Aug 182015


Quick high ISO Comparison! Sony A7s vs Sony A7RII

Many h ave been asking me to do a high ISO comparison with the Sony A7RII vs the all time high ISO king, the Sony A7s. The Sony A7s is a special camera for a few reasons, one of them being the extreme low light capabilities which came about due to Sony using a 12MP sensor. The less MP on a full frame sensor usually means better low light or high ISO performance. With the new resolution monster, the A7RII, any were expecting high ISO to be mediocre. This is not the case. In fact., it looks DAMN good against the A7s. Think about it..12MP vs 42MP and the 42MP sensor is not far off. AT ALL.

As always with my ISO tests I let the camera choose exposure as this is how 99% of people use these, either in A mode, S mode or even AUTO mode. In other words, very few manually expose these cameras, so here is the output from each as exposed by the meter in each camera. What you see is what you get.

Also, these are from RAW and all noise reduction was off. Sony made some claims saying the A7RII is a NO COMPROMISE camera due to the new sensor design, Meaning, you can have high res and great high ISO all in one. Now imagine when they redo the A7s with the new sensor tech..this is when I think we will hit ISO 1 million and have it be usable. ;) My older A7s review is HERE if you missed it! Also, before you ask, the grip on the A7RII above is the JB Designs A7RII wooden grip. 

Click each image for larger view and full 100% crops! I will go all the way to the top ISO in my full review which will be up within 2-3 weeks!





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


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


 “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


See my facebook

Jul 152014


The Sony A7s: A New Camera for Leica M lenses

By Ashwin Rao – HIs flickr is HERE, his Facebook is HERE

Hello, gang. It’s Ashwin, back from a bit of a hiatus to discuss the camera du jour, Sony’s impressive A7s. The A7s has gotten quite a bit of press, in particular for it’s remarkable ISO sensitivity/performance, for it’s 4K video, and for it’s buck-the-convention 12-megapixel sensor. It’s been hotly debate, in light of the already-exceptional performance of its two siblings, the A7 and A7R, which offer different full frame sensors. I have extensively shot both bodies, and while I enjoyed the experience, I was left a bit in the lurch for entirely selfish reasons. Unfortunately, extensive shooting bore out that the A7r is really not a great option for Leica M lenses due to the critical nature of the sensor and how it plays (poorly) with M lenses, causing excessive vignetting, color casts, and detail smearing at the edges. The Sony A7 is better with regards to its capacity with M lenses (most lenses 35 mm and above do “okay” to “great” on the A7), but after shooting these 2 cameras, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Leica M lenses were best suited to be used on Leica M camera bodies, from a purely imaging standpoint. One can argue endlessly about the rangefinder (beyond the frame lines) vs SLR/mirrorless (tunnel vision) way of seeing, and there’s really no right answer there, as it’s more a matter of preference. But until recently, while the A7R and A7 were capable of using M lenses, they didn’t really make M lenses shine. And thus, I moved on, continuing to genuinely enjoy my Leica M bodies for my M lenses.




A few months ago, whispers of a new camera began, and what resulted was the Sony A7s….a low megapixel (in today’s market), high ISO monster reportedly designed for videographers ready to make use of its full frame sensor and 4K recording potential. What people did not speak so much about was whether it would handle Leica M lenses better than its siblings. Maybe it was a lack of interest, and maybe the conversation moved on, but for me, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered whether the sensor’s lower megapixel (less critical) sensor, coupled with its gapless sensor design, would allow it to handle rangefinder lenses, which notoriously bend light into difficult angles at the periphery of digital sensors. My curiosity was also piqued by the high ISO capabilities of such a camera. If the A7s could handle high ISO’s as well as was being made out, suddenly, one could use compact, relatively “slow” M lenses such as the f/2 Summicrons, f/2.5 Summarits, f/2.8 Elmarits, and f/4 Elmars in low light conditions at high shutter speeds. Further, faster M lenses, such as the f/1.4 Summiluxes and f/0.95-1 Noctilux options might allow the photographer to see into the dim light of night like never before, and the lenses remain relatively compact to top it off. Leica M and other rangefinder lenses are generally much smaller than their mirrorless (at least FF mirrorless) and SLR counterparts, and balance quite well on the A7(s/r) bodies quite well, so one could make incredibly versatile images at very low light, using a very small kit… theory.



To top it off, the Sony A7s was soon announced to have a “silent shutter” option, allowing the photographer to shoot with a full electronic shutter that would not announce itself whenever a photo was being taken. To me, this was one of the huge potential benefits to the Sony…Silence means that a photographer can work discretely, and the A7s, for the first time, offered this option to the photographer choosing a mirrorless body for work…For a Leica photographer-nutball such as myself, the value of discretion is part of the “rangefinder way”, and now, here was a mirrorless body that did it even better than the Leica M3 through M7, with their lovely/subtle shutter sounds….Here was a camera that could offer silence when shooting (albeit with the risk of a rolling shutter effect for fast-moving subjects)….wow, the A7s was now really grabbing my attention.



But, All of this was fine and dandy, but only, and only if M lenses would play well on the Sony….

So the early reports came in, including Steve’s own detailed, fantastic, glowing review of the camera, using mainly FE lenses…Steve was blown away by the camera’s AF performance, high ISO performance, and it’s overall handling, for a full frame camera. But the images that intrigued me most from his review, as well as those of others, was the performance of the tiny Cosina Voigtlander 15 mm Heliar lens. Many of you know that while this lens one of the widest fields of view for a rangefinder lens, it plays quite poorly with the M9 and M240, and doesn’t do well on cropped sensors in many instances, due to excessive color shifts (magenta) and vignetting, due to the physics of the optics at play and how they project light through the lens and onto most sensors…Yet, the Sony A7s was handling the CV 15 mm lens, no sweat.



So off I went to my camera store, armed with a host of Leica M lenses, ranging from a 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar through a 90 mm f/2 APO-Summicron. After a few preliminary shots, I took note of dramatically less vignetting and what appeared to be more uniform color through the image field (i.e. no color casts). Hmmmm, great start, I thought….



But what about smearing? One issue with using lenses 35 mm or wider at full aperture, is that many lenses start to smear details at the periphery of the imaging field. It’s a dirty little secret that Leica’s own wide angle lenses tend to do this on digital bodies, and this was one of the reasons that it took so long for Leica to introduce a digital rangefinder (and ultimately, the Leica M8 with it’s 1.3x crop sensor, designed to avoid the physics causing some of the issues mentioned). At one point, Leica’s CEO at the time mentioned that it might never be possible to produce a digital M body, but we know how that prediction turned out….



Smearing has been a major issue for me with full frame bodies such as the Sony A7r and A7, and when added to intermittent color casts and high levels of vignetting, I had previously found that files just took too much work to get things right, and I gave up. Now, sitting home at my computer with a variety of files from a variety of lenses ranging from wide to telephoto, I was not seeing any objectionable colorcasts and much improved vignetting. How about smearing, then? Well, the jury is still out, but for the most part I have been entirely pleased. Of the wide lenses in my possession, I found that the 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar did exhibit slight detail loss at the far edges of the image, but this was not objectionable, just more than what I had seen on the M9 and M240 bodies. The lens that continues to “misbehave” on the A7s was the Leica 28 mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. This lens gives even Leica M bodies some trouble, and in the case of the Sony A7s, it has continued to produce moderate smearing at the edges. For real world street photography, in which edge sharpness may not be important, the smearing rarely matters, but if one were shooting landscapes, he or she would notice this, so it’s I lens I have considered avoiding for those moments when edge sharpness matters (For most other moments, the 28 ‘cron works great). Beyond that, I have had no issues with edge smearing. Everything works great. My Wide Angle Tri Elmar (WATE) works perfectly at 16 mm on the A7s, though this lens’ design plays reasonably well with even the A7r. My 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE, which didn’t work well on the A7 due to odd vignetting, works perfectly well on the Sony A7s.


To add to the story, I have found that the Sony A7s does a great job with colors. It presents a palette similar to that of the Sony A7 and A7r, so if you are used to the files that those cameras make, the A7s will be similar. One nice added perk is that at higher ISO, while dynamic range does start to drop off a bit (particularly past ISO 4000, though files are totally useable, in my opinion, through ISO 12,800), the color reproduction at those high ISO’s remains solid. There’s only so much you can push today’s sensor tech, in terms of dynamic range and high ISO noise and color performance, but the Sony A7s is today’s state of the art.

Ultimately, I have been thoroughly pleased with my time using Leica M lenses as my sole lens set up for the Sony A7s. Everything works well. High ISO – check! Silent shutter – check! Minimal muss and fuss with edge image quality – BIG check! Colors and skin tones. Check that as well. Handling of camera with M lenses…big HUGE check! It all seems to work well.



In summary, I have found the Sony A7s to be a great option on which to use Leica M lenses. If you have an investment in rangefinder lenses, or intend to do so, the Sony A7s is the current camera that you’d want to have on a budget. Sure the Leica M9 is fantastic, but it has high ISO limitations. The Leica M240 is great, but tends to start banding around ISO 3200. Those are fantastic options and allow one to see in the “rangefinder way”. But separating yourself from that, the Sony A7s is an incredible imaging machine. Sure, it has a lower megapixel count, but 12 MP files are plenty for the vast majority of us. The camera’s incredible ISO performance allows for the use of slower lenses, and thus more compact lenses, in low light shooting circumstances. Suddenly, your Elmars and Summicrons become relevant options for night photography, and lenses such as the Noctilux allow you to pear into the night better than your own eyes….it’s rather incredible. Creative possibilities open up, and I see new photographic horizons ahead! The Camera’s EVF is sufficient to reliably focus lenses, particularly if one uses the “Focus Magnify” option to achieve critical focus. The silent shutter allows for very discrete shooting, and for most street photography moments, it’s a perfect option (I have yet to see the Rolling shutter effect for my style of shooting) that’s silent and discrete. And year, silent shutter means no shutter shake to blur your images at that pixel level. Speaking of pixels, the camera’s lower pixel count allows for easier achievement of sharp images at slower shutter speeds, if desired, as 12 MP is much easier to hand hold than 36 megapixels in nearly any circumstance…something to consider if pixel peeping for sharp images is your thing.

The list goes on and on, but you can see that I am quite convinced that the Sony A7s is a viable option for those of you who want to use small, high performance rangefinder lenses on a mirrorless body. It’s the way to go. By the way, every image you see here was shot with the A7s and a M mount Leica lens. Now go out, test one out, and see if it satisfies you. The Sony A7s has certainly satisfied me.

All the best to you, my friends!
Ashwin (July, 2014)





Jun 232014

Having a blast with the Sony A7s

So I am on day one of an 8 day road trip through various parts of California with the Sony A7s and so far so good! Day and Night one brought us to Landers, CA where we stayed at Kate’s Lazy Desert which was a really fun time. We had the whole place to ourselves, six classic airstream trailers and a wonderful night under the stars. We leave this morning and area heading to see some friends in Crestline, CA and then we will be on our way to Santa Clarita for two nights. After that we will be heading to Santa Cruz, San Francisco and then to Long Beach before heading back home to Phx AZ. Will be shooting the A7s for the entire trip so I can evaluate it fully for my full review which will be up soon.

Yesterday and last night I shot with the A7s along with the Voigtlander 15 and Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. Below are a few of the shots, which are all OOC JPEGS from Lightroom. Just using my tiny Macbook Air for this trip so for me, it is hard to do any what you see is what you get.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

ISO 12,800, 15mm, 1/10s – Handheld


Voigtlander 15mm, tripod long exposure. 


Inside one of the Airstreams with the 15mm – I think I was using the “Clear” color mode…but man, love this 15 on the A7s! Finally usable in color on a FF digital. This lens did not even work good on the cropped Leica M8 but on the A7s it is nice. 


Zeiss 35 2.8 – It was a bright day and around 105 degrees at the Lazy Desert, but we had a blast regardless. 


15 VM 


15 VM – They have a little pool so we had some drinks and went swimming for a while before cooking up some dinner.


15VM – The Camera m ay have been in Vivid for this one.. I used spot metering here.


35 2.8 – The little Zeiss 35 is a fantastic lens.



Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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Jun 182014

Two full size high ISO JPEG images from the Sony A7s. ISO 3200 and 64,000.

Hey guys! Been busy all day shooting this Sony A7s and wow, I am impressed with the low ISO (up to 10,000 or so) more so than the high ISO (above 10,000). Shooting at base ISO is beautiful and I will have loads of images in my full review but I have had a few messages asking me for full size images, from raw, in color at higher ISO. Below are two shots, and both are from RAW, in color and shot with the Leica 50 APO on the A7s using the Voigtlander Adapter. 

You can see the ISO 3200 shot is quite nice. The ISO 64,000 is noisy, yes..but better than ANY other camera today at ISO 64000. This was in a dark area in the zoo today and again, they are JPEGs out of camera. The ISO 3200 shot was at 1/60th of a second. NR in camera was set to low.

The 50 APO is gorgeous on the A7s





and a couple with the 50 APO at ISO 100. Click it for larger. 



Jan 212014


24 Hours with The Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. A quick review.

by Steve Huff

This is not really a “review” of the X-E2 and 23 1.4 but more of a report on using the camera for 24 hours. The X-E2 is VERY similar to the X-E1 and there is not much more to say about the X-E2 besides talk about the AF speed improvement and the overall response time. Has it improved from the X-E1? Read on to find out as I write about my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 14!

Here we are in 2014 and Fuji is still continuing to pump out X body after X body with another new one supposedly on the way at the end of Jan 2014. For now I will be talking a bit about the Fuji X-E2 which is the replacement and update to the X-E1, which I found to be a good camera but a little slow to focus.. With that said, the X-E1 had the IQ behind it even if I have not been a fan of the X-Trans sensor for various reasons (I am in the minority here, I admit). Nope, I have always preferred the X100 sensor above all of the Fuji cameras as it just a had a tad of magic behind it that I preferred. The X-E2 continues with the X-Trans sensor but these days the support for processing these X-Trans files has finally grown and one can now use Adobe products to process the RAW files without any issues.


This makes a difference or course and helps to removes some of the “flatness” and odd artifacts I saw in earlier reviews or earlier X-Trans cameras (when using Adobe to process). In fact, I am now really liking what I see coming from these X-Trans sensors and I do not have to download special software or software that I do not enjoy using to get fantastic results.

Fuji X-E2, 23 1.4 at 1.4 and ISO 320


The Fuji X-E2 looks and feels like the X-E1 though it feels better and more solid when in use with the new and fantastic 23 1.4. Thanks to B&H Photo I was able to shoot one for a few days or so and while I originally was not going to review or do a report on the X-E2 I decided to give it a shot as I really wanted to check out the new 23 1.4 lens, which I knew would rock. Fuji makes some fantastic glass and all of their lenses have been stellar even though a couple of them have had focus speed and accuracy issues. Overall they are solid in the IQ department even beating out the Zeiss Touit designs.

ISO 3200 – 23 1.4 wide open


With the X-E2 Fuji brings in a few improvements

For starters the sensor is still 16Mp but is now named the X-Trans CMOS II and the processor is also version II. The AF is also quicker and now included phase and contrast detect AF, which indeed does speed up the focus from the snail days of the original firmware X-Pro 1. The X-E2 adds the gimmicky face detection and the LCD has grown by a smidge as well as the resolution doubling (LCD). Same battery, same charger, same everything else but the body is now $999, same price of the X-E1 at launch. Basically it is what the X-E1 SHOULD HAVE been from the get go! But Fuji is learning and I give them the award for most dedicated support because n other camera company has been as dedicated to firmware updates for their cameras. Fuji improves the performance of their cameras with each and every firmware update, and they are not shy about releasing them like some companies (Leica for one).

In use the X-E2 is indeed an improvement over the X-E1!


Size and Weight

The size of the X-E2 remains exactly the same as the X-E1. In fact, besides some button changes the bodies are almost 100% identical. So the X-E2 feels the same as the X-E1, which as I reported before is a little on the hollowly side of neutral. Both the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 feels more solid in the build department and in fact, the X-E2 is bigger than both of them, even the full frame Sony A7! The X-E1 is nice but not quite there yet when it comes to build quality but there has not been any issues reported with the X-E1 or X-E2 so this really means nothing when it comes to shooting and bringing home the image. Just know if you are coming from Leica, Sony A7 or the E-M1 that your 1st impression may be “this feels hollow”. ;) If Rambo were to shoot a mirror less I see him more as a Leica guy…


What happens in Vegas..gets reported about HERE. Under certain light the Fuji’s always give me this pinkish tone/hue. Talk about bad taste…they do not call it “Sin City” for nothing!


Vegas Baby!

When I decided to give the X-E2 a try a decided I wanted to take a drive to Vegas and shoot the camera. I brought along the X-E2 and 23 1.4 as well as the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1, both with 35mm (or equivalent) lenses. All I had with me was one focal length and that was 35mm. I wanted to shoot all three and see which one I preferred shooting. Would I enjoy the X-E2 the most or would the E-M1 slaughter them all for usability? For me Usability is very important because if a camera mis focuses, can not focus or is slow to start-up or just plain giving me hassles I will HATE it. That is one reason the X-Pro 1 bothered me so much with the 1st shipping firmware. By now Fuji has surely fixed all of the teething least that is what I told myself.


The good news is that during my 24 hour stay in Las Vegas I had 3 missed shots with the Fuji out of 100 due to not being able to focus due to low light. This is a huge improvement over when I reviewed the X-Pro 1. I also missed a few from the camera taking so long to wake from sleep mode. By the time it popped back on the subject and photo pop was long gone so beware if you are attempting to shoot on the street when you need all of the speed you can get. When the camera goes to sleep it can take a couple of seconds to wake up. Other than that I had only TWO shots that mis-focused out of the 100. So again, a huge improvement over the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 (in my experience).


This is more like a modern day camera :)

The color was typical Fuji and if you love Fuji and know Fuji then you know exactly what I mean. Fuji has a way of rendering colors that can be very pleasing. They can pop, they can give a feeling of “wow” and they can be very contrasty as well. Throw that Velvia setting on and shoot JPEG and you will have some rich and contrasty vibrant shots and IMO a bit too much. But some love the JPEG presets and they are well known to be that “Fuji Look”.

Rich Fuji Colors will explode from the X-E2. These are colors that do NOT come out of a Sony or Olympus. If you like it you buy Fuji.




Shooting it with the A7 and E-M1..which did I prefer?

While I was having fun walking around Vegas and looking for a shot or two I was taking turns shooting between the X-E2 and Sony and Olympus. For starters I can say that the fastest and most complete feeling experience came from the Olympus E-M1. To be honest, it feels and shoot with such speed and grace and feels so good doing it many would never need anything more. It does lose quality as the lights get low though and the Sony and Fuji was able to keep plowing through. Still, the 17 1.8 on the Olympus was able to shoot without issue in any light and remained fast in doing so no matter if it was dark or light. The Fuji and Sony slowed down in the AF department when the lights got lower but as stated, the quality stayed high.

So it is a give and take and all depends on what you desire more..speed and usability or the best IQ in all situations. All cameras delivered images for me that I was 100% happy with. None of them left me wanting anything more. I enjoyed them all.



Auto Exposure..a quick comparison

As a quick test for my own curiosity I wanted to shoot each camera and lens wide open with Auto ISO set to ON. The 23 1.4 at 1.4, the 17 1.8 at 1.8 and the 35 2.8 at 2.8. What exposure and ISO would each camera choose? How much higher would the Sony have to go in the ISO dept to get the shot? The results are below. Be sure to see my full size file comparison of the X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 HERE.

First the Fuji. Set to 1.4 the ISO chosen by the camera was ISO 1600 and the Shutter Speed was 1/60s.


The Sony was set wide open to f/2.8 and the camera chose 1/60s and ISO 6400! Yes, ISO 6400. Due to the slower lens  the ISO had to be jacked up. As you can see the Fuji DOF looks the same as the Sony but the Fuji need a 1.4 lens to match 2.8 on the Sony. If I threw a f/1.4 on the Sony it would have been much better with a lower ISO, more shallow DOF and more pop. 


And the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8 at 1.8. You would think the Olympus would fail here but it chose ISO 1600 and 1/30s. A little more noisy but still looks great considering the circumstances and low light. This shot has the MOST DOF for obvious reasons. 


The thing to remember here is that I had an f/2.8 lens on the Sony. If I brought along the 50 1.5 Voigtlander or the Sony 55 1.8 the Sony would have the most WOW factor and neither the Olympus or Fuji could have touched it. for sharpness, noise or 3D pop. In other words the Sony can do better as it has much more in the reserve tank but the Fuji and Oly are maxed out to their limits here.

To sum it up..

To sum it up..the Fuji X-E2 is the BEST fuji X body at the time of this writing. I may still prefer the X100 and X100s but if you want interchangeable lenses then the X-E2 gets my nod for best body today (until the new X-T1 arrives at $1700 US). At $999 it is a good buy and fairly priced for what you get. Many like to claim that the Fuji’s have the best IQ of any camera today. I do not agree with that at all but can say that these Fuji’s have a look all of their own and can pump out fantastic beautiful quality images that have the Fuji signature stamped on them. If you happen to adore that signature then there is nothing better than the X-E2 to get you there.

Fuji is pumping out quality fast primes as well. The 23 1.4 is the best lens from Fuji that I have shot with and the aperture dial on the lens is the icing on the cake. I think ALL camera manufacturers should do this as it just adds to the whole shooting experience.


Today we have choices like we would have never dreamed of just a few years ago. Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Pentax, Ricoh, Leica are just a few that come to mind when I think of high quality small mirror less. Each one of those manufactures have a solid offering that can deliver images that rival just about anything out there, and WILL be getting better in 2014 and beyond.

My only niggle with the Fuji X-E2 is that the auto white balance can be pretty off in some lighting where the A7 and Oly did fine. I sometimes get a pinkish and harsh hue in low light situations (see the nuns above of the table balancer below) which I have only seen in the X-Trans sensors. Other than that I had no problems with the Fuji X-E2.

So yes! I can highly recommend the Fuji X-E2 and especially the 23 1.4 lens.

Where to Buy the X-E2 and 23 1.4 Lens.

X-E2  – B&H Photo

23 1.4 – B&H Photo


X-E2 –

23 1.4 –


X-E2 at Amazon

23 1.4 – Amazon

More images below from my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 1.4! Enjoy!

















Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

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Full size from the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. EXIF is embedded. Right click and open in a new window to view correctly.


Jan 162014


by Benjamin Schaefer – His blog is HERE


Almost a year ago, I sold much of Nikon gear, including my D800 and many of my zoom lenses to busier – and better – photographers who would give them more than a “shelf life”. Since our son was born in December 2012, I had lacked the time to continue the few gigs I was shooting, this never having been a full-time occupation. In the past few months I have been shooting my Olympus OM-D E-M5, and more recently an E-M1, which covered 90% of what I do and are compact enough to be brought along almost anywhere. For full frames, I used a Leica M9, with its excellent optics. However I could not quite divest myself completely from Nikon, and so I kept not only a UV-IR modified (and pretty much unsellable) Nikon D7000, but also a few of my favorite Nikkor primes, as well as a 17-35mm AF-S, the latter to be used with the D7000 (and I do not shoot a lot of IR). To be honest, the D800 was probably too much camera and a bit of a headache – it went back to Nikon twice for focus adjustments and the massive files were clogging up my iMac.

As it turns out, however, I missed my Nikon FX. I was looking over a few images I shot with the D800 in the past 1.5 years and started reminiscing of the creamy quality of my favorite portrait lenses, the 85 mm f1.4 and 105 f2.5… I can use them on the D7000, but only with a IR-UV cut filter (which isn’t perfect) and giving me less flexibility in terms of depth of field.

When Nikon announced the Df (Digital fusion, which I think is a misnomer I think F-D, as in digital F, would have been more fitting), I was intrigued, but first skeptical at first. With the OM-D and the M9, you know I am a retro-style, shoot in Manual, dedicated control wheel kind of guy (OK, I admit I shoot a lot in Aperture priority, too, but I never had much use for Program mode and “Custom” settings).

If you are reading this you probably know already, but the Nikon Df is a very well made, “retro styled” full frame camera, kind of “leicaesque” DSLR (with a leicaesque price to boot). Retro in this case means the top of the camera is reminiscent of the FE and F3 of yonder, with dedicated dials for shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO, as well as a shutter button that accepts – nice but somewhat useless though IMO – a mechanical shutter release cable. The back, and – more important – the innards – of the camera are pretty modern DSLR material built around the excellent 16 MP sensor of Nikon’s flagship D4, which is the best low light sensor available in any camera today (I am not alone in this opinion). DxO ratings for ISO performance even put the performance above any other DSLR, including the D4 and the D3s.

Heading West, 28 mm f2, af f2, 1/60, ISO 8000, processed in camera (before LR5 came out with RAW converter)


After debating with myself for quite a while and reviewing the vibrant online discussion with opinions usually on both extremes, but seemingly more in the “anti-Df” camp, I pulled the trigger (or rather, I did not cancel my pre-order).

The camera arrived in a very nicely packaged, classy looking black cardboard box – taking queues from the lie of Apple and Leica. The first impression once I got the camera out was that slight disappointment: it feels somewhat flimsy, just because it is so light. It is almost hard to believe that the body is weather sealed (and I am not in the mood to test it like others have done for say the E-M1).

The camera certainly looks unique, no doubt. I like it but that is obviously a matter of taste. It has been compared to the FE, F3 and others. I think it borrows from various cameras, the back looks definitely like a modern DSLR, the top is the most “retro” and the front is somewhat mixed. Many people seem to prefer the silver version, however I have always had black cameras (with the exception of a used M8, sold long ago) and I feel the Df looks classic that way. Some people have commented on the silver coming in different shades, which makes for a weird appearance (and seems somewhat odd for a camera of this caliber). I have not seen the silver version yet.

If you follow the online discussion, many have condemned the camera before it came out. I love to looks and most of the operation, but there are also some things that I think could have been solved better.

Bellagio, 10.5 modified Fisheye, f5.0, 1/30, ISO 3200


First the pros:

– The camera is light (though first you feel that this is gives it a ‘cheapo feel’, it actually quickly grows on you

– The viewfinder is great, bright, easy to see. Manual focusing is easy and the green indicator light is spot on.

 – The buttons feel solid, well made. If you have used Nikon DSLRs before, they are where you expect them to be.

 – Despite what other say, I like the fact that the manual controls are lockable. They feel sold, well made and sturdy. The rear wheel is easy to reach with the right hand. See below for the front wheel.

Performer at Sinterklaas, 50mm f1.8 at f1.8, 1/1000, ISO 400 


Now for the cons:

– The power switch is hard to turn. I get why it was done this way, a ‘modern’ switch would have been hard to integrate into the design concept, but for me it requires I take the camera away from the eye. However you may like this feature, Certainly, it is hard to switch it off or on accidentally, and with the battery life being quite impressive, you may as well keep it on when out shooting.

– The grip is too small. The height is not so much of a problem as the depth. Comparing it to my Olympus OM-D E-M1, the latter actually is better due to maybe half an inch more depth.

– The battery/SD card door may be sealed, but it is cumbersome to open and close. It is also easy for the battery door to become unhinged – I have some doubts that the weather seal is very good.

– The selector for the metering mode is small and close to the back LCD – not my favorite configuration.

– The front control wheel is easily reached but not really comfortable to turn. If you have lenses with aperture rings, you probably won’t use it much, anyway.

Audience, 50mm f1. at f1.8, 1/500, ISO 100


There has been made much brouhaha about the limiting shutter speed of 1/4000 (and less commonly about the max speed on the dial being 4 s). Although as with other features (autofocus module) one questions whether NIkon cut corners for cost reasons here or just wanted to “keep the Df down” in order not to cannibalize D4 sales, I rarely find that “limiting” – reviewing my images, I came up on that once in full sunlight, wide open at f1.8. The M9 is the same, and I shoot it with f1.4 and f1.2 lenses all the time. As a bonus feature, however, the Df gives us a “T” setting on the shutter wheel, which think is great for long exposures and (at least for Nikon DSLR) a first, AFAIK. It does not quite beat the OM-D’s Live bulb and TIme modes, but it pretty neat!

The first opportunity to try out the Df came at the Sinterklaas festival in Rhinebeck, NY, for which I used the 50 mm AF-S f1.8 “Special Edition” (this is a local festival just like the Sinterklaas in the Netherlands always at the beginning of December). Then, I took it on a business trip to Las Vegas as my main camera, with an assortment of lenses. In Rhinebeck, the temperature was close to freezing and the only person appropriately dressed was our son, so mostly stiff fingers limited the shooting. Ironically Las Vegas was even colder (note to self: pack some gloves!).

Cool Grandpa, 50mm f1.8 at f2, 1/1600, ISO 100


Handling the camera feels intuitive when one is used to a Nikon DSLR. To Vegas, I took with me to 50 mm, as well we a Fisheye (modified for full frame), a 28 mm Ai-S, my 85 mm AF-S f1.4 and a 105 (the f2.5 Ai-S). The Df just feels like it is made for primes.

What is it like shooting the Df? First, I really love the shutter – particularly the Q mode. It is “Leica quiet” – although unlike the Leica, the mirror obviously stays up and the viewfinder is blacked out until the shutter button is released. IT is no speed monster, but for me, 5.5 fps is plenty as I am not shooting any action/sports (and it will be a while till our son is ready for soccer).

Autofocus is as expected – the fact that the focus points are clustered in the middle of the viewfinder is not much of a problem for me, as I often focus and recompose (a rangefinder habit), but not putting in the D4/D800 autofocus module is somewhat annoying at that price. I must admit that comparing it to the OM-D E-M1, the speed is similar, maybe with the OM-D sometimes having the edge. I guess that speaks volumes what mirrorless cameras have come to be. So far, focus has been spot on.

I found that when adjusting the settings, the best procedure is to take the camera away from the eye – the wheels are hard to adjust when having the camera is raised. Some seem to find that unacceptable, but again, this is not a pro-action camera like the D4, it is meant to be shot more deliberately. There is still one “classic” easily accessible control wheel in the back, which can control the aperture in A and M mode (if set up that way via Menu item f7) and can control the shutter speed in S mode, provided the shutter speed wheel is set at “1/3 STEPS”. This maybe all you need, though it would be nice to change the exposure compensation with ease, too. However there is one neat feature – when you are in Shutter priority or Manual mode, and you have activated the “Easy Shutter Speed Shift” (f11), you can change the Shutter speed by 1/3 and 2/3 up and down. This helps when shooting in Manual mode in particular, to account for changes in light etc. This adjustment resets when the shutter wheel is turned.

Laugh, Fisheye, ISO 1600, exposure pulled 3.3 stops in LR


The viewfinder is bright and despite much online furor about the 15mm eye point, I can see fine with glasses on. Manual focus works well with the lenses tested (28mm, 50 mm AF-S, 85 mm AF-S and 105 mm Ai-S). I am not a fan of manually focusing AF-S lenses, but the Special Edition 50mm focus ring may have been purposefully “stiffened” – I do not have a comparison with the original AF-S 50 mm f1.8, but comparing it to my 85 mm, it definitely feels that way.

While holding the camera with one had is not all that comfortable, using it with two hands feels much more natural to me – that I is how I shoot mostly. Let’s face it, the Df is NOT a point and shoot. The OM-D may be better if you are ‘shooting from the hip’ or overhead etc.

I have not yet used the camera with zoom lenses. As stated, it sort of demands to be shot with primes, as larger zooms certainly would feel unbalanced (but if you put it on a tripod, who cares).

Image quality is amazing, It may not be the right camera for fine art photographers, that need to print big, but it is a good companion for travel and I think it makes for a great portrait camera for anything less than billboard sized photos (let’s keep in mind that before the D800, you had to pay good money to get a full frame Nikon over 12 MP and all those 12 MP cameras did fine in the professional arena).


The Df’s low ISO performance is truly outstanding, I have never shot the D3s or D4 but it blows any other digital I have used out of the water. Chroma noise seems extremely well controlled and while dynamic range at base ISO is average, it deteriorates much less than with other cameras. I found I can shoot the Df at ISO 6400 in near darkness and pull a couple more stops out of it for some decent (though not great) images.

Overall I like the camera – a lot – though that may be partly an emotional response for this older wannabe hipster. As all others, it is a mass-produced tool, and thus not perfect for anybody. I prefer the smaller size and actually like the manual dials. They do make you pause and think a bit more rather than just firing away. Ergonomically the camera is not perfect. It costs a lot, though keeping in mind that it is made in Japan and made very well and probably in smaller numbers than the D600 or D800, I am not surprised. I would be astonished f the price dropped a lot in the next few months to years.

Give it’s narrow target audience and slow sales (at least in the US, it seems to sell out in Japan), there may never be a Df2…. in which case this one may just become a cult camera :)

Benjamin Schaefer

At Caesar’s, 28mm f2 at f2, 1/320, ISO 6400 – it was this dark!


exposure pulled 4 stops in LR (almost usable), LR luminance noise reduction a 54, color at 25


Jan 032014
Three weeks, four weddings and one dementia sufferer, with the help of the new Nikon Df       
By Mark Seymour

As a wedding photographer who primarily specialises in Jewish weddings, using a predominately reportage and journalistic style, I use the Nikon flagship camera the D4, with a selection of prime lenses.

But recently I was provided with the Nikon Df and it was great privilege to have the opportunity of trialling this beautiful retro styled camera from Nikon, in real life situations, where the pressure was on for me to deliver.

I initially played with the camera for a week adding some poignant black and white images to my personal project covering my fathers’ decline due to dementia. Once I felt confident with the controls and features I was excited to try out the Df for capturing my professional wedding images. I must admit I did revert to my D4 at the point where the high tempo dancing takes place at both Jewish and Greek weddings had begun because I wanted to feel totally comfortable, as you have less time to think and I needed the higher focus speed of the D4. That’s not to say the Df is a slouch, with the focus system borrowed from the D610.

Overall Impression

It’s a beauty, with overtones harking back to the classic days of film and the great Nikon cameras like the F3 and the Fm3. Nikon have done to this camera what we have seen happen to the beloved design of the mini, in taking the look of a camera with nostalgic memories and installing it with their flagship digital camera’s sensor, to enable photographers to have the best picture making experience.

This is Nikon’s lightest full frame camera at just 710g with beautiful retro dials on the top plate and a 16Mp sensor inside, but also includes a small LCD that gives battery info, shutter speed, aperture selected and number of frames left along with a great LCD and shutter lag to a professional standard. The shutter is also the quietest, which is often a bug bear with the D4 during wedding ceremonies.

ISO is sometimes difficult to know on the dial without confirming what it is in the viewfinder, especially in low light.

Image Quality and Buffer

I’m blown away by the qualities of this sensor, the dynamic range is superb and you can shoot anywhere up to 204,ooo ISO with the buffer not to the standards of the D4 so if you are a photographer who shoots in high bursts, at times you will hit the buffer limit

Below is a selection of images taken with the Retro Nikon Df in real life situations as well as a link to my website.

 Nikon Df , 10,000 ISO, f1.8, 800 sec



Nikon Df, 10000 ISO, F4, 80 Sec



Nikon Df, ISO 6400, 200 sec , F4



Nikon Df, ISO 6400, 200 sec , F4



Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 500sec , F2.8



Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 100 sec , F4


Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 125 sec , F4.5


Nikon Df, ISO 2000, 400 sec , F1.4 85 mm lens



Nikon Df, ISO 3200, 200 sec , F4. 85mm Lens



Nikon Df, 3200 ISO, F3.2, 500 Sec



Nikon Df, 2500 ISO, F5, 25 Sec



Nikon Df, 4000 ISO, F3.5, 60 Sec



Nikon Df, 5000 ISO, F4, 60 Sec



Nikon Df, 5000 ISO, F4, 125 Sec



Nikon Df, 1600 ISO, F2.8, 200 Sec 35mm 1.4



Nikon Df, 1600 ISO, F1.8, 200 Sec. Nikon 50mm 1.4



Nikon Df, 1600 ISO, F2.5, 320 Sec.. 50mm f1.4



Nikon Df, 1000 ISO, F2, 100 Sec. Nikkon 85 mm 1.4




Dec 102013

USER REPORT: Light & Shadow in San Francisco w/ Zeiss 21mm & TMAX 3200 

By Ryan Melideo

First off, I’d like to give a big thanks to Steve for developing this site and providing so many examples and reviews of new gear in the industry. His insight is definitely appreciated and I think we all feel the same way. I also would like to thank him for allowing me to contribute to the content on the site. This is my first guest posting, but second attempt at one. I didn’t get a response to my first idea submission. What’s up with that Steve?? j/k

I have been doing photography for about 2.5 years. What got me started was when I purchased a Canon 7D to shoot video. Over time, I noticed myself using the camera for more photo than video. I have worked with models and actors in the Los Angeles area for the most part, however over the past year, I have been gravitating to photojournalism and documentary photography and also have been experimenting with composited scenes. I currently shoot with a Nikon D800e as my main camera. I also have a Nikon F100 and F5 that I have been able to pick up dirt cheap used, but in impeccable condition. In addition to 35mm,

I have used a Mamiya 7ii (which I am ever so close to purchasing). I really enjoy using film and like the feeling of actually creating something you can touch when shooting on the medium.

The examples I provided here were taken one morning on a recent trip to San Francisco and were shot in the Mission district. I had brought along my Nikon F100 and a Zeiss 21mm f2.8 with the intension of using some Fuji Velvia as I walked around the city. The first morning, when I went to load the Velvia, I noticed that I still had a mostly unused roll of TMAX 3200 loaded inside the camera! I had put it in the camera weeks before when I was going to be doing some indoor shots of a band’s performance. I ended up not going to the performance so the TMAX was left inside to wait. I decided to head out and burn through the roll so I could get my Velvia loaded for the day. I wasn’t used to seeing a high iso film used in the broad daylight. I thought to myself that it might turn out interesting or it might not, but what the hell I’ll try it anyway! I decided to expose mostly for the highlights and fire away. I was using an aperture of f13 or f16 and a shutter speed of 6400 for most of the shots. I quickly shot through the roll in about 45 minutes to an hour.

When I returned from San Francisco I immediately packed up the film rolls to be shipped off for development and scanning. I usually get my film scanned at Their turn times are fast and they have a new scanning resolution they refer to as “super scans” which are scanned at a resolution of 4492×6774. While anticipating the scans, I had really not even thought about the roll of TMAX. I was only thinking about the Velvia shots I had taken. It turns out I was much more interested in the TMAX upon review. I thought that they had an interesting and gritty quality to them.

I processed all of the image files in Lightroom 5 and only made adjustments to further enhance exposure (overall exposure, highlight, shadow) and contrast. No sharpening or other effects were applied. By reducing the overall exposure and painting in exposure in certain areas with the adjustment brush I was able to enhance the eerie feel and make the shots that were taken during the bright morning to appear that they were taken at night or dusk.

Please feel free to take a look at my website for samples of my photo and video work if you would like

Feel free to drop me a line anytime!









Dec 042013

 ISO 12,800 Test – Nikon Df vs Sony A7 – Zero Noise Reduction and Low Light

Just for fun I decided to test the two low light champs in a low light zero noise reduction high ISO 12,800 test!

The Nikon had the $1700 58 1.4 attached and shot at f/1.8 and 1/640s – combo cost $4400

The Sony A7 had the $1000 Sony/Zeiss 50 1.8 attached and shot at f/1.8 and 1/640s – combo cost $2700

Both had Noise Reduction turned OFF to see the true sensor performance at high ISO (NR smears details).

Both focused just fine here.

You can click on each image for the full size from camera JPEG. You can see the Nikon vs Sony color signature here as well. The Nikon is known to be the best current production low light champ and high ISO shooter with that D4 sensor inside and the Sony A7 is the new sensor on the block. How do you think they stacked up?

Many have asked what speakers are shown can read my review HERE. 



Nov 202013

Midnight Crazy Comparison! HIGH ISO – Sony A7, A7r, Leica M and E-M1!

It’s just past midnight and probably will be 1Am before I am finished writing this post but I just can not sleep and am not sure why. In fact, I feel wired for some reason. Maybe it is the fact that tomorrow I will be yet another year older and hitting the age of 44 yet my brain is telling me I am 25 and full of energy :) Nahhh. I think it was the fact that I was laying in bed thinking about what the high ISO performance of the Sony A7 and A7r is like side by side. I decided to get up from bed to go to my office and do a quick and dirty high ISO test between them. While I was at it I added the Leica M 240 and the Olympus E-M1. All cameras were using a 35mm or equivalent lens and all are OOC JPEGS without any NR turned on.

I noticed some reviews of the Sony were claiming mushy details at high ISO. Well, that is because they were using Noise Reduction. TURN IT OFF on ALL of your cameras for best results. It is my opinion that NR should not even be an option for a camera as it always obscures details and adds odd side effects to your images. Almost like a painting. The 1st thing I do when using a new camera is I turn off all noise reduction. It is off on my Olympus E-M1, the Sony RX10 ,the A7’s and the M 240 does not even have it as an option (from what I have seen) so Leica did it right.

The A7r…I am bonding with it…

The Sony A7r has been really attaching itself to me. After a few days I prefer it to the 7 in all ways..even shutter sound. It may be longer but it is a little more “silkier” it seems.  I also prefer the higher resolution as it is something I just do not have in any other camera. Having no AA filter is only good IMO and my favorite cameras do not have them (Leica M, E-M1, RX1R, etc). Also, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 is THE lens to order with this system. I like the 55 1.8 as well but the 35 has something about it and I can tell it has those Zeiss qualities. Many have asked me how the A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8 compares to the RX1 or RX1R. Well, the A7r focuses faster, is higher resolution, just as sharp but you lose that f/2 and have to settle for f/2.8. But at f/2.8 you still get a great look to the image. Full frame + f/2.8 is good :)

A quick snap while in Ikea today with the A7r and 35 2.8 Zeiss. f/2.8 at ISO 400. JPEG.


So at $2300 for the A7r and $800 for the 35 you are $300 over the cost of the Rx1 but you also have a built in EVF which would run you almost $500 for the RX1R. So in many ways, the A7r is the better bet unless you want the smaller RX1R with the f/2 Zeiss.

So again, my full review is in the works for these new A7 cameras, so check back soon for the full detailed report with loads of images. I will also be in Los Angeles next week with some buddies at a studio testing out these cameras in a studio situation as well as some quick street work. Can’t wait and these images and my report on them will be in the full review.

The Crazy Comparison – HIGH ISO!

Hey! This was supposed to be a High ISO Crazy Comparison! Lol..well, here you go!

The Sony’s had the 35 Zeiss 2.8 mounted, the Leica has an old 35 3.5 Summaron mounted and the Olympus had the 17 1.8 mounted for a 35mm Equiv. ALL shots were JPEG, noise reduction OFF, OOC color and Exposure and AWB. The Sony and Olympus were shot at f/2.8 and the Leica f/4.

It is not a sharpness test but a noise test so here we go!





So there you go. Olympus did the worst with AWB, Leica did the best. As for noise at ISO 6400? What do YOU think? 100% crops are embedded so you must click the images above for the larger size. What I think is that ALL of them did great for a midnight indoor high ISO test in my office at ISO 6400 :). These days, high ISO is great on all decent cameras.

It is now 12:51 AM..and I am ready for bed..finally :) Have a great night (or morning) everyone!


PS – You can pre-order the A7 cameras at my pre-order link page HERE!

Nov 152013


Yes I Do: The Leica M240 as a wedding photographer’s tool

By Joeri van der Kloet

I have shot a lot of weddings with my M9 and M9P. Actually, buying the M9 after using Canon DSLR’s for almost ten years was a pretty good move. Before that, I only took my DSLR if I could make money with it. Not just because my kit was big and heavy, but also because I lost the fun in it. I remember visiting the Leica Gallery in New York – a year before I bought the M9 – and holding a M8 and looking through the viewfinder. My wife told me that I should try to switch to the rangefinder system, because the small camera would suit my documentary approach perfectly. I told her I couldn’t imagine myself shooting a wedding without autofocus…but I kept thinking about it.


So now, four years later, I’m one of the few photographers shooting weddings with a rangefinder and I couldn’t be happier. The last four years have been a challenge, because I needed to learn photography again. There have been moments where I wanted to toss my M9 out of the window, but there also have been moments of pure photographical joy. I never spent so much time learning to use a camera before, but I needed to make it work. A wedding is a strange event: it is packed with beautiful moments, but most of these moments last just for a second, or even less. And I need to capture them, without zooms and without autofocus. My approach in wedding photography makes it even harder, because I shoot in a very pure, documentary style – that style justifies the use of a small camera of course – . I never stage any settings, never ask my clients to pose, so I’m completely dependent on real moments to happen. Sometimes, my clients and I visit a place to take some shots, but even then, I just let them do whatever they feel like doing. Usually, they take a walk and I follow them, trying to get the best position for a shot. I don’t ask them to kiss, or hold hands, or go to the good light, I just wait and see what happens. So if there is a quick kiss, or a sensitive moment, I need to get it. On many occasions I get the best shots when the couple walks from the church to their car. They are even less aware of the camera and they are overwhelmed by emotions, which makes it a perfect opportunity for photography.


A few weeks ago, the bride entered the wedding venue through the back door and on her way she crossed a square with a beautiful rectangular sculpture on it. The light was perfect and I took the shot. I know my clients want these real moments in stead of the staged and posed settings that are more common. It means I really need to be able to focus very fast, also with moving subjects. And after four years, I can say that I’m starting to feel confident about it, although I haven’t even come close to mastering it. Every single wedding is very, very hard work and I’m usually exhausted after a full day of shooting. The biggest difference with a ‘non-documentary’ shooter is that I am never sure what to expect, whereas the more traditional shooter creates his own settings and takes the shots he thinks he need to take.


Being a documentary photographer means I don’t use flash. Ever. I don’t want my clients and the guests to notice me when I’m working. I’ve covered receptions with my M9’s where the couple was dancing and I was shooting at ISO 2500, at 1.2 at 1/15th of a second. It was so dark that it was hardly possible to see something through the viewfinder. Sometimes I would focus just by muscle memory – that’s why I actually train focussing with my camera every day! – and it always worked out. Not for every image of course, but I always got the shot that I wanted. Still, I was pretty excited when the M240 was announced and reviewers reported about the high ISO capabilities of the new M. I got myself on the list and after some waiting, I was able to get one.

I didn’t need much time of practice with the new M, because it felt just like the M9. A little heavier, beefier, but much more responsive. The shutter appeared to be more silent, maybe not just in the amount of sound, but much more in the type of sound. The M240 doesn’t have the whine the M9 shutter has and the sound is shorter. Also, the feel on the shutter button is much better. With my M9, I used a soft release, but with the M240, it isn’t necessary at all. The only thing I took from my M9 is the thumbs up, because the built in one, just isn’t big enough. With my M9, I never was a machine gun shooter and neither am I with the new M, but it is very nice to have a bigger buffer when you need it. I never use the continuous mode, but sometimes I do take two or three shots in a rapid succession.

Another thing I absolutely love is the new battery. I can shoot on just one for almost a whole day, whereas with the M9, I had to change batteries twice. And I really needed to plan these moments, because you don’t want to change batteries in the middle of the ceremony. With the new M, I don’t need to worry about that.



I heard a lot of complaints about the M9 screen, but I only used it for checking the histogram every now and then. I don’t need to check focus on my screen. First, because I usually get one chance for each moment and second, I know when I’m out of focus. The new viewfinder is even better than the old one. I don’t know what they changed, but it is somehow easier to focus.

Of course, I laughed about the live view Leica implemented. Who would need that? Well, I’ve learned and now I know there are circumstances where live view is pretty convenient. During dancing I still prefer my rangefinder, because it just works better with all the movement. However, if it is very, very dark and people are standing still, I sometimes use the VF-2, the Olympus one – I’m not a fanboy…- and I find it to work nicely. Yes, there is more shutterlag and it takes ages before the blackout is gone, but I can focus very precisely and with my 50/1.1, it is the only thing that really works. My 35/1.2 is easier to focus, because of the longer focus throw and there is just a tad more tolerance, because of the shorter focal length and the quarter stop slower aperture. When I bought the M240 I thought that I wouldn’t use the 35/1.2 any more, but I have come to like it even more than I already used to. With the new M, the 35/1.2 delivers creamy, lovely bokeh and very nice transitions and very acceptable sharpness. Also, with the new M and the 35/1.2, I can handle the worst light you can imagine. Sometimes I tell my wife that my clients must have known that I gained two extra stops, because they reduced the light with two stops, but usually, I can use faster shutter speeds than I used to. And with people dancing, that can be very convenient. Another good thing is the improved dynamic range. Now that I also switched to Lightroom 5, the difference is really big. Sometimes, the DR is even so big, the image gets a kind of HDR look, which I don’t like. Of course, it’s quite simple to lose some detail in highlights or shadows. It all comes down to taste. At least, with this combination (M240 and LR5) you have a choice.



Yes, there is a difference between the M9 and M240 files. But you need to process them in a different way. I still love the way the M9 CCD renders and with low ISO, it is almost unbeatable. However, I don’t work for my portfolio, or for pixel peepers. I work for couples that don’t care about CCD’s and CMOS sensors. They do care for a photographer that works with a small camera and doesn’t use flash. With the M240, I can be a little more certain that I can get the shots, no matter the circumstances. And because I pay my mortgage with the money I get from my clients, that seems like a wise decision.

Getting two M240’s was not an option, simply because I’ll need to wait for at least a few months again. My M9, or M9P, features as a backup camera, but one of the new Sony’s might also be interesting, since their high ISO capacities are even better than the M240.


I wouldn’t have bought the M240 if it wasn’t the tool I need to make a living. I was perfectly happy with the M9 as a camera for travel and general photography. And also for wedding photography. However I knew that I was using it on the limit and that a somewhat more forgiving camera could be a smart investment. On my journey around the world I used the M9’s 160 ISO setting for 99% of the many thousand pictures I took. And I love them. Seriously, if you don’t need the high ISO, you might want to check out the M9, because it might be all you need. Lots has changed in photography and – as I write this – Sony just launched the A7 and A7R for much less than the price of a used M9. If you’re just after technical image quality, this might be your camera. To me, the simple layout of a rangefinder, with everything manual, makes me happy as a photographer. I have owned the M8 for some time, as a backup for my first M9 and even though that camera is ‘technically challenged’, I just loved it, because it isn’t cluttered with buttons and stuff I don’t need or want. Some people say there is no future for rangefinder photography and that the rangefinder mechanism is not suited for fast, demanding photographic assignments. Well, I do shoot dancing people in near dark situations and I need to deliver. I hope my work proves the opposite. If you train enough, you’ll be fast enough. And when the going gets tough, the light gets bad, you’re even faster with a rangefinder…



I’d lie if I’d say there haven’t been moments of doubt. It’s not without a reason most pro’s use fat and fast DSLR’s. They’re pretty reliable, cheaper and there’s more lenses to choose from. Also, IQ-wise it is hard to beat a modern DSLR. It is however a fact that I have shot quite a lot of assignments – also weddings – because I use this weird little camera. Believe it or not, people hire me to work with it. And in the last four years it has become my trademark. A few weeks ago I was invited at a wedding as a guest and I had a nice conversation with the wedding photographer. He didn’t know my name, but when I told him my business name, he suddenly shouted: “You’re that guy with the Leica!’. More recently, I shot a wedding for a Dutch film maker. He also owns a M9 and he really wanted me to get my documentary shots of his wedding. During the reception I managed to get very close to all the people dancing and take my shots without flash. Afterwards, the couple was very happy with the results. And when I read all these kind words and see the pictures I get with my M, I have no doubt. In the world of wedding photography, competition is fierce and working with the M and shooting my pure, documentary style, makes me stand out the crowd. And the fact is: my business is still growing.


I have started with one on one teaching in the Netherlands where I teach Leica users to focus their lenses faster. I’m still working on a tutorial that I hopefully will finish this year. It is a very practical book with many exercises to improve your focussing, without too much technical details. I’ll let Steve know when it’s finished. He might be interested in a review…

Oct 202013

PROST! Oktoberfest with the E-M1 (sort of)…

Just a fun Sunday night post before getting serious on Monday Morning :)

Over the weekend we drove in over to Scottsdale AZ for some Oktoberfest fun :) NOTHING like the real deal of course but I brought along the Olympus E-M1 and when I arrived my 1st thought was “Uh is way too dark in here for photos..should have brought the RX1R”.

I had the 17 1.8 with me as the only lens. Even in the dark conditions the camera focused blazing fast and while I only took a few shots in various conditions ranging from ISO 200-3200 it never let me down. I converted these to B&W using VSCO as I felt this would give a good vibe to these dark low light condition photos. The look you see in the images, the washed out grey and whole “look” is due to the VSCO filter I chose. Has nothing to do with the camera and there is no way to get this look without the filter. I chose this look for these “just for fun” images and have used this same filter with the Leica M, Sony RX1, etc. They look  the same :)

To see images without filters, just look at my lengthy E-M1 review. The E-M1 is just as contrasty as the next camera and has image quality as good as any APS-C camera (but with much faster AF).

So once again, the little E-M1 performed very nicely and never once did it even come close to hunting for AF. Press, focus, fire. Every time. Keep in mind, this was indoor, no windows to the outside world so I was dealing with the interior lights only. Some shots had to be taken at 3200 and the lens was shot wide open 95% of the time. The 17 1.8 is probably the best “one lens” solution for the E-M1 due to its sharpness, AF speed and performance. Highly recommend it.

Seeing that it was a local Oktoberfest celebration the beer was good..too good in fact because after an hour I forgot to take photos!  I was too busy enjoying the music, the fun and the friendly atmosphere! Still, when I take a break from this website it seems I am still working on the website, but I love it.

All have a VSCO filter applied which gives it B&W, Noise and a Washed out look











and by request, one without the filter below, straight from camera – RAW – must click it to see it larger sized


Sep 272013


Shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in Dublin Ireland 

by Steve Huff

ATTENTION: My full and complete thorough E-M1 Review is HERE!

Check out the video below that goes over the E-M1 and my use with it over the past few days. Everything I can say about this new E-M1 is said in this video!

So as some of you know from reading yesterdays post I am in Ireland.

I spent the last three days in Dublin Ireland as well as Castle Leslie with Olympus and about 15 other photographers testing out the latest and greatest Micro 4/3 camera, the E-M1. I used to own the E-M5 which is the model that preceded the E-M1 and I LOVED It. It was small, light, fast and highly capable. I have always been a fan of Micro 4/3 and the love just continues with this release :)

The new E-M1 takes it up a few notches and is titled the First PRO Micro 4/3 body and not only does it shoot with Micro 4/3 lenses, it can shoot your 4/3 glass as well, and the AF speed is quick and snappy even when using the adapter for that 4/3 glass. See a sample below with the 14-35 at f/2. 

The 4/3 14-35 f/2 lens on the E-M1. Focused fast and nice.

Has some of my own Processing style and a crop in this one :) 


Olympus had the set up at the castle and allowed us to all shoot with an E-M1 (we were all supplied with our own E-M1, bag and two lenses). We shot models, we shot horses and we shot some very cool light painting effects with Live Time, which is exclusive to Olympus.

Improvements Galore that I noticed in my real world use…

Body & IS

But what about the camera in general? Is it an improvement over the E-M5? YES, YES, and YES! It is a pretty nice improvement in body style and ergonomics…it feels better than the E-M5 no question. The grip was added and the body feels better made, more solid. The buttons and dials are placed nicely in the correct positions and also feel professional and solid. The E-M1 still has the incredible class leading 5-Axis IS but it has been tweaked a little for better performance.

The 17 1.8 at 1.8 – click it for more detail and to see just how sharp this lens is on the E-M1



We also have the EVF upgrade which gives us the huge VF4 built-in to the body, which means this is the mirrorless camera with the best EVF to date. It is beautiful to look through and work with. Id take this over an optical any day, but I love EVF’s these days. They are damn good from Sony and Olympus.


SPEED – contrast and phase AF

The camera also has dual fast AF, Contrast and Phase Detect which means faster AF. I did not really notice the AF to be much faster over the E-M5 but did like the new options. When shooting some action scenes I was able to change my AF points from single to a patch of them in the center which made it easier  and faster to lock on and follow, and lock on and follow it did.

The next three shots: The 12-40, then the last two are with the beautiful 75 1.8. The camera had no problem tracking these fast-moving subjects!





One amazing thing I loved about the E-M5 and now E-M1 is the Live Time feature. This is not new on the E-M5 but just wanted to show how easy it is to get an amazing long exposure JUST right. If you like light painting or shooting the stars, this is your camera, hands down. It takes the guesswork out as you watch in realtime as your image develops. Leaving the shutter open for your long exposure allows you to see via the LCD just how it is exposing, and coming along. When it looks right to you, you stop the exposure. Amazing capabilities and this feature is only in Olympus cameras.

Me as an Angel


and then there is the Devil


Both of those images were done by Light Painting which is leaving the shutter open while lights are moved and placed in areas to allow them to get exposed. These were exposures up to 2 minutes in length. Pretty cool. You can tell when your image is ready just by viewing the exposure in real-time. Amazing.

WiFi – EASY to access and set up

One thing I go over in the video at the top of the page is WiFi and how to set it up. It is easy and takes about 1 minute and once you are all set up you can use yoru smart phone as your viewfinder, control settings and snap the image, all remotely. You can also transfer images from the cameras SD card to your smart phone or iPad, quick and easy. It works well.

The lens every Micro 4/3 shooter should own. The 45 1.8 – (buy it here). It seems that most lenses are REALLY sharp on the E-M1



What was once ISO 6400 is now 3200. The high ISO is improved with the camera and while it is still no full frame or Fuji X in the extreme high-end range of ISO, it does very well.

ISO 640 – 75 1.8


ISO 400 – 45 1.8


ISO 12800


ISO 6400 using “Grainy B&W” Art Filter


So while I recommend shooting B&W after ISO 3200, the camera is more capable than the E-M5 was before it when it comes to low light and high ISO. Micro 4/3 sensors just keep getting better and better.



The Art Filters are still here including two of my faves, Grainy B&W and Pinhole. Below is a sample OOC file using the Pinhole filter.


At the end of the day…

The new Olympus E-M1 is a “Mirrorless Masterpiece” it does almost everything right, and really gets nothing wrong. Olympus wants us to know that this camera is just as capable as a huge DSLR at half the size, and they are correct. The E-M1 does everything that a DSLR can do, but in some cases better and in a some ways not so much.

Will this match the overall IQ of a full frame DSLR or Leica M? No. Will it match an APS-C DSLR or camera? YES, and then some.

The reason why I call this a “Mirrorless Masterpiece” is because it has class leading features, build, feel, AF speed, lenses, and usability. No other mirrorless has the 5-axis IS, no other mirrorless has the innovative Live Time feature and no other mirrorless has this many amazing prime and zoom lenses available for their system. No other Mirrorless has this kind of EVF attached and built-in.

No other mirrorless can beat the E-M1 for speed either. I had a hard time finding something to NOT like about the E-M1 and after two days of use and thinking, I really have nothing bad at all to say about it. If  you know what Micro 4/3 can do then you will love this camera. If you are someone who refuses to believe that a Micro 4/3 can deliver, well it can. Just do not expect full frame performance :)



The new 12-40 2.8 lens is also a fantastic lens if you want a convenient 2.8 aperture zoom. I loved it but I still prefer my prime lenses with even faster apertures but those looking for a pro level zoom, the 12-40 rocks and I prefer it to the Panasonic 12-35 2.8. It’s also blazing fast and Olympus says it beats the quality of their 4/3 lenses, so fans of the old 12-60 rejoice, your Micro 4/3 version is here (sort of).

Olympus says this is the biggest digital camera release ever for them, and now I can see why. If Micro 4/3 is in your future or in your life right now, there is no way you would or could be disappointed by the OM-D E-M1. Some will not enjoy the looks as that snazzy new Panasonic GX7 is pretty damn sexy but at the end of the day Olympus has yet another winner in the E-M1 and 12-40 Zoom.

If you have not watched the video at the top of the page, do so as I say quite a bit about the camera as well as give a WiFi tutorial. If you have not seen my long and full Olympus E-M5 review, click here to see it. 

The E-M1 is an achievement in the Mirrorless world. yes my friends, these cameras just keep getting better.

The video from the US Launch Event (I am in the video for a short bit) :) 

Where to BUY? 

You can pre-order the Olympus E-M1 at the links below, and if you do use the links  you are helping this site to keep on chugging along. So I thank you!

Buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo – Buy the new 12-40 2.8 Zoom at B&H Photo

Buy the E-M1 at Amazon – Buy the new 12-40 2.8 Zoom at Amazon

Buy the E-M1 at

I will leave you with a few more samples :) Enjoy!








UPDATE: Full size from RAW image samples. Click any image below for the full size file!

By Request: Full size from RAW Olympus OM-D E-M1 Images

Hello to all! I just arrived back home from Ireland after an 18 hour travel day, delayed flights and missed connections but hey, it was worth it just to go to the gorgeous castle and put the E-M1 to  the test in a beautiful environment. The weather was not so hot on the day at the Castle which required me to up the ISO on the camera but I still feel the images are superb. I have had a few email requests for full size images, from RAW from the camera. So here you go!

Enjoy and have a great rest of the weekend! I will be back Monday morning!

You must click on each image to get the full size. Text is embedded on each image with the lens used as well as ISO.








…and for comparison, a full size Leica M 240 file from the same day, same weather at ISO 200:

Many were complaining of the visible noise at 100% with the Olympus E-M1 files. Well, the Micro 4/3 files have always been like this. It has been one thing that has remained constant. The E-M5 does it, the E-P1 does it and the GX7 does it as well. What you see in my full size samples are images with all Noise Reduction turned OFF. When you print these images and view them at web size  you will not see the noise. While I did not do any side by sides with my Leica M (only took 6 shots with my Leica) I did take the one below with the M from my Blacony. ISO 200, 50 1.4 Summilux. A $11,000 combo. You can see noise in this sample as well at 100%. Again, I turn off all NR on every camera I own for maximum detail as slight noise at 100% does not bother me. : ) The dreary weather also adds to this effect.




PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

Sep 262013

Olympus OM-D E-M1  – 1st Quick test JPEG’s!


Hey guys! I am in Dublin Ireland at Castle Leslie and having an AMAZING time shooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Weather has been dreary and rainy but can’t complain. I have only 5 minutes before I have to get back down to the group for a pre-dinner meet so I am throwing up a few out of camera JPEGS shot today. I will follow this with many more thoughts, a video, and more images of course. So for now, just four quick JPEGS (all I have time for right now). Much more to come!

The 12-40 Lens at 2.8, ISO 400


17 1.8 at 1/20s



Same shot as above but from RAW


The 12-40 using Live Time – LONG exposure with light painting and yes, that is me as an Angel


The 75 1.8 at 1.8


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