Jan 232015
 

RX1TTH

6 Months With The Sony RX1

By Simi Tometi

Hello Steve, Brandon, and fellow site readers. My name is Simi Tometi, and I am a medical student from Dallas, Texas. School usually keeps me busy(and broke) for the most part but whenever I do have some spare time I indulge in photography.

Last summer I was presented with an opportunity to purchase the Sony RX1(with viewfinder) in immaculate condition for roughly 1/2 of its initial price. With the Fujifilm X100S selling on Amazon for as low as $850(used), I was a bit hesitant. After reading countless reviews and analyzing the specs sheets I went with the RX1. To be honest the deciding factor was that I didn’t want to look back months later wishing I would have just spent the extra cash on the RX1 instead of the X100s.

It’s been just over 6 months, and I’m glad to say I’m more than happy with my purchase. Though the camera as a whole isn’t perfect, it never ceases to amaze me.

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When I purchased the camera, the first thing I noticed was its cold utilitarian build. The whole camera is composed of metal, giving it a solid feel reminiscent of the Canon 5D Mark III(however I’m not completely sure if it’s made up of the same magnesium alloy). The buttons and dials are laid out logically, except for the record button, which is positioned between the rear and right side of the camera. I didn’t find this placement problematic until I added a Black label braided silk strap to the camera, which often presses the button activating the movie mode function.

The Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens, is nothing short of a masterpiece. From its buttery smooth focus ring, to its clickable aperture dial, it just does not disappoint. Wide open, it’s just a treat to use due to how jaw-droppingly sharp it is. Stopped down sharpness really doesn’t increase much, yet the increase in micro-contrast may make you think otherwise. Optical performance is just stunning; rarely do I find any traces of chromatic aberration.

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In regards to ISO performance, the camera once again doesn’t disappoint. At 6400, noise is present but very well controlled with files retaining plenty of detail and files still being remarkably flexible.

Together, the Carl Zeiss lens, functional camera body, and full frame 35mm sensor(from Sony’s flagship a99) make a formidable little camera that best nearly every other comparable option. When shooting the rear LCD screen only gives you a taste of the outstanding 16-bit raw files did this beast is able to capture.

Admittedly, the RX1 falls short in numerous areas that can’t ignored due to its initial price tag of $2800.

Most notably the auto focus of this camera just plain sucks. It really is hit or miss. I feel as if this issue could be resolved with a firmware update, but the RX1 hasn’t received any since launch. For this type of investment one would expect more than this sluggish contrast detection AF system.

Regarding accessories, they’re just too expensive. I understand this is a premium item, and should be surrounded by such, but seriously… Why would anyone pay $250 for the Sony leather case(with no access to the SD card or battery when attached), when the Gariz version can purchased for $125? The Sony brand lens hood sells for $120, while the third-party metal hood that looks and feels the same is being sold on amazon for $7. Really the only individuals I could see purchasing these accessories are those who’ve previously considered purchasing the Hasselblad Lunar(rebranded Sony Nex-7) for $5000.

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For my style of shooting the EVF($450) is a must have, and without it I probably would have went with the Fuji X100s. I really wish Sony included it with the camera or implemented the same way they did in the RX100 III.

Weather sealing is something I feel Sony could have added at this price point. When you own something of this value, you’d like to be assured its protected against the elements(e.g. Unexpected light drizzle).

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To sum it up, the Sony RX1 is stellar tool for few photographers. If you can tolerate the sluggish autofocus and the daunting price tag, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding build, superb high-ISO performance, and top tier image quality.

Simi Tometi

http://instagram.com/justsimi_

https://www.facebook.com/simi.tometi

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

Jan 222015
 

My Leica M6 in Scotland

By Philipp Wortmann

Hi Brandon,

It was so cool the last time I got featured on your site I just had to give it another try :)

This time I took my beloved M6 on a short trip to Scotland. I stayed in Edinburgh for a couple of days and also had the chance to take a short trip into the highlands and meet some of those legendary “hairy cows“.  As to be expected the weather was very cloudy so ended up pushing my Portra 400 to 800, which I didn’t mind at all since Portra handles that beautifully!

More pictures of the trip can be found on my flickr:

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

Have a great day and best regards,

Philipp

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Jan 192015
 

My Time With the wonderful Leica M8.2

By Justin Halim

Hello everyone!  I’m a long-time reader of Steve’s site and I’d like to share my experiences with the most influential digital camera I ever owned – the Leica M8.2.  I really can’t describe just how excited I am to write this post, as nothing I am about to write about would ever have happened if not for Steve’s site.

First some background:

A few years ago, I was starting to really get into photography with my new Canon T2i.  I loved that thing and was shooting mainly macro and still life, just learning the basics about exposure.  However, one day I was rummaging around and happened to find a Leica M6 and 50mm Summicron (in perfect condition) in my father’s cabinet.  He had completely forgot he had it, so he gave it to me.  I had always heard about Leica and its status, so I couldn’t have been happier, or luckier for that matter.  After putting a few rolls of film put through it, I was in love.

Fast-forward a couple of years; I was finishing my sophomore year of high school.  The M6 had followed me everywhere, but it was getting difficult to justify the cost of shooting primarily film (I didn’t have a job), and using the Canon just wasn’t the same after using the Leica.  So, I began toying with the idea of a digital M to get the best of both worlds – the convenience of digital, and the experience of shooting a Leica rangefinder.  I researched the M9, and was immediately turned away by the price ($6000 at the time).  Discouraged by the M9, I looked into the M Monochrom, thinking a B&W camera would be cheaper (I was pretty naïve).  Let’s just say I was disappointed once again.  I had never felt so discouraged, until one day I remembered that, numerically speaking, there must have been an M8!

With newfound hope, I did more research, but was again discouraged to find countless reviews bashing the M8, particularly for its “lack of features.” I lost hope of ever owning a digital Leica. But one day, I found Steve’s site, which had many glowing reviews of the M8.  As I read them, I began to realize that these were the first “real-world” reviews I had found of the M8, from real photographers, and not some clinical spec chart from pixel peepers.  And every single one of those reviews praised the M8 for its unique shooting experience, which was exactly what I wanted.  However, what really sold me were the pictures taken with it, which looked so much like the images I took with my M6.  Now I had my mind set on an M8.
So over the summer before junior year, I got a job and worked 60 hours/week to save up for an M8, which was a much more realistic $2000.  By the end of the summer, I had saved enough not only for the M8, but an M8.2, which I found for a great price.  I also managed to scrape enough for a Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 II (for landscapes) and Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 II (general purpose), to accompany my 50 Summicron (for portraits).

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The camera:

I won’t go too in-depth with this, as just about every other M8 (and every other M) review covers this, but this was perhaps the most solid and attractive camera I have ever owned, aside from my M6.  Compact, sturdy, and beautiful.  I had the M8.2 black version, which adds the sapphire screen, black paint, and quieter shutter.  The M8.2 just exudes stealth and beauty.  No one would see or hear me shooting with it, which made it the perfect street photography/candid camera.  If people did notice it, they were always  intrigued by it and loved having their pictures taken (Leicas are a surprisingly good way to make friends).  One especially nice quality was how clear the rangefinder was, which was much brighter than the one in my M6.  But what was most important was how surprisingly versatile the M8 was. With the 15mm Heliar, the M8 makes an astounding landscape/architecture camera – the rangefinder is especially useful when using ND filters since the viewfinder doesn’t black out when filters are mounted, which can be a problem for SLRs.

The M8 practically introduced me to street, portrait, and landscape photography.  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you Leica M’s are not practical cameras – I used the M8 for just about everything except video and macro, and got much better results than with any other DSLR I used, as well as having a lot more fun.

The experience:

Picking up an M8 after using the M6, I felt almost no difference.  The M8 is astoundingly similar to a film camera in both look and feel.  At its heart is the infamous CCD sensor that records in that unique, Leica-film way.  Even with the luxury of unlimited digital frames, I still found myself being picky about which shots I took, taking around the same number of shots as with a film camera.  Anyone who writes about M cameras mentions their zen-like experiences, and as much of a cliché as it must be at this point, I just have to emphasize this – THE M8 HAS SOUL.  It’s indescribable, and it can’t be put in a spec chart, but it is there, and it makes all the difference.  It’s why we put up with manual focus, manual exposure, and limited focal lengths.  With the M8, there is nothing between the subject and how I portray it.  And that’s what makes the M8 so versatile, just set your exposure and take the picture – no distractions, no worries or second-guesses, just confident shooting – just like with film.  I take the picture, not the camera.

Of course there were many “issues” brought up by others – 10MP, no IR filter, poor low-light capabilities, and low-resolution screen.  Honestly, I hardly noticed them:

·      – 10 MP is more than enough for me, and if anything, it forces me to get the composition right the first time around to avoid cropping later.

·       – The lack of an IR filter was never a problem – Leica gives two free IR/UV filters with every M8, even if it’s pre-owned.  But having no IR filter has its perks too: the M8, with decent glass, is blindingly sharp, and makes for a fantastic B&W and IR camera.

·       – The poor high ISO performance did get to me sometimes.  The M8 really maxed out at ISO 640, but could be pushed to 1250 if it was in B&W.  To avoid extreme post-production noise, you really have to nail the exposure at higher ISO’s.  However, my Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 (a fantastic lens) solved all my problems.

·       – The low-res screen is a very overrated “problem,” even for the M9 I suppose.  It’s perfect for working the menus, and it gives a decent view for image playback. But the M8 is so much like a film camera that I often wouldn’t even look at the image playback.

·      –  In my experience, one could easily learn to work around the M8’s supposed issues, and, if anything, become a better photographer in the end.  To anyone wanting to get into a digital Leica system, the M8 is still a great choice even 8 years after being released.

I had the M8 for a little over a year, and I took it everywhere – out into the sands of the Jersey Shore, into the bustling streets of New York City, into the festive alleys of Barcelona, and into the rainy, overcrowded streets of Shanghai and Beijing.  I used it to photograph all my family events, and even used it for the school yearbook.  Unfortunately, I sold it because my neck strap broke and the camera fell, which ended up damaging the shutter.  When I got it back from repairs the circuit board failed and it wouldn’t turn on.  I sent it back again, but decided it wasn’t worth keeping anymore.  I sold it and moved onto a Canon 6D and a Hasselblad 500CM, as I needed a video camera and wanted to try medium format.  But that doesn’t change the fact that an entire year of memories was recorded, quite beautifully, by my M8.  To this day I still regret selling it – when it worked, there really was nothing that could compare to it.  While I’m only a teen with limited experience, I definitely learned more than I ever thought I could with my M8, and that makes it all worth it.

Now I am saving up for the day I can purchase an M9.

Thank you everyone for reading, and thank you Steve for letting me write for your awesome site!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/112710288@N03/

http://instagram.com/justinhalim/

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Jan 152015
 

2014 – My year with Leica

By Jason Boucher

Long ago I read Mike Johnston’s post on The Online Photographer about a year with Leica and it would make you a better photographer. I wanted to jump in at the time, but at that time couldn’t imagine spending that much on an “old” camera and it would force me to buy a new lens. I ended up buying a used Bessa as well as a used Voigtlander lens. While the original article suggested to commit fully, I committed to at least 1 roll of film per month. In that year I relearned so much about photography. It slowed me down. It made me intentional in my shooting. It also was my 1st experience with a rangefinder and frankly, the focusing became second nature and something I preferred over the split prism I grew up with. I was happy with my Bessa and my m43 digital and DSLR autofocus kits. That year with film and my Bessa really did help me.

A couple of years ago, things changed for me. I took a new job where I was not providing social content and digital image assets to the company I work for. This freed me a bit from photography as work. I could do photography for me and for me only. Coincidentally at the same time, my friend at my local camera store, National Camera Exchange, called me one day and said they got a used M9 in mint condition. I went in and held it in my hands. Wow. It was love and lust at first sight. But…cash was still a problem and I left instead with a used M8. Figuring I could give it a try and not loose much money. I had 1 M -mount lens at the time, a Zeiss 35 f2.8, I attached it and shot it almost exclusively for a couple of months.

Here are a few shots from my summer vacation and family visit in North Dakota with the M8

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It was a lovely set up and gave me a few images that I truly cherish. That old M8 has some quirky but special mojo. To be honest, it is still my favorite black and white, digital camera of all time and one day hope to own one alongside my newer Leica digital M camera. That missing IR filter does something amazing to skin and skin tones. But…I just could not handle the noise of shutter as well as the inability, at least with my single lens I owned, to shoot at higher ISO’s and in lower light, something I do a lot. So I put it away and shot it on special occasion.

About mid way through 2014, I took the M8 on a trip again and was reminded of both the experience and the glorious output. So…I sold everything else I owned including my new Fuji XT1 as well as the M8 and came home with a used M240. Over the course of the fall I slowly added some used M mount glass. I know much has been written about the M240 and how some folks prefer the M9 CCD sensor. I had some experience with the CCD with the M8 and in certain instances do prefer it, the overall shooting experience, capability as well as the higher ISO capabilities make the M240 an easy and preferred choice for me. It just works.

M 240 Images…

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My Leica M240 has become an extension of my hand as well as the most amazing creative tool I have ever used. I am no professional and shoot only for myself, but I am pleased with and believe the camera has in fact been a driving factor in changing my personal style and satisfaction with photography. I know that for each of us that we all respond uniquely to gear and many feel that Leica’s are a bunch of hype. I thought that too, but in the end, I feel that it did help me develop, grow and output better images.

So….Even though I really only starting using Leica cameras halfway through 2014, I still consider it my year of Leica.  Hope you enjoy them and my wish to all of you in 2015 is that you find that muse, that tool, that thing that inspires you and helps you develop your craft and art.

Cheers

Jason
www.imaginegnat.com

Jan 142015
 

titleshort

My short and sweet Fuji X100T review

by Steve Huff

You can buy the X100T at B&H Photo, Amazon, or PopFlash.com 

Here we are, just about mid January 2015 and I have had the Fuji X100T on hand for 3 weeks. During those three-week I have used it for about 15 days and have had my ups and downs with it, mostly ups. At the price of $1299, we are still getting the tried and true Fuji X100 formula. Retro small body, light weight, the same 35 f/2 lens and overall, the same feel and vibe as the previous X100s. This is very much still a tried and true X100.

For me though, the X100T is not a HUGE upgrade over the previous X100s. When it comes to handling, speed, AF accuracy and metering, they seem exactly the same. When it comes to feel of the body, weight of the body and controls, it is really the same.

Nope, the X100 has not changed much since the 1st original best-selling X100 except in regards to speed (the X100s and X100T are much faster and more responsive than the original) and the sensor, which is now an X-Trans sensor. The X100 and X100T share the same sensor, so IQ between the two, for me, was exactly the same.

Click any image in this review to see a larger version

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I was and still am a HUGE fan of the original Fuji X100. For its time, it was quite the show stopper. It sold in mass amounts and was touted by many at the time as a ‘Leica M Killer” (which is in no way was). Many also were confused and called the X100 a rangefinder camera when it was and is nothing like a real rangefinder camera. The X100 V1 was something to behold. Fuji colors, a sensor that rendered in a sweet organic way and class leading high ISO for the time. It is the best-selling X100 to date due to the massive BUZZ surrounding it at the time of release.

1st things 1st…Research:

You can read my original huge X100 review HERE. You can see my X100S review HERE. This T version is really the same in most ways which is why this is a “mini review” so if you want more details on the X100 in general, read those two reviews to get the idea of the X100 series and what it does and who it is for.

Back to the X100T

I loved the X100 V1 but the speed of the AF was very frustrating at times. The main drawback of the X100 was SPEED. From AF, to menu browsing lag, to respond lag. The one thing it had going for it was its hybrid EVF that switched between optical and EVF as well as the delicious color and image quality. For me, that sensor in the X100 V1 was the best of the three, but now that Fuji is  using the X-Trans sensor in the S and T we still have a wonderful small camera that is capable of gorgeous results. I may prefer the old X100 sensor but that does not mean my word is final. Many prefer and adore the X Trans sensors and thousands of others can not be wrong.

*Also, for those who are thinking of an original X100, Fuji have improved on the speed dramatically with firmware updates, so while not as fast as the X100s or T, it is much faster than it was at launch. 

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When I was shooting the new X100T I remember thinking on more than one occasion..”I do not feel or see much difference between this and the previous X100s“. IQ appeared to be the same, speed seemed to be the same (though I was missing more shots as the AF seemed to miss 10-20% of what I was focusing on) and the only thing I found to be different in real world use was the new viewfinder, which many were raving on and on about.

Me, I actually was not a huge fan of the new EVF feature that allowed a sort of “picture in picture” effect when shooting with the optical viewfinder. What it was doing was planting a live EVF view in the same viewfinder frame with the optical, but that live EVF view was so small it made it very odd and cramped. It seemed to block the VF and for me, it was more of a hindrance than anything useful so I used it a few times and then just reverted back to the old way. Then it was just like shooting an X100s. The new feature is helpful for one thing though..which I will discuss in a minute..

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So away I went, shooting the X100T and it was a nice experience. Nothing new, nothing extraordinary, nothing surprising and nothing that screamed “I MUST OWN THIS CAMERA”. For me it essentially was the same old X100s. Same body, speed, IQ and bloodlines. After shooting the A7s and A7II extensively and recently I was sort of spoiled by this massively rich full frame color and image quality. I was spoiled by using my Leica M glass on those bodies and when going to the X100T I was a little let down by the flatter files and more limited dynamic range.

Even so, I really enjoyed the X100T as I have a soft spot in my heart for this Fuji series. I adore the X100 series almost as much as I adore the Leica M series. Not because the X100 is in any way like an M but because the X100 was first to come out with a body that resembled a Leica styled body and it had the same message, which was “take me, use me, be motivated by me”. The manual dials and controls were perfect.

The X100, X100S and X100T are all cameras that will make you WANT to use it. It’s fun, it’s stylish, it’s easy to use and all controls are laid out in a super easy way. I did have MANY issues with that damn X100T exposure comp dial though. It seemed 8 times out of 10 when I went to use the camera the EV dial was turned all the way down to the highest negative setting. The wheel is just too easy to turn and it turns constantly when I do not want it to. I would think that Fuji would have fixed this by now in this third X100 version.

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As the title of this review states, this is just a “short and sweet” review as to me, I feel the X100T is just a refresh of the X100s. It’s the latest version but not so much different from the S. Besides the new EVF/OVF features, there really is not much to mention that I did not already say in my X100s and X100 review.

One thing that is also new is the “Classic Chrome” JPEG color setting. This is a cool setting and is supposed to simulate a classic chrome film, and it does pretty well. I used it from time to time but this only really works when shooting JPEG depending on what software you are using to convert the raw files.

A JEPG using the “Classic Chrome” color setting. A bit subdued but nice…

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…compared to VIVID which boosts not only the saturation but the contrast and hue as well

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So what else is new in the X100T? 

Besides the new EVF/OVF feature of having the EVF overlay, the X100T now offers something pretty useful..Manual focus parallax adjustment. This will basically allow you to use the OVF and get the shot you wanted. In prior versions of the X100 the frame would be off from what you saw in the OVF, especially for close up focusing. Now this is a non issue as what you see is what you get. The X100T will shift its window to show you exactly what you are going to capture. This is a  godsend for many. Me, I always just used the EVF portion of the VF anyway, so this is a very nice upgrade for those who prefer to use the OVF.

The LCD screen is now 3 inches with a 1.04 million dot resolution.

The shutter speed max is now 1/32,000 of a second. This is cool.

Other than those updates and the new classic chrome filter, the camera is pretty much the same as the X100s.

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Personally, if I were buying an X100 today, I would spring for THIS ONE while there are a few left. If they were sold out I would go with THIS ONE and save some cash. But if I were one who loved the X100 series and always used the OVF instead of the EVF I would go with the X100T as yes, it is the most refined and polished X100 to date. I expect Fuji to do a major overhaul of this camera in the next 1-2 years with a new body style, new sensor and possibly a new lens.

Well, that is what my Crystal Ball sees :)

On our way to Cleator, AZ, passing through Bumble Bee.

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So do I recommend the X100T?

Did it motivate me and push me to get out and shoot? Well, yes it did. Not as much as a Leica but it’s a camera that makes you happy to own it. It is a camera that will reward you with beautiful colors and images. In the right light it can be unstoppable, in the wrong light it can be a bit flat. High ISO performance is pretty much what we had in the X100s (be sure to read that review HERE if you missed it as it goes over more as does the X100 review). 

I had some issues with the AF missing its target (using center point) and I had the same overexposure issues that plagued the camera since the version 1 X100. Those who shoot the X100 series usually dials in some negative EVF comp to make up for  the slight overexposure of the cameras metering system.

X100T vs Same Price Range. Anything better?

For the cost of $1299 I would look into the fabulous and pro level Olympus E-M1 as it is a better camera in every way but size (its a tad larger/thicker) and comes in at $100 less. Of course that is without a lens but man, so many great M 4/3 lenses out there. The E-M1 for me bests all cameras up to full frame where it can not compete but I have yet to use an APS-C or smaller camera that beats out the E-M1 in 90% of situations.

Don’t hate on me now…I just call it like it is. The E-M1 at $100 less has a much better weather sealed build, is much faster, much more accurate, has 5 Axis IS, better video and is much more responsive. It’s a joy to use and own. Of course a good lens will mean you have to spend at least an extra $350 (45 1.8) but in the long-term it is a camera that will last you many years. I still own one myself. It’s too good to let go. Check out what Neil Buchan-Grant does with his E-M1. 

But be warned, the E-M1 though is like a Mini DSLR and does not stand for what the X100 series does, which is simplicity..one focal length and a camera that is nice and slim and more compact. If this is what you seek, the X100T is fantastic.

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Fuji is one of the “Big 3″ for mirrorless cameras in 2015. They are going no where. We have Sony who is IMO leading the pack with the mirrorless bodies and full frame sensors as well as the tech/build and overall usability. Then we have Olympus who IMO makes amazing bodies with gorgeous IQ and the lenses from Olympus are nothing but the finest you can get in the mirrorless world for size and quality. Then we have Fuji who is pushing along with new bodies every year or so and great fast primes that many of us want. For me, these three companies are as good as it gets in the Mirrorless world. The Fuji X100T is the latest and greatest for Fuji’s X100 line, and if this camera attracts you or pulls at you heartstrings, $1299 is what it will cost you, and its worth it.

I wil not buy an X100T because I already own 5 cameras but to those who want to get into Fuji with the most simplicity, beauty and the most zen like camera of all of the Fuji’s, the X100T is your best bet!

Highly recommended.

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You can buy the X100T at B&H Photo, Amazon, or PopFlash.com 

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Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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

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Jan 132015
 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Italy, Transylvania, Austria with Sony A7s, Olympus E-M1 and Leica

by Neil Buchan-Grant – See all of his guest posts HERE

Hi Steve,

I thought it was about time to share with you some of the pictures I’ve been making over the last year. As ever my photography has been mostly made with the Olympus EM1 but following on from your enthusiastic response to the Sony A7s, I decided to trade in my A7 for one. I only use the Leica M 50mm Summilux ASPH on the A7s but its a combination that, although limited in application, has proved to be a great one.

I spent most of the summer at home in England enjoying the fine weather we had here, but I booked myself a week of shooting in a villa on Lake Como in northern Italy for the end of August. The village I stayed in was buzzing as George Clooney was in town shooting his latest coffee commercial just before his wedding in Venice. I then had a very fruitful week in the marvellous city of Sibiu in Transylvania. I was given backstage access to a fashion show there which led to some intimate low light shots made with both cameras.

This was made in the hotel Villa D’Este, in the games room, with a Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/160s, f1.4 ISO 1600 Model: Thorn

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s, f1.4 ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Another shot in the city of Sibiu made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Leica DG 25mm 1.4, 1/200, f1.4, ISO 200, available light. Model: Amalia Beksi

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In London this shot used only available light and was made with the OMD EM1 and the new 40-150mm 2.8 lens @ 45mm, 1/50s, f2.8, ISO 1600

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During a quick break in Vienna Austria, I was lucky to come across an exhibition featuring the work of a New York fashion photographer of the 1950’s called Lillian Bassman. I found her work incredibly beautiful. She was a contemporary of the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but for me she took things to new levels of artistic endeavour with her innovative printing techniques and her eye for elegance and drama. I’ve since bought her book “Women” and I now long to work with long-necked women and couture hats!

This was shot in the villa on Lake Como with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/200s f1.4 ISO 800, available light (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Donutella Viola

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This was made in the villa on Lake Como with some continuous lights I had brought with me. Shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Olympus 17mm 1.8, 1/80s, f2.8, ISO 800 (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Chiara Sgarbossa

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I made this shot in the garden in Como with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/80s, f1.4. ISO 100, available light Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Another shot of Jessica made at the edge of Lake Como. It was shot at dusk with an off camera flash through a mini softbox on the Olympus OMD EM1 and the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 lens @ 12mm, 1/250s, f3.5, ISO 200. The image is a composite of the original colour version and a black and white conversion, blended to give a dramatic effect. Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s f1.4, ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Finally the prospect of more dark winter skies was too much so I booked a week in the Spanish Canary Islands over Hogmanay. I had the new Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 PRO lens on loan, it just went back today..:( and I was dying to use it in good light. Its’s a lens which I would happily recommend to anyone with a micro four thirds camera, it’s bitingly sharp! By some ridiculously lucky chance encounter, I ended up shooting a UK model who was there on vacation. This gave me some great opportunities to test this new lens on something other than landscapes. Thanks again for the opportunity to share these pictures with your readers.

I took this shot backstage at the fashion show in Transylvania with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/60s, f1.8, ISO 3200 available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Raluca Mararu

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This was also made at the same event with the OMD EM1 + 17mm 1.8, 1/100s, f1.8, ISO 1000, available light (grain added later in Silver FX Model: Rosalinda Mihaela Zadaroinea

Behind the Catwalk

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This image was made in the changing rooms with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f 1.4, ISO 1000, available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Cucerzan Adelina

Behind the Catwalk

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During my stay in Sibiu I was lucky to work with some of the models on locations in the city. This was made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 12-40mm lens, 1/320, f2.8, ISO 200 using an off camera flash through a mini softbox (18”) Models: Amalia Beksi and Flavia Bodi

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Kind Regards
Neil

Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

A few more…

This landscape in Fuerteventura was made with the OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 40mm, 1/320s, f4, ISO 200 Polariser

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This image was made at sunrise in Fuerteventura with the OMD EM1 + 12-40 2.8 PRO @ 12mm, 1/2500s, f2.8, ISO 200, Polariser

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Another one in Fuerteventura this time with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 115mm, 1/1600s, f2.8, ISO 200 available light Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made in Fuerteventura in available light with the OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/3200s, f1.8, ISO 200 Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made during a rehearsal of the English National Opera’s Nutcracker at the Colosseum in London. It was made with the OMD EM1 + 75mm 1.8 lens, 1/400, f1.8, ISO 3200 (grain added in Silver FX)

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This photo of people watching a firework display in Winchester was made with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f1.4 ISO 25,600

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Jan 132015
 

The Leica M9 held its relative value better than any DSLR of its time

By Karim Ghantous

leica-m9_1

It’s noteworthy that the Leica M9 has held its value so well since its launch in 2009. It does produce beautiful photos and after owning an M8 (but not an M9) I have to say that the digital M system is great. There are one or two features which I would call stupid – such as the average LCD and noisy shutter – but overall the M9 is a damned fine camera, despite its quirks.

I’m comparing it to four high end DSLRs from about the same period, which were available as the M9 launched: the Canon 1D MkIV, the Canon 1Ds MkIII, the Nikon D3X and the Nikon D3S. I’m also including the D300S out of interest. It was launched at almost the same time as the M9. It is at the other end of the price range, but it is a professional grade camera.

NB: The fact that competing cameras are not usually launched at the same time does not allow for straightforward comparisons.

The 1Ds MkIII was launched about two years before the 1D MkIV, but was not replaced until 2011 with the 1DX. I was almost not going to include this camera – it is unfair to compare a camera significantly older than the M9. However, it was one of Canon’s top end cameras at the time the M9 launched. So depreciation will be compared with the cheapest known discounted price of $5,999.

The 1D MkIV has a crop factor of 1.3x, which some would consider an advantage, depending on their preferences. (There could very well be a strong market today for a RF camera with the same sized sensor as the 1D and the M8).

The D3X was only one year old when the M9 launched so I thought it was fair to include it without a handicap.
Here is the summary of the DPReview articles on the cameras in this comparison. Dates are announcement dates, not review dates:

Leica M9: $6,995, 18Mpx, September 2009.

Nikon D3S: $5,199, 12Mpx, October 2009.

Nikon D3X: $8,000, 24Mpx, December 2008

Canon 1D MkIV: $4,999, 16Mpx, October 2009.

Canon 1Ds MkIII: $7,999, 21Mpx, August 2007.

Nikon D300S: $1,699, 12Mpx, July 2009.
Here are observed used prices from eBay USA. All auctions took place in December, 2014, and were for bodies which were either in VG or EXC condition:

Leica M9: $3,200 (body), $2,950 (body)

Nikon D3S: $2,025 (body), $2,025 (body)

Nikon D3X: $2,425 (body), $2,060 (body)

Canon 1D MkIV: $1,875 (body), $1,950 (body)

Canon 1Ds MkIII: $1,650 (with two zooms and light meter); $1,450 (body)

Nikon D300S: $512 (body), $450 (body)
There are two ways to calculate depreciation: percentage and dollars. All values used in the calculations are averages for each camera model.
First, the depreciation in dollars from the official list price. A lower score is better:

M9: $6,995 – $3,075 = $3,920

D3S $5,199 – $2,025 = $3,174

D3X: $8,000 – $2,243 = $5,757

1D MkIV: $4,999 – $1,913 = $3,096

Canon 1Ds MkIII: $5,999 – $1,550 = $4,449

D300S: $1,699 – $481 = $1,218

Second, the depreciation in percent from the official list price, the formula being 100-(100/LaunchPrice x UsedPrice). Again, a lower score is better:

M9: 56%

D3S: 61%

D3X: 72%

1D MkIV: 62%

1Ds MkIII: 74%

D300S 72%

It’s important to have both the dollar amount and the relative amount. The Leica depreciated less, relatively, than the other cameras. But you lost less money on the D3S, D300S and 1D MkIV.

One M9, brand new in the box with not a single shutter actuation, sold for $4,000. So on that particular camera, depreciation was only 43%: 13 percentage points better than average. I did not include it because it did not represent at typical example.

The M9 does best by a small but clear margin in terms of relative depreciation; and it comes third in terms of outright depreciation, excluding the D300S. It is slightly surprising to see the D3X perform so poorly, given its very good image quality.

In one way, the D3X is a bargain if you’re after a second-hand camera. I would argue that if you’re taking photos of motionless cars or some such thing, and if you couple it with the best Zeiss lenses you can afford, you’d be doing very well.

Here is the summary of the DxOMark scores for DR and ISO:

Leica M9: 11.7, 884.

Nikon D3S: 12.2, 2290.

Nikon D3X: 13.7, 1992.

Canon 1D MkIV: 12, 1320

Canon 1Ds MkIII: 12, 1663.

Nikon D300S: 12.2, 787.

With the exception of the D3X, these cameras have similar DR. The D3S and D300S have an edge – half a stop over the Leica. The D3X has two stops more than the Leica and performs significantly better than any camera here. Canon users must be questioning why even their newest models are still limited at 12 stops. Nikon and Leica (and Sony) users must be happy at the progress made over the past few years. The M type 240 is one stop better than the M9; the D4S is one stop better than the D3S but does not match the D3X.

In terms of the ISO figure, the three big DSLRs have between 1 and 1.5 stops over the M9, at most. It’s worth noting that the M9’s highest useable (i.e. real world) ISO is underestimated, but I don’t know if that’s also true for the other four cameras. The Canons aren’t that hot compared to the D3S, but have higher pixel counts.

Thanks to modern cameras like the D4S and especially the A7S, and the occasional whining about the M9’s limits, it’s tempting to look back with misty eyes and overestimate the ISO capabilities of older DSLRs. The reality is a bit different.

So, does this matter?

Cameras are not investments – they are disposable. It’s the images which are supposed to last. Taking reasonable care of your equipment makes sense, of course, because if you don’t then you’ll get crap photos, unless you don’t care about misaligned lens mounts, inaccurate focus, light leaks and sensor dust. But the camera serves the photograph.

Also, the big DSLRs are more of a niche product (read, “sports”) than the M9. The D3X isn’t a sports camera as much as it is a studio or landscape camera. I suggest that the M9 is more suitable than any of the DSLRs for reportage, landscape and portraiture (and travel, if that is a real category). Finally, overall depreciation depends on which lenses you bought, and there are plenty to choose from for each system, both OEM and third party.

I compiled this data mostly on a whim, and partly to show that Leicas are not as expensive as people think (even if you count lenses, but that is beyond this article).

Sometimes, a person might say that they can take the same pictures with a $500 Nikon, Canon, Pentax or Sony DSLR as they can with a $6,500 Leica. Of course they can. But Nikon and Canon do make $6,500 cameras – today. And to repeat, the M9 is arguably better suited to most applications (but distinctly unsuited to macro and many sports).

Finally, the M9’s market value is possibly lower than it should be. The noisy shutter and sensor issues no doubt are affecting used prices. The availability of the M-E might also contribute.

So, to answer the question of which is the ‘smarter buy’, I’ll leave that to you.

URLs for all citations:
DPReview (for price):

M9
http://www.dpreview.com/previews/leicam9

D3S
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/Nikond3s

D3X
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond3x

1D MkIV
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos1dmarkIV

1Ds MkIII
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos1dsmarkiii

D300S
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond300s
DxOMark scores:

M9
http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Leica-M9___640

D3S, D3X, D300S
http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-D3s-versus-Nikon-D300s-versus-Nikon-D3X___628_614_485

1D MkIV, 1Ds MkIII
http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon-EOS-1D-Mark-IV-versus-Canon-EOS-1Ds-Mark-III___629_436
eBay items used for this post:

M9
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Leica-M9-Digital-Rangefinder-and-signed-copy-of-Stephen-Colbert-039-s-America-Again/261703507813ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $2,950)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Leica-M9-digital-rangefinder-Black-EXC-boxed-w-acc-Only-1132-activations-/391004707220ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $3,200)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Leica-M9-18-0-MP-Digital-Camera-Black-Body-Only-NEVER-USED/131382090750?_trksid=p2047675.c100011.m1850&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20140602152332%26meid%3D91b545c3992b4abf81aa5fed3f4055e1%26pid%3D100011%26prg%3D20140602152332%26rk%3D6%26rkt%3D10%26sd%3D391004707220 (body, $4,000, brand new in box, not used in this comparison)

D3S
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-D3s-12-1-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-Black-Body-Only-/141507854653?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $2,025)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-D3s-12-1-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-Black-Body-Only-/151517389748?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $2,025)

D3X
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-D3x-Camera-w-original-box-and-contents-plus-extra-battery-/231422217996?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $2,425)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-D3x-24-5-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-Black-Body-Only-/261709201062?autorefresh=true&_trkparms=gh1g%3DI261709201062.N7.S2.M202.R4.TR6&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $2,060)

1D MkIV
http://www.ebay.com/itm/canon-1d-mark-iv-/301444446130?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $1,875, reserve not met)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Canon-EOS-1D-Mark-IV-16-1-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-Body-Only-2-Batteries-EXC-COND-/231425104475?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc ($1,950)

1Ds MkIII
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Canon-EOS-1Ds-Mark-III-21-1-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-Black-Body-Only-/251748797630?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEWAX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=J4HjVpcOXF8Di88U05sc0SvZVe4%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $1,450)

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Canon-EOS-1Ds-Mark-III-Camera-Body-with-Accessories-/261693511617?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEWAX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=J4HjVpcOXF8Di88U05sc0SvZVe4%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body and two zooms, $1,650)

D300S
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-D300S-12-3-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-body-with-EXTRAS-Low-Shutter-Actuations-/191445022871?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $512)

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-D300S-body-DSLR-plus-extras-Excellent-Condition-/181613904582?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=p%252B89YZd5ehhLC4ucS8kv83crRbk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc (body, $450)
Amazon listings (yes, it’s weird that most these cameras are still listed with new prices, so please don’t shoot the messenger):

M9
http://www.amazon.com/Leica-M9-Digital-Finder-Black/dp/B002NX13LC/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1418885238&sr=1-1&keywords=leica+m9

D3S
http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Digital-Camera-3-0-Inch-Capability/dp/B002SQKVD0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418888285&sr=8-1&keywords=nikon+d3s

D3X
http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-24-5MP-CMOS-Digital-3-0-Inch/dp/B001MJ03U0/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1419476094&sr=1-1&keywords=nikon+d3x

1D MkIV (no listing with a new price, so these are only used prices)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B002TG3ZYQ/ref=dp_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=all&sr=1-1&qid=1418889804

1Ds MkIII
http://www.amazon.com/Canon-1D-Mark-III-Digital/dp/B000NP1C5O/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1418885227&sr=1-2&keywords=canon+1ds+mark+iii

D300S
http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-12-3MP-DX-Format-Digital-3-0-Inch/dp/B002JCSV6M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418884964&sr=8-1&keywords=nikon+d300s

Finally, and not necessarily relevant, my favourite camera review so far:
http://www.overgaard.dk/leica-M9-digital-rangefinder-camera.html

 

 

Jan 122015
 

The Panasonic LX7. A $349 Backup to my Leica M

by John Kurniawan

880960

Hi Steve and Brandon…Wish you both a Great 2015!

Bought a Panasonic LX7 as a back up to my M system.

I choose LX7 as a camera for my daughter as well a back up cam when I am traveling. Why LX7 ? Just love its size and features which suit my need like macro, zoom and manual mode. The manual mode comes handy when in low light condition so I can mimic the RF experience.

Almost a year with LX7, both my girl and me are happy with it, here are some the photo produce by this funtastic cam. Ones can produce good photo no matter what the camera is, most important is how ones capture lights correctly.

Thank you and hope to see more good post by talented photographer at your site

Best Rgds

P1010635

P1010432-Edit

P1010770-Edit

P1000213

P1000164

Jan 092015
 

How I managed to like my photos

By George Mastrokolias

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I’m George Mastro from Piraeus, Greece. I’m into photography about 10 years, but as a programmer I was actually only into the specs of cameras and not actually photography itself. I was hooked by reading reviews and I suppose I got addicted on reading all about the latest gear even though I didn’t understand all of the details at the beginning.

I had a small compact Sony at the time (2005-2008) and after a few years, dSLRs had matured enough so I thought that if I could buy one I would be able to take better photographs. So after a looooooot of reading I bought the Canon 40D with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 which was a super combo. But I wasn’t pleased with the results. I was very disappointed indeed. I only had taken about 3k photos and I put the camera on an auction as I was sure it wasn’t the right camera and maybe I needed a 5D or something. But the problem was not the camera. It was the weight of it. It was a heavy combo and I couldn’t take it with me everywhere, so after a whole year the counter was only 3k and those were from the first month only!

Then mirrorless came into play and I bought the nifty NEX-5. As a matter of fact I had better shots with this camera but it was only because I was shooting more and more with it. But again not so mush as I wanted. I had to carry a small case along with it. That meant that I didn’ t had a camera always with me.

Then the magic happened! I bought an iPhone 5. Yes a phone, I know. But I finally started to shoot everyday hundred of photos. I realized that I liked it a lot. Much more than just reading for camera specs and gear. I also took a part in a contest and won! Yes I know! With a phone!!! It came in the top 5 among 3500 participants. That’s the winning photograph:

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The contest was about photographing the public transportation of Athens. Winning the contest was the event that made me prouder that ever and then I became ever happier hearing that my photograph was all over the public metro stations and even in a gallery inside the biggest metro station of Athens!

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Then I was reading and searching everyday of the way I could buy myself a new camera that would be better from a phone but also I could carry it always with me and that brought me to your blog. It was the Ricoh GR. I was sure I made the perfect choice and I know that today because I have taken 10x more pictures with this camera than every camera that I had before combined! Here are some shots:

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Do you want to know what’s the funny part behind all the above photos? They are all taken on my way to work. Why? Because I have my camera always with me. I know it has became a cliché but “The best camera is the one you have with you” by far! I now like my photos more and more every day. I know that I have a lot of things to learn and I am not perfect but I own the GR for about 9 months and I think I’m moving towards the right direction. Enjoying photography as an experience!

My addiction about camera specs is now taken over by learning every day about film cameras. I bought myself a Yashica Electro 35 CC that got me my first Flickr Explore

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Can you image that? My most liked photo is from a camera 40 years old! What camera gear and specs are you talking about people? I stopped worrying about that for sure. Next thing is to be a red dot owner, but I live in Greece so I think an M2 would be just fine. Until then, cheers from Pireaus!

You can check my Flickr here ;) https://www.flickr.com/photos/georgemastro

Jan 032015
 

Hi Brandon,

I have been a frequent reader of your father’s reviews on this website. and this would be my 1st submission, and hopefully 1st of many.

Over a year ago I gave up on DSLRs, and got myself a Fuji X100s when it was 1st introduced. that camera changed the way I take pictures, I am no longer cautious and concerned about being caught taking pictures in public (this is a grey area in my country, no specific rules, but many got into trouble shooting large dslr in public)

I quickly adopted street photography, loved how the Fuji was small, silent, and no one would take it seriously anyways. it made a lot of sense at that time.

However, I always wanted a Leica and last January I got my hands on my 1st ever Leica, I decided on a black M240 along with 50mm Summicron (V4 I believe), and that set was just perfect, small and discreet, slowly I even forgot about my trusty Fuji, and the Leica became my primary camera.

Attached are some photographs taken with the leica M along with the Summicron 50mm.

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Regards,

Fahad A

Saudi Arabia

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/

Jan 022015
 

London with my new Coolpix A

By Kelsey Horne

Hi Brandon and Steve,

Before travelling to London this Christmas, I wanted to get a camera that didn’t sacrifice on image quality but would still fit in my jacket pocket, no case, no strap, no heavy DSLR around my neck all day. After seeing the great deal on your site for the Nikon Coolpix A, I decided to pick one up after reading your review. I figure $700 off the retail price is a good deal:)

GLAD I LISTENED TO YOU!!!

There is something about the way this camera renders the image that feels special to me. I wasn’t sure how I would like the 28mm focal length but after a couple of days of shooting it grew on me and I found it hit the sweet spot for shooting landscape and people. Sure it has some issues but having a large sensor in camera that is truly pocketable is worth dealing with the slow auto focus.

London is beautiful this time of year with the lights – contrasted by the old architecture. I shot more than usual because the camera was so easy to take with me no matter where we ventured.

Enjoy.

Kelsey

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Jan 022015
 

Old San Juan! Fuji X Style

By James Conley 

New Year’s greetings!

As we settle into the cold of the North American winter, I thought I’d share some images from sunny and hot Old San Juan.

Puerto Rico is an exceptional place to travel as a photographer. Founded in 1521 by Spanish settlers, and a territory of the United States since 1898, Puerto Rico is a historic jewel in the Caribbean. Although it feels like being in a different country, it’s very convenient for U.S. residents since no passport is required, Puerto Rico uses the dollar, and English is spoken everywhere.

The port city of San Juan provides an ideal background to explore street photography. Continuously in operation as an active port for nearly 500 years, San Juan’s Spanish architecture rivals European cities with its blue cobblestone streets, brightly colored masonry homes, public squares, and massive walls and fortifications. With tropical weather year-round, the people are active and friendly, with a relaxed and open approach to life. Cafes and coffee shops abound, and the ocean is a constant feature of the background. The bright light is filtered through numerous palms, illuminating the town in beautiful light.

As detailed in a prior report I did for your site, I use the Fuji X100s and X-E1 primarily as the poor man’s Monochrom—set to capture achromatic jpegs, as well as use an achromatic EVF. (A few settings does the trick: Shooting Menu 1, select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. Shooting Menu 2, change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1.) Old San Juan is a challenge to the eyes with all the tropical color. But, the contrasty light and the rich textures of stucco and brick lent itself nicely to the Fuji Monochrom. Although I was pleased with the achromatic results, there were a few occasions that cried out for color, and I surrendered to what the town provided.

Most of these images were shot with the X100s. The rest were shot with the X-E1 with either a Fujinon XF 14mm or the Rokinon 8mm.

If the winter cold gets too unbearable, I can’t recommend enough a trip down Puerto Rico way. Even a quick weekend provides a feast for the eyes and thaws the bones.

Here’s my contact info:

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

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Dec 302014
 

Readers chime in on the Sony A7II!

Before posting my own Sony A7II Review I asked if any readers had gotten their A7Ii yet and if so, send in some thoughts about it. A couple of you sent in your own thoughts after getting the camera, so here they are!

The A7II can be ordered at Amazon or B&H Photo

My full A7II review is HERE

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David Scott

Steve — I’m a long-time reader of your blog and solidly am with you on the Sony A7, A7s and A7II. I’ve all but abandoned Nikon, having sold everything save one D600 and a couple of lenses — but they never get used.

This message, however, is about the fabulous (in my opinion) combo of A7II and the Tamron 150-600mm for Sony (mounted with an LA-EA4 adapter). Below is one of the very first shots I’ve made using this duo. Top is the original, bottom a crop. So far, virtually every image I’ve captured at 600mm has been tack sharp. Autofocus seems very fast. However, I haven’t yet had a chance to try nailing birds in flight. At the moment, the hawks and buzzards that ordinarily circle the skies here are nowhere to be seen.

I literally have had the camera and lens for only a couple of days and December wildlife north of Atlanta has been, well, sparse. I don’t send this image as an example of fine art but, rather, a demonstration of the how well the A7II and Tamron get along.

I have become a thorough Sony A7-line fan and only wish the A7II had a silent shutter option like my beloved A7s. Still, it’s extra megapixels and stabilization feature mean I’ll be carrying both bodies on every shoot. Since most of my regular work is indoors under ordinary, daylight-balanced fluorescents, the A7s has been my go-to camera.

For me, smaller, lighter, quieter — and now steadier — rocks!

www.davidscottimages.com

Handheld at full tele (600mm), ISO 1000, 1/500th sec., f/6.3 (wide open); SteadyShot set manually at 600mm via the camera menu.

(Keep in mind this is at 600mm and HANDHELD! If you never tried this it is NOT easy and about impossible without good IS)

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David Fonseca

Hey Steve! You asked for A7II impressions and here are mine. Hopefully they are useful to you. You were the main reason why I purchased my EM1 and A7 so here is my help to you in return! I am including some test shots I took with my 2 Canon FD powerhouses, the 50mm 1.2L and 80-200 F4L. This is what I wrote on a forum site I contribute to, talkemount.com. The original post is here: http://www.talkemount.com/showthread.php?t=9372

So the A7II arrived today, a day later than I expected when I first put in the preorder but a day earlier then I expected from just a few days ago. I own the A7 and love it. It has become my go to camera. Reasons I felt the upgrade were important to me were, hated the original grip and button placements, no IBIS, a tad slow, poor video features. The A7II seemed to cover these very well. The things I wished for but didn’t make the cut was, silent shooting and a newer improved sensor.

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1st impression out of the box are pretty consistent with what we have seen from online reviewers. Noticeably heavier but the grip is fantastic. Very comfortable shooting without a strap with a heavy solid metal lens like the FD 50mm 1.2L that I have on it now. Overall construction is VERY good. Buttons, dials and screen. Very smooth but solid movement and actuations. Startup time is fast. Almost instant for me in most cases. Shutter is definitely quieter but not stealthy by any means.

Things I’m not sure about yet. The front dial on the grip is a little hard to get to with my fingers and I have to struggle a bit to get to it. Tilt screen is also hard to get to. Not a lot of edge to grab a hold of (Tip From Steve: On the right side of the LCD, underneath, is a lip to grab onto to pull out the LCD). The self-cleaning shutter-clang at power down still happens sometimes. Also when you turn it on and the SteadyShot is engaged there is a small vibration in the body right at boot-up. I tried it a few times and got it to do it fairly constantly. EVF is identical to the A7.

OK so now for a quick steady shot comparison. These are shot with the FD 50mm 1.2L. The steady shot ability with non electronic manual focus lenses was what I was most looking to get with this camera and so far I think its working really nice.

First set. Shot at 1/10 at f8 ISO 200 handheld with dim desk lamp as only source of light. I cropped in a lot. This figure stands at about 3.8″ tall

Without SSI (5 Axis)

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With SSI 

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This next one surprised me so much that I had to take it twice to be sure. Shot at 1/6 at f8 ISO 50. Same desk lamp

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With SSI

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So SteadyShot Inside is not too shabby on a 40+yo lens. Now I know some of us were wondering if the steady shot is engaged in the preview. Id say it is engaged with a shutter half press but using it on a 50mm lens is hard to tell. However when using the focus zoom feature, it doesn’t seem to engage as I couldn’t tell much movement change with it on/off. This weekend I plan on trying it on my 80-200mm and see how it fairs with the longer FL. So far so good though

And then here is a follow up with the 80-200mm f4L:

Ok so finally home and playing around with my 80-200mm. The steady shot is way more noticeable at 200 mm. Also it’s very comfortable holding the camera with this beast on it. A few other things I am noticing.

Menu and C3 buttons are much easier to get to than previously.

I was able to map the FL selection to C3. Very convenient for me to be able to make quick adjustments with a legacy zoom lens.

The higher resolution screen seems to allow you to magnify the image in review a lot closer than previously.

Wi-Fi access is much more reliable – A big plus for me as I use this feature often!

Emount is definitely more robust. I nice solid ‘click’ when you engage the lens

Not seeing steady shot when using focus magnification. Will have to check the manual to see if there is a way to engage it.

Here is two shots indoors and hand held.

200mm f4 ISO 100, 1/25, with and without steady shot

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Here is what the 80-200mm fdn looks like on it

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Mikee Catacutan

Wow, this things feels like a brick. Not a bad brick but just a really solid magnesium alloy framed brick. I like the weight of the original A7 but definitely like the feel of the mark II better and if I had to choose, I’d go with the more solid feel as I think it could withstand some serious traveling.

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Other physical difference include the finish. It’s way more premium looking and feeling over the original A7’s shiny plastic like finish. As we all know, the grip is also larger. It feels good but I also didn’t have a problem with the original, however the added real estate for the placement of the shutter button absolutely feels perfect.

On the original A7, there was a little movement between the body and lens. I’ve used the camera in light showers with no problems but the A7II has a much more improved lens mount. The click you hear when mounting a lens sounds confident and there’s absolutely no wiggle between body and lens.

All the button feel similar, with a few feeling more solid adding to the premium aspect of the camera. I thought the screen would be exactly the same however the black borders on the LCD are reversed with the thicker border being on the right of the LCD. That means the A7 screen protector won’t align with the A7II unless you flip it upside down resulting in an upside down Sony logo. I ended up leaving it on for the time being for protection and will change it out later, or maybe not. It doesn’t bother me. You can see it below:

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So without a doubt, the camera feels great. I will admit needing to get use to the added weight. It’s not heavy, it’s just different from the original A7, which I’ve been using extensively for a year.

As far as internal improvements go, I can already feel the auto focus has improved greatly in that I don’t feel it’s a concern anymore. We’ll see how it goes as I do more shooting but I’m super happy with it. Start up time is a bit faster. Not by a lot but it’s definitely less annoying.

And then there’s IBIS. This is why I decided to sell my A7 and upgrade. Any help in taking care of camera shake, I’m all for it and I think it’s definitely worth it for me. Especially when I’m shooting in constantly changing scenes/light and without the ability to set a minimum shutter speed but want to keep my lens wide open, the added image stabilization will give me more confidence that if it does go down to say 1/30th of a second, I’ll still be ok. I don’t venture too far below 1/80th for handheld shots because I absolutely hate blurry images, so now that I can feel more comfortable at lowers shutter speeds, I’ll worry less and focus more on composition.

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So there you have it. My first impressions of this beast. I have a shoot on Saturday so I’m excited to put this guy to work. I’m already a fan of the quality of the A7 so I’m sure I’ll be just as happy, if not more, with these files.

And some images from Mikee Catacutan

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Beau Reyes

Hello, Steve im a long time Sony alpha user and just received my A7II. The camera reminds me of my old a900 but shrunk down. I take pictures for an adult basketball league and was able to test out the camera this past weekend. While they say the af is 30% faster id say its 100% more accurate. Aside from having to shoot at high iso, the camera performed beautifully paired with the 70-200mm f4 G.

Thanks for running an amazing website.

Take Care,
Beau Reyes

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Richard M Poniarski

Steve;

I saw your page about people who got the A7mII recently and thought I would send you a couple of shots I took. I got mine last Friday and the next day headed into New York City to the International Motorcycle show, where two of the shots were taken, and then to a local car show on Long Island, where I took the blue Coupe de Ville picture. All were jpgs, as Lightroom didn’t have support for the new Sony, though the update now does and I am returning to shooting RAW.

As to the camera, it is really awesome. All the shots were taken with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE OSS lens and the combination of the lens’s stabilization and the IBIS is stunning. I have been able to take shots at much slower shutter speeds than I ever have, something very important to me as I have a familial neurological condition that causes my hands to shake. I love the deeper grip and the shutter button placement is perfect. Only thing making it less than perfect is that there still aren’t enough FE lenses to complete my kit. Once that is done, I will be a very happy camper.

Thanks a lot for all your work and keep it up!

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Dec 272014
 

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The Sony A7II  Real World Camera Review. My Camera of the Year 2014.

Follow SteveHuffPhoto.com on Facebook!

**Direct Links: Buy the A7 II at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE**

You just gotta love Sony. They are back yet again at the end of 2014 and have released a camera that is not only a fantastic update, but this one is my pick for camera of the year 2014! 

Yep, they squeezed in the last couple of weeks of 2014 and captured my #1 fave camera of the year. My #2 for 2014 is the Sony A7s, and those who know me and know this website know that I LOVE the Sony A7s. If you did not see my A7s review, you can see it by clicking here. 

The low light monster A7s really grabbed me in so many ways, from the full frame 12MP sensor that can literally see in the dark to the beautiful color and quality that comes from it. The fact that I can shoot at ISO 40,000 and get usable images from the A7s is pretty amazing. To my eye (and many others) Sony improved the image quality/color and AWB with the A7s and this made the images POP and have a more beautiful color. The Auto Focus could/can see in and focus in the dark, even without an AF assist light. So the A7s has been my #1 camera ever since it was launched. The silent shutter and ability to shoot wide angle Leica M lenses was icing on the cake.

So now today I am here to sit at my desk in a Log Cabin in the woods I rented for the Holidays..for the long haul..to write about my real word experience with the new and quite popular Sony A7II. As you already know, from my opening statement above…I love the A7II enough to have made it my pick for Camera of the Year 2014.

For me, Sony stepped it up in many ways with the A7II compared to the over one year old A7 yet it will not replace my A7s. Instead it will be an addition to it.

Wow. The Leica Noctilux on the Sony A7II at f/0.95. Look at the color..the depth..the magical rendering that adds emotion and soul to the image. This lens on the A7II is MAGICAL and in no way inferior to  using it on a Leica M, in fact, the color is much better here than with the M. Click image for larger version.

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For one, the build of the A7II is all new and more beefy and solid. The camera feels like a  “pro” camera. It’s very nice.

They also changed the ergonomics by adding a new bigger grip and changing the buttons and dials around a bit. The shutter button and custom buttons are placed in a much better way allowing your fingers to naturally fall where the buttons lay. Perfect. After much use with the A7Ii and A7s, I prefer the shutter button placement of the new A7II. Take a look at my 1st look video below which was shot the day the A7II arrived…

My 1st look video when I received the A7II

 
The AF speed has improved by 30% over the A7 Mark I according to Sony (and I agree) and what may be the biggest news of all comes in the form of in body image stabilization. Sony is now using the 5 Axis IS system which moves the sensor itself to compensate for any hand movement or shake. This means that you will now get up to a 4 stop advantage when shooting low light and needing that extra bit of help keeping things steady…

…and yes, the 5 Axis IS works with classic lenses as well as modern day Leica M mount lenses though the system will revert to a 3 Axis IS (similar to what is in the Olympus E-M10). The 5 Axis will not make the A7II equal the A7s but it does indeed help in low light situations.

The Sony/Zeiss 35 f/2.8 at 2.8, a fantastic lens on the A7II. Click for larger. 

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Sony also upped the Ante with the video, bringing in the same video possibilities as the A7s which has been heralded by some video pros as a fantastic camera for making films. I feel the video works very well with the image stabilization though I am not a video wizard and will be evaluating this camera mainly for photos. Even so, the video I shot with the A7II was fantastic. It has a mic input and the on board mics are quite beefy. By that I mean they are not tinny sounding. They sound nice and full as a good mic should.

With all of these improvements in the A7II you would think Sony would have priced it at the A7s level, or around $2500. Nope! The A7II is $1698 for the body only, which is a HUGE HUGE bang for the buck and worth every penny. Every cent. Every bit of it. I remember many years ago buying an original Canon 1Ds. I spent about $10k on the body and a couple of NON L Canon lenses. Today in 2014 this Sony A7II beats that old Canon 1Ds in EVERY single way from speed to image quality to high ISO to usability and versatility. Digital Photography has come a LONG way over the past 10-15 years.

With the Sony A7II comes a camera that will let YOUR abilities shine or your NON abilities to also shine ;) It is a camera for an amateur, enthusiast or pro, as it has enough to handle almost anything besides fast action sports shooting even though the continuous AF has been improved quite a bit. If you want a camera for the long haul, one that does not cost a fortune yet gives you results that appear that it does, one that will grow with you or allow you to flex your own photographic muscle, then I urge you to read on as this A7II may be just what you have been looking for.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 for Sony E mount using the Voigtlander close focus adapter. This $400 lens is very nice with a classic rendering though does have some slight vignetting. I reviewed it HERE.

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But the A7II is not perfect, and I will get into all of this as the review goes on.

DISCLAIMER: As you have already seen, I will also show image samples from the A7II using all kinds of lenses from the Sony/Zeiss offerings (35 2.8. 55 1.8 and 16-35) as well as some M mount lenses from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander. Even a few from the teeny Nikkor 5cm 1.4 S mount. With the A7 series, almost ANY lens can be used from any manufacturer with the use of adapters. For this reason, I will be showing the results from all kinds of cool lenses in addition to my favorite three Sony/Zeiss lenses.

THIS, to me, makes the A7 series so much more desirable than any other camera system available today. Sure, you can mount most lenses to an Olympus E-M1 as well but you lose out on the full frame sensor that gives you the full lens character. So a Leica 50 Summilux or Noctilux will retain the same character that it does on a Leica M, in some cases even better. Amazing!

Just think about how special this is. Many of you will be saying “I have no interest in manual focus lenses” because you probably have a DSLR history or are just so used to AF lenses you are nervous to try a nice manual focus lens. I am here to tell you though  – DO NOT FEAR MANUAL FOCUS lenses on the A7 II! Shooting old classic RF lenses is a joy and SO BEAUTIFUL. Lenses can be had from $30 to $13,000 so there are affordable choices that are quite nice.

Manual focus with a Leica Noctilux, at f/0.95. Added a filter using VSCO filters and with the focus peaking and magnification of the A7II, manual focus is a breeze and is actually in a way more rewarding and makes using the camera even more special. 

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With that said, the original Sony 35 2.8, 55 1.8 and new 16-35 perform fantastic as well on the camera. There is something for everyone with this camera and that is the beauty of it.

The A7II at ISO 8000. An out of camera JPEG with Noise Reduction turned OFF. Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. 

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The Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at ISO 1600 – click for larger – OOC JPEG – The color, the crispness and the overall rendering is fantastic here! OOC JPEG at night!

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The Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 once again, at night! OOC JPEG

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The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 with the A7II at ISO 3200, zero noise reduction. OOC JPEG

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The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 at ISO 2000 – OOC JPEG

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The 16-35 2.8 zm Zeiss at my Christmas 2014 Getaway ;) Where I wrote this review!

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The 16-35 and A7II at a Comicon fanfest in Phoenix AZ

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First Impressions & Build

Wow, so many photos already and I am just getting started on this review! Phew!

My very 1st impressions of the Sony A7 Mark II was quite surprising. I was expecting an A7 with 5 Axis thrown in but when I took it out of the box I was a bit shocked to feel how much better built it felt, and the A7 already had a good build as it was. This was different. The new body with new grip and button layout feels more beefy and solid. It is slightly larger now due to the 5 Axis inside but it’s still much smaller and thinner than a DSLR.

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When I held the camera in my hand I was impressed with not only the feel and heft but the new finish of the camera which is now a matte and a slightly rougher finish compared to the almost candy coated glossy black of the A7’s that came before. It has the metal build of the A7r and you can feel it. The camera is not thicker but the grip is, and this makes the camera appear larger than the older A7 and A7r as well as the A7s. Adding in the 5 Axis IS made the body slightly bigger so for some of you, this is good. For others you may not like the extra size.

When you hold this camera you instantly know you have something of great quality here, even more than the $1698 that it costs. It feels like a $2500-$3k body and no matter what anyone tells you, it is SMALLER than ANY DSLR and quite a bit smaller than even the Nikon Df. It’s not quite DSLR sized, and the way I love to shoot it is with small rangefinder lenses. BTW, Manual focus is a breeze (as already hinted) with the large EVF (same EVF from the previous A7 series).

You can set up any of the custom buttons to whatever you like. I have the C3 button on the back set up for focus magnification (and yes, you still need to do two button presses to get it magnified) and it makes for a quick and easy way to manually and critically focus any RF lens, such as a Leica Noctilux 50 0.95 which is the most critical lens to focus wide open. Basically, all of the buttons can be assigned to whatever you like meaning your A7II can be customized to your preferences.

Speaking of the Leica Noctilux

When using the Noctilux on the Leica M, you HAVE to make sure your rangefinder is 100% spot on or else it will be a lesson in frustration. Your shots will be slightly out of focus and makes the lens an expensive paperweight. On the A7II, using the Live View EVF with peaking or magnification means you never have to worry about your camera being calibrated. What you see is what you get. As much as I love and adore Leica M bodies, I would be lying if I said I never had Rangefinder calibration issues. When this happens it is NOT fun so using these “best lenses in the world” on the Sony A7II is a joy.

Below are a few examples of this stunning and unique lens on the A7II

All shots using the Leica Noctilux, 0.95, and shows the same gorgeous quality that it does on the Leica M but in some ways, slightly better. 

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and below…ISO 12,800, from RAW, ZERO Noise Reduction. THIS is what makes these Sony cameras special. ISO 12,800 and with a lens like the Noctilux lighting up the scene, it gives the impression that there was light to work with. When shooting this I could not see her with my eyes yet looking through the EVF allowed me to “see in the dark” and the image appears to be lit up when it was not really like this in real life. The A7s or A7II with a Leica Noctilux offers things that are not possible with any other camera system, period. ZERO noise reduction as always.

If anyone is interested in a Noctilux for their A7, A7II, A7s or A7r, I recommend Ken Hansen ([email protected]), the legendary Leica dealer.

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An Artist’s Tool

The buttons on the back are all laid out nicely, in place where you would and could easily access them. I am sitting here writing this and I have a Nikkor 50 1.4 S mount rangefinder lens on the camera. It feels SO SO solid and is nice and compact with this lens on.

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The bonus? This lens has some magic in its rendering and while I once had it for Leica screw mount (which can run you up to $600-$800) this time I was able to buy the S mount for about $100 and pick up an S to E adapter from Cameraquest. Same lens as the screw mount but until now, the S mount lenses were not desirable as they were not usable on any digital cameras. As of today, it is quite easy to find S mount RF glass quite cheap. I have a feeling this may change with so many Sony shooters out there and the new Adapter ;)

There I go again, talking about lenses!

The cheap but super cool Nikkor 5cm 1.4 S mount Rangefinder lens works perfectly with the Sony A7II and S to E adapter (available at CameraQuest here)

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The Sony A7 series is like a true artists tool because you can literally mount ANY lens to it and there are some very cool, very funky and mighty fine lenses out there that can be had for a song. Even my $30 Jupiter 8 does fantastic on the A7II. No DSLR can do this, none. You can not do this on a Fuji body THE RIGHT WAY as the lenses are all compromised seeing that you do not use the full frame of the lens on an APS-C crop sensor. Same goes for Micro 4/3. To date, the ONLY cameras capable of such versatility with lenses is the Sony A7 series. Even the Leica M can not do what the A7II does. The A7 series of cameras are unique for this very reason.

The Jupiter 8, a 50mm f/2 that is light, cheaply made and CHEAP to buy (mine was $30). This lens is even fantastic on the Sony A7II! It’s a Leica screw mount lens so I use a cheap $10 Adapter to turn it to M mount then use my Voigtlander close focus adapter to mount it to the A7II. 

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So my 1st impressions on Day one of the camera were pretty amazing. In fact, two hours after getting the review unit I placed an order for my own A7II. I put my money where my mouth is as I always do when I rave about something. With that out of the way (and already over 2800 words written, geez) let me get started by breaking down what I LOVE about the camera, and then I will talk about what I think should have been different or improved upon.

I will break this down into oddball sections that pop into my head as I write..when I do my reviews I never have a plan or template or even an idea of what I am going to say…it just flows out as I write, so keep that in mind.

The A7II with the super cool Voigtlander 40 2.8 (my review of that lens is here). Crisp, clean, slight vignetting but super sharp for $400. These are OOC JPEGS.

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The A7II Sharpness and Detail

While I love the Sony A7s and have used it ever since its launch, almost daily, the A7II will obviously have more detail due to the 24MP sensor (vs the 12mp sensor of the A7s). The bonus? For the most part, the A7II gives us the color, AWB and more pop of the A7s, which improved from the A7 and A7r. Below take a look at simple OOC JPEGS, yes Out of Camera JPEGs showing how sharp this camera can be without any muss of fuss of RAW processing. Make sure you click on each image to show the 100% crops correctly!

The 1st shot is from the A7II and 55 1.8 lens, at 1.8 This is a JPEG ladies and gentleman, usually this means mushy details but for this one I was very pleasantly surprised to see Sony improved the JPEG rendering of the A7II. Click for larger,

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This next image shows a 100% crop. I used an old 50 year old Leica 50 2.8 Elmar. Click the image to see the full size crop..the detail and the nice looking JPEG file. Again, OOC JPEG!

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Even more details. Rich deep color using the “CLEAR” JPEG preset. 

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…and one more with a crop..the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at 2.8. This lens give a nice color rendering that borders on watercolor and reality. It’s quite beautiful. JPEG!

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…and a full size image  – out of camera JPEG using the Sony 55 1.8 – YES, A JPEG!

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While we get most of the good stuff from the A7s (color, AWB, pop, video specs) we do not get ALL of the good stuff. For example, with the A7II we do not get the silent shutter option as this is sensor specific. We also do not get usable ISO 40,000 images but we do gain the 5 Axis Image Stabilization which helps with low light. We also gain the build and re-design of the A7II.

So basically the A7II should be compared to the A7 Mark I (which I do not own but have shot extensively) and not the A7s as the A7s is a specialty camera for those who do not mind the 12MP resolution. The A7II when compared to the now $1200 A7 is much better due to all of the improvements.

Let’s break down the details of the A7II..

24.3MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor

This sensor is fantastic yet it is the same sensor that we had in the original A7. Sony tweaked things a bit though to deliver the better IQ and color over the A7 Mark I.

BIONZ X Image Processor

Sony’s processing that gives us more speed in the A7II.

5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization

First seen in the Olympus bodies such as the E-M5, E-M1 and E-P5, 5 Axis IS is powerful. For video it is superb and for images it allows you to shoot in lower light than before as the 5 Axis IS will move the sensor itself to compensate for your own hand shakes. It works well and I was able to shoot an image at 1/15th of a second with the 55 1.8. Some will say we should be able to do 1/8th of a second with the 55 but without the 5 Axis I was only able to pull off 1/45th. Click below for my 1/15th shot indoors, ISO 1600 with 100% crop. (click on the image).

So any way you slice it, the 5 Axis IS is a nice help and it is worth having it for photo and video. With video it gives some wide angle lenses such as the 16-35 a steady shot kind of feel. No shakes, no jitters, just smooth video.

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Enhanced Fast Hybrid AF and 5 fps Burst

Sony sped up the Auto Focus speed for the A7II and I can tell that it improved. Continuous AF is also improved with much better tracking of your subject.

Full HD XAVC S Video and S-Log2 Gamma

For the video guys, this is good stuff.

3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

Same LCD as the previous A7 series

XGA 2.36M-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder

Same EVF as the previous A7 series

Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body

The A7II is weather resistant and has weather seals. Body is made of Magnesium Alloy.

Refined Grip & Robust Lens Mount

We gain a beefier lens mount and the larger more refined grip. This is a nice improvement but some will prefer the smaller grip of the old A7 and some will prefer the A7II grip.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

The A7II still has the WiFi and NFC built in.

So all in all, the A7II uses the Same A7 sensor with tweaked image quality in color, AWB and overall JPEG rendering. The Body is redesigned to feel like a pro body with a beefier grip and lens mount. The 5 Axis IS is the big news here and gives the camera an overall polished feel. The A7II feels complete. It feels like a camera and not a computer. This is good.

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Low Light/High ISO of the A7II 

Ever since I acquired the Sony A7s I have become spoiled by the spectacular ability it has in low light. I have shot images at 102,000 ISO and they were PUBLISHED and usable. Insane capabilities. Of course ISO 102,000 will in no way create a clean image but it does better than any other camera I ave ever used when it comes to cranking up the ISO to get a usable image.

The A7s is quite a bit better than the A7, A7II, A7r when it comes to extreme high ISO because of the 12 MP sensor. Having those big fat megapixels on a full frame sensor helps to kick it into overdrive when it comes to low light abilities. But many could not get along with the 12 MP sensor. Some had a problem with it mentally, others just had a problem with it because they did not want to spend $2500 for a 12MP camera. Me, I printed 20X30’s from my A7s and the prints are gorgeous so I do not need 24, 36 or 54 megapixels to be happy. I am not one who stands an inch from a print trying to see how detailed it is…to me, this is not photography but a pixel peeping disorder. These are the things that can take away the true meaning of photography yet many suffer from it.

With the 24 Megapixels of the A7II we get to a happy medium between low and crazy high. I feel 18-24 MP is perfect and higher is usually when I start to have issues with file sizes, blurred images from hand shake, etc. Also, this is the first Sony body for me that meets or exceeds the legendary Sony RX1R. 

So after using the A7s since launch and not having a worry in the world using Auto ISO up to 80k, low light with the A7II made me nervous. I decided that I would cap it off at 12,800 which to me, is about as high as one would want to go with the A7II. But even so, 12,800 is massive!

Below are some shots taken at various high ISO as well as a side by side with the A7s at ISO 12,800 and 25,600.

ALL with ZERO Noise Reduction. ZERO. 

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Many have asked me how much better the Sony A7s is with high ISO. Well, remember that the max ISO of the A7s is 402,000. The max ISO of the A7II is 25,600. I have shot the A7s at 102,000 ISO and had a shot published at that ISO though it was noisy.

The A7s at 12,800 and 25,600 has an edge over the A7II of course but the difference may not be as huge as you think. I found the A7II is also pumping out even more bold color than the more natural color of the A7s. Still a different rendering than the A7 Mark I though. These files were all Out Of Camera RAW files, meaning, nothing was tweaked at all. No noise reduction was applied at all. What you see is what you get.

Click the images below to see the 12,800 and 25,600 shots. This was taken inside a kitchen without lights on in the kitchen, just some window light.

And now a comparison with the Sony A7s at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 (the max of the A7II)

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So while the A7s is still the king of the night, the A7II does mighty fine at higher ISO’s. I found ISO 8000 is a sweet spot for high ISO work, and ISO 12,800 will work well if needed. Not too shabby! Images above were taken with a Voigtlander 35 1.2 Lens.  Another mighty fine manual lens for the A7 series.

The Wide World Of Lenses for the A7II!

NATIVE LENSES: There are many lenses for the full frame A7 system even though the A7 (FE) mount is only 13 months old! Not sure why people claim there are no lenses. Sony has release a slew of them in a short time with many more to come.

16-35 Zeiss – Superb Ultra Wide Zoom, SUPERB!
28-70 Kit Zoom – CHEAP and Decent..did I say CHEAP?
24-70 Zeiss – Excellent Zoom, just as good as any Canon or Nikon!
35 F/2.8 Zeiss – Bests my Leica 28 Elmarit at 1/2 the cost. Yes, really.
55 1.8 – Gets close to the Leica 50 APO at 1/8th the cost. (I have done side by sides on this site. many preferred the Sony lens)
70-200 f/4 – Here is the 70-200 most people wanted! 
There is also a 28-135 Cinema lens for FE mount by Sony.
Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia for FE
Zeiss 50 f/2 Loxia for FE

Also, the 50 Mitakon Speedmaster f/0.95 – I reviewed it HERE but this is a full frame FE mount lens. Super speed.

New primes on the way this year. Within 3 years there will be more lenses for FE then you know what to do with as third parties are making them for FE as we speak.

Those lenses above cover 16-200mm right now. The A7 series is only 13 months old. In 13 months that is quite a number of lenses released. More than Fuji managed to release or Olympus for that matter. The FE mount is NEW so for this many lenses to be out already is quite amazing really.

More details…

So if you want NATIVE mount lenses, there are plenty here now with more on the way. If you want to be adventurous there are so many lenses you can use and have more fun with and get even more beautiful results with for not any more effort. It is the most versatile system you can buy right now with more lenses available to shoot than any other system.

To date, my favorite native lenses have been the 55 1.8, the 35 2.8 and the newer 16-35 which is a stellar wide angle lens. So for Sony native lenses you have quite a few excellent choices, even a nice 24-70 Zeiss.

Then we have the new Zeiss Loxia lenses, the 35 f/2 and 50 f/2. These are stellar in quality but are manual focus and a little larger in my opinion. They will offer you great Zeiss color and pop but do not expect the size and feel of the Zeiss ZM lenses, which also perform well on the A7II.

Of course there are all kinds of lenses that can be used on the A7 series with the correct adapters. Leica M mount lenses, Voigtlander M mount lenses, screw mount lenses, Nikkor S mount lenses, Canon and Nikon lenses, Contax lenses, etc.

When you sit down and think about it, the A7II has thousands of lenses that can be mounted and used. From vintage to artsy to creative to modern day masterpieces. I love shooting of rangefinder glass on these cameras as it is a sinch to focus and the results are quite different than the native lenses, with more character and pizzaz as well as being quite a bit smaller and better made.

I use Leica M lenses, Voigtlander M lenses, Zeiss ZM M lenses, and even a Nikkor S mount lens. All are fantastic in their own way, even my $30 Jupiter. ;) All are simple to use and make shooting more fun IMO.

Taken with A vintage Nikkor 50 1.4 in S mount. An old rangefinder lens that I am using thanks to the new Adapter available at CameraQuest.com. If you have old S rangefinder lenses, this adapter will let you use them on the Sony A7 series of camera. 

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The Voigtlander 40 2.8 on the A7II

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So whoever buys into the Sony A7 system, you have thousands of lenses at your disposal to use and have fun with. From a cheap Jupiter to a crazy Leica Noctilux  to the Native lenses from Sony, all will deliver a different feel and vibe which makes using this camera very motivating. You never know what jewel you may uncover on you lens hunts.

If going with a Leica M mount lens, wether it is from Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss or whoever, I highly recommend THIS adapter from Cameraquest.com. I own two and they are hands down the best adapter available, even allowing close focus with any M lens, something even the M can not do. Pricey but you get what you pay for and I always believe it is better to buy ONCE instead of buying, selling and buying again.

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Shooting Wide Angle M Mount Lenses on the A7II

From my experience, anything less than 28mm will bring in some color distortions with the A7, A7r and yes, A7II. The A7s is the best A7 camera for Leica wide angle lenses and the A7II has done OK with even the Zeiss 25 2.8 Zm lens but not so well with the Voigtlander 15 4.5. So if you mainly shoot wide angle Leica lenses, the A7II will not be your best bet. It is indeed the same sensor as the A7 Mark I, so I did not expect any major improvement there.

Below are three shots using the Zeiss ZM 25 2.8 Lens. A tiny and superb wide angle  that is between a 28 and 21. It did not do quite as well on the Leica M9 or M 240, and was a little off on the A7r due to colored fringing and edges. On the A7s and A7II it seems to do pretty good with the best performance on the A7s.

Three shots with the A7II and Zeiss ZM 25 2.8. You can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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To my eyes the 25 is not perfect with the A7II but it is perfectly acceptable for me. I am not a massive pixel peeper though and go for the memory/emotional aspect of the photo, not the perfection aspect. Still, I am LOVING the A7II colors with almost any lens I attach to it. With that said, the best choice for Leica lenses from 28mm and wider would be the A7s.

The Video of the A7II

I am not a huge video guy and 96% of my use with the A7II and A7s will be for photo purposes but the A7s and A7II have fantastic video quality from what I have seen, better with the A7II due to the in camera 5 Axis IS. Shooting video with the 16-35 Zeiss was awesome as it stabilized the lens in a way that made the video appear almost steadycamish. NO shakes or jitters, just smooth video.

Some have complained about artifacts in the video but in my short and limited use, I saw no such things. Nothing that would bother me in the slightest. Then again, if I were making a full length pro feature film, I would be using something besides a mirrorless camera to shoot it. If you want the low down on the video I suggest searching the video sites such as eoshd.com. 

Even so, my humble little video using the A7II is below. It is a hodge lodge of nonsense just to show how the 5 Axis works, and you can see just how well it works when I attach the Leica 50 Noctilux to the A7II and then the A7S. The A7S video is much more shaky where the A7II video is smooth and silky.

Video test of the 5 Axis IS and A7II along with a side by side with the A7s to show the difference 5 Axis makes for video

My Fave Accessories for the A7 II

With a new camera always comes new accessories, at least for me. I have to figure out what strap I want to use, what bag, what memory cards, what case (if any) and even things like shutter soft releases and items that sort of pimp out my cameras. Below is a list of the things I will be using with my A7II and things I already have on my A7s:

STRAPS: My most used straps these days are the Street Strap Long (available HERE) and when I want to get serious, the MoneyMaker from HoldFastGear.com. BTW, The Street Strap has outlasted my expensive Artisan and Artist silk strap which was messed up within one week.

SOFT RELEASE: Amazing soft release for Any A7 camera? The Artisan Obscura Sticky Back release is beautiful. One has been on my A7s since I got it and it has never fallen off. I love these as they will not come off or come loose. Check them out here. 

TACTILE: I attached these little metal buttons to my A7s and love them. They give the camera a better tactile feel when button hunting and works on the A7 or mostly all digital cameras. You can check them out at rluther.com 

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BAG: My favorite bag EVER. The Wotancraft Ryker. Black or Brown, either one is GORGEOUS. My review is HERE.

WRIST STRAP: The nicest wrist strap I have used lately is from Classic Cases. It’s high quality leather and super comfortable. You can see them or order them HERE.  I have one of these attached to the A7II and a Street Strap on my A7s.

MEMORY CARDS: I use a Transcend 64GB and it has been reliable, fast and it was affordable. It is a 60MBPS card and you can nab one on Amazon for under $34. I bought FIVE. 

BATTERIES: I saved some cash and bought a few of these Vivitar replacements as they are cheaper and work just as well as the Sony branded batteries. THIS is the exact deal I bought..TWO batteries, a charger, a rocket blower , lens brush and cloth..all for $24.95. THIS is a steal! Just to verify, these are the A7 batteries and will work in the A7, A7r, A7s and A7II.

LEICA M ADAPTER: My #1 recommended adapter for Leica M lens use is the Voigtlander Close Focus adapter. To me, it is the best made, and allows for close focus. No lens play, just a solid locking connection. I bought mine from Cameraquest.com. 

NIKON S/CONTX RF ADAPTER: Picked up one of these new Adapters and was impressed with the quality and the fact that I can now use Nikkor S mount RF lenses on the A7 series. These are fantastic well made TINY lenses and can be found at great prices. Get it HERE.

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OFFICIAL SONY BATTERY GRIP (above) – This grip is all new for the A7II as the old one will not work. This is a weather sealed grip built to a pro standard and when it is on the camera, it feels like a PRO camera. It makes the camera much larger of course but also doubles the battery life. If I were to buy this I would only use it on heavy days when I needed lots of battery life. The price seems steep to me at $349 but some of you LOVE your battery grips, so Sony is offering this one for the A7II (and possibly whatever comes next to replace the A7r). You can order the grip HERE.

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JB WOODEN GRIP (above): JB has released a new wooden grip for the A7II. You can order it here for under $70

A7II – ISO 6400, Zeiss 35 2.8, OOC JPEG. It was dark! – ZERO Noise Reduction!

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My Favorite Lenses for the A7II, Native and otherwise

I often get e-mails asking me..”what is the best lens for XXXX” – I get this question day in and day out. Truth be told, there is no “best” lens as what lens you choose depends on what you like to shoot! Me, I have always been a 35 and 50 guy and I love fast primes. Even so, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 SHINES on the A7II, more so than it did on any other A7 body. Same goes for the 55 1.8. No idea why the is but others have noticed it as well.

These two lenses are my go to lenses when I want AF, and reliable performance.

The Sony 35 2.8 Can be seen HERE

The Sony 55 1.8 Can be seen HERE

Other lenses I adore with the A7s and A7II are the Voigtlander 35 1.2, the Leica Noctilux 0.95, the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar ZM, the Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar ZM and even the Voigtlander 21 1.8. 

So many lenses are amazing with these bodies, just choose what you enjoy the most and have at it! If you are unsure you can always rent lenses from lensrentals.com.

PopFlash.com also has deals on Leica M glass most of the time.

16-35 Zeiss at f/4

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The Shutter Sound of the A7II

Many people were not happy with the loud shutter of the original A7R. In fact, it is the loudest of all A7 cameras. The A7II takes it down a notch from the A7R and is pretty much the same as the A7. My A7II is a bit more subdued though and sounds a little more muted than my A7s. While it does not have the silent shutter of the A7s, the shutter sound never caused me one issue when shooting street, portraits or anything. Below is my video showing the shutter sound of MY A7s and the A7II I have on hand.

A few more words about the Leica Noctilux with the A7II (or any A7 body)

I am a lucky guy and thanks to Ken Hansen, who has been part of this site since day 1 (Ken is a legendary Leica dealer with over 50 years experience) by helping me to get it going, I was recently able to obtain a Leica Noctilux again after selling off my last one 1 1/2 years ago due to needing funds more than the lens.

It has been a year and half since I shot with the Noctilux on the Leica M 240 (see a post here) and while it is always a magical lens and what I call a “Lifetime Lens”, it is a lens that is not only hard to justify for mere mortals, it is a lens that is so unique it may be the most lusted after rangefinder lens in history. It is a controversial lens due to the cost where half of the people never understand it and the other half 100% do.

The draw and rendering of this lens is nothing short of breathtaking in the right circumstances, something that is not easy to achieve every time you use it but one thing is for sure, when you DO use this lens it will deliver a WOW rendering that most non camera people will rave over. But be careful, overuse will make it boring after a while so use it sparingly. Bring it out once a month or so and it will retain that wow factor.

From the f/0.95 aperture to the legendary Leica build to the shallow and dreamy depth of field as well as the rich color and contrast, this is a lens that can deliver deep emotion. At $11,000 it is a hard one to swallow and is quite ridiculous in pricing IMO. Even so, I love it, I adore it and I hope that I can keep this one (and plan to). Seeing friends like Ashwin Rao who still has his original Noctilux (also from Ken Hansen) and still loving it makes me feel lucky to own one again.

On the A7II you will get 3 Axis IS with manual Leica M lenses, still a wonderful IS system that helps eliminate the shakes. (same as the Olympus E-M10 which uses 3 Axis IS). Just set the A7II menu to 50mm and shoot away!

Also, Anyone who shoots this lens on the M or the A7 series I HIGHLY recommend the Variable ND filter for it (Ken Hansen has loads of them). Best ND I have ever used and allows wide open aperture in full sunlight which gives an altogether different effect. You can contact Ken at [email protected] and ask him about it. Tell him I sent ya!

A few more images from the combo of Noct and A7II are below…

PS – The Leica M and Noct will cost you $19k. The A7II and Noct will set you back $12500 or so. Insane I know, and it is NOT for everyone but just showing that you can save some cash by using it on the A7 bodies. Keep this lens for 7 years or more and you will make money if you ever decide to sell it. It IS one of the rare lenses that can indeed be considered a true investment. For example I bought a brand new F/1 Noctilux long before the 0.95 was released. I paid $3500 from B&H Photo. NEW. Today I see them going for $8000 if new in the box or true mint with box. Amazing. In 10 years the f/0.95 may be up to $18k or more. You never know, but Leica lenses have a history of appreciating over the years.

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The three images below had filters applied using VSCO film filters – B&W is not a problem for the A7II ;) 

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As you can see, the combo of Noctilux and the A7II seriously rocks. These were all wide open at f/0.95. When you stop down to f/1.4 you get the performance of a Leica Summilux ASPH. Stop down to f/2 and you get the performance of a Summicron but with the added benefit of the 50 APO colors, and the contrast of the Noctilux. To me, the Noctilux beats the old F/1 version handily.

The Bokeh of this lens is legendary, the stuff of fantasy and dreams. I have seen some pretty special photos with this lens when in super  talented hands. Get the light right, the mood right and the scene right and masterpieces can be made with this lens.

Things about the A7II that I wish would have been different

The A7II is one hell of a camera, and again, my “Camera of the Year 2014″ but it is not perfect. Yes, the IQ is stunning. Yes, the 5 Axis IS is wonderful. Yes, the color saturation and depth of the 24 MP sensor is fantastic. Yes, the fact that so many lenses can be used and mounted is awesome. Yes, the new design and beefy build is welcomed and yes the video is stellar. Yes, you can shoot at ISO 8000 and up to 12,800 and get usable results.

But if I could make a change or two the 1st would be to the BATTERY. The battery life is not so hot with the A7II and seems worse than it does with my A7s. It uses the same battery as the previous A7 series but with the new 5 Axis IS being used, it seems that the battery life is even shorter. I found I needed a couple of batteries for a full day of shooting, and I am a light shooter. If you get the A7II I suggest buying 2 or 3 extra batteries. I bought 3-4 Vivitar branded batteries for mine off of Amazon and saved a bundle while getting batteries that work just as well as the Sony branded batteries. The link to the Vivitar batteries is HERE and what a deal it is. Just click it and see what you get for under $25..it’s amazing.

So it seems the battery should have been made better. The Nikon Df battery is awesome and I wish Sony would develop something similar.

Also, I wish the A7II had the silent shutter of the A7s. I use it every now and again and while it is not mandatory it does help sometimes when you need ultimate silence.

One last thing…if the Auto Focus was maybe 15% faster it would be hard it fault at all. As it is, the Af may hunt in low light (The A7s does not) but the good news is that the Auto Focus is CRAZY accurate. I have never gotten a false AF hit with the A7II (but did a few times with the A7 and A7r). In low light it is much faster than the old A7 but not up to the A7s for low light AF. Still, its just as good if not better as most mirrorless cameras that are out these days. I have been testing the Fuji X100T and it has been frustrating the hell out of me with its constant AF misses (though the camera says it is locked). The A7II never has this issue.

The A7II and Sony Zeiss 16-35, a SUPERB wide angle for your A7 body.

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The Sony A7II vs the Leica M 240. 

Many have asked me this question lately and it is not an easy one to answer. The M 240 is a special camera with a special build, feel, emotion AND price. Coming in at $7k (deals can be had) and limited in high ISO and close focus and video use, it is mainly for those who want and love to shoot a rangefinder. The RF system makes the Leica M a 100% different camera to shoot than just about ANYTHING out there today.

The M feels fantastic, one of the best feeling cameras made today. The battery life is amazing, and the quality is superb. But, compared to the A7II, I feel the A7II can give better image quality, better color, and even more detail with 85% of Leica M lenses. Plus, the A7II beats the M in low light as well. Video? Sony 100%, no question. At the end of the day the Sony has a better sensor than the custom made one in the M 240.

All in all I find the only thing the M has over the A7II is the user experience and shooting ultra wide Leica branded coded M glass such as the 18, 21, Tri Elmar, etc. . Shooting an RF camera is a wonderful thing..a state of mind..an inspiration and brings passion into my shooting. I get some of this with the A7II but not as much.

At the end of the day, $1600 for an A7II that puts out better IQ and color and has more versatility is a steal compared to the $7000 M. Even so, I love the M. Always will. This is something that is personal preference and only you can decide. Have the cash? Buy both :) Bank account suffering after the holidays? Buy an A7II and know you ill be getting image quality that actually surpasses the Leica M in good light, low light, high ISO, low ISO, with much better video capabilities (if that’s your thing). I am not knocking the M at all, but I always speak the truth and 2 years after the M 240 arrived, we now have a camera from Sony that literally kicks its bootie in most areas, for 1/5th the cost.

Even so, the M will always have a place in my heart as it provides a “connection” to the user. It’s a thing of beauty.

Night time, Sony A7II and Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 – No issues focusing!

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The Sony A7II Vs the Fuji X-T1

Here there really is no contest for me. I like the X-T1. I feel it is as good as it gets for Fuji, but for me, many of you know that I dislike the X-Trans sensor. The IQ from that sensor excels in perfect lighting but in anything other than that, it fails. You lose punch, sparkle, depth, color, and pop. You gain flatness and a dull sheen. I have seen 10’s of thousands of Fuji images and I have seen some that blew me away (perfect light, natural or studio) and most, around 95%, are flat and dull to me. They are “nice” but lack depth and punch and seeing that the Fuji uses an APS-C sensor you will also lose out on other things such as using 3rd party lenses to their full potential.

For me there is no contest here, if I were offered a Sony A7II at $1698 or a Fuji X-T1 at $499 I would splurge for the Sony. The Sony is $500 more than the Fuji ($1698 vs $1198) for the body only but I always say “you get what you pay for” and this is usually 99% true. I’d rather spend the extra $500 and be 100% happy then spend $500 less and wonder “what if”. I have learned that lesson in life many years ago.

With that said, the Fuji X-T1 is fantastic, and I feel Fuji’s best mirrorless to date. It’s fast, looks great, feels great, has great controls and some wonderful lenses. But when directly comparing, for me, I prefer the A7II in every way from build, feel, IQ, abilities, lenses that can be used, and so on.

To those that love their X-T1 that is awesome, as it can indeed put out some beautiful colors and images but for me, full frame will win out due to DR, Punch, Pop, etc. If there were no full frame Sony mirrorless, then the Fuji would be near the top of the heap but with the A7II and A7s, the Fuji drops below them for me.

You can read my X-T1 review HERE.  As you can see, I raved about it as Fuji got it right and it is something that will make any Fuji fan proud.

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The Sony A7II vs the Olympus E-M1

Another AMAZING camera even two years after its release. The E-M1 is the pro grade Micro 4/3 and does just about everything right. The body is awesome, the feel is superb, the controls just work and the speed of this thing is impressive. The lenses available are 2nd to none and it was the 1st camera with 5 Axis inside. It’s a jewel for sure and many poo poo’ed it due to the smaller sensor but this sensor in the E-M1 easily stands toe to toe with any APS-C sensor around except for low light ability. The one main weakness of the E-M1 these days is the high ISO performance which lacks. Shoot in low light at ISO 3200 and you will get noise. Low light is a great test for high ISO and while many reviewers test it in studio light (which is silly) the real test is using it when you would need it..low light. So the E-M1 falls short for low light work when compared to most modern day cameras.

Compared to the A7II you are saving $300 with an E-M1 (not much) but losing the full frame sensor, better high ISO capability and all that comes with this such as DR, less noise at base ISO, etc. To me, these two are much closer than the Fuji X-T1 and A7II as the E-M1 is one of my all time faves. I still own one. Will take a lot for anything to get me  to remove it from my collection. Even so, I can get more use, better IQ and color, and better low light and DR from the A7II for $300 more. I feel the E-M1 may need to see a price reduction to $999 in the very near future. Will be interesting to see what Olympus comes up with in 2015.

The Sony A7II vs the Sony A7r

The A7r has not yet been replaced and Sony may be pairing down the A7 system to the A7 and A7s and creating a “pro” A9 to replace the A7r. Of course this is speculation as I know nothing at all about what is to come but rumors have been pointing to this.

If choosing today I would take the A7II over the A7r, 100%. No contest.

The A7r is clunky, loud, slower, worse in low light, no IS inside, has inferior AWB and color performance, and has too many MP when they are not needed for 99.5% of people. Every aspect of the II beats the R for me, all of it. The body, the performance, the IS, the video, the experience.

The II is more responsive and again, quieter. The R is the loudest of all A7 bodies (no, they are not all the same).

So to those who asked which one I would go for, the answer is clear. The one I did go for over the R, the A7II. It’s a more finished product and more enjoyable in real world use.

A7II vs the A7s

As for which camera I will use more, my A7s or A7II, that is hard to say as I love both. I see myself using the A7s in the low light scenarios or when I need the silent shutter. The A7II puts out such beautiful images in normal light that I may prefer it for my day to day shooting as it has slightly more oomph to the final image (though not a huge difference). Add in the 5 Axis, pro beefy build and feel and it bumps the A7s from daily driver to 2nd fiddle. Both have a place in my bag. The cool thing is the A7II is $1698 vs the $2498 of the A7s. That is quite the price difference so for new buyers I say go A7II. I own both and love both but if buying one it would be the A7II for me.

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Pros and Cons of the Sony A7II

PROS (for me)

  1. Fantastic build, better ergonomics than old A7
  2. Button placement much better than previous A7
  3. 5 Axis IS really works well (for video as well)
  4. Video is stepped up from A7
  5. Weather Sealed
  6. Can mount almost any lens made for 35mm (this is huge)
  7. Improved color, pop, and overall IQ over A7
  8. Faster AF and overall response than A7
  9. Nice detail and sharpness
  10. Improved OOC JPEGS means you could shoot this as a JPEG camera!
  11. PRICE! $1698 is a GREAT buy. No one can say this is overpriced.
  12. Same great EVF/LCD from previous A7 bodies.
  13. Makes a great 2nd camera to a Leica M or A7s
  14. Still smaller than the smallest DSLR’s, MUCH smaller than a D800 style camera
  15. More Sony Native lenses (and primes) on the way in 2015!
  16. Still usable images at ISO 12,800, which is fantastic.
  17. Sony/Zeiss 35 and 55 seem to take on a new life on this camera for some reason.
  18. Worlds 1st full frame with 5 Axis IS!

CONS (for me)

  1. Battery life is disappointing. Needs a better battery. 250-350 shots per charge. Should be 1000.
  2. No silent shutter that is in the A7s – Boo.
  3. In really low light AF slows down. My A7s is faster in low light.
  4. Still no go for ultra wide Leica M mounts such as Voigtlander 15. Color issues with these lenses.
  5. Can have Moire in certain situations as the sensor is VERY detailed and has loads of resolution (but rare)

Sony/Zeiss 16-35 – crisp and clean – This is a stellar wide angle zoom besting my old Canon 16-35 from back in the day, easily. 

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My Final Word on the Sony A7II

Sony is just hitting it out of the park lately (last 2-3 years)  – The RX1, the RX100, the RX1R, the A7 and now the A7s and A7II are all superb cameras that are pushing the tech and the experience up a notch compared to anyone else. It’s pretty amazing what they have done over the last 3 years.

When the original A7 bodies were released I spoke with Sony about their passion for this project. Basically, I was told they are not holding back and will be pushing forward to develop this system, lenses and all, for the long haul. They have many lenses on the way in 2015 (and ten lenses already for the FE full frame A7 system within a years time)  and it appears they are just getting started. I had the feeling that this was their baby..the one they were banking on (instead of DSLR production) and from my experience, it is working.

The Sony A series update cycle seems to be on a 12-15 month thing right now since it has been just over a year since the A7 and we now have the A7II. I am guessing the A7r replacement will be the rumored “Pro A9″ but believe me when I say it will be much more expensive and have a larger MP count. Many may want to hold out for that one even though right now it is all speculation and rumor (and no, I know nothing). Rumors say Feb 2015.

I was a fan of the A7 and A7r but did not buy one for myself after much thought. The things that held me back were slower than expected AF in low light, a teeny bit of clunkiness and in the case of the R, too noisy of a shutter and too high of a MP count for my tastes. When the A7s arrived I was in heaven as it solved these issues and became the most capable camera I have ever owned or shot with. The A7s, for me, was and is a game changer in the world of mirrorless photography and I am fine with nits 12 MP resolution as it does all I will ever need.

With the A7II Sony has done it again, and damn them! When a company releases a camera that is so good it motivates me to go out every day and shoot, then they have done something right. In 2014 it was a slow year IMO for stellar camera releases. Even the Fuji X100T failed to excite me (AF misses, X Trans Sensor, same old same old). The Panasonic LX100 failed to ignite the passion in me (massive lens flare issues, mushy details). It was not until the Sony A7s and now A7II that my passion was kickstarted in 2014. Passion, motivation and endless possibilities are what these cameras brought me. Sony is costing me more money…Ugh.

No one NEEDS a camera upgrade if you have one that works well already. I did not NEED an A7II as I have a few other cameras already. But when I saw what it could do, how it did it and the endless creative possibilities with it, I knew I WANTED it and the last few weeks have been so much fun discovering what this camera can do. To me, the price of the camera already was worth it for the joy it has brought and the many memories I created with it. Could I have done this with the A7s? Probably, but having the extra punch and 5 Axis in the A7II is what sold me. If and when the Pro A9 comes out looks like I will have THREE Sony cameras as long as it is not some crazy 50+ MP sensor.

The most impressive thing to me about the A7 series in general, especially the A7s and A7II is the fact that not only can we use so many cool lenses on these bodies to the lenses full potential, but now they are ALL stabilized with the internal 5 Axis IS. THIS is impressive and many blow it off as it is nothing, but to me and many others it is a HUGE deal. Many like to trash Sony because they just hate the name Sony. Many will never give this camera chance because they are stuck on Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc. That is the wrong way to look at it as the A7II is one hell of a camera. IN fact ,when I tested a Nikon D810 lately I found the Af to be OK (missed some shots), the body much too large and fat, and the weight an issue. The A7II performed just as well for me in every situation and did so while remaining light, small and with that 5 Axis IS. Again, a pretty big deal. The ability to throw on a tiny Leica 50 Summicron or Summilux, something that you can not do on a DSLR is quite amazing as well.

Yes you can do this on a Fuji but the results are MUCH different when dealing with APS-C as you will not use the entire lens so the lens character goes out the window. Overall, the A7II is a fantastic update and well worth the $1698 price tag. Doesn’t get any better for this price, period.

2014 may have been a slow camera year but Sony came in and snuck this one in last minute. For me, nothing else released in 2014 betters it. To me, this is what I would have called the “ULTIMATE DIGITAL CAMERA” just 6 years ago. Today, I still feel it is just that and I can only imagine what Sony has up their sleeves.

I highly recommend the A7II. I had no issues with it besides the sucky battery life. Everything else is beautiful from the buttons, dials and ergonomics (for me), 5 Axis and IQ. 

No matter if you want to shoot the native AF lenses, Leica M mount lenses, funky mount lenses or anything in between the A7II is going to bring you beautiful image quality, fantastic low light ability, super nice video and pretty fast and responsive (but not the best) AF. Bravo yet again to Sony. I can not wait to see what lies ahead for 2015 as I expect the A7r replacement and near the end of 2015 an S replacement.

I will go ahead and say it…I have been reviewing cameras for 7 years. This Sony A7II is the most versatile, fantastic, useful and all around best priced for what you get camera I have ever reviewed. Bam! I also feel that the review image samples here are among the best quality I have put in ANY of my reviews in those 7 years. 

You can buy the Sony A7II at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. My two #1 recommended Sony dealers. 

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A few more images below, 1st three should be from the Zeiss 16-35 with the 2nd one at ISO 12,800 outside at night…

ZERO NOISE REFUCTION

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

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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Dec 252014
 

Sony 55 1.8 and the Voigtlander 21mm Ultron for Landscape

By Julien Ducenne

Hi Steve and Brandon,

Thank you very much for publishing my previous article.
http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/05/07/the-sony-a7r-55-1-8-along-with-the-m9-noctilux-f1-by-julien-ducenne/

I would like to share my experience with 2 very special lenses, the Sony FE55mm f1.8 and the CV 21mm ultron f1.8

A couple of months ago I had the chance to visit the isle of Skye in Scotland with my son, wife and of course my camera. For this trip I kept it simple and picked only 2 lenses to go along my Sony A7r.

A great place on the island is ‘The Old Man of Storr’, It’s a beautiful rocky hill that you can see in film like prometheus. After just a couple of hours walk you can take already pictures of some beautiful landscape. My first try with the FE55mm was great for the details and colours but I thought that lens was not wide enough to show the magnificence of the view.

So I chose instead the 21mm ultron and straight away knew that this lens was much better to capture my point of view, where I wanted to get all of it. However put together with the a7r, that lens brings you a ton of details but the downside is the magenta vignetting on the edges (you can watch the issue on left side of the sheep picture), and if you don’t work in B&W you will need some adjustment in light room or Photoshop to work out the issue with the magentas.

We travelled some place else and can take fantastic pictures pretty much anywhere else. A perfect example of that is the last picture of bunch that was taken from the hotel we stayed in. For this one I chose the FE55mm to capture as much as I can the clouds details.

This island is definitely a great destination for landscape photography.

Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year.

Julien Ducenne

My Flicker : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ducenne/

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