May 242016
 

Hi Steve

My day job is in the photo industry, but in sales, not the creative side. In my early career I was a pro photographer. A staff photographer for the University of Edinburgh, doing varied stuff from Press/PR, graduation, architecture, portraiture, studio still life and more as well as darkroom work and managing an image library. A change of city (following my now wife) to Glasgow lead me into photo retail to pay the bills and now I work for a photo accessories import and distribution company, so my photography is now by and large for myself.

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I still have a varied interest in photography, with my first love being reportage. That said I find that landscape is what I do most. Being a “traveling salesman” as my wife likes to call me, landscape is easiest to fit into my day. I also get the opportunity to do a fair bit of street photography. I shoot with the Sony A7 system these days and I have a set of Canon FD lenses that I haven’t been using as much as I’d like, so I decided to take my 2 sons and dog to the beach near where we live.

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Instead of taking a selection of focal lengths I just took my Sony A7II and the Canon FD 50mm f1.4 with a cheap FD to E mount adapter. I wanted to simplify and restrict myself, which helped me focus on the job of getting the shot. The Sony is easy to use with manual lenses but it was going to be a challenge to nail the focus on 3 and 5 year old boys running amok at the beach. Especially as I wanted to shot wide open at f1.4. The shots are a mix of posed and action and my hit rate was satisfyingly high but I think I’ll need a bit more practice to get more shots of the boys in motion.

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The 50mm focal length was a joy to use and I’ve fallen in love with it having always been more into wider anger lenses. I’m now looking into something fast, 50 and AF but have to say I was very happy with the shots I got. Maybe the recently announced Samyang AF 50mm f1.4. I played around in Lightroom with different post options but settled on black & white as being the best option. I hope you like them.

https://500px.com/ewandsmith

Cheers,

Evan Smith

May 202016
 

Trip to the Azores Islands

By Miguel Teotónio

Ilhéu de Vila Franca, São Miguel (Açores), Portugal. 

You must have seen the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on TV, … well I heard about this place before, but that competition raised my curiosity to a higher level. Last week while visiting São Miguel in the Azores, we managed to get there and see for ourselves. This beautiful islet has the shape of a large semicircle, creating an atoll in its interior surrounded by an extraordinaire scenery with rocks and cliffs eroded in exquisite natural structures.

You can visit this nature reserve from June to September by boat and easily get to Vila Franca do Campo by bus. One of the few places in São Miguel where you won’t be needing a car. There’s no sense on that cause you will be spending (at least) two hours in the ilhéu and even more (time) on the boat to the islet and back.

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Praia de Santa Bárbara, São Miguel (Açores), Portugal.

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Lagoa das Sete Cidades, São Miguel (Açores), Portugal.

We rented a car for a few days during our stay in São Miguel to see what we had planned, but our main objective was to stop between spots to admire the extraordinary landscapes that this island has to offer. When driving to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, we took the long way on a secondary dirt road, and what a great choice! We drove into the unknown (no GPS at this moment) and circled the two lagoons (the blue and the green) with a view from above on one of the most beautiful scenery I have ever had the pleasure to experience. We were amazed with such an idyllic place.

We had the best view of it all (in the afternoon) on an abandoned hotel rooftop. Monte Palace Hotel front rooms had a privileged view to the lagoons. Some said it was like being a part of a painting. Now, only sadness can be felt in its interior.

(http://sicnoticias.sapo.pt/programas/abandonados/2014-06-09-monte-palace-nos-acores)

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Rabo de Peixe, São Miguel (Açores), Portugal.
This is undoubtedly one of those places you have to be careful while visiting. People are helpful but very suspicious, so there’s no need to say that they take their privacy seriously. If you don’t “trespass”, everything will go well [ or not :-) ] . I did just that but ended up missing some great shots of colorful houses and a few friendly young locals. Maybe next time … This once, I saw what I had in mind, … Vhils … What else?!

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Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel (Açores), Portugal.

This is Lagoa do Fogo. A crazy dog running down the hill, it’s one of the things I’ll always remember from this trip. That was the image I experienced a moment before we reached the viewpoint over the lagoon. The animal was an adrenaline junkie, almost running over cars that were heading to the top.

Here at the Serra de Água de Pau, you also must visit the Caldeira Velha Natural Monument and take a bath in the natural thermal waters (37°C). A pleasant and relaxing surprise at the end of the day.

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Ferraria, São Miguel (Açores), Portugal. 

Lighthouse at Ponta da Ferraria.

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Miguel Teotónio
www.miguelteotonio.com
http://que-suave-e-o-ar.blogspot.com/
Antes de imprimir pense na sua responsabilidade e
compromisso para com o MEIO AMBIENTE !

May 122016
 

HEART OF THE CITY

by Darek Meyer

My last post – the one about Harinezumi – was kind of wink. I`m not a gear person, at least not anymore. I have to admit, there is new camera in my bag now, but I`ll leave the story for next time. Of course, we all need cameras for photography. Some of us are aiming at the latest gadgets; some stick to their favourite cam, and use till it can`t take any pictures.

One thing which I`ve wrote time ago, about photographs which my father took, is still true for me. Photographs are memories. I take them as memories of people and events, I take them also as memories of what I felt this particular time. And I`m not alone with this approach. You can find it all on http://where-were-we.com

What you will see below, the pictures and how they look, is just one of these stories. For over two years I was frequently coming to Jakarta. Usually for couple of days a week; office work, and some meetings with business partners.
During that time, I was living in a hotel in Jakarta city centre. It is located close to the office, but with Jakarta traffic, it means on average half an hour by taxi. Or, twelve minutes walk.

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Many of hotel guests will never use the latter option. These 12 minutes can be very challenging for people, who have never seen Kampong (village), which is located in between. Some could be afraid, some could not send the smell, jump over puddles with unidentified liquids, or being continuously alert to avoid motorbikes.

I took the chance of walking, as it was much faster option. With time, I also started to bring my cameras with me, compacts ones. I have witnessed daily life of people from Kampong in Jakarta centre, especially in the mornings and afternoons. Some walks there, instead of having lunch, also brought additional views. I have watched people making their food, fighting flood, selling small koi, kids growing, cat families ruling the street. And for all of them, and for the only one dog which lives there, I will always be a stranger.

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Attached is just a brief intro to the series. I have made first selection for my page, and you can find it here:

http://darekmeyer.com/HEART.html

One can say, this material is not coherent. It is not meant to be. As I have mentioned, different compact cameras were used. I have developed these pictures almost immediately after taking them. And now, I have just adjusted the size to fit web layout. Some are blurred, some come from my „extreme hard contrast” time. Some I took in a rush, some when carrying travel bag with me, or at least umbrella. I think that altering them now, would change the way they were meant to look like the first time. So, no, I`ll not touch them. It is not the end of „Heart of the city” series. My library has more than 3,000 pictures. Soon, as I find bit more of spare time, I will add more.

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In such moments, hard to say “I hope you enjoy the story”, as this is more personal take than other things I did with my photography. But if I receive even one message, that someone is waiting for continuation of this series, this would mean a lot to me.

Best regards
Darek Meyer

May 022016
 

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The Mighty Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm Lens Review

By Bob Towery

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I recently acquired the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens to go along with my Olympus OMD-M5 Mk II kit. I didn’t start off with the idea of writing a review but as I began getting to know this lens I thought it might be a nice addition to Steve’s excellent collection of resources for us enthusiasts. (From Steve: Thank you Bob)!

As background, I have been shooting digitally since 2001, with Canon bodies and a wide array of L lenses. I have had a number of 70-200’s, as well as 300mm and 400mm L primes.

About five years ago I wanted to get into a smaller kit for travel work. Partly with the excellent information I got here on Steve’s site, I got a Leica M9 setup and used this for quite a few trips. But I do enjoy telephoto work as well, and certainly that’s not the M9’s forte. And although I became pretty proficient at both manual focusing, there are still those instances where you have one second to get a shot and it’s lucky indeed to have pre-focused accurately. I found I was only using my M9 when going street shooting.

Fast forwarding, when the Fuji XT series came out I dove in. Somehow I just never warmed up to this system. It’s AF was exceedingly poor (since improved I’m told). The camera also failed on a trip, the first time that had ever happened to me. Although Fuji did a stellar job of repairing it quickly on their dime, this unnerved me and I sold that kit off.

Knowing Steve had always been an Olympus fan, I followed those reviews, and when the OMD M5 II was released I jumped into the Oly pool. Using the Olympus kit has been very rewarding. It’s a high performing camera, with the only limit (for my use) being the noise at higher ISO’s.

THE SCENE

Living where I do on an island near Seattle, I have a lot of opportunities to shoot interesting birds like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. The Fuji would nearly always miss. So the first paces I put the Oly through were to shoot these birds, and its AF performance was excellent. This was with the 40-150mm, so fully zoomed in we are at 300mm effective. But even these large specimens of the bird world are pretty small subjects. BTW, below I’ll do a few comparison shots with both the 100-400mm and the 40-150mm.

It’s spring time right now and there are a lot of beautiful flowers to shoot here. This will be a “real world” review. Some of the images are those subjects I enjoy shooting, and some are just for the review factor.

THE MIGHTY PANASONIC-LEICA 100-400mm

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Enter the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm! Image stabilized, effective focal length (long end) of 800mm. Before we get into the pictures, I want to state that I’m not a professional reviewer, or even photographer, just an enthusiast. I know many of you would do your own tests differently than mine. My testing was around the kinds of things I like to shoot, which don’t involve test patterns. And all of these are real world, no tripods involved (well, one exception). Also, to be practical when I give a focal length, it will be what LR reports and is on the lens body, i.e. in-between 100 and 400. If you want to double the focal lengths you see given the body’s crop factor that is fine by me.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW OLYMPUS 300mm?

We all know Olympus was building and releasing their 300mm prime at about the same time. I considered this for a short time, as I prefer Olympus products and given the price of this glass, it’s going to be a fine prime performer. I’d bet my 401k that the Oly 300mm will outperform the Panasonic 100-400mm handily at the same focal length. But for me, these primes are impractical. “Zoom with your feet” really doesn’t work when say you are standing on a beach looking out, or trying to catch a flying bird. There have been times where I approached a sitting bald eagle with my full frame body and 400mm, and by the time I got close enough to make them fly away for a glorious picture, I can’t get the whole bird in the frame – too close! At an effective 600mm, I just can’t count on being the right distance from my subject. So the Oly 300mm prime is out for me.

HOW’S YOUR STABILITY?

I’m sure most readers know the camera has IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) and the lens has its own IS. Unlike a Panasonic body mated to the lens, sadly the Oly IBIS and the lens IS do not speak the same language. From my reading, and brief testing on my own, the best option is to turn IBIS off and use the lens IS, so that is what I did.

IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW

Also, Steve told me to process as I normally would. In general, this means a few tweaks in Lightroom, 90% of the time less than one minute’s work. I’ll point out below when I did no post. All images were made with the Olympus OMD M5 Mk II and the Panasonic/Leica 100-400 unless otherwise indicated. Only one shot was with a tripod. Others are hand held, sometimes with me leaning against a post. Apologies in advance if I didn’t test something as you would have. I really wanted to include some people shots, seeing how it rendered faces, even if that isn’t a practical use for the lens, but I didn’t have an opportunity to work that out.

Also, all images were exported from Lightroom using Screen/Normal sharpening. I decided to number the images, as readers often comment by number.

All right, let’s hit the road.

THE SAPSUCKER STUDY

Shortly after the lens arrived, I had a lunch planned with a friend who happens to be a great and dedicated wildlife photographer. Our lunch date was to discuss an upcoming joint trip. I had thrown the Oly and the lens in the bag, basically just to show him. He’s a Canon shooter too, no M4/3 experience.

When we got back to his home I opened the trunk and zipped open the bag. I handed it to him and we were chatting, but noticed a loud woodpecker nearby. I said, “let’s go check this out” and he said “they usually fly away once you start staring at them.”

#1 – 264mm, f/5.5, 1/2000, iso 640

Before we get to the “good shots,” I want to share this one, to show you what we were up against. (And it turned out to be a red breasted sapsucker, not a woodpecker, but they still bang away on the tree.) The sapsucker is in constant motion, including jumping from one branch to another. The tree is filled with branches both in front of and behind the bird. But notice that even in this tangled mess, with center dot focus selected, the lens focused perfectly.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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So as I began shooting, I had to move both left and right around the tree, while waiting for him to get clear.

#2 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, iso 640

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It was a pleasure to have the reach to fill the viewfinder with a bird that is just say six inches high. Here at 400mm and a distance of perhaps 20 feet, the bird and the branch are magnificently sharp.

Crop of #2

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Here is a 1:1 crop from this frame. How long is that talon, 3/8”s of an inch?

#3 – 300mm, f/8.0, 1/500, iso 640

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Moving along to bokeh, this certainly isn’t the finest I have ever seen. And I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the massive range of this lens, the f/6.3 aperture when fully zoomed, and the sub $2,000 price tag.

#3 with background smoothed in Lightroom

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However here’s what I got in about a minute in Lightroom. I used the Adjustment Brush, with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders all the way to the left. Then I went around the birdie numerous times which did a nice job of softening up the background area. I then lightened up the bird’s back just a tad. Given the fact that I’d have no shot at all with most of my other lenses, I can live with this.

As I’m getting these shots and my friend and I are viewing them on the LCD, he begins getting jumpy and then dashes into the house. He returns with his amazing Canon 200-400mm, mounted on an older 1D Mk IV. I have serious lens envy, but that kind of size just isn’t practical for me.

#4 – Iphone

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My wife got this shot of us with her iphone. Guess who can handhold longer?

#5 – Samsung S6

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Here we have King Kong on top and Cheetah below. Interestingly, my rig is both wider and longer than his, focal length speaking. His is a 1.3 crop body, thus the “widest” is 260mm. The lens has a 1.4 teleconverter built in, so with that engaged, he’s at 728mm by my calculation.

Of course I would never expect the Panasonic to compete with this Canon in IQ. However it does cost six times as much and weighs eight pounds. (My apologies, my friend didn’t get any shots that he felt like sharing, so we could compare.)

IMAGE WITHIN AN IMAGE

Over the years I have found finding new compositions within my images to be very rewarding. View your image full size, set a crop, then drag the crop around in the Navigator window. It’s surprising how often you can get an additional image or two from one of your shots. Sometimes even more compelling than your in-camera composition. But of course there is a penalty in terms of resulting image size, due to the crop. Not a big deal for blog/facebook posting, but would come into play say if you intend to print.

#6 – 100mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 400

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When I saw the scene above, my thought was that the child on the bike could be interesting. Looks like a beginner, the setting is quite nice, and so on.

#7 – 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500, iso 400

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Look what happens zooming way into the scene. The rider is nicely isolated. Bonus points for my timing of an otter jumping into the scene, what do you say? Normally I’d crop that out but it’s so unusual I left it in just for the fun factor. If I cropped that deep into the original image, there just wouldn’t be enough pixels left for much use. I believe at the time I planned to wait for the rider to get into that sunny area, but the otter surprised me so much I lost track. (I scrambled down on to the beach to try to get him too, but he was long gone.)

#8 – 141mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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When I saw this sailboat going by, I wanted to get a couple shots just to see how clearly the lens would render the lettering and sailboat details. But thinking about this “image within an image” idea I zoomed all the way in and moved the lens around the boat.

#9 – 400mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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I found this colorful and pleasing composition and grabbed a couple frames.

#10 – 400mm, f/8, 1/1250, iso 400

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This kayak was WAY far away. I would estimate 300-400 yards. The piling and bird are about half way to the kayak. Thought it would be interesting to see how the foreground would be rendered when I focused on the kayak. This is about a one quarter frame crop!

MT. RAINIER STUDY

So I’m very fortunate to have a view of Mt. Rainier from my backyard. She’s only out one out of every three to four days. There are often clouds that completely obscure her.

#11 – 70mm on a Canon FF body

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Google Earth says the summit is 60 miles from my house. I wanted to get a full frame shot at 50 mm to show you what that looks like in person. But the weather hasn’t cooperated, so here is an older image I shot at 70mm on full frame. What can we do with the Panasonic 100-400mm on a nice day?

#12 – 400mm f/9, 1/800, iso 200

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Here we are at 400mm. Handheld! Note that between our positions are Seattle’s southern suburbs, as well as the Sea-Tac airport. The sky is continually filled with jets. It takes a rare day to have completely clear air, and I didn’t have any while preparing this piece. So I believe some lack of sharpness here is because we are looking through 60 miles of air as opposed to lens performance.

#13 – 300mm f/8, 1/200, iso 200 – tripod mounted – 12 sec timer

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I took this one at 300mm as it includes an island that provides a little context. Used a polarizer to cut through the haze.

GOING BOATING

#14 – 100mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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There is a continual parade of boats in front of my place. Including ferries, commercial, military and pleasure craft. Here is one that isn’t real attractive but serves our purpose of seeing what this lens can do. This is a small boat, 30 feet at most. Above is what it looked like at 100mm.

#15 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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Full zoomed in. Keep in mind the boat is moving, I’m having to pan to keep up with it. Pretty acceptable detail.

#16 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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Google Earth tells me this buoy is 735 yards from my location (that’s more than four-thirds of a mile).

Sea lions often jump up onto the buoy and boats and other passersby stop in for a look. In this case some kayakers. Previously I have only been able to see this kind of detail with my high powered binoculars.

#17 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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As I’m shooting this, a speedboat comes along. While I can’t make out the license numbers on the bow, I can clearly read the model letters on the side. See the faded “4” on the top right of the buoy? Not bad from this distance.

#17 – crop detail

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FYI this shows the crop in the boat/buoy image.

#18 – 300mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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This boat was much closer. This is the uncropped shot at 300mm. Boat is going perhaps 20 mph; I’m panning. Everything looks good to me.

#18 – crop detail

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Take a look at this crop. Look straight down from the second zero in “2000.” There are two openings there. The one to the right is most likely a drain from an ice chest compartment. We are talking two inches wide, at the max. I’d say that’s pretty amazing detail. One can see that the dye from the canvas is leaching out and staining the hull, and this is in a shaded spot!

#19 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/640, iso 640

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Lots of small details to look at in this ferry shot. Note that these ferries really move – about 23mph. This is a bit of a crop. Full size, it is very sharp.

#20, 100mm, f/4, 1/80, iso 1600

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This shot amazes me. There had to be some luck involved with my panning here, given that I’m at 1/80th and the shot is very sharp. But look at that perfect focus, in the dark.

BUILDING STUDY

#21 – Panasonic 100-400 – 146mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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Let’s get into comparing the 100-400 vs the Olympus 40-150 PRO. I really didn’t expect the Panny to hold up well against this lens, but once again I am surprised, in a good way. These shots are about a minute apart. I’m standing in the exact same location, attempting to have the Panny at 150 but missing by a couple mm’s. I turned IBIS on for the Olympus lens. The shot is cropped just a bit to be identical.

#22 – 40-150mm Olympus Pro – 150mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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There isn’t really much between these two, is there? When I look at them full screen in Lightroom’s compare mode, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Even the tonality is remarkably similar – the building, the sky and the grass. No post on these images by the way.

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Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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What happens if we examine crops to show us more detail? Here are crops of the same two images for closer comparison.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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I can see the wording on the sign is a bit sharper with the 40-150 shot. The focus was on the center rectangle, so the building was the focus spot. Perhaps the result here would have been different had I focused on the sign? It’s a slight difference in any case.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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And here is the upper right corner, which I chose because of the tree branch.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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Once again, the 40-150 shows more definition, at least to my eye. But I don’t think there is much to complain about with the 100-400 version.

(This setting by the way is http://www.bloedelreserve.org )

FLOWER STUDIES

#23 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The wind was blowing these plants around, so the shots don’t look as identical as they could.

I focused on the center flower in both cases. I think both images are perfectly reasonable. Kind of like the bokeh on the 100-400 shot a bit better actually.

#24 – Olympus 40-150 Pro – 150mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 200

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But there is definitely more detail in the lightest part of the flower with the Oly 40-150 version.

#25 – 264mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The post for this image was +38 on Vibrance, +12 on Saturation and a touch of vignette. I didn’t mess with the background area at all. Gorgeous bokeh, I’m sure due to my distance to the blossoms, and then the distance to the background.

#26 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/1250, iso 1600

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Just a touch of Vibrance.

#27 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250, iso 640

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I came across this tuilip in someone’s yard and thought it would be interesting to see what the lens did with the very busy background. I added Vibrance as well as a graduated filter at the bottom in post, but left the background alone. Using the adjustment brush with de-Clarity would fix that right up.

#28 – 100mm / f/5.6, 1/250, iso 500

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Here is the scene, from the exact same spot, minimum focal length.

#29 – 100mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 1600

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Another shot from someone’s yard.

#30 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/1250, iso 200

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One more, just to show that a background doesn’t have to be completely blurred to add to the image.

BIRD STUDIES

#31 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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We have some spectacular birds in our area. On the larger side, we have Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. Wasn’t fortunate enough to get any Bald Eagles but Ms. Heron decided to join in the fun.

Herons are very aware. They are able to get airborne with one leap of those long legs. So they don’t fly off unless you get too close. Given their great size, in the past I have gotten some nice images with my full frame Canon and 400mm fixed, approaching very slowly.

#32 – 318mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 200

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These birds are a joy to see in flight. They are gorgeous and graceful. Unfortunately they will show their tails in nearly all shots. That is because if you approach from the side, they fly the opposite way. If you approach from the back, as I did here, no matter which way they go, you only see the back. I really need to try this from a kayak or boat.

They are also smart and often wait to fly off until you look down at your footing, back of your camera, etc. So you have a very small reaction time. To me the important thing about this shot was that I sensed the takeoff, raised the camera, framed, autofocus was instant, and I got a crystal clear shot.

There’s just no griping about autofocus with this lens.

#33 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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Here is an even better test. I was out on my deck, which is about 75’ above the water. I believe I was shooting the Harlequin ducks when all of a sudden I see movement in the sky. I instinctively raise the camera, get focus and shoot. No time to play with any settings. And we have a crystal clear shot in glorious focus.

#34 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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I was very close to this tiny bird, about 15-20 feet. This bird is perhaps 6 or 7 inches beak to tail. There was a concrete half wall between the bird and I, perhaps that is why it didn’t fly off. At 200mm on a full frame, this wouldn’t be much of a shot as the bird would be too tiny for any usage. Very impressed with the lens in this situation. The definition in the feathers seems just about perfect to my eye.

#35 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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Mallards are relatively large, but at this distance, only this sort of focal length will create any type of reasonable image. This is a crop – about one-third of the frame.

#36 – 300mm, f/8, 1/500, iso 800

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These harlequin ducks are regulars in my back yard every Winter/Spring. They are extremely shy and fly off basically as soon as they see you. I have never gotten a decent shot of them until now. This shot was taken from about 100 feet away. I’m far enough back that they don’t panic.

#37 – 318mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 500

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Having this range leads to some compositions I have never been able to consider before.

TELEPHOTO-MACRO?

#38 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/800, iso 320

While shooting the ducks, walking back to my house, I ran into this lizard. Pretty good size, probably 9″ long. Why not give it a try? Minimum focusing distance is 1.3 meters, which is where I was (moved a bit back and forth until I got focus lock.)

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CONCLUSION

I like this lens a great deal. I have never had this kind of reach before, and for some of the subjects I like to shoot I feel it will be invaluable. I’m very impressed that the IQ compares “quite well” to the Olympus 40-150mm. If I was going on a trip where I wanted this extra reach, I’d have no problem leaving that Oly lens at home, maybe throwing in a couple of Olympus primes for the intermediate range.

All things considered, this is an effective 800mm lens that is 6.5” long (collapsed) – a modern marvel, in my book anyway.

Would really have been nice to compare my images with my friend’s, with his Canon bazooka. Especially since his older body is also a 16mp like the OMD M5 II. But I’m not trying to get into NatGeo with my images. I especially appreciate the size/weight/value proposition of this Panasonic lens. His outings with that lens are few and far between, whereas I can bring this lens along anytime I want.

Although I didn’t show these images, for a while it appeared to me that images at 300mm were superior to those at 400mm. I did some test shots and cropped the 300mm ones to see an equivalent. Upon review, my thoughts just didn’t seem to hold up. I didn’t see any significant degradation at 400mm vs 300mm.

#39 – 400mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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If you want to be able to shoot anything moving, quick AF is a must. This lens has it. I was down by the beach having a cocktail with my wife this evening. I noticed this heron feeding. I took some shots of her wading, but really she was just too far away, even at 800mm, to make an interesting composition. Somewhere between 100 and 150 yards. I didn’t even have the camera to my eye when I sensed the movement. Quickly raised, got focus, fired. I love this artistic rendering, with the sun more or less directly behind the heron.

Of course I wish Olympus and Panasonic would cooperate such that the body-lens combo would use both IS systems. But these results are plenty good IMHO. Every single body/lens combo is a compromise in one way or another. Even a brand new Leica SL with the 90-280 zoom could not get many of the shots on this page, not being able to reach out to an effective 800mm.

#40 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 1250

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I’m closing with this one last image. First, it is my favorite image in the review. The camera and lens performed perfectly, the lighting was favorable, and Mr. Heron contorted himself into this wild position. This is a crop, it’s about 60% of the frame. Imagine the FF Body/800mm lens it would take to get a shot like this? I could own one, but it is doubtful I would be all set up with it to capture this moment.

Which brings me to my very last thought (finally! You are thinking). Had it not been for needing to go shooting for this review, I wouldn’t have a lot of these shots. As I’m quite pleased with many of them, this is a reminder to us all to get off the computer and get shooting. It’s a beautiful world, and at least for me, this lens is going to help me capture that much more of it.

Thanks Steve once again for your site. Thank you to my fellow photographers for reading and I hope this is helpful.

Apr 242016
 

The Horror and Fascination of Symmetry
 By José Pazó

Last year I sent you an article with photographs called “The Power of Symmetry”. You guys were kind enough to publish it. I am now sending you what I first named “The Power of Symmetry II”, but after some consideration I decided to call it “The Horror and Fascination of Symmetry”. As all pictures in the prior article, these were also taken with a Nikon Coolpix S32, an inexpensive water resistant compact camera with many quirks, but with some humble charm. And with a mirror mode very nice to play with. I am always in the mood for playing with all type of image catchers.

The photos I sent last time were all of them based on the flora world. Trees and landscapes took strange organic forms when passed through the filter of symmetry. In the text I accompanied photos with, I outlined certain ideas: first, symmetry is more Chinese than Western (note I do not say Oriental, since Japan has a strong tendency towards asymmetry in part of her art). Second, symmetry is strangely attractive, almost addictive. It creates gods and totems. But the truth is that it also creates monsters and labyrinths. The pictures I am sending you this time are more into these lines. As you can see, objects become intriguing, puppets dive into the horrific, and candid street views change into confusing mazes. Poppy mandalas.

I remember that one of the readers’ comments on my first article stated that symmetry is cool but boring in the long term. He was probably right. But the sad fact is that not only symmetrical ones but all type of photos are ultimately boring to me. Maybe into cycles, but I like to change approaches, trying to get something unexpected or at least interesting. Although, once certain style becomes a formula, the boredom returns. However, I think it was Eric Satie, the French musician, who wrote “Boredom is deep and mysterious”. I like that quote since boredom has been one of the main engines for change in my life. And for experimentation.

In other words, sorry if these pics bore you, even if it is just a bit. I will be, on the contrary, very happy if anyone can get any fun out of them, even if it is “deep and mysterious”. They all are out of camera JPGs, limited in all technical aspects, due to the camera and to the photographer. I enjoy a lot all the discussions you Steve and your readers keep on wonderful equipment on this page. But I relish the old and the limited/limiting gear and its use. I think your page holds a great mixture of personal point of view, general discussion and real photos. It’s a must for me.

Thank you, as always, and cheers from Madrid, Spain.

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wedlings

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Haha

Electric pole

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Apr 152016
 

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Fine Art Portraiture with the Leica Monochrom

by Jan Hartmann

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What is FineArt Photography for me?

Beside my work on commercial projects I am still someone who needs a kind of artistic photography. In Short, Fine Art is only another word for artistic photography. Doing Fine Art Photography allows me to express myself and to get into a creative process. Within in this process i can realize my visions and ideas. What I like most about it that I can slow down and have more time to put the focus on composition, expression of the model and the overall impact of the emerging image. And one important element for this kind of work is the Leica Monochrom. The concept of the camera does not have big menus as other digital cameras and reduces everything to the basic parameters of photography – shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. That’s all you need. So you can concentrate on the main part of your work. The Model, The Moment and the Composition. That is where you have to be and not lost in menus.

 

Working with Models

I am not that type of photographer that is frequently looking for new models to work with. A decisive aspect is that I can establish an identical human level and good communication to the people I work with on a free basis. Consequently I prefer working in longterm corporations with a fine selection of models that share my philosophy of teamwork.

One of them is Amelie Lezcano Mendoza“ with who I have just worked 2 times before this project. We both love the timeless character of black and white photography and prefer a natural and authentic look.

The Location In the tradition of working in a Team Amelie was responsible for scouting locations and selecting one. She had chosen a very nice mansion in the architectural style of 19th century. The rooms had a really esthetic interior and big windows that are perfect for the work with natural light.

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The Monochrom in Action

So the Day came and we were drove to the mansion and went into it. While Amelie started to dress herself and have a final look on her makeup, I checked my to M Monochrom Cameras. Both of them are in silver-chrome.

On the first Monochrom a 50mm Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 is mounted and on the other I use the 50mm APO-Summicron ASPH f/2. You will wonder why the hell I use two 50mm lenses and indeed the most expensive in the whole leica lineup. I am 50mm junkie. The first I owned was the Noctilux, a dream of a lens, of which I had a lot of sleepless nights until I got it. The APO is truly another beast and renders totally different. I use them for different shots and situations.

But there is not THE SITUATION for each of these lenses.

My favorite lens is still the Noctilux. No other lens I used has this special rendering. It turns every scenery into a dreamy and aesthetic look. It is amazing to see these soft and natural skins of the models when using the Noctilux. The 50mm APO Summicron ASPH f/2 is more for the “real world“ shots. It renders like there is no lens. And in combination with the Monochrom the results have a look that tends to medium-format-quality. This is visible in the high amount of details and the areas from sharp and unsharp in the final image.

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When Amelie finished her preparations we just started on one of the windows. The first thing I always check is the right exposure. In this case the histogram is very helpful, because if you overexpose than the whites are blown out with no information. That is the Achilles heel of the Monochrom Camera. You just have always to expose and take care for the highlights. If you do so, the rest is just easy.

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To work with Amelie is a joy. She doesn’t need detailed instructions, only smart corrections. Her posing and facial expression happens very intuitive and natural. What always impresses me is here authentic expression.

This is something not many models have. That is a big advantage and influences the final results in a positive way. The big and bright optical viewfinder is something I like the most about the Leica Monochrom. I just see the whole scenery and so it is a lot easier to frame and make the composition.

The 1.4 viewfinder magnification enlarges everything and this help a lot to set the focus plane where you want it – especially with the extremely thin DOF of the Noctilux 0.95. That is much more precise than working with Manual Focus on DSLRs I used before I went to Leica. One general aspect that makes the Leica Monochrom outstanding is the richness of tones. Especially the middle grey tones are unbelievable. I am a fan of the CCD Generation. For my eye the rendering of the CCD is very much like film and does not look so digital.

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The Relation between the Leica Brand and Passion for Photography

Now it is nearly a year that I started to work with Leica. My initial reason to change was the fascination for the Noctilux. What i noticed when i had been working with Canon DSLRs before that there was no real relation to the equipment. You just used it for its function.

But with Leica it is another game. I really love the work with rangefinders and manual focus lenses. With the Leica Monochrom you just get the essential feeling of photography with the basic elements. And what makes Leica unique in this times is the mix of technical perfection, lifetime-built-quality and the simplicity. I am getting nervous when I can not work with my Leica cameras for some days. This is truly very subjective. But for me it is important to have the equipment that makes you passioned and inspired and this is definitely the case with Leica.

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Aspects in my Fine Art Portraiture Work

The most important thing in my work is the emotional aspect. That means the final images should transport a certain feeling. When I work with models I don’t want to see a program of studied poses performed like a machine. My pictures should get an authentic and natural character. In the interaction with the model I try to bring them to be as they are. So when I look at the image I want to get an idea of the person and the character.

Communication is the base of a successful portraiture project. If I have not the right communication, I don’t get the results I want. And these are important requirements that I can go into a creative process, looking for light, the right framing and composition.

At the end I just want to show you some pictures from the Fine Art Portraiture Project with Amelie.

Web: www.janhartmann.photo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/janhartmann.fotografie
Email: [email protected]

Mar 042016
 

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Thank You All for your continued support!

You know, it has been many years now that I have been running this blog/website and it never gets old for me, even going on eight years of daily work here, I still LOVE it. Sure, the camera business has its ups and downs..some months are super hot for camera news and reviews and some are just slow. These days, it seems camera releases are slowing down somewhat from just a couple of years ago. Sure, Sony is still at it and they are on a roll, and Olympus continues to innovate. Panasonic is still in the M 4/3 game and Leica is trying to diversify into all kinds of camera segments, hinting at something to do with phone photography in the future. Fuji is plugging along with new cameras and lenses and Nikon and Canon are still sticking with their DSLR roots and the photo community is probably happier than ever with all of these amazing choices out there. I mean, just look at the choices we have as passionate photographers. That is if you want a NEW camera! Look past that and we have thousands of old cameras on the used market we can use to bring our vision to reality.

For the enthusiast, it’s tough to go wrong as most nice cameras today are just fantastic.

As for this website, my reviews will always be here and I will be writing them until I just can not do it any longer. Truth be told, what helps keep ME going is all of YOU. Your kind words, your kind messages and emails and your submissions like the daily inspirations, reviews and sharing of your work and thoughts. It’s a pretty cool community and while there are hundreds of sites out there doing similar things, tens of thousands of you still visit me here daily! Amazingly cool. I appreciate all of you, and will always do my best to deliver reviews on the products that move me, that motivate me and that I feel are worth taking a look at..

Sony 24-70 G Master – Super dark environment and I overexposed this one but managed to salvage it

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Believe it or not, this website was the worlds very 1st REAL WORLD review site, as in NON technical..using real photos to judge a camera instead of test charts, graphs and studio scenes. There was a strong need for it at the time, and today there are  a gazillion real world review sites out there, and I love all of what I see from them. It’s so cool to see reviews being done in this way in addition to those who do technical reviews. I feel there is a need for both, and always have, which is why I started this site may years ago. The internet can be a wonderful thing…it can also be a horrific thing but for the most part, it is so wonderful to see so many conversing about something they love, on an intellectual and positive way.

THANK YOU!

Just this week I received some great emails from readers, and it is stuff like this that also motivate me to kick my butt into high gear and work more and more on this website (which now houses THOUSANDS of posts, over 7 1/2 years worth).

Check out these nice messages that just came in….so awesome to see positivity and happiness in a world that seems like such the opposite these days…

“I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks for your wonderful website. I like your positive, upbeat energy, and your focus on the products, techniques, and approaches that make photography fun and engaging for so many people.

While other websites like to be armchair critics, you engage your audience, teach them, and inspire them to try new things. That’s appreciated.

Incidentally, I have been following your camera advice carefully, and recently upgraded from a Olympus OM-D EM-1, which I absolutely loved, to a new Sony A7rii, which is just awesome. Your advice helped with both decisions, and I never regretted listening to you.

Thanks again for what you do. Stay positive and enthusiastic! It’s refreshing to see in this era of complaining and tearing others down.

Cheers, Jon”

and this one…

“…Thanks for all your words on this gear, it helped me pull the trigger and my first day with this setup clearly marks the beginning of lots of awesome. I reread your Lecia Summilux 35mm review and the images that combo gets and I’m seeing form on this gear are amazingly similar and satisfying.

May your shutter finger never fail you,

Justin”

So thank all of you for being here, thanks to those who send messages like this every single day and thanks to all who help support this site with your guest posts, reviews and even for using the links here when you buy anything at Amazon or one of the camera shops that sponsor the site. It all helps dramatically and keeps me plugging along day-to-day.

Lots of new things on the way in 2016 from what I have been hearing and while the death of the point and shoot is upon us, and camera companies are making cameras more and more for the enthusiast, it’s all GOOD. Choices are great to have when you are a crazy photo nut and it seems they just keep rolling along to make us happy, and broke..but hey, I only am going to go round this earth once and I love living life to the fullest so I do what I love each and every day.

So I will be here for years to come, writing down my thoughts on cool new cameras and allowing all of you to have a voice, if you want one, right here at stevehuffphoto.com

THANK YOU! Have a great weekend!

Steve

Two more from the Sony 24-70 G Master lens..

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Feb 052016
 

Venice with the Leica M 246

by Dan Bar

Hi

It has been a long time. Just got back from Venice. I took my 240 and my MM 246 with my 35 LUX and my 50 Apo cron. I shot some photos with the 240 but then decided i love B\W more and shot the MM 246 + 50 Apo only. No filters
It was the carnaval time in Venice , no doubt a beautiful event with tones of visitors,  I knew I dont want to go and shoot the masks and the routine shots , I hope I succeeded in shooting different photos than usual.

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Take care

Danny

Feb 012016
 

The Vulnerability Of Self

by Greg Turner – His website is HERE

Over dinner with some friends recently I was introduced to someone who, while having a successful business career, also described herself as ‘an artist’. The deliberate use of that moniker was interesting and I asked at what point in her creative journey she had finally felt comfortable using that title. She acknowledged the validity of the question and explained that it had taken her completion of an under graduate degree in Fine Art before she finally felt justified in calling herself an artist. Ironically for me as an observer, all it took was a look at her work (she’s a sculptor and an incredibly talented one) to see the artist and not just the person.

Self-doubt has long been a feature of the creative process and of artists in general. For sure I don’t consider myself an artist and until recently the word ‘just’ was quite deliberately used before the self-description of ‘amateur photographer’ on the front page of my website. When asked why by a friend, I explained it was deliberately self-deprecating; I didn’t consider myself good enough to call myself an amateur photographer just yet. That term, to my reading at least, connotes some degree of proficiency and talent I wasn’t sure I possessed. We agreed I would remove after her reassurance that I was more than talented enough. As a graphic designer, she routinely works with and appraises various photographers work so she should know, and yet the doubts still linger…..

‘Tina’

‘Tina’

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I started this project as a way of examining the concept of the person and the three manifestations of any individual. The more photographs I take though, the more I realise that I am exploring that concept from the perspective of self as much as anything else and that process is similarly tinged with self-doubt and vulnerability. I guess I’m exercising my own demons such as they are; the little boy at Catholic primary school who while not subject to physical abuse, was exposed to prolonged and painful emotional abuse. It has an effect that is carried through to adulthood and at various stages in life is processed through different lenses, if you will excuse the pun. The current lens I am using is both metaphorical and literal.

There is a certain irony with using the camera lens to explore that vulnerability and self-doubt. Traditionally, it is the subject that is more nervous of the lens because it’s their vulnerability or self-doubt that is being observed if not exposed. For me, the fear and doubt is as equal behind the lens as in front of it, it’s that mirror phase again with the subject looking back at me, being me.

‘The Film Producer’

‘The Film Producer’

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The three portraits on this blog say a lot on this subject. In the first, ‘Tina’,  it was her tattoos that immediately caught my eye and why I asked if I could take her picture. Her immediate response was to ask for posed quite freely but her pose is at once both vulnerable and defiant. The way she holds her head shows strength, you can see the muscular structure of her neck suggesting that physical strength, the look in her eyes and of course, the obvious hand gesture, which I confess I did not see at the moment I took the picture and initially cropped out. And yet she is intensely vulnerable, after all she has just asked for money because of her situation.

The next picture is the polar opposite. ‘The Film Producer’ shows a man consummately at ease with himself. He knows who he is, he knows what he likes and he is very comfortable with that. There is not the slightest hint of vulnerability here or at least, any vulnerability or self-doubt that may have once been has long since been forgotten.

The last image, ‘The Bike Messenger’, the pose is relaxed but the cigarette and the off camera look show tension; he’s relaxed but not completely. The tension is probably the reflection that he’s just agreed to have his picture taken by some random stranger in Soho. I imagine he’s having second thoughts but isn’t sure how to get out of it. This is self-doubt brought about by the sudden vulnerability of the situation.

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Of course, all this could just be complete nonsense. The pictures could well be no better than something you’d have developed at Happy Snaps and my reflecting on them over intellectualized nonsense (actually that part probably is true; I hope the pictures are a little better than snaps though).

Greg

Jan 292016
 

Friday Film: Leica M6 Classic

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I hope this email finds you both well. Recently we had a chance to escape the Canadian cold and take a (short!) family winter getaway. I brought only the Leica M6 classic, the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f/1.4 SC, a 3-stop ND filter, and a pile of Portra.

It is always exciting to get home, process the film, and relive the experience. (Though there is always that tiny bit of concern that the rangefinder was bumped out of alignment, and you actually have nothing to show for it!)

Fortune smiled upon us this time.

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These are all self-developed, and scanned using the Pakon F135+. Included below are some samples. More images may be found on my site at http://iftimestoodstill.net/the-analog-vacation/

Thanks for considering.

Warmest regards to you and your readers,

Mark

Jan 132016
 

The Power of Imagery

by Sebastian Szyszka

Hi Steve and Brandon,

Been enjoying your site for a while, especially the positivity it exudes. It’s a nice change of pace.

I started shooting sometime between the ages of 7 and 10 while I lived in Germany with my parents. We were Polish refugees waiting to come to America. One of my birthday presents during that time was a plastic 110 camera that I absolutely loved, which was quickly upgraded to a Polaroid. It was the Polaroid, decades before I ever read the words “decisive moment,” that taught me the power of photography. I didn’t gravitate towards posed stuff, I reveled in the moment. Real, unscripted, often ambushed. Those images were ones I was not used to seeing because most shots around me were “say cheese” kind of shots. Looking back at it, I still remember the first image that struck that chord with me. Can’t share it though, my poor mother would kill me…

The power of imagery has always stuck with me. Nowadays photography is a quick, immediate balance against the daily routine of being an advertising artist. The two go hand in hand, and both strengthen and compliment each other.

I’m including three images, one that I took of a friend of mine, and two of my street stuff that keeps me sane on my Chicago commutes.

The first shot is of my friend and coworker Jeff on his custom 1967 Shovelhead. What makes the image special to me is the fact that it was taken in his father’s gas station, which was built-in the 1920’s. A lot of heritage and vintage in one frame. My only regret was not getting Jeff’s father in the shot. Alas, he was not there that day. Taken with a Sony a6000 and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5. Lit with some wirelessly triggered strobes layered on top of available light. Post work in LR.

Click it for larger and better version!

Jeff and his custom 1967 Shovelhead

The second shot is of a “poet for hire” near Bourbon St. in New Orleans. For a small fee and 30 minutes of waiting, they write a bespoke poem for you. Taken with a Sony a6000 and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5. Post work in LR.

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The third shot of a man exiting a train is from one of my old commutes on the “L” Train in Chicago. Shot with a Sony NEX-5 and 16mm f/2.8 with fisheye attachment. Post work in Aperture with some Nik SilverEfex 2.

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(I know, a lot of Sony, but my favorite camera by far is my X100T. I use both for their unique strengths.)

Thanks and keep doing what you’re doing,

Sincerely,

Sebastian Szyszka

www.sebastianszyszka.com
500px.com/sebastiand
www.flickr.com/photos/sebastiand/

Jan 122016
 

LEICA SL and Lemmy 

By James Hale

The Great Lemmy Kilmister from MOTORHEAD passed Dec. 28th 2015. To memorialize and celebrate his passing The Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Blvd held a memorial for him. Here are a few pictures Taken with a Leica SL and Summicron 50mm APO.

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Here is a link to more picts from the event. https://www.flickr.com/photos/haleyeah/albums/72157663315071926

Nov 242015
 
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From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

by Ben Jacobsen – See more: http://www.benjacobsenphoto.com/ and his flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/benjacobsen

 

The Sony switch… As most of you know I’m a long time canon shooter that made the mirrorless switch to fuji last year. The majority of my photography business is based around shooting architecture with a UWA zoom. My switch to fuji happened as soon as their 10-24mm was available (as well as their XT1 promising fast AF). I shot with a complete fuji setup last year for weddings, architecture and landscape work as well as for my personal images. While I was happy with my switch away from canon (I wasn’t using my DSLR for anything but paid work because of it’s size) I wasn’t quite happy with the AF speed and files quality I was getting. They were good enough but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Then last year at photo expo in NYC I stumbled into the Sony booth and saw their brand new 16-35mm f/4. This lens paired with an a7r was practically the same size as my XT1 and 10-24mm but it had a full frame 36mp sensor… Then I walked over to their dark room focus torture test and saw how well the a7s could focus in ridiculously low light and I was sold…

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I got home and ordered an a7 thinking it’d be the best all around camera for me. I’d been more than happy with my 5DIII’s 24mp so it seemed like the best compromise with better AF over the a7r and more resolution than the a7s. When it arrived I noticed a flaw in the sensor and AA filter design that caused it to have what I call “green ghost flares” where the flare from a light source gets this very weird green flare. This is NOT lens flare and it is a huge issue for me with architectural images. So I tried the a7r next… and LOVED it’s sensor (and w/o an AA filter the green flare was gone) but it’s AF was far too slow to shoot people with for me. Next was the a7s which was great, crazy high ISOs, good enough AF and no ghost flares. But before a week was up with it the a7II was announced and I was hoping they’d fixed the green/ghost flare issue so I preordered it and waited… It came and is/was a GREAT camera. Middle of the road MP, great DR, good enough ISOs, and the best AF to date (the a7rii beats it but came out later). The reworked sensor and AA filter fixed the ghost flare issue. I was happy. Then the a7rII was announced and I knew that the combination of the best AF in the series in combination with the best sensor would be the best fit for me. Not only does the a7rII have the most MP but somehow it’s ISOs are cleaner up high -vs- the a7II. I’ve had it since August 6th (3 months, 7,517 shots taken) and I’m here to share my thoughts!

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That Sensor!

Let me start off by saying that I’m thrilled with the sensor in the a7rII and it’s AF has done nothing but impress me so far! While I’ve always said I don’t need more resolution -vs- what my canon or fuji have provided in the past, it does make for some GORGEOUS prints! I have a 32″x48″ canvas from the a7rII in my house and the added detail is noticeable if you look for it. You also get dynamic range that the canon couldn’t dream of touching and it’s ahead of the fuji as well. I’ve had some architectural shoots where I’ve bracketed a shot thinking I’d need to HDR it and in post I can +99 the shadows and blacks of the shot with the best detail in the highlights and get basically the same look! Sure there’s some noise in the shadows when you do this but it’s just insane as a former canon shooter that you can do this without seeing crazy patterned noise. Now the ISOs are also very good. I shoot up to 12,800 without a concern. There’s luminance noise at that point and you lose some of the pop from the colors but there’s zero chroma noise at all! On top of all that without an AA filter there’s no green or ghost flare issues with the a7rII.

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Now this can’t be a proper a7rII review without at least mentioning compression of the raw files! Personally I haven’t had a problem with the 14-bit compressed files we’ve had since the beginning. I know you have to shoot with the camera in single shot mode, no bulb, no long exposure noise reduction and no high ISO noise reduction to get true 14-bit files. This is how I shoot my landscapes. Sony has now released an uncompressed option that’s basically putting the 14-bits into a 16-bit file which means the files go from ~45mb to ~90mb… It’s up to you if you need it. I’m using 14-bit compressed for landscape and architectural work and then 12-bit for weddings. I don’t need the extra depth there and the files are smaller and faster to process in 12. I use either silent shooting mode or either L or H FPS modes to “force” the camera into 12-bit mode as needed.

Auto Focus

The auto focus on the a7rII is amazing. I know a lot of guys will say that it can’t keep up with a pro series DSLR but at this point it really makes me wonder. I’m not saying it’ll track a subject that’s moving quickly at 11fps because the body can only shoot 5fps. What I am saying is that in just about any light I’ve had very little problems with the AF with this camera and I’m coming home with much fewer out of focus shots. Even -vs- my old 5DIII! I remember shooting wedding receptions with my 5DIII (once we’d given up on ambient light and gone all flash) where I’d switch to my 16-35mm 2.8 only because it focused a lot quicker in low light -vs- my primes. With the sony I can shoot with my 25mm f/2, 55mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 and they all lock on and stay locked on during low light reception shots with little to no lag at all. I’ve been VERY impressed! I’m coming home from weddings with hardly any shots that are out of focus. I’m talking less than 5% (and some of that can be blamed on me pressing the shutter before it locked).

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That’s not to say it’s perfect though. Sony has added so many bells and whistles to it’s AF system it can be very confusing at first. Face detect, eye AF, center lock on AF, expandable flexible spot, the list goes on and on! While it’s taken a little getting used to and some manual reading (yes, I admit it) and I STILL don’t know all the functions of this AF system, I will say it works really well. The other odd thing I’ve noticed is out of focus shots when shooting architecture. With my canon and fuji setups I would manually focus the first image and basically leave the lens alone for the rest of the shoot and I’d be all set (focused about ~6′ into a scene stopped down to f/16 on full frame). With the sony I’ll AF the first shot and I’ve noticed every once in a while when I go to the next shot the focus will be way off (nothing in focus at all, even at f/16). This happens in both MF modes and AF modes. I’m not sure if I’m bumping the focus ring or if it’s refocusing on something at a bad distance or what. I’ve learned to just ALWAYS use the AF after each new shot to be sure and I’ve been fine since, but it’s worth mentioning…

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Manual Focus

Some of you need to just skip right past this section as you won’t all use manual focus. I manually focus a lot of my landscape and architecture shots. EVFs and LCDs have made this easier in some ways but the “focus by wire” design of the lenses make it much harder at times. If you’re coming from a canikon DSLR your lenses are not drive by wire. You physically move a ring that moves the elements inside the lens to make it focus. This works with the lens on or off a body (without power). With mirrorless cameras they use the camera’s power to move the parts inside the lens. The ring you move is just telling the computer in the camera to move the elements in the lens in a certain direction. It’s a bit slower and harder to get “perfect” vs the old way… I find myself getting really close to just right pretty quickly but then I go back and forth from too far to too close a few times before settling in on “good enough”. Peaking can help in a lot of situations but it can also hurt in others (it won’t work at all for stars). The camera also has a function called “bright monitoring” that basically uses a very slow frame rate so it can gather more light and show you a very dark scene better but it’s very laggy (due to the slow frame rate) which means it’s hard to see your focusing changes because there’s a much longer delay. This function is also only available on the full view (ie you can’t zoom in). I’ve since learned to focus stars accurately you need to turn peaking OFF (yes off), then zoom in on the brightest star in the frame and manually focus until it becomes the smallest point it can. Peaking needs to be off because it works by showing you points with good contrast because those tend to be in focus. Even with peaking set to the minimum it’ll tell you a star is in focus well before it is as well as long after it’s no longer sharp. Simply turning it off and zooming in will get you great results.

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My other complaint with manually focusing on the sony cameras is the information they show on the rear LCD is terrible. You get a gray bar on the back of the screen with head on the left end (for the close end) and a mountain on the right end (for far). There’s then a white bar that moves back and forth as you focus the lens and it tells you the distance you’re focused at. This bar is always the same thickness at all times. It should get wider if you stop down and it should also get wider as you focus further away! They also only tell you the distance you’ve got your lens focused at but they do not tell you the near or far limits of the DOF (and it’s in meters only with no way to change to feet that I’ve found?). If you’re focusing for a landscape image you want the most DOF possible. To get this you want the far end of your DOF at infinity. With sony’s display it’s impossible to know where this is without using a DOF calculator of some sort (app or website) which is a PITA. Colby Brown shared with me that setting the focus distance to the first number displayed that’s less than infinity seems to work pretty well for him (and I agree). If the lenses had a scale on them physically it would help a lot. Zeiss has OLED screens on their lenses that do this. Their display also shows you the near and far limits as well as the distance you’re set to. It’s as simple as focusing until infinity is on the long end and you’re done with one of the batis (I’d kill for them to remake the 16-35mm with sony and remove the OSS and add in the OLED!).

The body

The sony full frame cameras are built “good enough”. They’re strong and solid and great but not quiiiite as solid as my old 5Diii. They’re sealed though as are all their lenses and I’ve certainly had no issues with them. The II version have a much nicer grip on them as well as IBIS or in body stabilization. For a lot of you IBIS is probably a huge deal and crucial. Personally I’m either shooting people where I’m using a shutter speed well over 1/focal length or I’m using a tripod. That’s not to say I’m not a fan, I’ve just been happy with it in my lenses in the past. What really confuses me here is if all three of the current bodies have IBIS why’d they build OSS into a lot of their lenses (my 16-35mm, 24-240mm, and 85mm all have it)? It’s extra optics and cost and weight… I will say however that the fact that the sensor moves makes it a LOT harder or maybe just weirder to clean your sensor. It moves now! The SD door on the a7rii is also nice and firm now. I mention that because they changed it’s orientation on the II versions. The a7/a7s/a7r were rock solid, but the a7ii had a tendency to open on me. The a7rii’s door is a bit more solid now and I’ve yet to have an issue with it.

The viewfinder is bigger and better but it’s still not as nice as fuji’s. I’m a fan of EVFs but sony’s doesn’t have the tricks and display modes that fuji has baked into theirs. Remembering AF points for vertical -vs- horizontal compositions would be great! The eye cup on the a7rII also seems to be better built -vs- the a7II where the rubber liked to pull away from the frame. The tilt out screen is WONDERFUL for architectural and landscape shooters. I’ve gone from preferring the simple slide up/down style sony’s used on the a7 series to wanting one that flips out with a side hinge so it can work for vertical shots as well… One complaint with the EVF/rear LCD is the sensor for the automatic switch is far too sensitive on these cameras. When I’m backed into a corner of a room it’ll see my chest with the sensor and switch to EVF mode even though I’m ~6″+ away from it. I’ve assigned the viewfinder switch to C2 so I can cycle it back to the rear LCD but if the sensitivity was just turned down a bit (to fuji levels) it’d be great.

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The Customization options on this camera are almost perfect. There’s two custom buttons up top near the shutter (I have mine set to the brightness monitor and switching between the EVF, LCD and auto display modes). Then on the back there’s C3 (set to focus magnification), AF/MF (set to switch between AF and MF for me), AEL (hold to AF, release to stop AFing) and the C4 button (eye focus). I’ve got the 4 way buttons set as labeled but down is set to face detect for me. The center button is set to “default” which means pushing it allows me to then move the AF point with the 4-way which is great (and hitting delete short cuts to the center AF point). The reason this setup is NOT perfect is because the list of things you can assign to buttons is limited. You can not for example set the aps-c option to any button in the camera (it can’t even go on the Fn menu). This is something I use quite a bit and would LOVE to have on a button! You also have to OK the options once you hit the button. You should have an option to have them be quick changes where one button press changes the setting if it’s only got 2 options.

Menus

A lot of people like to say that the sony menus are a hot mess. While they’re certainly not as good as they could be I don’t really see them as a mess. I’ll add to this though that I’ve been a sony/NEX user since the very first NEX5… The old NEX menus were terrible… The new tabbed layout is very similar to canon and works quite well. I will say it’s missing a “my menu” option where I can pick a page worth of options for myself and to have that always be the first menu page that comes up when I hit menu. Sony will argue that the Fn menu handles this task but it only allows about half the options from the full menu to be put as options in it (and it’s crucially missing the option for APS-C/super 35 crop to be on or off!!!). I’ll add that I prefer sony’s menus over fujis. You can learn where everything is in either over time but I prefer sony’s. The Fn menu itself should allow you to set ANY function to it’s 12 spots (and I’d personally like an option for 1 2 or 3 rows, you’re locked into 2). Some of the options need some help as well. I have steady shot set to my top left spot so I can turn it off when needed. The next spot over is then the setting for automatic or manual focal length detection (if you’re using non E or FE or adapter A mount lenses you need manual), then the THIRD spot over is for the focal length if using the manual option…. Why all three of these functions couldn’t be part of the same steady shot menu I don’t know (steady shot options: off, on-auto FL, on-manual FL with a list).

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Necessary Accessories

There are always a few accessories that you need to complete your system but there are a few with mirrorless cameras in general and specifically the Sony system that I’d say are must haves. The first on the list would be a great battery charger and plenty of spares. I’ve had a watson dual desk charger since my fuji days and it’s a life saver. Charge a battery that’s close to full in the provided wall charger and it’ll be blinking full almost immediately. Toss it in the watson and it’ll tell you the % it’s at an actually top it off to full power. Before the watson I’d use 6~8 batteries at a wedding with my X-T1. With the watson this has gone down to 4. The sony now uses the same 4 batteries as I’d use with the fuji. The great thing with the watson is that it takes ~$2 plates to change it from a sony to fuji to ricoh to canon charger! Of course put extra batteries in this section as well. I have ~7 sony batteries at last count. I keep 1 in each camera (I also have an a6000) and 4 in my think tank photo battery holder. The dual battery wallet is also nice for family outings.

Second up for me would be grips and plates. When I shoot a wedding I use the neewer (mine says meike on it?) battery grip. I’ve never really been a grip user with DSLRs (I have always preferred smaller lighter cameras). With these mirrorless cameras getting as small as they are and shooting with it all day at a wedding the added grip is great but the fact it doubles the battery capacity is awesome. I have noticed though that my grip will change the aperture setting when in Av w/o me touching it… For this reason I generally leave it’s buttons switched off and I’m considering the $300 sony version… Switching the buttons off isn’t a deal breaker for me though as I’ve never really used a grip much so I’m not used to the second shutter button but the other very strange thing is once you get used to using the EV dial on the body it’s very odd not having it near the second shutter on the grip. Whenever I’m not shooting a wedding specifically I’ve got my neewer L-bracket on the camera. L-brackets have been on all my cameras for years now as it makes switching from a vertical to horizontal composition a snap with my tripod head. I’m using the neewer l-bracket that came in a kit with the grip for $85. It’s $63 for just the battery grip, and $22 for just the l-bracket.

The third accessory I’d call a “must have” if you use flash would be any flash with a “Multi-Interface Shoe”. This is what sony calls their hot shoe with the data connection at the front. The reason this is important is it tells the camera there’s a flash involved. You can use “dumb”/manual flashes without this shoe without an issue (I do with my neewers) but because they don’t have the data connection the camera doesn’t put itself into two crucial modes: Flash WB and “setting effects off” for the live view. The first should be pretty obvious. Without knowing you’re using a flash the camera will be in AWB mode and the flash results won’t be consistent. Yes it’s an easy fix in lightroom by syncing the images and telling LR they all need flash WB but it’s much easier when the camera does this for you. The second and much more important option is that the “setting effect off” means the camera will artificially boost the ISO so you can see through the EVF to compose the shot. If this is left on, when you dial in your flash exposure you’ll be looking at a very dark (black!) viewfinder. With a normal/dumb flash you have to switch this mode on/off every time you mount/remove your flash. But with a “smart” flash with the correct shoe it’s automatic. For me this makes the nissin i40 the obvious choice as it’s TINY! It’s slightly less powerful -vs- the big speedlights but I’ve found with 1/8th power (and 1/4 when needed) it keeps up recycle time wise and I don’t need to boost the ISOs too high.

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If you’re a landscape shooter or the thought of a flash just seems silly to you, then I’ve got a different option for you… Filters! I’ve got a full set of Lee filters I carry in my mindshift filter hive. I’m also using some great new filter adapters from “the filter dude” on amazon. They’re $20 and the same as the wide version of the lee adapters (that cost ~$68) with the exception that the filter dude rings also have a set of threads on the outside of the ring so you can mount a traditional filter to them once they’re on your lens. Let me explain it this way: you’re shooting a waterfall and your panel or 105mm CP gets spray on it as does the front element of your lens. If you’ve got a 77mm CP in your filter hive you can thread it onto the filter guy ring with the ring still on your lens and there won’t be any way from spray to get onto anything but the outside of the round filter! I use this trick all the time shooting waterfalls! Once you’ve got the ring on your lens, don’t bother ever taking it off. Get some of these Lens Coat medium lens caps and use them over your rings. Makes it much easier than dealing with lens caps and threading on a filter ring in the cold dark morning before your coffee has kicked in. For any of you who’ve made it this far into a section about filters, grab some gaffers tape and tape over the logos on the front of your lenses… Those obnoxious white logos will reflect back at your filters and you’ll be able to see the text in the images (bottom right corner in the rocks there’s an orangish semi circle that’s the reflection of the words on the lens)!!!

sensor cleaning supplies… If you’ve ever made the jump from an APS-C body to full frame before you know full frame sensors collect dust at a much faster rate. If you’ve ever made the jump from a DSLR to a mirrorless/EVIL body before you know that EVIL’s have their sensor hanging out in the open when you change lenses… Combine the two and it’s a recipe for dust! I’ve got three things I use to work on the dust issue: 1) Sensor pen and loupe, 2) rocket blower, 3)gel stick. The gel stick is new to me and so far it’s been amazing. Make sure you get the orange sony version. The rocket blower gets off the easy stuff but I’ve found if the camera’s sensor cleaning function can’t get it off the rocket air usually can’t either.

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Big and fast SD cards… 42mp files can chew through a lot of space in a hurry. With the new uncompressed option they’re now twice as big (~90mb now -vs- 45mb uncompressed). Make sure you get cards with a ~90mb/s read AND write time! A lot of the cards offer that as a read speed but not write which is what matters most to the camera. I wish sony had used the faster tech fuji has in the XT1’s SD slot (250mb/s). I’ve got three 64mb 90mb/s SD cards that I’m happy with so far. I keep them in a “lenscoat memory card wallet SD9” that can hold 9 SD cards. I used to be a big think tank pixel pocket rocket user in my CF card days but the lenscoat SD card option is much smaller so I prefer it. Whichever wallet you go with MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A FEW BUSINESS CARDS IN IT!!! If you ever lose it you’ll at least have a chance at getting it back. The think tank option does have a nice strap on it so you can secure it to your bag but it’s a velcro closure which I don’t like at weddings. The lenscoat wallet uses an elastic that just loops over the end so it’s dead silent.

While we’re on the subject of memory let me talk about importing these massive files into your computer! Having a fast card does you no good if you don’t have a fast card reader to go with it. I’m a mac guy and I’m using an older iMac with the original thunderbolt port and USB 2.0 ports (or maybe even originals). Thunderbolt is my fastest option. I have a drobo 5D running on a thunderbolt connection. I then have this awesome lexar workflow hub withthree SD card readers (which can be used on their own with their supplied USB cord when you’re away from your desk). I have three readers because there’s a lot of times when I end up with three cards to import from between the drone, the a7rii and the a6000.

I also use the trick Dan Carr taught me about importing from more than one card at a time in LR which is a LIFESAVER!!! The one problem I have is that the lexar hub is USB3.0 so in order to take advantage of it’s speed I need to adapter it to thunderbolt so I’m using this belkin dock. I know these parts aren’t cheap (it’s about $500 for the hub and reader before you get to my external storage) but even since I upgraded to this setup last year my import times have become comically fast. Even with three filled cards. Of course it still takes lightroom forever to build previews but that’s another story. LR is slow to work with these monster files so be ready to throw some money at your computer if it’s not up to the task… I’ll be getting a new machine in a few months (retina iMac) and can’t wait.

The last accessory I’ll talk about is how moving to a mirrorless system can change your whole system in terms of tripods and bags. I’ve added a small travel carbon fiber tripod to my kit since going mirrorless. The camera is enough lighter I get enough support from a much smaller tripod and it can now fit inside my camera bag! This has also meant (for me) that I’ve moved to larger camera bags. Not for the camera, but because it means I can use one bag to carry all my gear for non photography purposes as well as my photo kit in a single bag. So rethink your bags and support, going to a bigger bag with a smaller tripod might mean everything can now fit inside one stealth bag!

Some notes:

  • 42mp is OMG WHOA! resolution… Even if you use the 18mp aps-c mode it’s still an amazing file with plenty of detail.
  • The DR of this sensor is crazy. The a7ii I’d been using was good, better than canon and fuji (no pattern noise like canon) but the a7rii is a level above that easily.
  • ISOs are ALSO really good and easily beat my a7ii, 5Diii and the fujis.
  • For a full frame body this thing is amazing small. I switch to fuji because I never used my 5Diii unless I was on a paid shoot due to size. This body brings the best full frame sensor in the market (all around, MP, DR, ISOs) to a tiny body. It’s the same size with the 16-35mm as my old X-T1 was with fuji’s 10-24mm.
  • AF is very good even in low light at wedding receptions… Canon has the “red ring of fire”, well sony has the “green boxes of focus”. It just works.
  • AWB feels like it’s maybe not quite as good as the a7ii? I’ve never shot them side by side though but it’s a gut feeling I get…
  • My AF buttons setup has the AF turned off on the shutter button. AEL is my focus but only when held down. It’s the basic rear button AF from my DSLR.
    all custom buttons
  • Fn Menu row 1: SS on/off, SS Adjust (manual/Auto for non sony lenses), OSS FL (for non sony lenses), Focus Mode, Focus Area, Center Lock-on AF
  • Fn Menu row 2: Silent Shooting, Peaking Level, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Quality, Smile/Face Detect
  • Custom Keys: Shutter AF off, C1 = bright monitoring, C2 = Finder/Monitor Sel., C3 = focus magnifier, C4 = eye AF, Center button = standard (lets me choose AF point), left = drive, right = ISO, down = smile/face detect, AEL button = AF on, AF/MF Button = AF/MF control Hold
  • Battery grip is great for weddings, but the neewer version adjusts the aperture w/o touching buttons on me….
  • AEL button is hard to feel on the neewer grip. Awkward with EV dial only usable in horizontal mode…
  • you “need” to use a sony shoe capable flash. With a “dumb”/manual flash the flash doesn’t sit right in the shoe (too far back) but it also doesn’t auto switch the camera to flash WB and it also doesn’t change the viewfinder setting from
  • “live view display: setting effect on” to off for flash (setting is in the gear -> page 3, option 1). Using the nissin i40 does both automatically!
  • get a watson charger NOW!
  • get a nissin i40 for any on camera flash NOW! It’s tiny and light and perfect. Just don’t turn it up above 1/4 or the recycle time gets slow (but we have plenty of ISO on the a7rii). 1/8th is great.
  • magnification during replay is painfully slow!
  • buy a 90mb/s write speed SD card…
  • battery life is what it is but with a watson charger it’s 4 batteries for a wedding even at 2.5k+ images… You can also charge via the USB port WHILE SHOOTING for timelapse guys or if you’re hurting and out of normal sony batteries…
  • SD card door tighter -vs- a7ii where it opened on me quite a bit (but never on the a7/a7r/a7s because it opened the other direction).
  • eye cup rubber/shape is better than a7ii.
  • silent shutter is DEAD silent… subjects will actually keep posing after a shot because they’re waiting for the noise.
  • sigma and tamron need to start making their lenses in FE and E versions. They offer a mount conversion process for existing lenses which suggests the lenses are all the same and the mounts are the only difference. This makes me wonder if sony/minolta has some weird difference in their mount that makes it so making just the mount for the existing lenses doesn’t work? I’d prefer mirrorless specific versions anyway though (so they can be smaller/lighter).
  • Sony needs to make either the 70-300 or 70-400 in an FE mount. The longest FE lens right now is the 24-240mm (which has terrible sun stars but is a great travel all in one otherwise).
  • I’ve seen some very weird hunting with my zeiss batis 85mm in vertical/portrait mode that goes away instantly once the camera is horizontal but comes right back again when back to vertical. I’ve spoken with zeiss and sony about it and zeiss has been able to replicate the issue (only happens in super low light).

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Things to fix via a firmware:

  • APS-C mode (setting -> gear -> tab 6 -> option 4) should be allowed on the Fn menu or as a custom key. I use APS-C for weddings a lot as I don’t need more than 18mp there (I used mRAW on the 5Diii for 10mp).
  • mRAW options? You can force 18mp via the APS-C mode but there should also be smaller RAW options that use the full frame.
  • Add the option for a third row in the Fn menu (and also the option to drop to 1 for those who’d want that). There’s a LOT of menu options I use a lot and I need more space than the 2 rows provided for what I use regularly.
  • Add a “my menu” option similar to canon’s that gives me a traditional menu page where I choose everything on it but I get to choose from ANYTHING in the menus… Also, don’t limit it to a page (let it scroll if I want more than 6 options) and let me set it up so pressing menu always brings up this screen first.
  • EVF auto switch sensitivity is too high. I’ll be in a corner doing architecture work and it’ll see my body and switch to the EVF from the rear screen. EVF switch should NEVER activate when the rear LCD is opened either way (because if it’s open you’re using that and not the EVF).
  • The added 14-bit uncompressed option is great for those screaming for it (I never felt the compression caused any issues?). I’d love to see true 14-bit with lossless compression as well. Personally I’d also love to see an option for force 12-bit when you want it as well. For weddings I shoot RAW but don’t need 14 bit so I use the slow FPS mode to force 12 bits most of the day, then silent shutter mode during the ceremony (turning on long exposure noise reduction, high ISO noise reduction, bulb, any burst mode over single shot or silent shutter all force 12-bit mode).
  • During a long exposure the rear LCD is still powered on but black. This wastes power from a camera that uses a lot and uses small batteries already. Please turn OFF the screen during an exposure! -or- give the option to have it show a counter for the shutter length so I know when a 30s exposure is almost over. During bulb count up with that counter!
  • The manual focus distance scale display is terrible! It’s always a white line of a set width that doesn’t get thicker (showing more DOF) as you go wider with focal length, farther with focus or stop the lens down. It’s always the same size!
  • The zeiss batis lenses have GREAT OLED displays with GREAT info shown, copy that on the rear screen! Also make the white bar/line get thicker as you change settings accordingly (like fuji does).
  • allow the use of the manual focus assist view (magnified live view) to be used with “bright monitoring” (where it drags the shutter is super low light so you can focus) so you can use both and really nail MF in pitch black settings.
  • allow users to turn off the non whole stop ISOs for faster ISO selection… going from auto ISO (how I shoot wedding w/o flash) to ISO 800 (how I typically shoot reception shots) is 13 button presses when it would be 4 if the non whole ISOs were out of that list. Canon and fuji both allow this.
  • option for a quick delete w/o needing to “ok” anything…
  • Option to turn off some of the AF points. I always “watered down” my 5Diii to just the more sensitive points and the ones in the corners. Something like 25 (5×5 grid) would be perfect with the a7rii. But 399, especially when you use the small box makes it slow to move your selected AF point from one side to the other.
  • To go with the above, allow the user to “wrap” the AF point selection from one side of the frame to the other. IE if I’m using a point on the left side of the frame and I press left again it should “wrap” around to the point on the far right.
    allow customization of the dial directions. The shutter speeds on the rear dial in M are backwards for me… I’m re-learning but it’s taking a while!!!
    faster read and write speed. Feels like I’m waiting for the red light quite a bit. And the A7rii takes longer to write it’s 18mp aps-c files than the a6000 does to write it’s 24mp aps-c files… Use the UHS-I U3 cards that fuji put into it’s X-T1.
  • create a hyperfocal AF mode where the camera looks at the focal length and aperture and keeps the focus dialed into whatever distance puts infinity right at the far edge of the DOF. This would be a huge advantage for landscape shooters.
  • Allow the viewfinder to store which AF point is used for vertical and horizontal shots separately (canon and fuji do this).

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

I’m currently shooting with an a7rii with both the Meike/neewer battery grip (for weddings/events) and the Neewer L-Bracket for everything else. Lens wise the Sony (by Zeiss) 16-35mm is my go to wide angle zoom and what I shoot my architecture and landscape work with. I have the sony 24-240 as my light weight long reach lens and the tamron 150-600 as a no compromise I need reach lens with a Sony LAEA3 adapter. For wedding work I have the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, Sony (by Zeiss) 55mm 1.8 and the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8. I shoot weddings using the aps-c crop mode 95% of the time so this trio works out to be 35mm/85mm/135mm effective. I’ve basically added the Zeiss 85mm as a longer option -vs- what I shot with both canon (35/85) and fuji (23/56).

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The other great thing with this setup is I can shoot the 25mm in full frame mode for those few shots where I “need” a wide prime and the 16-35mm becomes a pretty versatile mid range zoom for those reception flash shots at the end of the night. For flashes I still have my Neewer TT850s with their awesome Lion battery packs (that last for ~600 shots!) with their wireless transmitters but I only use those off camera now (they’re massive on this smaller platform). I picked up the nissin i40 for on camera (bounced) which is great because it automagically switches the camera’s WB setting to flash as well as setting the viewfinder mode to NOT reflect your settings (since the flash isn’t flashing as you compose you end up with a black view if settings are reflected). It’s also pint sized and light which is great, but also just powerful enough I can use 1/8 or 1/4 when needed to keep recycle rates fast enough and it’ll survive and entire reception with one set of AAs for me. I’ve also kept two aps-c wide angle lenses that play nice on full frame. The first is the sony 10-18mm f/4. It’s meant to be an effective 15-27mm f/4 lens but it also covers full frame from 12mm to 16mm and is nice and small! It’s a great lens for shooting milky way shots for me as I need the added width there. I’ve been toying with it on arch shoots where 16mm on full frame isn’t quite wide enough as well. The other aps-c wide lens I’m using is the rokinon 8mm fisheye. You’ll notice shots of the 12mm fisheye in the gallery below as well. I tried both and while the 12mm is slightly nicer optically (perfect sun stars) it’s just so much bigger and bulkier that it won’t get brought along as much and you can’t use a lens you don’t have! The 8mm is tiny and lives tucked away in a corner of my bag.

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Wrap Up…

Sony has a long way to go in terms of dialing in this camera to the extent that I have zero issues with it. BUT! The vast majority of these items are very minor details (which way dials turn etc). The camera is a great tool and the more I use it the more I learn and adapt to how it’s different and the less these issues matter. That’s not to say I don’t want them fixed (and please, via firmware so I don’t need to buy my sixth a7 body in a two year span!). It’s that I can work with what I have. The sensor and the AF are fantastic and will keep me in this system for the long haul. Sony is catching up with lenses (70-300 next please?!) and each new firmware update brings new features. It’s an exciting time to be photographer!

This camera finally delivers better image quality than what I had with my DSLR (5Diii) in terms of dynamic range, clean ISOs AND more resolution. It also gives me auto focus I can trust in pretty much any situation. I have more issues manually focusing thanks to the focus by wire design and the uninformative display. All in all I’m the happiest I’ve been with a camera since the 5Diii (my only complaint there was size/weight).

You can buy a Sony A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo 

Oct 112015
 

ttjon

Volunteering: When Free is Priceless.

Most photographers love what they do, some validation is always nice and, if we happen to be able to make a living too, it’s the best job in the world. But being part of even a small exhibition in a major gallery isn’t something most of us dare imagine – nice as it is to dream about. So I can’t describe how delighted I have been to see my work on the walls of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery at the moment as part of the ‘West Midlands Fire Service Volunteer Photographers’ Exhibition’.

I was invited to volunteer with West Midlands after the team saw my work in the lead up to the ‘Vintage Photographer of the Year’ awards 2013. Now I’m on call several nights a week and part of the weekends too and whatever I’m asked to do, I know it won’t be dull. Whether it’s an emergency or a training exercise, publicity event or crisis-simulation, it’s always different and the documentary aspect of the work is fascinating and very satisfying – it’s the other end of the spectrum to my studio work, the event (crisis or exercise) won’t stop for good light, or a good angle.

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I hope those of you who can will go and see the exhibition while it is up, for the rest of you here are some other images from a special-ops training exercise with the team responsible for dealing with post-impact in the event of explosions or building collapse. Structural damage and a volatile environment are a huge challenge in these situations and conditions were simulated by filling a small warehouse unit with debris, trashed cars and rubble, then killing the lights to recreate a ‘collapsed car park aftermath’. It was pitch black, for many this is a photographer’s worst possible set-up, fair to say. So the shots you see were lit only by a couple of lamps firefighters pulled in through crawl spaces, and their helmet lamps. Fortunately I found a great vantage point – without getting in the way – and set the M240 and cron 90mm to f/2, ISO 1600-3200 leaving the shutter to do its thing (around 1/45). In post it took a bit of noise reduction, but I have to admit I was pretty amazed at the results.

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Volunteering isn’t a sure route to your first exhibition by any means, that’s just a happy coincidence or icing on the cake. The real satisfaction is the work and being usefully involved with a dedicated team who provide an invaluable service 24/7 in some of the most demanding and dangerous circumstances imaginable. It’s been a real eye-opener for me over the past few years. Would I recommend it? Definitely, without hesitation, it’s an incredible opportunity to expand your range and contribute to a worthwhile cause at the same time. And, as my experience shows, you never know where it will lead.

If you are in the west midlands of the UK, the WMFS is always on the lookout for more volunteers and you can contact them here: [email protected] If the link in the article didnt make it online here’s the link again: http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/west-midlands-fire-service-volunteer-photographers-exhibition

If you live elsewhere, I’m sure your local charities and public services all have an equivalent – who knows what your next shoot may be?
Best regards,

John Tuckey

http://john.tuckey.photography

http://www.facebook.com/jrtvintage

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