Apr 152014
 

A Panasonic GX7 and 20 1.7 II Update..still a great combo!

By Steve Huff

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Just a quick update for all of you Micro 4/3 shooters out there. As some of you know, I have been shooting with Olympus cameras for the past couple of years and LOVING them, specifically the wonderful E-M1. I also enjoyed the Panasonic GX7 when I reviewed it but for me it did not stick around because I was loving the Olympus E-M1 so much. Recently I came across a used Panasonic GX7 in black along with a 20 1.7 II lens and I have been shooting it here and there for the past two weeks. Nothing major, just enjoying it and having fun with it! The only way to be!

Snapped a quick shot of this couple on a chilly day in Sedona. The guy saw me and hammed it up but his girlfriend and dog did not :) The GX7 and 20 1.7 II combo provides very sharp results. Click the images for larger and sharper view.

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After these two weeks I have grown to really enjoy the GX7 more and more. While it is quite a but different from the E-M1 in many ways, the image quality is just as good it seems, just a bit different. The Panasonic cameras always have a different color signature and many love Olympus for the colors and many love Panasonic for the higher contrast look of the files. I find the Panasonic files seem to have more drama..more edge.

ISO 3200 with the 20 1.7 II at 1.7. I used the in camera HC B&W for this one. 

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With the 20 1.7 II, the GX7 is a perfect walk around camera. Giving you a 40mm focal length magnification it is in between the popular 35mm and 50mm that many of us get stuck choosing between. With the 20, no need to choose, just go for the 40mm!

Around 6PM in Sedona AZ – deep colors here due to the fact that I dialed in some negative exposure compensation to richen up the red rocks and blue sky. 

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The GX7 in all black is pretty slick-looking. It looks more discreet than the silver and black version and is nice and light. I have also REALLY enjoyed the swivel EVF even though I am not a huge fan of the EVF quality or size. When compared to the new Fuji X-T1 EVF the GX7 looks tiny with off colors. But it does get the job done because as I have said, it really does not matter these days as ALL cameras can take a fantastic image.

Scorpion Hunting in my backyard at 8pm. These nasty little buggers come out when it gets dark and they hide in the crevices of the block fence. At night, with a backlight in hand it is easy to see them as they start to emerge for the backyard takeover. I’d guess there are probably 20-30 out there every night and one will make it into my house ever couple of weeks. I even had one under my blankets on my side of the bed last year. The sting of the Bark Scorpion is NASTY, they are the most venomous scorpion in the USA and the only one capable of causing DEATH. So much fun huh?

The GX7 and 20 1.7 II up close and personal…ISO 12,800, YES! 12,800 – f/2.8

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Today in 2014 there are so many awesome camera choices that ANYONE can get out there and enjoy photography, even with a lower budget, while getting super high quality images. Big money is not needed for truly spectacular image quality. Even though in todays fast paced tech world, the GX7 is already outdated to many, it is still a fantastic option for those wanting a simple, small, fast and high quality solution for their imaging needs. This camera and one lens would make a great family camera for all situations. Low light, good light, video, etc.

Add on the upcoming 15 1.7 and the delicious 42.5 Nocticron and you have a killer system that can do all kinds of neat tricks :) But the 20mm 1.7 II is a gem. While not the fastest to focus it continues on with the legendary status that version one brought with it in a new shiny metal package. Overall, the GX7 is the first Panasonic I have really enjoyed since the amazing (for its time) GF1.

See the 20 1.7 II Review HERE

The black GX7 can be found at Amazon HERE

The 20 1.7 II can be found at Amazon HERE

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Apr 142014
 

Fuji X-T1 Ergonomic DYI Improvements

by Ronald Grauer

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I will not talk to you about the quality of the camera, we all know it’s a good camera with some little problem like every camera has. Of course, I couldn’t do anything about what’s going on inside, but I could do something about 2 of the major problem I’ve found on it:

- The eyecup is to small and not deep enough. Mostly when shooting in bright light. And also after 3 years with the Sony Nex camera (Nex 7 than Nex 6), I missed a bit the left side EVF found on the Nex Camera

- The rear 4 pad, which has been discussed on every single review on the net… Almost a shame to design such a pad.

So If you want to try this little fix, feel free…

For the eyecup I used a Nikon dk-4. But I think most of the wide, round rubber eyecup should fit. Plenty of them on Ebay.

The eyecup is glued on the plastic base from the original Fuji eyecup. Unscrew the 2 screws to remove the Fuji rubber eyecup.

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But you need to use the Sugru material (I have nothing to do with them…!) or any other similar material. Cause just the glue won’t be enough. I’m not a glue expert, but I tried different very good glue, nothing could hold it. The rubber material is a porous material so you need to shape something on top of these 2 elements. And this will make them more homogeneous for the look.

It’s called ”Sugru”, www.sugru.com

I’ve also used this amazing product to customize the rear 4 pad.

It’s made in England.

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You have an hour or so to shape this “king of rubber”. Let it dry for 12 hours and it will keep the shape and have some elasticity. As sugru says, this material sticks to 99% of the material in the world.

It has been awarded as one of the most amazing material invented in the last years…

It cost around 15 euros for 8 little package…

Hope this post will help many other users…

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I’ll finish by telling you that after all, I’m a passionate photographer.

here is my website link: www.ronaldgrauer.com.

Keep with what you’re doing.

Regards,

Ronald.

Mar 272014
 

Initial User Report on the Metabones Sppedbooster for Fuji X

By leosilve

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Hello Steve! Long time reader and follower of this site. Thank you for the great work. You are an inspiration to many. This article first appeared on my FB page where it was first seen by my friends, and was thus written for people of all levels of photography experience. Here goes…

Unless you might think I’m writing about some new dietary supplement, or a miracle cure for (my) aging bones… The Metabones Speedbooster is a lens adapter with an optical element at its rear end. Ok, I probably lost most of you by now. Ho hum, just another boring gear review. Yup, but to my photog friends and camera buffs, this is one piece of gear you just might find interesting. So, read on!

The Metabones Speedbooster adapters are available in several lens mounts, adapting various full-frame lenses to Sony NEX, Panny/Oly Micro 4/3, and Fuji-X cameras. The rear optical element (made by Caldwell Photographic) is a focal reducer, shrinking the full frame image by a factor of 0.71X. This means, the lens’ focal length changes by this factor and the intensity of the reduced image causes an increase in brightness equivalent to one full aperture stop! When you factor in the 1.5x crop of an APS-C sensor, a 100mm f/2.8 full-frame lens will have a field of view equivalent to 106.5mm f/2.0 lens when mounted on an NEX camera by a Speedbooster. Not too shabby huh?

From this we learn 2 very important and useful information;

1) A full frame lens’ field of view (FOV) suddenly becomes almost what it is again on a cropped sensor camera. Very useful especially for wide-angle lenses on cameras with smaller sensors.

2) An instant 1 FULL STOP aperture gain! Because the image focal length is reduced to fit the smaller sensor, an interesting “side effect” is the stronger intensity or brightness of the incoming image, which has been measured to be equal to 1 full stop! So, a f/2.8 lens becomes an f/2, an f/1.8 becomes f/1.4, and so on and so forth.

There are other amazing promises; higher MTF rating (sharpness), the “bokeh” very similar to the increased f-stop on a full frame camera… so much so that after the initial hype, skeptics felt this was all too good to be true. So was it?

Earlier this month, I won a Speedbooster (Nikon G to Fuji-X) in an eBay auction. Normally this pricey adapter retails for $429. I won it for $213! But that, is a whole other story! Anyway, I was going on a trip, and was excited when the package arrived the day before I left. I got to take it with me and play with it! The images of the two lovely ladies below were both shot on a Fujifilm X-E1 camera coupled to a Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s manual focus lens from my film days. You can see the setup in the picture with the Fuji X-E1, and the Speedbooster adapter between the camera and lens. I have set the camera to shoot RAW+JPG fine. The RAF(raw) file retains the color info. The JPG is set to Fuji B&W+yellow with a +1 exposure compensation. Other than some minor contrast tweaks, these images are both SOOC (straight-out-of-camera).

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Both images were also shot at f/2.8 (or, was it f/4?) with a 1/52 sec. shutter speed at ISO-200. I have to make a conscious effort to remember the aperture, however the shutter speed and ISO are from the images’ EXIF data. But wait! Remember the aperture gain mentioned earlier? Well, this “old” f/2 lens just became a f/1.8, amazing! Now, there are a lot of reviews online and you can read more about the MTF ratiings, if the adapter did or did not affect sharpness, if the “bokeh” did in fact look like it was shot with a full frame camera, etc. I don’t even have time to do 100% crops, so I’m sorry to disappoint the pixel-peepers. I am going to say however, that I am quite happy with the over-all performance of the adapter, and that it has lived up to my expectations. Yours, of course, may vary ;) This is about MY user experience. And although I have just started using it, I now have it permanently attached to my X-E1, which I use exclusively with legacy manual focus lenses.

There are 2 other sample pictures with this article. The first one is the colored 3-series long exposure on the beach. The second is the B&W daytime long exposure of a small waterfall. I used to lug around my DSLR’s to do this kind of shooting, but now with the Fuji X-E1 and the Speedbooster, my full frame wide-angle lenses are almost what they are – certainly wide enough for this APS-C camera. My old Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI-s lens is back to life with a FOV of 25.5mm f/2 – not bad at all! And my backpack is now much lighter with this setup. The DSLRs stay home!

Receding Waves

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There are other few things I’ve found out in my short time with the adapter;

1) Build Quality – In a word – Excellent! The adapter feels solid and mounts securely onto the camera with no play whatsoever. The adapter is heavy, but not too much. In fact the weight adds a good heft to the lighter feel of the camera. The rear optical element is made by Caldwell Photographic – ‘nough said. If you don’t know them, ask Google.

2) Since I now have the adapter on the camera all the time, the thought occurred to me that my camera’s sensor is better protected – especially during lens changes. I mostly use manual primes with this setup. So I am very careful during lens changes. The adapter covers the sensor and it is far easier and less risky to clean the adapter than the sensor.

3) I love the built-in (but removable) tripod foot. Some users remove it because they feel it gets in the way. This could be true if you do a lot of handheld shooting. I have gotten used to is as an additional point of contact thus making for a more secure hold on the camera. But I appreciate it more is because it places the tripod hole squarely in the middle line of sight of both lens and sensor. The camera tripod socket is NOT in this line of sight. Also, the solid build of the adapter with its tripod foot takes the “stress” away from the camera mount when using large heavier lenses.

I’m sure there will be other surprises as I spend more time with the Speedbooster. The adapter is pricey. And I’m not sure I would have bought it new, if I didn’t win it in the auction. It is not for everyone. Remember, there is no electronic communication between the lens and camera body*. There is no autofocus. There is no lens stabilization unless it is on the camera. To me, it lends itself more to an “old school” way of shooting. Its really great if you have a stable of legacy manual lenses, because now you can enjoy them again. In the end, the important thing is that it works for me. And I am happy to have and use it.

*The ONLY exception is the Speedbooster for Canon lenses that communicates focus confirmation, aperture and image stabilization. However, there is still no AF capability.

More info on the Metabones Speedbooster http://www.metabones.com/products/?c=speed-booster

 

Caldwell white paper on the Speedbooster (really techie stuff)

http://www.metabones.com/assets/a/stories/Speed%20Booster%20White%20Paper.pdf

About myself:

My Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/photosbynoel

My Flickr pagehttp://www.flickr.com/photos/cuzincali/sets/

My 500px page - http://500px.com/Cuzincali

Mar 192014
 

The I-SHOT-IT Competition heats up again!

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Over the past year or so I have been telling everyone here about these great photo competitions over at I-SHOT-IT.com . The last few premium contests have all produced winners who found out about it from this very website, which is amazingly cool. Prizes have been $25,000 cash and a Leica Monochrom as well as other huge cash prizes and Leica cameras. I-SHOT-IT.com offers competitions across a wide range of subjects and prize levels.

Imagine entering a B&W photo to the premium competition and winning a Leica Monochrom WITH a load of cash. I have gotten thank you letters from previous winners who found out about the competitions from me, so I want to make sure I pass along the next one which is ending in about 2 weeks in hopes that another winner from HERE can take home the cash and prize.

The Premium B&W competition has a prize including the Leica Monochrom camera and the cash amount. As of this writing it is just over $5600 but it always climbs during the last few days of the competition. The entry fee for the PREMIUM contest is $20 so I would make sure you have a superb photo before entering this one. If you win, the prize is quite special though. It only takes one to win.

They also offer free competitions with lesser prizes. 

So be sure to check out all of the ways you can enter over at I-SHOT-IT.com. I feel they are providing a great service to those who want to get out and shoot as THIS WILL motivate you to get out and get the best shots of your life. For me, that is what it is all about. If I could enter I would pay my $20 and go out to find the best B&W shot I could possibly take and then submit it. I can not enter as I-SHOT-IT.com is a site sponsor but I know many of you here do enter, so I can live vicariously through some of you, lol.

Whoever wins this next one, if you come from here again let me know as it would be amazing to help deliver another winner from this community!

Go to the I-SHOT-IT home page HERE.

Check out their Facebook HERE. 

Check out and enter the B&W Premium Competition HERE

The FREE competition is HERE.

Mar 042014
 

LEICA M MONOCHROMATIC IMAGES

By Michael Nemlich

I gain so much from yours as well as others posts, so I would be honored to contribute some in revenge. These days I use the M (240) following M9, M8 and Digilux 3. Since I do a lot of B&W images, before I moved to the 240 I considered the attractive and tempting MM; but my left side brain resisted, for one and only (good) reason, as follows:

According the phrase: “a picture is worth a thousand words”’ let’s talk (4) pictures:

The image “A” is of a scene in Manasseh-Heights. The image is chromatic, as a standard human eye sees it.

If this scene would have been taken with the MM it would be seen as image “B” with very close tones of both fields. No much can be done to distinguish between them.

Nevertheless, converting the original (color “A”) image to monochrome IN PP has the inherent option to influence the grey tones via the color channels; so lightening the oranges and darken the greens yields the image “C” and vice-versa results the image “D”. For me this was the one and only – but crucial – reason to stay with a ‘color’ sensor for B&W photography. Some short experience with the MM encouraged this theorem.

I hope this short essay helps.

All the Best. Nemlich

nemlich.leicaimages.com and www.beshumma.com

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Feb 262014
 

A moment back with my Nikon D7000

by D.J. De La Vega

I’m a long time (and compulsive) reader of the site and am pleased to see it continue to grow year by year! I haven’t sent anything in for a while as I really haven’t been trying anything drastically new worth writing about.

That is until recently when I have found myself doing something I never believed I would really ever do again… I have begun actively reaching for my dusty old DSLR to take out shooting for the day (I pretty much exclusively shoot with my trusty Leica X1 normally).

I’ve always shot Nikon DSLR during my life as a semi-pro freelance photographer. Always carrying one semi-pro camera with a smaller back up: FM2n/F80, D200/D70, D600/D7000. However for my personal work, for years I’ve ditched the bulk and carried the compact. I’ve never once found myself wanting in the image quality department, but speed and the use of a good optical viewfinder are something I crave and it has has been slowly eating away at me.

Here are a few shots I’ve taken recently, most of which would have been impossible with the X1 due to the start up time and focusing. With a DSLR, the speed of spotting something, whipping it to your eye (whilst turning it on), focusing and shooting is literally just a blink of an eye. This is something the new range of CSC’s are beggining to equal, but I can not find one that ticks all of my boxes to persuade me to upgrade the X1. Personally, I would like a Fuji TX1 with an optical or hybrid viewfinder or a down scaled Nikon Df closer to an FM2 size and dials.

Until then I’m happy with my X1 and on the odd days the mood takes me, my D7000.

Thanks for looking

D.J. De La Vega

http://www.flickr.com/photos/djdelavega/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/tag/d-j-de-la-vega/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/06/22/user-report-a-photographic-road-trip-with-the-leica-x1-by-d-j-de-la-vega/

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Feb 252014
 

Fun on Fremont Street in Las Vegas!

There is nothing quite like getting out a couple of times a year to go to place with amazing people watching opportunities. Over the weekend during the Valley of Fire meet a few of us took the 3 mile drive from our house to Fremont Street in Las Vegas to do some people watching and snap a few photos. We went out one night and stayed for a short time and while we mainly walked around and experienced the lights, the sound, the energy and the people we also snapped a few shots here and there over the course of an hour or so.

As I walked around I told myself I wanted to take only TWELVE images during the hour, so I walked and tried my best to stick to that plan but the problem was I was so busy laughing at the antics of the party goers in the street that many times I forgot that I was there to take some photos!

I shot with the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.8 along with the Panasonic 25 1.4. One walk down Fremont street with the Olympus lens and the walk back with the Panasonic. At the end of the day, both lenses did just fine and I would be 100% happy with either though the Panasonic does indeed have more micro contrast and a slightly sharper image. In other words, it is still the overall best 25mm lens for the Micro 4/3 system by a slight margin. 

After the hour walk I ended up with 16 shots, four more than the limit I tried to set but that was because I just was not finding my groove due to way too much visual overload! Some of the other guys had the same problem. I ended up liking 12 of shots and threw away 4 of them. Nothing special but it sure was a very VISUAL hour :) I decided to convert them all with VSCO to B&W so the grain you see is from the filters.

If anyone here ever finds themselves in Las Vegas then I urge you to take a little adventure off of the strip to Fremont Street..but be prepared for some wild times, especially on weekends!

Click on the images for larger versions!

On Fremont Street people are partying everywhere..drinking, dancing, street performers and a huge mix of people from all over the world. 

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Below is Michael from our group and I asked him to stand with the nuns for this shot. On Fremont street you can forget about morality :) 

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A street performer who was amazingly good. I squatted down to his level and shot between some guys legs for this shot taken with the Olympus 25. When shooting someone down below you, it is usually best to get down to their level for the image.

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More street performers. On Fremont if you see anyone dressed up that means you can get a photo with them but they WILL want a few bucks for this, so be prepared to pay!

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There are always loads of cameras and photos being taken so this is one destination where you do not have to be afraid to take the shot..

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There are even photo opps OFF of Frenont. This was a burger truck called “FUKU” with the slogan of “Get Lucky”. After taking a shot of the full truck I decided to get close and get the attention of the girl working the truck. When she looked, I snapped. 

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Even with all of the booze, the half naked women and men, the strip clubs and the craziness there are people of ALL ages who come to see the spectacle. From young to old..

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This guy who dresses as cupid yells out sexual comments to anyone walking buy and he has been on Fremont for a long time now..get your picture with this scary looking cupid and you will get to put a couple of dollars in his diaper.

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The last shot I took that night  - the crowd and a dancer in the background who dances on a bar to attract people to buy some alcohol

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Jan 202014
 

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Quick Comparison: Fuji X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1

Well here it is! The one many of you have been waiting for, lol. Just got back from a quick 24 hour trip to Vegas and snapped a few shots while there with the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4, the Sony A7 and 35 2.8 and the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8. I mainly shot with the Fuji..say..85% of the time as I will be doing a review of it here soon but just for fun (key words, “just for fun”) decided to take a couple of similar shots from each camera to see which one I liked best.

When I say “see which one I liked best” I mean image quality, rendering and usability of the camera itself.

Some Notes on the cameras during my use:

Fuji X-E2 – $1900 AS TESTED WITH LENS

I can safely say that the X-E2 is the best Fuji interchangeable lens body I have used to date (and I have used them all extensively). It is fast, responsive and feels NOTHING like the early days of the X-Pro 1 and X-E1. The 23 1.4  is a sweet lens and the built in aperture ring just adds to the experience of using the lens. The lens is sharp, fast to Auto Focus and well made. All of my X-E2 shooting was done with this lens. The AWB was the worst with the X-E2 out of the three cameras I was shooting with but I did not have any focus issues when out in Vegas shooting unlike in my dim house during the 1st couple of days. The wake up time from sleep was slow as molasses though and caused me to miss a few shots whole walking around. Still, like I said, the best X to date IMO.

Sony A7 – $2500 AS TESTED WITH LENS

The A7 is still fantastic IMO. With the 35 2.8 I had no issues with auto focus and it was just as fast as the Fuji X-E2 with 23 1.4 I had no issues focusing at night or with light. IQ was rather “full frame” like of course as it is indeed a full frame sensor. No missed focus shots with the A7 and this combo is SMALLER than the APS-C Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. Overall a great experience once again with the A7 and Zeiss 35 2.8. I did notice that in low light situations the ISO would have to be pumped up due to the slower f/2.8 lens so I am hoping for some faster primes  to come along from Sony.

Olympus E-M1 – $1900 AS TESTED WITH LENS

The Olympus E-M1 is my 2013 camera of the year and for good reason. During use it was the fastest to Auto Focus, the fastest to respond and with that 5-Axis IS was a joy to use even in low light. The 17 1.8 is technically the least sharp of all of the lenses used yet it hung in there with nice sharpness and a great rendering (see portrait of Debby). The color from the E-M1 is the most to my liking out of all three of these cameras as is the build, usability and feel. You will see some noise even at base ISO though when doing pixel peeps. Still, will not be seen in print. The EVF here was the best of the lot by quite a large margin. Crystal clear, huge and nice color accuracy. No contest. Sony came in 2nd for EVF. Fuji’s EVF was the smallest, darkest and least sharp of the three.

The Images

I only shot TWO images to compare these three cameras. The 1st one below is just a simple portrait and I wanted to see which rendering I liked the best as well as what color signature I enjoyed the most. All three images below are from RAW without enhancements. Which one do you prefer?

BE SURE TO CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR LARGER 1800 PIXEL WIDE VIEW!

1st up the Fuji X-E2 with the 23 1.4 at f/2.8. NOT wide open so this will bring the sharpest performance. Click for larger! FROM RAW

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The Sony A7 and 35 2.8 at 2.8  - click it for larger!! FROM RAW

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The Olympus E-M1 – 17 1.8 at f/2 – click it for larger. From RAW. Warmest rendering came from the Oly. 

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ANY of the above images would be acceptable for me yet each have small color differences and DOF differences (which is due to sensor size and aperture).

Detail and full size files

TIP!! To see these in full size RIGHT CLICK the image and choose “Open in a new Window” or “Open in a new Tab” and this way you will see the full size file open in your browser. These are direct from RAW and what you see is what you get. 

Fuji X-E2 – 23 1.4 at f/4 – always love the Fuji blues!

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Sony A7 and 35 2.8 at f/4

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Olympus E-M1 with 17 1.8 at f/4

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CROPS

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If you view each image above in its full size form you will see the Sony pulled out the most detail all across the board. This is what I have seen in earlier tests as well. The Olympus did VERY well considering it has a much smaller sensor and form what everyone says “an inferior lens” (though I do not feel that way as I feel the 17 1.8 is superb. The Fuji is doing what it has always done..overexpose a little bit..which makes me wonder why Fuji has not tweaked their exposure system yet. For these tests I shot with the cameras on Aperture priority mode letting the cameras choose exposure and shutter speed so we can see what the output would be with each camera and testing their exposure system at the same time.

If I took the RAW files from each image and adjusted them to have the same exposure and color and then printed a 20X30 of each I bet no one could tell me what camera shot what image. In fact, I may just do this for my own curiosity this week and report back with the findings.

So what did I conclude by using these three cameras for a quick 24 hour Vegas shoot-a-thon? That…

A: The X-E2 is the best Fuji interchangeable body yet. 

B: The Olympus E-M1 is still king of speed and features and build and EVF. The fact that it is even included in this company is pretty amazing. 

C: The Sony A7 is an amazing technological marvel capable of some bitingly sharp images.

D: ANY of these would be superb for almost anyone wanting HQ photos. For me it would come down to usability, speed, build, etc.

With Fuji releasing a new “rumored” X-T1 at the end of this month I find it funny that it resembles the Olympus E-M1 quite a bit from the grip to the EVF hump and what appears to be a more solid build and reportedly faster AF speed. Hmmm. Should be interesting.

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Jan 162014
 

How about some Canon or Nikon Coffee? Great deals on these LenZcups!

Just noticed that B&H Photo are now selling these famous lens cups/mugs and thermos bottles and at pretty nice prices. If anyone reading this is like me…then these may be something cool to grab (I ordered two t his morning). Every morning I wake up and within 2 minutes am at my machine making my 1st cup of coffee. Being such a photography and camera gear geek I wondered just today why I never picked up one of these cups! Especially since most of these are under $13!

I have seen these in the flesh before and they felt solid and nice. They are more of a conversation starter or for those of you who live to shoot. The thermos? Also very cool as you can bring it along on your photo journeys. Who here has ever left the house at 4Am in search of some nice scenery? I have and having a camera lens thermos would have pepped me up that extra percent :)

In any case these are now for sale and in stock at B&H photo starting at under $13. So click the link here to SEE ALL OF THEM! 

Enjoy!

PS – If you are a Leica shooter, yes, you can get a Leica mug as well – check it out HERE.  (image of Leica directly below)

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and the Canon/Nikon offerings…

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Jan 042014
 

dragan

USER REPORT: 9 Photos, 9 Places, 9 Cameras

By Dragan Arrigler

Recently posted Paris photo by Gianmaria Veronese here reminded me of my own photograph I made from almost the same spot in March 1985. It was my 35 mm b&w film era and 16 years later, in 2001 I started to work with digital cameras. I would like to present a short user report and briefly describe the 9 cameras I used to make 9 very different photos of 9 different places from 1985 to 2013.

1. In 1985 I was a photojournalist and I always carried around a lot of cameras, lenses, etc. Still, my favorite combination was Canon F, 24 mm lens, and Kodak TRI X, while the vast array of other lenses and accessories in my bag waited there “just in case”. In those days I used 24 mm lens for almost everything – landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, etc. It gave me such a broad and dynamic view at the world around me. I preferred contrasty, grainy photos and as a rule my b&w films were slightly underexposed and slightly overdeveloped. I still have one Canon F from 1980. In has been regularly serviced (three times in 33 years) and it works like new.

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2. I made the picture of Pontevecchio in Florence in 2001 with Olympus Mju (Stylus) Zoom Wide 80 (I have always loved Olympus cameras for their size and weight). It was automatic 35 mm compact camera with 28-80 mm lens, considered very wide for late ’90, when it was designed. It had autofocus, small LCD frame counter and was waterproof. A perfect travel companion. The camera even displayed some sort of metadata, as can be seen on the lower right side of the photo. The kids on the picture didn’t seem to be interested in the magnificent renaissance architecture around them, and neither was I.

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3. My first digital camera was Olympus E-20P, purchased in autumn 2001. Soon after that, in February 2002 I had to do a job on Bonaire, a amall island in the Dutch Caribbean. Digital photography being sort of unexplored territory at the time, I didn’t risk and packed my trusted analog cameras as well. Most of the work was indeed done on 35 mm color slides, but with my new toy I made some charming pictures, too. One of them was a photo of windsurfers in beautiful Jibe City on the eastern coast of the island, where constant trade winds and shallow turquoise Caribbean sea waters make ideal windsurfing spot. I sold E-20P the next year after purchasing my first Canon DSLR, but I still remember its perfect zoom lens 35-140mm f 2,0-2,4 with certain nostalgia.

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4. Canon PowerShot S30 was a terrible camera by today’s standards, but was a precious pocket compact in 2003. I took it along on my trip to Provence that summer. It is fun and more or less safe to make photos with such a small and unobtrusive camera – without using flash, nobody takes you seriously, especially when you work in relatively dark interiors or at night. Café de Nuit in Arles, once beloved Vincent Van Gogh’s motif, was a perfect place to prove this. In postproduction, inspired by master’s paintings, I slightly exaggerated the colors, just like he did in 1888.

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5. I was presented Holga for my birthday in 2006. Yes, it is a rickety, cheap plastic Chinese camera. It leaks light, the lens is terrible (60 mm f 8,0 – somewhere between normal and wide-angle lens for 120 film) and it incorporates only one shutter speed which is not defined precisely – it’s probably around 1/60. And B, of course. Exposure demands a lot of guesswork. But it gives you the basic thrill of photography: you can never really tell what you will get. If the predictability of digital photography has begun to bore you, get a Holga. For best results use very old films, expired long ago. And there is more: you will never again feel the urge to invest in digital filters which imitate corny emulsions, cross processing, picture frames, over saturated or washed-out colors, vignetting, as well as dust & scratches. Nothing of this was applied to the photo of the romantic old house in Vrhnika, Slovenia.

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6. Another Canon PowerShot, the A640 was used to photograph silhouettes in a small beach bar on Caribbean island Antigua in 2008. This camera had almost limitless autonomy, because it was powered by four AA batteries and I purchased it prior to a sailing trip where I didn’t expect to have any AC outlets at hand. AA are the most common batteries – you can buy them anywhere in the world. You just have to buy a large (and heavy) stock. Being so dependent on energy is digital cameras’ big disadvantage in comparison to analog ones. For instance, I replaced the battery of my 1980 Canon F maybe three or four times in more than 30 years.

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7. Yet, it’s a digital era and small cameras are so expendable. I only had the A640 two years and then I replaced it with the third Canon PowerShot, S90. It is even smaller than A640 and claimed to be better, a great third camera for professionals, with a lot of manual controls. But in terms of picture quality I never really saw a big difference – except that it has very usable wide aperture of f 2,0 at 28 mm (equivalent) zoom setting. The other side of zoom, 105 mm (equivalent) f 4,9 is much sadder story, though. Anyway, this camera was used to make the picture of the biker (luckily dressed in red) sweating uphill on endless winding road in literally and metaphorically breathtaking, exotic, hot, humid, Avatar-like island Reunion in Indian ocean. One final remark on this tiny device: it incorporates optical stabilizer, but being so small and light (just 175 g), it just can not match the stability of big and heavy DSLR cameras with big and heavy lenses.

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8. If you like red color, Denmark is one of the countries to travel to. Red is a dominant color in their flag and elsewhere. With a bit of luck and good weather you can make nice geometric pictures like I did in the small port of Struer in north-west part of the country. I used Canon EOS 5D, bought in 2005 (can you imagine that it has already been called “vintage”?) and good old zoom 24-85 mm f 3,5-4,5, designed in 1996. In spite of being almost ancient by today’s standards, it is still one of the best and most durable combinations if you want to travel light.

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9. Finally, I would like to share some observations regarding Voigtländer Nokton 25 mm f 0,95. Read some tests of this product, e. g. here or here and let me just add this: it’s a fantastic toy, a sheer pleasure, but not in the least easy to use. And more than just a toy, of course. It’s solidly built, it’s big and heavy, heavier than my Olympus E-P3, including EVF and strap. Now just think: a heavy lens plus f 0,95 plus in-camera image stabilisation – a photographer with steady arm and some experience can work in almost total darkness without even having to use high ASA setting. The twilight picture of exotic Lisbon funicular was made handheld with 1/25 s at f 1,4 and ASA 320. And there is even more: it can focus down to approximately 8 centimetres or 3,15 inches which almost makes it a macro lens, too. Unfortunately, it has two drawbacks: manual focus and manual aperture ring. It is difficult to focus it in darkness owing to its extremely shallow depth of field (probably this problem will be solved with the newer cameras incorporating focus peaking). In bright daylight, where circumstances call for smaller f-stop, it’s even more complicated; remember, the aperture is manual and you have to focus at working f-stop. This is not easy even at f 4, and nearly impossible at f 8 or f 11. Of course, it’s 25 mm lens and everything in finder appears to be sharp. Not so later, when you critically observe your masterpiece at 100% magnification on the computer monitor. In short, this lens needs some patience and a lot of practice. If you have no patience or not enough time to practice, go and buy Panasonic’s 20 mm f 1,7 lens. It’s a very good solution, too.

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Conclusion: the point of this user report (and hopefully the pictures) is to inspire the readers to grab whatever camera they have, go out and do with it the best they can. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will make good photos with the best camera and the sharpest lens in the world. But there is a fair chance that their pictures will be widely admired even if they were made with cheap, plastic, outdated three megapixel devices. Just consider: would the photo of Café de Nuit be better, had it been photographed with a good, 36 megapixel camera, like Nikon D800E or even 60 megapixel Hasselblad H5D? Perhaps tehnically; it would be sharper, with more details, the resolution would be substantially bigger. But would it match the atmosphere of Van Gogh’s painting? I don’t think so. Sometimes the photos are about mood, not tehnical quality. Buy any camera, get used to it, then just forget it and focus on the pictures. To quote Don McCullin, the famous war photographer of the 1960s and 1970s: “I only use the camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”

Dragan Arrigler

www.arrigler.com

Dec 302013
 

My 12 for 2013 

By Adam Anderson

I enjoyed Jason Howe’s Top 12 for 2012 very much, and its message distills the ‘less is more’ philosophy that resonates strongly with my own photographic intent. My life would likely improve a great deal if I was able to translate this philosophy to other areas.

Jan to Dec 2013 are convenient bookends for a significant time in my life and photography. I moved to Sydney for a 12 month tryst with the city, its surrounding landscape and my Zeiss Ikon ZM rangefinder. I also got to try a bunch of other camera and lens combos which I will give my brief thoughts on. Stricken with Gear Acquisition syndrome, my ownership period of these non-Ikon devices was short and featured a great deal of anticipation and subsequent remorse. Not unlike a good night out! So, in the spirit of the cost vs. benefit of brief liaisons with the opposite sex, I’ll chalk up my short ownership period of these cameras as a worthwhile experience.

I tried to keep this sample of 12 fairly objective since my own emotional attachment to places, people and experiences doesn’t always make it through the lens. Regardless of the photos that made the grade, this year I found myself preferring film to digital, 1×1 aspect ratio and b&w to colour a lot of the time. Hardly groundbreaking revelations to any seasoned photographer, but fun to use tools for someone like me who was excited to expand his horizons beyond MS Paint as the foundation for his digital image manipulation workflow.

The cameras:

Zeiss Ikon ZM and 35mm Biogon C 2.8

The ZI is my favourite by far and most used. It gives classic rendering with the 35mm biogon which is beautiful with negative film. I cannot give enough praise to the Ikon’s wonderful viewfinder, the convenience and reliability of its Automatic exposure mode and its overall ergonomics and handling. Steve often talks about the necessity of a camera to motivate its inclusion on outings and no camera and lens has been more motivating for my photography than this setup. I had all my film developed and scanned by Foto Riesel in Sydney. They are the best photo lab I’ve used and tolerated my “Selfies on film with a wide-angle lens” phase.

Canon 6d and 40mm f2.8 pancake

This was a neat setup. The 6D is compact for a DSLR, is solid and has a simple but useful control layout. It delivers fantastic IQ on all counts and great low light performance. It really ticks the boxes for what’s important for me in a DSLR. It survived me getting lost in the Australian wilderness several times. I regretted upgrading to the d800e.

D800e and 50mm 1.4g

I had a love hate relationship with this camera. I loved the sharp, detailed results it produced when everything was right. The various metering modes were often way off, under and overexposing at inconvenient times. The AWB was not as natural as the 6d. After the 6d’s interface and layout I found Nikon’s menu structure and controls convoluted. Not to mention the bayonet was designed on opposite day. Perhaps more time spent with this camera would have yielded a happier relationship. More likely my experience is akin to learning to drive in a Formula 1.

Mamiya 7 and 65mm f4

This was my first foray into medium format and the results blew me away. I already have quite an economical shooting style so 10 frames per roll wasn’t too restrictive. Once you get the hang of the centre weighted lightmeter it’s a breeze to use on AEL mode to really nail exposure. It’s easy to load on the go and the controls are basic but very functional. My favourite film for this camera was Fuji pro 400h. My favourite photographic technique with this camera was loading the film incorrectly and getting only 8 exposures instead of 10.

Thank you Steve for your website and your bandwidth, and your readers for their attention.

Canon 40mm 2.8 STM

D800e 50mm 1.4 G

Mamiya 7 65mm Pro 400h

D800e 50mm 1.4g

D800e 50mm f2 auto nikkor

Zeiss 35mm Biogon C Tri-x

Zeiss Biogon 25mm Portra 400

Zeiss Biogon C 35mm Portra 400 -1

Zeiss Biogon C 35mm Portra 400 -2

Zeiss Biogon C 35mm Tri x

Zeiss Biogon C 35mm Portra 400 -3

Zeiss Biogon C 35mm Tri-x

Dec 272013
 

Sao Paulo Street Portraits with the Nikon DF

by Alejandro Ilukewitsch

Dear Steve thanks for your wonderful site, to some of us who can’t actually test gear before buying is of an amazing help. I live currently in Brazil, and it’s not possible to go to a store to test all the wonderful equipment that is on the streets right now. I bought the RX1 mostly because of your review. I also recently acquired a DF, whose review came afterwards… J

I love shooting street portraits, specially wondering for hours on the streets and meeting strangers, having a talk with them and then politely asking them for a picture. Sao Paulo is a multicultural city full of a lovely mixture of people. You actually never know into what you might bump. Sadly as many other cities in South America has is toll of insecurity, but well, it’s a risk worth taking.

I have used many cameras, suffer from GAS, but think that with the DF and RX1 I am currently cover and cured for GAS, (don’t know for how long). I also have a D800 but for my enjoyment and street shooting the RX1 and DF are incredible fun! Specially the DF which reminds me so much of the X100, but without the lag.

Here are some of my street portraits in Sao Paulo I recently took with the DF, suing a voigtlander 40mm plus a 28mm 2.8 AIS. Thanks for looking!

If you are interested in seeing more portraits from Sao Paulo street please use the following link:

http://www.ilukewitsch.com/People-from-Sao-Paulo

Also here you can find my tumblr, only Sao Paulo pictures:

http://ailukewitsch.tumblr.com/

And my blog in which I post about everything I shoot.

http://ailukewitsch.wordpress.com/

 Nikon Df, sec (1/125), f/2.8, 28 mm, ISO 250, Exposure Bias 0 EV

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Nikon Df, sec (1/125), f/2.8, 28 mm, ISO 180, Exposure Bias 0 EV

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Nikon Df, sec (1/250), f/4.0, 40 mm, ISO 100, Exposure Bias 0 EV

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Nikon Df, sec (1/500), f/4.0, 40 mm, ISO 100, Exposure Bias -1/3 EV

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Nikon Df, sec (1/250), f/2.2, 40 mm, ISO 500, Exposure Bias -1/3 EV

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Dec 262013
 

Will the Smartphone ever replace the camera?

By Ibraar Hussain

For enthusiastic amateurs and those with more than a snap shooting interest in Photography, I’d say no, not now, not ever.

There are certain things Smart Phones lack, and even if you gave a Smart Phone Full Frame and a gazillion Mega Pixels; it’ll still never pass the test – I consider Ergonomics a powerful feature no amount of technical advancement can compete with.

Anyway, this isn’t a discourse on Smart Phones and Photography, it’s about Hipstamatic on the iPhone.

Hipstamatic, in my opinion, is the best thing about Smart Phone photography – and unfortunately at the time of writing it is only (to my knowledge) available for the iPhone, so sorry Androids and Windows.

If you haven’t used it before, it’s a Square Format Camera Application which mimics toy camera’s and vintage snap shot cameras of yore, with choices of lens, Flash and Film which one can select for so many different combinations.

The combinations and options are phenomenal, brilliant in simplicity, ease of selection and results.

We have BW Films galore, colour, cooked ones, XP, IR, expired, different flash types, and lenses ranging from soft ones, to vignetting or ones giving an illusion of shallow depth of field, ones that leak light and others that are completely bizarre – and the range vast, with creative possibilities limitless.

Want moody black and white Noir-ish Film with strong vignetting? Want a platinum look print with soft tones? Want a punchy Velvia like look with sharp lens? A burnt out vintage 70s look with a multi hued flash effect? Or a Polaroid look with loads of colour? It’s all there – and to make things even more interesting, you can order prints on-the-fly, from within the Application.

It’s all great fun and has a superb interface – simply look through the square viewfinder (on the screen) and press the yellow button – and press a button to flip over so you can change film, lens and flash with a swipe.

And of course, you can buy more and more stuff.

With use you’ll start knowing which combination to use for which subject and have personal favourites, and to be honest, even the most mediocre snaps can be made to look superb with the colour and effect possibilities.

There is some creative control – touch a part of the Viewfinder image and it’ll focus and expose for that, move the iPhone up and down and you’ll see the exposure change in real time.

Anyway, that’s all the fun and funky stuff out-of-the-way, you can have all the funky effect things in the world but ultimately, if you lack even a microgram of creativity and talent, it’ll all look somewhat like a turd rolled in glitter.

What I really love about Hipstamatic, is the ability to work on composition using the brilliant Square Format, and this is what I use it for (apart from family and friends and such snaps).

The 6×6 Square is a great compositional aspect ratio – there’s no room for messing around, and the simplicity enables framing to be easier than oblong aspect ratios.

One, with the large square view finder of Hipstamatic, can really go to town on working on composition, framing, using key subjects, lead in lines, rule of thirds – and one can do it with the minimum of fuss and headache – just open the Application and off you go.

And the user can select the appropriate ‘Film’ to take the scene using the different creative Film/Lens or Filters available, and interpret the scene however they wish and easily.

I have been working on composition with this Hipstamatic for a while now, and I think it has improved my ability to see and express a scene more so than traditionally (with a real camera Film or Digital).

I don’t worry about sharpness or resolution – as such things really don’t matter one iota to me, sure to others they may well do – colour, composition, mood, tones and subject matter make sense to me and for this, Hipstamatic on the iPhone 5 is what I enjoy using as and when I require it.

I’ve included several shots here, just detailing the sort of things I tend to work on, composition, arranging elements in a scene, subject matter, colour, light and tone. With some studies of different places (Stone henge for example)

Cheers!

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Dec 072013
 

Using a Nokia N86 for Photography

By Dougie Digital Dawg

Three years ago I wanted to get a mobile phone which would take decent photos.

By chance I read David Bailey had done an exhibiton called Alive at Night using a Nokia N86.

Nokia N86 announced February 2009, has a Zeiss Tessar 28mm F2.4-F4.8 8MP with Auto Focus. It also has a close up capability which I find useful. There’s no touch screen which I prefer for photogrpahy.

Whereas for various scenarios a much larger sensor, far higher dynamic range, and high iso capability is significantly useful, I have found a small sensor useful in so many scenarios. Small sensor compacts may sometimes get knocked down, especially the megazooms with 1/2.3″ sensor and slow lens such as Sony X50V 24-720mm however they do represent excellent photo taking capabilities.

It really does depend on the way we photograph and our subject.

dgd aka Dougie Digital Dawg.

Nokia N86 boat

Nokia N86 pavement

Nokia N86 leaf

Nokia N86 post cctv

Nokia N86 underpass

Nokia N86 sunset

Nokia N86 highstreet

Dec 062013
 

A look at the Sony Music Video Recorder

Action Cam meets HIGH QUALITY Audio!

Quick Look Video with Audio Sample..

 

Just arrived! The new Sony Music Video recorder and it is already sold out at Amazon on release day. There is a reason for this as this camera is like no other on the market. It is basically a video camera like a Go Pro style with a wide angle lens, full HD 720 or 1080 shooting, full color LCD on the side and high quality microphones built into the front. It is a pretty nifty little device and comes in at $299. Sony is marketing this towards musicians, singers and bands who want to record themselves but it can also be used as an everyday video shooter WITH great quality audio. It even has a low lux night mode for good video quality at night.

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I did up a video on it to show you guys what it looks like, how small it is and how cool it looks. The camera comes with a USB cable for charging and uses the same battery as the Sony RX100 and RX1.

The camera also records to Micro SD cards. $299 at Amazon or B&H Photo (B&H has stock at this moment).

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