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Apr 232017
 

LET’S TALK: My Sony A9 Shooting Experience and why it is not just a sports camera! (Video)

Hey guys! Hope you all had a fantastic weekend! The Sony A9 fever is still in effect, though it has died down a bit from last week. Pre orders are now open at Amazon (HERE) or B&H Photo (HERE). Only a month until it ships and so many are excited to get their camera. Since I have shot with it for a full day, I wanted to make a follow-up video to my last one with my thoughts on shooting it, the speed, the quality and all things about this new A9. I can not share any images until later in the week, but at that time I will show a few shots from the 1st time ever in life I shot any sports or really fast action. So while my images are “meh”, the camera was flat out amazing. But watch the video below for my detailed thoughts on using this new Sony beast.

I also get into why this is so much more than a sports camera. I did not call it my “Desert Island Camera” for its sports abilities! Enjoy your Sunday and I will have more during the week. Also, a note. I am traveling from AZ to IL to OH and through PA for 10 days or so via road trip with Debby in about a week. So during that time the updates will be slower here, but I will have fun updates from the road at my YouTube HERE. I have some new stuff I am testing that is top-secret, and will be putting it all to the test on my trip!

And now, the video…

You can pre order the A9 below at my recommended Sony dealers whose I trust:

B&H Photo A9 Page

Amazon A9 Page

Apr 212017
 

Pre Order the new Sony A9 NOW! Links here..

PRE ORDER BELOW:

Pre Order the Sony A9 at B&H Photo HERE

Pre Order the Sony A9 and Half Grip at B&H Photo HERE

Order the Sony A9 at Amazon

YES! It’s time, the new Sony A9 is ready for pre order and will start shipping on MAY 25th!! (Links below to my preferred Sony Dealers). If you have interest in this camera I HIGHLY SUGGEST you pre order ASAP.  Why do I always pre order? For a few reasons, but when a camera is super hot like this Sony model is, orders go in FAST, and then a wait list starts. When you preorder early, you are guaranteed to be one of the 1st to get the camera. If you wait until the day of release, it will be out of stock and you will go onto a wait list at most dealers. 

I always pre order a camera or lens I know I want, so I do not have to wait forever to get it. The cool part is, if I change my mind before the ship date, my card does not get charged and I can cancel without risk.

I had the chance to shoot the A9 all day yesterday in fast action sporting events. Sony set up a full on track and field event and we were able to test the flat out amazing AF speed and AF tracking, and I could not believe the abilities of the camera. I am no action shooter, but I was able to track fast moving action without any problem or skill level. The camera locked on, and stayed on the subjects and when shooting at 20 FPS with no blackout, what you see is what you get.

The Sony A9 is a new breed of camera and unlike any I have ever used or reviewed. I am not allowed to post images from it until next week (no one is), but those images will be from the track & field event. What I am waiting for is a review unit so I can really dig into the camera and shoot it in my style as it is much more than a sports camera, that is just the tip of the iceberg. For me, this will indeed be added to my arsenal next to my well loved A7RII. As for the A9, this will end up being one of my “Mega” reviews by the time I am done. So a full review, and video review will be coming soon.

If you missed my 1st hands on thoughts on the A9 fresh after testing it out, here. ya go! 

 

Any photos I post next week (I can share more thoughts and some photos next Thursday) will still be part of my hands on first look. Then 2-3 weeks later I will have a full review unit to evaluate as deeply as I care to. Exciting times lay ahead for digital imaging and the A9 is a camera for pros, amateurs, enthusiasts and those who just want amazing tech..a camera that can handle about anything thrown at it. Wait until everyone experiences the no blackout EVF and LCD…as I said, nothing else exists like this today.

I will say this, and what I say mirrors what many other reviewers and journalists are saying. This Sony A9 is a GAME CHANGER. There is nothing like it and Sony came through with the speed, the technology and answered all of our needs and wants. As they said a coupe of years ago, Sony is in this for the long haul and dedicated to advancing digital imaging as far as they can take it. With the A9, they are proving that they are indeed delivering on that promise. Now that they passing up Nikon, they have their eye on the big C. Should be an interesting year..and my gut tells me this is only the beginning ; )

BTW, I shot almost 2000 images at the event yesterday and my battery was at 42% when done. So yea, the battery life is MUCH better here. Also, after using it more I can proclaim the EVF beats the Leica SL EVF here. It’s smooth as silk, ZERO lag, ZERO blackout (when using the Electronic Shutter) and the color and contrast is like an HD TV. It’s large and no way anyone would or could prefer an OVF to this. This is the future. I may sound excited but I have reason to be. There is nothing like the A9.

*Over the A7II  we gain the better battery system, the new EVF (best in the world at this time), new controls up top for setting focus and FPS modes, 20FPS shooting with no blackout of the EVF or LCD, Amazing AF tracking that locks and sticks to your subjects, even when they are fast moving, MUCH faster start up time over the A7, much more responsive feel, The new Q&S selection on the top dial to shoot 120FPS slo mo or 4FPS fast motion quickly and easily, slight ergo changes that improve upon the A7 series, a latched closing SD card door that now houses TWO SD slots, and we still keep gorgeous 4K video (no SLOG as the is ones built for the photographers, not documentary makers), an all new sensor with the latest tech, 5 Axis IS, and some little new additions I will go over in my review. The big ones for me are the EVF, no blackout, FPS (though I would rarely use it) and AF speed and tracking/accuracy. Hey, Sony even made the A9 logo in Gold lettering ; ) THIS IS their flagship.

PRE ORDER BELOW:

Pre Order the Sony A9 at B&H Photo HERE

Pre Order the Sony A9 and Half Grip at B&H Photo HERE

Order the Sony A9 at Amazon

The one negative I found was the fact that Sony seems to be aiming this at sports shooters and did not implement full weather sealing. (Even though I see the A9 as more like a massively upgraded A7II) It can be used for Portraits, Street, Studio, Everyday Life, Landscape, and sports. It is the one camera that exists that has no real weakness when it comes to performance. None. But Sony did not incorporate full weather sealing. While weather “resistant” some do not like that it is not a full on seal. I am sure Sony has reasons of this, though not sure what they are. I can say that I have been shooting my A7rII since it was launched and have had it in rain, a downpour or two, snow, sleet and in 115 degree temps and very cold temps. I have run it through a color run, which is torture for any camera. My A7RII has never had a hiccup or problem. Still works as good as new. So maybe the weather resistance is good enough, and Sony knows this or maybe their are other reasons.

Sony had pro OLYMPIC shooters test the A9, and they all sang the praises of it and now want to shoot with the A9. For me, that is pretty high praise for sports shooters. As for Lenses, the new 100-400 G master is gorgeous but I had VERY little time with it. From what I had seen, it was fast, and delivered the G Master IQ traits of nice contrast, color and detail. That’s about all I can say about that lens for now as I will have to wait until I have more time with it. I do know the lens does not ship until Late July 2017.

To wrap this up you may have noticed I called this A9 “The most advanced camera in the world”. This is a true statement. There is nothing made by Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica or anyone else that has the abilities of this Sony A9. I feel Canon and Nikon may be scrambling now to figure out how to combat this move from Sony, and I am sure they will..eventually. But for now, no one else has these kind of specs for a full frame camera.

Apr 192017
 

My Hands on 1st Thoughts on the Sony A9! (Video)

NOTE: I switched this site to a new server last night, and comments may or may not be working. If you have an issue posting comments here, email me at [email protected]

Wow, what a day! I posted something earlier about the A9 right as it was announced and that page has all the specs of this new powerhouse camera. But for now, I wanted to record all of my thoughts of this new A9 while they were fresh in my head.

But MAN OH MAN what a camera. Yes, Sony has created my Desert Island camera…see the video below to hear WHY:

PRE ORDERS START ON FRIDAY!!
I WILL HAVE A FIRST LOOK REPORT WITH IMAGES AND MORE THOUGHTS THIS WEEK! CHECK BACK ALL WEEK FOR MORE A9 COVERAGE!

Mar 302017
 

Time travelling with the Jupiter-9

by Dirk De Paepe – 

You can see more of Dirk’s work at www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood. There’s a dedicated album with more pictures of the collie meeting and all are also available in higher resolutions. Click the pictures in this review for a better view.

There has been quite some thrilling articles about new gear lately on this website, like those about the M10. But it’s great that there’s a lot more to experience here, for which we can’t thank Steve enough. Today I’d like to take you in the opposite direction and contribute with something from the past.

If you’re a regular visitor, I’m sure the name Jupiter rings a bel. These somewhat exotic Russian lenses from the Soviet-era have been covered here several times, by Steve himself, as well as by several guest editors. Pretty recently – well, in fact, a good year ago – we could still read about the Lomography Jupiter 3+. This replica of the original Jupiter-3 is by many described as “not a lens for every day”, but rather as an “art lens”. Owning several original Jupiters, I can largely subscribe this statement. Although one can also get pretty “normal” images with the Jupiters (when stopped down), there are better options for that purpose. But if you want to add a vintage flair to your pics, the Jupiters come to the fore. Although they may fall somewhat short, when you compare their IQ in the usual way with modern lenses, there’s still enough in favor of this vintage glass, to make me really want to shoot with it from time to time.

The Jupiters with M39 mount are rangefinder coupled full-frame lenses. They’ll work perfectly with all M-mount camera’s, with the right (almost invisible) adapter. With a somewhat thicker adapter (or an extra one added to the M39-M, as I do) one can use them with mirrorless camera’s like the full-frame Sony A7 Series and Leica SL. But they’ll also work with smaller sensor mirrorless camera’s – in that case with a proportionally smaller field of view.

One could wonder if there still is some relevance for using old lenses with adapters on modern camera’s, since there are so much native lenses available. Well, I guess there is, if you like MF. First of all, the character of some of those classics are pretty unique and different from any of the available modern lenses. Therefore shooting those lenses can really inspire. I can state two things in this context. On the one hand, I’d probably never have produced pictures like those shown in this article, if I wouldn’t have owned any Jupiter. On the other hand, maybe I’d never had bought a Jupiter, if the Zeiss Loxia line would have been available at the launch of the A7 Series. One doesn’t miss what one doesn’t know. So let’s just give some more notoriety to the Jupiter name.

Another important matter is without doubt the budget. The Jupiters are not expensive at all. This means that you can expand your lens collection at much lower cost than with new glass.

And think of this. If you don’t want to spend the amount of money, needed for the average full frame camera system, but still you can’t stop dreaming about it: think about buying an A7 for less than $1000 and some classic lenses. You could be set for under $1750! Jupiter-9 (85/2) for around $200, Jupiter-8 (50/2) for $75 or Jupiter-3 (50/1.5) for $200 and as wide angle for instance a Canon FD 28/2.8 for around $75, throw in the adapter(s) and make your own calculation. You’ll have the whole system for less than the cost of a new Zeiss Loxia 21mm!

For most of my work, however, I will use the Zeiss Loxia line. This series has four members now, (21, 35, 50 and 85mm) which cover the majority of my shooting. So I guess it’s clear: I’m a manual focus guy at heart. I have tried out auto focus with Batis, but it doesn’t really do the trick for me. So IMO, for my camera, Loxia is about the best one can get. Still, from time to time, I just wanna go for something else. It’s kind of an urge that comes in waves, I guess. And as you know, if it itches you gotta to scratch…

So it’s not always Loxia. Recently, I use the Voigtländer VM 35mm f/1.4 quite a lot. I love this little marvel mainly for its compact size (converting my A7RII into a pretty discrete street camera), for its ergonomics (I just love the tactile experience), for its built (metal solid) and indeed also for its character and IQ (the barrel distortion, being its biggest flaw, is easily correctable by moving the designated slider in Photoshop to +7).

Another one of my all-time favorite lenses is the Canon FD85 f/1.2 Aspherical, which is a joy to use wide open with the focus peeking of the A7 Series. However, due to its size and weight, I find it not for everyday use. But it’s for sure capable of producing stunning IQ, with spectacular out of focus rendering. Regardless its age, it’s still at par with the high-res sensor of the A7RII.
These two lenses find their way to my camera on a pretty regular basis.
But let’s not deviate too far.

In this article, I’d like to put the spotlight on one of those exotic Russian marvels. Not the popular 50/1.5 Jupiter-3, but the 85/2 Jupiter-9, which – I can tell you right away – is definitely my favorite Jupiter. I own a few 85s, whereby I use this one only every now and then, indeed because of its IQ being “not modern at all”. Still I will never sell it. After all, sometimes I simply can’t resist its attraction. It’s old school all right – well, it’s just plain old. Its IQ can be debatable, not at par with modern hi-res sensors, BUT … I couldn’t care less! Simply because it can create a wonderful, pretty unique mood. That’s why I’m sometimes seeking recourse to this old chap, just to “time travel” – just to achieve that certain mood that brings me back to my childhood or even beyond. And its old school looks are the opposite of eye catching, which helps for discrete shooting.

(picture 01)
The Jupiter-9 is an excellent 85 for discrete shooting.
Good to know

Portrait photography is for many the most obvious application of this lens. However, I will use it mainly for discrete photography – on the street or at special occasions. The tele factor is often welcome for this kind of shooting. But I’m sure its scope can be much wider.

This Jupiter-9 is basically a soft lens, with less dynamic range, and micro contrast than modern Zeiss glass. Why do I compare with Zeiss? Well, as a matter of fact, the 9 is kind of a replica of the pre-WW2 Zeiss Sonar 85/2.0, licensed to be manufactured in, by and for the USSR as part of the damages that were to be paid after World War 2. So although the production is from after the war, the design and therefore the character and the specifications are from the pre-WW2 era.
It comes in different versions. Mine is a black one with M39 screw mount. A wafer-thin adapter transforms it into an M-mount lens. I permanently have such an adapter on each of my Jupiter lenses, so I can easily use them in combination with other M-mount glass with the same M-to-E adapter – this was in fact my normal way of working, before Loxia came along.

(picture 02)
The wafer-thin adapter turns the Jupiter from M39 screw mount into an M-mount lens.

The aperture can be set from f/2 to /22 with a smooth, click-less ring. The ring rotates a bit too smoothly, IMO. One has to check on a regular basis, if the aperture is not displaced.
The focus ring on my copy has its hard stop exactly at infinite. This is presumably exceptional and due to intensive service work, done by the house that sold it to me, because on my other Jupiters (-3, -8 and -11) the hard stop lies just a bit beyond infinite. The minimal focus distance is 1,15m, quite a bit further than with more modern 85s, but its throw is no less than 180°. This yields a more detailed distance scale (it reads …, 5, 6, 8, 12, 25, ∞, the distances are only indicated in meters) and a much larger than average DOF-scale. This helps a lot when zone focusing, which often is not that obvious on an 85.

(picture 03)
Click-less aperture ring, detailed focus ring with hard stop at infinite, large classic DOF-scale, 49mm filter size.

One of the extraordinary features of this Jupiter is that it has no less than 15 blades for its aperture. This provides a very beautiful out of focus rendering and smooth bokeh, even stopped down. Those blades make for one of the most desirable features of the Jupiter-9, but at the same time they probably constitute this lens’s most important frailty. I once ruined a 9, because some of those blades got loose from a shock. Since those old Jupiters are not that expensive to buy (you can find a 9 for 150-250$ on ebay), the damage made it in fact a “total loss”. But it speaks for how much I love this lens, that I looked for and found an even better replacement the very same day on ebay. This is the one in these pictures.

(picture 04)
No less than 15 aperture blades assure a smooth out of focus rendering, even stopped down.

The Jupiter-9 is a very compact 85, when compared to more modern lenses. The Zeiss ZM Tele-Tessar is comparable in size indeed, but that’s an f/4, while the Jupiter is an f/2. The Loxia 85 is called to be a very compact 85, but just compare this f/2,4 to the faster f/2 Jupiter. The Batis is in turn a lot thicker, roughly the same size of the Canon, which is an f/1,2!
So I have put those five 85s of different ages in a row. The two newest ones are e-mount, the other 3 are M or transformed to M-mount (that means I keep an adapter to M permanently on them). To make a better comparison in the picture, I have posted the three M-mount lenses a bit higher, to compensate for the difference in FFD (flange focal distance).

(picture 05)
Size comparison. From left to right, young to old: the Zeiss Loxia Sonnar f/2.4, the Zeiss Batis Sonnar f/1.8, the Zeiss ZM Tele-Tessar f/4, the Canon FD f/1.2 Aspherical and the Jupiter-9 f/2.
Shooting with the Jupiter-9

This is not a typical lens review, since I’m not a professional photography reporter. Although I share some knowledge and “user experience”, still I don’t try to cover every aspect, or go over every single parameter. I mainly want to give you a few examples of what can be done and why I sometimes really wánt to use this lens, in disregard of its “inferior” specifications, and although I own some more modern 85s. I just wanted to show you that there are different paths to applying this lens in a creative way. In any case, I believe it’s important to think before shooting, about what kind of atmosphere you are pursuing, so that you can set the parameters right for it and do the appropriate post production work later.

When I use it, I want in fact to take benefit of one of its “flaws”, trying to turn this “weak parameter” into a creative advantage. Therefore I’ll slightly amplify it, while slightly correcting others. Those alterations need to be dosed very carefully however, not to overdo them. Of course there’s an important matter of personal taste in this. I guess this procedure is my own interpretation of the “art” factor of this lens. In this article I’ll give a few examples of two parameters that I treated in this way: micro contrast and color vibrancy.
Micro contrast

In the last series of pictures that I shot with the Jupiter-9, I wanted to create a mood that gave me the same feeling as what I got from old pictures from before WW2, as I remember them from the era when my parents were youngsters. So for me, it links to the mood that I got from stories that I was told from those times. I do believe that our society also evolves on an emotional level. These old pictures trigger my fantasy, creating in my mind an imaginary, bygone world of emotions… Of course this is a very personal matter. I can’t speak for you or anybody else, but I can tell you that it can have a pretty strong impact on my mood. My goal was not that much to faithfully recreate the old style of those pictures, rather than just to add this particular mood. And this Jupiter helps me herewith, better than any other glass I own. In fact, it was owning this lens and looking at its results that gave me the idea of exploring it’s character in specific ways. I guess I would not ever have taken this path, if I didn’t own a Jupiter. Of course, to achieve this desired mood, I needed those pictures to be in black and white.

They were all shot at a yearly meeting of American Collie-owners in Zeeland, at the border of the Scheldt river, in the south of The Netherlands. My approach to the event was mainly to picture the people, with the dogs as an accessory, rather than to produce typical dog pictures.

As I said, I concentrated on the lesser micro contrast – a typical feature of pre-WW2 pictures. So as a general treatment, I lowered the micro contrast a bit further in post – very slightly and on a base of individual judgement for every single picture. At the same time I added a tiny bit of unsharp mask, again with individually decided settings. I believe this to be necessary when using the Jupiter on the hi-res A7RII for this kind of work – particularly because I often need to crop afterwards, when photographing at such an event. The unsharp mask can come in handy to somewhat mask the lens’s lack of detail resolving power. Further, I applied some inverse vignetting, which, besides adding to the mood, often enhanced the pop-up of the subject from its background. Those are the general pp-measures, although one can’t generalize – there’s no one setting of parameters that fits them all. But once you know the path, the process doesn’t take too long.

Because the lens is really véry soft wide open, I’ve decided to put the aperture to /2.8 for all (but one) of these pictures. This increased the detail enormously, without really compromising the bokeh – a wonderful feature, thanks to the 15 blades. But knowing the work I was up to, needing some cropping power, I reckoned it to be necessary to give priority to the gain in detail over reducing the DOF to the very last bit. In one of the pictures, the aperture was unwillingly shifted to f/2. As I said, I find the aperture ring to be a bit too fluent, so this is what happens when you don’t constantly check the aperture.

Nice to meet you!
This is a nice example of the special mood that the Jupiter-9 can create. This picture took great benefit from the slight diminishing of the micro contrast, resulting in a very friendly softness, which doesn’t appear that much as a default, thanks to the slight application of unsharp mask. Also the 3D separation is remarkable and got explicitly better from the slight inverse vignetting.

Windmills in the back
This is that one picture, accidentally shot at f/2, instead of the intended f/2.8, due to the exorbitantly smooth aperture ring. This is a pretty heavy crop. The picture clearly illustrates the tremendous softness of this lens when shot wide open. Even where it’s in focus, it doesn’t really get sharp. Nevertheless, I find it to have great mood, with very beautiful out of focus rendering.

Jana
This is as close to a portrait as I have shot that day. The applied inverse vignetting is very clear, as I remember portraits from family members that had died before I was born. It also helped to make the girl pop out of the background. The combination of soft, subdued micro contrast and a bit unsharp mask is, to me, kind of a modern interpretation of an old-fashioned mood.

Focus
Again a beautifully soft mood. The lowering of micro-contrast helped to get an almost equally tinted sky, with just enough nuances not to get sterile. I also like how the persons, next to the one who is looking to the lens, are getting slightly out of focus.

No french kissing please
I find this picture to illustrate the Jupiter-9 qualities very well. I particularly like the combination of softness and detail in the in focus area. And the wonderful bokeh comes as a great bonus.

Andreas
Different levels of front and hind bokeh in this one.

Nice dog
Again soft but clear detail and lovely bokeh.


Noticed
This is basically a fairly banal scene, showing some people that just arrived. But the Jupiter’s rendering turns the background into a surreal surrounding, because of the out of focus rendering but also because of the extreme softness. The slightly lowering of micro contrast contributes as well.

Nicole shooting
Just a nice example of how the Jupiter-9 can render beautiful skies and 3-D separation at the same time.


Knee up
In this one, again the separation is pretty spectacular.

All those black and white pictures benefited from the describe post production, although it may not be obvious with some of them. But during the process, the difference was unquestionable.

Color vibrancy

The Jupiter colors are different from modern Zeiss glass. Since the design dates from before WW2 and color photography really only became common after the war, I guess we can assume that this lens was designed with black and white photography in mind. Maybe that’s why it’s less vibrant, indeed, than more modern glass. But I don’t know if I want to call its colors “less rich”. For sure, they have a great warmth and, to say the least, an interesting pallet. So for the next pictures, I decided to inflect the color vibrancy a bit. Not by increasing them – which could be the obvious thing to do, in an attempt to “repair” this “feeble” parameter. No, I indeed believe it’s important to even highlight it a bit, to take greater advantage of the character. So the color vibrancy goes slightly down, which can require some compensation with the saturation. As always, I don’t have one fixed setting for this operation, but will make an individual estimation for each picture. In fact I always work on each picture individually, although it’s probably possible to create a kind of profile for a certain lens/intended result. My experience is though, that in working on each picture, not only do I constantly improve my skills by which I get faster and faster, I also get new processing ideas on a regular basis. Of course, it helps that I love the processing performance.
The first three pictures in this paragraph were taken almost on the same spot, in Vorselaar, Flanders, Belgium. They show three different interpretations of the above described processing. In those pictures, I pursued a larger DOF, so those were shot with stopped down apertures.

Vorselaar Castle


Castle with wet feet


Feelgood in Vorselaar Forest


Flying spoon

This last picture is an interior shot with available light. I find it to show the most important Jupiter-9 qualities: a specific and warm color pallet (I specifically love the nuances in the baby’s hair), a very kind way of rendering detail, with a kind of softness, combined with a kind of sharpness (like the dripping lips of the baby) and a wonderful bokeh.

Well, there’s a lot of personal taste and preference in what the Jupiter-9 produces. One can absolutely remain indifferent to it, given the outdated specifications. But for anyone who is not stuck in the never-ending drive for technical perfection, for anyone who loves to create mood and feeling, the Jupiter-9 offers so much to love. No, to me this is not a lens for every situation. But sometimes it just does the best possible job. And in regard of what it costs, it is so very worthwhile the purchase. With the Jupiter-9 you can buy the pre-WW2 mood in a lens that is manufactured in the fifties, sixties or even seventies. Just a wild thought: imagine Lomography coming with a remake of this Jupiter-9, as it did with the Jupiter-3. A pre-WW2 conceived 85mm, manufactured today. Wouldn’t that be great?…

Mar 292017
 

The Sony 85 f/1.8 Lens Review. All the 85 you may ever need!

As I get older, and move on in my years (am now 47) I start to realize that the small stuff, eh…doesn’t matter. What matters to me these days is that I enjoy life, love life, be happy, spend time with friends and family and in regards to camera gear, I go with what I love and also, what is “good enough”. Most camera systems today simply rock, and rock hard. Yep, it’s tough too get a bad camera or lens today, and with prices ranging all over the map what we pay for today is niche cameras and lenses. The new Fuji Medium Format of example. Fuji saw they really had no where to go with their APS-C line as everyone already loves what they have done, ad face it…today with cameras we are starting to reach the limits of what can be done with standard APS or 35mm formats. The newest models are fantastic and truly, what else can they do to keep selling new cameras every year? Exactly. Hmmm, so how about making a new Medium Format line? Yep, that is where we are headed. Today, most cameras in the APS-C, Micro 4/3 range and Full Frame range are as good as they can get in regards to image quality.

I’ll throw you a detail shot first from this new 85 1.8. Click on the image below, which was shot wide open at f/1.8. See the crazy detail in the 100% crop. If you are on a nice large display you will see this and be amazed. This is Sony’s “budget” 85 1.8. It’s good. Very good. Dare I say…”Too Good for the Cost”? NAHHH, NEVER! Too good is always good. 

As for lenses, we have all kinds to choose from no matter the brand we shoot with. Exotic glass like Leica that costs us a limb can be used on almost all formats via adapters, lenses from 3rd parties that give us crazy deals (Rokinon) and of course there is Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, or whatever system you shoot. There are thousands of lenses out there to choose from when it comes to mirrorless systems. So what to choose? What do we need? What do we want?

MY VIDEO REVIEW OF THE LENS!

I’ll admit, when it comes to photo gear, I usually (especially in the past) let my “wants’ come before “needs” and that is not always a good idea for my bank account, but hey, I have fun with it and for me, that’s a huge part of living life..having fun. As long as a purchase does not stress me out, and I want it, and feel it would fulfill my life in some way I usually get it if I can. But sometimes buying big exotic lenses, for me, is a mistake. If I spend $2k or more on a lens I usually start to regret it…(usually). Especially if it is for a focal length I rarely use. For example, the 85mm focal length is one I love but rarely use. While I loved the Sony 85 1.4 G Master for my Sony A7rII I knew it was overkill for my needs and use. As much as I lusted after that huge hunk O glass, I knew that if I bought it I would have remorse as my intelligence would kick in and say “Steve, you rarely use that focal length so why would you spend $1800 on a lens like this? Yes it is dreamy, creamy and one hell of a lens but there are other options, and especially NOW.

Debby  – Shot with the A7RII (My most used camera) and the new 85 1.8 from Sony. Click it for larger and better version .The Bokeh is smooth, and yes…this lens is a “cream machine”

Sony has just announced and released (March 30th 2017 release date) the new 85 1.8 FE lens. I have had one for the last two weeks and it’s small, it’s light and it’s DAMN AMAZING. While not up to the level of the G Master for color and deliciousness, it is not very far off. It is also close to the Zeiss 85 Batis in real world use (I do not do scientific wall shots or pixel peeper tests as those, IMO, have nothing to do with real world use). I have shot the G Master and preferred its rendering to the Zeiss Batis 85 1.8. See my review of the 85 G Master HERE. See my review of the Zeiss 85 1.8 Batis HERE. 

The 85 1.8 at f/1.8, converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure

While those two lenses are indeed nicer and can offer more micro contrast and pop than this “budget” 85 1.8 from Sony, which comes in at $599 or so, it is NOT that far off from those beauties and it is smaller, and just as quick to AF, if not quicker. Yes, this lens is GOOD ENOGH for 99% of users. It’s beautiful. I will be going over it and letting you know my thoughts after using it for the last coupe of weeks. I will also try to showcase what most like to see in a fast 85mm. BOKEH quality. So you will get plenty of those shots here. If the lens is sharp when wide open, you better believe it gets even sharper stopped down. With this lens I have seen no issues or negative problems. No distortion or CA and to me, that is pretty amazing in an affordable fast 85mm prime.

Beautiful color and Bokeh. Shot at 1.8

I remember many years ago when the Nikon 85 1.4 was all the rage. I am talking LONG ago, like Nikon D2 days. I owned a D2H and D2Hs and loved them. Everyone was raving about the 85 1.4 from Nikon and I purchased one back then for around $899 or so. I was not a huge fan of it, at first. Took some getting used to but that old version of the Nikon? I feel this Sony is much better for color, contrast and Bokeh. How times have changed. Since then Nikon has updated that lens and technology has improved but it goes to show that what was once raved about as the best 85mm lens ever made can now be surpassed with a lens that is almost half the cost and considered a “Budget” 85mm lens in comparison to the big guns.

I used that old Nikon for about a year and many did dub it the “Cream Machine” due to it’s shallow DOF and Bokeh quality. I made many memories with that 85 but today I am more of a 50mm guy so rarely use the 85mm focal length. Even back when I did, I was using it on an APS-H body, so it was giving me more than 85. But on the Sony A7RII, this new Sony 85 1.8 is indeed an 85. It is a full frame lens. made for full frame.

Two with the 85 1.8, both wide open. Look at the subject isolation in the 2nd image. Amazing and lovely. Almost, to me, looks very painterly. THIS is what I like. I am not a fan of perfection in lenses these days, and love some character. Not only does this lens offer us character, it does so while retaining sharpness and bringing a lovely quality that almost mends some vintage styles and modern styles. This lens is a gem in the Sony standard lineup. Click em for larger and better!

Many of us buy lenses and photo gear with our brain, some with our heart and then some who just want what is new. The good news here is with this lens, we can use all three because using our brain? This lens is a smart no brainer buy if you want an 85mm lens, or of  course “need” one. It’s affordable when compared to the G Master and Zeiss. It is smaller, lighter and fast to AF. The IQ is gorgeous (IMO) and it’s also a tad unique. It may not have the all out micro contrast and color pop of the Zeiss Batis, and it may not have the all out IQ and color/creaminess of the G Master but hey, for $599 (vs $1800 and $1200) it is much less explosive while offering a beauty all of its own. IN fact, if I were going to buy an 85mm for my Sony system? It would be this one. A smart buy all the way around and there would never be any “Buyers Remorse” with this one.

Two more with the 85 and A7RII

Now, if you want that extra bite of contrast, color, and micro contrast I recommend the Zeiss Batis. If you want ultra creaminess and color performance go for the G Master but remember, that G Master is HUGE and HEAVY. The Zeiss is lighter weight and more manageable but not as small as this Sony. I have become a fan of the bokeh and color of THIS lens. It reminds me of some classic lenses while also remaining me of the best of the modern day beasts, in performance. Use it carefully and with good light and BAM, you have some wonderful shots.

This 1st image below? A 100% crop from the A7RII using the 85 1.8 WIDE OPEN. This is a 100% crop, but looks like a normal full image. Click it to see the detail in the woman’s face for being a 100% crop. Amazing. The next two show some of the color you can expect from this lens on a Sony A7RII.

Sony has just been hitting it out of the park lately, for years now. They just keep pumping out products that are so good. This makes me very curious as to what is coming next from them. They have released a slew of lenses over the last two years. They have released high res and low light monster cameras (A7RII and A7SII) that have been very well received and even had some Canon and Nikon people switching. What Sony needs now? A PRO camera. They really do not have a pro body. Olympus has one (EM1 II). Canon and Nikon have them. Leica even has one (SL). Sony does not, and that leads me to believe that we will see a pro body from Sony sooner rather than later. They have stated they want to compete all out against Canon and Nikon, so they need one. I feel that when they do release one, it will be off the charts amazing. Build, speed, sensor…I think it will be pretty special and may have things we did not expect. Sony always pushes the tech envelope and I feel they may just about be ready to do that again. Hope I am right. They need something with dual card slots, pro build, great battery life, good built in IS, great video capability, and a knock out sensor, etc.

If they do this, I suspect even more will be going Sony over the big N & C.

This 1st shot of the Parrot we can see some of the bokeh may not be as smooth as a G Master lens but hey, it’s 1/3 the cost and size and for me, I like a little character in my Bokeh,

This 85mm lens could be used for just about anything. Normally, many feel 85mm is strictly a portrait lens. This is not true. While great for portraits, even almost being the perfect focal length for them, you can use an 85mm on full frame for just about anything where  you need a little distance from your subject. With this lens, I am seeing fantastic subject isolation and depth. I am seeing good but not “wow level” color reproduction. I am seeing great sharpness, even when wide open or stopped down. Early on in this review at the top I started it off with a Parrot image to show how sharp this lens is at f/1.8. Here is one more at f/1.8 and then 3.5…crazy sharp for what this lens is and what it costs…

Click on this picture of the camel to see the 100% crop and the detail it can provide. 

Stopped down to f/3.5 (click to see 100% crop)

I have used so many lenses in this 75-90mm range. Most have been great. Ones that stick out? The Olympus 75 1.8 (but this ends up being more like a 150mm lens for reach, so not like a real 85mm FOV), the G Master Sony 85 1.4, the Leica 75 Summilux and 90 APO Cron, the Sony 90 Macro 2.8, the Canon 85 1.2 L (one of my all time fave lenses) and others. Almost all of the lenses I just mentioned cost more than this Sony 85 1.8, and this reminds me of another lens dilemma many have in life. The Canon 85 L vs the Cann 85 1.8. Those two lenses have been compared to death and one camp tells us the f/1.8 is just as good yet smaller and cheaper, yet I know better. That 85 f/1.2L is a beautiful lens. If I shot Canon I would own the 16-35 L III (and I do own this lens), the 35 1.4 L II, the 50 1.2L and the 85 L 1.2. All gorgeous lenses. When it comes to Sony though, we have the G Master 85 1.4 and this guy, the cheaper, smaller and quick footed 85 1.8 at 1/3 the cost of the G Master.

Take a look at my G Master review and see the differences in real world every day images. The G Master will bring you superior color, and a faster aperture at 1.4 (vs 1.8). It will bering pro build quality and just a richer image..that pro look. BUT, at the end of the day, what I see from this lens is almost as good. It may not be as refined as the G Master (it is not) or as good in overall quality but at the end of the day you have to decide if you need that extra 15-20% of quality that comes with the G Master.

I love that G Master lens, it is drool worthy but this lens is excellent, especially for the money.

PROS & CONS

PROS

  1. Small and lightweight for a fast 85
  2. Fast to AF
  3. Sharp when wide open
  4. Creamy bokeh that is not offensive
  5. Price is under $600
  6. Full frame coverage, so perfect for the A7 series

CONS

  1. Not weather sealed, nor pro build
  2. Color not as rich as the G Master or Zeiss Batis
  3. Af Can unt a little in LOW light

So there ya go. When it comes down to it, this lens is a sleeper. It’s something that some will pass on because it is not a G Master or ‘pro” lens but it is a pretty amazing lens for IQ and size. Perfect for the A7 Series and perfect as an everyday lens or whatever you ned it for. It can pull off portraits and anything else you throw at it. No CA, no distortions that I was able to see in my images. At $599 this is one of those “You MUST at least check it out” lenses. Sure, the Zeiss Batis is more exotic as is the G Master but sometimes we go where we do not need to in this hobby ;) I do it all the time. If I were in the market for an 85mm for my A7RII, this would most likely be the one I would buy. WHY? Well, I do not use 85mm too often, so with minimal use it would be a waste for me to buy the two other options and $600 is about right for what I would spend for a lens I would use a few times a year. BUT, Let us not forget about the Zeiss Lioxia 85 2.4. THAT lens was phenomenal as well but manual focus only. See my review of that one HERE.  If I were stepping it up that would be my #2 choice as it was small (thin) and easy to manual focus and I love the Loxia line from Zeiss due to the MF nature of the lenses.

So if you are in the market for an 85mm for your Sony camera, check out all of my Sony mount 85 Reviews:

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8

Sony G Master 85 1.4

Zeiss Loxia 85 2.4

and of course the one you are reading. This lens is fantastic, no way around it and while it will not give you the pop and color and all out snap as the $1300-$1800 85mm lenses, at $600 it’s damn good and punches above its price point. An enjoyable problem free lens that performs.

Buy the Sony 85 1.8 using the links below:

Amazon (prime)

B&H Photo


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Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has a crazy amount of visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated 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 40-60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (At peak times I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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Mar 262017
 

The LensBaby Trio 28 Lens. Super cool, super fun and affordable!

By Steve Huff

A Quick Look at the LensBaby Trio 28 (video)

 

You know, sometimes you just want to have fun with photography. Not everyone, every day goes out to shoot a masterpiece. Nor do we always need perfect glass, uber fast glass or any kind of perfection in our shots. In fact, I have always preferred character of a lens over perfection in a lens and while I admire both character and perfection, I use what is best for the job at hand. But after years and years of using high end glass, mid range glass and trying to find the best bang for the buck in lenses I recently stumbled upon something very unique and cool, if not quirky and nerdy.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW FOR LARGER AND BETTER VERSIONS!

Using the “TWIST” setting this gives us some twisty swirly bokeh. It is actually based off of the Petzval lenses from long ago. But using this over a new Petzval is MUCH easier. It’s light, it’s small and easier to focus. 

The LensBaby Trio 28 f/3.5 lens is something different as it houses three switchable lenses. Just TWIST the front element which is cock eyed and off center and you can choose between TWIST, SWEET and VELVET. Each setting gives you a totally different yet still very LoFi look. This lens is all about character and fun, not sharpness and detail. It is more about making artsy lo fi images than anything yet at times, and depending on the situation, this can be pretty cool to use. I slapped on my E Mount Trio 28 to my Sony A7RII and made the mistake of going to a local “Color Run”.

The “SWEET” setting gives us an overdone Bokeh with blur on the sides and a sharp center. Notice Debby’s face is in focus but her arms are blurred. This is what you can expect with the SWEET setting. 

Another using SWEET

Loving the colors that come from this lens as well. Very punchy. If you click this one, you can see the separation this lens can give you at mid distances. I can see some very creative uses for this lens. 

Three girls decided to lay down in a street full of purple powder. 

A Color Run is when you walk or run or jog a 5K route and at several points during the route you get doused with colored powder. Somehow, someway, a person out there came up with a way to make a killing by getting people to exercise and get doused with 4 different color powders…ion the face hair and then in your car when you drive home. Amazing. Wish I would have thought of that as there were thousands at this run, each one paying $40 or so to participate (including me). Now, you may have caught where I said :I made the mistake of going”… I did not say that because the event was not fun, it actually was. But I should not have brought my A7RII as at the end of the run it was coated in orange, yellow and purple powder which creeped into every crevice and even the EVF. Now I have to spend a couple of hours cleaning it thoroughly. The good thing is the powder did not get inside where the sensor is, though the Trio 28 and camera were coated at times.

One of the people who were pumping out the color! She was nice when I walked by and told me “watch your camera”!!

Missed focus but you can see the swirl of the bokeh with the TWIST setting. 

Near the end we walked through foam machines shooting out bubbles of foam and this little girl was loving it. 

Now that I am home and dusted it all off and wiped out down, it is actually 85% good as new. So no harm came to the lens or camera though I would not recommend bringing a nice camera to an event like this if you are participating in it ; ) I knew this up front but figured I would just hold my camera out of the way or dodge the color, but no chance.

So as I walked the route I shot a few frames here and there and the trio 28 lens did interestingly well. While the look it is giving us is FUN, that is what it is designed to do. It’s a special effect lens, not a lens that we should ever expect a normal image from. So do not buy this lens if you want a normal image. If you want swirly bokeh or blurred sides or a smooth filter for portraits this lens is pretty amazing for the cost of under $300. I would have never even thought of this lens if LensBaby did not contact me for a review. Now that I have shot it I am happy to have tested it as now I am keeping it (have no choice really after getting it doused with colors, so have to keep it now). I used to write about fun lenses like this quite often, years ago. One of the first was the SLR Magic Toy Lens. It was cheap and gave a pretty cool loft image, again, it was a fun lens.

This one, the Trio 28 is much nicer though. It’s easy to use, easy to manual focus (it is manual focus only) and even if you miss focus by a hair, you still have a great LoFi image ;) Color performance is VERY full of POP when using my A7RII, and I like it. A lot.

Not something I would use every day, and something I would use the next time with more creativity (finding shots that would excel with the lens) but overall I like this lens. It breaks me out of the seriousness of everything and allows me to have fun and be carefree. At $279 it’s worth owning for anyone who likes these effects right out of the camera.  Minimum focus distance is 8″ and the build is nice, much nicer than the old toy lenses of past. LensBaby makes solid lenses, and while not a pro level build, it is perfect for its price point.

SWEET setting…

Very artistic results can be had in the right hands, and I suggest everyone try this lens as it can really bring some smiles out and create cool, fun memories that can stand out from the normal mundane shots. I loved the twist and sweet settings and rarely used the VELVET setting as it seemed more like a soft filter, which I am not so much a fan of unless I was shooting a close portrait. Below are the same shot with all three settings:

So HIGHLY recommended, fantastic fun little lens.

BUY THE LENS

You can buy this at AMAZON HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

Mar 172017
 

The Sony 100 f/2.8 G Master Lens Review. Unique Bokehlicious.

By Steve Huff

PRE ORDER IT AT B&H PHOTO OR AMAZON

So Sony did it again. They just keep on progressing their Alpha  “E” mount mirrorless system with more and more lenses! the one thing many Sony users used to complain about just 2-3 years ago  can be complained about no longer! You wanted lenses for the E mount, and now we have numerous lenses available from Sony, Zeiss and many other third party manufacturers. Yep, the E or “FE” mount is alive, well and kicking some ass lately because Sony keeps on pushing and going and even daring to release a lens like this new 100 f/2.8 GM lens, which in all reality delivers f/2.8 style Bokeh but for light gathering is limited to T/5.6. So this lens is not going to be a low light lens, and you will not be able to get the light gathering of an f/2.8 lens here..instead this lens is special for one main reason and that is the Bokeh it can deliver. It is as smooth as I have ever seen, from any lens, ever. No busy backgrounds, no headache inducing swirl or mess..just perfectly smooth and pleasing bokeh. In fact, some who love character  in their lenses will maybe think the Bokeh here is sterile and boring, but one thing that I will tell you now is that if you love beautiful smooth bokeh, sharp details, 3D pop and a way that outlines your subject in a way that is usually reserved for the best of the best, you may want to take al look at this lens. This lens is “the best of the best” for what it does, as there is nothing quite like it in production today.

100MM F/2.8 GM BUT WITH A T 5.6 LIGHT GATHERING RATING. SETTINGS ON THE LENS FOR CLOSE UP OR DISTANCE SHOOTING.

At $1499 this is no cheap lens. I remember many many years ago paying $1500 – $2000 for new Leica M lenses (that are now $3500-$5500) and I thought I was insane for buying these lenses for this kind of cash. BUT!! As I have learned over the years (the last 20 or so) is that the lens is THE HEART of your camera system. The LENS is the most important tool you will use in your photographic journey, work, business or whatever you use a camera for. NOT THE CAMERA. But YOU and the LENS is what matters most today, IMO. Your skill, your vision and the lens that allows you to “draw” that vision and bring it to life.

MY VIDEO LOOK AT THE NEW SONY 100 GM


A lens is what brings us that unique look, character, style, or in this case…the bokeh and crispness of the images. The good news is that with this lens, the images just POP and the color performance of this lens is G Master all the way. In case you were un-aware, the G Master line is Sony’s full on PRO line of glass, and it includes the beautiful 85 1.4 and the gorgeous 24-70 as well. These lenses are remarkable, and provide stunning color, 3D depth and detail. Bokeh is lovely with the 85 and 24-70 but with this 100 GM, it takes it up a notch.

The 100 f.28 GM has great color, detail and a unique rendering style – CLICK THE IMAGE for a better version. 

When I first received this lens I was confused as no one filled me in on it. I assumed it was some new fancy normal 100 f/2.8 lens but I was wrong. . When I opened it up and saw the aperture dial, the largest aperture I could choose was T/5.6. NOT f/2.8! I had to crank my ISO up to shoot indoors as it was only allowing me to shoot at T 5.6. This lens is crazy (but crazy good in many ways). The one negative, and this is a big one, is that you will not have the light gathering of the f/2.8 aperture, only the DOF of an f/2.8 aperture. Your light gathering will be more like an f/4, or T 5.6. So indoor shooting should be done with the ISO cranked up, which is the only bummer. BUT the intended target for this lens is the portrait pro, wedding shooter, studio person. In these scenarios, a flash would be used so the low light thing is a non issue for the intended target of this lens. This is not a lens made for low light shooters, it’s just not going to work in that scenario.

If you shoot portraits with good natural light, or a flash or a light source/strobes then you will LOVE this lens. If you shoot weddings, this is a lens you can be uber creative with. If you are a street shooter, I’d skip this and go for another option. If you are a low light shooter, skip and look for a light sucker lens (fast aperture).

For those who want to shoot outside, or with good light this lens will deliver spectacular results each and every time.

Click for larger and better. All shot wide open at T5.6

I am no wedding pro or studio pro and I have always shot with natural light as I never found flash photography with strobes or flash something I liked the look of. I much prefer natural light which is why I am always attracted to lenses providing a fast aperture of at least f/1.4. While there are exceptions to the rule, I usually buy fast glass. This lens, it’s like mix of both a fast aperture lens and a slow aperture lens. We get the detail and sharpness of an f/4/T 5.6 lens but the DOF of an f/2.8. It’s a crazy thing but works well but why is this lens like this? How does it work?

THE LENS IN DETAIL, EXPLAINED BY SONY THEMSELVES

“Delivering both smooth bokeh and fine sharpness, the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens from Sony is a short-telephoto prime featuring a unique, yet sophisticated optical design. Separating itself from other portrait-length lenses, this 100mm f/2.8 features Smooth Trans Focus technology, which uses an apodization filter to realize notably smooth bokeh with rounded out-of-focus highlights in both the foreground and background.

Contributing to a high degree of sharpness and clarity, the lens also incorporates one aspherical element and one extra-low dispersion element to suppress both spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, a Nano AR coating has also been applied to reduce lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions.

Complementing the optics, this lens also sports a robust physical construction that is dust- and moisture-sealed for use in trying conditions. It is also an apt performer, and utilizes a Direct Drive SSM to afford quick, quiet, and smooth autofocus performance. A ring-switch permits selecting between two focusing ranges, including a dedicated close-up range for working with subjects as close as 1.9′ away with a 0.25x maximum magnification. Additionally, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization further contributes to producing sharp images when shooting handheld by minimizing the appearance of camera shake.

Short telephoto prime designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however it can also be used on APS-C models where it will provide a 150mm equivalent focal length.

Optical design incorporates an apodization element that helps to improve the quality of bokeh. This element, which resembles a radially graduated ND filter that tapers from clear in the center to more dense around the edges, produces more circular out-of-focus highlights for more pleasing selective focus and shallow depth of field effects.

An aperture range of f/2.8 to f/20 is available, however the implementation of the apodization filter renders this range as T5.6 to T22.

One extra-low dispersion element reduces color fringing and chromatic aberrations while one aspherical element controls spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness. Optical layout has also been designed to reduce peripheral highlight distortion due to vignetting in order to achieve rounder out-of-focus highlights in both the foreground and background. A rounded 11-blade diaphragm further contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing shallow depth of field techniques.

A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.

A Direct Drive SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
Ring-switch allows you to choose between two focusing ranges: 2.8′ to infinity or a closer range of 1.9-3.3′, which also offers a 0.25x magnification at minimum focus for working with close-up details. Customizable focus hold button on lens barrel can be used to hold the focusing position, or can be set in-camera to control a variety of additional lens functions.

Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper imagery when shooting handheld with slower shutter speeds. This stabilization system can also be combined with select camera’s sensor-shift type image stabilization for more effective control of camera blur.

Manual aperture ring can be de-clicked for smooth, silent aperture switching to benefit video applications. A dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures.”

ALL OF THESE were with the 100 GM at T5.6

This lens can give you a very cinematic look at times as well

So in a nutshell, this lens is like nothing else produced today by any other manufacturer (that I am aware of). The APODIZATION element is what is doing the magic here. It eliminates distortion as well as keeps the bokeh pretty. The question should be, how far do you want to go for technical perfection? This lens has no issues with CA, no issues with distortion, no issues with flare or ghosting, and produces top notch color, detail and bokeh. It is as close to perfect in a lens I have seen, and with it’s close up mode (switchable on the lens body), its fast and accurate AF (it’s been fast and accurate for me, no issues) and even on board optical steady shot, we quickly realize that the asking price is more than fair. We are getting a tech marvel here for $1500.  If you are OK with the fact that this is not the best choice for an indoor lens, and you like the specs and what it offers you would NOT be disappointed in its performance. I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed in the performance of this lens if you buy it knowing that it is not a low light lens.

THE BUILD

The quality of this lens is up there with the other G Master lenses. It is weather sealed, has a pro sturdy build and is quite thick, the barrel. It’s a larger lens, but smaller than the 85GM (going from memory here) and the 24-70 2.8 as well.

Nothing to complain about with the build, but it is hefty ; )

THE AUTO FOCUS

The AF performance of this lens is good but it’s not a blazing fast AF performer. Around the same as I remember for the 85 1.4. In lower light I did have slight hunting but in good light (where this lens shines) it did very well, fast and accurate. This was with my A7RII so if you are on a slower camera, like a 1st get A7R it may be slow. If you are shooting an A6500 type of camera, I expect this to be a pretty fast performer but with the A6500 type of camera we are shooting APS-C so expect a 150mm equivalent FOV.

Went to a brewery that opened recently. The Brewmaster saw my camera and asked me to come back into his domain ;) Snapped a quick portrait of him, T 5.6

The Detail..

The detail of this lens is spectacular. It has not only smooth as silk Bokeh, but it also gives you that nice separation of your subject from that background of blur. The subject is always sharp, and the front and back bokeh is always smooth. I could see spending serious time with this lens to discover all it can do. As it is, I have just scratched the surface and I expect to see some stunning shots coming from this lens once it gets in the hands of more photographers.

Boring detail test snaps…

1st one, click it to see the 100% crop

A Bokeh test, this tree is usually very busy with other lenses but this one, still smooth. 

Click this one for the detail crop…this lens is razor sharp

One more with crop

My Bottom Line on the new Sony 100 f/2.8 T 5.6 GM Lens

This is a crazy cool lens. It’s a pro built, pro optics lens with a feature like no other made today. This G master lens offers sharpness, color performance and bokeh that is up there with the best available for the 35mm format. It has only one weakness, it is not a low light lens. The f/2.8 aperture is nit there for gathering light. This is a T 5.6 lens, which equates to around an f/4 for light gathering it seems. So this is not a low light monster but it is a lens that many pros will be lining up to add to their Sony kit. For weddings, this would be amazing. For portraits, this would be a stunner. For anything where you have good light, this lens will deliver the goods. As you can see, I did not do any serious portraits with this lens as I had no one around available to test it with while I had it. As always my thoughts and tests are based on simple real world results. I use the lens, I share my examples and thoughts and never do scientific tests as there are sites all over that do these things. Me, I am a realist and like to see what it is I am getting via real use, not charts and graphs.

With that said, I have no doubt that this lens would get an A+ on any of those scientific tests. It’s good, though some may feel it is a little bit “sterile” in its presentation. It’s not going to be a “cream machine” like a Canon 85 f/1.2, nor will it give you dreamy Bokeh like a Leica 50 Noctilux or Canon Dream lens. The point of this lens, as I see it, is perfection all the way around. In fact, technically I feel this lens is better than the $7,000 Leica 50 APO. If perfection is your goal and you shoot Sony, you must check out this lens. I look forward to seeing what others do with this lens because in the right hands I feel it will deliver amazing imagery.

A few more snaps…click ’em!

Where to Buy?

You can Order/Pre Order this lens at B&H Photo HERE, or Amazon HERE. It is scheduled to ship at the end of March 2017. Pre ordering a lens (if you know you want it) is the smartest way to buy your new piece of gear. This way, when it is available you have one, reserved for you. Shops like Amazon do not charge you at all, not even an authorization when you pre order. They charge you the day it ships, so you can cancel anytime before its ships if you change your mind. This way, you get your lens first. It’s how I always do it with new gear that I want as it guarantees I will not have a three month wait while all pre orders are filled. That is how I got my Fuji X100F then day it was released. Pre Order ;) 



NOW MORE THAN EVER, I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING!

Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 40-60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (At peak times I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

THE CAMERA INDUSTRY IS SLOWING DOWN and this website may not be able to survive the next 2-3 years if it continues at this pace. Many sites have gone to a pay model due to this, and I may have to do the same but it does not have to be that way. With help from even just 5% of you reading this, it can always remain free for all.

To help out it is simple and hassle free! I run this website for free basically, and have for years…but I do get paid when you, the reader makes a purchase (of anything) using my links to my sponsors. That is the only way I make the money to keep this free info flowing here at stevehuffphoto.com.

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you 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. But each month I need HUNDREDS of you to do this in order for this site to continue, and believe me that is not easy.

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, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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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If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, $10 or $15 can go a long way to help. you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Mar 172017
 

Goodbye Leica Q.

By Ata Adnan – His website is HERE

It took me a good 3-4 years of photography to know about the existence of LEICA- or so I think.

Anyway, I had never thought of buying any, until Leica came out with a revolutionary camera, a high end premium compact camera. I remember owning the Fuji X100S back then but here was a camera that costed 4 times as much, but I was in LOVE and I wanted it badly.

As luck would have it, I won that year’s Sony World Photo Awards for Bangladesh, and I ended up selling my Sony A7R and the 24-70/4 Lens to get hold of a Leica Q(thanks to Leica Cyprus who gave me a great deal).

Fast forward to 2017, and I am on way to say goodbye to this little gem of a camera! Why you ask? In the current mix of things, I feel shifting to the M-system is a better option.
So, here’s my journey with the LEICA Q over the past 18 months or so:

1.The day my Q arrived in Bangladesh- through a friend in America. Most of my cameras have a long history of friends and strangers helping me to acquire it.

2. Unobtrusive? I’d extend it to being an extremely friendly camera! the 28mm f/1.7 lens is stellar

3. One might think that with such a wide lens, there’s no hope of a shallow DOF- well, they are wrong!

4.This is SOOC, the colors are indeed quite punchy!

5.I love photographing my family and the compactness of it does makes thing quite easy!

6.The optional 35mm and 50mm crop modes are quite useful, and I remember using the 50mm here on my cousin. Though the files are quite small in resolution, it never bothered me to be honest.

7.A stranger breathing his last breath on the streets of Chittagong- the camera can be a perfect companion for reportage work.

8.A cow dies while being taken to the cattle market ahead of the Eid ul Adha, an annual festival of animal sacrifice.

9.A cow dealer sleeps amidst his cattles. These men travel hundreds of miles to sell their catlles. The portability of the Q came into play once again, and the QUITE SHUTTER does help!

10.My grandma had fallen sick all of a sudden and we rushed her to the hospital. After an hour or so, she was feeling much better and it was just Gastritis and not a heart attack like we thought. On our way back, I took this photograph of my grandma, mom and my wife, shot at ISO-12500. I cant imagine any other camera letting me keep this memory.

11.Focusses quite close- perfect for this kind of street portraits.

12.I am primarily a people photographer and I did use the Q quite a lot for portrait work on the streets.

13.I am primarily a people photographer and I did use the Q quite a lot for portrait work on the streets.

14.Everytime I am at the airport, all my camera equipments are in the bag, except the Q which is always on me!

15.When I went to India to get my mother operated, I packed quite light- the Leica Q and the lightweight combination of Sony A7R2 with Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 for portraits. Luckily, the combination worked quite well for me!

16.I am sure even the cat didnt hear the shutter sound here! Old Hyderabad, India

17.Another SOOC, the EVF helped me immensely to expose it the way I wanted.

18.Another lucky encounter on the train during Halloween, glad that my Q was out!

19.A morning walk with the wife and the Q. Colombo, Srilanka

20.Perfect for hit and run!

21 Some folks keep telling me about how the Q has a distinct look to its files in monochrome-I’d say I do agree!

22.Again, another photograph helped immensely by the EVF. I also shot this in B^W.

23.The drizzle was light and the colors looked even better!

My reviews are never about technical stuff, but they are about things related to the experience of taking photographs. I can’t tell how much I’ve enjoyed using this little gem of a camera! If I could, I wouldnt have sold it. But, with a heavy heart, I have to. Because I have decided to take a leap of faith and move into the Leica M system (and I can’t afford both).

Oh, and I have been asked this quite a few times: “Is the Q worth the amount of money?”. I’d always say YES!

The Q is available both in USA and UK.

Follow me on Instagram , Flickr and my PRINTS are available.

Mar 072017
 

The Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF GM FE Lens – IN HAND FIRST LOOK!

I’m back! This time with a quick look (my 1st look) at the brand spanking new Sony 100mm f/2.8 GM “Smooth Trans Focus” lens, you know, the one with the “super bokeh”. Well, the lens arrived to me from Sony to evaluate and when I took it out of the box I was a bit confused. I did not do my full homework in this lens before it arrived and I assumed it was a normal 100mm f/2.8 lens. I was wrong! In fact, on the lens the fastest aperture we can set the lens to is T 5.6. Yep, T stops. So why on earth is Sony labeling this lens as an f/2.8 lens? That is what I had to find out.

What I do know is that Sony is marketing this pro line GM lens as one that will deliver Bokeh like nothing else out there for 35mm. Buttery smooth, no onion ring bokeh and no busy bokeh. But with the widest aperture being T5.6 how can this be? When I was taking test shots I knew from the get go that this is no lens for indoor use. I had to crank my ISO to 12,800 to snap a shot off in my home last night…BUT…this lens is not made for low light shooting in any way, shape or form.

In fact I believe this lens will be for portrait pros, wedding shooters and those who want the sharpest image with the most smoothest beautiful bokeh they can achieve. This is no every day street lens, nope. This is a specialized lens and what it is made to do, well, it seems to do it like nothing I have ever seen before.

In fact, check out these 1st few shots I took for fun. The detail is mind boggling and the bokeh, is indeed smooth as silk. You must click them to see full size crops embedded.

Click them for details, all wide open which shows 5.6 in the EXIF and that is where the lens was set…but why is this lens marketed as an f/2.8? Read on and find out…

So tell me about this lens Steve…

So according to Sony this lens, is as I said, made for wedding and portrait pros. While I am neither, I can appreciate a good pro lens built to a high standard and made to do a job and do it well. If I had a portrait studio or a wedding business this lens would be in my bag on day one of its release. Here are some details…

“Delivering both smooth bokeh and fine sharpness, the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens from Sony is a short-telephoto prime featuring a unique, yet sophisticated optical design. Separating itself from other portrait-length lenses, this 100mm f/2.8 features Smooth Trans Focus technology, which uses an apodization filter to realize notably smooth bokeh with rounded out-of-focus highlights in both the foreground and background.

Contributing to a high degree of sharpness and clarity, the lens also incorporates one aspherical element and one extra-low dispersion element to suppress both spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, a Nano AR coating has also been applied to reduce lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions.

Complementing the optics, this lens also sports a robust physical construction that is dust- and moisture-sealed for use in trying conditions. It is also an apt performer, and utilizes a Direct Drive SSM to afford quick, quiet, and smooth autofocus performance. A ring-switch permits selecting between two focusing ranges, including a dedicated close-up range for working with subjects as close as 1.9′ away with a 0.25x maximum magnification. Additionally, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization further contributes to producing sharp images when shooting handheld by minimizing the appearance of camera shake.

Short telephoto prime designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however it can also be used on APS-C models where it will provide a 150mm equivalent focal length.

Optical design incorporates an apodization element that helps to improve the quality of bokeh. This element, which resembles a radially graduated ND filter that tapers from clear in the center to more dense around the edges, produces more circular out-of-focus highlights for more pleasing selective focus and shallow depth of field effects.

An aperture range of f/2.8 to f/20 is available, however the implementation of the apodization filter renders this range as T5.6 to T22.

One extra-low dispersion element reduces color fringing and chromatic aberrations while one aspherical element controls spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness. Optical layout has also been designed to reduce peripheral highlight distortion due to vignetting in order to achieve rounder out-of-focus highlights in both the foreground and background. A rounded 11-blade diaphragm further contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing shallow depth of field techniques.

A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.

A Direct Drive SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
Ring-switch allows you to choose between two focusing ranges: 2.8′ to infinity or a closer range of 1.9-3.3′, which also offers a 0.25x magnification at minimum focus for working with close-up details. Customizable focus hold button on lens barrel can be used to hold the focusing position, or can be set in-camera to control a variety of additional lens functions.

Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper imagery when shooting handheld with slower shutter speeds. This stabilization system can also be combined with select camera’s sensor-shift type image stabilization for more effective control of camera blur.

Manual aperture ring can be de-clicked for smooth, silent aperture switching to benefit video applications. A dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures.”

So after shooting this lens for only a day and a half I have found no way to access any kind of f/2.8 aperture. In fact, for light gathering it kind of shoots like a f/5.6 lens, and my guess is that since this lens has a apodization filter which generally acts as sort of a ND filter that it is indeed an f/2.8 lens but is behaving like an f/5.6 for light gathering (Due to the filter in the lens)  yet giving us the DOF of an f/2.8. Correct me if I am wrong, as I have never tested a lens like this in my life. So it all makes sense when looking at it like this. The Apodization filter in this lens cuts the light gathering but delivers amazingly smooth bokeh.

I can say that so far just from my everyday shots that the Bokeh is indeed smooth as silk, and I have seen no issues with CA or flaws within the image, anywhere. It’s sharp as can be, reminding me of the sharpness of good APO lenses and the Bokeh is incredible. Just know that in low light the lens will be a non starter unless you crank that ISO up high, and the good news is that Sony cameras can do very high ISO very well. Even so, if you want light gathering this will not be the lens for you. If you want the best IQ and Bokeh and do not need low light abilities, this lens is looking like a monster for IQ.

A few more BOKEH and detail tests…click them to see the crop on the 1st one below..crazy detail!

I need to test this more in ways that benefit the lens strengths more, so will be using it over the next two weeks or so.

This is a Sony G Master lens, so it’s in the pro line and priced at $1498. IT IS SCHEDULED TO SHIP AT THE END OF MARCH!

You can pre order it at B&H Photo HERE. 

More to come soon..

Feb 212017
 

A Look at the Voigtlander Ultra Wides for Sony E Mount…10, 12 and 15!

By Steve Huff

Around two weeks ago Stephen Gandy from Cameraquest.com emailed me and asked me if I wanted to take a look at all three ultra wide angle lenses from Voigtlander made for Sony E Mount. Not being a huge Ultra Wide shooter, I hesitated..and then of course said 100% YES! I used to actually really enjoy the old 15mm M mount when used on my old M9 (even with the magenta issues) and then the version II which was improved, and finally the VIII that seemed to fix the issues of the past with the lens. But let’s be real here…the 15mm has grown to double its size since the original little M mount version but I guess it had to as now in its VIII form it is beautiful with the M mount and yes, the E Mount.

But I always thought that the 15mm was SO wide, so what would a 10mm or even 12mm be like? Also, why is there a 10 and 12? To me, they seem very close when looking at the numbers..10 vs 12? Which one to get? Well, with the lenses on their way to me I was now intrigued. I could use them all, and see which focal length suited me the most of the three.

SLOW APERTURE

These lenses are pretty slow in aperture. The 15 comes in at f/4.5 and the other two the 10 and 12, well their fastest aperture is f/5.6. Not fast by any stretch of the imagination. The last time I tested a lens with a f/5.6 aperture it was THIS ONE, and I ended up really enjoying it (though I did not buy it due to cost).

About the time these lenses were sent to me Debby and I were about to head to Las Vegas for a three day getaway (and we do not ever gamble). We just like to walk, people watch and enjoy a show or two. I decided to bring the Sony A7RII along with the 10, 12 and 15 to see if I could get any use out of them. But I was nervous as I am a 50mm guy, and shooting a 10 or 12 was making me think “what the hell do people shoot with such a wide angle lens’?!?!? Truth be told, I still do not know! Lol.

With the slow aperture lenses I knew it would be a challenge unless I was in full sun, outdoors..or would it be?

The Amazing 15mm Voigtlander on the Sony A7RII (E mount)

Click for larger and crisper version

I will just say it now..I much preferred the 15mm for me and my shooting tastes. To me, that 10 and 12 were just toooo wide and I feel I would use it maybe once per year, if that. But again, take this from a guy who rarely ever shoots wider than 16mm (with my Zeiss 16-35 on my A7RII, one of my most used lenses which I use for video). So shooting at 10mm or 12mm is alien to me. So take that into consideration. What I can say is that I am used to that old 15mm, all versions actually. To me, this E mount is the best of the lot. No issues at all actually. It’s just how I remember it through the years. Crisp, crazy wide, yet with no magenta issues and with great color and contrast.

As for the 10mm, well..it can be cool for selfies but it gives you the long arm syndrome ;)

A selfie with the 10mm on the A7RII

Yep, MANUAL FOCUS!

These are all manual focus lenses but trust me here, it is almost impossible to get an out of focus shot with the 10mm or 12mm, and to some extent with the 15. The depth of field is so so wide, and the largest aperture you have is f/5.6 so getting an out of focus shot would be harder than getting one in focus ;) So using these lenses are simple, and one should not let the fact that these are manual focus bother them. When you look through the EVF and use focus magnification and turn the focus barrel you will see very little focus variance, so you have a huge huge area there to nail it.

But at 10mm, and even 12mm be prepared to see life wider than real life!

10mm

10mm but I cropped this one. With the Sony A7rII cropping is easy due to the super high resolution of the camera. 

But man oh man, what to shoot?

No question these lenses are fantastic when it comes to IQ and capability. All of them. 10, 12 or 15. When shooting though you can get so much in the frame you have to be careful as metering can get tricky. As in the shot above we have the darkness of the restaurant mixed with the big window on the left shining in bright light. So luckily todays cameras have much better DR than the cameras of just a few years ago. BTW, the images here are pretty much all straight from the A7RII. Speaking of the A7rII, it’s still a PHENOMENAL camera. I have shot so many frames in mine, and used it for countless hours of video and it has never failed me, ever. Not once. It’s one hell of a versatile photo taking machine. I still highly recommend it to anyone who wants a super high res 35mm full framer. For what it does, and its versatility, its priced great even at $2900. 

As I said earlier in the write up…what the heck am I going to shoot with these wide angle lenses? You guys know me, I am just a real world passionate type of shooter. A normal guy who enjoys cameras and taking photos. I’m not a landscape pro, portrait pro, studio pro or any pro. I shoot life and what I enjoy doing is capturing memories of my life and I happen to love tech and the gear that lets me do this with the most enjoyment. I usually do these things with a 28, 35 or 50mm lens. So did I find it a challenge to find subjects to fit into these wide angle frames? Well, yes and no.

The least used lens was the 12. I just could not find a place for it. For me, it was either REALLY WIDE or ULTRA WIDE ;) (10 or 15). 

BUT here is one with the 12mm, again click it for better!

Two more with the 10mm which I started to like more and more, and even using it at night was a breeze due to the A7rII ISO capabilities. 

CLICK ‘EM!

The color, contrast and sharpness for me was fantastic on all of these. Sure, you will get some bit of softening at the corners and edges but these are crazy wide my friends and the price point is within reach for the common man. These are not exotic pro Nikon, Canon or Leica lenses. These are Voigtlander who has always been known as a huge bang for the buck brand. But I will say I was thrilled with the performance even though my skill at these focal lengths is lacking. I can still see the lenses are of pretty amazing quality for what they are.

I am superhuman and my power is the power of STRETCHING my arms to take selfies ;) The 10mm…WOW is it wide. 

One more with the 10mm

AT THE END OF THE DAY…

At the end of the day I think I would actually buy the 15 if any..again. I no longer own the 15 as I use the Zeiss 16-35 so much but I think the 15mm is actually better at 15mm than the Sony/Zeiss is at 16mm. IN fact, let me test that…

THE VOIGTLANDER VS SONY FLARE TEST – THESE ARE FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA FILES FROM RAW. NO EDITING.

The Sony/Zeiss, which is much more expensive of a lens (though also gives you 16-35 zoom range and has AF) performs much worse here in regards to flare. The Voigtlander 15 is also a tad sharper. It is also smaller ;)

SIZE ON CAMERA

Here are all four of these lenses I have been discussing (The three Voigtlanders and the Sony) on the Sony A7RII..

So as you can see the 10 and 12 are around the same size. They come with metal caps as well. The 15 is the smallest, and has a standard plastic squeeze cap. (the kind you lose easily). But I have to say, these little Voigtlanders are top performers and also small when compared to the usual ultra wide angle zooms on DSLR’s and even Sony’s own E mount. They also feel fantastic in the hand, and feel substansial, and in no way cheap. My fave of course was the 15 but all three perform to a high level and I would not hesitate to recommend all of them. Which one you prefer is up to your tastes? You have to ask yourself “How wide do I want to go”?

PRICE AND WHERE TO BUY?

The Voigtlander 10mm comes in at $1099 at Cameraquest

The Voigtlander 12mm comes in at $999 at Cameraquest

The Voigtlander 15mm comes in at $799 at Camerquest

The Sony 16-35 FE f/4 Can be bought for $1099 AT B&H PHOTO

The Voigtlanders are also available at B&H HERE. 

Here are a few more with the 15mm on the Sony A7rII…

Thank you!


PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has a crazy amount of visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated 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 40-60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (At peak times I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny and I NEVER EVER DO! I do this for free basically, and have for years…but I do get paid when you, the reader makes a purchase (of anything) using my links to my sponsors. That is the only way I make the money to keep this free info flowing.

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you 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. But each month I need HUNDREDS of you to do this in order for this site to continue, and believe me that is not easy.

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, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

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Feb 162017
 

A Look at the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony A7RII

by Steve Huff

With all of the Leica M10 madness all over this website as well as the rangefinder world I decided to take a breather from that camera for a bit (The Leica M10). So much has been said about it lately and dealers have a wait list up to 200 deep (depending on dealer) so getting one anytime soon is gonna be tough for those who want one. Yes, it’s a success. Many want an M10 but it’s gonna be a wait, so let’s talk about something else in the Leica world that has been well loved for many years now. A lens. Not just any lens, but a lens I have written about so many  times now over 8 years. It’s just so good I have to write about it again but this time with using it on the Sony A7RII.

Yep, I still own and use my A7RII every week without fail. It has been the one camera that has lasted for the long haul for me. Meaning, I have never owned one model of camera for such a constant long stretch without selling it (or rebuying it). Being a reviewer, and seeing so many amazing cameras come and go, I often get to see the next big thing, and I get tempted and buy them, and I do which means I sell off the old. But the old A7RII has lasted me.

The A7RII has lasted this long with me due to how versatile it is. With video, photos, low light, ability to use almost any lens made, etc etc. My main gripe with it after long term use is the dreadful battery life, especially when shooting video but no camera has ever been perfect I guess.

50 1.4 Summilux on the Sony A7RII at f/1.4

Before going any further here, the Sony A7rII is not perfect when using Leica M glass. Wide angle lenses will have soft edges and sometimes they just do not have that WOW that they can have on a Leica SL or M. But this is a 50mm, and for a 50mm it does fantastic on the Sony, or the M or the SL. Each camera gives a different feel to the images which is odd but I love them all (Though my fave for this lens is the Leica SL)

The lens is a beauty to behold. All manual focus, built so solid it feels like it is made of solid brass and glass and so smooth in operation that one may be surprised when using one for the first time. This is no Zeiss ZM or Voigtlander. This lens is a Leica. It’s built to the Leica standard and for that WE PAY. This lens comes in anywhere from $3800 to $4400 depending on the version you get. Both versions made today are the same optically but there is a special Black Chrome Edition that mimics the old school design of the Summilux past uses a 43mm filter instead of 46 and that is the version I own. It’s lovely and the only lens I would give it up for is the Noctilux f/0.95.

Two versions are sold today as of Feb 2017 – Click them to see more.

This lens has been around for many years over different versions. This one is the latest ASPH version and to me, I have a sort of emotional tie to it as it was my ver 1st real Leica M lens that I ever purchased. When I bought it NEW many years ago, the ASPH version was $2495. Goes to show how much these lenses can appreciate over the years. Unusual for camera gear or lenses but Leica M lenses seem to do that if you hang on to them for a long long time. Buy them used and you are usually guaranteed to never lose money if you decided to sell.

Using this lens on the M10, I would often miss a few shots as focusing an RF when your eyes are starting to really fail you (As mine are) is TOUGH. When I had perfect vision just three years ago I could nail every shot with any lens, even the Noctilux when used on an M. Today, I see the effects of aging and me refusing to wear my glasses when I do shoot an M means missing some shots.

But for guys like me, who have failing vision (getting older) and do not like to wear glasses when shooting a rangefinder, the good news is that this lens can be used on other cameras such as the Sony A7 series and the beautiful Leica SL while still retaining the full frame character of the lens. When using an M lens on an APS-C or M 4/3 sensor camera you will lose character due to the crop. So I only use these lenses on full frame 35mm format sensors to retain the look, feel and beauty of what they were designed to do.

I feel the Leica SL is the best and easiest manual focus camera made today for full frame 35mm format. With that camera and this lens, you have a heavenly experience. With the Sony A7RII it is also a good experience but not as easy as shooting it on that SL (due to that huge clear SL EVF). Even so, for those with a Sony A7RII this lens is beautiful as it is SMALL, easy to focus and delivers unique Summilux rendering that no Sony lens can replicate. Though I will say the newer Sony Zeiss 50 1.4 gets very close..even though its like 6X the size of the little mighty Leica. (It’s also 3X cheaper)

50 Lux at 1.4 on the Sony A7rII

Click them for larger

While this lens is MADE for the Leica M series and fits perfectly with that system, it performs very well for most photography on the Sony. I mean unless you are shooting stopped down for high resolution landscapes, this lens will deliver the goods on the Sony, SL or M and IMO, it is meant to be shot wide open which is where Leica lenses are optimized. This lens is made to shoot at f/1.4 and it delivers the goods at this aperture. Shoot this lens for landscape perfection on a Sony though and you may be disappointed. It will not give you perfect sharpness on the Sony across the frame. But again, for shallow DOF work and shooting wide open it is lovely.

1st one is ISO 5000 in a dark restaurant. A7RII has this strength. It is great at higher ISO. No noise reduction here. Click ’em for larger!

B&W

A7RII, me and Debby  – 50 1.4

RUST – A7RII, 50 Lux 1.4

Shooting this lens on the A7rII is very easy. I use the Voigtlander M To E close focus adapter (see it here) and it also allows you to focus the 50 Lux much closer than its 0.7 meter limit (when shot on an M or SL) though I would not recommend that as the DOF gets crazy when shooting close up with this lens. Keep it at 0.7 Meters and beyond and you will be rewarded with gorgeous color, smooth Bokeh (though not Noctilux smooth) and that Summilux look.

But for me, I love shooting lenses like this on the Sony or SL because of the great EVF’s on these cameras, the small size of the lenses and the performance one can get from them.

The best performance I have gotten from this lens was with the Leica SL. I sold it to buy the M10 but I missed it so much I called Ken Hansen and ordered another. The Leica SL is FANTASTIC. I may soon test some Canon glass on it using the new Novoflex adapter. A 24 1.4 or 50 1.2 on the SL? Hmmm. WITH AF? Double Hmmmm.

These two from the SL with the 50 Lux. 

When shooting with the A7RII or SL you will never experience focus shift or mis focus due to a rangefinder being out of whack. What you see is what you get and that is HUGE. When shooting this lens on these EVF cameras I never have an out of focus image. When shooting on a M8, M9, M240 or even M10 I have had quite a few OOF images (again, either due to my eyes or an RF being out of whack). So these days, in my upper 40’s I think I will settle in with these nice EVF cameras for the long haul and next few years. WITH THAT SAID, Here are two using this lens on the M10, in color ;)

A couple from the M10

As for Sony, I expect them to have an update soon, as it seems like it has been a while (for Sony) and I smell an A7RIII coming, maybe even the long rumored A9 Pro. Who knows, but I can’t see them NOT answering the Leica SL (EVF, pro build) or Fuji GFX 50S. So I expect to see some new Sony stuff soon. It just seems like it is time.

A7RII with the 50 Lux, all 1.4

I have been using this lens for many many years now, on and off. I buy it, use it for a while, get tempted by a new lens, sell it and them miss it. I have bought and sold this lens around 8 times over 7-8 years but this time I am trying to hang on to this one. Not only is is a beautiful version (Black Chrome) it is a beautiful lens.

It CAN INDEED be matched and maybe beat by lenses like the new Sony 50 1.4 Zeiss (if using on a Sony A7 series body) but again, that lens is HUGE and still does not quite hit that Summilux vibe. But almost. It may be a more perfect lens (the Sony) but part of the Summilux charm, to me, are the slight imperfections, the less modern look, the slightly more dreamy rendering and of course that small jewel like build and the fact that we must work at getting the image using Manual Focus.

I dig it my friends, just as I always have. This one came from PopFlash.com (and they have a deal on the Black Chrome version right now) but you can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE or you can email Ken Hansen at [email protected]

YES IT IS EXPENSIVE, but again, these Leica lenses, especially this 50 Summilux ASPH has stood the test of time. Many memories have been made using this lens, many moments in time frozen and captured, many smiles have been created from this lens and many who own it call it their most used lens. Keep it for 10 years and you will never lose money on it. With a lens that brings this much joy, some would call it priceless. While it performs best on an M and SL, it does pretty good on an A7RII or even A7SII or A7II. So if you want a change of pace from those huge AF lenses, and have been curious about Leica this is one you may want to slap on your Sony and go out and make some memories. ;)

Feb 032017
 

TIPS: Working in Cold Weather with Olympus Cameras

By Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman – His Website is HERE

Snow, rain, fog, all sorts of “atmospherics” that keep most sane people inside, can be very productive photographic environments in which we can work. While everyone else is hunkering before the fire, the avid photographer puts on their or cold weather gear to brave those elements. Why? Because those conditions can provide so many great photographic opportunities.

So how does that photographer prepare for the elements, especially the cold? Here is my list of what you can do to prepare to walk out into that wonderful world of the cold.

Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman out in the Elements with his Olympus Gear – Antartica

Exposure issues When shooting in snow, if in the Antarctic or photographing the kids building a snowman to shooting the skiers, exposure is impacted by those super-bright conditions. Your Olympus has really intelligent design in the metering system and a specific exposure mode for these conditions. On the E-M10, E-M10 MkII, E-M1, E-M5 and E-M5 MkII, there is a “SCN” mode on the exposure mode dial on the top left of the camera. Turn the dial to the SCN mode, on your monitor you’ll see a choice of scenes (a very powerful tool on the camera, as it offers a number of different choices,) scroll through the choices until you come to “Beach & Snow”.

Canadian icebreaker cutting through multi-year ice in the Northwest Passage

Jay Dickman on Mt Washington, New Hampshire, on assignment for National Geographic

In the Canadian High Arctic, a wave breaks in front of an iceberg in Queens Harbour

Weddell seals and Adélie penguins near Brown Bluff in the Antarctic

When taking photos in conditions of super-bright ambient light, the camera’s meter is trying to make that snow or bright sandy beach an average exposure, which is 18% grey. Normal metering of any camera will, in these conditions, create an exposure that looks a bit “muddy.” This is absolutely correct as the meter’s job is to find a bright area, and present the ideal exposure of that mid-gray of 18%. In normal metering mode, what the photographer does is to actually “add” light thru exposure compensation: anywhere from 2/3rd’s of a stop to 1 ½ stops of “+” exposure compensation. “Add light to make it bright” is a great mnemonic to help recall this process. When looking at your histogram, it should be biased towards the bright side, the right, for a correct exposure..not clipped, but definitely biased towards the right.

Ice fjords near Ilulissat, Greenland

Icebergs in the Southern Ocean

Late day sun breaks out on tabular icebergs in Grand Didier Channel in Antarctica

Here’s where that “Beach & Snow” Scene mode can work for you. The engineers at Olympus have cleverly built this mode for these exact conditions as the camera will automatically create a perfect exposure based on algorithms set into the memory of the camera. Pretty clever and very accurate! You don’t have to make any adjustments to you exposure compensation when in this mode that produces a beautiful jpeg.

Jay Dickman while on assignment in the arctic

Protect your gear: If you are the owner of an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII (or E-M1) your camera is already well protected from rain and snow, as are your Olympus Pro lenses. Still, I always carry a chamois cloth or two in my bag. Not the artificial ones, but the real, leather based cloth found at your local auto supply or Walmart/Target. I use these to wipe of heavy amounts of precipitation, or use it as a “raincoat” to cover my gear in a downpour. It can be used, if very clean, to wipe of rain from your protective filter, but don’t use it on the front element!

National Geographic Expeditions members fight a blizzard on Whalers Cove along the Antarctic Peninsula

Ultra-cold conditions: I was on a shoot on the Arctic ice, many miles north of Barrow. The air temperature was well below zero, which creates a different world in which the photographer is working. Not only battery life being an issue, but being aware of conditions into which I was carrying my gear. We were staying in an ice station, built for this event, so one could walk into a hut that was 100 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. This could play havoc on the gear, that huge temperature differential causing my camera to instantly turn into a blob of condensation, due to warm interior air meeting a frozen camera. First time I did this, I immediately stepped back out, which only caused that drenched camera to instantly freeze the moisture on its surface. Okay, I learned from that one. After that, when entering the temperate climate of a heated building from a cold exterior, I’d put my camera gear into a large plastic freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. This created a “micro-climate” from which there wasn’t much moisture to create that large amount of moisture. Often, if going in only to warm-up, I’d leave the gear outside so its temperature matched the air temperature. Did I mention batteries take a hit in the cold? I’d always carry extra batteries in a pocket that stayed a bit warm.

Near Baffin Island, a polar bear luxuriates in the cold weather

Whaler’s Cove in the Antarctic, penguins hunker down in teeth of a blizzard

One of the other fun thinks that can happen (and did, several times) is inadvertently placing the frozen camera to my eye, having slid down the protection of my face mask, only to have the camera freeze to my nose. Remember the scene in “A Christmas Story” when Flick stuck his tongue to the pole in freezing temps? Well, it does happen just like that.
Don’t try to blow snow off your camera or lens with your humid breath. This can result in the snow melting to your gear, and possibly refreezing immediately, creating a frustrating situation. Instead, brush that snow or ice off with a small brush or that chamois I convinced you to carry.

At Elephant Island in the Southern Ocean, the spot where Shackleton’s men over-wintered as he sought help, ocean ice with Point Wild landmark in background

Tabular icebergs and sea ice in the Grand Didier Channel in the Antarctic

 

Keep your Battery Warm: Batteries are such a necessary part of today’s photographic experience as everything in digital is power-based. I always carry a couple of back up batteries, fully charged, and usually residing in a pocket of coat or jeans. This ensures that the battery will operate at its top capability.

Handwarmers: Obvious idea, but too many of us forget these small wonders until the morning we want to go out and photograph in cold conditions. Pick up a package from your local outdoor store—REI, Cabela’s, Sierra Trading Post, Bass Brothers or your local sporting goods store will be a good source for these. In really cold conditions, I’ll stick one in my pocket with the batteries as well as one inside each of my gloves, and interior of boots. A battery of any kind will work better when warm.

Macaroni penguin “porpoising” through waters of South Georgia

A polar bear near Baffin Island in the Canadian high arctic

Gloves: This suggestion will elicit a big “Duh,” but are your gloves ideal for photography? Traditional mittens, which are the warmest hand-coverings are very efficient for maintaining warmth when outdoors, but if not photo-specific, these can be a barrier to the shooting process. The availability of your digit finger & thumb, to press the shutter or change settings is critical, so I’ve listed a few popular styles of photographers gloves. These have either a very think covering over your fingertips, or the fabric can be pulled back to provide that critical tactile feel.

Polar bear walking across ice in Canadian high arctic

Two King penguins in morning light on Gold Harbour, South Georgia

Rucpac Professional Tech Gloves for Photographers won’t allow you to pull covering off of digit finger and thumb, but a thin glove that’s well insulated and is touchscreen compatible.

Freehands Stretch Thinsulate Gloves gloves with good insulation and provide the ability to pull back covering for digit and thumb, critical for total tactile feeling.

AquaTech Sensory Gloves—I use these in polar conditions where I may have my hands in or very near frigid water.

The Heart Company’s Heat 3 Smart Cold Weather Gloves—I’ve worked in the arctic (below -45 degrees) and in those conditions, you really can’t expose your skin for more than a few seconds before frostbite or serious freezing can occur. These gloves provide an internal membrane, under the mitten cover, with a fabric that not only provides a great tactile feel, but will work with electronic touchscreens.

Polar bear considering going back into water in Canadian high arctic.

Antarctic peninsula

Iceberg melt, Svalbard

In Canadian high arctic, a polar bear shakes after emerging from the cold water

Polar bear in Canadian high arctic diving back into water

 

If you’re going to Yellowstone in the winter, or Gates of the Arctic to photograph the aurora, you can be in dangerously cold conditions, be prepared.

Boots: Nothing will bring your cold-weather adventure to an early end quicker that cold feet or hands. A good investment before you go, there are a number of very good brands. Sorel, Kamik, Muck Boot Company, all make good boots for frigid conditions.

 

Jan 132017
 

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L review

By Erwin Hartenberg – See his Blog/Website HERE

I have, like many of you, bought and owned a LOT of camera bags. Lowepro’s, Thinktanks, Domke’s, you name it and I probably owned it. Over the last years as I have settled on a smaller kit, I ended up using ONA bags mostly. They are well made and beautiful bags that are simple to use. For commuting, I often carry a Prince Street that also holds my laptop and some other small stuff next to my two bodies. If I want to go really small, I carry a Brixton.

With the addition of a Nikon DF to my two Leica’s, I needed a bag that could hold all three camera’s and still be comfortable. Also, I wanted the weight on my back, and not on my shoulder so I set off to look for a camera backpack. I ended up buying the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L. And boy, do I like it!

The bag comes in two sizes, the other option being a 30L, but the 20L is perfect for me. I ordered both bags and the 30L was simply too big for me. I want the bag to carry my gear mostly and room for some other stuff but not too much. I am 1.92 meters and the 20L fits me well. The bag is very well made with incredibly clever design that you appreciate more and more as you use it. I have been in Scotland this week and was able to put the bag to the test. First by carrying it around Edinburgh for a few days and after that going on a long hike on the island of Skye (where I ran into someone carrying the charcoal version of the Everyday Backpack). Both Edinburgh and Skye are highly recommended but let’s stay with the review of the bag J.

I bought the grey color which looks really nice with the brown leather handles. Everything feels solid about this bag. The bag is somewhat understated as well, it does not stick out. You can setup the inside of the bag however you want to with the dividers that come with it. They can fold into different shapes and I have settled on a setup where I carry the two Leica’s below in their own compartment and have the Nikon DF up top.

This leaves ample room at the very top for a jacket or other smaller stuff. In the same pocket is also a smaller storage space for a passport or other personal documents. This pocket is closed with a magnet which provides it easy access but also keeps it somewhat hidden.

In the back pocket, there is room for a laptop (it holds my Microsoft Surface Pro perfectly) and/or a tablet. There is a smaller pocket in there as well.

On the sides, there are smaller pockets for batteries and other accessories you may need.

The bag carries really well, and the 20L is the right size for easy slinging to get access to your gear. The 30L did not sling as well as it’s just a bit too bulky for that. I’ve had the 20L on my back the whole day, every day, on this trip and it works very well with the access to gear. Also, it does not strain the shoulders as much. This is due to the chest strap that is very easy to put on as well as the waist strap that you can put on and take off very quickly as well. This is key as you will sling the bag over your shoulders to get to your gear.

The final thing to call out that really underlines the amount of thought that was put into this bag is that the access to your gear can also be ‘locked’ by looping the zipper pulls through attach points so potential thief’s can’t just open the side access.

In summary, this bag comes highly recommended.

Jan 022017
 

Travelling light through Brazil with the pre-ASPH 50mm Summilux 2nd version

by Pedro Amorim

Since my last text on the kinoptik, I had a few ideas on other lenses to write about, and Steve was kind enough to let me pick one and turn into a new user report.

Turns out I acquired one very impressive lens this last year, and as it became my go-to lens for most excursions through Brazil, rural or otherwise, I collected more than a few impressions about it, enough to make my mind about sharing the experience with you. Also, as I noticed, my 2nd version is somewhat under-reviewed. It is a good thing to fill the gap and help someone decide whether to buy such lens (the short review ends here: go get it).

I travelled a lot in 2016. That was a good thing. But for safety and practical reasons, I travelled light. When out on the street, I would bring only two lenses on a small Nat Geo bag and it would be more than adequate for any of my purposes. As a street photographer, I have the impression that less is always more. Truth is, it doesn’t matter how big and comprehensive your collection back home can be: a couple of fast lenses with distinct focal distances will do the trick on the road. My personal choices are the summilux and a 35mm V.4 Summicron.

Now, keep in mind that you will find a slight confusion on the internet about the summilux versions. The first summilux (1959 – 1961) used a very different and somewhat inferior lens design compared to the classic pre-ASPH configuration that would come out in 1961 (take inferior with a grain of salt. A lot of people I know actually prefer this rarer version). Few were produced and its cosmetic design is almost identical to the version that came out only two years after this first build.

The second version runs from 1961 to 1991, with significant cosmetic changes in 1969, when black became the standard color for its metal barrel. Still, the optic remained the same and the exterior design didn’t change enough to justify its categorization under a new version.

The third version was produced from 1992 to 2004, had some new coating and very different exterior design. It was still Walter Mandler’s classic design, though. It was later replaced by the well-known Summilux ASPH, by Peter Karbe.

The Summilux pre-ASPH is unassuming and surprisingly small. This is, as most Leica enthusiasts will tell you more than once (even if you don’t ask. We are just like Doctor Who fans, really), a big deal. Yes, you might find a few better 50-ish/1.4s out there. But they are very few and quite certainly more expensive options. Most of them are huge and so damn heavy. Sticking a Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 at some strangers face in nighttime Brazil should be quite the awkward experience.

The lens creates sharp images towards the center. Even when wide open. This alone is no big deal nowadays. But keep in mind that the 3rd version of Leica’s Summilux came out in 1962 and remained almost the same until 1991.

Click images for larger and better versions

Plus, not only will the lens retain its sharpness, but will remain contrasty and render vivid colors at any opening. Some will feel it doesn’t have the same contrast at f1.4, but will work perfectly when stopped down at f/2.0, but I really believe said difference is negligible in most cases.

It is not as contrasty as the ASPH, though. And the colors do come with that leica signature some people carve. The texture rendering is smoother than its newer counterpart, too.

 Ouro Preto, Brazil

Tiradentes, Brazil

The ASPH is also razor sharp, no doubt. This is not the case with the second version: its sharpness is good enough, but by no means perfect by contemporary standards. Sometimes you will find some minor glows over the areas in focus. This issue will be more noticeable if the area in question has been illuminated by a focused light source. Yet, it never brought me any problems, as you must zoom-in a lot to notice something, so why bother.

Goianá, Brazil


The monochromatic tones have some unique character and good contrast when wide open, enough to create amazing straight-from-the-camera JPEGs. Below, a comparison between edited (second photo) and raw (first photo) JPEGs:

(Image 1: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [unedited JPEG])


(Image 2: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

It is true that when stopped down to a tighter opening, this lens increases greatly its sharpness in the outer areas of the image. The glow also goes away. Give it a try at f/8 and then at f/11.

If you are the kind of guy that believes a 50/1.4 lens is to be used only in 1.4, keep in mind that many will buy a 50/1.4 lens to use it stopped down, too. It is light and good enough to justify its use in both low light and bright places. You might want to buy one as your main 50mm lens for all around photography, as I did. During the day, for example, with some fast shutter speeds and a small opening, the colors and textures of some Brazilian small towns become a delight.

And when wide open in bright places, its dreamy 3D signature will show up.

It is a suitable lens for straight or pictorialist photography, documental or experimental work, since its out of focus areas render very painting-like textures and colors, maintaining reasonable sharpness and contrast all over the place, with critical quality on the center. At the same time, when stopped down, it is a reliable precision tool as good as any other Leica lens. Good enough to zone focus with its smooth focusing ring, sharp and wide enough to apply some hyperfocal distance. Whether you find inspiration into William Klein’s work, or on Dorothea Lange, Antoine D’agata, Brassaï and Cartier-Bresson, the 50mm Summilux will, most of the time, help you explore your own photographic creativity in a way other lenses will not. It is one of the most versatile lenses out there, and one you can trust will deliver nice pictures regardless of your aesthetical choices.

The fact that this is a classical focal distance helps. A lot of great photographers used a 50mm coupled to their cameras for most of their lives. A fair share of history’s most iconic images was shot with a normal lens, so you’ll always have thousands of good photographs as pictorial reference for your study. This is one of the reasons that, in my opinion, getting yourself a good 50mm fixed lens will boost you learning curve like few things would.

I came from the street photography background, and the lens helped me in both street and portrait photography in ways I wasn’t used to. Night photography took a radical turn with it. Portraits with more context and shallower depth of field helped me in a very emotional and intimate journey on my essay about solitude.

At the same time, I shot many Brazilian street scenes with it, even during rainy days (when coupled with my weather-sealed A7 through a good adapter, the kit will be able to take some water without complaining). As a discrete lens, it almost never drew any unwanted attention on daily shootings.

Rio Novo, Brazil

Now, the drawbacks. One thing some people will complain is the lens design. I like it. It’s kinda cool in a seventies way. But its body is a bit elongated. That slimness might cause some ergonomic issues. If you like chubbier lenses better, go for the third version. It’s the same thing with a modern twist. Oh, and its minimum focusing distance is 1 meter, which is a bummer. The lens is also prone to flare. Once again, I found a generic hood and solved this problem, but don’t point the lens directly toward any close light source when wide open, unless that is your idea from the beginning.

Miraculously, little to no flare here

It is also a manual lens. Meaning it won’t autofocus unless you have one of those expensive new M – Alpha/FE adapters that comes with the autofocus function even Leica modern cameras or lenses lack (come on, it kinda ruins the magic, right?). So, get your camera in full manual mode and enjoy the lens the way we all do: by playing with the focusing ring or using some old focusing techniques like the ones I mentioned earlier on (zone focusing and use of the hyperfocal distance).

Things get a little harder when you’re working at night. Nailing the focus at 1.4 in low light requires experience. But the lens is sharp and good enough to give you some great results even when the subject is slightly out of focus. Out of focus images are surprisingly acceptable then, and I even created some of those deliberately. Keep in mind I’m taking straight photography as the standard when saying out of focus images are ‘still acceptable’. Lack of focus is a stylistic choice as good as any, so go outside to have some fun and please don’t fight on the internet.

I used the camera a lot this last year, and that was, at some level, due to the new possibilities the Summilux V.2 brought to the table. It comes in good time, as I get in touch with new photographers and image theorists on a serious quest about expanding creative and aesthetic horizons.

São Pedro da Serra, Brazil

The Summilux is now a 55-year-old resilient jewel.

It survived the introduction of the ASPH, gathering its own following cult among photographers, old and young. People who would pick an older design based on its character and history instead of a cleaner, sharper and more accurate model.

It has a legendary Mendel signature on its glass design. Is flexible in its uses, unobtrusive and looks good on the A7. The contrast just works perfectly for me, and the colors and textures are so beautiful it leaves no doubt on why did Leica get all that reputation.

The cons are common signs of the time in which it was developed and created. Flares, slim vintage looks and a somewhat low contrast, if you are used to the ASPH, should be expected. Yet, the price you get on the used market and the joy of using one of those classics might outweigh any downsides, leaving you with an amazing experience in artistic creation.

At the end of the day, and much like the Kinoptik, the Summilux It is a timeless low-light lens well suited for contemporary experiments and classic documentary photography alike. And for everything in between.

Congonhas do Campo, Brazil

Again, I can only thanks Steve for the amazing support, not only towards my reports, but on many more being published every week.

You can see some more of my work by clicking on the links below.

https://www.instagram.com/jackhasacamera/
https://500px.com/pedroamorim

Dec 302016
 

Film, Sony, Fuji to the Leica Q. Documenting Protests

by Q Oliver

Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts on my new favorite camera with all of your readers. Your blog has certainly helped me with gear decisions in the past. I, like many others out there, have been on the hunt for that perfect photographic companion. With 2016 being such a turning point in our social and political climates, one could argue that having the perfect camera to document such a profound time is equally as important as having the right car in a snow storm or gas crisis. The camera that you can pick up for just about ANY situation and be happy to trust your vision to.

Now, I’ve shot 35mm and medium format film for most of my short twenty-eight years in this world and maybe I’m a bit set in my ways but I can never seem to settle on the “right” digital camera. My little AE-1 seemed to be all that I needed throughout high school but after graduating, I threw myself into a certain “art” school which gave students a Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 f/4 lens as a part of the tuition. Within just a few months of using the Canon, I traded it for a Leica M6 TTL and a couple of lenses and never looked back. My professors were anything but pleased with my decision as the school had moved completely away from film and required students to submit EXIF data with each assignment. Being the bullheaded young artist that I was, I left art school and started my career as a fashion photographer (or at least I thought I would end up in fashion). Though I knew that sooner or later, the digital age would catch up to me.

(35mm-1) Leica M6 TTL + 50mm Summicron + Fuji Velvia 50

(35mm-6) Leica M6 TTL + 35mm Summicron + Kodak Portra 160

Fast forward to 2015 and I found myself flirting with the idea of taking digital cameras seriously. Despite my Instgram handle being @film_god and people calling me by that name on the street, I needed more modern workflow. Of course, we can argue film vs digital all day long but the truth is that now, as a professional, there really isn’t much of a choice in the matter. That year, I spent a bit of time in India with the Sony A7R II, which proved to be an absolutely remarkable little camera and travel companion. Not a hulking, clumsy mess like the DSLR’s many would have you believe are superior while still packing twice the punch in the resolution department and with quite respectable auto focus capabilities. The problem was that, for me, there was a very obvious “sterile” quality to the pictures. It was as if the Sony was TOO good! The pictures it produced were technically astounding but they just didn’t FEEL like anything to me. Also, of course, once you pair it with amazing lenses like the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 or current Zeiss 50mm f/1.4, it loses it’s size advantage. I needed a camera that was small and functional but more than just a tool that I shared no emotional connection with. Something that produced pictures that I didn’t feel needed to be heavily processed in order to get my point across.

(Sony-1) A7R II + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8


(Sony-3) A7R II + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8

(Sony-5) A7R II + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8


(Sony 2) A7R II + Sony 28mm f/2

After quickly losing interest in the beast that is the A7R II, I was faced with what seemed to be a life or death decision; What camera could I use definitively as my go-to camera to tell the stories I sought to share with the world? Well, I’m not a rich man by any means, so investing in a proper Leica M digital body was out of the question. There was, however, a “distant cousin” if you will. The Fuji XPro-2. A camera for those who can’t get enough of that iconic rangefinder street style but aren’t willing to sell the house, wife, and kids. I, of course was hesitant in selling my powerhouse full-frame partner in crime but I just couldn’t deal with the almost soulless and clinical rendering from the Sony. Based on everything I had read or watched, it was Fuji that could give me back that SOUL that I enjoyed while shooting film- or something close to it, anyway. The day it wen’t on sale, I got a call from my local camera store saying that a little Fuji had arrived. I rushed to the store like a kid running for an ice-cream truck.

It was a match made in heaven. Fujifilm’s lenses are fast and small, the ergonomics of the camera were something I was familiar with, and that 24mp x-trans sensor with it’s beautiful Acros processing… I couldn’t have asked for more. That is, until my city erupted with protests in response to this year’s consistent and tragic trend of police brutality against black people in the US.

(Fuji-1) XPro-2 + 16mm f/1.4

I’m a father, a husband, automotive enthusiast, and typical young black man in America- but above any of that, I am a photographer who has an affinity for photojournalism. When my city rose up to protest the way young black men have been treated by the justice system, I felt it was my duty to photograph the events regardless of any of my personal feelings and I was so glad to have the little Fuji by my side. I remember sitting on my couch in front of the TV with what was supposed to be my dinner one day when I got the phone call from a friend; “Hey! Get down here! There is a huge protest!” I left my dinner cold right where it sat, threw on my boots and darted out of my apartment with Fuji in hand

Fuji X-Pro 2

I feel that the photographs I made that night may be some of the most important that I’ve made thus far in my career but there was one problem. A big problem that hadn’t really bothered me until the sun went down and the protests continued into the night. You see, the little Fuji was great until the lights went off. The APS-C sensor just couldn’t hold up in low light. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the Fuji is by no means a slouch, but when it came to documenting and accurately depicting the events of those nights, I can honestly say that I had been spoiled by the full frame flexibility and clarity of the A7R II. Skin tones and shadows fell completely apart with the Fuji and I had to push those RAW files to the absolute limit to retain detail in shadows. I spent a great deal of time hating the pictures I made at night during those protests because of the diminished image quality at high ISO. I still hadn’t found “the one”.

Fuji X-Pro 2

Some months went by and I continued to grit my teeth and attempt fall back in love with the Fuji. I felt that I had truly been let down by what seemed like a great camera on paper. The love never really came back and just when I had given up hope on finding true love with a digital camera, a friend of mine calls me up with a few magical words. “Hey Q! I’ve got a Leica Q and it literally has your name on it. Come by and check it out!”. Well I know when not to say “no” to a good thing so I immediately headed to Wings Camera in Atlanta to drool over the little red dotted point and shoot.

The very first picture I made with the Q while driving home from the camera store

The owner, Mike, agreed to let me test it out for a while as I was not too keen on selling ANOTHER camera just to be disappointed by what I hoped was an upgrade. Ironically enough, only a few days had gone by before Donald Trump was announced as president and Atlanta erupted with protests once again. What a fitting occasion to put the Q through it’s paces. I mean, it’s a $4,000 point and shoot. Even if it is full-frame, there’s no way it could be any better than the Fuji, right?

Leica Q: 

Boy, was I wrong!

You really do get what you pay for with that camera! Pretentious piece of jewelry or not, the Leica Q was everything I needed and more. If you’re not aware, shooting protests at night can be difficult. With all of the different temperatures of light- fires burning, street lamps, police lights, and vehicle headlamps the Q’s auto white balance handled everything beautifully. On top of that, ISO 6400 was as smooth as butter next to the Fuji’s messy, smudged files at ISO 1600 and up. Even in the darkest areas of the city, the autofocus was spot on every time and I never missed a picture. On top of that, the files required little, if any, post processing work to really translate the drama and tension we all felt during those nights. I was holding my dream camera in my hands and with a fixed 28mm lens at that! A focal length that I had never seriously entertained, let alone considered permanently living with. I felt truly at home with the Q and would be willing to go into just about any situation with that camera by my side.

Leica Q

At this point, you may be thinking “he’s just a Leica fanboy” and the truth is, maybe I am (and I’m not ashamed of that) but I will always call it like I see it. I’ve used the Leica M240 I can’t justify spending $6k on a body and another $6k on a 28mm Summilux lens, despite available cheaper used options. $4,000 for the equivalent in the Q doesn’t seem too bad, though. Is it something that I would be willing to get rid of every other camera I own for? No.

Actually, I ended up selling the Fuji setup and going back to Sony for versatility’s sake but I have to be honest and say that after using the Q, nothing is really the same. The Sony collects dust on my shelf for weeks at a time between uses while my old trust Leica M7 has been my daily carry… at least until another Q finds its way into my bag. Now, if only I could get Leica to sponsor my photographic endeavors. -cough cough- but seriously, it’s pretty clear to me that Leica isn’t just about gimmicks. There really is some magic in there somewhere and it shows.

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