Oct 222014
 

Why do we take pictures?

By Arend-Jan Westerhuis – See the website HERE

It’s a vexed question for sure, especially in the psychological sense. But I’m not going to do the full research here.

In the article, which my brother wrote a while back, he introduced us as wedding photographers. And in that proession we have seen a lot of other people take pictures. Some of them really go out on a limb to get their content and by doing so they are sometimes interfering with us or the proceedings of the day. My brothers and I tend not to mind these other photographers as much as some of our colleagues do. Sometimes we call their bluff by jumping in front of them, after they did it to us. Which on occasion is the start of a cold war of ‘who gets the closest.’

So why do they do it? Taking that pictures I mean. For instance; what is driving that uncle to bring his fancy DSLR and that monstrosity of a flashgun to the wedding? Whatever it is he may be doing, he isn’t going to create something beautiful, or document any precious moment in a subtle manner. He is at most having the idea of adding value to the day whilst maybe entertaining the concept of honing a skill. Another archetype we seem to encounter is the girlfriend-of-the-bride unholstering her iphone during her jump in front of us forcing me to recompose the shot . I like to think it is part of their coping process; to stretch out the emotions of the moment by being able to summon them again at will until they are without substance. Possibly hoping to care more on a later moment.

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I did not intend for this article to be a vent, although it certainly seems to start off that way. On the one hand I can congratulate them with their enthusiasm for photography. But on the other I just keep wondering; Why do they even invest the effort? Why don’t they just enjoy that moment where your friends are in the spotlight. I am there as a photographer which is a role I hope to fullfill to their satisfaction. So what is the urge to take pictures without being asked to? Who are they taking those pictures for? And in realising that question I ask myself: Why does anyone take pictures without being paid to do so? I hope that by reflecting on ourselves and others everyone reading this article may find out for themselves what their drive to take pictures is.

Since the dawn of the digital camera it seems everybody deems themselves an artist. Or at least the access to means to be taking pictures has skyrocketed. I see a lot of people with entry-level DSLR’s paired with power zooms who are trying to be creative. On a wedding day they might be thinking they see some things which I might not. Which will probably turn out to be true. The urge to be creative is good in and of itself! I’d say that it is import to try to develop some new skills every once in a while. Possibly a sport or dancing or whatever. But in this case I’d say you pay to high a price. You miss more than you gain. As it seems that at all important life events are witnessed through the lens of a camera. Maybe it would be better to practise on something else?

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In the past there has been a discussion about whether photography could even be art. Some said that is because in essence the camera copies. It doesn’t create because it transcribes. And its product is a resemblance of something that was. Some people reading will probably feel the strong urge to oppose these statements and while I do not wish to deny photography its artistic possibilities I do think a good study of what these people are stating actually helps to think about what makes photography unique to other media. For instance I think that in this copying power lies the true greatness of photography. It enables the photographer to point out something small or big that really happened. Which makes it different from for instance painting where everything is an interpretation. The camera is a witness to things; the things we point it at. Which may be a tear, an emotion, a murder or a kiss. It can be a play of lines, repetition. A photo can be suggestive or revealing. It is the skill of a photographer to see, expect, put together by framing and capture those things. And everyone notices different things!

But is that power of photography still a cherished quality today? Everyone has a camera, so when every picture you see is of something extraordinary, no picture is anymore. Sure, if images of special moments become common it create the urge for something extra. It seems people turn away from wanting to capture extraordinary and move towards the forcing emotions in viewing and the estrangement of the visible world. Some would call it art or a move towards art, but I’m worried photography is blurring with painting, where the first emotion of a photo is no longer: ‘wow, that really happened!’

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Not all is lost yet though. But where we now stand and depending on what group of photographers you are tuned into it seems everything is about filters, lenses and photoshop. VSCO and instagram are solutions available for the amateurs and upwards. The ability to create atmosphere where there was none. Nostalgia has been turned into a forced emotion which can applied to pictures taken just minutes ago. Even Lightroom in the right(wrong) hands can turn a rainy day into a Spanish sunset. On the other end is the use of ultra-high speed lenses which are the solution for the connoisseur. Isolation power seems to be the new standard for those with exquisite taste in glass. The recipe only involves the following ingredients: a subject, a background and high-speed glass. The first step is to place your object anywhere but in the middle, leaving the rest of your frame to be turned into sweet swirly bokeh! Even some good photographers resort to this type of image making once they acquire those expensive high speed lenses. But consider this: if a pictures wouldn’t be a good one at F5.6, it’s also crap at F0.95. Most of us (me too, I admit) drool over the bokeh because everything hard to obtain is something to lust after. It does not, or in any case I think it should not, make the picture substantially better.

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One famous photographer at old age was pointed to the fact that his hands were not as steady anymore. He replied that “sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. I’d say that depth of field has joined sharpness as something to brag with. Sometimes F0.95 might be needed to create sufficient isolation to force attention towards a subject, but most of the time there are other option available as well. In these pictures the isolation is abundant and therefore redundant. This still entails however that I have a timeline on Flickr and Facebook full of pictures which seems to be stuff found on casual Sunday strolls like leaves, flowers and other nonsense. In these types of pictures it’s clearly used to show off lenses, bokeh, filters and such. More important than the actual flower is the size of the bokehballs behind. If you cannot invest the time to find some interesting subjects, maybe you couldn’t afford the gear after all?

One of the better reasons for taking pictures which I frequently hear is that photographs serve well as memories. It is the department me and my brothers are in. ‘The business of memory making’ or maybe just giving people the means that help savour their special moments. And yes, if my house was burning down I too would try to save my hard-drive for the pictures. Pictures as documents of history can be very valuable. But if you yourself and the family are the targeted audience, isn’t it better to make memories before trying to savour them? And by only recognising social highlights as picture worthy, aren’t we cutting short on life itself? The mundane and the average? If the ‘extraordinary’ of what you are taking pictures of is usually a social highlight within your group of friends you might want to consider leaving your camera home more often.

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But what is picture worthy then? Is it up to you? Or maybe up to the viewer? Some people have good eyes for landscapes or architecture and others more for people. Some recognise moments that should be shared, which is the journalistic approach and sometimes, it is the beauty of something or someone. For me personally a good photo is a well-timed and well executed picture of something that occurred. The type of occurrence that make that you cannot go back and redo the image, because whatever it was is gone by then. As long as I have that moment, a lack of sharpness or bokeh is not necessarily problematic, because the moment and what is happening is the central piece. In photography, I would argue, you should put your own needs aside. A photographer should not be bragging through his pictures with his gear, his friends, money or anything else. In editing it should not be about forcing an atmosphere where there was none, let alone faking or manipulating authenticity. I like to think that photography is about letting others see whatever it is you have seen and want them to see. Something real and something that you think might be of value to them. This forces you to become an entertainer and therefore the other has become the audience. Everybody sees a lot of stuff every day and chooses to ignore most of it. So seeing a picture is the author telling you it shows something worth watching. There is a great vulnerability in showing the things you think are special. And in that sense photography is a very serving and humble profession.

So maybe think about it; why are you taking pictures? What message are you conveying through your images?

Kind regards,

Arend-Jan Westerhuis

Links: http://www.westerhuisenwesterhuis.nl

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WesterhuisWesterhuis

Oct 222014
 

Loving my Olympus E-M1

By Richard Craze

Hi Steve.

I’ve been following your site for just over a year now. Every week I take a look and get a lot of enjoyment from it. So I thought I’d submit three of my pictures to your Inspiration section.

All the images were taken using the Olympus EM1.

I’ve been taking pictures since the age of thirteen, I’m now sixty seven! It all stared when my uncle gave me a box Browne for my thirteenth birthday, plus two rolls of film. I went though the two rolls of film on the day of my birthday, I then had to save my pocket-money up to pay for the developing. I finally got to see my pictures about six weeks later, by that time I was hooked! Over the years I’ve had quite a few different cameras, mostly 35mm, plus a few medium format. The first really good camera I got my hands was a Leica IIIf. This camera was a nightmare lode, you had to take the base off, take out the empty spool, slip the end of the new film (which had to be pre cut) into the empty spool, then you had to carefully thread the film down between the back plate and the shutter box! In the end I could lode a new film in under thirty seconds. I can’t remember which lens it was, but I think it was a f3.5 lens that collapse into the body of the camera. Mind you the images where amazing even then (1963). I got to use this camera while doing a summer job. One of my jobs was taking pictures of the kids playing on the beach. I’d take they’re picture, gave the parents a ticket telling them where they could see the picture later that day. Can you imagine doing that kind of thing today!

“The amber nectar”, this image was taken in our the hotel bar on the Greek island of Kefalonia. The wife was getting a tan while I looked around the hotel. I used the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens at f1.8 for this shot (I love this lens!). I converted it to black & white in Silver Effects.

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“Twenty five Garbo chairs”, was taken in Swansea (South Wales) at the local harbour using the Olympus 12 to 40mm f2.8 lens at 1/40 at f/10. This to was converted in Silver Effects

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“You cant take pictures here mate”, This was taken out side a shopping centre not far from where I live (Porthcawl, South Wales, UK), when this guy came up to me and said I was not aloud to take pictures of the building! I asked him who he was, he said he was a cleaner. I informed him that in the UK you can take pictures of any building as long as you do it from a public place. I suggested that we call into the place station which was just across the road from the shopping centre to sort it out. He muttered a few expletives and left me to it!

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I was using the Sanyang 7.5mm fish eye lens at the time. I’d just paid the princely sum of thirty five pounds from e bay! With this lens you can just set the f-stop to f/5.6 or f/8 and forget all about focusing! The image quality is surprisingly good. Not the kind of lens you use every day but good to know you have it in your bag.

As you can see I don’t have a favourite subject, I just take pictures that please me, which is what photography is all about.

Hope you like my images.

More at this link: http://www.digitalrev.com/r.craze

Richard Craze

Oct 212014
 

Everything goes in photography. Everything?

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

Four years ago I started taking abstract shots with my Olympus PEN. It was extreme fun. It taught me to look much harder. I aim for strong and simple compositions. I think there is no purer form of photography.

This is a Murano glass vase, which is on my desk. One day the light was nice and I grabbed my camera and started discovering it.

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I think it has the look of a Ferrari or such.

I discovered reflections in water. With some cranking up of contrast the images can be real nice:

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I often shot reflections in rapid succession. Then, one time, I had put two shots next to one another in my portfolio album and I discovered mosaics.  I gave them the name “asymmetriads” if they were composed out of four different shots, and “symmetriads” if they were made out of the same shot. These names came out of the science-fiction book “Solaris” by Stanislaw Lem. Often it takes me a long time before I realize potential in a shot.

This is an asymmetriad. It’s composed of four different shots and is not symmetrical on the small scale. It’s a reflection of a boat in water with the setting sun behind.

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This is a symmetriad. It’s a cast iron sewer lid in San Francisco someone wrote on with chalk.

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Then, in some shots I could generate faces. This is extremely rare, so far I only have four of them and sometimes it takes more than a year before I see the potential. I make the faces clearer by burning and dodging.

This is my alien, it’s a cat’s tail plant shot at the Golden Gate bridge. This shot took me two years before I suddenly thought of it, in bed. I got up middle of the night and made it.

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This I call trinity. It’s a statue of Verdi in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Strangely this was the first time I ever shot a statue. Seeing it coming together was truly amazing.

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This is alien II. It’s a piece of plastic garbage foil I found in the forest which I thought had potential. Imagine my surprise when this alien turned up.

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And this is my Sauron. It’s a close up shot of the splinter of a broken tree.

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Now, you may think what you want of these, whether they’re fun, art, irritating, junk, etc. That’s personal. But I like them a lot, and I have such fun making them! Are they photography? I don’t know, but they originated as photo’s, and playing very hard made them come together.

Dirk.

Oct 202014
 

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Portraits from the Pub with an Olympus E-M5

By René van Wijck

Hello!

After many years of making photographs I got a little bored by it and I lost my inspiration.

Two years ago I bought myself the Olympus OMD-EM5. This little machine changed my life! It was and is such a pleasure to work with that I have it all the time, wherever I am with me.

I work as a bartender downtown Rotterdam in Holland and started to make pictures of my guests. They all come alone to the pub, and most of the time leave alone.

I gave myself a few rules: no color,no flash,no drinks in the pictures. Most of them I shot with the 45 mm 1.8. I’ll hope you like the results!

You can see more of it on flickr.com/photos/renevanwijck

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Oct 172014
 

Faces of the World Cup

By Caesar Lima – His website is HERE

Every 4 years the World Cup hosts 32 countries and an amazing soccer tournament in a different country. Since it was hosted in Brazil this time and being from Brazil and a photographer, I couldn’t resist making my 6 week trip down there into a project of capturing some of the excitement of this unique event. I decided to take mirrorless cameras because of their smaller size. I took a Sony RX-1, a Leica T with a 23mm and 5 M lenses plus a Sony A7r with 50mm and the new 70-200mm. I was able to take all this gear into the stadiums with no problem.

The games were held in different cities and I also ventured out into the streets and bars to capture the faces of the fans. There were amazing crowds of people from different countries, like a huge party. The Brazilian people are amazing hosts and they love to party. They were very proud to have all these visitors, the combination of great soccer games, 12 brand new stadiums, great food and lots of beer made it the best World Cup ever.

I feel very lucky to have been there and to have been part of such cool event.

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Oct 172014
 

In Praise of Micro 4/3 and a Visit to Monet’s Garden

By Richard Gilsig

Hi Steve. I stumbled onto your site, about a year ago and it was your reviews that led me to choose M4/3 as my small travel system. Thank you very much. Love your Site. Please keep up the great work. About me: Photography has been an on-again, off-again hobby for about 50 years. Without doubt, going digital has been revitalizing. I’m hooked on simple post-processing with iPhoto (minor tweaks but lots of cropping).

As for my shooting experience, I love the convenience of zooms and not missing shots/fumbling with changing lenses (and I fumble a lot). Yet looking back on my photography, my favourite images are almost always from primes. And so began my search for where the smallest possible interchangeable body/lense meets the largest possible sensor. Steve’s high praise of M4/3 glass pointed me in the right direction.

I bucked up for the GM1 with kit 12-32mm and Olympus 45mm f1.8. I’m impressed with I.Q., pleased with the stealth that small size facilitates, and most of all, thrilled that my wife is more tolerant of my new tiny travel rig which does take less of my attention and energy than toting either APS or Full Frame.

I’ve always been a fan of Monet. His ability to capture how colour and reflections change with changing light is ian inspiration to many of us. This past June, I had the opportunity to visit Givernay and Monet’s Garden. These are my favourites from that sunny day late in June.

 

Path to Lily Pond, Lumix 12-32 at 16mm, f8, 1/800sec, iso 200

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1 wing frozen. Olympus 45mm, f1.8. 1/2000sec, iso 200

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Centre Crop (1/3 of original image), Olympus 45mm, f1.8, 1/10,000sec, iso 125

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Bridge, Olympus 45mm, f5, 1/320sec, iso125

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Left Crop (1/3 of original image), f5, 1/400sec, iso 125

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Rowboat, f5.6, 1/100sec, iso 1250

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Oct 152014
 

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival on the Nikon D810

By Mark Seymour

There’s an affinity between the storytelling style of documentary photography and the founding principle at the heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; which is to be an open-access arts event that accommodates anyone with a story to tell. The freedom with which I shoot my street photography reflects the freedom the EFFS allows the performers to shape the program through their own creative visions of performance. The Edinburgh festival is the largest arts festival in the world, held annually for three weeks in the Scottish capital bringing global performers and visitors together for an experience you need to try at least once in your lifetime!

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I was honoured to be invited by Calum Thomson, director of Loxley, to take a glimpse of the festival and record it through my street photography with a view to holding an exclusive street photography training course next year. After an early start, flying from Heathrow by Virgin Airlines, I dropped my stuff at the Jury’s Inn located just off the famous Royal Mile in the Old Town, and began my Fringe Experience.
On the second day I was joined by Alistair Jolly from Smugmug where we enjoyed photographing the festival together both in our individual styles.

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I shot all my images using S RAW on the new Nikon D810, then converted them using Alien Skin Software. For me street photography has to be black and white and focuses on the how people are engaging with different situations and experiences, and living their lives. So although there were an abundance of weird and wonderful performers to photograph, what really captured my attention was the interaction between the performers and their audiences. The historic buildings of Edinburgh provide a wonderful backdrop to the myriad of cultures and bizarre that make up the artistic interpretations you find yourself confronted.

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http://www.markseymourphotography.co.uk/street-photography-edinburgh-fringe/

Oct 142014
 

Fuji GX 617 panoramic camera

by Dirk Dom

Hi, all!

I want to share some shots made with my Fuji GX617 panoramic camera.

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This monster, pictured here next to a Minox, yields 6 x 17 centimeter slides or negatives on 120 film, 4 images on a roll which you can blow up to insane dimensions. It all started in my photo club, where someone showed 1 meter big prints from Schotland. These landscapes were so incredibly detailed and rich they totally overwhelmed me, they hit me like lightning. They were taken with a Linhof 6×17 panoramic camera.

I wanted to do this, too, and started researching panoramic photography. The price of the 6×17 camera’s was so high, however, that I couldn’t possible buy one. The, in a local photo shop, this Fuji for sale. With a 90mm (90° image angle) and an 180mm (45° image angle) A search on the Net confirmed that this, with its interchangeable lenses and good viewfinder, was probably the best 6×17 camera. The price was good, too, 5,000 Euro’s! Impossible. Every time I drove by there, that camera sat there, just to annoy me. I had it taken out one more time, what a piece! In the end I couldn’t bear it anymore and I took out a bank loan.

In the photo club they had told me that finding compositions in the 1 by 3 aspect ratio was extremely difficult. I didn’t dare shoot the camera. After three months of hesitation I decided it was enough and I took it for a spin. All worked fine. That day the lid was off the pot, I shot all day, went to four locations. Then the moment of truth: got my slides back.I can tell you that absolutely nothing matches the impact of a sparkling 6×17 Velvia slide on the light table. The detail was insane. I can tell you I was hooked, then.

The 1×3 aspect ratio came very natural to me and soon I began to shoot worthwhile images. I ran into another limit: The images screamed for really big printing, at least two meters, and such a print, mounted, cost about 400 Euro’s. I got a few made, which were overwhelming, but when I tried to sell them, no one wanted them. First of all, the price (everyone buys posters at the IKEA for 6 Euro’s) and second, no one could hang such a monster print. I could hang one in my small home.

So, there I was, totally frustrated, with 60 mind-blowing images I couldn’t do anything with. Should I sell the camera? I decided on a moratorium of a year.

I found out after a year that I don’t need 2 meter big prints to enjoy the camera. Half meter images also show that there’s something different going on from your regular DSLR images. The detail and colors are much richer. So I started shooting the camera again. Technically, the camera is extremely basic: distance (no rangefinder), speed, opening, transport. It requires very strict discipline to shoot it. That make it a very enjoyable experience, because you’re in total control. The lenses are very, very sharp.

Well, enough talk, let’s see some images! All shots are from Antwerp, Belgium.

This is Antwerp, with the cruise ship Europa in front of it. I read in a local magazine it ‘d be in town for just one day and I went out to shoot it. The original slide is just not sharp enough to read the licence plates of the cars parked. Because the 2 minutes exposure you see no people. At 1PM the boat’s horn went off and a firework started. I had crossed a perimeter to do my shot, and a continuous rain of firework debris fell on me. I was afraid for my lens. I was too close to the firework to make decent images.

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That you make one image, complete, at exposure, is vastly advantageous to stitching in a DSLR. You can take action shots. One of my panorama’s is a flock of pigeons passing over at close distance.
This image I stood on the road, waited for a car coming to me, another coming from behind and exposed for 30 seconds.

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This is the image of the fireworks of the inauguration of the MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom, museum at the river) I was at the other bank of the river, used the 180mm; To my amazement I was the only one there, which makes this shot unique.

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I had set up, needing 2 minutes’ worth of exposure.

While exposing, a flash went off. A guy with a point and shoot. My exposure was ruined. I waited until he was gone and started over. Another flash. The guy had come back! Started over again, a third flash. The guy had come back again. I explained that he ruined my exposures and asked him to not to flash anymore. Without a word he turned away.

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The petrochemical industry downtown. On the slide, you clearly see a crane cable two kilometers away.

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The Antwerp cathedral. To make this shot, I went downtown five or six times to get the clear sky. Then I waited until the light was all balanced.

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This is a shot hyperfocally set. The cathedral tower could be a little sharper because of it, but still you see the cement bonding the stones together at the top.

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Bye,

Dirk.

Oct 132014
 

Unfortunately Awesome – Samsung Galaxy NX real world review

By Moritz Wellner

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After my recent switch from NX11 to NX20 I’ve now got the opportunity to test the Samsung Galaxy NX on loan, while my NX20 is in for repair. Big thanks to the Photohaus!

The Galaxy NX is Samsung’s first Android powered camera with interchangeable lenses. The other Galaxy cameras have fixed super zoom lenses and small sensors whereas the Samsung NX is an NX camera with an APS-C sized sensor combined with a Galaxy phone somewhere between Galaxy S3 and S4 spec wise. The camera part is taken from the NX300 featuring the same sensor with phase detect pixels and the same processor.
The camera was and still is an interesting experiment which had one major drawback on launch. It was hideously overpriced at 1499€. That price has come down to about 900€ now, which makes it a lot more interesting. Another amazing information about this camera is, that it is the first camera from Samsung where every single part is made in-house including the shutter mechanism. Samsung seems to become more and more self-confident with their camera division.

My first impressions with this camera have been the same as last year, when it came out. This is a big but extremely comfortable mirrorless camera! In fact after using it for a week now, I have to say that it is much less big than I thought. The body is much slimmer than my NX20 and the big grip ends on nearly the same height as the front element of one of Samsungs pancake lenses when mounted. That makes it a similarly pocketable brick. Jacket pockets are no problem and it even fits nicely into the pockets of a hoody sweater.

The comfortable exterior is made of polycarbonate but of the good and strong feeling kind. The tolerances on all moving parts are very tight and the body feels very dense. It is a sturdy camera even though it is sadly not weather sealed like the newer NX30.

Another contrast to the NX30, and also the NX20, is the absence of many direct buttons. In fact the Galaxy NX has not even one button on the back. It has a shutter button on the front of the grips top and a video record button right behind it. The rest of the right side of the top plate houses the clickwheel and the On/Off button. On the left of the viewfinder is a big and very comfortable dioptre adjustment wheel and the button for the flash release. This is a very uncluttered camera!

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Everything about the outside operation of the Galaxy just feels comfortable! Much more so than the NX20 actually. The buttons give a very positive feedback and the clickwheel sits comfortably in reach for one-handed use. It is nicely textured and needs just enough force to not be pressed by accident. The shutter button has a firm and well-defined pressure to it. The sound of the shutter underlines that feeling. It’s smooth and doesn’t sound as electrical. The viewfinder has the same specs as the NX20 but you have a much bigger area around. Where I can’t see the whole image with my glasses on the NX20 I have a full nice view on the Galaxy NX. Another change is the bigger dioptre wheel on the Galaxy NX which is both more substantial and tighter than on the NX20. I really like that as I constantly hit my dioptre adjustment on the NX20 out-of-place when the camera is just bouncing at my side.

The back of the camera is dominated be the huge 4.77” touch screen. It is covered by Gorilla glas which is pretty nice as it is less scratch prone than my other cameras. The touch screen reacts fast, smooth and precisely to my touches and ignores my palm 90% of the time. It is nice focusing with the screen. I sometimes miss the tilting screen of my NX20 but the pretty good viewing angles make up part of it. The screen shows rich colors and deep blacks, as you would expect from a Samsung AMOLED.
The camera app has its main control buttons mode dial, shutter release and video record on the right side. They are easily operated with the right thumb while holding the camera. If you choose a mode on the digital wheel, the app extends to a second digital wheel giving you the appropriate value to change. So I choose A and the extending ring show me my current aperture and lets me change it. Very sweet and easily done one-handed. On the left side of the screen are three function buttons with two of them being customizable with 7 different operations like custom white balance or AF Area. The third button is always giving AE Lock. Below the three buttons is a direct link into the gallery to review your images. Above the function buttons is a home button to go into Android and a popup menu to control flash, HDR and some other settings. To the right of this menu in the upper middle of the screen are controls for aperture, shutterspeed, exposure compensation and ISO. Those are operated with the click wheel. You choose a setting by clicking the wheel and then turning to your desired value. Easy and fast forward on the display or in the viewfinder. Nice and … comfortable!

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The menu system is one of the simplest and nicest I’ve seen in a camera to date. I haven’t found anything where it is falling short of the one in my NX20. It is much faster though and the touch screen makes it easy and smooth to change the settings compared to the four-way controller on the traditional NX20.

Hit the home button on the top left and the camera takes you to a standard Samsung Touchwiz covered Android. It works the same as any other Android phone. You can install Dropbox, Flickr, Googledrive and anything you want and start sharing your pictures. I even changed the launcher from Touchwiz to Noca launcher without any problem. The hardware in the Galaxy is fast enough to handle even RAWDroid with ease to directly rate and tag your raw files in camera, process them and post them directly to your tumblr feed.

Frankly I don’t know how much I would really use this aside from playing around at the moment. What I like about Android in the backround is that I was able to download Laps It pro and enhance my camera with a time lapse feature that would not be present normally.

Sadly it is still Android 4.2.2 and there seems to be no upgrade at the horizon. This is a missed chance as 4.4 is so much more battery and performance friendly that it could really be a way of improving the camera all around.
On a side note the huge 4300mAh battery powers your camera with ease and gets only drained fast when using the Android part excessively. When using the camera on its own it provides about 600 shots per charge. It takes about two hours to charge in the camera which is very usable. You can purchase a separate external charger combined with a second battery for about 60€.

GalaxyNX-7

Going back to the camera you get a very capable photographic tool. The operation is generally fast and painless. The hybrid autofocus works very nicely and delivers even some usefull tracking performance. In single AF it finds its target fast and secure and the continous series I did looked very promising. The manual focussing has lost the 10x magnification of the NX20 but gained focus peaking with three different intensities and three different colours. This was a smart move I think. 5x feels more than enough magnification considering the huge display and focus peaking makes manual focussing much faster than before.

Sadly the Galaxy NX is let down by the same issue that bothers every Samsung camera to date. The buffer performance is not up there with the shooting speed. The camera is able to shoot at a blazing 8.6 frames per second but it can only record 5-6 raw images that way. Please, Samsung, fix this issue!

Single shot to shot times are very nice and you won’t run into any big time waiting if you don’t use continous. The camera handles fast and every operation has direct feedback.
I have to say it again at this point, the shutter sound of the Galaxy NX is so much nicer than the NX20.

The image quality of the sensor is like the NX20. It has nice high ISO capabilities I use up to ISO 1600 without hesitation. ISO 3200 and 6400 work well with carefull post processing. The dynamic range of the sensor is a real strong point of the Samsung. I normally underexpose by 0.6 -1 EV and never had any hassle recovering the shadows without introducing a lot of noise. In fact the noise performance at base ISO is better than the old 14MP sensor even though there are 6 more megapixels cramped onto the sensor. I was worried that it would be worse after shooting with the E-M5 and getting more noise even at base ISO than my old NX11.

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The 20MP sensor delivers great detail and colors coupled with Samsungs high quality lenses. The 85mm f1.4 and the 12-24mm f4-5.6 really show what this sensor is capable of. I’am looking forward to the 16-50mm f2-2.8 on this!
The enclosed samples where all shot with original Samsung lenses although the performance with legacy lenses was very promising. All images were processed using Lightroom 5. I haven’t bothered uploading the out of camera jpegs as I never thought Samsung to be particularly good at those and it wouldn’t be real world to me shooting something else than raw!

Why did I write so much about operating and handling the camera and so little about the image quality? Well the image quality is really nice and nobody really argues on that big time. The real difference of the Galaxy NX compared to the rest of the mirrorless crowd and its NX brethren is how it is operated and how it feels. Samsung has come out with a pleasing mixture of slim body, substantial grip and high quality control layout.

I though it would be a nice experiment and I would happily go back to my NX20 without hesitation but the Galaxy NX is really Unfortunately Awesome!

Moritz Wellner

Oct 132014
 

My First time with Zeiss

by Toni Ahvenainen – His blog is HERE
About eight months ago I started my Sony Alpha related photography project called ‘ Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography‘. The aim of my project was to find my inspiration again for photography and gain better understanding of my own photographic eye. On top of that I decided to set up a photo blog, where I would share my images at least two images per week and hoped it would gain some interest plus convoy inspiration to other photographers like me. Right from the start I got lucky and my site had much more traffic than I ever believed would be possible. Because of this the project turned into something that has given me a lot of inspiration and energy, not only for photography, but for life in general. It is also partial reason why I am doing this story here today.

As I have already introduced my photography project here before and with greater length I won’t go anymore into details. You can find the earlier story about my project here.

Because of my photography project and the way it had drawn attention in social media circles, an unexpected opportunity came to me: Zeiss was willing to support my photography project and they would let me use two lenses from their Touit line up. If you haven’t yet become acquainted with the Touit line up before, it is the new family of Zeiss lenses which are targeted to mirrorless system cameras (Sony E-mount & Fuji X-mount). All the lenses have full autofocus capabilities and they represent a modern Zeiss design with black matte finish and more contemporary look – but most importantly they convoy the famous Zeiss optical quality for mirrorless system cameras.

So, at one Friday afternoon, after UPS delivery had brought me a parcel which I had opened with child-like enthusiasm, I had two Zeiss lenses in my hands that in real life would be very much out of my reach: Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. I had of course read about the famous Zeiss from countless photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. Like for many other photographers the most exciting lenses and their magical qualities were always something I could just see through a store display window. And while the Touit is not exactly an Otus (optically the most advanced DSLR lenses currently available, also build by Zeiss), for my photography it was a unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. For return favor I would need to tell story of my experience with the Zeiss lenses.

Like any true and committed photography enthusiast, I was very interested to see how these lenses would affect my photography. What will be my first impressions? How will they fit into my shooting habits? How I will be using these lenses? What kind of optical qualities will they have and will I be able to find the famous ‘Zeiss look’, described with terms like Zeiss contrast, punchy colors and 3D-pop? In short, what will be my first time experience with Zeiss?

I will be exploring these and other questions as well for 10 weeks in my photo blog. The Zeiss lenses will accompany me with a theme called ‘Season of Touit’. With this theme I will move away from the standard focal lengths that I’ve used thorough the year so far and concentrate doing ultra wide and close-up photography which are, regarding the perception of the depth, kind of extreme ends. If you are interested, you are most welcome to follow my story through this season. Later on I will do a more complete story about my findings right here at the Steve Huff’s website where it will surely find the most friendly and kind audience one could ever hope. (Thanks for the opportunity, Steve!)

To give you some insight right now, I can already say I’m very impressed by colors and contrast the Zeiss Touit lenses convoy. At the first day, right after I had opened the parcels, I did a short photo walk and immediately noticed that the images looked a bit different from my cameras lcd. Maybe more vibrant and subtle regarding the overall look. Am I imagine things, is this just the placebo effect, I thought to myself. Even at home, looking pictures from computer screen, I felt certain anxiety because the pictures looked different and better, but felt that I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference to myself. After using these lenses for about a month, I honestly feel they have trained my eyes for better understanding of how good optics will affect the contrast and colors.

I’ll show couple of examples here taken with Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. Everything you see here has been post processed with my own regular methods and with a help of VSCO film pack 4. While the pictures in this state doesn’t offer a neutral starting point, if there even exist one, for detailed analysis of Zeiss look, they however represent the great results I’ve been able achieve with these lenses – and which I think are extraordinary regarding color & contrast. In future article I might also present images that will be better suitable for detailed analysis, if I find meaningful ways to do it.

Thank for reading my story and if interested you can follow it at: www.yearofthealpha.com. Also remember that within five or six weeks I’m going to do a longer story which I’m going to share right here at the Steve Huff’s website.

Toni Ahvenainen


Snap from the street – Didn’t do much of post processing with this snap, but immediately thought that nothing from my camera has looked so good before regarding colors & contrast. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO100, f/6.3, 1/400sec, raw)

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The Great Divide – Touit 2.8/50M doubles as a macro lens and let’s one approach the wonders of the macro world. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO250, f/10, 1/80sec, raw)

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Simple landscape – I just love how easy it to get great clarity and contrast with these Zeiss lenses. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO100, f/4.5, 1/200, raw)

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Unusual church ceiling – Relatively fast wide-angle lens like Touit 2.8/12 offers certain freedom in dim lighted interiors like churches. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO400, f/2.8, 1/25sec, raw)

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From Steve: Thanks Toni! If anyone would like to submit a user report or guest article, just click here for details!

Oct 132014
 

Trying out the Leica M240…once again.

By Dan Bar

For a long time I did not like the new M 240. As I wrote once before,  I did not like the colors and I know I was not the only one. I thought the rear buttons where too close to each other . When i first used it a few months ago my fingers ( I have long slim fingers) kept pushing the wrong ones . Whenever i wanted to look at the pics i just shot, I found myself activating the LV button instead.

But than I read what steve said about the camera, and I spoke with Thorsten Overgaard who said he only uses the M, not even the Leica MM anymore. I certainly appreciate these two photographers so I decided to try the M again.

Now maybe Leica heard the color complaint and changed something about the sensor (From Steve: Nothing was changed with the sensor) as all of a sudden the colors seemed much better to me. They lost their red yellow look I did not like before.
The rear LCD is much better now, and the shutter sound seems quieter (From Steve: nothing was changed with the LCD or the Shutter since the M 240 was released) . I still think the rear buttons are too small and too close to each other but I sure like the camera now and its fantastic capabilities.

Here are a few samples all taken with the 35 Summilux ASPH.

Danny

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Oct 092014
 

The CicLaVia ride to East Los Angeles

By Huss Hardan

A group of us just participated in the CicLaVia event. “What is CicLaVia?” I hear someone ask..

www.http://www.ciclavia.org/.org

Their website says it better than I can:

CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free streets. CicLAvia engages with people to transform our relationship with our communities and with each other.

CicLAvia makes the streets safe for people to walk, skate, play and ride a bike. There are activities along the route. Shop owners and restaurants are encouraged to open their doors to people along the CicLAvia.

Ciclovías started in Bogotá, Colombia, over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Now they happen throughout Latin America and the United States.

Connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic. The health benefits are immense. Ciclovías bring families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space. In Los Angeles we need CicLAvia more than ever. Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options. CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun. We can’t wait to see you at CicLAvia!”

Got that?! In practice what this means is that a route is chosen (this October it was about 12 miles in length) in Los Angeles where the streets are closed to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders etc are all welcome. Just no motos! The vibe is really neat, one of celebration and unification, taking advantage of the four-hour opportunity to see the city in a way that would not normally be possible.

My group chose bikes, and I shot while in motion on my bike. Like most people at the event we took the Metro train into downtown LA. My gear was simple – a Leica M5 with Zhou half case (more on this in a bit), a Zeiss Planar 50 (with ND filter), a Leica Summicron Asph 35 and one roll of Kodak Portra 400 rated at ISO 200. I shot one-handed while riding, and the Zhou case really helped as it has grips on the front and back of the case. I was able to focus with one hand as the Zeiss lens has a ribbed metal focus ring so I could turn that with one finger. I had to zone focus the Summicron as it only has a focus tab which I was not able to use while holding the camera with one hand. Oh yeah, one hand because the other one was steering the bike!

It was an unusually hot day – about 100 degrees – but it was a lot of fun. The next one is in December and I highly recommend it.

Peace out
Huss

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Oct 032014
 

Testing the Zeiss Loxia, ZM 35 1.4 and Otus lenses on the A7r

(some quick shots from Photokina)

by Dirk De Paepe

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Recapitulation of a Problem

Perhaps you look upon the Sony A7x series as the first full frame alternative to the Leica M: a compact, high quality full frame camera, that’s about perfect for manual shooting – although not without issues, but then, I’ve yet to see the first perfect camera. :-)

Today the A7s gets a lot of applause, not only for its high ISO capability, but also because it “fixed” some of the issues of the A7r: the shutter sound is one, but IMO the questionable compatibility with quite some M-mount wide-angle lenses is an even more important item.

For many photographers, the possibility of using the compact M-mount lenses on the A7x, via adapter, is one of the attractive features of those cameras. But particularly the corner problems that primarily the A7r poses, when used with (quite some) wide-angle M-mount lenses, are mentioned frequently as a set back, reducing the A7r owner’s choice regarding compact wide-angle glass. Not all M-mount wide angles pose this problem though: some of the Voigtländers work flawlessly. But most Leica M en Zeiss ZM wide angles render this purple/magenta color shift and smearing in the corners, which we really don’t want.

I own the Zeiss Biogon 28 ZM and have experienced it too. Although with certain apertures it’s possible to avoid almost all of the smearing and the color shift can most of the time easily be neutralized in Photoshop, still it limits the possibilities and ease of work. So I mainly use the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 (very compact M-mount) and some wider Canon FDs as WAs for now. For now, indeed, because I was pretty confident that a “solution” would be in the make. As a matter of fact, I hoped for some time that Sony would somehow fix this problem. But is it really Sony’s problem to fix? Well, recently I changed my mind about it…

The solution has a name: Loxia.

When Zeiss announced its new Loxia series for Sony’s FE mount and when I saw that those were based on the compact ZM series, I immediately wondered: what about the corners when shooting a Biogon wide-angle on the A7r? The so far published images (that I’ve seen) didn’t mention which A7-type was used (there was no Exif data available), or they were taken with the A7s, on which the WA M-mount glass poses no problems. So I was stuck with the question: how will the new Loxia Biogon 2/35 perform on my A7r?

The Loxia Biogon 2/35 on the A7r

Living at less than 2 hours from Cologne, I decided to make the trip to Photokina, to get the answer. I was there on Saturday, when the fairground was pretty crowded, with lots of people thronging at the Zeiss technicians counter, wanting to get answers to their questions and trying all kinds of Zeiss lenses on all kinds of cameras.

So I had to take my shots pretty fast and I had to take them all from the same spot: my position at the technicians counter. Sorry for that. But my goal was not to shoot nice pictures, my goal was to get answers. Does the Biogon perform well on the A7r?

Short answer: YES it does! Absolutely!

I first checked if there was any color shift at the corners, putting the aperture wide open – the most sensible setting. With a booth made from white/greyish panels, it was easy to check. It’s very clear: the Biogon produces no color shift what so ever! It was immediately absolutely clear, from the first shot, but I can add to that: in none of my shots, at whatever aperture, there was even the faintest glimpse of color shift to be noticed.

Pic 1. Loxia 3/35, f/2, &/500s, ISO200. No color shift whatsoever. I focused in the left upper corner, to check the corner detail at f/2. IMO a bit ridiculous to absolutely want perfect corners when shooting wide open, but since some people come up with this issue, I wanted to check it. Next picture gives a 100% view of that corner

01. Loxia2-35 f2 corner focus

And what about the smearing? Well, again when shooting wide open the image remained pretty clear and detailed in the corners, with only some loss of detail in the farthest reaches and (IMO) no smearing. Considering how deep in the corners I’m talking about, I’d say only a slight loss of detail in the corners. But let’s be honest, when you really want every spot of your picture to be clear, you don’t shoot wide open, do you… In general I was absolutely astonished with the level of detail this Biogon renders at f/2. Without ever getting razor-sharp, the amount of detail is pretty amazing, even when looking at 100% and shooting with a 36MP sensor. And also the vignetting is at a very low-level, IMO negligible.

Pic 2. 100% crop. In the farthest reaches of the corners, there is some loss of detail. Not too much, I’d say, because I can even read numbers there. I certainly wouldn’t talk of smearing. There is some difference in detail to be noticed, due to some items being positioned slightly out of focus, like in the text on the left box. Don’t be mistaken there. Anyway, I find the detail that this Biogon renders wide open to be really astonishing. 

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Pic 3. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. Also the vignetting is negligible, even wide open. Focusing in the center.

03. Loxia2-35_f2 center focus

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Pic 4. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Without being razor-sharp, all the detail is there. No added sharpness.

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Pic 5. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. No 2/35mm renders a spectacular bokeh. Still this one is pretty smooth and for sure renders a nice 3D separation.

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Pic 6. Loxia 2/35, f/4, 1/60s, ISO400. DOF is a bit larger, still with beautiful bokeh, also in front.

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Pic 7. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Even at f/4 focusing needs to be done with care on the A7r. I missed the focus on the watch here and placed it on the guy’s shirt, revealing all the shirt’s detail…

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At the more narrow apertures, those that are used when pursuing a wide dof, the detail is excellent all over. Is it absolutely perfect? Well, no. This is no Otus, but a three times less expensive Loxia. Still, IMO, the IQ is excellent, with clear detail all over, although still slightly soft when looking at 100%, but not at all to the extend that one can call this a weakness.

Pic 8. Loxia 2/35, f/11, 1/40s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 9. Loxia 2/35, f/14, 1/10s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 10. 100% crop (click to see full size)..

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This is absolutely not a lens test, so I won’t go into all lens characteristics. I couldn’t take enough different pictures, nor perform tests to do that. I’m sure there will be enough articles in the near future from professional photography journalist that will come up with all the details.

Still, what I also noticed is some fringing (diminishing with narrower apertures of course), which I always could correct with great ease in Photoshop. I didn’t check the distortion, but personally I don’t mind that too much, since this is also easily correctable. BTW, I understand that Zeiss also gave extra care in that department, so again, I have no worries here. Overall, I liked very much what I saw, also regarding the OOC color balance, dynamic range etc. – so I’m very confident that I won’t be disappointed in this Biogon and that it’ll render a typical Zeiss IQ – I expect it to be even slightly better than my ZMs.

Improved optics

When I told the technician that I was pleasantly surprised, after being worried when I noticed the great similarity between the Loxia and ZM Biogons, and that I wondered how Zeiss has solved the corner problems without considerably lengthening the distance between back lens and sensor, he told me that the two Loxia lenses are admittedly built after classic Zeiss concepts, but that the whole calculation has been redone, resulting in differences in the thickness of the glasses and the space between them, whereby the light approaches the sensor in different angles, thus avoiding the known problems of the older ZM lenses (lenses that were conceived for film cameras and Leica digital cameras, not for mirrorless sensors). Even the Planar, that in ZM version doesn’t pose any problem at all on the A7r (and is BTW my personal favorite lens) has been reworked and optimized with enhanced performance. Regarding the Biogon, even after a few shots, I can without a doubt state, that they did a great job. I leave it to the professional reviewers to determine exactly how great. But I’m impressed. And excited. There simply is not a shred of color shift in the corners and wide open there’s only a slight decrease of detail in the farthest corners, which I wouldn’t call smearing at (far from what we know from the ZM Biogons, when used on the A7r). What I also noticed was that this lens renders about the same detail wide open as it does stopped down (with the exception of the farthest corners, as I said), which was a véry pleasant surprise. There is some vignetting wide open (but really not much) and some fringing as well (always very easily removable in Photoshop). What did you expect. This is no Otus, it’s not perfect. It’s three to four times cheaper than Otus and still is an excellent lens. I’m sure future tests will confirm this.

General Loxia advantages for Sony’s A7x

So the Biogon is absolutely “good to go” on the A7r IMO, or in other words, it’s a great option to buy, if you’re into manual prime glass. You won’t be surprised that I placed my order for both Loxias. Also the Planar, which maybe will surprise you, since I own the ZM Planar that really is without issues on the A7r. But Loxia offers a lot more than ZM. First there is the better optical performance (reworked for E-mount), then there is the shorter minimal focal distance (30cm for the Biogon and 45cm for the Planar versus 70cm for both ZMs), further there is the transmission of full Exif info, which I applaud because after a series of shots with different lenses I tend to forget what lens I used for which shot, let alone what aperture. Often I can “see the lens in the shot”, but really not always with absolute certainty. And I find it very interesting to know the exact aperture afterwards. And finally, the last big advantage of Loxia over ZM is the activation (which is to be programmed on your A7x) of the automatic enlargement in the VF, by the slightest movement of the focus ring, which completes all means for performing “modern manual focusing” on the A7x. IMHO, all the focusing functionalities of the A7x/Loxia strongly outperform any optical viewfinder. OK, a range finder is something special, but personally, I don’t wanna do without the modern EVF functionality anymore. No way. They abundantly outweigh the range finder’s advantages (all IMO of course).

Pic 11. Left half: Loxia Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Right half: ZM Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Both picture were shot at minimal focal distance – Loxia at 45cm, ZM at 70cm and they were only horizontally cropped. Impressive difference. A big advantage of the Loxia. (The ZM picture was shot back home.)

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Personally, I’m really thrilled about Zeiss developing the Loxia line. There has been lots of reactions on it, with many complaining about the first two lenses being 50 and 35mm again. Why not chosing other focal lenghts that people miss right now? The answer is really simple. Loxia is for a totally different type of photographer, namely the typical manual shooter, like I am. As much as I admire the image quality of the AF Zeiss lenses, I’ll never buy them because I don’t feel good when the camera decides for me. The only “automation” that I use is aperture priority and still, I’ll determine the exposure with the compensation dial or by holding the release button halfway while reframing.

The core of any optical system is, no doubt, the lens. I think we can say that Zeiss plays in the same league as Leica. Both have passionate proponents. I guess it’s probably the kind of photography one practices, that make one belong to either camp. Personally, I’d mix both brands, if the Leica prices were at Zeiss level. But they aren’t. So I don’t buy Leica… a personal matter.
The core of the body is, without any doubt, the sensor. Sony, a leader amongst sensor manufacturers has an excellent position in this department. The rest of the body is functionality, in other words advanced electronic applications, and build quality. It needs no saying that Sony is an electronics giant and in many branches, and in general the Sony quality is legendary. I’m not saying there are never issues with Sony products, everybody makes “mistakes”, but this a giant and I believe that this giant is determined to succeed in photography. So the Sony/Zeiss combination has for sure a lot of things in its favor. Now, with Loxia, the glass is perfectly maching the body, adapter free, with transmitted Exif data, automated magnification in the EVF and a design and feel that perfectly matches the body.

I told you that I already placed my order, even for the Planar, while I’m owning an Otus 55 ànd ZM Planar 2/50. But the Planar is my all time favorite lens. Its compact size, ease of use and always reliable IQ grants it this status. This is the lens that I always carry on my camera, making it possible to carry a high-res/high-IQ camera with me whenever I want, wherever I go to, without ever being bothered by it. Now, with the Loxia Planar, my carry-all-time lens will match my body for 100% and add some functionality that I welcome very much.

Loxia is made for sensors of mirrorless cameras, Zeiss ZM (and Leica M) is made for film. In its digital M bodies, Leica corrects its lenses with software. The Zeiss Loxia doesn’t need to be corrected, because it’s optically designed for sensor. BTW, I wonder if Zeiss doesn’t think of making Loxias in M-mount, or at least come up with a new generation ZMs, that would have the Loxia optics. Makes sense IMO.

The Otus 85 on the A7r

With so many Otus lenses on their Photokina booth, ready to try out, of course I asked for the new 1.4/85. You probably already knew from a former article that I own the Otus 55 and believe that Otus is a great combination with the A7r. This top-level Zeiss line is developed for the latest (and future) generations of hi-res sensors, and Sony plays a leading role in this, with the A7r still leading the pack. So I pulled out my Novoflex adapter and mounted the Otus 85 on the body. The bystanders payed extra attention, when I then pulled a vertical grip out of my bag and mounted it with some swift moves on the A7r body.
My goal was in no way to test the lens on itself. Knowing the 55 and reading from all thrustful sources that the 85 is even a todd better (is it really possible?), I have not the slightest doubt that this lens will perform to its expectations. What I was curious about was how it felt in the hand, when mounted on the A7r, and I also wanted to get the “focus experience” at f/1.4, because already with the 55, focusing at 1.4 needs to be done with great care.
I immediately felt that the 85 is an even heavier and thicker beast than the 55. It’s a muscle trainer for sure. I don’t know how long I would be able to shoot continuously with it, I can only say that I felt it considerably more than when holding the 55. But I can’t tell if it’s only because the physical geometry is different and that it’s gonna be a matter of getting used to it, or if it really would tire me out faster. But what I can tell you for sure is, that, with the same way of holding it as I described in my Otus 55 article, this lens/body combination lies incredibly stable and well-balanced in the hand. I already said that the shots were to be made fast at the Zeiss technicians booth, so I took a fast picture of the gentle technician that was helping me. He was standing pretty close, at the other side of the counter. I focused on his eyelashes and took the shot at 1/25sec, which is in fact insanely slow for an OOH shot with a 85mm lens. But the total absence of motion blur proves the perfect balance of this lens/body combination, again indicating that the A7r is a body worth considering for use with the Otus 85, as it is with the Otus 55. That’s exactly what I wanted to know with my trial shots.

Pic 12. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/25s, ISO100. Shooting at this shutter speed with an 85mm lens is only possible when the lens/body combination is in perfect balanse, which IMO is the case with the A7r + vertical grip. At the crowded Zeiss booth, this shot of a (very busy) Zeiss technician needed to be taken in seconds.

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Pic 13. 100% crop (click to see full size). What stroke me is the extremely shallow dof. I don’t know how this can be possible (maybe somebody can explain), but I have the impression that the Otus 85 produces an even more shallow dof than the Canon FD85 at f/1.2, that I also own. And if not, it must be véry close. But for sure, I’d swear it’s the Otus that wins this trophy. While the eyelashes are in focus, the eyeball is already out of focus. The eyebrow is only partly in focus. At this distance, I normally wouldn’t take this shot at f/1.4, because I’d surely want a somewhat larger dof. Still it’s nice to have the potential at hand and for greater distances it will surely do a great job.

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Focusing at f/1.4, for use at full size images with a 36MP sensor (or more in the near future), must be done with the greatest care. This was no surprise to me, with my experience with the Otus 55, it was just a confirmation. It’s odd that I have the impression that focusing the Otus 85 at f/1.4 requires even more precision than with my Canon FD85 at F/1.2. I even think to notice an even shallower dof with the Otus. It’s just an impression, a feeling. But a strong one. Maybe it’s because of the incredible detail Otus renders, combined with 36 megapixels. Again, I didn’t perform test procedures with this in mind, it’s just a feeling. BTW, I love the FD85/1.4.
Last thing about the Otus 85: I absolutely love the super creamy bokeh!

Pic 14. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/20s, ISO100. Only horizontally cropped. Is this a creamy bokeh or what?…

fourteenotus

The ZM Distagon 1.4/35

By then, after shooting the Otus 85, the guys behind me were increasingly insisting to get a place at the counter. But still I managed to get the new ZM Distagon 1.4/35 for a few super fast shots. I simply wondered whether Zeiss, knowing of the problems that some of the ZMs have with modern hi-res sensors, would take this into account when developing new wide-angle ZMs. I quickly took two shots with the new ZM Distagon. In the first I just shot the grey-ish white wall, to check for color shift. The picture is absolutely dull, of course, but it was conclusive: no color shift.

In the second (and last) super fast taken shot, I focused on a guy in the upper left corner, to check for smearing. No smearing (although the picture isn’t perfect, with a tiny bit of motion blur, but no smearing). What I did notice in those shots was that, wide open, the vignetting and fringing was more prominent than with the Loxia Biogon. But then, this is a f/1.4 vs. the f/2 Loxia. So this is normal. And nothing that I couldn’t correct in Photoshop.

So I guess that future Zeiss ZM lenses will work perfectly on film bodies, Leica M bodies ànd fullframe mirrorless bodies – from Sony and other brands to follow.
And I’m very much looking forward for future new products in their new lines, Otus and surely Loxia. I’ve been having a soft spot for Zeiss for about 50 years now. I think this spot is only going to further grow in the years to come… :-)

Pic 15. ZM 1.4/35, f/1.4, 1/25, ISO100. A clearly more explicit bokeh than with the Loxia 2/35, but also more fringing (as well as vignetting, which this pic doesn’t show clearly) – though nothing that can’t be corrected, I guess.

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Pic 16. Defringed crop. I thought, since the shot was not really OK, it wouldn’t be fair to show the fringing. So I corrected it in Photoshop for this crop.

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Epilogue

IMO, the Loxia line, once it’s to be completed as yet, will definitely turn the A7x series into today’s superior compact system for manual shooting, offering a more modern concept than Leica. I can truly say that I don’t dream of Leica anymore. This Sony/Zeiss FE-system really is more desirable to me than the Leica M-system – outperforming it (again IMO) and… reasonably priced! My personal dream of today: owning both the A7r (for resolution) and A7s (for ISO) with a complete set of Loxias. But what I expect (of course I can’t be absolutely sure about it) is a future Sony sensor that will combine resolution and high ISO. I’m sure it will happen, maybe in some years time, but probably earlier than I expect. And it will be mounted in an FE-mount Alpha body! Thàt will be my next camera…

Dirk De Paepe

B&H Photo sells the Loxia lenses HERE, the OTUS is HERE and the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM is HERE

Oct 022014
 

samstroudleica

The Leica M: A Working Review

by Sam Stroud – His website can be seen HERE

A few weeks ago I picked up Leica’s M typ 240. In my own research, while looking to buy one, I couldn’t find a lot of reviews from the wedding industry on those who were using it. I wanted to post a little bit of my thoughts about it now that I have had a few weddings under my belt with it.

First let me say, what this wont be. I am not going to talk about the technical details much. As odd as this sounds, I don’t quite care about that. I am not a pixel counter. I knew well in advanced that the quality of the image was going to be fantastic. No surprises there. For me shooting with this camera had to be about a few things;

1. It couldn’t inhibit the process of creating
2. It absolutely had to push me beyond the place I was currently in. I didn’t want to spend money on something that would allow me to just keep doing what I am doing. What’s the point in that?

Those two seem kind of vague I know. But it was important to me that I could get the image I set out to create, and that at the same time I wouldn’t be tied to creating the same kind of work I have been.

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The Basics

The M typ 240 is a 24MP Full Frame, Manual focusing camera with a CMOS sensor. It comes in Black and silver. (I chose black) It also has an optical view finder that is easily used to frame and compose your subjects. There are a lot of other really neat technical details that I honestly couldn’t care any less about. Oooh wait… it has a movie mode.

There aren’t a lot of features to brag about. I think it is purely a digital rangefinder. No frills. It wont shoot 100 frames per second and it wont HDR an image for you. Looking through the viewfinder is about one thing and one thing only. Composing, framing and taking the shot. There IS a red dot above the lens mount that reads “Leica”. So there is that.

Using It For Work

Focusing

I don’t think there is any question you could buy this camera and without feeling any pressure to get anything right, could go and shoot some street photography and be really pleased. But for me, in my work, there is a certain level of pressure not to miss anything. With that pressure, for me, comes the absolute need to know my camera. To know how everything works together. And to be honest I struggled with it at first. And that has nothing to do with any kind of limitation of the M. It has everything to do with my current system and setup. I could legitimately close my eyes and in a matter of seconds set my MK3 to be ready to shoot in any situation and get the image I want right away.

That isn’t a bad thing at all. But when you introduce an entirely different system it becomes a problem. So at first I kept it simple. The first wedding I stuck with using it exclusively for the getting ready shots and portraits. Focusing was tough. What can I say? The MK3’s auto focusing system is incredibly fast. I don’t know how it compares to a Nikon and I don’t care. For me, the MK3 AF system works and acquires focus so quickly!

So to move to a completely manual system was again, intimidating. And slow. You want to be precise, and you don’t want to miss. At first, yes I was slow with it. And for me photographing natural expression, including during the bride and groom’s portrait sessions, is paramount. It’s tough to try to be precise without making it, seemingly, awkward. But I knew the more I did it. The faster I would get.
Once you’re used to it there isn’t an issue. Focusing is as easy and as fast as moving the focusing ring clock or counter clock wise. There is a box in the center of the view finder. Find your subject, and align the boxes. That’s it.

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Low Light

Again the MK3 is king. Throw the 50mm 1.2 on and you are ready for any situation. I was really excited to see totally usable images up to 6400. I had read online, some people saying files were only really usable up to 3200. I found that not to be true at all. The beauty of this is that I knew I could totally use the M in darker spaces like during the reception. More specifically during the first dances where really beautiful images can be created.

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Battery Life

I will keep this short… I shot two weddings this past weekend on one charge. The battery is big. The charger is kind of awkward. But it did come with a car charger. So that’s cool. I am not sure I will use it. But regardless, the fact that the battery lasted two weddings is a huge positive.

The Experience

Handling the camera feels amazing. From the moment I picked it up I was impressed. It feels good. I don’t know how to properly describe that. It just feels like a camera should feel. The dials are tight, the size just right, and the sound of the shutter click is quietly sweet. The menus and buttons are minimal to say the least. You can quickly and easily move around once you are familiar with where everything is located. It is a sturdy build and is surprisingly heavy.

Here is where I really care about this camera. Using this camera has been a completely different experience for me. I started out using the Canon 5D, and have been using Canon exclusively. So with that in mind, from the moment I picked up the Leica I was both intimidated and confused. And I am not new to the rangefinder. But first using the M I could tell I was going to have to undo a lot of terrible habits I have picked up over the past 4 years.

The look and feel instantly creates a different atmosphere for creating your work. It also requires from you a level of patience and “slowing down” that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I think the initial inclination is to fear what you may miss. But when you think about it, if you are comfortable with your gear, and you are required to slow down and pay more attention to whats happening, you will be infinitely more connected to your subject. And if you are connected to your subject you will create better work.

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Conclusion

I have now been asked on so many occasions (so many times that now every time I hear it I want to smash my face with a mallet) one of two things;

1. “Is it worth spending $7500 to shoot with something that is on par with other cheaper systems like the MK3 or D800″

2. “Can you really tell a difference? You can’t really tell a difference.”

Honestly, I cant answer that for you. All I can tell you is that for me it absolutely is worth every single penny. For now at least. And if you are asking for my recommendation, I would tell you unequivocally, yes buy it! And for so many reasons. But mainly because of the experience. There is an experience that exists between me and my subject that is realized when shooting with this camera. And I would of paid double to have it because of that reason alone. Yes, the images are beautiful. Yes the technology behind it is fantastic. And yes there are very very few companies who make a better lens. All of that absolutely matters. But more than anything and above all of that, it is about the simple and beautiful process of creating and nothing else.

Sam Stroud

Oct 012014
 

joetitlemoon

Supermoon Photoshoot at 1620mm with Nikon V3

By Joe Marquez – see his website at http://www.thesmokingcamera.com

(from Steve: This is one of the coolest posts I have placed here in a long time…love it! Thank you Joe for the beautiful work and showing what the Nikon 1 system is capable of)

A couple of months ago, while out shooting with the mirrorless Nikon V3 and 70-300cx lens (189-810mm equivalent field of view – FOV), I noticed a hiker on a nearby ridge top – and a beautiful, bright moon above. I took a few shots and was quite pleased with the results. The V3 and it’s tiny sensor does surprisingly well in good light. Now I wondered how it would look if I attached a super telephoto lens and photographed the hiker directly in front of the moon. What about a ballerina silhouette? I decided to find out.

As you may know, the Nikon V3’s one-inch sensor results in the equivalent of a 2.7 increase in FOV. In essence when a Nikon FX lens is attached via the Ft-1 adapter, the V3 becomes a 2.7 teleconverter with no loss of light. Thus a 600mm lens becomes 1620mm.

Initially my plan was to photograph a single ballerina in front of the super moon. However, I began considering everything that could go wrong: weather, inability to focus at night, DOF issues, instability, inaccessibility and of course all the unforeseen inevitable mistakes I normally make. So I decided to increase the number of shoots to insure I would get a decent image or two.

Now I had to get my hands on a $10,000 Nikon 600mm f4 lens. So, I went to the only camera store in Hawaii with uber cool rental equipment, told them about my project and they agreed to sponsor my efforts. Here’s a formal thank you to Hawaii Camera (www.hawaiicamera.com) for supporting this little moon project of mine.

Using a number of online programs I determined optimum times and locations to photograph the moon as it crossed the ridge. And because the ridge runs north south I was able to shoot as the moon rose in the east and several hours later as it set in the west. Thus, everyday I had two opportunities at the moon. So over the course of a week I planned fourteen separate photo shoots. Only later I realized, I didn’t factor in time for sleep. Oh well, can’t think of everything.

I then called upon many friends – models, performers, cosplayers, ballerinas and dancers as well as fellow photographers to assist. Altogether 43 people were involved in this moon project. Call times ranged from late afternoon to early morning before sunrise. Most participants had to hike the steep ridge at night with headlamps. We required a spotter or assistant for safety and we communicated via two-way radios or cell phone. One cosplayer’s outfit weighs 133 pounds and required ten trips to get the costume into position. A super thank you to everyone who participated.

While the models and spotters were climbing the ridge, I and an assistant down below had to deal with traffic, trees, wires, poles, houses, basketball players, dogs, golfers and sprinklers.

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In the end everyone had a fun and unique experience and a good number of wonderful photos. In addition, I learned a tremendous amount about shooting the moon. Foremost is the moon moves so quickly when viewed at 1620mm there is often only a moment or two to get the shot. Secondly, the moon has quite a variety of looks due to clouds, time of day or night and so on and I had to constantly and quickly change my exposure settings. Finally, the Nikon V3 did an excellent job on this project and I wouldn’t hesitate using this little camera for other super telephoto projects.

In fact next month at full moon, I plan to again use the Nikon V3 and experiment with lighting, fashion, a bride in her wedding dress, video and a surprise or two. Amazing what is possible when you utilize a camera’s strength to its fullest.

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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