Apr 162014
 

The Sony RX1r meets the Olympus E-M1 in Iceland

By Chris Bakker

My website - http://www.chrisbakkerphoto.com

Hi Steve and readers of SteveHuffPhoto.com!

My name is Chris Bakker, a free time photographer from the Netherlands. I began to do photography around Christmas of 2012. I started off with a Sony RX100 by taking photos from all kinds of subjects what surrounded me and It didn’t took me long to really get caught by the beauty of photography . Right from the start I tried to read as many (e)books on photography as I could, follow on a daily basis the online forums and practice the acquired knowledge in the field. I am also a frequent reader of this site and let me tell you this site has giving me so much that I thought it would be time to give a little bit of my contribution in return.

Because I was so into photography I decided in the summer of 2013 to trade in my trusty RX100 for his bigger brother the RX1r. This indeed is a magical powerhouse and capable of delivering some stunning photo’s. This camera has got me even more into photography. Later that year, in November the Olympus OMD E-M1 came out and because I wanted to do different things in photography which needed faster auto focus and different focal length than 35mm, I decided to buy the E-M1 alongside my beloved RX1r and step into the world of micro 4/3.  I can say I have no regrets at all. This camera is so well designed and thought out, it works so well, it just makes you want to go out and shoot.

I often attend workshops and like to learn from the pros. So when the opportunity came by to go to Iceland for 11 days with a pro landscape photographer from the Netherlands, to learn in the field, I decided to go. So on February the 22 I went off to Iceland to return 11 days later home with an overwhelming experience by the beauty of Iceland. Not only did I came home with a lot of photos but also with a lot of acquired knowledge and practical experience.

So l’ll stop the twaddle, let’s get to the photo’s!

E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Kirkjufellsfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Going to Iceland in the winter takes some planning in advance. Although the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t too cold the wind can be really extreme. And the combination of those two makes it cold. Proper clothing, like multi layers, warm hand cloves and a fur cap is not a luxury. A good windbreaker can be a rain suit. Because of the hard wind, I can advise to take a big and sturdy tripod with you. I have come to situations where I definitely had to hold on to my MEFOTO Globetrotter tripod preventing it from falling over. A tripod can allow you to shoot at times of day when the light is unlike any other. If you want to shoot at sunrise or sunset, and you want to keep the ISO down, you need that long exposure. when you want to work with HDR you need a tripod for sure. Light is everything, don’t miss some of the best light of the day because you didn’t want to carry a tripod. What also comes in handy is to wear knee-pads. The ground is often stony and wet.

Snaefellsjoekull – RX1r

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E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Brúarfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Shining stones in river – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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While I was out making photos in the field I did quite often use my filters. There are many people that think in digital photography you don’t need filters anymore. Many think that this is also possible in post processing. When you need a slower shutter speed to blur motion, like with waterfalls, or polarizing light to reduce glare, do it with filters. Filters still enable an aesthetic that’s not possible through simple post-production, and in some cases not possible at all, even in Photoshop. Everybody has his own way of working but we people often work in sequence. We start off with 1 go to 2 than react to 3 to get to 4 or so. While this is a quite similar process as in post-production, like Lightroom, it is also a good process at point of capture. When experimenting with filters in the field you see the result immediately and that gives you the change to react to it. So it can definitely be a good thing for creativity. I used mostly a 3 stop ND filter from Singh-Ray and a Big stopper from Hoya the NX400. In a few occasions I used graduated and reverse grad filters, mostly at sunrise or sunset. For Polarizer’s, Singh-Ray Color Combo and the Gold ‘n Blue.

Skógafoss – RX1r

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Northern Lights near Vik – RX1r

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Vik Beach – E-M1 pana 35-100f2.8

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – RX1r

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunset JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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What really fascinates me is that you can learn infinitely, it’s an ongoing process. Photography has become an essential part of my life. It’s so much fun, it’s a way of living. I hope you enjoy watching these photos as much as I did making them.

Chris Bakker

A few more…

Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Vik Beach – RX1r

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Old Turf Farm House – RX1r

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Icelandic Horse – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Feb 272014
 

Sony DSC-RX1

One year with the Sony RX1

by Raymond Hau –   http://jkspepper.tumblr.com    -    http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dhermes/

 

My setup used to be a Canon 350D with various good lenses, then I decided I needed an upgrade and so, after many a umm’ing and ahh’ing over which full-frame Canon model to upgrade to I went and bought a Sony RX1 instead.

That single action brought about a complete change to my outlook on photography and my photographic equipment needs.

Refreshing

The RX1 concept was different to anything that had existed before it and in my view rather refreshing; to provide the best photography output in as simple as manner as possible… and make it small.

It’s not for everyone, the fixed 35mm lens and lack of a viewfinder will be sure to put off hardcore gear addicts and the price will put off everyone else but for those that really know what they want out of a camera, out of photography, will never let go of this marvel.

Prince Edward

I shot manual film SLRs from my early days, had a break of 5 years or so and then ventured back into photography with both feet firmly in the digital camp with the 350D. I used it for a while and then I kinda. just. stopped. I had gradually lost interest; digital with all its technological advancements was exciting but something was missing, I loved photography but strangely I didn’t love this.

I picked it up again a few years later and rekindled an interest but it wasn’t until I set my hands on the RX1 that I realised what I was looking for and it was refreshingly simple.

Simplicity

The RX1 is in essence a simple device, it does not have a zoom; it does not have a viewfinder; it has neither the ergonomics nor an AF system that works; and it does not even have a battery charger (!). What it does have however is a wonderful lens mated to a superb sensor and that is all I needed.

Mongkok Flower Girls

The tactile feedback from the all metal construction, the well dampened focusing ring and the reassuring click of the aperture ring around the lens gives quiet confidence when your AF is failing and the battery is about to die after only 300 shots, because you know that when you go home and upload your 300 shots, each one will be as beautifully rendered as the next and just how you intended to capture that scene.

I didn’t care that the AF enjoys the hunt because like a Mountie, he always gets his man (most of the time anyway and don’t even bother trying when anything is on the move). I learnt never to rely on AF in certain circumstances and resorted doing things the old-fashioned way.

The Old-Fashioned Way

One could argue that I’m a little bit backwards; why move from a system which gives perfectly acceptable AF, flexibility of focal lengths and adequate cost for something that offers none of that? I had to focus with my feet, manually twiddle the focus ring and lighten my wallet by a fair few G’s (in HKD that is).

But that was the epiphany, the eureka moment, the realisation that I enjoyed it (well, I would certainly enjoy it more if it hadn’t cost me an arm and a leg but I digress).

What was missing from shooting with digital SLR systems (be it Canon or Nikon) was the process itself, I was no longer enjoying the physical process of taking photographs, it didn’t matter whether the output was good if I didn’t care to take the time and effort to get out there with a camera.

More Gloomy Clouds over Hong Kong

It is a slower process, I would even say a more considered one but I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t need the ability to snap a gnat doing a reverse somersault in the tuck position off a cat’s back from 200m at a moment’s notice lest my family starve from lack of income; I’m just a guy, standing in front of a camera, asking for an enjoyable experience.

The Review

When I evaluate a camera during the first few weeks of purchase, I focus on the negative aspects of the camera; once I have a handle on what I don’t like I can then decide whether I can live with it. If I can, I will love it and keep it, if I can’t it’s gonna go; you can see this when I reviewed the Sony A7R.

5

However, with this “One year in review” I will focus instead on the positive aspects of the camera, what I have found to be the highlights after owning the RX1 for a year.

35mm

I love the 35mm focal length. You either do or you don’t I suppose and I do. I’m naturally a wide-angle shooter and lengths from 50mm upwards are awkward for me; I’m always too close to the subject, perhaps I have no inhibitions about getting in close or feel that I lose the intimacy or interaction when shooting people. Oh, and I love landscapes and the close 20cm focus distance when in macro mode is also a boon for those inevitable food photographs.

Smooch @ f/2.0

Carl Zeiss

Consider me a convert to the Carl Zeiss clan; before the fixed 35mm f/2.0 attached to the front of the RX1 I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Zeiss glass, only hearing about them and not giving them much thought. Now I am a true convert and have already amassed a collection of 4 (if you include the one on the RX1). I had never seen the famed Zeiss ‘3D pop’ before now and in good sunlight it is truly evident and a marvel to behold.

3D target

The glass is sharp wide open and right across the frame, the colours are pleasing and at f/2.0 is fast enough and beautiful enough (bokeh!) for me to indulge my creative side. It’s so effortless I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s not perfect, there exists slight distortions and vignetting which can be corrected in post but for the most part can be considered immaterial.

I have read reviews and musings from the world-wide webs which go on to proffer the argument that this could be one of the finest lenses ever produced, I do not doubt them although having the lens mated specifically to a sensor with micrometer precision obviously has its benefits.

Exmor

The Exmor CMOS sensor is amazing and I am not using that term lightly. I have had access to and have regularly used a number of cameras over time and now also owning the Sony A7R, Fujifilm X-E1 and X-T1, I can empirically say the 24MP sensor housed within that tight metallic body is the best I’ve ever used. Its dynamic range (DR) and noise characteristics are exceptional.

Bar

It’s the only file where I can shoot straight into the sun and then pull every slider in post (using Adobe Lightroom) without breaking the image. It’s the only file where I can create HDR images with only one image (instead of the usual 3-plus images). It’s the only file where I never, ever, worry about artifacting in post and lets me really fire up my creative juices. The A7R and Fujifilm files are not even close on this one, like I have already said, this camera makes taking pictures easy.

Size

This thing is tiny; it’s an engineering marvel how they have managed to fit a full frame sensor inside that body. It’s by no means pocketable (unless you are a giant or like wearing trench coats) but it is vastly superior to its full frame brethren. It means that I can carry it anywhere and everywhere I go and I often do; during the last year it has been to clubs, bars, restaurants, functions, parks, hikes, events, trips; Hong Kong, England, Japan, Cambodia, India, Korea, China, Italy and more.

Dharavi Mother

It’s non-invasive, not attention worthy (especially with black nail polish over the trademarks) and not intimidating. It’s the perfect stealth camera which to many may look like an older 1990’s era point and shooter, obviously the fast and silent leaf shutter helps too.

Cambodia Boat Kid

I’ve been with friends and to people’s houses where they remarked why I hadn’t brought a ‘proper’ camera like their large Canon or Nikon systems. I merely shrug and say “I make do with what I got”, little do they know…

Shutter

It’s a leaf shutter, fast (1/4000s max, although speed limited to 1/2000s when wide open up until f5.6 if I remember correctly) and silent (it really is). It will sync flash at any speed you would want, especially useful for wide open shots during day light.

Viewfinder

There is however one thing the RX1 doesn’t give you and it’s something I know I couldn’t live without and that is a viewfinder; I was so used to optical viewfinders in all my previous cameras that it was a given that I would want the same again. Shooting using the LCD screen just didn’t give that same feel or enjoyment so I almost immediately started to look at the Sony OVF.

Man selling meat sticks

I tested one and was amazed by how large and bright it was; then I saw the ludicrous price tag and decided that it was ridiculous sum of money to pay for a piece of glass so I started looking elsewhere for third party designs from Leica and Voigtlander. What I saw underwhelmed me enough for me to eventually consider the electronic viewfinder (EVF) as I was not willing to spend so much money on what was essentially a dumb piece of glass. Let’s just say that I am now a convert to the EVF world; would I still prefer a large bright digital SLR OVF? Sure. But EVFs do offer some advantages and I can live with the negatives.

Street Meat Vendor

The Sony EVF is a joy to use and only now when I compare it to the EVFs from the A7R, X-E1 (rubbish) and X-T1 that I realised I had started out with a really good example of one. I’m not sure whether the EVF for the RX1 is the same as that built into the A7R but I swear the RX1 EVF is slightly better and is enjoyable to use even alongside the large and bright EVF of the Fujifilm X-T1.

One Year In

I love the RX1. I already know I will not sell it, exchange it or need to upgrade it. When it comes to 35mm, the RX1 is all I need which is why after one year and three additional bodies I still only have one 35mm focal length in my collection and that is the one attached to this camera.

It has changed my whole outlook, my philosophy and my equipment needs.

Julian

City life trams

I want them to be small and manageable; I want that tactile old school feel of an aperture ring; I want a single focal length to keep things simple; and most if all I want to really enjoy using it.

What I would really want is a collection of RX1-type cameras at differing focal lengths; an ultra-wide (~18mm), wide (35mm), normal (50mm) and short-telephoto (85mm). One camera for one task, no changing lenses in the field and if I didn’t bring the right camera with me, I’m not going to stress over missing a shot. Simples.

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The end.

Raymond Hau

Feb 202014
 

Shooting with Fuji

By Olaf Sztaba

It is not common in the days of big egos and anonymous message boards that a great photographer and hugely popular blogger stands back and allows other photographers to share their work on his own website. I applaud you for such a generous approach.

This is our first submission to your website, so a few words about our philosophy. We believe that as we have all been taking photographs for over 100 years, we are experienced enough to go beyond portraits and landscapes to take photography into the artistic realm. Capturing the emotions you feel as you look at people and landscapes is another level of photography, as is capturing the essence of a person or landscape.

Having said that, we put a lot of effort into the visual and emotional quality of the photograph; only after that do we strive for technical perfection. Our photo trips usually take us into unknown and forgotten places, some of which may seem obscure and rusty at first sight but somehow they interest us more than what’s new and pretty. I had my first camera at the age of four and ever since my eyes have been searching for the perfect composition, light and subject. My wife Kasia and I are based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

We are currently shooting with the Fuji X-Pro1, Fuji X100S cameras and Fujinon XF lenses, which fit our style of photography well. With the basic gauges at our fingers, we can focus on what’s important: our subject, emotions, visuals and light. We believe that every photographer has special needs and preferences, so I don’t want this post to be about equipment.

After all, a strong, artistically beautiful image, even if it is technically imperfect, will always triumph over a technically perfect but dull image.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Olaf & Kasia Sztaba

www.olafphotoblog.com

www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

 

Image #1: Fuji X100S

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Image #2: Fuji X100

©osztaba_2

Image #3: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_3

Image #4: Fuji X100S

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Image #5: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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Image #6: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_6

Image #7: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_7

 

 

Feb 052014
 

Quiet Light

By Mark Seawell

Hi Steve! My name is Mark Seawell. I live in Germany and work on Ramstein Air Force base, HQ for the U.S Air Force in Europe. Though I’m retired from the Air Force, I now work as a civilian employee for Ramstein. This area has the largest concentration of Americans outside of the United States, over 25,000. We arrived in Germany in Aug 2005 and I quickly fell in love with the land while taking long walks with my wife. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Germany but when the rain is not coming down (think Seattle) this is some of the most beautiful land in the world.

My fate was sealed when I decided to “bring a camera along” for our walks. Soon I was taking pictures and I haven’t stopped for 5 years! I’ve shot Lumix the entire time moving form the Panasonic G1 to the GH2 and in November of last year the GH3.

http://msphotoworld.com is my Zenfolio site.

I took the first picture on the 18th of January with my GH3. Something was there that moved me. I loved the quiet solitude of the tree standing alone. . This picture was taken close to Steinwenden and is typical for this area. I call it “Quiet Light”.

18 Jan 2014 Panasonic GH3 Lumix 45-200mm F/9.0 ISO 250 1/125 Adobe LR 5.3 SilverEfex Pro

QuietLight3

The next picture is from my village of Rehweiler, Germany. The morning was misty and I found myself alone close to the tracks. What I found inspirational about this was the mood of mystery. Where are the tracks going? What is around the bend? What is the destination? View to Eternity.

8 Jun 2013 Panasonic GH2 Lumix 45-200mm F/7.1 ISO 160 1/800 Adobe LR 5.3 SilverEfex Pro

View to Eternity

The last picture was taken on the back roads between Reuschbach and Obermohr, Germany. It had rained the entire month in Novermber 2011. It would not stop. Finally, on the last day of November there was no rain and that was enough reason to take my camera as I drove in. The mist was everywhere, covering the land. I had taken a few pictures above Reuschbach and was happy and drove the road to Obermohr where we lived for nearly 6 years but had recently moved. As I came around the bend I was struck by this site. The mist totally dominated my former village but rising majestically through it all was the church tower. I nearly ran into a ditch and the cars behind me were none to happy as I positioned myself, eager to capture this fleeting moment before it all went away. There could be only one name for this image that had inspired me so…”Heaven’s Gate”.

30 November 2011 Panasonic G1 Lumix 45-200mm ISO 100 72mm LR 3.2 SilverEfex

Gateway to Heaven

Feb 042014
 

The Sony A7 meets the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar – a match made in heaven or hell?

by Steven Norquist

The Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar is one of the most amazing wide-angle lenses ever created.

Why is this?

  • It has super high contrast.
  • It has super high color saturation.
  • It has super high acutance.
  • It is super, super sharp.
  • It has virtually infinite depth of field.
  • It has no distortion. (truly amazing for a 15mm wide-angle lens!)

And lastly but most importantly, it has an incredibly great dramatic wide-angle look that few lenses can equal. There is only one problem and it is not the Heliar’s fault.

This lens almost never works on digital cameras!

This lens was made in the film era for rangefinder cameras. Why doesn’t this lens work on digital cameras?

This lens is designed to place its rear nodal point almost directly on the film plane. Almost literally in contact with the film, that is how close it gets. This causes the light rays to have a very concentrated and sharp angle unto the film plane. This is also how this lens is so superior and achieves such amazing optical correction and also why it does not work on digital cameras.

This sharp angle of light is so sharp that the outside diameter of the exit pupil, the periphery if you will, is not able to be correctly perceived by a digital sensor. Again, the problem is not with this lens, it is with digital sensors in general.

Digital sensors were not designed to use film camera lenses. Think about that statement for a moment. Why would the industry try to replace film cameras with digital cameras and not design digital sensors to work with all normal film camera lenses already in existence? Duh, you would think this should have been their primary concern, to duplicate the superior light gathering ability of the chemical film plane in a digital sensor.

But alas that has not happened yet, or has it?

I decided to find out.

The Sony A7 is potentially one of the most revolutionary cameras to come out in the last couple of years but it is not potentially revolutionary because it puts a full frame sensor in a small body. It is potentially revolutionary because it is a full frame digital camera that will allow “any film lens” to be used on it!

This is its real selling point for most and why I would want this camera very, very much. You see, we have all these magnificent film lenses that simply will not work very well on any digital cameras to date. Tons of beautiful artistic lenses designed over decades of film photography that may never be replicated in modern designs. Why should these wonderful lenses go to waste?

The hope was Sony had finally “done it” and provided the answer to our dreams.

So since no one has yet done a detailed review on the performance of the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar on the A7 I took it upon myself to do so. I rented an A7, bought an adapter on Amazon and mounted my Heliar on it and began the detailed tests. I have had the Heliar for a couple of years now and know exactly why and how it doesn’t work on digital cameras so my  tests were designed to see if these exact problems were resolved by the Sony A7.

The two main issues are:

1. The outside edge of the frame, especially the corners will have a magenta color shift to the natural fall off/vignetting that the lens produces.

2. The outside edge of the frame, especially the corners will be super blurry and smeared, basically not only not in focus, but weirdly stretched and just not right looking.

Before I present the results let me assure you that when this lens is mounted on a rangefinder film camera the corners are sharp even wide open. Also, on a film camera this lens will have a nice healthy vignetting effect so that the blue color of the sky will become darkened in the corners of the image. This is natural for wide-angle lenses of this type and is used in wide-angle photography as an artistic device for emphasizing a subject.

So on film the corners are sharp and the corners are darkened, but they should not be magenta and they should not be blurred.

Ok here we go.

The Magenta Test

Parameters of test:

· White balance was set for daylight to assure no variation in color hue due to automatic white balance adjustment.

· Pictures were taken in raw on a full sunny day and processed without any fancy tweaks, just plain old conversion from raw to retain what the camera sensor saw.

 

Magenta Corners Test Sample 1

01_Magenta

Magenta Corners Test Sample 2

02_Magenta

Conclusion:

The corners will suffer from Magenta cast in very bright high contrast situations. But of the hundreds of pics I took in the sun, these two pics represented the worst case scenario under sunny conditions. I did not go out of my way to evoke magenta cast. I simply took the pics I wanted to and later found some with this issue. Many pics did not even show any magenta cast. In my opinion this magenta effect is subject specific and will show up only under these types of specific lighting conditions.

The Corner Blur Test

Parameters of test:

· Pictures were taken to test the ability of the lens to focus on both close and far subjects simultaneously (hyperfocal) and of the lens to resolve a flat plane at infinity. (The entire area of the image should have equal focus and sharpness at infinity)

· To prevent subtle shift in the flatness of the focus plane causing false results in the infinity test, I used the classic get on top of a mountain and shoot down technique. This assures that everything the lens sees is of equal distance from it.

· The full image was processed normally and the corner images processed to lighten the corners so that critical focus effects could be more easily seen and not lost in corner darkening.

· All pictures below were taken at F5.6 which on the Heliar is more than sufficient to sharpen the corners in hyperfocal situations. In fact stopping down to F8 will start to put the center of the image into diffraction even on full frame. On film even F4.5 is sharp in the corners.

Hyperfocal Test 1

03_Hyperfocal_F5.6

Left Corner 100% crop

03_Hyperfocal_Left Lower Corner

Right Corner 100% crop

03_Hyperfocal_Right Lower Corner

 

Hyperfocal Test 2

01_Hyperfocal_F5.6

Left corner crop

01_Hyperfocal_Left Lower Corner

Right corner crop

01_Hyperfocal_Right Lower Corner

 

Infinity Test

01_Infinity_F5.6

Upper Left Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Left Upper Corner

Upper Right Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Right Upper Corner

Lower Left Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Left Lower Corner

Lower Right Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Right Lower Corner

 

Conclusion:

The corners do suffer from blur on the A7 even at infinity. This is a product of the A7′s sensor. The blur effect, though present, is not real terrible. The smearing effect I have seen on other cameras was not present in any pics I took. So this is a definite improvement over other cameras.

Also, because of the heavy vignetting, the blur is almost always hidden in the shadows and is not distracting at normal viewing distance.

I also tested the 35mm F2 Biogon and the Contax/Yashica 28mm and these lenses also had corner blur on the A7 even though the Contax/Yashica is a telecentric SLR lens that sits pretty far from the sensor. On the Contax I was able to stop down to F11 and eliminate all blur and not really see any diffraction which was pretty amazing actually.

Final thoughts:

Sadly no digital camera has yet been made that will allow the exquisite Heliar to be used full frame on it without problems.

The A7 was a pleasure to shoot with and tt was so easy and compact to carry all day.  Battery life? I was able to leave the camera on all the time and it took six hours to deplete one battery.

My V1 was dying long before the A7!

Can the Heliar create powerful and rich photos on the A7 despite these flaws?

Here are some final fully processed Heliar/A7 samples for you to decide.

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Jan 312014
 

jimfishercemet

Shooting in Cemeteries

By Jim Fisher

Steve’s recent post on Post Mortem Photography got me thinking about one of my favorite photographic subjects: Old graveyards.

’m happy to live in a part of the US with a long settled history, the north east. I’m a short drive away from a few very old burying grounds, including notable ones like Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown, N.Y. (the resting place of Washington Irving, the author who created the Headless Horseman), and Green-Wood in Brooklyn.

It was stumbling onto Sleepy Hollow that sparked my interest. I had spent an autumn day in 2008 visiting Irving’s estate, and wanted to tap it off with a visit to his grave. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore, light was getting scarce, but I’ve since returned to spend more time looking for interesting monuments and scenes.

SleepyHollow-00004-X3

GreenWoodA1-00007-X3

It’s interesting to me to see how the art of carving headstones changed over the years. Modern stones tend to be fairly conservative, squarish, and—to my eye—largely uninteresting. But turning back the clock to the late 1800s shows that large, carved statues were popular (at least for those who could afford them). When you move back to the early part of that century and into the late 1700s you see simple stones, sometimes with inlaid carved illustrations.

Of course, after a few hundred years, details give way to erosion, pieces of sculptures break off, and stones crack. There’s obviously some maintenance done to active graveyards, but for the large part you see what spending scores of years with constant exposure to the elements can do to sculpture and carved stones.

BelairgonGreenWood-00001-X3

FMN-00176-X3

There’s also a sense of peace. I commute into Manhattan five days a week. It’s a grind, packed into a overcrowded train, and braving the elements over the half-mile from Penn Station to my office (and back again in the evening). After nine hours I get to turn around and do it all over again. There are opportunities for photographs, but they are generally those fleeting moments that present themselves when street shooting.

Among the graves, I get to take my time, look for my shot. If I find an interesting monument I can take my time and think about how I want to approach it. Should I isolate a specific detail? Simply try to capture it in its entirety? Or go a bit wider and try and get a good landscape shot? (That’s an area where my eye struggles at times.)

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My favorite spot is the Deckertown-Union Cemetery in western New Jersey. It’s an old graveyard in a rural area. The grounds are wooded, largely on a huge hill. The terrain is rough, and the burials date back to the Revolutionary War. There aren’t a lot of ornate sculptures there, just more simple, weathered stones. The first time I went there I was working with some Lensbabies, but I’ve since shot it with more traditional lenses.

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As for gear (I couldn’t stop by Steve’s home without bringing that up!), it varies. If I’m shooting for myself, I love taking my Rolleiflex Automat K4, a 1950 TLR with a Zeiss Opton-Tessar 75mm f/3.5 lens. I’ve got a set of Rolleinar close-up filters for macro work, and the shallow depth of field that working close with a medium format camera gets you can create some really unique results.

Primarily I consider myself a rangefinder shooter, and one of the first places I took the M240 was to Green-Wood. But I don’t often use my M3. I’m more likely to take a 35mm SLR, if only for the sake of having depth of field preview available. (A Nikon F3, Pentax KX, or Canon A-1 may make the trip depending on my mood.) In the digital world, the Ricoh GR has become a favorite carry-anywhere camera over the past few months, and I’ve found that its 28mm field of view works quite well for me.

 

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And, if I’m shooting for work, anything goes. I’ve used graveyards as subjects for everything from the Nikon D7100 to the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 to the Lomo Horizon panoramic camera (and others that I’m forgetting.

Jim Fisher is the Senior Digital Camera Analyst at PCMag.com. He also posts photos, an occasionally finds time to write, at his personal blog, daguerreotyping.com

For more Cemetery photography check out Steve’s old Violin Annie post HERE

Jan 242014
 

USER REPORT: Olympus OM-D E-M5 for Landscape Astrophotography

by Jensen Chan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hi Steve and Brandon. First of all happy 2014 to you (and all the readers out there too)! SteveHuff.com has grown tremendously and as an avid reader I’d like to say big congratulations on how far the website has come and how you’ve been able to truly pursue your passion. It must have been a fantastic journey for you, and it has been a true joy for me reading all the wonderful articles and thoughts. I will surely be frequenting your website for many, many more posts to come!

Much of the recent posts coming through your website feed have been beautifully showcasing lifestyle/portraiture photography and new camera gear. What with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Sony A7/A7r and Nikon Df taking centre stage, 2013 was an exciting year indeed. Today I’d like to offer a “mini-flashback” to the humble Olympus E-M5 and share my emotions and work from this extraordinary piece. The Olympus OM-D E-M5, while not the newest toy in the neighbourhood anymore, is the first camera that truly inspired me to appreciate beauty around me like never before.

The E-M5 is the first camera that I bought for myself (thanks to your overwhelmingly positive review Steve!), and I have to say that the experience of getting this camera is akin to the classic story of meeting that mesmerizing lady in the bookstore. You see her at the counter through the window of the store. Her beauty catches your eye so you take the step into the store. So enchantingly beautiful, but yet you’re shy that you couldn’t walk up to her. Rather, you walk around the store pretending to do something else and occasionally take a gaze at her, listening to the guys around talking about her. After a good half hour you take a deep breath, suck in your belly and walk up to the store man and see if you could be introduced to her. He happily brings her in front of you, and as you meet eye to eye for the first time, you connect immediately. Your minds click, conversation flows and every thought and emotion she shares with you is mesmerising and out of this world. She clearly has a wild heart. She yearns to see the world and she has you just as captivated as her to do the same.

Long story short I said goodbye to her that day, read Steve’s review that night, and next thing I knew, I now have her with me as a travel companion. I cannot imagine my travels any other way without this little gem.

Having the E-M5 on my desk begging to be taken out for a trip, I spend every weekday at work eagerly waiting for the weekend so I could go out somewhere in the wilderness to take in all the beautiful scenery Australia and beyond had to offer. I yearned to go out. I couldn’t wait to hold the beautiful E-M5, especially when paired with the 12mm f2.0 or the 75mm f1.8 lenses.

What started as daytime scenery photo shooting slowly evolved towards sunrise and sunset sessions as they were the most beautiful times of the day. As I went more towards the extremities of daylight hours, I eventually fell in love with taking night sky shots. Here’s what the camera can do in a dark sky.

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The E-M5, my friends, is a camera as powerful as it is beautiful. Steve has covered a lot of its functions and powers here. Needless to say it is a camera that is capable of doing bucketloads of things. What I think many E-M5 owners have not realised, however, and that many reviewers do not mention, is the sheer amount of detail this sensor can take in when capturing in RAW format. If you were to take these photos in out of camera JPEG you may be disappointed by its capabilities, but the true power is in its RAW files. The sheer number of stars, tiny to the tiniest of pin pricks, can be captured by the sensor, even for stars that may be invisible to the naked eye. It might not show much in its JPEG photos, but with the RAW files given some tickling and massaging in softwares like Lightroom, the results can be astounding, all in shots that last between 15 to 45 seconds!

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Gear-wise, I don’t use much. I mainly use just the camera and a light hand-me-down tripod from my dad. No remote control, no star tracker. A simple combination of gear can be minimal but powerful, and it’s precisely the form factor of the E-M5 that inspires me to explore and not be weighed down by bulk. People who travel a lot with their SLRs, lenses and tripods will know very well! The E-M5 is by no means the best camera to capture night sky shots (which I will explain later). There are cameras with better sensors, better noise control, and with wider and faster lenses. But the best cameras for the job would cost a ton, weigh a ton and would not have inspired me to go to places like the E-M5 did. To go to these secluded places dark enough for night sky shots, you’ll need to fill your bag with food and water supplies, warm clothing, flashlights, your camping gear IN ADDITION TO your regular camera gear. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. If I had any of the SLRs instead of a smaller one like the E-M5, it’s not that I won’t have the camera with me in the wilderness. I wouldn’t even BE in the wilderness!

The E-M5 is not without its shortcomings, however. The more I shot the more apparent the weaknesses of the E-M5 became. For one, the noise levels from the sensor gets unbearable at high ISOs, even starting form ISO 640 onwards. Noise grains will start competing with the stars and the photo becomes as busy as a flea market. I have to always keep it below ISO 800, and preferably below ISO 400, which puts the camera at a significant disadvantage. With low ISO you need longer exposure times to compensate, and if exposure times are too long, you start having star trails which is not what I’m after. I can compensate with a star tracker on my tripod, but this will add weight, and the interest at this point is to take both sky and landscape together.

Second problem is that there isn’t a wide enough/fast enough lens available in the micro four thirds category for landscape astrophotography. It’s a niche market I know, but the 12mm f2.0 is the only lens that is wide enough and fast enough for this use. I can’t help but wish for something wider and just as fast, if not faster. This brings us to the third problem, the 12mm f2.0 lens. In manual focus mode when you bring the dial to infinity, IT’S NOT ACTUALLY INFINITY. It actually goes past infinity and you’ll realise that the stars becomes out of focus. You have to bring it back a notch until the red line points between the infinity mark and 3m mark for it to be truly infinity. Moving the camera constantly in pitch darkness makes life a little fiddly having to check the focus ring every single time before I press the shutter.

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But given the current capability of the E-M5, I am extremely happy with it If I had the money to spare, would I get another camera system to take better landscape astrophotography photos? I’m not sure. Beyond imaging capability, a camera also has to give you inspiration, an intangible pull, to go out and do the things you normally don’t have the motivation for. The E-M5 did just that. Sure it may struggle a bit under extreme conditions, but this is the camera that first brought me out to the beautiful world to enjoy. It’s a camera that made me want to trek my way for kilometres to the darkest areas and reach the best views I could find, and spend hours under the stars enjoying how majestic this world (and universe) could be. By giving it the right attention and right conditions, it’s a camera that can undoubtedly thrive and I cannot imagine doing this with another camera.

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Back in September Olympus Australia ran a small competition for OM-D lovers to make videos to show why they love their OM-Ds. Made one myself in my bedroom with nothing but a flashlight for lighting. This video didn’t win me anything but it’s a piece of work that shows my love for this camera. Hope it resonates with some of you too.

Jan 142014
 

Let’s get high with a Leica M7

By Nino

Hey Steve,

I stumbled over to your site a while back and I must say I’m impressed how much effort you put into your site. It’s kind a hard to miss your site if you converted to be a Leica shooter and since sharing is caring, I thought maybe I can contribute some photographs of our latest adventure. a trip to Peru, to the cordillera blanca to be precise. The goal was to climb our first 6000 meter peak all by ourselves. No guide, no donkeys, no nothing. Just the gear we bring from home. Why? Well both of us read a book about an english man who broke a leg in the cordillera blanca and almost died, ever since we knew we would have to go one day. Chris and me haven’t traveled together in quite a while and we had a few too many beer that evening, when we booked the plane tickets.  It was set – we had to go.

Whenever I go climbing it is a no brainer to bring my beloved M7. first of all it’s a joy to shoot with and it’s built like a tank, so I don’t need to worry about breaking it. I usually carry my camera round my neck, instead in a bag. I need to be able to take a picture fast, otherwise I’ll be slowing down my partners. and I can be sure that a picture usually doesn’t present itself when I’m standing comfortable on a ledge. most of the time I stand in the middle of a huge face, and certainly don’t want to fiddle around with my bag, and risking dropping something. Anything I drop is gone for ever and the risk of falling my self gets bigger too. But wearing the camera around the neck is a risk for the camera, one time I was in lead on a wet patch of rock and I fell. It was a fall of about 6 meters sidewise against a wall, not a biggy but the swing gave my camera a spin, it slid of my back and it hit the wall too. So a camera built like a tank comes in very handy.

Just a few weeks before we left to Peru I was able to score a Summicron 90mm in a second-hand shop, to be honest I didn’t even have the time to run a proper test with it before leaving, so I was excited to see how it would handle in the mountains. I took a 28mm and a 50mm too. The 50 is my walk around lens and the 28 usually is in a belt pocket for quick access when I need it. I was surprised how often I would mount the 90 on my camera, even though I had to keep it in my top compartment of my backpack it would just get me so close to the mountains and most of the time gave me a perfect frame as I wanted it. That lens certainly never get’s left behind anymore but as it is if you’re shooting analog, use a lens you never used before, don’t trust the local labs and are on the road for 3 months, I got so nervous one month into the trip that there wouldn’t be any usable pictures. What if the camera was leaking, what if the lens has faults, what if the hood on the 50 is actually getting into the picture (it has a huge ding on it from an other climb). You can’t imagine how relieved I was when I got the pictures back from the lab.

So here is 3 pictures from the trip, a little bit of everything, one from each lens.

 

Summarit 28mm, from one of the hikes up to one of the few base camps. shot with a really dark nd filter. 

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Zeiss 50mm 1.5, a little kid I met on the streets of Huaraz.

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Summicron 90mm, cayesh from one of our acclimatization tours. this one definitely made the hotlist for a future climb!

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hope you enjoy them.

take care and keep up the good work,

Nino

p.s. we made the 6000 meter mark the story can be found on our site, just follow the link http://www.psychos.org/category/lets-get-high/

http://somewheresomewhen.tumblr.com

http://psychos.org

Jan 032014
 
Puerto Rico, India, Family… 2013 & the Leica M240
By Bob Boyd

Hey Steve,

2013 was a very busy year for me. Lots of work. Lots of travel. We took a family trip to beautiful Puerto Rico in July (our first ever outside the states as a family) and then I had the opportunity to return to India this past fall to document some mission work in the field. I’ve shot both an M and an SLR for the last 5 years but for personal work, it’s almost always the M. I made the decision to jump to the M240 early – mainly because of the ISO limitations of the M9 – and was fortunate enough to get an early copy last spring through my longtime Leica dealer, Ken Hansen.

I thought I would share some of my favorite images from this past year with a brief description.

Here’s to a great 2014 for you and your site!

All the best,

Bob Boyd

www.bobboyd.net

A bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico. (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

Bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico

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Paths… (Left) a path of doorways at Fort El Morro and (right) Two brothers walk along the beach at sunset in, Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

Paths...

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Coast Guard boat at sunrise near the ferry for Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Coast Guard at sunrise

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Ocean play at sunset… Isle of Culebra, Puerto Rico (50mm Lux ASPH)

Ocean play at sunset...

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Graffitied Tank… The kids inspect an old rusted out tank on the beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Graffitied tank

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Room with a View… Windows of a watchtower open to a beautiful scenic view in the Puerto Rican rainforest of El Yunque.  (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

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Fire in the sky… A firey sunset illuminates the post-rain mist on the mountainsides in Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

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Amritsar, India… A Sikh woman bows in the middle of tourists at the entrance of Harmandir Sahib – the “Golden Temple”. (50mm Lux ASPH)

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A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. (50mm Lux ASPH)

A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.

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A Sikh man in Amritsar, India (right) and a Christian woman in Punjab, India (left). (50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit/ISO6400 (r)

Common Differences...

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Indian Corridors… (Left) Golden sunset light pours into a market area in Amritsar, India. (Right) A mother walks her children to the village school bus stop.

(50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit (r))

Indian Corridors...

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A remote village area. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

A remote village area. Punjab, India

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Two young boys playing in a village in Punjab, India.
(50mm Lux ASPH)

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An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India. (50mm Lux ASPH)

An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India.
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Brick Factory A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India.

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Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India.

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A Mother’s love and pride on display as she holds her child. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Mother and child. Punjab, India

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Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India.

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Village street scene. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

Village street scene. Punjab, India

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A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India

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Market traffic… Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Market traffic.  Punjab, India

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I’ll end on one last personal image… My wife visiting her 88 year old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. (50mm Lux ASPH)

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Dec 132013
 

Friday Film: One lens, One roll

by Ibraar Hussain

Hi Steve,

It’s been a good year, 2013 has almost rushed past and Christmas is on its way now, so need to get the shopping done and make do the preparations! :)

I’ve been out and about and have thoroughly enjoyed my (limited) photography this past Summer, and am looking forward to the Winter being a short one.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of the reviews and contributions on your site! Been absolutely Great!

In response to many people who assume stevehuffphoto.com is solely a ‘Gear Site’ – I’d like to stress how wrong they are! Steve, your site is The Best photography related on the Web, by a huge margin, and sure it involves Gear and new stuff people want to read about, but it’s all encompassing – showcases older Film stuff, Art, technique and lucky for those to be published – some great photography of all sorts! (Thanks Ibraar! – Steve)

I’d like to finish off the year with a sort of Inspiration. The 23rd of November was probably the best time to see some Autumnal Fall colours here in Epping Forest in Essex on the outskirts of London.

So I took an afternoon stroll through my favourite woods armed with a Rolleiflex 6008i, a Rollei 80mm HFT Planar lens and one roll of Agfa Ultra 50 with 12 Exposures to see whether I could give myself a One Lens, One Roll Challenge to capture the colour, flavour and atmosphere of the passing of the year and the last display before the leaves vanish and Winter takes over.

I had a great walk and needless to say every one of my 12 exposures were ‘keepers’ (well, keepers to me anyway) and I have a nice set of 4×4 inch prints in small square frames which I’ve mounted – of the following 6 pictures I’d like to share with everyone here and perhaps inspire others to take a similar walk with similar intentions and equipment – or a challenge for Digital shooters to shoot with 1 lens and to shoot 12 pictures and ALL 12 have to be keepers! Let’s see how people get on :)

Regards

Ibbs

Ps. I’d include the other 6 here but you’re probably bored stiff of trees! :)

1 6 3a 6 11 5

Dec 112013
 

titlejames2

Around the World with the Sony Nex 7 and the Metabones Speedbooster

By James Vanderpool – His website is HERE, his Facebook is HERE

Hello all. I’ve been a fan of Steve’s site for a while, among others. I’ve always liked his real world reviews, and one thing that seems to not have many reviews in terms of photography is the speed booster from Metabones. (The vanilla way to get full frame in mirrorless!) I got the Nex 7 in about July of last year and had been using it almost weekly on photo trips. Though I was mostly pleased with the camera, there were a few things I was unhappy with like the low light performance and APS-C cropping of my all manual full frame lenses. When this adapter came out, I was extremely excited and purchased it almost immediately. Some things turned out like I expected, but there were a few surprises.

The very first time I used this adapter was shooting an event for a Roller Derby team. The adapter really came in handy that day, because the scrimmage was indoors and light was fading fast. I was able to get shots at much lower ISOs than I thought possible.

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One thing that did surprise me was the focusing. When I first got my adapter it couldn’t focus any lenses to infinity. Though I had read it about it online in EOS HD’s preview of the Metabones adapter, I hadn’t thought it would make it to the final product. This was really annoying, actually, as the farthest away I could focus was about 15 feet! (Which is why I’m almost stepping in on the action in all of my shots there, haha.)

The next day, I had the opportunity to be an assistant on a portrait shoot for the Derby team. The adapter really felt better suited for this sort of work. I could get in real close to get some amazing shots, and it worked wonders for isolating the subjects. You can see in two of my shots below that I also appreciated the extra space it gave me over a standard APS-C adapter.

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It took me a while to figure out how to properly adjust my adapter. To fix it: I had to 1) find tiny screwdrivers, 2) guess and test. Both steps took a few days, but number 2 was particularly difficult. The biggest problem was remembering that there wouldn’t be as much detail in landscapes (my testing method) as there would be in the standard adapter. When I remembered this, I checked my 35-70 zoom at 35mm with the standard adapter against my 50mm with the Metabones. They matched up, mostly. Since I don’t want to take up all Steve’s storage space, I won’t show all the photos I took but there are a few good examples of low light, landscapes, and street you should see. (Demonstrating speed, wide-angle, and ability to focus in an unstaged environment.)

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35-70 3.4 1/400 100 

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The next place I went to in my travels was Shanghai. Truthfully, I was only there for a 24 hour layover. But when I got an offer I proffered my wallet and went on a tour. (When was I going to be in Shanghai again?) I only took along my 50 1.4 for this trip. No tripods, no wider angled lenses. I had a lot of landscape shots, and a few street. I spent the most time (about two hours) in the Shanghai Pearl. When I got to the top I really wished for my tripod, but so it goes. Make do.

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I was able to stay in San Francisco for quite a while after I got back on account on free-living space. It is, to my mind, the perfect city for photography. You can walk anywhere and everywhere is beautiful, has character, and is full of history. I wish I could live there and photograph forever, but alas, it’s a pretty big investment to live there with no job already lined up. I’ll have to content myself with images for now and plan to visit again in the future.

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So by now you’ve seen the ISO, the shutter speed, and the lenses I use. I tried to keep ISO below 200 when possible, but I also tend to use my camera on shutter priority when not shooting landscapes. Before I get a bit deeper into the pros and cons of this adapter, I wanted to be sure you saw the pictures I shot with it. Though I may not be as talented as some of the posters on this site, I’d like to offer these as proof that yes, the Metabones does give your APS-C camera most of the characteristics of a full frame. Yes, you can take good pictures.

Now, for you detail oriented types.

Ergonomics

You know what my second favorite thing about this adapter’s ergonomics is? It’s small. With my 50 1.4 on the Nex 7, it’s barely larger than the 24 1.8 E-mount I started with. Considering that A) it gives a full frame field of view, and that B) on the Metabones adapter, it’s effectively f/1 in terms of light gathering (but not depth of field!) that is quite an incredible feat. Even my 35-70 3.4 is APS-C sized when you consider that it’s about an 24-50 f2.3 equivalent. Eat your heart out Sigma! (Only 17.6 oz, compared to the Sigma 18-35′s 28.8.)

My favorite thing about this adapter’s ergonomics is the tripod mount on the adapter. It is incredibly sturdy, so you can mount other accessories on an accessory. Madness! My personal favorite is my L-bracket from Really Right Stuff. Why not just mount it on the camera? Well, unless you have really expensive tripods you will always have a bit of drop between when you lock the camera into place on the tripod and when you let it go to take the pictures. This is especially a problem using the Nex 7 with my Contax lenses, as they’re often heavier than the camera. (I suppose with light enough lenses that wouldn’t be a problem, but then you wouldn’t be considering this article would you?) By attaching the camera to the tripod at the adapter instead of the camera, you change the center of gravity and make focusing much easier.

What bugs me, ergonomics-wise? Well, I can’t put my camera in the bag with the L-bracket attached. Time to bust out the Alan wrench!

Resolution

Now for the details! If you read the white paper, or the lens rentals blog post about the adapter you’ll know that resolution is better in the center with pretty much any lens. Also with any lens, it’s worse in the corners. Well, how bad? Have you noticed it?

At lower apertures, I wouldn’t focus anywhere near infinity. I’ve had a few photos I had to throw away because the corners were bad enough to distract from the image. However, this problem mostly clears itself up at higher apertures. Not entirely, but I don’t think you noticed and I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to print large. Here’s one last picture of San Francisco, followed by a ~90% crop at f/8.

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So, if you’re worried about corner softness just remember this: it’s only a few blades of grass.

Focusing

After the initial troubles with infinity, I found this was easier to focus on my Nex 7 than the standard Novoflex adapter due to the increased control over depth of field. In generous light, I don’t even need to use focus magnification to get critical focus. When the light isn’t so generous (admittedly 80% of the time) I still need to use focus magnification, but it’s a quicker process of getting in range before I activate my focus magnification function.

That being said, this will not make it easy to focus on fast-moving subjects like athletes, or even subjects just moving at street speed. It takes time, practice, and in the case of sports hundreds of exposures. (With the 50 1.4. My 100-300 4.5-5.6 was much easier to focus, but that is telephoto lenses, smaller apertures, and an APS-C depth of field.) Even though this allows you to use film lenses with most of their functions intact from 35mm it will not replace a split prism or rangefinder focusing system, let alone pro level phase detection autofocus. (For pro phase detect, think Canon 1 DX/C.)

Compatibility

My one true disappointment with this adapter was that it wasn’t compatible with all of my Contax lenses. My 100-300 4.5-5.6, a beautiful (if massive) lens had stabilizing metal flanges coming from the lens mount. Due to the glass elements of the Metabones adapter, this was impossible to mount. Other large lenses might run into the same problems.

Protection

Those same lens elements that stop me from mounting my 100-300 lens also protect my sensor from harm. A silver lining, indeed.

Well, in a little over 1500 words now I’ve told you everything I know how to tell you about my adapter, and a little bit about the travels I took it through. Feel free to ask me any questions about the adapter I didn’t already think to answer, or give me comments or criticism about some of my photos. I’m still learning.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the article!

Dec 092013
 

The Sony NEX-7 Takes Flight

by Bob Towery – 

www.dreamtomorrowblog.com

For the past three years, I have been taking my family to Ixtapa/Zihautanejo, Mexico, for a January vacation. We stay in a beautiful condo right on the beach, and for two weeks life could not get any more idyllic.

The first year we went, I did get out one day to attempt some serious photography. I hired a taxi driver and said “take me out to the country, where there aren’t any tourists!” I did enjoy this, and got some interesting local people shots, but after doing so realized this was probably sort of a dangerous thing to do.

So the last two years I just took my most basic kit, a Sony NEX-7 and the 18-200mm zoom. This lens is obviously slow and a real compromise, but realistically I’m just looking to get some vacation snaps, right?

Sun Splash

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This is the kind of “postcard” sort of shots that I would get. Nothing wrong with that. Except that I got frustrated. Here I was in this beautiful place, and I’m making post cards? Isn’t there something more? That night I went to bed (after a few rum “painkillers”) trying to imagine what I could put together photographically.

The next morning, as is my custom, I went for a walk on the beach. The entire round trip is four miles, so it’s pretty nice. As I was turning the door handle to leave, I realized I didn’t have my camera. “Why bother?” was my first thought. More postcards? But something told me I should grab it anyway and I did. (My grandmother always said: play your hunches.)

I walked along and tried to quiet my busy mind. Although on vacation, my thoughts turn to work, the other various things that occupy my life. I had the Sony on a shoulder strap, and my hand on the body to keep it from flailing around as I trudged through the morning’s wet sand.

All of a sudden a pelican appeared to my left, in my peripheral vision. As I swung the camera up to my face, I depressed the shutter to awaken it. I kept my left eye on the pelican and moving the camera quickly to try to get the bird framed I was totally startled. The EVF had this smeared image that lasted for a little over a second. My brain was totally confused as I still had both eyes opened, but I had seen this completely strange and unreal view in my right eye.

And at that second I recalled my dream, sometime during the previous night. Flight. I often dream of flying. Sometimes, it’s like a Superman thing. I take two steps downhill and I’m airborne. Most often though I’m in some kind of wacky flying craft. A platform, something like out of the land based Star Wars crafts. It’s nearly always semi-dark and I float along over a lit up city, small forests, that kind of thing. I have done a lot of private flying, and a private pilot’s nemesis, power lines, often appear in my dreams.

But not last night. No, I was a bird. Not just any bird, evidently, as the images from the dream began to appear in my brain. They were such a mess that I just sat down on the sand, closed my eyes, listened to the crashing Pacific Ocean waves and marveled at the dream replay. This was perhaps a jungle bird, a flying sasquatch. From another time. Slow, maybe just having one eye, as the colors and lack of acuity were so surreal. I considered that this bird every so often emerges from the jungle, only early or late, to briefly reconnect with the Ocean and the creatures along the shore.

This bird would take in the modern birds, faster, more refined, able to see right through the water to catch fish. And those strange upright creatures without wings. Unbelievably fast and loud creatures which carry the upright beings on their back. Once in a while, even a creature that had not changed that much from the prehistoric times, something I could recognize.

These images from my dream were different from I had ever dreamt before, and as I picked myself up from the sand I determined to attempt to make images that week that would represent these strange visions.

Over the course of the next few miles along the beach I developed the idea that I would use a slow shutter, early and late in the day, and create my version of this ancient being’s vision. Processing in Lightroom 5 completed the recreation.

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In closing, I’d like to make a brief point. To the extent I was successful, I believe it was mainly because after the dream, I was shooting with a real purpose. I intended to make certain types of images. I find I create much more compelling images when I shoot with a purpose, as opposed to “seeing what I can find.” This particular theme was pretty complex, but it doesn’t have to be. You can say “today I’m going to shoot yellow!” Or shadows, or only looking down or up. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but having a purpose orients our brain to find subject matter in a more interesting way.

Bob Towery – www.dreamtomorrowblog.com

 

Nov 132013
 

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Burning Man Portrait Report

by Jordan Blackman – His website is HERE

I was riding shotgun in a pickup truck for twelve hours, biting my nails as we lumbered across the American West. Between the bed of the truck and the U-Haul trailer hitched up to it, there was easily a two bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff with us. But we weren’t headed to an apartment. We were going deep into the dust of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

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Now, you’ve probably heard about Burning Man, and maybe you’ve even been. But I never had, and I was anxious about going. I’d heard stories about dangerous dust storms, outrageous orgies, deviant witchcraft and more. Obviously, I’d need to bring a camera and the biggest memory card I could get my hands on.

Unfortunately, my OM-D EM5 had just been stolen. I had shot with that little Olympus for over a year, and paired with the Panny 20mm it really knocked my socks off. I love that camera. But still, I decided I’d try something different. After an obscene amount of internet “research” I picked up a Sony NEX-6. I liked the video quality and price, and I felt that it would be fun and educational to work a new sensor size. Burning Man was going to be my first chance to really use the Sony and I really wasn’t sure what to expect… from the event or from the camera.

Now, one of the big differences between the two cameras is the weather sealing. OMD has it, NEX doesn’t. Burning Man is famously dusty, and so I rigged a plastic bag to keep out those tiny sensor demons. It worked really well, especially with the EFV exposed, as you can see from the pic. The downside was that I was committed to a single lens for the entire week. I chose the Sony SEL35f18.

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Upon arrival at Black Rock City, the name of the temporary town erected in the desert each year for Burning man, I was completely overwhelmed. The expanse of light and art, the creativity on display, the diversity of color and costume… it was more than I could take in. Burning Man defeats one’s power’s of perception, let alone observation. I quickly decided to focus on portraiture for the following reasons:

1. It would keep me focused, preventing overwhelm.

2. It seemed a reasonable task for the 50mm equivalent lens I had.

3. Portraits could be gifts, and gifts are an important part of Burning Man culture.

4. Everyone else would be shooting the giant art installations anyway, and who needs another picture of the man burning?

And so, every day I walked across the dust and invited strangers to have their portraits taken. Here are some of those photos. Below the pictures, I’ll share some thoughts about the NEX-6, some 2000 captures later.

So, what did I think about the NEX-6 compared to the OM-D? They are both great cameras, and I recommend them both. With the NEX-6, when you nail the shot, you get an amazing RAW file, better than the OMD’s. But, it’s harder to nail the shot and then it takes more adjustments to get the image you want from the RAW. With the OMD I had more keepers and less work to do in Lightroom. I think the keepers come from the stabilization and the better focus system. The NEX-6 forces me to slow down and think more both during exposure and development phases. I consider this a good thing for my growth as a photographer. And when you take the time you get some remarkable results.

If you shoot video, the NEX-6 can produce absolutely stunning footage, albeit without the OMD’s excellent stabilization. I consider 60fps a must for video since the conformed footage looks so great at 24fps. If the community is interested I am happy to write up a long comparison with the pros of each as there is much more to be said on this. The short version is, I’m planning to stick shooting with the NEX-6 until a camera arrives with 5-axis stabilization and the video features I want.

As for Burning Man, I’m no longer nervous. I’ll be heading back whenever I have the chance. My overwhelmed feeling has turned to gratefulness. My anxiety into anticipation. I hope to continue my portrait project for many years to come.

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Nov 122013
 

Steve,

I’ve never really been a landscape kind of guy. Let’s just say that I wasn’t until my wife and I spent a week in Moab, Utah.

I’ve always been into the outdoors. I was eleven years old the first time my folks dropped my twin brother and I off in the woods and said “Hike to your aunt’s house if you get into trouble. Meet us at this spot in a week.” It was the mid 1980′s and parents had much more freedom and didn’t have to worry regarding public criticism from the media as they do today.

Backpacking and hiking have always been a passion in my life. Other outdoor hobbies have followed. I do not bring many new hobbies into my life as it is already full and I’m not willing to lessen the time with loves I already have.

The great thing about photography is that it does not interfere with the activities that I do or the adventures that I take. It compliments them.

My love and I always take at least one week-long outdoor trip per year. We fill the rest of the year with weekend trips as one week a year isn’t enough for us. On occasion I sleep out in the back yard for a quick fix.

While planning for the Moab trip my wife asked “Are you going to take some landscapes for me?” My love doesn’t feel as much passion as I do for street photography or my attempts at documentary style visual story telling. I used this opportunity to reply back “I am. But….. if we want to print the photos big I should probably invest in a wide-angle for my M9.” I still can’t believe that she agreed without hesitation or question.

I ended up purchasing a Voigtlander 28mm Ultron f2. I made sure that I went to your site and clicked the link to B&H for the purchase. I visit your site everyday and want to give back.

I must say that after spending a week in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park I will definitely look forward to taking more landscapes. On a side note, many men ask how I get my wife to head out into the wilderness for a week at a time. I always respond…… Keep her gear light and comfortable. Keep her warm. Don’t forget to hold hands and snuggle in the tent. Tell her you love her.

A Leica M seems to be the perfect on trail, off the grid, landscape camera and here’s why I feel so:

SIZE: No explanation is really needed. Pack a DSLR on the trail with a battery grip attached and you’ll understand. On the trail no one has anything to prove. Carrying a heavy pack doesn’t make you any more tough. Have a good time. Pack light and enjoy the trip.

OPTICS: Corner sharpness? Micro contrast? I don’t really think about these concepts as I normally only care about composition and light when shooting street or documentary style. This matters when printing landscapes. I look at the landscapes I took during this trip and don’t really focus on a single subject but admire the composition as a whole. I actually look into the corners and into the details of the rocks. The quality from the M9 and M lenses amaze me.

TRIPOD: What are those for? With no mirror slap I shoot handheld. I’ve been known to shoot as slow as 1/8 of a second with my M9 in a dark bar while having pints with friends. I’m amazed that the photos actually turn out pretty sharp. I actually take a Zipshot Micro for the occasional self-portrait when on the trail. We occasionally run into people when out and about. When people ask to take our photo for us I’m nice, oblige, and hand them the camera. But….. we all know where that gets us.

CONNECTION: My buddy has a great saying “It feels right.” When I’m on the trail with a pack on, the pack feels apart of me. It feels right. When I’m on stage my guitar feels apart of me. It feels right. I hold a rangefinder to my eye with a finger on the shutter release. It feels right. Shooting a manual rangefinder feels pure. That’s also why I head out on the trail. It feels pure.

Attached are several photos from our trip. All photos were processed using Lightroom 4. I couldn’t resist converting them to black and white. I couldn’t get Ansel’s photos out of my head. My only two M lenses are a VC 28 mm Ultron and a 50 mm Summicron V4. I used both for these shots.

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You can view more of the photos at:

www.photographsbyben.com

www.photographsbybenmiller.tumblr.com

www.facebook.com/photographsbybenmiller

Thank you for keeping such a wonderful website and giving all of us something to look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben

Oct 172013
 

Finding A Way Forward

By Jason Howe 

Hi Steve

I’m back again, this time with a bit of an introspective along with another slice of New Zealand. Over the last couple of years I’ve been dealing with a growing frustration, it’s one which I’m sure many other hobbyist photographers will be able to relate to.

I love capturing images of my family and the things we do together, in the past I’ve been able to supplement that by grabbing fleeting photographic opportunities on trips and holidays etc.

But………..It’s no longer enough to make do with the photographic opportunities that occur in everyday life, I want more…….I want to put myself in unfamiliar surroundings, I want to be out of my comfort zone, now clearly I won’t achieve that in NZ I realise that and next year I’ll be looking at an extended trip abroad to see how I fair. With all that in mind I decided I’d head off to the South Island alone for a couple of weeks, a dummy run of sorts, just me and the camera, well cameras!

I’ve shared a selection of my favourite digital and film images from the trip along with some reflections.

 

The Road Less Traveled – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1- Portra 400

1. The Road Less Travelled

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The Gathering Storm – Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph – Red 091 8x Filter

I’ve not sharpened this image, in the right light this lens and camera combination can deliver images that are almost too sharp.

2. The Gathering Storm

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Cockpit – Leica M9 – 90mm Summicron f/2

3. Cockpit

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The Remarkables – Leica M Monochrom. 90mm Summicron f/2

Zone focusing with the 90mm Summicron f/2 still requires a degree of patience, especially when waiting for seagulls to align themselves in to a formation of your liking!! I’m really warming to the 90mm focal length and the options it gives you, I have the version III from 1984 and I’m delighted with it.

4. The Remarkables

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Bedfords – Leica M6, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph (Portra 400)

5. Bedfords

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Catenary Ripples – Leica M Monochrom, 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

6. Catenary Ripples

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Congregation of One – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 – Portra 400

My travels took me to Christchurch, I was both shocked and amazed at the devastation even two and a half years after the earthquake rocked the city, I captured this old guy in a moments reflection at the locked gates of the cities ruined cathedral.

7. Congregation of One

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Silence of the Lambs – Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph

8. Silence of the lambs

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The Forsaken – Leica M9, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph (VSCO FILM 01)

I’m just starting to play with VSCO FILM 01 presets and whilst I’ve not used them extensively I can already see them fitting in to my post processing. Here I’ve worked around the Portra 400 preset.

9. The Forsaken

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Southern Exposure – Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph – ND1.8 Filter

10. Southern Exposure

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Beauty in the Ordinary Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 – Portra 400

11. Beauty in the Ordinary

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Vanishing Point – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 – Portra 400

12. Vanishing Point

 

Anyone remotely familiar with New Zealand will know this is in the North Island, I’d taken one shot on the roll of Portra that was already loaded in my M6 so it’s included here :-)

Now I’ve had time to reflect on the trip it’s clear that I learnt a few useful lessons and also a little about myself.

In no particular order -

Being away from family was more difficult that I thought, that said, no pain, no gain.

You can do too much, by that I mean I visited too many places, spending more time in fewer locations is better.

I love shooting film and I need to trust myself more and rely a little less on the digital options.

I don’t like the idea of planning too far ahead when I’m out with the camera, it’s fun to see what transpires. Whilst that is fine, I have realised the importance of having a plan A and B up your sleeve, just in case.

I always carry too much gear, I know it, somehow I need to narrow that down to two bodies and two lenses for next year, where I ultimately end up will have a bearing on that decision.

Whilst travel is great I’ve known the importance of having long-term photographic projects for a considerable amount of time, I think this trip really allowed me to reflect on that, I have a couple of ideas in mind and need to action them.

Small trips in relatively familiar and comfortable surroundings aren’t lighting my fire, I feel like I’m repeating myself in my imagery and stalling in terms of progress. I must broaden my photographic horizons.

It’s not all about the photographs, you must savour the journey, one of my fondest memories from this trip was eating fresh Crayfish at the roadside whilst watching hundreds of seal pups playing in the ocean.

All the best, Jason.

Find Jason online: Website | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook

 

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