binks

(As well, the blog can be seen with how I added the photographs here on my site! http://blackcasemedia. wix.com/wbinks#!12-Days-In- October-Alzheimers-ongoing- photography-essay/c2su/ 2DF6C499-2044-4A2C-8F4F- 578F2F93A495)
The flickr page for this project is here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/willbinks/sets/72157649285622997/

Cinematographer | PhotographerWeb | www.blackcasemedia.wix.com/wbinks

Dec 132014
 

Switching to Mirrorless from a DSLR

By Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve!

Whenever I’m into any stage of photography I come to my passionate website :)

Mirrorless really helped me unhinge a new passion for photography.

I always considered myself as a nature/landscape. I had a D800 and all what I was interested in was landscape, nature and architecture. I was never a people’s photographer, not because I couldn’t but because I’m a little bit shy and not the right personality for doing weddings and commercials. Despite loving street photography and portraits of normal people in the street, it is an absurd dream for me in Egypt. In conservative cultures, people get offended when you point a camera and snap a picture, they might even get aggressive. So for me this category was off the list. Until when I got a Fuji X100 and things change! magically people in the street began accepting the photos! I had more and more confidence and I liked the Idea of having a camera with me 100% of the time! I found myself leaving the D800 and other lenses at home despite knowing that they are way more capable.

I gradually began shifting towards Fuji, I got an Xpro-1 and a couple of lenses and began traveling with the Xpro-1 18mm F/2 + 35mm F1.4. I started to discover new horizons for me in street photography. I really liked it! It wasn’t long since I got an XT-1 and sold all my nikon glass and committed myself to Fuji.

I started to get the courage to get closer to people here in my country and surprisingly having a retro style camera shifts you towards an artist more than a spy or a CIA agent or even a journalist!. I went with some friends all lugging around huge backpacks full of equipment and I really pitted them, I was going light with just the Fuji XT-1, 35mm and a 23mm. I could move more easily, having just a small shoulder bag that doesn’t even look like a camera bag I was able to get closer to people. I took some portraits of amazingly kind and simple people all with a friendly spirit.

I just LOVED mirrorless more and I knew that I took the right decision. believe me people it’s not sensor sizes or charts or dynamic ranges. It’s only you who really knows what makes you happy, Don’t just sit and read articles like mirrorless VS DSLR or buying gears just because it has a PRO marks all over it! for me, being light and mobile allowed me to get more! to discover more and to move more!

before I had the D800 and Nikon’s trinity, I couldn’t wish for more quality and supreme performance, but with the Fuji, going around more and having a clearer mind allowed me to do settings more wisely, intuitively and faster. Yes the Fuji is a slower less capable camera than the Nikon, but its combination with ME is a faster package, even the Landscape that I come from is much easier and nicer.

It reminded me with the good old days when I had the Nikon FM2 and a couple of lenses.

My website:

http://www.hakemphotography.com

http://500px.com/hakem

below are some street photos that I took with my XPRO-1 and X-T1

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Dec 122014
 

Fuji X30 does CycLavia Los Angeles

By Art Codron

There are many situations where I do not feel like lugging my bigger cameras but want something better than my iPhone to shoot with. Enter the Fuji X30… I had one of the original X10’s when they first came out and while it was a pretty good point and shoot (orbs and all), I moved on and sold it fairly quickly. I reached a point where I was over the “point and shoot” thing and used my iPhone for my casual photography like many other people. After awhile I started to get real frustrated with the noisy images that had no dynamic range and few controls over exposure. Unless the light was perfect, the picture quality was poor. It was also hard for me to get used to holding my phone out to take a picture. It just lacked the “tactile” feel of a real camera. Meanwhile, the compact camera field has changed. Far less of them are being sold, but there are now some very solid performers such as the Sony RX series and the like. I had been looking at the new Panasonic LX100 as well. I ultimately settled on the X30 as it seemed closest in feel to my Fuji X-Pro1 and X-T1 which I adore. I know many of the other higher end point and shoots have bigger sensors which have better resolution and noise performance than the X30, but none of them have both the longer lens (112 equiv for Fuji) and fast aperture (1.8-2.8). The longer lens is important to me due to my shooting style. I like to hold the camera to my eye so I wanted a good viewfinder as well. I also factored in the lower cost and tank like build. Then when I considered the Fuji X aesthetic, it was an easy decision. While they are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, the Fuji cameras have a real “soul” to me.

This past weekend, another CycLAvia event was held in Los Angeles. For these events, a large swath of city streets are closed off to vehicular traffic and are taken over by Bicyclists such as myself and 100,000 of my closest friends. Walking is also encouraged for those that choose to not ride. There are many zones along the way to stop and experience the culture of the various neighborhoods on the route. This past weekend, the ride went through the Central Avenue corridor to Leimert Park. There was of course plenty of photo opportunities along the 12 mile round trip route as well… so it’s a way to combine two of my passions: Cycling and Photography. The Fuji X30 was the perfect camera for me on this day as I was able to sling it over my shoulder and hardly feel like it was there. It stayed out-of-the-way till I needed it. While the files have less resolution than a 4/3 sensor or even a 1” inch sensor, they are still pretty good. The photos from the x30’s 2/3 sensor are far better than standard point and shoots. The lens is very sharp and the files have the Fuji look that I love. Operation is very fast and tactile. Controls are at your fingertips and the new control ring is pretty cool. I have it set up to control aperture but I wish it had click stops. My only big complaint is that the X30 does not have a built-in ND filter like my x100s. It would have been nice to have this as it was quite sunny and I could not take advantage of the wide aperture on the lens. While this camera is no Bokeh monster, a little bit of background blur can go a long way. A prime example is the B&W shot of the gentleman below with the high-rise handlebars… It would have been far better if the BG was blurred slightly.

Thanks for the great website!

More of my general photography can be seen here:

https://500px.com/acodron748

http://acodron748.tumblr.com

Cheers, Art

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Dec 112014
 

Japan with Leica M-P 240

By Dan Bar

Hello Steve,

Here i am again hoping sending some more photos from Japan with my Leica M 240 hoping you will like them Japan is a colorful country especially in October and November when all the leaves turn red which is the most wonderful scene to watch. Japan is a great country for photographers as Japanese people seemly love to take photos and be photographed , which is a blessing for street photographers.

I took my Leica MM as well but the beauty of this country simply forces you to shoot color

As for the M 240, I really fell in love with the camera. I  know i was skeptical about it after shooting for so many years with the M9 ( had to sell it in order to buy the M-P 240). but the ease ,the great shutter sound , and the fantastic results with Leica lenses ( 50 LUX, 35 LUX ) made me completely change my mind.

Thank you,

Danny

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Dec 102014
 

Ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 and the Sony A7r

by Dirk De Paepe

After ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 I thought it was a good idea, to share my findings.

This Loxia Planar, as you probably already know, is the first one of the new Loxia series, that was put in the market by Zeiss right after Photokina, where the first two Loxias were launched. Being thrilled by Zeiss coming up with those lenses, dedicated to mirrorless cameras, I ordered both the Planar 2/50 and the Biogon 2/35 immediately, but the latter probably won’t be available before the end of the year.

Well guys and gals, I can tell you right away that in several domains this Planar offers even more than I expected – and I had really high hopes! But at the same time, in a few other fields, I had pictured something different. Luckily those don’t concern essential issues, so all in all I’m absolutely thrilled with this Loxia, to the point that it quickly became my absolute favorite lens. It’s the one that I always have on my camera when traveling, as my “ready-to-shoot-in-all-circumstances” lens. Before this Loxia, the ZM Planar 2/50 played this role. No surprise, since those two Planars are very familiar lenses in concept (click here to read the ZM Planar 2/50 review on this website). Where the ZM Planar is without any doubt an exquisite lens, the Loxia Planar is even better.

Planar versus Planar

In a former article that Steve published here, right after Photokina, I wrote about the Loxias and already explained the main differences between Loxia and ZM. (Click here to read this article.) So I’ll resume the additional Loxia features here: transmission of Exif data, shorter minimal focal distance (45 versus 70cm), automatic enlargement in the VF when turning the focus ring, de-click possibility of the aperture ring and last but not least improved optical performance for mirrorless cameras.

Optically both Planars are pretty familiar – to my eye, the produced images have the same character, the same color signature, the same clarity, the same detail, etc… As a matter of fact, it’s hard to tell which Planar took which picture, unless you do an A/B comparison. Of course I didn’t perform any measurements, since I’m a user, not a professional photo journalist, but still, in a direct comparison, it was immediately clear that the Loxia performs better in the corners. Although the ZM Planar files remain detailed until pretty far in the corners, I’d say Loxia diminishes the (already small) “vague zones” with at least three-quarters and also the vignetting is less. I have been thinking of publishing A/B pictures here to illustrate the corner performance, but abandoned this idea, since it’s only visible looking at full size, and I really never experienced this matter as a problem with my ZM. Like I said, although the ZM performs excellent, the Loxia just performs quite a tad better. I expect that their will be some improvements measured on other domains as well – we’ll probably read about it soon in different reviews.

But fact is that Zeiss really reworked the optics for Loxia, so this is absolutely no “adapted ZM lens“. It also shows by the field of view, that’s a tiny bit narrower (I reckon some 4%) with the Loxia Planar, compared to the ZM.

Maybe you wonder if this is sufficient to switch from the ZM Planar to Loxia, since the ZM already works so terrificly well on the A7x. Well, I have been wondering about this as well. But I made the move to Loxia, because first of all the wide angles (like the Biogon 2/35 that I tried at Photokina) will perform better with my A7r than most of the M-mounts, but also because I truly believe in FE-mount and Loxia will be totally dedicated to FE. Further it will offer the most modern MF applications, which simply will make me perform better as a photographer, and will be optically 100% developed for mirrorless bodies. I also saw it as a kind of statement: “Loxia is the way to go for manual focus with FE bodies!”. Loxia is dedicated to mirrorless indeed, so to me it feels right being dedicated to Loxia. And the fact that it’s Zeiss (my first and lifelong love in photography) that comes with this modern, all manual lenses for mirrorless generates only one spontaneous reaction in my mind: yes!

Now that I really own and use the Loxia Planar 2/50, I’m feeling for 100% that this was the right choice, and this feeling is even a lot stronger than I expected. The satisfaction and joy to experience this fully dedicated lens, it’s extra features, IQ, styling, and ergonomics is simply bigger than I expected. Yes, some of my reasons are subjective, only based on feeling, but subjectivity is a reality in life, so it’s something that has value to me. Maybe you will feel it differently, because this is partly a personal matter, but still there’s a lot of really objective criteria here as well.

Improvements

I love the shorter minimal focal distance a lot. Combined with the A7r, with its 36MP and its cropping power, it enables “near to makro” pictures. “European Money” is an example hereof. When looking at the 100% crop in the second picture (please remember that you can enlarge all pictures by clicking on them and that you get the real colors only then), you can see that lens and sensor are absolutely keeping up, with no real visible loss of IQ when looking at 100%. I think this indicates that Loxia probably can deliver at resolutions that are even a lot higher. I was pretty flabbergasted, when I looked at this detail. What I see here reminds me of what I get with the Otus 55 (although the Otus delivers exceptional in virtually all circumstances, and the Loxia needs be used with greater care to deliver at this level, for instance regarding choice of aperture). On my monitor, the real world dimensions are enlarged by 7 (the surface by 49), revealing details that aren’t visible with the bare eye. IMO the detail that is rendered here, is simply top-notch.

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But apart from this detail power, shooting at smaller distances further narrows the DOF, significantly increasing the bokeh abilities. The bokeh character is pretty much comparable with that of the ZM Planar, but by enacting its formation, it becomes the more clear that this is really a very smooth bokeh, in hind as well as in front focus. Its character reminds me of the Otus again, although I find the latter producing even an a tad more creamy bokeh. But bokeh is a matter of personal taste, so I let you judge for yourself. I’ve shot some wide open pictures, specially for this report, because I know that many followers of this site care a lot about shallow dof and bokeh. The pictures show bokeh in different combinations – front and hind with close and further focus – all shot wide open at f/2. Here they come.

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05. Jaguar emblem

04. Jaguar headlight

07. Austin Healey Cockpit

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07B Getting in the mood for Christmas

When street shooting wide open, one needs to focus fast. If you do this manually, the modern manual focusing features of this lens/body combination do a terrific job. The two following pictures illustrate this. In the first, I focused on the cigaret smoke and only had a time frame of around two seconds to frame and focus. IMO, this is a typical shot to benefit from those modern manual focus features. I used the automatic VF enlargement here.

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Personally I like the front bokeh yet a bit more than the hind one. IMO, the latter sometimes can get a bit nervous, especially when a very detailed background is involved, like leaves, while the front bokeh always remains super creamy in all circumstances.

All-around

Although this is only a f/2 lens, I find it usable in very divers light conditions. In the White Ochid picture the backlight from the bright white sky made the flower almost transparent. With the focal distance at 45cm, I set the aperture at f/4, in order to obtain the desired dof and a very slight but subtile blur in the hind part of the flower. To provide the right exposure, the setting of the shutter time was very delicate, because 1/3 step away killed the transparency effect.

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In “Watershow”, the exposure and processing was delicate as well, to combine the obscurity of the people with the clarity of the water. The EVF is a great tool for shooting that kind of pictures – if you read any of my former articles, you’ll probably remember that I’m a big EVF fan.

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The chiaroscuro was even pulled a bit further in the B&W “Evening at the Efteling”. And in “Compelling Show” I think I proved that also with the A7r and an f/2 lens, shooting in near dark environments is possible. This was of course shot wide open, at ISO8000 and 1/30sec. Here are some more low light pictures.

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15. Liège by night

This lens really is a high quality all-around piece of equipment – not that much a “specialised shallow dof lens”. IMO it specially shines, when you want to apply blur in a moderate, delicate and precisely controlled way or when you want to apply zone focusing and even hyperfocusing. It’ll capture light terrificly well. It’ll provide a color richness that allows you to work in post production with the colors in any way you want. On the Sony A7x this lens feels perfectly in balance, allowing very fast, spontaneous and precise shooting. Here are some different kinds of pictures to illustrate this.

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The Loxia Planar 2/50 is a very fine lens. It produces almost no barrel distortion (IMO the distortion is negligible), making it very useful for architectural shooting. And combined with the A7r, you get enough pixels to perform some “substitutional tilt/shift” work in post production. I went to the beautiful Liege Guillemins train station (Belgium) to live it up.

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Considerations

I guess you wonder if this Loxia has been a windfall to me for 100%. Well, no. In a few domains I had hoped for something slightly different.

First of all size and weight. This Loxia Planar is really a category larger than the ZM Planar (adapter included) and it simply weighs more (some 75gr – I use the Novoflex adpater for the ZM). I feel like it puts the lens/camera combination really in the next category, regarding size and weight, the more when carrying a few lenses in your bag (I will need a larger bag!). It feels like regarding size and weight it’s more to be compared now with the Leica M as a system, where in the past there was a real gain in this department for the Sony. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty comparable with my old Canon A1 with (latest generation) FD lenses. Strange how our perception changes, since at that time the A1/FD was regarded as a full size system. Although this Sony/Zeiss combination is still working fine for me, I’d say: this is the limit, guys – don’t make it grow any further!

Compared to the NEX bodies, like my NEX-7, this combination (A7x/Loxia) allows a bit less stealth shooting, particularly when the lens shade is mounted (although I believe stealth shooting is mainly a photographer’s attitude, as long you don’t use a large DSLR). Seen from a distance, the shade gives this lens the look of a medium zoom lens. When you really want to perform discrete shooting, you need to take away the shade, bringing the size “back to normal”. This is a massive lens shade, that does a great job in its own, but it’s large. For transportation, its size doesn’t pose a problem though, since you can mount it the other way round on the lens, so that it doesn’t take extra space in your bag, because it’s no longer sticking out. So all in all it’s a great working shade, that you only need to remove when you want to shoot discretely.

But every downside has its upside. I have to admit that the extra mass ads to the shooting control. In one of his articles, Steve mentioned that he felt like the size and weight of the M-system offered the ideal combination of compactness/weight and handyness and I wonder if I don’t need to share his opinion here, now that I feel the A7x/Loxia combination is playing in the same league…
The lens is bigger than the ZM, this mainly means thicker. Less stealth (a bit) and more weight on the downside, but more feeling from the focus ring at the upside. With its large (but not too large) swivel range, it allows very precise focusing. The smoothness/resistance is absolutely perfect for “one finger operation”.
The larger diameter of the barrel also makes for a bigger lens cap – less “wobbly” than the ZM caps. And as far as I heard, Zeiss has the plan to provide all Loxias with the same diameter, which would economize on the filter budget. I hope this doesn’t result in a limited lens offer, because then I’d prefer buying a few extra filters! I wonder though if this diameter will allow for a super fast 85mm. I guess and hope they’ll come at least with an f/2 which I reckon must be possible with this diameter – but wouldn’t an f/1.4 in time be nice!…

To conclude about size and weight, I initially had hoped for a lighter, more compact Loxia. But I guess, when able to choose between the two, eventually I’d probably agree with Zeiss’ choice, since it handles better. I think they had the perfect “manual focusing machine for out of hand shooting” in mind, and I have to agree that they both (Zeiss as well as Sony) have come pretty close. Furthermore, the Loxia sure looks absolutely beautiful on the Sony body.

The build quality is very good. The barrel is all metal, which gives confidence. Both the rings feel like they’ve been engineered with the finest precision. Their operation is super smooth with the perfect resistance to give you the right feedback about what you’re doing. The finish, with both rings being perfectly integrated in the barrel surface of the lens, is perfect. The look and feel is wonderful. With one consideration.

What initially disappointed me, was the design of the aperture ring. It’s placed close to the body, where on the ZM you’ll find it at the end of the lens. The placement is a matter of habit, of course, so no comments here. But because of the aperture ring being perfectly integrated in the surface of the lens barrel, I had it more difficult to feel it and thus to find it anyway. It took me a while to find my way here, missing it quite often at first. After a while however, I started using just my thumb (no second finger) at the underside of the lens to turn it. It’s really easy to find the aperture ring in this way, because the body is your guide. Both the aperture and focus rings have small knurls that provide excellent grip and both have a wonderfully smooth action, that make it easy to operate them with one finger. With my thumb on the aperture ring under the lens and my middle finger on the focus ring on top of the lens, I find it very easy and adequate to set both rings at quasi the same time, making the setting of focus and dof easier and faster then ever. Zeiss needed to place the aperture ring close to the body, to make this happen. In this position, my index finger is supporting the body in a quasi symmetric position to the right hand, which provides and equal pressure on both sides of the body, when relaxing both arms, and as such creates a perfect balans, that enables shooting out of hand with exceptionally long shutter speeds as well as allowing very fast setting and shooting. I have been shooting out of hand up till 1/15sec (the night shot with the Coca-Cola umbrellas), without really paying special attention (well, in fact, I always kind of pay special attention when pushing the button) and when looking at 100% (visible at my flickr page) you’ll see that even the fishnets are sharp.

I have been wondering if Zeiss had this way of shooting in mind when designing the lens, because it’s exactly this design that directed me to this way of handling, opening up the most effective way of shooting with manual focusing lenses that I experienced up till now. I wouldn’t be surprised of it, since Zeiss is primarly a specialist of manual lenses and Loxia is developed for mirrorless, which, due to it’s compact size, is the most handy option for manual shooting. Still, up till now, this new way of holding and setting has not yet become an automatism to me. I need to initially concentrate on the way I hold and handle camera and lens. But when I do, it’s really working excellent and faster than with any other lens I know. I’m sure, eventually, I’ll get used to it and it wìll become an automatism. But I also fear that quite some people, who are less keen on experimenting with different ways of handling, will find this recessed aperture ring to be less convenient in action than the one on the ZMs. Too bad, since it really can help you to perform better than ever.

To finish this of, a word about the price. Looking online at the Zeiss lens shop, this Loxia costs 849.00€, which is 100.00€ more expensive than the ZM. Regarding the extra functions, I’d say it’s more than worthwhile. And when you buy the ZM plus a good adapter, you’ll be spending even more money. (The Voigtländer adapter, with close focus ability, even costs a good 300€!)

*pre-order the Zeiss Loxia lenses HERE*

Conclusion

Well, I hope I elucidated the pro’s as well as the con’s of this new Loxia, as far as I could pinpoint them, that is. All in all, to me, it’s the pro’s that prevail. Largely. It asked for a period of adjustment, regarding the handling of the aperture ring, but once I did it right, it allowed for the greatest manual shooting experience that I ever had.

Regarding IQ, this Loxia offers exceptional value for money, it sometimes it even makes me think of my Otus 55, regarding IQ, not regardin budget :-), without the size and weight and without giving in that much on IQ as the price difference suggests.

My “old” ZM Planar is a great all-around lens. The new Loxia Planar improves this concept on all domains where improvements were possible. For all those manual shooting enthusiasts: IMO Loxia is absolutely the way to go with mirrorless bodies – Sony today, other brands to come really soon, for sure.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures that I added, many of them were specially shot for this user report. I also placed them in a dedicated folder on my flickr page, where you can look at some of them in full resolution, to even better illustrate the IQ in all detail and where you can check full exif data of all pictures. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157649262134498/)

All shots were taken out of hand, with the exception of the “European Money” and “White Orchid” pictures (tripod) and “Liege by Night (holding the camera against a tree). Of course shooting out of hand renders a bit less detail than when using a tripod. But I just love shooting out of hand, since this gives me more possibility to react to a moment’s. Some of the shots weren’t even possible to take with tripod, like the ones of the ceiling and tracks on the train station that I shot from a moving escalator.

Two pictures (Seagulls and Splashing Boat) actually were pretty heavy crops, to illustrate the A7r’s cropping power.

I leave you with a few extra shots now, taken at the beautiful Liege train station. Thanks for reading, guys! And I specially thank Steve and Brandon for their fabulous work on this site!

Dirk De Paepe

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Dec 102014
 

Color Explosion Zeiss Planar 50mm (ZE mount)

By Massimiliano Bruschi

I’m Massimiliano from Italy It’s the third time I send you some pictures.

This time I would like to share with you and your readers (a group of inspiring people with a lot of talent and a marvelous view of the world) three pictures taken with my 6D and the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 (ZE Mount)

This lens is not perfect, but it has the character that make you open your eyes every time you watch to the pictures taken with it, no matter if in color or in B&W

I love so much the colors rendition of this lens, combined with the custom picture style that I have developed for my 6D.

Here the pictures ( OOC JPEGS exported with Aperture to fit 1024px width/height), I hope you all enjoy them.

Ciao dall’Italia!!!

My Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/macibruschi/
My 500px page: https://500px.com/MassimilianoBruschi
My blog: http://www.ilparaluce.com

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Dec 092014
 

An exotic modern classic, the Rolleiflex FX-N

By Brett Price

Hello Steve/Brandon,

Its been a while since I’ve submitted anything for your site, I thought it was long overdue. I recently purchased what I believe to be my dream medium format camera, a Rolleiflex FX-N and I thought I would share some photos and experiences with it since owning it for the month or so I’ve had it.

Rolleiflex FX-N

Before owning this camera my primary medium format camera was a Hasselblad 501cm which I loved but often felt as though it was the wrong type of camera for my style of shooting. It’s an excellent system, but focusing can be slow and if you use a prism of any kind it becomes rather large and cumbersome. I had a kit with a few lenses, a few backs, a waist level finder and a prism but often felt like I really only shot it with the 80mm and carried one back 99% of the time. I also rather hate the need for extension tubes to get closer than 1m which can feel somewhat limiting for someone who primarily takes portraits.

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The FX-N is my perfect medium format camera because it solved most of my issues with shooting with the Hasselblad in one camera that didn’t have any negatives to me. It’s extremely small, not really needed more space than a Leica with a lens when put in a bag. It has a fast 80mm f2.8 lens, perfect for portraits. It’s quick to focus, moving from min focus to infinity is extremely easy and fast, the Hasselblad often would take 2-3 full slow turns to do that. It uses a leaf shutter, something I’ve grown accustomed to and is nice when working with flash or low shutter speed, It’s insanely quiet, almost inaudible and has no mirror slap so it can be handheld at low speeds easily. It has a built in meter, something the Hasselblad required an electronic prism for. But the main reason I sprang for it was its close focus ability, allowing me to get up to 55cm away from a subject without the need for an extension tube or magnifying filter. I hate carrying these things around, and I often feel like the sweet spot for portraits was just under the 1 meter that most cameras allow.

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So now this camera comes with me everywhere I go, easily. It doesn’t sacrifice anything I find to be important in a system and will shoot the way I want it for 99 percent of anything I typically throw at it and I’ve been hugely enjoying it thus far.

I actually thought twice about writing this short review for a camera that most people would never buy. Dropping the amount that this camera cost is not something that anyone would take lightly but when I considered the long-term usage over the course of a lifetime and the problems it has solved for me in finding an all round system that I like, it seemed like a reasonable amount. I also loved the ability to support one of the last companies still producing film cameras. I sold a bunch of gear to help pay for it, and part of it was a wedding gift from my now wife. It came in just in time for my recent wedding, which was the first day I used it for. It’ll always have a place in documenting our lives together.

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I think one of the things our generation forgets is that a camera used to last you a lifetime. It used to be something you would pass along through generations. I’m not knocking on digital cameras but that is certainly one quality I miss in modern cameras that digital will probably never be able to offer us again. I hope you like the photos I’ve shot with it thus far.

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I have more posted on my tumblr here:
brettprice.tumblr.com

Or on instagram here:
@brettwayneprice

I try to post at least a photo a day to those places if you’d like to see more.

Cheers,
Brett

Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM (Leica mount) Lens Review

by Cemal Sagnak

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Many People belief, a Leica Camera needs native Leica lenses, although there are Alternatives by other German Companies like Carl Zeiss with a long optical history in making lenses and Rangefinder cameras. As a passionate Leica Photographer, I always search and look for high quality alternative lenses for my Leica M Typ 240.

One of my favorite lenses is the Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM, a versatile documentary and Photojournalist lens with outstanding optical performance and my standard Lens on the M.

I was very tempted to read the announcement during the last Photokina in September about a new fast 35mm f/1.4 hoping this can match with my Biogon 35/2 in optical performance but with a fast f1.4 aperture.
I could not be happier when last week my Demo Lens arrived.

My initial impression was extremely good, although the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is larger (lengths 87,3 49mm Filter, 381gr) vs. the Biogon T* 2/35 ZM (lengths 68mm, Filter size 43mm, 240gr) the finder blockage is still moderate. You get immediately a feel of the build quality, all metal finish, robust and made for the next generation, something I definitely expected from a Carl Zeiss Lens.

The Distagon is build with 10 Elements in 7 groups with and the10 blades can be set in 1/3 steps giving you a good haptic feedback, you can feel comfortably each click on the aperture wheel. The focus wheel is on the right spot, perfectly accessible and smooth in handling, Rotating is not to tight and not to loose, which is important for a fast lens shooting at f/1.4 to achieve precise results.

The lens is equipped with the T* anti-reflective coating to control flare we will see later how good it performs using the Distagon against strong sunlight. The Distagon is made to be used under low light condition or for a clear separation of the subject from the background, don’t be surprised to see many pictures shot at f/1.4.

The Data sheet is promising; with a relative distortion of less than -1% the Distagon beats the Summilux –M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH on paper. Lets see how it performs.

Non-Leica Users need to know that sharpness of a rangefinder lens is relative and depending on the skills and eyesight of the User behind the Finder.

Before I took the Lens out, I did some shots at home on a tripod to see if there is a focus shift or misalignment. One shot through the RF and one with the LCD of the M and no surprise, all was good, as you can see in the crop of the image taken through the RF.

BTW, I tried the EVF of the M240 but I come to the conclusion that I am better and faster with the optical RF and composing is much easier. I turn on the LCD just when I use a 21mm lens to control the frame. I maybe would use the EVF if someone puts me a Noctilux under the Xmas tree and for sure with Leica – R lenses. But coming back to the Distagon…

My first session was taken in my new hometown Cologne, known as the capital of German Photography and this is not because of the Photokina only.  Pictures are DNG files converted into jpg in LR 5.7 I took some random street shots including the Xmas market to get warmed up with the character of the lens.

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The Bicycle shot shows rich and contrasts colors with a nice background blur and a great sharpness on the flowers. I tried similar with people, I am glad my daughters share my passion so they are always great models to try new Gear.
My second opportunity using the Distagon was a fashion shooting with the lovely Dana, who is running a fashion blog and needs regular shots of her in the seasons dress-up.

A 35mm lens is not the first choice for Portraits and People. Still the results were highly satisfying, color and focus are as well. Flare is not always welcome but in this case I used it as an element. Unfortunately Zeiss did not deliver a Lens Hood with this demo unit. I recommend purchasing a hood with the Lens.

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Beside some lens flare, I identified chromatic aberration, which appears when shooting wide open. Nowadays nothing software cant fix and also visible in some of my Summilux pictures. The third part of my Test was the low light capability of the lens, using it in some urban lightning and using it for what it was made for, wide open in low light, I travel much, so taking a tripod with me is a hassle and 100% of my shots outside are handheld. Maybe this is the case for many Leica Users.

This leads me to the Part 3 of my test…. Paris! A perfect Place using a Leica Camera and going for a photo walk along the river Seine and visiting places where Grandmasters of Photography took many iconic pictures. The Zeiss Distagon performs well wide open and paired with the great ISO abilities and Dynamic range of the M240, you will be able to get extraordinary results shooting this combo in the dark.

Here one Bokehlicious shot from a brigde in Paris.

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After all, I am pretty impressed by this new lens. I have owned the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH (pre-FLE) and use currently the Biogon 35/2 which are the natural competitors. Before I come to my personal conclusion here is a price overview (Prices in Euro )

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH – 4200 Euros
CZ Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM – 2000 Euros
CZ Biogon T* 2/35 ZM – 1050 Euros

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Now my question before I started this lens test: is it worth to pay almost double the price compared to the Biogon 35/2 for one f stop faster? For me it is, not that everybody needs an f1.4 lens but if you like shooting fast lenses, this is the lens, which delivers the image quality sharpness and details starting from f1.4.

Please find below the comparison shot at f2.0 between the Distagon and the Biogon. The Distagon is clearly sharper, I plan some more shots for a detailed comparison. Is the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM capable to compete with one of the best available lenses the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH FL?

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35 Distagon 1.4 at f/2

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Based on my experience with the Summilux , the Distagon is definitely worth to consider and not only because its half the price. Sharpness is on par between both lenses. I would like to do a lens comparison but I assume difference is very small and can be better measured in a LAB test rather then comparing pixel.

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The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is announced to be ship at the end of 2014.

You can order the lens HERE at B&H Photo.

Cemal Sagnak

https://cemalsagnak.wordpress.com

Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2 on the streets of NYC 

By Tomer Vaknin

Dear Steve,

First let me say how much respect I have for you and the other members of your website, I have learned a lot by exploring the wonderful photos you all shared, equipment reviews and inputs. I would like to share my own personal experience with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lens.

As a proud and very happy owner of the Sony Zeiss 55mm, I was hesitant to purchase the Loxia. However, after reading your positive impression of the lens in Photonika 2014 and as a huge fan of M mount lenses that I am, I simply had to try the Loxia.

Here are some photos I took with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* in Amsterdam streets, Marken village and Rennstrecke Zandvoort, during a holiday I took with my wife in the Netherlands. I hope these photos, along with my personal impression of the lens, will help some of undecided readers in making the right decision for themselves.

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My personal take on the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*:

- Great 3D feel (Check the box shot that was -take on a bed)

- Wonderful Bokeh

- Lovely Creamy look

- Great character

- Great colors and contrast

- Very sharp!

Overall, The 3D look, the creamy bokeh and feel + the very nice tone and color makes it a winner. The shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* looks like they were taken with the Leica lens.

Altough the Sony Zeiss 55mm is an amazing lens and you can’t go wrong with it, I personally prefer the Loxia.

www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

Dec 082014
 

Tourists Everywhere? Include them in your pictures!

By Pierre Aden

So finally you’re going to Rome (or some other beautiful Italian city) and you are excited to see all these historic monuments, pure history – only for you and your camera! You are going to Vatican city, the Colosseum, the Pantheon to take lots of amazing pictures of these places like no one did before and you see… people, every place is so crowded that you’re hardly able to see the sights at all! Gone is the vision of your perfect photo of the empty St. Peter’s Basilica in HDR.

Let’s face it: All these places have been photographed thousands, if not a million times before. Chances that you will make the perfect architecture picture in these places and being on the cover page of National Geographic are as low as Schwarzenegger becoming the next US president (or even lower). Tourists are everywhere, 12.6 million visitors have been counted in 2013 in Rome.

So why not have some fun and include these tourists in your pictures? This is what I thought when visiting Rome in September and Sicily in October, facing these conditions. Suddenly I thought it would be more interesting to make pictures of the people surrounding me and include them in the pictures of the sights, making the people from all over the world the real attractions.

Here are some examples of my 5 day trip to Rome, all taken with the Olympus E-M1 or the Olympus E-P5 and different lenses. I had a great time and people running into my pictures was not annoying but actually wanted.

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If you have comments, suggestions or simply would like to get in touch with me I will be more than happy if you contact me via the following channels:

Pictures

www.ultraweit-verwinkelt.net

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/ultraweitverwinkelt

Google+

https://plus.google.com/110027262868810382651/posts

Thanks for your attention!

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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