Sep 132011
 

It’s the photographer not the camera! Or is it?

You know I have been thinking and the more I think the more I realize that the old saying of “It’s the photographer, not the camera” is sort of BS. Well, kind of… Sure, someone who knows nothing about photography will not be able to create a work of art, but with the right camera and right lens that person could get much closer to producing a photo that will WOW those who look at it. Why do you think so many of us keep lusting after certain cameras and lenses?

Let me explain…

For years and years I have seen photographers say that it is not the gear that makes a good photo, its the person who is taking the photo that matters. I also always hear about famous photos from back in the day, and how cheap old film cameras were used to create those photos. Well, just think if those photographers back then had access to some the tools we have today?

Lets face it, Ansel Adams was a GREAT landscape photographer but he did so much darkroom work to his prints that the final outcome was nothing like what was on the negative. He had to do hours and hours of work in the darkroom AFTER he took the shot, basically using the technology he had back then to improve his photo. HIs compositions were spot on, sure…but if he were shooting today I would bet anything that he would be using some killer medium format digital back, others will disagree though.

Example…

Let’s say you are an experienced photographer and you own a decent camera… say, a Sony NEX-5. You want to go out and shoot a portrait photo. You go out and come back with something like this (click image for larger):

Now, the above photo is super cute thanks to the subject and it is also a nice quality image. But does it have any special qualities that would wow the normal Joe looking at your work? Not really, just a cute baby. Now let’s say we have the same guy shooting with something like a Leica M9, and they also go out to get a portrait of the same baby (click image for larger)…

Now, the same photographer used both the NEX and the M9 but the M9 is giving the more “wow” shot. Why is this? Well, it is the lens of course. The 50 Summilux ASPH to be exact. The Sony used the 18-55 kit zoom. But the Leica has the more WOW factor due to the shallow depth of field and great B&W rendering. It also has more emotion due to it’s lack of digital-itis (sony looks more digital to my eyes). Somehow this M9 combo seems to always create beautiful photographs. Slap that same lens on an M6 or M7 or MP and the same feel will shine through, even more so.

This 2nd shot shows right here that the equipment does indeed make a difference when shooting a photo and certain equipment can give you more WOW to your shots, though it does depend on the type of photo you are shooting and the look you are going after.

A photographer who has a point and shoot and wants to shoot an image like the ones above (portraits) would get much better results with the M9 and Lux or even a DSLR or Olympus E-P3. End of story. So, the gear does make a difference and it is not ALL the photographer though having a good eye will help you get great shots with whatever you are shooting with. Different gear does indeed bring on different looks, which is probably why so many of us keep chasing the latest and greatest.

So, the moral of the story is that owning a nice camera with a nice lens can help to take better photos not only because you will get better quality but also because something like an M9 or Fuji X100 can inspire you to do more with it. Sure, if you have experience and “the eye” then you know what to look for but these days almost anyone with enough cash to buy a decent camera can pump out decent photos, even EXCELLENT photos.

Now I am not saying that everyone needs to run out an buy an M9 as that would be ridiculous. You can get amazing photos with almost any of the cameras out today, even an iPhone but I just wanted to jot down my thoughts while I sit here at the Chicago Airport waiting for my delayed plane :)

I’m sure this article will get loads of conflicting comments but fact is fact! It is not always the photographer because depending on the type of shot you want, certain cameras and lenses do indeed make a difference. Then again, I took both photos and the argument has always been that a great camera will not make a bad photographer better. THAT is a fact as well :) Thanks for reading!

Sep 132011
 

After the last crazy comparison the other day many Leica owners complained that I should not and could not compare a Leica JPEG to a NEX-5n JPEG. Some e-mailed me in anger when all I did was produce a fair JPEG comparison that showed how each camera would pump out a JPEG with the same lens and aperture. It was indeed fair but all of us Leica M9 owners KNOW that the JPEG engine is not the greatest (though it is not really that bad).

I was asked by at least 20 of you to post a Leica M9 processed RAW file next to a NEX-5n out of camera JPEG. While this is not a fair comparison at all to the NEX-5n you can see the richness of the M9 file here. Both are full size and the 5n is direct out of camera with no tweaks at all. The M9 RAW file had the exposure taken down a notch in the RAW conversion.

So click on each image for the full size file. As soon as I get RAW support for the 5N, I will do a RAW comparison between both to satisfy those who have been asking .

On another note, I am traveling home today back to Phoenix AZ and will have a few cool posts up this week so check back later today and all week for more!

The M9P and 50 – click image for full size file

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The NEX-5n out of camera JPEG with the 50 – NEX was on the VIVID setting

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Now just to be clear – the Leica file was shot at 2.8 (exif says f/2 but it’s never accurate with the M9) and the NEX was shot at f/4 so this is not only NOT fair for the fact that the M9 was a RAW file, but the NEX was stopped down a bit. SO this is a flawed comparison all the way! BUT!! You can get an idea of how gorgeous the M9 RAW files come out. At least I think so. If the NEX RAW conversions are as good as the M9…look out.

BTW, I stood in the same spot so you could see the effect that the crop sensor has on the 50mm focal length .Enjoy!

Sep 102011
 

Crazy Comparison – Sony NEX-5n and Leica M9 Image Quality!

Ok everyone, here it is! You know I have been shooting the Sony NEX-5n with my Leica 50 Lux ASPH via an adapter but I also have been shooting with my M9P as well. You all know I LOVE MY LEICA M9P and I will be the first to say it right now, the Sony NEX-5n feels like a toy in comparison when held in the hand. There is nothing quite like the feel of the M9 and this “Crazy Comparison” will be based ONLY on image quality of the out of camera JPEGS. Why no RAW? Well, there is no real support for the NEX-5n RAW files yet and I only use Lightroom and Photoshop these days.

Also, all of us M9 users know that it’s weak link is its JPEG output and it shines with RAW, so this comparison is basically just to give an idea of what the output of both cameras are with JPEGS and to also show the difference between a full frame sensor and crop sensor. The M9 beats the NEX-5n in every way, make no mistake! The body, the build, the simplicity, the control, and the full frame sensor takes advantage of the glass and exploits its full qualities.

Keep in mind though, for all of the differences in build, size, and control the NEX-5n is 10X less expensive and the image output is not that far off at all from the M9. When there is full RAW support I expect the same thing really as the 5n’s JPEG output is VERY good so its RAW files will be even better.

So, can the 5n be called the poor mans Leica M9? In my opinion NO, because it is a totally different kind of camera. The M9 is a rangefinder and you shoot with it in a totally different style. So the NEX-5n will never give you the RF experience. The NEX-7 will bring y ou a step closer with a slightly larger body, more dials for manual controls, built in EVF, etc and in fact, The NEX-7 will be a game changer, mark my words! I feel something like a NEX-7 with Leica glass with not only be a joy to shoot, but also give better quality than an M8 with the same lenses. But, the 7 will also be a different experience than shooting an RF and if you are an RF person, and love to shoot an RF neither of the new Sonys will cut it.

Me, I see the 5n or even better the NEX-7 as a GREAT backup to the M8 or M9 and for those who do not want the “RF” experience, the 5n and the upcoming 7 will be fantastic options for those looking for a high quality body for their Leica glass. The Ricoh GXR is also coming but I feel the 7 will give a better user experience and even output though the GXR may pump out super sharp files due to lack of AA filter. I’m liking what I am seeing so far from the NEX and still am looking forward to the 7.

The quality in the 5n is there, and shooting with the EVF is quick and easy. See the full size comparison shots below:

1st up: The M9P and 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4 – Out of camera JPEG, AWB. Click image for full size file.

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2nd: The NEX-5n and 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4 – out of camera JPEG – AWB – Click image for full size

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The shot below is from the M9P, again with the 50 Summilux ASPH. 

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and the 5n and Summilux

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and one for fun with different lenses – Leica M9P and 50 SUMMITAR at f/2

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and the NEX-5n with the 50 Lux at 1.4

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Once again, the M9P is first – straight JPEG from camera – 50 1.4 at 1.4

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and the 5n with 50 lux at 1.4

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another one…1st up, Leica M9 and 50 Lux at 1.4

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and the 5n with the lux at 1.4

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Sep 092011
 

I’m traveling again! Some shots from the road with the M9 and NEX-5n!

Earlier in the week on Tuesday I left Phoenix, AZ for Chicago and met up with Bradley Graupner who is helping me set up the Chicago workshop on Sep 24th. I was able to meet with him and tour the space as well as check out where we will all be having morning coffee at Intelligentsia, and it was fantastic! If you want to get in on the Chicago workshop there is still 1-2 spaces left. Bradley also routed out a cool photo walk that takes us through some cool spots for not only street photography but scenic stuff as well. The day will be jam packed, guaranteed.

On Wednesday I left downtown Chicago and headed to visit my sister and my nephew who lived about 45 minutes away. It was hectic as always at her house but it was nice to visit. I shot a few frames of my nephew and his freinds with the NEX-5n and kit zoom.

Next three shots, My nephew Jack and friends with the 5n and 18-55

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once again, the 18-55 kit zoom in action on the 5n. This baby was so cute and only smiled when I pointed the camera at her. When I moved it away she cried!

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As most of you know, I am not a fan of zoom lenses but the 18-55 is about as good as any other kit zoom, if not better. It’s slow, and I wish it was smaller but it kicks the coating off of the 16mm, which I find VERY lackluster with the NEX-5n. The 16mm just does not produce nice looking images IMO with this camera, unless the copy I have is shoddy. They seem flat, lack color punch and have below average contrast. So the 18-55 I like. Maybe this is why Sony stopped offering the 16mm as a pack in lens with the 5n and upcoming 7. Hmmmm.

So after my sisters house I headed for Southern Illinois where my Mom lives. We had planned a trip into Kentucky to visit some family and take some photos up in the mountains so I charged up my batteries and took along the M9P and 50 Summilux as well as the NEX-5n and 16, 18-55 and Leica M Adapter.

I simply love using the Leica glass on the 5N and using the EVF. The focus peaking rocks (as I already stated in my NEX-5n review) and I am seeing quality just as good as I am getting out of the M9, but with a crop of course. Rich color, great sharpness, and super DR. The NEX and 50 Summilux ASPH is a great combo but so is the old $350 Summitar!

Below are a mix of images, some shot with the M9P and some with the 5n. I may post some side by side M9/5n shots tomorrow evening so check back for more! I have to get to bed now as it is getting late and I am getting an early start tomorrow for more driving and photography! Oh and If you have e-mailed me in the last 2-3 days and I have not responded, I will respond in the next 24 hours!

The next two are of my Mom with the 16mm/5n as we made a stop during our 7 hour drive to take a break…

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One of the roads as we entered the mountains…16mm 5/n

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I slapped the 1942 Leica 50 Summitar on the NEX-5n for this shot which seems a little oversharp (my fault)

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and the M9P comes out for a shot…

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The weather was grey, dreary and overcast. No sun, so magic light and it was also pretty chilly compared to Phoenix! The next few shots were all with the M9P and 50 Lux ASPH. All from RAW.

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What is also funny is as we were driving we saw all of these interesting signs :) (most NEX-5n and 16)

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and a few more random snapshots with the 5N. The cat shot was with the 50 Lux at 1.4 – JPEG

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With the 18-55

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18-55 again…

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…and one more with the 16mm which I edited with contrast and color boost.

Sep 072011
 

Hello everyone! I am in Chicago right now doing some organizing for the upcoming workshop on the 24th (which still has TWO spots available) and I took  visit to Central Camera where I found a used but mint condition Leica Digilux 1 with case and charger for only $129! I knew of this camera and have held one before but never owned one. Decided to but it just for nostalgic reasons. It is the camera  that preceded the Digilux 2 which has reached cult status in the Leica community.

So look for a fun classic review soon on this Leica classic. I’ll have more posts this week including a Sony NEX-5n side by side comparison for image quality against the Leica M9, both using Leica glass. Should be fun as I will be doing these tests up in the mountains of Kentucky! Stay tuned!

Sep 052011
 

The Sony NEX-5N Digital Camera Review

It’s a MONSTER full of features!

See my NEX-7 review HERE!

NOTE – EVERY image in this review was shot as a JPEG. At the time of this writing Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom does not support NEX-5n files. So every picture here was shot as a JPEG and all of the images here were shot with the 18-55 kit zoom, a few with the 16mm and some with a Leica lens via adapter. All Auto White Balance. Also, this is a long 7000 word real world review as I had quite a bit to say about the 5n. Enjoy and leave a comment below if you like!

Below: Video Overview

Ok, so the headline picture above is a break from the norm for my main title graphic but it DID grab your attention did it not? Haha. In fact that shot is a self portrait of yours truly taken with the NEX-5N and Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4. I was testing out my new $10 Halloween mask and was having some fun with the camera late one night. When I looked at the image and then looked at the specs of the NEX-5N it all made sense. There I was, looking like a monster and I shot this image with a camera that has so many features that it is an actual MONSTER of a tiny camera! A monster in the bang for the buck camera world. Yep, the Sony NEX-5N, after using it for a week or so has impressed me quite a bit with its abilities. This came at a time when I was almost ready to write off the whole NEX series after getting unsatisfactory color from my Old NEX-5 (after comparing with the Olympus E-P3).One thing is for sure,  these are Exciting times for us camera gear head nuts.

Now, without further ado, here is my MONSTER of a real world review!

Being a guy who loves photography AND the gear associated with it is a dangerous thing. A guy in my position gets to try out just about any camera gear I want. While I do not try everything (I AM only ONE guy and this site has a staff of ONE…ME) I do try what catches my eye. I am always aware of the new technology and new cameras. When I see one that gives me goosebumps I add it to my “MUST review list”. I admit, the 5n did not really give me goosebumps when it was announced but I was intrigued by Sony’s claims so I gave it a shot.

The NEX-5N and 18-55 Kit Zoom – out of camera JPEG – Vivid – ISO 2000 – Yes, 2000. Click for larger version.

THE NEX SERIES TAKES THE NEX STEP TO GREATNESS

When the original Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 were released there was a ton of hype not only from Sony, but from users as well. Sony had a ton of press on these cameras all because of the super slim design and large sensor. Sony were the 1st to take the APS-C sensor and pack it into a very TINY body that was capable of great performance. They also broke new ground with High ISO performance and I remember the NEX-3 and 5 were pretty special in this area. I did buy a NEX-5 when it was released and owned one up until a few weeks ago. I enjoyed the camera for about a year but when the new Olympus E-P3 came out with its new lenses and super fast speed I went back to Olympus yet again. Even though the E-P3 has a smaller sensor than the Sony NEX-5 I loved it for its style, its design, its new found performance all the way around, and most of all, the new lenses.

Back to the NEX, but my heart belongs to the 7

So here we go, not long after the E-P3 is in my hands and paid for I see Sony announce the NEX-C3, 5N and 7. The NEX-7 was the camera that REALLY tugged at my soul. There it was. 24 Megapixels, a built in OLED EVF, pro build but still compact, more dials for easy control…super HD video quality and even a new Zeiss 24 1.8 lens announcement. THIS is the camera I have been longing for…and for YEARS (THE NEX-7). Yes, I have my Leica M9 and will always have my M9 but as a take anywhere snapshot camera the Olympus E-P3 which is so quick and easy to use has taken over as my daily shooter. Lift and fire..so quick! I finally decided to save my Leica M9P for special moments or when I actually do paying photo jobs.

Oh yea, where was I? The NEX-7…that camera seems to have it all so when the 5N was announced along side of it I had no real interest. Why would I? The 7 had everything I wanted while the 5N seemed the same as  the old 5. Well, after getting a hold of the 5N I can say if this is any indication of what will come in the 7, “hold on to your britches”!

Sony has somehow taken the great performance of the NEX-5 and made it quite a bit better in many areas. The body style of the 5N is almost exactly the same as the old 5 with a few new snazzy cosmetic improvements like the dual colored on/off switch in silver and black and the shutter button seems to look and feel a little better as well. But as Sony said, the NEX-5N has improvements under the hood.

Check out two out of camera JPEGS at higher ISO below shot with the kit 18-55 Zoom. Yea, those are higher ISO images and you can click on them to see larger versions. Then I will get on to what is new with the NEX-5n.

What is new in the 5N? Let’s take a look:

  • The new 16.1 Megapixel Sensor – This sensor is all new and is shared in the new C3, but let me state RIGHT NOW…if you are in the market for a new NEX camera, do NOT buy the C3 unless you strongly prefer it’s grip. For $100 more you can get the 5N which trounces it in many areas. With that said, the new sensor in these cameras is pretty astonishing. It gives us plenty of resolution with a 4912X3264 image size. This is plenty of resolution for almost ANY need. I used to know a guy who shot billboards with a 4MP camera. 16.1 MP is enough for almost anyone, and the target market of this camera is everyone from 100% amateur to enthusiastic photo nut. What do these people take photos of? Their kids, flowers, their pets, themselves, vacations, landscapes… Yep, 16.1 Megapixels is plenty!  What is really improved with this sensor though is the color rendition. Quite simply put, it is gorgeous. Look at the ISO 1250 shot above of the fruit bowl, which is an out of camera JPEG shot with the kit zoom. The high ISO capabilities of the 5n are ridiculous for  this size of a camera. ISO 25,600 can be used in a pinch of you absolutely need the shot. 12,800 even better and 6400, no problem. This is an improvement over the past NEX-5, no question. This new sensor is a WINNING even more than Charlie Sheen.
  • The new touch screen LCD Panel – Sony added a touch screen to the NEX-5N but they did NOT add it to the C3. Will I use the touch screen? Probably not while shooting as it does not work as slickly as the E-P3 touch screen. With the sony you have to do a double tap to take a photo, with the Olympus you touch once and it focuses super fast and snaps the shot. I may use the touch screen while reviewing photos as it works like my trusty iPhone. More from Sony: Sony’s 3.0” Xtra Fine LCD™ monitor has 921K dots for superb resolution. The TruBlack™ screen includes a special resin layer to suppress internal reflections, increasing contrast compared to conventional LCDs. Sunny Weather mode boosts visibility even further in bright sunlight. Tilts down 45° and up 80° to frame high- and low-angle shots that would otherwise be hit-or-miss. Object Tracking AF can lock onto a specified object and maintain focus even as the subject moves. This hassle-free mode allows unpredictable subjects to stay in focus even while zooming. Letting you concentrate on the scene and composition without having to worry about focus. The subject on which to lock focus is easily selected via the touch screen or the center button of the control wheel.
  • Improved HD Movie mode – From Sonys Web Site: Record Full HD 1920×1080 video in a variety of frame rates from 60p for super smooth action to 24p for a more cinematic feel. The NEX-5N utilizes the AVCHD™ codec, the industry standard for high quality HD video capture, as well as the MP4 codec for easy upload to the web due to it’s smaller file size.
  • Worlds shortest shutter lag – In photography, shutter lag, or release time, is the delay between triggering the shutter by fully depressing the shutter button and when the photograph is actually recorded. By initiating the exposure electronically instead of with the traditional shutter mechanism, release time on the NEX-5N is reduced to just 20 milliseconds – helping you to capture the decisive moment.
  • 10 Frames Per Second – Capture the decisive moment in sports and get the ideal baby photo. Up to 10 fps continuous shooting at full 16.1 MP resolution. Standard continuous shooting speeds vary based upon shooting conditions and memory card speeds.
  • Ability to use the new OLED EVF (The C3 does not allow  this) – The optional FDA-EV1S OLED Tru-Finder? offers a large, bright and wide-view of the scene. With high resolution 2.395K dot, and unprecedented speed, contrast and color accuracy, the FDA-EV1S provides an extraordinary view.
  • New BIONZ Image Processing Power – The brain of the camera is a refined version of Sony’s BIONZ® image processor. Its chroma noise reduction delivers high-resolution, low-noise photos even at ISO 25600 sensitivity. Also enables fast processing for up to 10 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 16.1 megapixel images, 2D/3D Sweep Panorama™ modes and 6 image layering.
  • Manual Focus Peaking (Also in old Nex-5 via firmware update) – The Peaking AF display makes precise manual focusing much easier by highlighting the edges that are in focus in your choice of three colors ( white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where your focal plane can make or break your shot.
So with all of these new additions the #1 thing to rave about (in case I did not already mention this) here is the new sensor. Even when shooting with the 18-55 Kit zoom, the output is wonderful. When shooting with my Leica 50 Summilux ASPH via an adapter, the quality I am seeing is better than what I used to get with the standard NEX-5, and it is breathtaking if the light is right.
To be honest, after shooting with this camera for a while I almost wish sony would have used this sensor for the NEX-7! I am a little worried that the 7 with its 24 megapixels will be more noise filled at higher ISO, but we will see, maybe it will be even better. Let’s be real for a second…Super high ISO past 3200/6400 is over rated anyway and no one I know ever goes past 6400.
From what I am seeing in the 5N, it appears to be the new king of the “Bang for the Buck” digital cameras on the market. No it is not cheap at $699 but for what you get it IS really a deal. But the NEX-5N is NOT perfect. Read on to find out what I do not like about the NEX system.
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Sony NEX-5n with 16mm – not bad huh?
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Kit Zoom – ISO 500 – Out of camera JPEG

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16mm – the colors are pretty close to what I saw

The NEX-5N is not perfect. What are the negatives with the NEX system?

So you thought this was going to be a 100% rave about the NEX-5N? Well, as a camera I have mostly great things to say about it. Then again, I ONLY review and write about cameras that I like as I hate negativity and I hate whining. Be assured if I write about a camera here with a full review then I have used it and really liked it. I liked it enough to write about it because if I hate a camera I am not inspired to write about it and why should I? Crap cameras should not get publicity :)

So seeing that the 5N’s positives greatly outweighed it’s problems I am now sitting here writing about it. The NEX system as a whole is still fairly new. Basically, it has only been about a year since the very 1st cameras were introduced and because of this the main problem with the NEX system is there are no really good lenses available! Well, there are lenses, but not many. You would think that Sony, a GIANT among GIANTS would be able to whip out 4-5 new lenses..like..right now. BUT they have been slow going. The 1st year all we had for native lenses was the 18-55 Kit Zoom, the 16mm Pancake Kit Lens, and the 18-200 super zoom. There were no fast primes and the 18-55 and 16mm were very soft on the NEX-3 and 5. That was the one drawback to many who wanted to step forward with a NEX purchase. The lenses.

How long has the Micro 4:3 format been out now? 2-3 years? They are JUST now starting to get some great lenses for that system so maybe it is just a matter of time for the NEX system. This year we will get the new 24 1.8 Zeiss prime which is AWESOME. We will also get the new 50 1.8 lens which will be affordable as well as useful. This is good news but still, as of this writing, these lenses are NOT available.

As of now all I have to use natively is the 16mm and the 18-55. The great news is that the NEX-5N seems to work better with these lenses than the previous “5”. Maybe it is just my eyes playing tricks on me but the performance of these kit lenses seems to have gotten a little bit of a boost with the new sensor. So much so that I am now a fan of the 18-55 and I never thought I would say that about this lens. The 16mm still leaves a bit to be desired in the contrast/color/sharpness area.

The other negative of the NEX-5n is still all about the control. It has the same control scheme as the old 5, no added buttons. The buttons are customizable though so this is a step in the right direction (with the 7 being the ultimate NEX design). It is also VERY small and the lenses are a bit LARGE. Cameras like the Olympus E-P3 have SMALL lenses with a smallish body. The NEX-5N is about TINY body, LARGE lenses! Kind of odd but it is what it is due  to the larger sensor being used in the NEX system. Some will argue that the Leica M9 is a full frame and it uses small lenses. True, but the Leica lenses are MANUAL focus and aperture. They do not need AF motors or mechanisms inside the lenses, which in turn makes them bigger. Still, the NEX-5N and kit zoom or even the 24 1.8 is NOT as big or fat or bulky as a DSLR. Not even close.

Compared to the Olympus E-P3 the E-P3 feels more solid and better built and is also heavier. It also feels better and more comfortable in the hand than the NEX-5n and focuses quicker. The NEX-5n will hunt a bit in lower light when using Auto Focus. At least with the 18-55 kit lens it does. I am also getting more accurate focus with my E-P3 as it never seems to fail me. The NEX-5n did fail a few times when shooting in lower light scenarios, meaning the focus was off. But there are tradeoffs. The swivel LCD of the NEX and the better quality it is capable of may outweigh everything else for some.

There you go, those things are really about the only negative things I can say about this camera/system. The same things people have been saying for a year. What is interesting is the NEX-7 seems to have fixed almost all complaints. The body is a little larger, it has a built in EVF and control wheels up top and new lenses on the way. Mark my words.The 7 will be the superstar in the NEX line if the image quality is as good as it is in this NEX-5n, and on paper it appears it SHOULD surpass it. We shall see. I think the Zeiss 24 1.8 will be a GREAT pairing with the NEX-5N and 7.

Speaking of Image Quality

ISO 500 – NEX-5n and 18-55 – Click image for larger version

The image quality of the NEX-5 is absolutely killer and I have been using the cheap-o kit zoom lens and cheaper still 16mm! When I opened up my files I expected the somewhat dull, somewhat fuzzy results that I seemed to get from my old NEX-5 most of the time. Or even the sharper and more colorful results (but still a little “fuzzy”) that I got from the C3. WRONG! When I opened up the JPEG files from the NEX-5N I rubbed my eyes and said “WTF”?? Gorgeous color. Smooth detail. No fuzziness or softness anywhere. Sure I still saw the distortion from the 18-55 when at 18mm (until I enabled in camera distortion correction) but the image quality POPPED off of my screen. Sony has really improved the color and out of camera JPEGS with this camera.

Again, I will say that if you are thinking of a new NEX and are in this price range, do NOT even consider the NEX-C3! The 5N is now $100 more and you get so much more for  that $100. I can NOT recommend the C3 but will highly recommend the 5N just due to its new sensor and performance. C3 with Kit lens is $549 – NEX-5n with kit zoom is $699

NEX-5n with the 16mm at 2.8

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Another with the 16mm. Remember you can click image for larger view.

Keep in mind though that while the high ISO performance is the best yet in a NEX camera, when you get to lower light and past ISO 1250 you will start losing a bit of color fidelity and things will start getting a little more dull. Not really dull, but not as vibrant and nice as if you shot low ISO in good light. Also, the 5n seems to underexpose a little when using their evaluative metering. I found using center weighted helped. Speaking of low light…

Shooting the NEX 5n in Low Light – The true test of High ISO

I took the NEX-5n out with me one day to the local Aquarium because I knew it would be a challenge due to the very low light and funky lighting. As I stated at the top of this review ALL images in this review are out of camera JPEGS as at the time of this writing Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop do not convert NEX-5n files. So everything you see here is all JPEG. When Adobe updates Camera RAW I will update this review at the bottom with some RAW conversions.

So at the aquarium I also brought along my Olympus E-P3 and can say without a doubt that the Olympus focuses faster in good and low light. It’s instant but the Sony hunts a bit when the lights go down. Still, both are fairly quick though the Sony has to use the assist lamp to nail it and I was not using the assist light with the E-P3. I also got quite a bit more image noise with the E-P3 files at LOWER ISO’s than I did with the NEX-5n files at higher ISO’s.  The NEX-5n’s images were also “richer” and had a little more depth due to the larger sensor. With the new image processing in the 5n, the JPEGS are much nicer than those from the old 5. Sharper, more colorful and they seem to pop out at you.

ISO 1250, 18-55 kit zoom – click image for larger version

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ISO 3200 in VERY low light. Low light is where you can see the real high ISO performance. 

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iso 3200 – click image for larger

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I can say with confidence that the quality in REALLY low light and higher ISO was pretty darn good. I left the camera on Auto White Balance and Auto Focus. I shot with the 18-55 wide open as I could get it and I hoped for the best. No, these are not noise free with perfect tone and color but no camera will give you this at high ISO’s like 3200 IN super low light. For being handicapped with a slow zoom and not using any kind of flash, AND being in a dim and dark aquarium, this IS impressive.

Imagine if we had a time machine and went back to the days of the Nikon D2h and Canon D30 with a camera like the NEX-5n. ISO 25,600? CRAZY! We can get better quality today in a $700 camera set than we used to get from a $5000 camera body. Technology just keeps getting better and better. I wonder what digital will be like in 10 years from now? Hmmmm.

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SUPER High ISO – Is it useable?

Yes, this camera goes up to ISO 25,600 (see the 1st shot below) but usually when you see this listed on a camera spec sheet you can laugh it off as a joke. The 5n at its maximum ISO, if taken in “decent” light, meaning, not bright but not dark, can yield pretty incredible results… and  the shots still hold detail which is pretty freaking cool. Take a look below at my SUPER HIGH ISO SHOTS and crops. You must click each image to see the lull size out of camera versions.

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My conclusion? I have yet to see any camera beat this for high ISO..well, maybe the 100lb Nikon D3s, but maybe not? Still, the sweet spot for the 5n is between 100-1250 ISO.

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Low Light HIGH HD Video

I also shot some low light and high ISO HD video at 3200 and even 6400 ISO. The results are below and I am impressed! Remember, this video was shot with the SLOW 18-55 and HIGH iso!

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Shooting the NEX-5n with Leica glass – Let the focus peaking begin!

 

As 98% of you already know, you can shoot the NEX-5n with Leica glass just like  you did with the NEX-5. Just buy an adapter like THIS ONE and you are all set. Though if you want the BEST adapter I would buy THIS ONE. But why spend all of that cash when there are adapters available for 10X less? Well, I already have been through FOUR of the cheap M to NEX adapters and they all become loose over time and the lenses wobble. The higher priced model from Novoflex has not done that and it provides a very FIRM fit. Expensive but will last. I guess it is for those who like to buy one time and be done with it. There is a difference and after a year of use and four cheap adapters I decided it was time to bite the bullet for the Novoflex especially with my new found love for this system and manual glass with its EVF and focus peaking.

Old M mount glass, new M mount glass…they all work lovely on the NEX-5N and even better than they did on the old 5 it seems. The 5n comes loaded with the new Focus Peaking feature that allows us to easily shoot with our old manual lenses and get our shots IN FOCUS. I show an example of this in the video at the top of this page. When manually focusing using the rear LCD or the EVF you will see your in focus ares light up and that is when you know you are in focus. It’s quick and easy and works pretty damn good. The EVF worlds AMAZINGLY well with manual focusing using peaking. Spot on every time for me. I had the camera set to  HIGH for peaking and used the RED color. In bright sun it is hard to see the rear LCD but the EVF saved the day and made it a breeze.

Below are a few shots taken with the 5n and the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. In my opinion the results speak for themselves and the quality is gorgeous.

The next four shots were all with the NEX-5n and Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4

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and the next two were shot with the 5n and 50 Summitar at f/2 in Dynamic B&W mode

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The NEX-5n Picture Effects & other fun features

Inside the “Brightness/Color” menu you will see the choice to choose a Picture Effect, if and only if you are shooting JPEG only. This area will be greyed out if shooting in RAW format, even RAW + JPEG. This seems to be Sony’s attempt at creating Art Filters like Olympus does in their cameras. Inside the NEX menu you will find the following choices:

Toy Camera, Pop Color, Posterization, Retro Photo, Soft High Key, Partial Colors, High Contrast B&W, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich B&W (like B&W HDR), Miniature

There is also the old standby options like Hand Held Twilight and Sweep Panorama which I spoke of in my NEX-5 review almost a year ago.

Sweep Panorama works great and is super easy to use.

The NEX-5n VS the others

I am already getting the question “Which camera should I buy”? Again, I can not answer that for you and all you can do is look at reviews on various sites and judge for yourself. I will give my thoughts on a few hot cameras right now and how they compare though.

NEX-5n vs Olympus E-P3 – The Olympus looks cooler, feels better built, and feels better in my hand. It’s more expensive and has a smaller sensor that puts out more noise than the NEX-5n. The 5n is capable of higher resolution, more depth, and shallower depth of field to the photos but lenses are lacking for the NEX system at the time of this writing.

If you do not mind a smaller sensor, not as good low light performance, and paying a little more, the Olympus E-P3 will give you faster auto focus, super clean low light video (not sure how they pull it off but they do) and access to some cool lenses like the Olympus 12mm f/2, 45 1.8, Panasonic 20 1.7 and 25 1.4. BUT the image quality will be better with the 5n in lower light and high ISO. Also, the 5n has a swivel LCD which I used quite a bit and appreciated. The E-P3 has to be held level so you can see what you are doing (unless you have the EVF). Also, the Sony NEX 5n with the new OLED EVF is fantastic. Almost a must IMO.

E-P3 – Better build and feel but more expensive. Easier to control, faster AF, in body image stabilization and good HD video though lots of “Jello Effect” if IS is on. Noisy high ISO, less shallow depth of field.

NEX 5n – Better low light capability and cleaner high ISO images, better battery life, 24P and 60P manual control HD video, larger sensor and higher resolution with great color and more deoth. Also more HD video options (No Jello Problem) and swivel LCD screen. No in body IS.

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NEX-5n vs The Fuji X100The Fuji X100 is a fantastic camera as well and is only hindered by it’s slow and quirky operation. Slower AF, slow write times, slow feeling when compared to other similar cameras. BUT the Fuji has a great fast prime lens that delivers rich and nice colorful images. It is great to hold and feels super good in the hand, more like a traditional camera. The beauty of it is that it has a built in hybrid VF and there is no need to buy an external. The X100 can not change lenses though so you must be happy with a 35mm field of view. The NEX-5n is a totally different camera than the Fuji but beats it in the HD video department and speed department. Also, the Sony can change lenses and use a multitude of glass using adapters. In my opinion, the Fuji feels like a camera and the NEX more like an electronic gadget. Which you choose is all down to taste and preference.

Fuji X100 – Nice design, built in hybrid EVF/OVF, great fast prime 35mm equivalent lens, beautiful files and great low light performance. Also silent in operation.

NEX-5n – Faster in focusing and write times, even better high ISO capability, better battery life, better HD video, smaller body but bigger lenses and louder shutter.

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NEX-5n vs Ricoh GXR System – The Ricoh GXR system is a great little camera system that uses “modules” with the lens and sensor all built into one “Cartridge” that slides on to the body of the GXR. I loved this system while I owned it but sold it off after acquiring the Fuji X100 and Olympus E-P3. Why? Because it had shutter speed limitations that I did not like. The Fuji has them too but its built in ND filter solves the issues. I still love the GXR and what it does because it is a fantastic everyday shooter that gives wonderful and rich quality. There are only two lenses for the GXR system worth owning IMO, the 28 and 50 APS-C A12 modules. Their new Leica M mount module is arriving any day now so that should be interesting though 1st samples I have seen have been underwhelming to me.

In real use, the NEX-5n beats the GXR in focus speed, high ISO, HD video but the GXR wins in usability and build and has better lenses. Also, the GXR LCD does not swivel though you can buy an external EVF for it. This one comes down to personal preference as the GXR is a camera you will either LOVE or HATE.

Ricoh GXR – Built very well, versatile with the superb 28 and 50mm f/2.5 modules, snap focus for street shooters works well, high ISO is good up to 3200.

NEX-5n – Swivel LCD, high ISO capability, awesome HD video but lack of lenses right now hurts the NEX system.

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NEX-5n vs NEX C3 and older NEX-5 – NO CONTEST. If you are going to buy a new NEX camera right now and are not planning on buying the super NEX-7 at $1199, then go for the 5N. It is the biggest bang for the buck and it makes no sense to buy the C3 when the 5n is only $100 more. You gain metal build, better grip, touch screen, quieter shutter sound and possibly better high ISO and JPEG sharpness. Also, the 5n is a better buy than the old 5 unless you are getting a GREAT deal on the old 5. This one is easy, if buying new, go for the 5N, no contest.

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NEX-5n vs NEX-7 – Hmmm. Well, no one has held or shot with a working NEX-7 as of this writing so this is tough but on paper, the camera to choose would be the 7 if you r budget allowed. It’s the superman of the NEX series and I can not wait to get my hands on it. I am excited most about the OLED built in EVF and two control wheels on top. I am also happy that it is a little larger than the 5n. Finally, I can compose on a NEX, even with old manual glass and use the built in EVF to frame and focus AND use my fingers to control the Aperture without looking out of the EVF. Also, I won’t have a huge wart sitting on top if I want to use the EVF. From a design standpoint, the NEX-7 is perfect. WIll it have as good of high ISO performance of the 5n. Unllikely, but who uses ISO 12,000 in real life anyway? Not me, I usually max out at 6400 no matter what, and even that is rare. Im sure the 7 will be fantastic at 3200. Me, I am buying the 7 for my personal use for the reasons I described. It even has a built in flash unlike the C3 and 5n.

BUT, if you do not have that kind of budget, or prefer the design of the 5n then the 5n is the best of the NEX series for  you. Even if you do not need the NEX 7 features you could save some money and buy a 5n (or keep your old 3 or 5) and buy a new lens like the upcoming Zeiss 24 1.8 or Sony 50 1.8. This would be a great addition as glass is always more of an investment than a body. A NEX-5n and 18-55 and EVF will cost you $1049. The NEX-7 with no lens is $1199, with the kit zoom $1349. So $300 more for the NEX-7 body, design, features and higher res sensor. In reality, not bad IMO as it looks like a long term keeper.

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NEX-5n vs Leica M9 – Ok, I had to do this comparison as I know I would have been asked. Leica M9P with 50 Lux vs NEX-5n with 50 Lux. Same light, same aperture. We all know these are different cameras but Sony, with the new Focus peaking and EVF is starting to really bridge that gap with the quality and user experience. This is where the new EVF shines and where the NEX-7 will really show its stuff.

Here is a full out of camera JPEG from the Sony NEX-5n with the Summilux 50 at 1.4 – Click image to see the full size

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and now the same shot with the M9P and 50 Summilux, also at 1.4 – click to see the full size

The new Sony OLED EVF for the NEX-5n

I also have been able to use and try out the new EVF for the 5n and have to say that it is fantastic, but expensive at half the price of the 5n itself. Even with that being so, the view is huge, wide, and crisp. NO it does not look like an optical VF, it looks like an electronic VF but let’s face it, the EVF (Electronic View Finder) is the future of digital and I like seeing Sony push the quality up. This will be the same EVF that will be built in to the Sony NEX-7 and A-77 DSLR. Highly recommended for all NEX-5n shooters as this makes shooting the camera feel more natural and easier to compose for those of us who are more used to a viewfinder. Also, as I already hinted at, if you shoot with manual glass on your NEX I find this is a MUST own as the EVF combined with the Focus Peaking works SO well. I am sorry to say that this accessory is NOT compatible with the old NEX-5. Why? I have no idea but I think Sony should have supported the old 5 as well. Kind of crappy of them to do that.

This is the best EVF I have ever laid my hands on. Period. Not only in quality but also design and eye comfort. Below is a shot of the EVF on the black NEX-5n. Yea, it is a wart like all external EVF’s but it works and works well.

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PROS and CONS of the Sony NEX-5n

PROS

  • Small size, improved sensor, super high ISO performance
  • Dynamic Range seems HIGH – dare I say better than a 5DII? Hmmm.
  • Longer battery life than the old 5
  • Faster AF than the previous 5 (but not by much)
  • Lovely color rendition when shot in good light, even good in lower light
  • Ability to shoot with third party lenses via adapter
  • Great quality HD 1080 Video with various options and manual control – no jello effect
  • New lenses finally on the way!
  • Price is right, great bang for the buck and beats the NEX-C3 easily.
  • Swivel LCD is great
  • OLED EVF is fantastic
  • 10 frames per second shooting speed is crazy fast
  • Low light twilight mode works very well as it did with the previous 5
  • Sweep panorama still rocks!
  • Focus tracking works well
  • Shutter lag is virtually non existent at 20 milliseconds.
  • Focus Peaking and EVF are a perfect match for manual glass
CONS
  • Hunts to AF in low light, even with assist lamp which is pretty bright
  • Lack of lenses right now! (at the time of this writing)
  • Lenses will always be larger than Micro 4/3 lenses
  • Still wish it had a better navigation and control system, feels more like a gadget than camera sometimes
  • EVF sticks out quite a bit (but it does lock down) and makes the camera less portable
  • Should come with a lens rear cap and camera body cap in the box but it does not
  • Should have in body image stabilization!!!
  • Touch screen does not have a touch shutter like the E-P3
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My Conclusion

When the new Sony NEX-C3 arrived to me a few weeks ago I yawned. It was not enough of an improvement over the normal NEX-3  to warrant an upgrade IMO. When the 5n arrived to my doorstep I looked at it and almost yawned. It looked the same as the old 5 that I had shot with for a year but I know that looks can be deceiving. Regardless, I charged up the battery to see what it was all about expecting to write about it and say its a minor jump up from the old 5.

When I looked over my initial test shots I was amazed at the image quality coming out of the camera. The JPEGs have been improved dramatically and whatever Sony has done to the in camera processing, they did it right. The new 16.1 Megapixel APS-C sized sensor rocks and it is a huge step in the right direction to improve the NEX series of cameras. I only wish that they had a better lens than the 18-55 at this time because I know the sensor is capable of way more than the kit lenses give (even though things have improved in that area with the new sensor) after seeing the Leica glass on the camera.

The 1080 HD video is great on the 5n as well, giving you a plethora of options to choose from. I still like the 24P setting and many are in love with the new 60P option. You also have all manual control over video, which is also very welcome and appreciated. The Dynamic Range is improved as well and to my eye seems better than a Canon 5DII in that dept. Much better than Micro 4/3 in DR here guys.

Is it worth an upgrade if you have a normal 3 or 5? Well, tough to say. If you want the new features then it is worth it to you. If you do not need the extra resolution and feel you are getting what you need from the 3 or 5 already then I’d spend my money on a new lens like the Zeiss 24 1.8. The 5n does indeed up the ante in the IQ department but it is not CRAZY drastic better (though it is pretty damn good) and the old 5 is still a perfectly good camera. In use the camera feels the same though the shutter sounds better than the old clunky clunk of the old 3 and 5. When shooting with the EVF and you hear that slick sounding shutter sound you feel like you are shooting with a pro camera.

This baby also shoots at 10 frames per second though I admit I am not an action shooter. I remember when 7 FPS was a big deal on the pro DSLR’s. Now we have 10 FPS in a tiny camera that can fit into a coat pocket. Amazing. We also have some exciting new lenses on the way like the LONG awaited  Zeiss 24 1.8, also the Sony 50 1.8 and 35 Macro plus a zoom or two. S0 lenses are coming for those NEX’ers who have been patiently waiting.

I wish Sony would release a FAST pancake that is small, something like the 20 1.7 for Micro 4/3. THAT would be amazing but sadly I do not think they can do it due to the larger sensor, which is quite a bit bigger than the M4/3 sensor. The lenses have to cover the imaging sensor so I do not think we will see small AF lenses on the NEX. Manual lenses? Yes. AF lenses? No.

I like the NEX-5n and if it was not for  the NEX-7 coming out I would probably keep it. Hell, I may keep it anyway until the 7 arrives to do more Leica M glass experiments. I like what I see here so that just makes me even more excited to see the NEX-7 in action. The 5n is not perfect though as it could use better controls, a built in EVF, and a larger grip…WAIT, that sounds like the NEX-7, haha.

The bottom line is that Sony improved the 5 series and the 5n is an easy recommend as well as the best bang for the buck in the NEX line. At $699 with lens, I have to ask myself..” For the money does it get any better than this? The answer to that is NO!” 

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Where to buy the Sony NEX-5N?

This camera is available just about everywhere. I buy my Sony gear from B&H Photo or Amazon. B&H has the Sony NEX-5n at the links below:

Buy at B&H Photo – STOCK ARRIVING ANY DAY NOW

Buy the Sony NEX-5n in black, with 18-55 lens at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the Sony NEX-5n in Black, body only, at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the Sony NEX-5n in Silver with kit lens at B&H Photo HERE

Buy At Amazon!

Buy the Sony NEX-5n – Body Only – AMAZON

Buy the Sony NEX-5n with 18-55 Kit Zoom in Black – Amazon

Below are a few more images all shot with the 5n. Enjoy!

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Sep 022011
 

UPDATE

 

UPDATE! This sold in UNDER TWO MINUTES! WOW!
Exclusive Deal to SteveHuffPhoto.com readers! Leica 50 Summilux ASPH for $3600

OK, to anyone looking for the impossible to find Leica 50 Summilux ASPH lens I have something special for you! Don’t want to pay the $4500 and up prices on the used market? No need to! One lucky person on this site will be able to snag a “9” quality used 50 Lux ASPH for $3600. This will go fast so read on.

Lensrentals.com, a site sponsor e-mail me and asked if I wanted to buy an extra 50 Summilux ASPH they had in their office. I already own one so I said no, but I know about 500 others that do! So they said they wanted to offer this lens to my readers since there are so many looking for this amazing lens. In my opinion, this is about the best lens for the Leica M9 you can buy. Period. It is THE lens that stays on my M9P these days.

If you want the lens, CLICK HERE to get it but be quick as it will sell fast. Ships direct from lensrentals.com! By the way, if any of you are interested in renting gear before buying Lenrentals is the best I have found online. About two years ago I wanted to rent a Leica lens so I contacted them and tried out some Leica glass. The lenses arrived fast, well packed and it was so cool to try these lenses before buying. They rent all kinds of gear..Nikon, Canon, Olympus and the coolest thing is they rent Leica lenses and bodies and you can see what they offer for rental HERE.

Again, to buy this lens, act quickly and CLICK HERE!

Aug 262011
 

Motivation, Passion and Love. 

Time for another post where I sit and reflect on the last couple of years of my life and take a look at where I have been, where I am at, and where I want to go. Over the past two years I have been really motivated at times, but on some days I have felt frustrated and burnt out, which is easy to do when you work day in and out with cameras and writing.

You guys all know… well, the ones who have been reading this site every day, that I say it like it is, and I am very passionate about what I do. Running this site is my passion but man, it is NOT easy to come up with something interesting EVERY single day. Believe me :) I also am not afraid to write about personal things, and be myself. I feel this is important to a blog such as this as I consider all of you guys my friends even though I have never met 98% of you.

Some of you also know I have had my challenges in the last year or so in my personal life but things have turned around and I am currently doing GREAT, which means yes, I can now pay my mortgage, buy my food, and pay my car payment…all from the income from this very website. This is incredible to me that I took my passion and through hard work and dedication I created something that so many of you learn from and enjoy on a daily basis. I am proud of all of you who frequent this site as I feel the community here is TOP NOTCH. Really.

I started this website about 2 1/2 years ago, at a time when I had NO IDEA what I was going to do with my life and after 13 years of being self employed. Married for 15 years, my (now EX) wife encouraged me to go for it and do something I loved. With her support I started this web site and worked day in and out on it.

See, I LOVED Leica cameras though I did not really have the bank account to match that love. I did end up with an M8 and 50 Summilux and I was inspired by it so much that I decided to write a review of the camera. While searching online I had a hard time finding anything about Leica. All that existed was the Leica forum and that was usually filled with a bunch of grumps complaining about this or that, which is something I never understood.

After my M8 review went live, my very 1st EVER experience writing a “real world” review, I started getting emails from all over the world. More importantly, it seemed that my passion was conveyed in the review as before long I was receiving emails from hundreds of people who were buying an M8 camera…and LOVING it. Sure I had the ones who told me I was too excited and enthusiastic (when is this ever a bad thing)? but I just wrote what I felt, not trying to impress anyone with anything. I wrote from the heart. I was not trying to write for money, for search engines or for any other reason than to share my passion and excitement for  this camera that not many people online were talking about.

It was a VERY cool experience to have this average kind of lower grade website (my 1st site was done on iWeb) out but mostly everyone who was reading it was enjoying it. After a month or so I received an e-mail from the music artist Seal who said he loved what I wrote about the M8. He wanted to chat so we started talking and before long became very good friends. After a year of working on the site day in and out I went through a horrible divorce where I was left with NOTHING but huge debt. It was a BAD time and there were some very dark moments for me where I wasn’t sure if I would even make it. I remember my friend telling me he could tell I was hanging by a thread…that grey area where you are not even sure if you want to continue, and looking back I could say he was spot on. Was a scary time and for any of you reading this who went through something similar, I feel for you…I really do, but it will pass.

My site was only a year old and was not making enough money to even pay my house payment let alone my car, utilities, or food so I ended up having to sell almost all of my belongings to get caught up. My M9…GONE. My HiFi system that took me years to build up..GONE. My lenses, all GONE. I remember sitting in my nearly empty house in the dark. Just me and my faithful dog Scrubby. I said to myself  “what the hell are you going to do”? Then,a few days later a miraculous thing happened. Many of the readers of this website sent in donations to help me through this tough spot I was in. I paid my mortgage, paid my car payment and stocked up on food. I decided from that day on that I needed no one but myself and I would do whatever was in my power to keep on going with this website. IT WAS and STILL IS all I want to do, and these days it is just getting better and better. Again, I thank ALL OF YOU!

I also decided that I would live life to the fullest, always try to be happy, to never let small things bother me, to never kiss anyones ass, to always be open and honest with everyone and to always stay true to myself.  I became filled with a renewed passion and that passion came from sitting up one day and realizing that this time in my life was a defining moment. I decided to drop the sadness and that I did indeed love myself and loved what I did, so my passion was re-ignited. I worked day in and out the best I could and to this day am still full of passion, energy and motivation with big plans for the site.

BUT, I never defined success as making loads of money, and still don’t. I define success as BEING HAPPY. If you can live life and be happy with all aspects of your life, then you have achieved more success than 98% of people and I am 99.9% there.

I have very little. A small house, a small car, my camera gear, and some clothes. Simple. That is what makes me happy as I am a simple man and appreciate everything I have and own.

Since I started this website there are now at least 20-30 Leica web sites online. Believe it or not, I do not consider this site a “Leica” site even though it has been the main topic over the last couple of years. I consider this a site full of passion that involves ALL OF YOU, the coolest new gear and great photography. The community here is amazing and with your submissions, your comments, and your daily inspirations we can spread that passion across the world, and we are!

So I thank all of you who visit my site, send in daily inspirations, attend my workshops and meetups, and e-mail me every day (even though I do not always get back to everyone). I thank my friends who helped me along the way and know that I will always be here for YOU if you need anything. I am in a good place and I hope all of you continue to join me for the ride. If any of you are in a dark place right now like I was over a year ago remember that things DO get better and once you ignite the passion inside you then anything is possible. Remember, motivation comes from passion and passion comes from love!

Have a GREAT weekend! 

PS – I will have a new review next week of the SLR Magic 11mm f/1.4 for micro 4/3, tested on the E-P3. I will also have a cool “name which camera took which photo” post and more cool stuff. Also, be sure to check out the new toolbar at the bottom. There is a search bar, Facebook, twitter share and like buttons, real time chat that works great, a quick view of my youtube videos and more. Give it a try and let me know how you like it!

Also, only a few days left to save $50 for those who want to attend the Chicago Workshop!  

Aug 252011
 

Shooting at Marthas Vineyard by Michael Potiker

I was able to spend a few weeks of August photographing the amazingly picturesque island of Martha’s Vineyard with my M9, and am very happy with the variety of images I captured there. I feel that as a long time SLR user, the M system isn’t necessarily as ideal for the traditional landscape type images due to the inherent inaccuracy of the bright-line system, but that this weakness is far made up for by the fact that I will actually carry this camera around, which gives me the ability to capture scenes I wouldn’t have before.

The size of the M9 and it’s ironically low key appearance) were some of the things that drove me towards the system, as well as my complete inability to discreetly photograph on the street with an SLR and a prime lens. I feel that while the M9 is really a phenomenal camera, a large part of the beauty of the system are the compact high quality optics. While a Nikon D3s may be a far superior camera for working in high ISO values, I feel that parents noticing photographs being taken of them and their children would react quite differently seeing a beast like the D3 pointed at them. I know this for a fact, as when I was working in Montreal & NYC the reactions to my M3 were quite a bit different than how people felt about me photographing them with my D7000 or F4s (with battery grip, no logos, and a 50mm 1.8).

The reason I truly love the M system is that it gives me the ability to focus in almost no light, and then capture my image without anyone noticing it is happening (all of the fair photos were shot at F1.1 at 2500ISO, it’s the only time I shoot .jpg as I like the high ISO b&w that comes out of the camera, and they have no noise reduction done). It’s the only camera I’ve used (and I’ve been through quite a few different camera bodies recently) that truly gets out of my way and becomes an extension of my personal vision when I use it. I attribute this to the bright and straight through viewfinder that allows me to see outside my actual frame, and the fact that the camera creates the impression of literally carving a picture out of the world in front of you using those amazing bright-lines.

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO SEE THE LARGER AND BETTER VERSION!

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All of these were taken with either the 35mm Biogon, a 50mm 1.1 Nokton, or a 15mm Voigtlander (just one is done with the 15 in this post).
Entire flickr set is here:
Again, my blog is:

Aug 232011
 

Covering the San Diego Comic-Con with an M9 and 35mm Zeiss Biogon F2.

By: Michael Potiker

After switching to rangefinders from  DSLRs with an Rollei XF35, than a M3, and now the M9 in only 5-6 months I’ve come to really appreciate what these cameras can do, and how effective of a tool they can become in the right scenario. I picked up my M9 at Nelson Camera in San Diego, and took it to comic-con only a week or so later. In a sea of D3s lugging journalists and Gary Fong flash dome-equipped enthusiasts I was amazed I was able to generate high quality images at 1,000 ISO (every shot here is at F2) and rival every shot they were generating just with available light and the little M9 with 1 lens. Actually, after shooting this convention… I wouldn’t doubt the M9 even for event photography, and am impressed with the cameras seemingly pretty accurate meter (I shot on aperture priority with a +2/3 exposure compensation to make sure I kept all my shadow details on peoples darker costumes.

I purchased the camera for some reportage work in the slums of Managua, Nicaragua and am anticipating a great time at work there with this wonderful little art-making machine!

My photos can be seen at: flickr.com/photos/mpotiker and this 114 photo set can be seen in at:  http://bit.ly/p0MW6Z

My Photoblog is:   potiker.blogspot.com

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Aug 102011
 

CRAZY COMPARISON! The Olympus E-P3 with 12mm vs the Leica M9 and 24 Summilux ASPH!

It’s Wednesday morning at 6am and what better to kick off the hump day than with a Crazy Comparison?!?! I have not done of these in a loooong time so I figured it was about time for a new match up. This time I am pitting the Olympus E-P3 micro 4/3 camera with the new 12mm f/2 lens against the bag, bad Leica M9 and $24 Summilux ASPH. The E-P3 set comes in at about a $1700 price tag while the Leica M9-P and 24 Lux comes in at about $14, 500. Now, the Leica has the full frame sensor so I was never expecting it to lose out to the much smaller 4/3 sensor but that is why this is called a CRAZY COMPARISON!

It is just for fun, so please…no need to get all bent out of shape (as many of you did with previous Crazy Comparisons).

The files are ALL Out Of Camera JPEGS because the E-P3 RAW files are not yet supported by Lightroom or Photoshop. All settings were the same. Same ISO, SAME aperture, SAME (equivalent) focal length. The Oly 12mm comes out to a 24mm equivalent on the E-P3. We get the 24mm Field of view with 12mm Bokeh. The M9 uses the 24 Summilux which gives us a true 24mm field of view and 24mm bokeh.

This is a comparison of JPEGS only, as they come out of the camera, in each cameras native resolution.

So…let’s get on to the photos!

YOU MUST CLICK EACH PHOTO TO OPEN THE FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA JPEG FROM EACH CAMERA!

Each file was saved as a level 10 JPEG after opening the file in Photoshop. No PP!

1st up, the Olympus E-P3 – 12MP – 12mm (24) – F/2 – ISO 200 – AWB

CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG!

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and now the Leica M9-P with 24 Summilux, same settings – F/2 – ISO 200 – 24 Summilux – AWB

CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG!

In the 1st comparison the Oly picked the better White Balance. Both were set to AUTO WHITE BALANCE to test each cameras AWB rendition. I was curious and it appears the Oly wins in that dept. This makes the Oly the more accurate representation color wise. Of course I could take the M9 RAW file and fix it up easily but again, this is just a simple OOC JPEG CRAZY comparison! If you click each image you can view the full size file. Both were shot at F/2 which was wide open for the Olympus 12mm, and the Summilux was stopped down to f/2 from 1.4. It appears the Lux vignettes even at f/2, which is one thing full frame sensors seem to do with wide angle lenses. It also appears the little Oly’s Dynamic Range is decent. The sun was hitting the bins directly.

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Ok, let’s do another one. This time I will start with the M9 file.

Leica M9 – 24 Lux at f/2 – ISO 200 – Click image for full size OOC JPEG file

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Olympus E-P3 – 12mm (24 equiv) – f/2 – ISO 200


It is clearly evident that you will get a more shallow depth of field (background blur) when shooting on a full frame camera with a full frame lens, meaning, when you shoot with a 24mm lens you get a 24mm field of view. When shooting the Oly the lens is a 12mm but do to the half frame sensor we are getting a 24mm equivalent view, but still the depth of field of a 12mm lens. Still, I LOVE this little Oly lens, it is incredible if you are invested in the Micro 4/3 format.

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Ok one more! Why not? This time I resized both down to 1800 pixels wide so when you click on these you will NOT get the full size OOC JPEG but rather the downsized versions. It’s easy to see the more shallow depth of field in the Leica shot (2nd shot), and this the “Leica Look” with the Summilux rendering.

1st shot, Olympus E-P3

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2nd shot, Leica M9-P

So that’s it! I posted this for fun, not for any kind of scientific reasons. If you look down below at the related posts you will probably see older crazy comparisons and they are always fun to check out :) It seems like both the M9-P AND Olympus E-P3 are pretty hot right now as they seem to be out of stock everywhere.

Site sponsors B&H Photo sell the Leica M9-P as does Dale Photo and Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]). Lensrentals.com rents the entire Leica lens line if anyone out there wanted to give the 24 Lux a try. Me, I’m happy with the M9 and a 50 these days. Gotta love the M9 and the 50 Lux ASPH. Magic!!!

As for the E-P3…I have been using it non stop and Olympus has a winner, no doubt. It’s the best PEN yet!

Aug 102011
 

Random Photographs from my month on tour with Seal that were never posted!

Let’s see. I’m a photographer and being away for a month on tour across Europe would mean that I most likely took LOADS of photos right? Well, yes and no. I did take quite a few photos but I tried to be selective most of the time :) I am not the type of shooter that machine guns it, especially when using a Leica M9. BUT there are a few photos from my month long journey that never made it to the blog so I decided to post a few that I liked here. This is a photography blog after all! The times I had during those 30 days are times I will never forget, and I am thrilled to have photos to remember it all :) Enjoy.

 

Aug 072011
 

Chaiten; a town digging itself out of the ash.

On May 2nd of 2008, after 9000 plus years, a volcano erupted near the town of Chaiten in Patagonia, Chile. The more than 4000 people who made their lives in this  small town had their lives changed dramatically. The Chilean government temporarily evacuated all the people to other various towns as far away as 200 miles.

A few weeks after the eruption, during heavy rains, the Rio Chaiten which was plugged up with debris and ash, suddenly produced a enormous Lahar (ash/mud slide) flooding 2/3 of the town and swept away many of its houses.

The Chilean Government declared that “the town of Chaiten is destroyed and uninhabitable “. The people of Chaiten were not allowed to return to their homes,  but rather only take a few of their belongings.  They could no longer live in their homes because they were deemed unsafe.

The plan was to build a new Chaiten, north of the old town, protected from the volcano by the mountains. Fifty or so citizens, however, refused to leave their houses and businesses that they had worked for their whole lives. Instead, they persevered;

They dug out their houses, cleaned off their inventory, put in small generators and put water tanks on their roofs that they filled with water from a nearby creek (unaffected by the volcano) and tried to stay open for business.

For two long years following the eruption, these people were left to their own devices of trying to rebuild their lives. They felt that the government had forgotten about them and their town as well as the 4000 other people of Chaiten-now living in various other towns in Patagonia.

Then, finally, as it only can happen in South America, in January of 2011 the Chilean government decided to restore the old town and not to build a new town. New electricity lines were put in and water supply was restored to the houses. Slowly but surely the former citizen of Chaiten are starting to return and things are finally looking up for the town of Chaiten and its people.

Below are a few of the photos I took of Chaiten during the last few years.

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Aug 022011
 

The Road to Somewhere Else by Donald Barnat

“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.” – ‘Shug’ Avery in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I-15, the highway to and from Las Vegas, is traveled by an endless caravan of Southern Californians every year, alternately speeding and crawling their way to Sin City to pass the hours into weekends throwing money away in smoky casinos. With the disposable income gone and the pool parties over, the line of cars moving back through the desert to Los Angeles is most impressive in the sheer single-minded execution of its purpose. Eyes fixed (we can only hope) on the road ahead, it’s pretty clear that everyone just wants to get home.

The setting of this perpetual movement of cars and people is what calls to mind The Color Purple thought quoted above. More on that setting in a second.

But first, does God really get pissed off when we pass by the color purple without noticing? For an athe-nostic like me, the question would go more like this: if nature has created something spectacular to behold, what does it say about us if we routinely pass by it all with our eyes squarely focused on the road ahead, our perspectives blinkered by our desire to simply get someplace else?

Whether it’s an angry God watching down on us or the collective guilt of too few of us, given the sheer magnitude of both the transgression and the number of souls involved, the 270-mile drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles — through the Cajon pass and over the Mojave Desert — would surely amount to something of a worst-case-scenario for someone as thoughtful about such things as the fictional Suge Avery.

The vast empty expanse of the high desert alone has a visual silence that borders on the metaphysical. One turn of the head and the eye takes in endless vistas completely absent the presence of humans. Appropriately miniscule in scale, the only people to be found are contained in the narrow band of highway snaking through the midst of a truly timeless landscape.

Drivers blow through the desert as fast as they can. Except for a few small towns, there’s only a smattering of rest areas along the way and the occasional supersized gas stations. With nothing really for hundreds of miles but great scenery, it would be difficult for anyone inclined to deviate from the beeline of automobiles to actually do so.

We take the drive ourselves just about every year, always in the winter or late spring. There’s usually weather off in the distance and sometimes we run right into it. We stop occasionally at one of the rest areas for 10 minutes or so, in a hurry, like everyone else. There’s a wind that seems to live at those huge gas stations that can’t in good conscience be called a breeze and, while the cold smack of it after two hours on the road is exhilarating, it always feels really good to get back in the car.

There were the familiar clouds, rain, even thunder, and snow on the ground in the mountain passes, but this time driving through the higher altitudes there was the disorienting sight of even more ominous looking clouds lying in the valleys far below the highway. There was sunshine, maybe mostly sunshine and, of course, the wind. Not surprisingly the air smells like desert and I guess to recall the old vent windows in cars from my childhood, I like to open my driver’s side glass just a crack to hear the whistle of the wind as I drive.

Maybe it’s too much of the things we did back in the seventies, but my imagination plays in the flat desert and hills there in the wide panorama shot. I’d like to hire a helicopter and tell the pilot to set down in the hills underneath the clouds in the left part of the image, get out, take pictures for a while, breathing in the desert, then point to a sun-drenched valley in the distance and say, “Okay, let’s go over there.”

I’m not a natural scenery shooter and I think the snapshots presented here will attest to that. I hesitate to add that the Leica M system of cameras is said not to be well-suited for landscape photography. The hesitation is because the M7 was more than adequate given my capabilities.

I hope these shots from the California high desert find you in a place and time where you can take notice of its incredible beauty. With most of the country sweltering in a mid-July heat wave it would be wonderful if this article even briefly transports some of you to the brisk springtime captured in the photographs here. If you try, you just might hear the wind whistling at my car window and imagine for a moment the cold desert air in your face.

Remember, God may be watching. Personally, I don’t think so, but I’ve been wrong before and these shots and this piece amount to my own personal penance just in case.

All the images taken with a Leica M7, Voightlander Nokton 40mm 1.4, and Kodak Portra 160 VC.

Aug 022011
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LEICA CAMERA OFFERS NEW SERVICE FOR THE LEICA M9

Allendale, NJ (August 2, 2011) – Leica Camera announces a new service for Leica M9 owners to incorporate the product features of the Leica M9-P into their existing M-System camera, resulting in an alternative, even more discreet and resilient design. Owners taking advantage of the service will also receive a one-year warranty extension. Through the North American Headquarters in Allendale, NJ, Leica will be offering a “Sapphire Glass” upgrade package and a “Top Cover and Sapphire Glass” upgrade package. Interested customers are encouraged to schedule appointments starting August 8, 2011 for upgrades from October 3, 2011 through Leica Camera, Inc.

The “Sapphire Glass” upgrade package offers the replacement of the M9 monitor cover with the M9-P’s scratch-resistant, sapphire crystal cover, a choice between vulcanite and smooth MP-style leatherette trim and a one-year warranty extension. The package will be available for $1,295. The second option, “Top Cover and Sapphire Glass”, includes the replacement of the monitor glass with sapphire crystal cover and the replacement of the top deck and base plate with silver chrome or black paint. The package also includes the choice of vulcanite or smooth MP-style leatherette trim and a one-year warranty extension. The package will be available for $1,995.

All upgrades will be performed by specifically trained technicians and will be a part of Leica’s regular repair service. Reservations are on a first come first serve basis and upgrade time is dependent upon demand. M9 owners can schedule upgrades beginning August 8, 2011 by calling 1-800-222-0118 x 9930.

Please visit the Leica website at www.leica-camera.com shortly before the start of the upgrade program for further information about the offer and the upgrading procedure.

 

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