Aug 042015
 

Day Two with the Sony A7RII…so far. WOW!

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Yesterday I posted my very 1st views and thoughts on the new powerhouse Sony A7RII camera. After shooting with it all day today for the past 6 hours I have more images and thoughts and they are all GOOD.

I am currently on a bus with 30-40 other journalists and Sony as we had to Mt. Hood for more shooting (in snow) with the A7RII. Since we have a 2 hour drive I decided to use my iPhone 6 as a hotspot and update you guys on how it went this morning with the camera.

One test I wanted to try was to shoot the Voigtlander 15 4.5 VIII on the A7rII as I was hearing rumblings about how the new sensor design fixes most of the issues with wide-angle Leica M glass. I have the 15 III on me, so more Leica tests will happen next week when I am home but for now, the 15 is looking AWESOME on the A7RII.

click image for larger…

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As I walked around the Japanese Garden this morning with the A7RII, 15 III, Batis 85 and Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 and 24-70 I was BLOWN AWAY at the camera. This is without a doubt, the BEST A7 camera EVER made. In fact, since I am in the honeymoon phase, I feel it is one of the best, if not the best camera I have ever used. SO many reasons why. Will I feel like this in 2 weeks? I think so, but who knows. I am just so excited by what this camera is giving me I look at it sitting here next to me and say “I WILL NEVER NEED MORE THAN THIS”.

I mean, I just want an A7RII  and some AMAZING glass to go with it, and there is TONS of glass you can shoot on the A7RII. Thousands of lenses from all manufacturers can be mounted with the right adapters and with the new sensor design, man… this is one powerful tool.

Even with its 42 MP the camera is responsive, quick and never feels sluggish. Manual focus is a breeze with the large clear EVF and low light is so much better than I thought it would be, I mean..it seems to be better than my A7II at high ISO, nearing the A7S (but not quite).

THIS CAMERA excels with out of camera quality. These are all from camera JPEGS, look at the color, the depth and the incredible medium format like IQ…click them for larger!

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It has been a lackluster year for cameras so far. I mean, we have had some amazing cameras come out..the Leica Q…a few others..but THIS is a game changer and when something like the A7RII comes along, it excites me and that excitement translates to these pages and the words I write.

I have shot with everything over the years and believe me when I say, so far, from two days with this A7RII, it is a special camera that has capabilities that far exceed my skill set. The video capabilities alone are incredible. The sensor is outstanding. They did their homework and listened to A7 users, and then they delivered this. THANK YOU SONY!

1st shot below was with the 35 1.4 Zeiss at 1.4. THIS is my fave 35 1.4 ever. 

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Here is a shot with the Canon 50 1.2 EF lens at 1.2. What is really incredible? Myself and all here agree, this lens focuses faster on the A7RII than it does on the Canon 5D series. Faster and more accurate. I borrowed this lens from someone here and now will go buy one as it is amazing on the camera. click it, and yes, this is an OOC JPEG.

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What I have been enjoying most is the rich color, deep IQ and lovely transitions. This sensor is just “WOW”. 

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So here I am still on the bus and with my laptop battery draining and my hotspot racking up data feeds I will close this out now with a couple more images from today. Tomorrow I will post more from this evening and tomorrow as we have so many events planned to use these cameras. I will also have a look at the RX10II as that is also sitting in my bag beside me.

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Believe the hype my friends, the A7RII is a take no prisoners camera and I see nothing out there that can do all it does, how it does it and do so with amazing and fun usability.

You can order the A7RII below from my recommended and trusted Sony dealers: 

B&H Photo A7RII ORDER PAGE!

Amazon A7RII

Jul 272015
 

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Dare to be, so People can see

by Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

Since 2 years I am working on a project called ‘Dare to be, so people can see’. Portraits are my favourite thing to do.

When I started I noticed the attitudes and patterns people have. In general life and for sure when a camera is involved.

That’s how ‘Dare to be, so people can see’ was born.

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When you show how you feel in the now, without smiling, and looking straight in to the camera, you give a moment.In this context I get a picture instead of taking one.

For me the idea behind it is that the world is filled with plastic glamour. By showing how people can look without the glamour it might help an other person to feel more in the now too.And accept their selves.

All this without being pretentious.

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For me its an attempt to contribute tot the awareness that every moment in life is worth to exist and be seen. Not only the smiles. I am always happy when I go home with a portrait on my memory card and edit it the way I feel.

Not all the people are happy with the results. Sometimes I find a picture beautiful and I don’t get the permission to put it on the internet because they don’t like the result. Then I don’t do that. Although I still see the beauty of it.

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greetings from the Netherland and keep up the good job you are doing.

If you want you can follow me on instagram:

https://instagram.com/wijnandschouten

Jul 222015
 
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LIGHT AND CONTRAST

by Michiel Faro

Time to get some of my own work out there, to be commented on and be criticized, instead of it all going the other way.

A bit about myself: I’m 62, Dutch and live in Holland, married, a stepson of 18 and two lovely two-year old girls. I work as a lawyer in Amsterdam. I have two potentially time-consuming hobbies: riding racing bicycles (I rode competitively for 25 years) and photography. I’ve been photographing since I was 14 or so.

My late father taught me everything, darkroom work included, though we never progressed to colour. I started with a Werra, which is more or less the most simple and wellmade camera one can think of. A Zenit slr was next, then a Yashica TL Electro (great camera), until a Nikon FM2n followed in 1990; a body I still have and use with great pleasure. FE2, an FM3a, a Contax RTSIII and a collection of used Nikkor and Zeiss primes round-up my analogue stuff. Digital started in 2008 with a D200, then a D700, then a D800 and now a D800E (both the 800 and the E can be underexposed routinely by almost up to a stop without any noticeable loss in image quality; a real bonus) with the 24, 35, 58 and 85 1.4G’s. I like the SLR form factor, prefer OVF’s over EVF’s and displays, dislike tiny camera bodies that may be light but have infuriating ergonomics and no viewfinder, and once you’ve gone full frame there’s no going back to a smaller sensor. Oh, and I don’t buy the next best thing every time it comes out, which can be quite frequent. Learn the stuff you have thoroughly, and that’s complicated enough in itself.

My photography can be divided roughly into three main categories: portraits (close, and possibly intrusive), situations/geometry/shapes, and emptiness. That last category is even more frustrating than the others and might be suitable for another post in the future. For this submission it’s situations/geometry/shapes and portraits.

Near the place I work in Amsterdam are two photo museums: FOAM and Huis Marseille. I try to go there on my lunchbreak every month or so. There’s always something to see. I may not like a particular exhibition or image, but it always sets your mind working: what is it I don’t like, what is it I do like, could I emulate it, could I approach that level of perception and technique, what sort of gear was used (ha!), etc etc. On the net, apart from the usual gear sites it’s AmericansuburbX and Lensculture I have a look at quite frequently; always something interesting to see.

Foremost in my mind (subconsciously no doubt) when taking photographs is light and contrast. Light because of what the infinite varieties of light can do to what the human eye (and film or sensor) sees. Contrast because of the inherent, subdued or loud, tension I wish to see in the images I take. Interest, tension, something that makes you wonder, makes you ask questions, is what I’m looking for. Always.

So here is a selection of B&W film images, made with cameras like the Contax RTSIII, Contax RTS, Contax S2, Nikon F2AS and Nikon FE2 and a variety of primes, usually Tri-X and HP-5, and colour images, made with the D800 and D800E. Two of the three portraits were made with the Nikkor 58/1.4G, an amazing (and sometimes frustrating) lens; the third one with the 85/1.4G, another gem.

The 58, to dwell on that subject briefly, is attractive as an everyday walkabout lens (I have a camera with me always; 1.4/35 this week) for its (comparatively) low weight, but you have to account for the almost “short tele” like focal length. It really shines as a portrait lens in ambient light. I think it is, for all it’s failings, a classic in the making that has to be used frequently to be fully appreciated.

Captions for the images are as follows:

B&W Situations

1 Man in FOAM museum: camera and lens unknown, TRI-X

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2 Man with hoodie: Nikon F2AS, Nikkor 2.0/35 AiS, TRI-X

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3 Man at Terry O’Neill exhibition: Contax RTSIII, 1.4/35 Distagon, TRI-X

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B&W Portraits

4 Cor: Contax RTS, 2.8/85 Sonnar, HP5

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5 Olivier: Contax S2, 1.7/50 Planar, TRI-X

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6 Rob Regeer, the artist and his art: Nikon FE2, Nikkort 1.8/50 AiS, TRI-X

 

 

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Color Shapes

7 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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8 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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9 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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Color Portraits

10 Ed de Jong, photographer, with waitress held napkin reflector at his insistence: Nikon D800, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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11 Jan Maaso, friend, Nikon D800, Nikkor 1.4/85G

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12 Wessel, colleague, Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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Thanks to Steve and Brandon for posting this and, more importantly, for keeping this podium alive for many to post on and for even more to comment.

Best regards,

Michiel Faro

 

Jul 152015
 

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sunning it up with the Sony A7s and A7II

by Craig Litten

Hey Steve & Brandon,

And hello to all of the followers of Steve Huff Photo! I’ve totally switched over to the Sony system late last year, and have been loving the system since then. I have your review of the A7s to thank for getting me really interested. I have now shot about four big jobs with the Sony’s, and they have performed nearly flawlessly so far. I own the A7s and the a6000, but have rented the A7II and the A7r trying to decide which body if a good fit, and I may just go with the newly announced a7rII. Attached are a few shots from my latest shoot with my Sony a7s and a rented Sony a7r along with the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 and Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8. lenses. I really love the size and rendering of the FE 35mm f/2.8!

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also like to keep it simple: two bodies, two lenses, a bunch of batteries and memory cards and normally zero lighting. But this shoot was different. It was a catalog shoot for Sun Bum (www.trustthebum.com); makers of sun products and a hot new company who is sweeping the industry. The company started in surf shops, but are now nationwide in Target as well as other stores. I shot their last catalog two years ago…

… and the photos from that shoot can be seen here on my website: www.craiglitten.com/galleries/#sun-bum

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Since Sun Bum is a sun-based company, the plan was to shoot all day in the bright sunlight, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we had two days of rainy weather as a big storm passed by in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. We had models coming in from everywhere, and Sun Bum staff members coming from California (the company is located in Cocoa Beach where we did the shoot), so scratching the entire shoot would have been very expensive. Besides, we also rented a house on the beach, so we had to improvise. My background is as a newspaper photojournalist (since 1991), so part of that job description was to make something out of nothing daily.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also hate using strobes, and no longer own any lighting gear, but prefer to shoot in natural light. So one of the assistants went to Home Depot to purchase a couple sets of 500 watt halogen lights costing $35 each. These are the kind of lights that you utilize while working on a car in your garage or use at a construction site, but they were a perfect solution and created what I call “liquid sunshine” giving the gloomy day the warmth it needed. We still have to reshoot to supplement these photos with “fun in the sun” photos, but they were pretty happy with the results.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Jul 132015
 
Sakura and Mount Fuji

A Review of the Sony A7II from a Newbie to Photography

by Alex Foon

Sakura and Mount Fuji

Hi Steve!

First of all thanks for hosting such a wonderful, no-nonsense website that I’ve been religiously visiting every single day. The past six months had been a roller coaster ride for me (photographically speaking) and I just managed to find time, sit down and write a photography beginner’s review of the Sony A7 mark II.

Prior to 12 Dec 2014, my tool for photography had been limited to camera phone and then smartphones. Back then, I never understood why some of my friends were into this expensive hobby called “photography” – the hassle to carry DSLRs the size and weight of a bowling ball, lifting it up to your face, adjust the settings for what lasted like an eternity, and then fire in burst; when the simple action of whipping out the iPhone could seemingly produce similar results.

Fast forward to the fateful 12 Dec 2014, I touched down at the airport after a grueling business trip, in my mind I was thinking perhaps I could do a little shopping therapy and so I aimlessly walked into the Sony store. The storekeeper told me that their latest release was the Sony A7II (just launched that day) and 10 minutes later I walked out with the A7II kit bundle, not knowing better what I had gotten myself into.

Of course over the next few days I was quite excited about my new toy, I had absolutely zero idea about what was aperture, shutter speed, metering, exposure, depth of field and etc. (maybe I still don’t quite get it now). It was frustrating to have such a high-end camera and yet the images I captured were not up to my expectation. I started researching online about how to operate the camera and how to capture a photograph properly, and that’s when I chanced upon your review of the A7II. It was almost instinctive that I made another investment in a prime lens (FE Zeiss 55 1.8, still my favorite lens to date) instead of keeping the kit zoom 28-70 (not that it’s a bad lens either).

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And then things started to get very interesting.

I suppose I needed to justify my impulse purchase, hence I brought the A7II with me everywhere I went, from daily grind in the office, to Penang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing and many more locales to come. The delectable combo of the lightweight A7II body coupled with solidly build FE lenses means it’s possible for me to carry them in my backpack all the time, and this allowed me to shoot whenever I find pockets of time in between.

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The improved ergonomics of the second iteration of the A7 series body should not be underestimated. The grip is beefed up for a firmer one handed operations when needed, and coupled with the placement of the shutter button, this alone potentially allows an additional stop of stability over the corresponding mark I’s in the series. And you’ll be surprised that a 45 degrees slant of the C3 button (C2 in mark I’s) can really improve the functionality of the camera especially when using manual focus.

Speaking of focusing, having such a shallow depth of field in full frame bodies makes the autofocus unreliable at times, you thought you might have nailed the focus on the eyes but when you review it again the spectacles were in focus instead. So 90% of the time I opt to use manual focus. MF is made stupidly easy and some might even argue that it is faster than the AF on the A7ii, turn the focus ring and the image magnifies, press my assigned C3 button and the focus magnifier further zooms in for fine tuning.

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With the OLED EVF, what you see is what you get! No more worrying about whether you nailed the exposure or the focus. The in-body 5 axis image stabilizer further supports the notion of WYSIWYG because I could be having seizure and still manage to see through the EVF and get a shot in focus. (alright, I promise this would be my only attempt in over-exaggerating, but you guys get the idea ;-D)

The short flange distance of the full frame A7ii camera body, working in tandem with manual focus assist tools and the IBIS, enable users to mount possibly every single camera lens ever made, as long as there is an adapter made to mount it. From my current favorite and affordable Minoltas, to the wallet breaking but absolutely fantastic Leicas, there is a lens for A7 users on any level of budget.

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I understand that Sony had announced the lustrous A7RII, and how willing am I to sell a kidney for that one. Looking at it from another angle, I’m glad Sony had priced the A7II at almost half price of the A7RII. And for all the joy and memories it had brought me over past half a year, I think this was the best impulsive buy that I had ever made. Today, I hope I had at least learnt something about aperture, shutter speed and whatnots, and I might have found a lifelong passion in photography.

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I will check out for now with 10 photos I had taken over the past 6 months with the A7II. Hope to finish my first roll soon on the Minolta SRT Super so I can send some entries in for Film Friday ;)

Till then, keep shooting.
Alex

Flickr: alex.foon
Facebook: facebook.com/sotongball
Email: [email protected]

Jul 082015
 
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NYC Pride Parade

By Carlos Varela

Hi Everyone!

My name is Carlos Andres Varela and I am a professional wedding and fashion photographer and have been an avid street photographer for the last several years. This is my first submission to a blog or website that features work that I was not hired to shoot.

I’ve been a Canon shooter for over a decade, but a few years ago, feeling a bit burned out and looking for something new (and not wanting to carry my heavy DSLR everywhere), I bought my first Leica -the Leica M9- and fell in love with using a rangefinder. Although not the perfect camera by far it was the most fun and pleasurable experience I had had in a long time. Thus began my journey, a journey of needing to shoot street and travel photography for my own pleasure on an almost daily basis.

I later went on to buy the M240 and the Fuji X-T1.

When I first got the X-T1 I loved it and used it non-stop for about 3 months but in the end I missed shooting with a rangefinder. If it wasn’t that I love shooting with my Leica’s, I would not have stopped using the Fuji. I feel it is the best general purpose semi-professional camera out there (If you take into account size, weight, functions, usability etc…) but the pleasure of snapping a picture is still much greater -for me- with my Leica rangefinders.

These NYC 2015 Pride Parade pictures were taken with both Leica’s (M9 and M240) and with either the Voigtlander 28mm f/2.0 or Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar.  Processed using Lightroom CC.

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I’m currently in the process of renovating my website (www.cavaweddings.com -I shoot weddings with my Canons-) and creating a few more with my fine art work (represented by Vogelsang Gallery -Mostly using Phase one’s or Hasselblad’s), Street photography (mostly using my Leica’s), Events (Canon’s again) and Fashion (all will be separate websites).

In the meantime you can see more of my street photography via my instagram account:

https://instagram.com/cavaphoto/

and a few more of the parade on my FB:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153477327761532.1073741835.544846531&type=1&l=69d2b851e2

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Carlos Andres

Jun 292015
 
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Instax fun, fun, fun!

In memory of my father, Andre Lietaert.

By Ivan Lietaert

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On the 28th of February, my father, Andre Lietaert died. As my family and I were coming terms with this loss, we were going through old shoe boxes filled with pictures and old photographic albums, sifting through the pictures covering a whole life of 78 years. Then I suddenly came across a picture I had totally forgotten it even existed: a polaroid picture of me and my dad, shaky and awkward in color, between 35 and 40 years old. It must be the oldest picture I have of the two of us. In the days and weeks that followed, I was on an emotional ride, and my attention shifted to organising the funeral and more mundane tasks that needed to be done.

But that polaroid had nested deep inside my brain and soon after, I started doing research about instant pictures anno 2015. I quickly came across Fujifilm’s take on the instant picture: the Instax cameras. Until some weeks ago, I was so preoccupied with digital photography (and video), I didn’t even know that instant film is still around, or put to words even better: instant film is coming back. Polaroid stopped producing their instant film, but enthusiasts recreated the original film, and now have a huge following with their “Impossible Project”, I learned. And then there is Fujifilm’s Instax, quite popular in Asia, but less known here in Europe.

After quite extensive research, I decided to jump the wagon and I bought the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, Fujifilm’s most advanced camera, targeted towards the creative enthusiast.

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Now, the thing is that using this camera requires a whole different approach and technique compared to digital photography. There is no chimping, no snapping, no shooting tens or hundreds of pictures and then simply deleting the bad ones. No! Taking an Instax picture is an event, it produces a unique print, that will cost you about 1 euro or 1 dollar. So immediately it makes you much more considerate and careful about the framing and the lighting, and even then, you will from time feel guilty when a shot failed. Basically, as when shooting film, it slows down the whole photographic process, and then, of course, there is the exciting waiting game as the picture is developing right there in your hands. As the picture leaves the camera after exposure, a rolling mechanism spreads the developing chemicals across the photographic paper and the development starts. After a minute or so – speed depends on the ambient temperature – the first details appear, and the picture is fully developed after approximately 10 minutes, when the chemical process comes to a halt.

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So I took my little daughter to the park and shot my first packet of 10 instax pictures there. I soon found out that this kind of photography is definitely lo-fi, with quite unsharp results, and the lighting/metering is tricky as well, with various degrees of success. But I found the whole thing so intriguing, I was hooked, I guess, and by the end of the week, I had ordered an Instax 210 online, which takes Instax Wide pictures, double the size of the Instax Mini. Both Instax cameras have been around for several years now, and I find them to be both quite well built, though plastic, of course.

Instax has been marketed in various ways. First, there is the ‘fun approach’. Young children love instant pictures; they are fascinated by the pictures as they slowly, as if by magic, appear. Kids (and their parents!) will love it when you give them the pictures to take home, much more than staring at your phone, or the back of your camera. It is great fun at parties – for the young and the old – and the people take home a lasting memory of the event.

Second, Instax is also targeted towards the hipster crowd, male and female; the younger generation of creative people, fashionable, who appreciate the things that really matter. Especially the Mini 90, with its sleek, retro-modern Fujifilm design, seems targeted at young fashionistas and cool, macho hipsters.
There is yet another, more relevant argument to consider: Print It Or Loose It! As this campaign article explains, up to 70 per cent of the youth between 16 and 24 already have lost pictures of important events in their life (due to drive crashes, faulty memory cards, stolen phones etc). Not convinced? Read more about the phenomenon called data rot here. With the Instax camera, you get instantly printed pictures and they will last a lifetime, and beyond. So even in the scenario a global, cataclysmic event, in let’s say 50 years time, your Instax pictures will survive and be a testament to posterity! So here are a couple of my pictures that illustrate how families are likely to take advantage of the Instax cameras.

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None of the Instax cameras have a true manual mode; in fact, I tend to get good results in auto mode, but still the outcome of each shot is quite unpredictable. My Instax Mini 90 has a tendency to slightly overexpose, which can be a nuisance. Also, the flash seems to have a mind of its own, ignoring my input. Both cameras have a fixed aperture (F12), there is no zoom and there is little tweaking possible as far as exposure is concerned: one can darken or lighten a picture, and that is it. The Mini 90 has a built in macro mode which allows the closest distance to be 30 cm. The Instax Wide comes with a macro/selfie clip-on lens. The macro mode is interesting for detailed close ups, and it also allows to create a background blur… sort of.

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I have used both cameras for some weeks now, and I have still not made up my mind which camera I like best: they both have their positive sides, and their drawbacks. The Mini 90 is small and has lots of creative modes (macro mode, party, kids, double exposure, bulb, darken/lighten). The mini pictures are slightly smaller than a credit card. The Instax Wide is much bulkier, ridiculous really, but renders a picture double the resolution and size of the Mini; also, the great Robert Frank, yes the one of the legendary, groundbreaking photographic book ‘The Americans’, owns one and was quoted saying it takes pictures of “very high quality”. Mind you, this Instax 210 costs only about 70 euros… If you can’t seem to choose between the mini and the wide, like me, buy both because they are dirt cheap anyhow!

The Mini 90 has the most creative modes and my favourite is the ‘double exposure’; here are two results. Again, the outcome of the technique is quite unpredictable, which is actually a good thing, because it is all very exciting.

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Really, these Instax cameras stimulate creativity a lot, and soon I was laying out the pictures on my scanner, with various fabrics, cloths and shirts on top them giving this as a result, like a scrapbook. It is great fun, and if you don’t have a scanner, just organise the instants on a nice surface, take out your mobile phone, and take a digital picture of them. Remember: it is likely that the original instant picture will outlive yourself and the digital scan/picture you made of them!

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Admittedly, these two fun, dumbed down, plastic toy cameras had rekindled my photographic enthusiasm! I have even dreamed about them, really! But then I started wondering about how useful they would be in a more serious context. What about the unimpressive latitude/dynamic range of the Instax? And, when you start pixel peeping, these instax pictures are awfully unsharp, aren’t they? So my next step was to look at what could be done with them in post, creating a digitally remastered instant picture! I soon discovered that these Instax prints get even better when you add a bit of sharpness and detail. Then I discovered that they can be easily successfully worked upon in post, with various, very unique results. I prefer using the official Google+ app, these days, for my post work, and usually, adding just a few tweaks and effects, will give quite a spectacular, atmospheric result. Below is a picture I took at Polygon Wood, a World War One cemetery nearby where I live – the Ypres/Passchendaele region in Flanders, Belgium. The first is a scan of the original Instax. Those under that one are various tweaked images I got in Google+. Now, I’m not saying these are masterpieces, but they clearly illustrate my point.

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Finally, I must warn you, dear reader, on at least two points. First, shooting Instax is highly addictive, and it is not a cheap addiction. So before you go out with one of these, make sure you are in a serene, meditative, controlled mood; if not, Instax costs will eat your wallet empty soon enough.
Second, using Instax may open the gate to analogue photography. I may introduce you, like it did with me, to a whole different photographic universe of laid back, slow paced photography… which, of course, is not a bad thing, is it?

Ivan Lietaert,
Belgium

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

BUY THE INSTANX AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Jun 192015
 

Love my Sony A7II…it inspires me!

by Jens Niedzielski

Hello Steve!

I’ve been reading your website / blog quite a bit lately, as I have become an avid user – and fan – of the Sony A7 (Mark II). After following your experiences with the A7 and A7s, and trying the A7s myself during a shoot in the Maldives in March, I decided to get the A7ii, and I am using it extensively ever since (darn, they just announced the A7R Mark II…).

I’d say the Sony really makes me want to take photos so much more than any other camera before – one reason being the fact that I can throw an endless array of vintage MF lenses on it. Lately I shoot almost exclusively manually, even fast-moving objects (kids (haha), horses etc). And I got hold of really nice vintage glass, from Canon FD lenses, to old Nikkor lenses, Rokkor, Takumar, Zeiss Jena, Jupiter, Industar, MIR, to name a few.

Anyway – thanks for pointing me in the right direction :) Attached please find 3 recent photos taken, and I hope they are somewhat inspiring… All taken with the A7II.

1. GO.RIDE – I am currently residing in Thailand, and some of my friends are some of the very few people in the country who are into horse trail riding. Outdoor, no strings attached. Most people who ride are staying in the safe and sound environment of horse riding clubs and rings – but these guys and girls are going out rinding in forests, farmland and so forth. The real deal, so to say. They often abuse me to take their pictures LOL, but I also feels it’s quite a privilege as this is a really rewarding subject to photograph.

The photo was taken with the A7II x Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens (Silver). That day I decided to challenge myself by shooting horse riding with a portrait lens, while keeping it under control otherwise thanks to AF (as the other day I shot arena / ring horse riding with an MF portrait lens, which despite the fact that they were waaaaay slower in there still was really difficult). The setting should be ISO100, f/2.8 which I chose as a sweet spot of shallow depth of field combined with ‘getting something in focus’.

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2. LAST LIGHT – this is an ‘after sunset’ / blue hour shot across Bangkok’s high rises. This is one of the very few unobstructed views into sunset direction in Bangkok, and literally was shot during the last seconds of having noticeable light that day; it went dark after that even for the A7II (I guess the A7s would have had a fun time after that).

For this one, I had paired the A7II with a Tokina 17mm f/3.5 RMC. Taken at 50 ISO, f16, about 30sec exposure I believe.

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3. THE TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION – this shot was taken inside Bangkok’s iconic Hua Lamphong train station. That day I went inside late at night to avoid people ruining my photos :) It turned out that the station is very heavily and brightly lit inside making it difficult to show the vintage look and feel of the station due to cold, bright and clinical light.

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Apart from taking some great shots in b/w and of the old trains that night, I decided to try some creative shot around the empty tracks that would give me the feeling of an empty old train station, or a station late at night, without resorting to more common techniques like b/w.

This was once again shot with the A7II x Tokina 17mm f/3.5 RMC.

P.S. I am aware / really quite a bit into post-production of images, but I am not using ‘filters’. All post processing is done only in LR and PS. Whenever I shoot, photos or VDOs, apart from trying to capture a really nice shot, fun for me starts when working the RAW files or VDO clips in post to see into what direction I can tweak them. Any photo, given the circumstance, inspires me to give them a certain treatment based on my perceived mood and tone of the moment. It may not be everyone’s taste, but it’s mine :)

Thanks a lot and best wishes,

Jens

INFO:

J (Jens Niedzielski)

Bangkok, Thailand

http://www.krop.com/jphotography

Jun 172015
 

Simone & My X-Pro 1

By Jermore Santos

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Hi Brandon & Steve,

Great site you have going on, this is just a little write up on my shoot with Simone and my X-Pro 1. I decided to leave my Canon 5D Mk III with my L Series zooms and strip back my photography, my awesome talent, Simone had complete trust in that the images that come out of the Fuji with the 35mm prime would be comparable and so we embarked on a little photographic endeavour. As I adjust the aperture ring around my 35mm f1.4 Fujinon the image darkens anticipating the coming break in the clouds, revealing a beautiful golden autumn sun. My ‘guestimation’ is spot on, thanks to the camera providing real time exposure in live view.

The most amazing realisation as a photographer is how the photons bounce off objects, be it landscape, lifestyle or product. To create contours by bending the light around your subjects while framing the image to reveal only what you want around your subject. Shooting with primes forces your creativity to go into overdrive as the forced perspective creates limited options for composition onto your frame, with the Fujinon 35mm f1.4, I get a similar angle of view to a full frame format 50mm, an angle that is so similar to our eyes that this is probably why the nifty fifty is the world’s most popular prime focal length. Speaking of the 50mm, last year in I went to Japan, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to snag myself a beautiful little vintage Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens in one of those awesome used photographic stores in Japan at a fraction of the cost of what I would have paid here in Sydney. I managed to score the more expensive f1.4 at the price of one would pay for an f1.8 here in Australia. The beautiful vintage FD lenses aren’t as sterile or tack sharp as today’s lenses and they bring a warmth and some organic nostalgia back to photography, I use a cheap FD to X Mount adapter to piece it all together from eBay and the results can make any photographer giggle with delight.

We ended up getting rained out but not before catching some beautiful sun shower shots, images that you hope to get when ideas get thrown around in pre-production.

Simone

Simone

Simone

Simone

Simone

Simone

Jun 152015
 
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Shoot what you love!

By Price Wooldridge

Hi Steve and Brandon,

More and more I stop by your blog for a little daily inspiration. Today, I thought I’d add mine, shoot what you love!
I recently found a working trolley line in Dallas, Texas, utilizing old trolley cars on original tracks in the downtown area. Today, I just dropped by and asked if they’d mind me shooting in their trolley barn, and explained my love and fascination with trolleys and trains. Don’t ever be too bashful to step up and ask, “do you mind if I take a few pictures?”.
Hope the group will enjoy these, shot with a Nikon D5500, Tamron 17-50 f2.8 zoom, and posted in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. As a side note, thought I always enjoy the challenge of shooting with a prime, I find when you step into a new, unfamiliar situation, a good walk around zoom really is most useful.

Hope you enjoy.

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Jun 052015
 

Film Friday

By Dierk Topp

Hi Steve and Brandon,
this is a small collection of photographs for the “Film Friday”.

I loved panorama photography for a long time and was dreaming of a 6×17 camera. One day on the Photo Flee Market in Hamburg about 1990 I saw the Russian panorama camera Horizon 202 – and I bought it. The negative size of this camera is 24x56mm. The first series was made on a foggy November day 1995 in Hamburg, Germany I used Ilford Delta 400 and scanned the negatives with my Epson Photo 2450 scanner
digital processing with Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex

You may find more of my analog and digital images here on flickr

#1
this type of panorama is only possible with a “one shot” panorama camera with the panorama function of a digital camera “stitched during the esposure” you get a lot of ghost images in this type of panorama with moving objects

scan of 24x56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

scan of 24×56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

#2
the rotating lens gives the same distortions like you see on stitched images straight lines look like curves

scan of 24x56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

scan of 24×56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

#3

scan of 24x56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

scan of 24×56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

#4

scan of 24x56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

scan of 24×56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

#5

scan of 24x56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

scan of 24×56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

#6

scan of 24x56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

scan of 24×56 negative from Horizon 202, Russian Panaorama Camera, PP: LR5 and Nik Silver Efex

The second series on Ilford Delta 100, 
I used the NEX with a bellows, Leica enlarger lens and a slide duplicating adapter. Due to the 24x56mm of the negatives I shot two parts of the negatives and joined them with stitching. As you get digital negative images, you have to invert them in to positive (for example with Photoshop or Lightroom)
#7
analog: Horizon 202, 24x56mm, Ilford Delta 400, 1996
#8
analog: Horizon 202, 24x56mm, Ilford Delta 400, 1996
#9
analog: Horizon 202, 24x56mm, Ilford Delta 400, 1996
#10
Horizon 202 (24x56) B&W film
#11
Horizon 202 (24x56) B&W film
#12
Danmark, 1995, Ilford Delta 100, digitized with Sony NEX-6

Danmark, 1995, Ilford Delta 100, digitized with Sony NEX-6

#13
Danmark, 1995, Ilford Delta 100, digitized with Sony NEX-6

Danmark, 1995, Ilford Delta 100, digitized with Sony NEX-6

 

#14
try this with the panorama function of a digital camera, it will not work
Markt Wedel, 1995, Ilford Delta 100, digitized with Sony NEX-6

Markt Wedel, 1995, Ilford Delta 100, digitized with Sony NEX-6

#15

hfbeibdg

#16 
this is made with 1/5 sec. during the exposure of the Horizon is running,
you see the unsharp movement of the front including the lens behind it
lens ist rotating during exposure

lens ist rotating during exposure

#17
the film plane is curved corresponding to the rotating lens
Horizon 202 Panorama 24x56mm
many regards
dierk
May 182015
 

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s

 

By James Conley

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Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.

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In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.

Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.

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Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.

Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)

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My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.

 

Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.

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Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.

The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

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Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.

I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.

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The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.

 

A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)

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Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.

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The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.

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Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.

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Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran

Here’s my contact info:
website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

May 042015
 

Voigtlander 40 1.4 Review on the Sony A7r

By David Farina

Hi everyone, I am David.

I am checking out this site since some time and thought that I would finally write something up myself. First of all, I want to thank Steve for this great site. For enthusiasts and professionals it is really the best way to evaluate new cameras, lenses or even bags and accessories, as everything here is real world testing!

Little Introduction: I am 22 years old and live in Zürich, Switzerland. My INTEREST in photography was always there, but it came over me when I went to Hong Kong, Thailand and China in 2012. I simply was not satisfied with what I got with my old Nikon (mostly because I had no clue). I got myself a Canon 650D, then a 6D, and with the Full Frame my LOVE for photography was born. Gear lust was always a big factor in my development of learning and making pictures as I really enjoy trying out new things and new lenses etc. As I was a bit tired of taking the 6D with 5 lenses with me around the globe, I got myself an A7R and fell in love again. Converting more and more from the Canon lineup to a Mirrorless lineup has a lot of advantages, but that is something I will not cover here. Since moving to Sony I built my setup containing of an A7R, A7S with the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 and the Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 MC. This makes a great travel kit, as well as a very light weight option without too much compromises.

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What I’m going to do here is giving you an idea of how well an adapted M-Mount lens can do on a Sony A7 body. So let’s take a look at the physics of the Voigtländer 40mm 1.4:

This lens is extremely small and light. It weights only 6.2 oz (175 g) and is built nicely with an all metal barrel. Unbelievable for an f/1.4 lens! I find it to be the perfect size for a walkaround lens on my A7’s, and that’s why it is!

But what’s it all about with the unusual 40mm focal length? In my Canon days I was a die hard 50mm fan and the Canon 50L was glued to my 6D when I was traveling. But when I got the Fuji x100s I found 35mm (which is the equivalent of its 23mm lens on full frame) quite handy, as you don’t have to back up that much when space is limited. The 40mm fits in between those two more conventional focal lengths, making it really versatile.

The lens itself features a grippy aperture ring on the front of it, and a focus ring which has a tab to place the finger on it for focusing. The operation of those rings is very smooth and feels well made. The focus turns from close focus to infinity in a bit more than 90 degrees, which is nice because you can focus fast as the travel is short. The aperture ring clicks in half stops.

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Many people asked me how I manage to use a manual lens as my everyday shooting and walkaround lens. The answer is, I don’t! Really, with the Sony A7’s focus peaking help and magnifier feature it feels very easy to nail the shots, even on moving subjects. And this is not coming from someone who’s been shooting manual glass 20 years ago, this is my first manual lens, and I really have fun with that. Off course I missed the one or the other shot, but for each I missed, I gained 3 others because if I still would use my 6D + 50L, I would not have taken it anywhere with me as I do with the A7R/S and this tiny lens. And manual focussing is somehow like when I first used a prime lens – it makes you think what you do! You can’t just snap away a few pics like some do with smartphones, and this influences the quality of the photographs taken. When I would have to measure the amount of images I’ve taken until I felt really confident with manual focusing this lens, I’d say I’ve shot maybe 100 shots until I fully got the hang of it. It really takes not a lot of patience and fiddling, so if you’re having problems deciding whether you need AF or want to benefit from a small and light wide-aperture lens, just take the plunge. I’ve had the same doubt and am now glad I did.

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But I guess what you are all wondering is if this lens is capable to deliver sharp results, right? I was sceptical at first, because of the size and the wide aperture. Since looking out for lenses I learned that quality glass is never cheap, and only very seldom it is small and light. Man, were I wrong! This lens is top notch. It is very sharp in the center, maybe even outresolves the A7R in the center of the frame at wide open aperture. The edges don’t look smeared, but are not very crisp at all. But hey, does it really matter on a lens like this? Obviously you’re not going to shoot landscapes with it, and for uses as a street photography, dreamy portrait or candid lens the center is the most important part of the frame, I’d say. However, stopping down improves the sides greatly. At f/8 we are able to get an overall crisp look. I don’t pixel peep (anymore, lol) and of course the sides and edges won’t be as sharp as the center, but overall the sharpness is highly convincing. Now we have a lens which is small, light, has an all metal body built to high standards, has no operational flaws on the aperture and focus rings and is amazingly sharp! The only trade off is autofocus, but I can live with that!

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So far so well, the lens is great built and sharpness is satisfying. But what about the colors? What about rendering of out-of-focus areas? What about the dimensionality?

Okey, lets start with the colors. On the A7R the lens has very natural, almost uber-natural colors. It renders colors appealing and has a bit of a warm touch. On the A7S I feel like it is not as saturated or clean like on the A7R, but still has a wonderful tone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about minor differences. But where this lens shines on the A7S is when you raise the ISO beyond 6400. This makes it a perfect companion for the A7S in lowlight, and the colors are kept great all up to ISO 51200. Beyond that, it gets really noisy, but what do you expect at that high ISOs.

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When I did research prior to getting this lens, a lot of reviews claimed that this lens had a tad of a nervous bokeh. I see what they meant, but to me this is in no way bad. The background melts away nicely while keeping sharp details on your subject. This lens is able to open up the aperture to f/1.4, which makes the 40mm lens also suitable for portraits. I expected this lens to have a lot less bokeh (quantity) due to the fact that it is actually a wide angle lens. But I find the amount of background softness not that different to my 50L at f/1.2. Highlights in the background can end up a bit nervous, showing some onion-ring bokeh, but only in certain occasions. After using this lens extensively the last 3 months I must admit that I had occasions where the bokeh was not as smooth as with the 50L, but 99% of the time it renders nice, big and round out-of-focus balls.

But what I like the most on that lens, is not how it melts away the background. It’s about how this lens has a certain pop! It is hard to describe, and for that purpose I have selectively chosen a lot of images which demonstrate that pop. What I’m talking about is how the separation from subject and background makes the subject stand out. It has a 3D look to the pictures if you want so. I think this comes down to the fact that this is a wide-angle lens with a wide aperture, but is still resolving incredible sharpness and details on subjects. This is, in my opinion, the most valuable feature of this lens. How often do I look at a nice picture I’ve shot, but think that something’s missing or that it looks rather flat. This lens is the opposite, as it is able to make even uninteresting subjects pop out of the picture, giving you a nice overall look and feel of the image.

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I will not dive down deeper on topics like flare and abberations. But I can tell you that this lens is not bad in both aspects. I have the multicoated version, but flaring occurs from time to time. But it is really not that “ahh that flare looks ugly and lowers the contrast tremendously”. More of a “hey theres a flare, maybe I can use it for artistic purpose?” :)
I did not notice any abberations, but like I already said, I’m not anymore a pixel-peeper (excuse the 200% crop on the trumpeter, but I couldn’t resist as this really shows how amazing sharp this lens can be!).

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All in all, this lens is my perfect walkaround lens. Due to its rather unusual focal length it is pretty versatile, has a nice 3D look and melts backgrounds away nicely wide open, but still resolves great when stopping down, all in a very light, very small package. Paired with a Sony A7 body this is in my opinion one of the best combinations for travel, street and everyday photography.

I hope you enjoyed my review and pictures of the A7R/S with the Voigtländer Nokton 40mm 1.4, and wish you good shooting!

You can buy the 40 1.4 at Cameraquest or B&H Photo. 

Apr 212015
 

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The Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE Lens Review. Best 35mm Lens Ever.

Yep. I said it. The spoiler. This is the best full frame 35mm lens I have ever used in my life. But remember, I only review items I love and adore, so if there is something out there I have not reviewed it is because I am not a fan of it, plain and simple. Before anyone says “you like everything you review” – well, YES this is true as I have said over 1,000 times here. If this lens was a dog it would not have been reviewed. So what you see me review on these pages is all gear that I love and adore because if it sucks, it is not worth my time, my 40-60 hours that it takes to do a review like this. With that said, this lens is indeed the best 35 OPTICALLY I have ever used.

This image was shot indoor, f/1.4, and with only a bit of natural light coming in from my kitchen door window. Click it for larger. 

katie1sh

Yes.

Better than ANY 35mm lens I have used in life, and that includes those from Nikon, Canon, Leica, or whoever…and I have used the best of the best. At f/1.4 it is stunning. Absolutely stunning. The lens is a masterpiece of optical quality from detail to color to bokeh. It is auto focus and the ONLY weakness it has is that it is quite large. I am used to Leica lenses, or smaller Sony lenses and this guy is a beast. No bigger than a Nikon or Canon or any DSLR lens, in fact, it is a teeny bit smaller than those beats income ways but not by much. Weight is around the same with this lens being about a few ounces heavier than the Canon and Nikon. (1.32lbs  vs 1.4lbs). Even so, after 2+ months with the lens, I am so impressed that I can confidently say this IS INDEED the best 35mm lens I have ever used, or reviewed or held. Yes, beats the Sigma 35 1.4 Art lens for those that were about to ask.

Below is the video I made for my 1st look report which was published HERE

Paired with the Sony A7, A7r, A7II or A7s, this lens delivers the goods but I especially loved it on the A7II. To me, the A7II is the pinnacle of the A7 series. The build, design, features, 5 Axis IS, Af speed, and superb low light capabilities really flesh out this system and mature it to another level. Yes, I own an A7s as well and have shot with the A7R and A7 extensively but the A7II, for me, is the most polished and nice A7 body yet. Notice I said YET as I know there is something else on the way,  I feel it in my bones, and hey, this is Sony..and they are on a roll..and I bet they want to strike while the iron is HOT. In the mirrorless world I feel Sony and Olympus are on fire with Fuji right behind. Nikon and Canon are seriously MIA with nothing new, fresh or competitive and the others keep releasing cameras hoping they will stick, and they never do. Leica is always beautiful but most can not afford a Leica setup. Sony is doing most things RIGHT today from design, performance, new lenses and price.

This lens is a tour de force of a 35mm. Versatile for low light and AF which is accurate and pretty fast for a 35 1.4 design. This was shot inside a limo at night. No problem ;) ISO 4000, ZERO NR, f/1.4

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Want to get up close and personal? The 35 1.4 has a minimum focus distance of .3 Meters which is GOOD.  1.4

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AF is snappy, even in dim light on the A7II – 1.4

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We can no longer say that “There is a lack of lenses for the Sony FE system”..because they now have MANY amazing lenses. The A7 system is less than two years old and Sony now has SO many good lenses..

1. The 55 1.8 Zeiss – A fantastic and sharp lens that gets rave reviews. 

2. The 35 2.8 Zeiss – Another fantastic sharp lens with the Zeiss pop. 

3. The 16-35 Zeiss – a superb wide-angle zoom, this one is one of the best I have tested for Ultra wide. (Review)

4. The 28 f/2 (stunner for cheap) – This is a must own lens, a superb value for under $450 (Review)

5. The new 35 1.4 (this review)

6. A new 90mm Macro! (Review soon)

7. Wide angle and fish attachment for the 28 (Review soon)

8. A pro level 70-200 – The standard 70-200 and this one is also fantastic.

8. Some mega pro zooms and some kit zooms

10. Zeiss Loxia Primes, the 35 and 50 (review of the 35 is HERE, the 50 is HERE)

and more.. From fisheye to ultra wide to telephoto to Macro Sony is now fleshing out the FE full frame lens system for the A7 series. They released lenses pretty fast and more will be on the way as there are many more planned lenses coming like a fast portrait prime. I feel an 85 and 135 will be here eventually, sooner rather than later.

This lens is stunning. This time at f/2. Crisp all the way around.

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I have quite a few image of Katie in this review as I used the lens for some of her Prom images..this one, f/1.4, converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure

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The Zeiss Magic & Pop Will Wow You

This lens is a Sony/Zeiss collaboration and it shows. Zeiss is a legend and has always been lumped in with Leica when it comes to image quality though they have always had their differences. With Zeiss you will usually get more 3D pop, richer and warmer color and USUALLY they are a tad softer than the Leica counterpart. With this lens, you are getting all of the 3D pop and color but even more detail where you need it over a Leica or other lens. At f/1.4 this lens could NOT be sharper. If it was, it would not be a good thing. As it is, it is PERFECT. When focusing on eyes (see and click on the very 1st image in this review) you can see what I mean. But it is here in all images I have shot with the lens so far and I have not had one hiccup with this lens, at all.

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With this lens, shooting wide open is where you will get the true character of the lens. If you want to shoot at f/2.8, you would be better off with the much smaller and lighter Zeiss 35 2.8 or Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia. THIS lens, the f/1.4 Zeiss, seems optimized for wide open shooting, and this is where its beauty lies. Much like the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux FLE which is the lens that used to hold my title for best 35mm lens ever made for full frame digital. Today the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 take that title as it is just so good, again, with the only weakness being the size. There is no distortion, there is no offending CA or problems, there is no vignetting and there is no softness or focus issues. I feel the reason for all of this is because Sony and Zeiss REALLY took their time with it and wanted it to be a WOW kind of lens. This is also why it is large. If it were smaller it would have issues like distortion and other things so I think it is fantastic that Sony chose to go the route of optical beauty vs optical issues.

I have seen 1-2 reports of people buying this lens and saying it is “soft”. This is so not the case. If you are getting soft images with this lens you either have a bad copy, have an issue with your camera body, are not focusing in the right spot (shallow DOF here is VERY THIN at 1.4) or you are mistaking Bokeh for being Out of Focus. There is nothing soft about this lens in any way, shape or form.

As I look over the images I have shot with the lens I am thrilled that Sony did what they had to do as they created a masterpiece. Anyone who loves t he 35mm focal length will be THRILLED with this lens on any A7 series body. I used it mainly on my A7II which is the A7 I use 90% of the time these days. Still own and love my A7s  but the A7II just clicks all of my boxes.

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This lens is good for color or for B&W conversions as you can see above and below. You can go light on the contrast or heavy on the contrast. By default, this lens puts out a medium contrast  – not too hard and not too soft.

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But one thing remains a constant with this lens. It delivers the goods each and every time I bring it out or use it. From deep rich color, to beautiful black and white to nice creamy bokeh (background blur) that will not give you a headache, this lens shows what the Sony A7 system is capable of. I have tried the Sigma Art lenses. I have shot with the Canon 35L on a 5DII, I have shot with the Nikon 35 1.4 on a D800 as well as the Zeiss ZF 35 1.4. I have owned and shot with the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, all versions. It is safe to say that I have had great experience with all full frame 35 1.4 lenses.

This Sony is the best one I have ever used for my tastes as it does everything right. Period. The one that comes closest is the Zeiss 35 1.4 Zf, then the Sigma Art 35 1.4. Last place would be the Canon 35L as it is getting a but long in the tooth, even when used on a 5DII or III. The size of the DSLR 35 1.4’s range from Large to Beastly and this Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 is at the large end. It’s a beast, and a few ounces heavier than the Nikon or Canon (1.4 vs 1.32lbs). After a few snaps you do get used to the size, though I admit I will always prefer a smaller lens. If this lens could be made in a small size it would be one of those legendary must own lenses.

The Leica 35 Lux is small, but manual focus only, a not so close minimum focus distance (.7 meters vs .3 of the Sony) and it does not offer the overall total IQ of this Sony/Zeiss. It is also $5400, so quite a bit more expensive. It is a jewel though, a beautiful legendary lens that was at the top of the heap for IQ. It is good to know that this Sony is up there in the same league as the Leica at a fraction of the cost.

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Before I end this quick lens review, let me show you a few comparison shots. Below you will find the same image taken with the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, the Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia, the 35 2.8 Zeiss, the 16-35 at 35mm and for grins, the Leica 35 Summicron at f/2 (I do not own the Lux). I will show each lens shot at f/2 to keep it the same aperture except the 16-35 will be at f/4 as  that is wide open for that particular lens and the 35 2.8 at 2.8 for the same reason.

It is a LARGE lens  – left to right: Leica 35 Cron, Zeiss 35 2.8, Zeiss Loxia 35, Zeiss 16-35, Zeiss 35 1.4

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I am not looking for detail or sharpness here, as ANY of these lenses will deliver on that. ALL are fantastic in their own right. But I am looking at color, pop, depth, bokeh, and overall character of image, which is why 99% of us buy these types of lenses…character. A lens like this is not bought for low light or high ISO use, it is mainly bought because so many of us LOVE the character of a fast lens.

YOU MUST click images for the correct view..

1st the 35 1.4 at f/2 on the A7II

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Now the Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 at f/2 on the A7II

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Now the 35 2.8 on the A7II (at 2.8)

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Now the 16-35 at 35 at f/4

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and finally, the 35 Summicron on the A7II

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Which do YOU prefer? 

I still prefer the Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 but ALL are great, even the 16-35 at 35mm and f/4 renders a great image with contrast and pop. To me, the most amount of depth and 3D comes from the Sony 35 1.4 but all are great and most would have a hard time figuring out which is which. Goes to show, most lenses made today are good and get the job done though these lenses above are all $800 and up, all the way to $3300 for the Leica 35 Cron (though it is my #2 pick as the IQ is fantastic and the size is TINY). I will say if all you care about is corner to corner perfection your best bet is the Sony 35 2.8, but it will lack in Character compared to the 35 1.4, Zeiss Loxia, Leica cron, etc.

DETAILS!

Below is a 100% crop from this 35 1.4 Zeiss on the A7II. Plenty of detail for me! THIS is wide open!

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My Final Word on the Zeiss 35 1.4 for the Sony FE System

I love this lens. Period. For me, it is the absolute best 35mm 1.4 lens I have ever shot with, used or tested when it comes to image quality. As you know, I do not go by charts or graphs, I go by real world shooting. Using a camera and lens for what they are meant to be used for..images..memories…the main reason we take pictures! For pros, if you have a 35mm in your kit you owe it to yourself to give this one a try. It is a beauty of a lens and now takes the title as the best 35mm lens I have tested or used. THAT says a lot. If you have this lens and you are not getting astounding quality with it then you may have a dud, which is not cool, but it is NOT the norm for this piece of glass. For me, this lens is perfect for just about anything you want to shoot. Environmental portraits, fashion, every day life, landscapes, still life or what have you.

This lens takes the A7 series to the next level. AF is speedy for a 35 1.4 (bested the Art 35 1.4 when I used it on the Canon 6D) and 100% accurate on my A7II. Never did I get a misfocus. I also shot some personal images on my A7s and the results were just as fantastic as they were on the A7Ii with a slightly different feel due to the different look of the A7s sensor (slight).

So I highly recommend this lens. It’s the best of the native lenses I have used for the FE system. $1600 is expensive but cheaper than the competition while being better. Bam. Sony did it again.

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Where to buy?

You can BUY/ORDER OR PRE-ORDER this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

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

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Apr 152015
 

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

The 2015 Moto GP with the Sony A7II

By Chad Wadsworth – His Website is HERE

With overcast skies, rain and major storms threatening all weekend, the 2015 Moto GP Grand Prix of the Americas went off with only a minor hitch (debris on the track prior to start). Just before the race, the skies opened up and the sun broke through, lighting up the brilliant red, white and blue track elements. Red Bull racer, Spaniard Marc Marquez, pulled off the “three-peat” with his third consecutive victory at the annual event held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX.

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Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

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I packed relatively light for the event, considering the number of 600mm bazookas being hauled around by circuit photographers. The Sony A7II, A7S, the new FE 28mm f2, FE 55mm f1.8, Minolta High Speed APO 200mm f2.8 (A-mount) and rain gear were all stashed away into a small Think Tank backpack.

For Saturday’s qualifying, using the adapted Minolta (a legendary lens) was like bringing a knife to a gunfight. The combination of 1987 screw drive AF motor and adapter just couldn’t keep up with the action, even with the a7II advanced AF tracking. Luckily, Sony had the FE 70-200mm f4 enroute, with a just-in-time delivery for Sunday.

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What a difference the native FE lens made for AF tracking. On the A7II using Pre-AF, CAF and tracking, the lens picked up focus almost instantly and was able to stay on subject during some of the fastest racing (220mph on the straights) on the planet. Certainly, the combination had its limits but I was shocked at the number of keepers it produced. At the end of the day, I walked away confident in the current ability of the alpha platform and optimistic about future capabilities.

Until Sony has big gun lenses and a true professional body, this solution is not ideal for the tiny percentage of working pros who deal with these ultra high-speed environments but the writing is on the wall – expect that improvements in processing speed, hardware and software will soon make these cameras viable at the extreme niches of photography.

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Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

The combination of small, lightweight bodies and lenses was a boon for reportage style coverage of the event. The new FE 28mm continues to amaze with sharp rendering that reminds me of my old Ricoh GR1 and Minolta TC-1. The quick focus also came in handy when shooting some flatland BMX and Trials demos. I was just feet away from the bikes (another photographer got his foot run over) and the camera nailed focus every time. This lens is such a tremendous value! Mate the 28mm with the 55mm f1.8 and you have a dynamic duo that covers four useful focal lengths (28mm, 40mm, 55mm, 83mm) if you utilize APS-C mode on occasion.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

By the end of the race, I was exhausted but high on the adrenaline from covering this prestigious event. The Circuit of the Americas is one of the finest tracks in the world and still under appreciated by the US motorsport community. If you are a fan, you owe it to yourself to make it out to Austin for the upcoming American LeMans and Formula One races later this year.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

Third annual MotoGP at COTA in Austin, TX, USA on 12 April, 2015.

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