May 222015
 
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The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM Leica Mount Lens, my 1st look. Wow.

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Just tried out the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM lens and wow, the reviews and user reports are true, this is up there with the Leica 35 FLE though different in the way it renders and image. Some will like it better, some will not, but either way it is FANTASTIC. I’d say we can get most of the FLE out of this Zeiss, but with a whole different character and feel. It may not be as sharp as the Leica 35 FLE at 1.4, but it is close, and it offers a more “organic” rendering that I simply love. Smooth Zeiss pop on my Leica Monochrom 246 or amazing bold color and snap on the A7s or A7II. It’s a lovely lens, and I enjoyed the lens I rented so much I really want to own this lens for my new MM. From the few shots I have snapped so far I feel it makes a perfect match, and as a bonus it will work well on the Leica M 240 and the Sony A7 series as well. Yes, I rented the lens but will own it as soon as I can.

I will have a full review eventually here, maybe in a few weeks  – using it on the new MM and the Sony A7 bodies. But for now, Amazon has 2 in stock, via prime, in black. $2190 which is $100 less than normal. For less than half the cost of the Leica 35 FLE you can have a lens that is in reality just as good, but with a different character (which I prefer). The build is solid, the aperture click is AMAZING, best I have felt on any lens and the glass is beautiful. IT IS NOT large, but it is larger than the Leica 35 Lux by a bit. Reminds me size wise of a 50 Summlux ASPH.

The rendering is just what I like, and all Zeiss. I will own this lens as soon as I can afford it!

You can order this lens at Amazon (via PRIME) HERE. You can also buy it at PopFlash.com, or B&H Photo. 

A couple of samples on the Leica Mono 246:

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And a few with the lens on the Sony A7II:

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May 192015
 
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Camera? Doesn’t matter, shoot what you love!

By Thomas Rhee

I’ve been a visitor of your site for a number of years now and while it’s not the most polished looking site, the content is what speaks to me. It’s honest and down to earth.

Anyways, I’ve been into photography since my high school days starting with film, on and off again thru the years until around 10 years when I started taking it more seriously. Like you (Steve), I’m also very much into high-end audio, currently mostly Naim gear along with a Mac Mini and a Mytek 192 DSD DAC that acts as my music server.

Recently, my GF knowing how much I love photography, gave me a Fuji X100T along with the WCL-X100 wide conversion lens as a gift for my birthday. Also, my birthday gift to myself this year was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk.II,. My other cameras include the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Fuji X100, Ricoh GR Digital III and a Canon 5D Mk.II. Of course, I’ve been shooting non-stop with my two new cameras so my submissions will be from those two, all of which were taken within the last two weeks.

The first photo is a street photo taken with my E-M5 Mk.II after having dinner at a restaurant located deep inside of a few alleyways here in Seoul, Korea. The image is of a waitress getting hot coals for a table-side Korean BBQ restaurant. The alley was pretty dark but fortunately there was a light in front of her that acted as a spotlight as well as the two open doors (two different restaurants) that brought in some light. Nonetheless, the ISO had to brought up to 3200 to bring up a reasonable shutter speed with the lens wide open.

“Waitress”

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Mk.II, 25MM, F1.8, 1/50, ISO 3200

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The second image was taken on Buddha’s Birthday here in Seoul, Korea. Like most other Asian countries, Buddhism is prevalent and Buddha’s Birthday is a big event where thousands come out to celebrate. This image was taken at one of the Buddhist temples here, nearby where the parade was happening. There was a homeless man surrounded by families, children on a field trip as well as devout Buddhists who came out to pray that day. The homeless man kind of stuck out from the crowd and I captured this while he was eating a popsicle although I have no idea where he obtained it from. The tree in the middle signifies to me a the disparity of how others see him as well as how he sees himself.

“Disparity”

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 MK.II, 45MM, F6.3, 1/60, ISO 3200

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The third and last image was taken this past Sunday where my GF and I decided to go to a botanical garden just to have a leisurely Sunday and get away from the hustle and bustle of living here in Seoul. The place was amazingly beautiful and when I came across this scene, with a Juniper tree, decided to take a snap.

“Juniper & The Garden Of Morning Calm”

FUJIFILM X100T, 19MM (28MM EQUIVALENT), F8, 1/1100, ISO 400 (FUJIFILM WCL-X100 WIDE CONVERSION LENS)

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Anyways, thanks for reading and looking,

Thomas Y. Rhee

https://www.eyeem.com/u/tyrphoto

May 182015
 
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New Leica Monochrom Typ 246, 1st Look Video & Samples

NOTE: YOU MUST click on the images here to see them correctly. If you do not, you are seeing resized and resampled softer images. Click them for larger size, and to see the correct sharpness. 

It has only been 2-3 days with the new Leica Monochrom but man, I can say with 100% authority that yes, for ME, this is a huge improvement over the last Leica Monochrom (M9) in EVERY way from file quality, to body, to features, to battery, to LCD, to Rangefinder, to the modern features like video and live view (which I will most likely not use). Just as the M 240 did over the M9, the new Monochrom Typ 246 does the same over the old M9 Monochrom.

The new MM 246 with my $30 Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 lens. The MM works well with old, cheap, classic lenses. Click for much better version!

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Now..before anyone gets in a HUFF over my words, as I know there are many die-hard fans of the original Monochrom and M9, what I say here is MY opinion, for my uses and needs. To me, and many others, this new MM is a full mature camera, a niche camera of course, but a full mature camera capable of astounding B&W imagery. It is like having an all B&W camera loaded with EVERY B&W film ever made, as your files can be made to resemble many B&W films. Of course digital will never replicate the look of film, but I feel what this camera can do…well, let’s just say I think it can output BETTER than film, without the hassle, costs and time involved. Personally, I would not choose a B&W film over a Monochrom 246 if given the choice. Of course, others will disagree, the film crowd.

A quick test shot after getting the new MM. 75 Summarit, f/2.4 – click it  to see it how it is supposed to be seen

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I feel the new MM is fantastic. It has the amazing battery life of the 240, the MUCH improved LCD, the MUCH improved menu system, quieter shutter, faster operation and larger buffer, increased DR (yes, it has more DR than the previous MM) and much improved high ISO performance. It is now 24 MP vs 18 MP and while the old MM was a detail MONSTER, I am not so sure yet if this one offers any advatage in resolution. This is something I have not seen, but will have to test.

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When it comes to IQ, the differences are that the new MM has files that are more creamy and rich, where the previous MM had files that were more RAW and hard. Just as those who moved to the M 240 from the M9, if moving from the old MM to the new MM, there will be a period of 1-2 weeks of solid use where you will need to get used to the differences.

Another with the little Jupiter lens at f/2.8 – click for better view

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I can say that the files from the new MM are much easier to process. With the old version, there was a learning curve. The new version seems much easier to get where you want to go when “developing” those RAW files.

This is NOT MY REVIEW, I repeat, this is NOT my review. This is simply my very 1st thoughts after having the camera for 2-3 days. My review will be up after I get to use the hell out of it with carious lenses. I’d say 2-3 weeks.

For now, take a look at my 1st look video of the new MM. Enjoy. My MM came from Ken Hansen, you can email him here for your Leica needs. You can also order the new MM at PopFlash, The Pro Shop B&H Photo, or Leica Store Miami. The new MM is $7450, a bit cheaper than the previous which came in at $7995.

May 182015
 

NEWS OF THE DAY Part 2: Fuji X-T10 Announced!

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Seems we are getting treated to some new cameras this year…finally. We had the new Leica Monochrom for the B&W crowd, we had the E-M5II earlier this year and now we get the Panasonic G7 and Fuji X-T10 today. Coming in at $799, this new Fuji is pretty attractive. I love the new block like design. It is a different shape but almost appears to be an X100 style camera that takes Fuji lenses. Small, light and with the usual Fuji X-Trans II sensor, this one is sure to please Fuji fans.

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Sleek, modern, yet a bit of retro thrown in, the new X-T10 is Fuji’s answer to those who want to spend less but get more. Looks pretty nice to me, and I will be reviewing this one for sure.

You can pre-order the Fuji X-T10 at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

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FUJI X-T10 SPECS:

Characterized by its sleek, retro styling, the silver X-T10 is a mirrorless camera featuring Fujifilm’s unique sensor technology, versatile autofocus modes, and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Revolving around the 16.3 MP APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR Processor II, the X-T10 is capable of up to 8 fps continuous shooting and full HD 1080p/60 video recording, and features an expandable sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200. Fujifilm’s proprietary X-Trans sensor uses a randomized pixel array in order to avoid the use of a resolution-reducing optical low-pass filter, therefore providing images with the utmost sharpness and clarity. Beyond the advanced imaging capabilities, the X-T10 further distinguishes itself through its ease of operation via direct shutter speed, drive, and exposure compensation dials, as well as a dedicated automatic shooting mode lever. Intuitiveness is further carried over to the Real Time Viewfinder, which features a 2.36m-dot resolution and 0.62x magnification, as well as a Natural Live View setting, to mimic the viewing comfort of an optical viewfinder with the added information control an electronic finder provides. Rounding out the feature-set is a sextet of autofocus modes that utilize the Intelligent Hybrid AF system for fast, accurate focusing with precise subject tracking capabilities. The X-T10 combines a rich array of imaging features with a classic, visceral design for both ease and enjoyment of use.

Beyond the core set of features, the X-T10 extends its versatility in a variety of shooting modes and features, including Film Simulation settings that recreate the look of classic Fujifilm films, such as Provia, Astia, and Velvia. In addition to the electronic viewfinder, a large 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD monitor is also available for live view shooting and image review, and features a tilting design to benefit working from high and low angles. Built-in Wi-Fi also complements handling by allowing for remote camera control and wireless image sharing via linked smartphones or tablets.

16.3 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor

A large 16.3 MP APS-C CMOS image sensor is integrated into the X-T10 to provide high image quality and detail. Using Fujifilm’s unique X-Trans pixel array, the sensor is designed with a randomized pixel pattern to eliminate the need of an optical low-pass filter for reducing moiré and aliasing. By removing this filter from the design, higher image sharpness is possible. Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) factors are also taken into account using the EXR Processor II, which helps to automatically compensate for aberrations and diffraction blur in order to produce images with the utmost inherent sharpness.

The X-Trans sensor also works to provide highly effective noise reduction and a clean signal-to-noise ratio. This enables smoother-looking imagery that becomes especially apparent when photographing in low-light situations with an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200. Additionally, a top continuous shooting rate of 8 fps is possible for up to 8 consecutive frames, as well as a 3 fps shooting rate for the capacity of an SD card, to benefit working with moving subject matter.

EXR Processor II

Aside from benefitting low-light performance, the EXR Processor II also provides quick performance throughout the entire camera system. The camera start-up time is about 0.5 seconds, shutter lag is about 0.005 seconds, shooting interval time is about 0.5 seconds, and an electronic shutter feature allows you to use shutter speeds up to 1/32000 sec. A fast autofocus performance speed of 0.06 seconds is also enabled with the advanced Intelligent Hybrid AF system using both contrast- and phase-detection focusing methods.

Intelligent Hybrid AF

Intelligent Hybrid AF is a quick, responsive autofocus system that employs both contrast- and phase-detection methods to acquire focus in as little as 0.06 sec. in a wide variety of lighting conditions and shooting situations. Additionally, pairing with the fast continuous shooting rate, AF-C can be used when shooting at 8 fps with advanced subject motion prediction to maintain sharp focus on moving subjects. Six autofocus modes are available for greater control over how the X-T10 achieves sharp focus:

AF-S + Single Point: A highly accurate focusing mode that allows you to choose one of 49 focus points, with a choice of five different area sizes, for basing your focus on a specific subject.
AF-S + Zone: This mode is ideal for subjects moving at a moderate pace or other instances where single-point focus may have difficulty tracking the subject. 3 x 3, 5 x 3, and 5 x 5 areas are available, as well as centrally-positioned 3 x 3 and 5 x 3 phase-detection areas for faster AF speeds.
AF-S + Wide/Tracking: For random and quickly moving subjects, this mode uses the entire 77-point focusing area to acquire focus on multiple subjects or subjects with unpredictable movements.
AF-C + Single Point: For photographing a subject with a fixed direction of movement, this mode allows you to choose one of the 49 points, along with an area size, to prioritize and maintain sharp focus as the subject travels across the frame or towards the camera.
AF-C + Zone: When shooting handheld, this mode lets you choose from 3 x 3, 5 x 3, or 5 x 5 areas, as well as the central phase-detection points, for tracking moving subjects.
AF-C + Wide/Tracking: Suitable for photographing from a tripod, this mode is well-suited to photographing unpredictably moving subjects by choosing the starting point in the frame and allowing the AF-C to maintain focus as the subject moves about the frame.

Real Time Viewfinder

An advanced electronic viewfinder has been incorporated into the X-T10’s design to support clear eye-level monitoring along with a host of unique viewing features to better support a more efficient overall workflow. The Real Time Viewfinder is comprised of a 2.36m-dot OLED display and features a high magnification of 0.62x. This broad perspective is further complemented by the 0.005 sec. lag time, which smoothly and seamlessly renders scenes and moving subjects. To further enhance the viewing capabilities in difficult lighting conditions, Natural Live View can be utilized to display an image quality similar to as if working with an optical viewfinder, or, conversely, the viewfinder can also be configured to preview the effects of Film Simulation modes or other settings in real-time to alleviate the need to check photos after each shot.

Body Design

Characterized by a body design reminiscent of an SLR film camera, the X-T10 features both analog exposure controls with intelligent automated technologies and a quick-selection drive dial. The clean and functional body design incorporates physical shutter speed, drive mode, and +/- 3 EV exposure compensation milled aluminum alloy dials that pair well with the manual aperture rings found on many of the XF lenses for intuitive exposure setting selection as well as full use of P/A/S/M exposure modes. For a more automated workflow, a dedicated Auto Mode Switch Lever is located on the top plate for selecting a fully automated shooting mode (SR AUTO) without worrying about exposure settings.

Depending on individual needs, dual command dials and an easily-accessible Q Menu provide an efficient solution for modifying some of the most frequently used camera settings, such as ISO, white balance, and file settings. For more extensive menu navigation, as well as live view monitoring and image review, a 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD monitor is available and features a tilting design to better support working from high and low angles.

Additionally, a built-in pop-up flash is available to provide extra illumination when photographing in difficult lighting conditions and a top hot shoe can also be used for pairing an optional external flash for greater, more controllable flash output.

Full HD Movie Recording

Full HD 1080p video recording is supported up to 60 fps, with other frame rates and formats also available. Full-time AF tracking is available during recording with subject tracking capabilities for ensured sharpness when either the subject is moving or if the camera is moving, panning, or zooming. +/- 2 EV exposure compensation is available during recording as well as the use of Film Simulation settings.

An HDMI port enables high definition playback of movies to an HDTV and the inclusion of a 2.5mm input supports the use of an optional external microphone for enhanced sound quality.

Built-In Wi-Fi

Wireless connectivity is built into the camera and allows for instant sharing of images directly to an Android or iOS mobile device. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app allows you to browse the image contents of your camera from your mobile device and transfer both videos and photos, and the entire sharing process is further expedited by simply pressing and holding the dedicated Wi-Fi button to begin transferring immediately. Remote camera control and monitoring is also supported through the use of the app, which enables Touch AF, shutter release, exposure settings adjustment, Film Simulation modes, white balance modes, macro, timer, and flash controls to all be adjusted from the linked mobile device. Location data can also be embedded into image file’s metadata for geotagging.

Film Simulation Modes and Advanced Filters

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the X-T10 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. A refined Classic Chrome mode is designed to deliver muted tones and a deep color reproduction, similar to that of a dated slide film. Pulling from their more contemporary line of transparency films, Provia offers natural-looking tones for everyday shooting, Velvia produces a more dramatic and rich tonality with deeper color saturation, and Astia gives less contrast for a softer depiction of skin tones. Mimicking their negative films, Pro Neg. Std. gives smooth image tones that are suitable for accurate color renditions, while Pro Neg. Hi produces a more dramatic feel with the ability to draw color out of a variety of lighting conditions. In addition to the colorful benefits of these Film Simulation modes, there are also monochrome modes that simulate the look of traditional yellow, green, and red black and white contrast filters. A sepia mode is also available for producing an inherently nostalgic look.

Eight Advanced Filters are also available to creatively enhance the look of imagery, and include: High Key, Low Key, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, and Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple).

 

May 182015
 

NEWS OF THE DAY, Part 1: New Panasonic G7 Announced!

Happy Monday to all! I love Mondays, and yes, I am aware that most people HATE Mondays! But me? No, I love them. I rest up all weekend and then I am ready to rock and roll by Monday. I get anxious, I get energized and I tell myself every day just how lucky I am to do what I love each and every day. Over 7 years now I have been running this blog/website and each year that goes on I become more and more proud of what this site has accomplished. Over 12 million views per year, hundreds of thousands of comments, thousands of articles, reviews and posts…all housed here forever. So thank YOU all for coming here, making this one of your daily or weekly stops. I know there are thousands of web sites out there, and I know I do not post every little bit of news like many do but I just like to post on things that I think are AWESOME and that I feel my readers would really enjoy.

In any case, this week we have some new releases from Fuji and Panasonic that look interesting, more on the new Fuji later today.

Panasonic seems to be taking aim at Olympus as their new Silver G7 looks very “Olympus Like” in design and style. For those who love Panasonic Mirrorless cameras, the G7 looks like it will be the best G yet but then again, I feel the Olympus offerings give more bang for the buck, especially the new E-M5II, as that is one gorgeous and capable little camera. Even so, many prefer Panasonic as there are differences in color, rendering, and usability. The cool thing is that Micro 4/3 is so mature these days there are a myriad of AMAZING lenses available for your Micro 4/3 camera bodies.

THE NEW G7 – Looks sweet huh? Looks sort of E-M1-ish. You can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE

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G7 Specs:

16 MP Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine 9

A 16 MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor pairs with an updated Venus Engine 9 to deliver fast overall performance with matched image quality to suit working in a wide variety of lighting conditions with consistent results. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 200 to 25600, with the ability to extend down to ISO 100 for working in bright conditions or with longer shutter speeds. Versatile burst shooting modes also allow you to pair high continuous shooting rates with AF; including shooting up to 8 fps with AF-S, 6 fps with AF-C in one area, and 6 fps during live view. For even faster performance, up to 40 fps shooting is possible with the electronic shutter function or 30 fps at 8 MP using the 4K Photo Modes.

The sensor and processor combination also helps to ensure notable image quality through the use of accurate white balance settings, Live TTL direct exposure metering, and intelligent NR (Noise Reduction) control for clean, natural imagery. Additionally, the Venus Engine 9 aids in reducing image blur caused by diffraction using electronic adjustment to automatically sharpen edges for clearer results when photographing with smaller aperture sizes.

4K UHD Video Recording

In addition to the versatile still shooting modes, the G7 also supports recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video with either 30p or 24p frames rates at 100Mbps in the MP4 format. Full HD 1080p/60 is also supported, in both MP4 and AVCHD formats, as well as HD and SD resolutions.

A built-in stereo microphone can be used during recordings, and features an integrated wind-cut filter, or an optional external microphone can be utilized via the 3.5mm jack for even clearer sound.

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4K Photo Modes

Utilizing the 4K video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8 MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate:
4K Burst: Just as with video recording, this mode will allow you to continuously record 8 MP images at 30 fps for up to 29 min. 59 sec., making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.

4K Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record 8 MP images at 30 fps one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.

4K Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the 4K video recording process, and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 MP frame.

When using any of the 4K Photo modes, you are afforded complete exposure control using the PSAM dial in order to base metering results and exposure configurations on your own shooting needs.

Depth-From-Defocus AF Technology

For accelerated autofocus performance, which performs in low-light conditions down to -4 EV, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.07 seconds. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as depth of field distances.

Body Design and Wi-Fi

Featuring a sleek design that is characteristic to Micro Four Thirds cameras, the G7 pairs retro aspects with modern functionality for intuitive use and classic appeal. Front and rear dials avail direct aperture and shutter speed control, as well as quick changing of ISO and white balance settings. Six function buttons can be assigned to control a range of custom features and the main drive wheel offers fast switching between shooting modes, including the 4K Photo modes.

For greater versatility when shooting, both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and rear LCD monitor are available. The 2.36m-dot OLED Live View Finder features a 10,000:1 contrast ratio for bright, accurate viewing of scenes, even in difficult lighting. The 3.0″ 1.04m-dot LCD features a static touchscreen design for intuitive navigation and control, as well as a vari-angle design for easier working from high and low angles.

Rounding out the handling capabilities, the G7 also features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for wirelessly sharing images and remotely controlling the camera from a linked mobile device using the Panasonic Image App. Connection is simplified using a QR code system to pair the smartphone or tablet with the camera.

Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens

A versatile standard zoom, the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. is a 28-84mm equivalent wide-to-short tele featuring an Optical Image Stabilizer to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Two aspherical elements are incorporated within the lens design to reduce the overall size and weight as well as benefit image sharpness and clarity. Complementing the optical design is an internal focusing system that pairs with the camera’s contrast-detection AF for quick, accurate focusing performance.

The G7 with 14-42 Kit lens is coming it at under $800, so price wise it seems spot on. No 5 Axis, No Live time, but appears to be a solid Micro 4/3 offering and as always with Panasonic, I am sure the video will be spectacular. 

You can also pick up the G7 with the 14-140 Lens at $1097 is you prefer the better “kit” lens. 

 

May 182015
 

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s

 

By James Conley

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Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.

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In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.

Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.

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Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.

Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)

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My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.

 

Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.

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Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.

The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

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Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.

I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.

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The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.

 

A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)

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Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.

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The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.

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Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.

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Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran

Here’s my contact info:
website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

May 152015
 

Film Friday: Riots and Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/25 on Leica M6

by fiftyasa

Steve already wrote a good review of the Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/25 back in 2009 (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2009/11/18/the-zeiss-zm-25-2-8-biogon-lens-review/), but the lens does not seem very common among Leica M shooters, especially if compared to other Zeiss lenses like the Planar 50 or Biogon 35.

I recently picked up one copy and tried to shoot some street action in the city of Hamburg where every year peaceful demonstrations and riots take place as a tradition on May 1st. Mounted on a Leica M6 loaded with TriX 400 and TMAX 400, I made my way through the “urban guerrilla”…

Shooting from the hip while walking and pre-setting the focus distance seem to work OK with a bit of luck (although the agents seem to smile at me, I don’t think they realized that I took a photo of them shooting from the hip):

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But the lens is wide! It seems you are never close enough… In the following 2 pictures I pre-set the focus distance, walked as close as I could and used the viewfinder to (guess-)frame.

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In the picture “you are never close enough” it is interesting to see that the 2 subjects did not notice me despite I was at less than 1 meter from them, while the young guy and the woman behind were probably asking themselves what I was doing so close…

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Unfortunately most of the copies of this lens bring up the 35 mm frame lines on the M6, M9 and Zeiss Ikon ZM. This is a bit distracting for me. The 28 mm frame lines would be a better choice (but not perfect, this lens is substantially wider!) if the external viewfinder is not available, but, at the time the lens came to the market, it targeted the M8 where the correct frame lines (35 mm equivalent) is triggered.

It is known that the lens can focus down to 0.5 m but the rangefinder disengages at 0.7 m. So if you want to use it from 0.7 and 0.5 m, you’ll have to guess the distance. I would also like to mention that, despite some websites state that the Zeiss Ikon ZM can use the rangefinder to focus down to 0.5m, this is not true. I have a Zeiss Ikon ZM and the rangefinder disengages at 0.7 m like the Leica M6 and M9.

Being the angle of view so wide, the Biogon 25 is an ideal companion for landscapes and cityscapes

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Or to give a “wide angle effect” to your shots:

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Or to capture a lot of things in one frame:

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Yes, the lens is sharp. In the picture above you can actually read the street sign next to the last flag on the right:

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Three more attempts to get closer to the subject:

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These pictures are digitalized by photographing the Kodak negatives with a Sony A7 mounted on a copy stand and equipped with bellow and macro lens Apo Rodagon-D 1x 75 mm. Negatives are inverted with negfix8 and post-processed (mainly tone curve adjustment only).

If you like to see more, please visit https://fiftyasa.wordpress.com

May 152015
 

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My First Wedding Photographed with the a7s and a7II

By Marc Weisberg – His website is HERE

Steve and Brandon, I’ve been following your blog daily for a few years now. It’s a great reliable source for photographers with no-nonsense reviews and great feed back from your readers.  A few years back when the Olympus OMD EM-5 was released, it was Steve’s review that put me over the edge.  I purchased two OMD EM-5 bodies, the Zuiko 45mm f/1.8, 75mm f/1.8 and then the 12-40mm 2.8.  I traveled through Paris, NYC and across California with them.  It was my entry into the world of mirrorless cameras.  The Olys were amazing! Lighting fast to focus, faithful in color rendition, even in Auto WB and the glass was tack sharp wide open.  I love the lightweight portability of the Oly system. I could now travel with a simple shoulder bag, with two bodies and three lenses that weighed less than my pro Canon body and two L lenses.

Around the time When Sony came out with the a7s and a7II I was intrigued.  It was time for me to upgrade my Canon system.  I’m a professional photographer making 100% of my income from my craft. For the last 15 years I’ve been a Canon shooter.  My last set up was a Canon EOS 1D Mark III and a D60 as a back up. Along with that I owned a lot of L glass:  85mm L f/1.2, 135mm L f/2.0, 24-70mm L f/2.8, 16-35mm L f/2.8, 70-200 L IS f/2.8 and the 50mm L f/1.2  However it was time to upgrade my entire system.  Lenses were getting older, and Canon was starting to phase out service on them.  Camera bodies needed to be upgraded.  But after shooting for two years with the Oly’s I just felt there had to be something better out there other than Canon.  I felt that Canon gear especially their Mark II lenses were getting profitably expensive.  Something with faster focus and sharper lenses.  Something mirrorless and null frame.

After a a few lunches with my friend and pro photographer Paul Gero, a Sony Artisan, and him showing me his new Sony gear I was past the intrigued stage and knew that the move was right for me. The Sony a6000 that he was using and the a7 were packed with technology that Canon didn’t have. I’d also grown used to the EVF and the WYSYWYG exposure view of my Oly’s.  My lunches with Paul and being able to see what the Sony mirrorless bodies were capable of for myself set a plan in motion for me. I sold all my Canon gear, every last bit of it and switched to Sony. It was an easy move for me. As a business person as well as a photographer, it was a logical sound technical and financial move.  I could make the move to Sony for about $10k and replace all my Canon bodies and the majority of glass. If I would have upgraded all my Canon gear it would have cost me anywhere from $15k to $20k out-of-pocket.
My initial purchase was the Sony a7s, VGC1EM vertical grip,a7II and FE 16-35 f/4 Z OSS, FE 24-70mm f/5 Z OSS, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA.  All financed with proceeds from selling my Canon gear.  Notes to all you shooters.  Keep your gear in top condition and put  quality UV filters on your glass as soon as you purchase it.  This way you’ll be able to get top dollar when selling you lenses.

My Move to Sony

Moving from one camera system to the other, especially when you’ve been with another system for 15 years does not come without a learning curve.  I shoot my a professional gig with the a7II only a few days after receiving it. You can read about that here: http://luxuryrealestateimages.com/sony-a7ii-real-world-review/  It took me about 2-3 weeks to become comfortable with the menu system for both bodies. You can see my Sony a7s unboxing video here and a few more reasons for my move to Sony:  http://marcweisberg.com/2015/01/sony-a7s-unboxing

Transparency

I spent my own money on purchasing all my Sony gear. After my A7II real world review and my a7s unboxing video I was put in contact with Sony and am proud to be aligned with them as a Sony Artisan of Imagery.  I am not paid by Sony to pimp their gear.  I could never personally endorse something or suggest to my friends or readers that a camera system, bodies or lenses are worthy of purchasing if they weren’t.  Its the quickest way to loose integrity and I just couldn’t sleep at night by hawking snake oil.  That being said:  I make my living using this gear and it works for me in ways that no camera system ever has.

The Proof is in the Images

Like Steve’s Real World Reviews, the proof is in the images….not necessarily in the tech data.  While I appreciate the tech data, it will never show you how the image looks, how the lenses and camera bodies work in unison, how naturally the skin tones are rendered, what are the real world results as far as chromatic aberration is concerned, is there moiré, how do high ISO images look, can you really shoot at ISO 51,200 and get usable images, is having an f/4.0 lens an issue, what is white balance like, how is the menu system, how does the camera feel in your hands and many more subtleties.

Photographing Weddings Exclusively with the Sony Alpha α7s and α7II

Just to be clear this wasn’t my first wedding I’ve ever photographed.  I’m numbering more in the 600 range  (weddings) photographed in the past 15 years.  That being said, 2 weeks ago I had an opportunity to photograph a wedding solely with the #SonyAlpha a7s and a7II.  I was faced with a myriad of lighting conditions that all wedding photographers come up against:  open shade, direct harsh sunlight, twilight, night time available light photography and off camera flash photography with the Profoto AcuteB600R and Pocket Wizard Plus III’s and the Neewer TT850 manual speedlights.  What follows is My First Wedding Photographed with the α7s and α7II.

How Did the α7s and α7II Preform?  

In a word….Brilliantly.  I was super impressed with how my a7s anda7II handled all the scenarios. Dynamic range is impressive as I was able to capture the entire range of shadow and highlights in glaring sun with ocean views. Color renditions are amazing.  I saw no CA {chromatic aberrations} in any images, even with extreme back lighting.  Focusing during the day was never an issue, with one caveat. Night time, available light only in near darkness was an issue. As the camera would hunt and seek.  But in my 15 years experience photographing weddings this is true of any DSLR without a flash attached to bounce of some kind of IR signal/pattern from the subject. That being said, when focus locked on, the images are dramatic, powerful and sharply focused. In hindsight what I should have done was use DMF {Dynamic Manual Focus}. Which would get me close to focus and then dial in the focus the rest of the way by manually fine tuning the image and using focus peaking and magnification.

Tech Notes 

What follows are singular images  processed in Adobe LR5 with adjustments to exposure, color, sharpness, clarity, tone curve, shadow and any other adjustment that is available in the LR5 modules. No Adobe Photoshop is used on any images unless specified. I’m amazed and impressed by how sharp the images are straight out of camera when shooting wide open and when stoping down. I used all the Sony glass that I own:  FE 16-35 f/4 Z OSS, FE 24-70mm f/5 Z OSS, , FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS,Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, plus the, E 30mm F3.5 Macro E-mount Macro Lens {on loan from Sony}, for the ring shots.  For pixel peepers, you should know that I’ve output all images at 20″x20″ @300 dpi.  Even the 30mm Macro images. There is no degradation, or pixelization noticeable on any images.

A few other technical notes

Skin tones are rendered faithfully, black and white conversion within Adobe LR5 from the RAW files is easily accomplished with a broad tonality range from deep blacks to gray tones and clean whites, I’m partial to punchy colors, easily bumped up with a +10 on the Vibrancy slider and +6  on the Saturation slider in LR5.

1. Left: Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA Right: E 30mm F3.5 Macro E-mount Macro Lens on my α7s.

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2. Sony lenses can handle harsh light with no noticeable CA.

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3.Great natural skin tones.

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4. Left: Notice how the dynamic range holds well showing the subtle high lights to the dark grey shadows in the bridal gown and window shutters. Right: Low light photography is never a problem for the Sony a7s, and beautiful bokeh with the FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS.

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5. Great color, dynamic range and sharpness from the a7s, FE 24-70mm f/5 Z OSS, f/10, ISO 100.

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6. Great color, dynamic range and sharpness from the a7s, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS, f/13, ISO 200. Hand held.

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7. No tech data

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8. Left: a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 640. Right: FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, ISO 125.

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9. a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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10. a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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11. a7s, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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12. a7s, FE 24-70 f/4 Z OSS, f/5.6, ISO 100. Holding onto the dynamic range beautifully. This daylight lighting scenario is typical of what wedding photographers face at most out door weddings.

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13. Left and Right: a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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14. a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 2500.

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15.Left and Right: a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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16 .a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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17. a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 400.

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18. a7II, FE 24-70 f/4 Z OSS, f/4, ISO 400. The bride’s face was dodged in CS5.

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19. Recessional: a7II, FE 24-70 f/4 Z OSS, f/4, ISO 100.

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20. Family portraits. I always use some type of lighting. Profoto AcuteB600R with a 40″ silver bounce umbrella, Pocket Wizard Plus III. Induro CT314 tripod, RRS BH-55 ball head, and for the higher resolution I use my a7II, FE 24-70 f/4 Z OSS, f/7.1, ISO 640.

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21. This is where things start getting interesting for me. When I was a Canon shooter I could never get the color right at sunset. Skin tones were ALWAYS too orange. Shot with the a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4, ISO 800. Skin tones are natural with a slight orange glow from the sunset. Bokeh rendition separates the bride and groom form the background. At at f4.0 They are tack sharp.

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22. Black and whites render beautifully from the RAW files in Adobe LR5.

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23. I’ve included the same file here twice to show a B&W and color file processed by LR5. Keep in mind that NO RETOUCHING has been applied to these images. If you shoot in the right light and expose properly you won’t need to use Photoshop and if you do it will be minimal.

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24. No tech data

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25. Available light image. Illuminated by the glow of the tungsten lanterns with Dana Point Harbor in the background. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 2000, wide open on the 55 @ f1/8

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26. Hand held. a7s, 24-70mm f/4.0 Z OSS, ISO 40,000.

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27. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 2000, wide open on the 55 @ f1/8

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28 .Left: a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 2000, wide open on the 55 @ f1/8, Right: Available light, a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS, f/4.0, ISO 20,000,

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29. Available light. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 8000, wide open on the 55 @ f1/8, 1/1000th sec.

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30. Available light. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 32,000, wide open on the 55 @ f1/8, 1/1000th sec.

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31. Available light. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 8000, wide open on the 55 @ f1/8, 1/1000th sec.

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32. For this series of images I set up a 40″ umbrella with the Profoto AcuteB600R. Metered the strobe with a Sekonic L358. a7s, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/200th sec.

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33. For this series of images I set up a 40″ umbrella with the Profoto AcuteB600R. Metered the strobe with a Sekonic L358. a7s, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/200th sec.

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34. I’m loving the movement here of the bride and her friend dancing. A happy accident. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 500, f11.8, 1/60th sec.

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35.Using back lighting for the DJ. a7s, Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, ISO 500, 1/60th sec.

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36. a7s, FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS f/4, , ISO 51,200, 1/80th sec.

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37. To capture this image I set up a single Neewer TT850 speedlight in a 40″ silver bounce umbrella. The first step is to establish a base exposure for the sunset. I usually underexpose the ambient by about a stop. Then add the off camera lighting to taste. Make sure the camera is in Manual mode. You’ll want to lock in the exposure. Using the Neewer® TT850 speedlight, a manual flash, I dialed in 1/2 power and then added a bit more light while chimping to make sure the exposure was dead on. a7s, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/200th sec. It is coincidental the exposure it similar to the image above. Photoshop was used for skin smoothing.

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In Conclusion

For me {<— as Steve often says} the Sony a7 mirrorless system is the perfect versatile full frame mirrorless camera system for a working progressional photographer that offers amazing consistent results.  In a given week I will photograph a natural light portrait session, a wedding, luxury real estate photography, and studio lit executive portraits on location all with my a7s and a7II. Are there shortcomings?  Yes. Longer battery life would be one. Because I do allot of on location shooting I have 10 batteries. A simpler menu system is another.  The menu system is deep.  And at fist complicated.  And some of the functions are not easily discernible. Like turning off the camera beep sound when attaining focus.  Its labeled as Audio Signal…not intuitive.  

I’ve had to take some extra time figuring out things with help from other Sony Artisans and scouring the internet for answers. Focus tracking could be allot better on both the a7s and a7II.  The a6000 bests both cameras in the focus tracking department, and is dead on for its focus tracking ability and is a stupendous mirrorless camera for under $600!  Some skeptics have been quick to point out that there is a dearth of fast primes for the Sony a7 system.  Not any more with the addition of the Loxia and now the Batis full frame auto focus Zeiss lenses, the FE 28 F2.0FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, FE 35 F1.4 ZA and the FE 90 F2.8 Macro G OSS have rounded out the fast glass department quickly.  For me the game changer is the a7s and the ability to put the camera in auto ISO and not have to ever worry about the lack of light.  The ability to get usable images at ISO 51,200 is something just a couple years ago would have been thought impossible. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and view the images.  

p.s. Oh yeah…I almost forgot: I left out one of the most amazing feature about the a7s. The a7s has a SILENT MODE. Essentially you are turning on the electronic shutter when invoking the menu command. And this renders that camera COMPLETELY SILENT when taking images.  As the photographer you are stunned that it makes NO NOISE at all when you are pressing the shutter. This is a boon for movie set photographers and wedding photographers who are told not to take photographs in certain settings because of the shutter noise, or simply to just be a fly on the wall…no one will even know you are creating images from just feet away.

Marc WeisbergSee his website HERE

See Steve Huff’s review of the Sony A7II HERE and the Sony A7s HERE.

May 132015
 

Oregon Landscapes with the Leica M9 in B&W

by Kirk Williamson

Almost a year ago my wife and I made a trip out to Oregon to visit our twin sons who have moved out there to find work in their field (3d animation). Knowing that the landscapes out there are really something compared to the East Coast I was really in a conundrum as to what to bring for gear. I am a newspaper photojournalist and carry Canon pro stuff all day every day and there was no way I was going to travel with all that heavy gear. I kept looking at my M9 wondering if it were really possible to travel with just that and my Canon G15. I know people travel light with the Leica gear all the time but they usually use it for street shooting and the usual tourist stuff. So I finally decided to go for broke and break away from my comfort zone and went with the M9 and the 35 f2 Summicron, 50 f 1.4 Summilux and the old bear 90 f2.8 Tele-Elmarit from the late sixties.

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I had no idea what I was in for when we got off the plane in Portland. It being June made me think that the weather was going to be ok but it is Oregon and rain is part of the equation, but really, all the time! So on the first day out we drove to the usual places involving beautiful waterfalls and tricky driving along the old road above the Columbia River Gorge mostly in the rain. The sun would peak out of the rain clouds from time to time giving me fantastic opportunities for images involving landscapes and clouds.

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I found myself using the 35mm and 50mm all the time for these scenics with clouds. I just put the lens at infinity, no focusing involved (old school auto focus). These two lenses did the bulk of the work and they were a joy to use. The 90mm was almost as much and the images were spectacular. I only wanted my 21mm a few times but all in all the travelling light thing was great, the Leica excelled at landscape shooting. Now I do have to say that I was not very well prepared for shooting waterfalls as I did not bring a tripod and cable release. I was able to get around it using the Canon G15 or shooting at around 1/30s some even at 1/90s to slow down the larger water falls.

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The Canon G15 made it out a few times but mostly on a hike of Silver Falls State Park which has ten waterfalls along a hiking route. What a great camera to hike with! Two of the shots I have included were taken with that camera – two of my favorites. The waterfall shot made with this camera was done holding it down on a post at 1/6s so it is a bit soft which adds to it’s other worldly look. The macro leaf shot was made with the G15 as well.

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Very quickly I noticed that this was going to be a mostly B&W conversion right from the start. The colors were muted with the gray skies and rain so I converted some right way after loading them into my iPad. The result was wow! The clouds just popped. So I knew when I got home that post processing in Silver Efex Pro would be warranted. Boy was I right the results were fabulous.

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Needless to say my small kit was a big success. I have upgraded my M9 to the M-P 240 and plan on bringing that along for this years trip. We will be going to the coast so I will be including my 21mm Super Elmar as I know I’ll need it. This time the G15 will be staying home as my Sony Nex-7 will be tagging along to use with my Leica glass.

My website is www.krwphoto.com and my blog is www.krwphoto.com/blog

Thanks,

Kirk

May 122015
 

Shooting Weddings with a CCTV Lens

by Tom Le Vine

Hi Brandon & Steve

I have submitted a few posts before and figured it was about time for another. As ever, I love the site and it’s still a ‘daily read’ as well as my go to site for getting a feel for a camera/lens and not just the technical. Thanks!

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A while back on the site there was an article about using a super cheap CCTV lens. The results to me looked something like a voigtlander 0.95 but for a tiny fraction of the cost. I picked one up off ebay for something like $20 a year or so ago.

It’s as cheaply made as you’d expect (although with a metal barrel) and it comes apart easily. The focusing is tricky and everything feels a bit like a ‘toy’ lens. It vignettes like crazy. There are tons of chromatic aberration. The sweet spot of focus is very small. Any enlarging of a photo shows how poor the glass is in terms of sharpness. Lots of bad points.

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And yet, it also produces some of my favourite photos. It has a character and look unlike anything else I have used. And with a bit of post processing in LR you can really take the edge off a lot of the image quality negatives. All in all I love the lens and love the results. So what’s not to love?

As for shooting a wedding with it, you’d have to be pretty reckless. But, when a friend asks as a favour for you to tag along and shoot the wedding as a second shooter (and knows how little experience you have), you don’t have a lot to lose. So pop on a $20 CCTV lens and see what the photos come out like. (I should also mention he knows I am very much an amateur, this was definitely a freebie, we only had a short time to take photos, it was very overcast grey weather and he wasn’t relying on my shots…so if you want to try this yourself…on your own head be it!)

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As for the photos…they were pp’d in LR (just a minute or so on each one…some colour adjustments, a few BW conversions, purple fringing removal and some straightening). The ones with the heavy vignetting and swirly bokeh are with the CCTV lens, the others are with my 20mm 1.7 Panny Lumix (I).

Hope you enjoy.

Tom Le Vine

May 122015
 

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New Olympus 7-14 Pro lens, 8mm f/1.8 Pro lens, and Special Edition E-M5 II!

PRE-ORDER THE 7-14 Pro f/2.8 HERE

PRE-ORDER THE 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye HERE

PRE-ORDER THE E-M5II Titanium SE HERE

Last night Olympus announced some new goodies, two of which I have been waiting for patiently as I am ALL IN on these two (and possibly in on the 3rd as well). We all know that Olympus pro lenses are fantastic, and the new 7-14 is finally here along with the 8mm 1.8 fisheye! Olympus is continuing to lead the way with lenses and we now have a pro level ultra wide for our Micro 4/3 system. YES, there has always been the Panasonic 7-14 f/4 from many years ago, one of the first M 4/3 lenses, but now we have a new Olympus PRO 7-14 that will give us a 14-28mm equivalent and a faster f/2.8 aperture. Below see the 7-14 on the E-M5II (see my E-M5II Review). It’s a chunky beast of a lens but I am confident it will be flat-out AMAZING in performance as all Olympus glass is these days. You can pre-order the 7-14 at B&H Photo, PopFlash.com or Amazon. Amazon says it will not ship until August 1st, B&H is saying end of June. I say June as that is what Olympus says,  but either way, you are not charged until it ships so pre-ordering is always a good idea if you REALLY want an item as you can cancel anytime before it ships with no penalty or charge but pre-ordering secure’s your place in line, and this lens will be popular as all get out. Watch and see. At $1299 it is not cheap, but this is a pro lens, weather sealed and up to the Olympus pro standards, which is about as good as it gets.

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I am also looking forward to the new 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye as I love a good Fisheye lens. The previous premium fish for the Micro 4/3 system is/was the Panasonic 8mm fisheye (my review of that lens here) but this Olympus will be even better with a fast 1.8 aperture vs the f/3.5 of the Panasonic. That speed is not really needed for a fisheye lens but still way cool to have in ANY lens..SPEED is KING. It also has a minimum focus distance of just 2.5cm. See the 8mm below on the E-M5II… The cost of the PRO Fisheye, which will be weather sealed and up to PRO standards will be $999. It will also be called “mine”. Get it HERE at B&H Photo, or at Amazon, or at PopFlash.com. Ships end of June 2015.

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Below, The 7-14 Pro f/2.8 Ultra Wide

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Olympus has also announced a limited run edition of the new E-M5 II in a new and unique “Titanium” E-M5 II, limited to 7,000 units worldwide. This is not real Titanium of course but just the color to be reminiscent of the old Olympus OM-3 Ti from 1994. It will come with a special leather strap, a leather card case, and a numbered owners card showing your cameras #. The price? $1,199. Me like. Very much! Looks much more classy than the standard silver or black IMO. This sounds like a Leica special edition with the strap, card case, and numbered card ;) You can order the SE E-M5II at Amazon HERE and it will be released August 1st. My pre-order is in for this and the two lenses above! Ships end of June 2015.

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OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FROM OLYMPUS:

OLYMPUS M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL ED 7-14MM F2.8 AND 8MM F1.8 FISHEYE PRO LENSES FOR COMPACT EXPLORING

Excellent Optical Performance, Ultra-Wide, Compact and Lightweight for Ultimate Mobility, Dustproof and Splashproof Construction, Underwater Accessory Compatibility

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., May 12, 2015 — Today, Olympus is pleased to announce the availability of two new premium M.ZUIKO DIGITAL PRO lenses. The M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO is an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 14-28mm, while the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm Fisheye PRO, the world’s first with an f/1.8 aperture, features a minimum working distance of just 2.5cm and offers excellent bokeh with wide-angle macro shots. Both lenses are equipped with Olympus’ legendary weather sealing, providing peace-of-mind while shooting in extreme weather conditions with an OM-D® camera.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO is the ideal lens for wide-angle shooting needs in any condition. This premium lens includes weather sealing in 11 locations, enabling use in rain and snow, or even on the beach, where other lenses may not be able to withstand ocean spray or dust penetration. At 534 grams, or just under 19 ounces, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO is about 45 percent lighter than similar competitor products, eliminating heavy equipment that may slow the user down.

The lens also includes premium close-up shooting capabilities, thanks to the minimum working distance of just 7.5cm, offering extremely sharp capture capability, even at the very edges of an image. Three Super ED lenses, one ED lens and two EDA lenses help to minimize peripheral chromatic aberration, while the ZERO (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflective Optical) Coating aids in minimizing ghosting. The lens also boasts an L-Fn button with 27 assignable functions and a Manual Focus Clutch with built-in Focus Distance Meter. The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens comes with a fixed lens hood and pinch-style lens cap LC-79 for added protection.

Hobbyists, photo enthusiasts and professionals alike will be captivated by the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens’ 180-degree diagonal angle of view. Like the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO, this lens includes dustproof and splashproof construction, for unlimited wide-angle adventure. The lens is also compatible with a custom dome port for use with an Olympus underwater housing.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens is constructed of 17 elements in 15 groups and can capture high resolution at the very edges of an image, even at the maximum aperture of f1.8. ZERO Coating minimizes optical flares and ghosting. The lens also comes with a fixed lens hood and a pinch-style lens cap LC-62.

Both of the lenses’ compact size, brightness and weight reflect Olympus’ mastery of precision engineering. When used in conjunction with core OM-D technologies, like 5-axis image stabilization, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye open the user up to new possibilities for long exposure hand-held shooting.

Underwater Lens Port, PPO-EP02

The PPO-EP02 glass dome lens port is a great accessory to the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens, enabling the user to capture the widest shot possible underwater with the OM-D E-M5 or OM-D E-M1 underwater housings. The PPO-EP02 is 15 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than Olympus’ previous lens port model, the PPO-E04, allowing for more compact and lightweight underwater shooting. Also, the hood section can be removed to reduce waves for over-under shots. (Rear Cover (PRPC-EP02) and Front Cover (PBC-EP02) are bundled).
U.S. Pricing and Availability

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens will be available in June 2015 (black) for an estimated street price of $1,299.99 (US) and $1,599.99 (Canada).

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 Fisheye PRO lens will be available in June 2015 (black) for an estimated street price of $999.99 (US) and $1,249.99 (Canada).

To find out more about the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 Fisheye PRO lenses, and for a complete list of specifications, visit the Olympus website at
http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/lenses/pen-omd.html.

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May 112015
 

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The New Leica 90 Summarit f/2.4 Lens Quick Review on the M 240

By Steve Huff

I recently posted my very positive experience with the new set of Summarit lenses from Leica. Mainly, the 35, 50 and 75. I have now finally had a chance to shoot some frames with the 90 f.2.4 and as before with the old Summarit, I love it. It continues along the same lines as the previous version but adds a closer minimum focus, an f/2.4 aperture vs 2.5 and now comes with a full Leica leather case and metal hood at no extra charge. The rendering of the lens is very nice, and leaves you wondering if you really do need that larger, heavier, more expensive Summicron!

This is not so much a full “review”, but it is sort of an “addition” to THIS 90 Summarit review (which sums up this lens just as well) and THIS recent post. Read those 1st, then come back here to read this short but sweet article.

The video I did a few weeks ago showing the Summarit lenses and the new Leica M-P Safari set. 

Thanks Ken!

Also, before I get started let me thank Leica Legendary Dealer Ken Hansen for sending me these lenses for review. I could not even get them from Leica, so Ken sent them my way to borrow so I can test them to see what I thought. I just packed up all of them for their way back to Ken. SO THANK YOU KEN! If you need ANYTHING Leica, be sure to EMAIL him at [email protected] and ask him for it, he deals in NEW and USED and has it all in stock. All of it.

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The New Summarit. Is it so different from the previous line?

This little and very light 90mm F/2.4 Summarit is a beautiful lens, and I admit, I am not a 90mm or telephoto guy. If I owned a 90 for my Leica it would probably be used twice a year. I prefer to shoot 21, 35 and 50 as I like to get up close and converse with my subjects. Even so, the 90 is fantastic when you want to shoot a portrait as you get NO distortion, and nice separation of your subject from the background..or as some like to call it “3D Pop”.

But what about the last 90 Summarit f/2.5? Is this lens better in image quality? No, not really..in fact, it seems about the same to me as the last 90. The new f/2.4 vs f/2.5, well, let’s just say there is really no measurable difference in that speed. Many say the old Summarit was really f/2.4 but Leica marked them as 2.5 as to not cannibalize the Summicron sales.

Where this 90 F/2.4 excels over the old 90 F/2.5 is that it is a new design, comes standard with a Leica leather case and metal hood where the previous version came with a felt baggie and the hood was a separate purchase. It is nice to see Leica upgrade these things as even though the Summarit lines is the cheapest new production lenses in the Leica lineup, they are NOT cheap! The 90 here comes in at a hefty $2350. YES, IT IS STILL A LEICA ;)

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I am not a 90 guy..but I did enjoy this lens. 

I know many who love and adore the 90mm Focal length though and some who call it their favorite focal length while others never touch it, especially with a Leica.

But…

There are many shooters who love them some reach. Some do not feel comfortable getting in close to their subjects and a longer lens helps them do this without being noticed. Others use them as they would any other lens, as I do, pulling it out for that portrait or when it is needed. It will deliver the depth and pop of a good 90 though the Bokeh of this Summarit, well, I much prefer the Bokeh from the 90 Summicron. But hey, the 90 Cron is $3995, close to be double the cost of the Summarit, so you will pay for that 90 Cron creaminess if you indeed want or need it.

Even so, the 90 Summarit is fantastic.

Click images here for much better versions and to see them correctly

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The 90mm focal length has long been considered the goto for portraits, and that is for many reasons. No distortion that most wider lenses will give you, nice subject pop and a good 90 will give you nice bokeh, nice detail and be just about perfect for head and shoulders type of shots or just headshots. Now the 90mm focal length is not only for portraits of course, but most of those who I know who uses a 90mm uses them for people. Others use them simply to get more reach. One thing is for sure though, Leica does not make a bad lens. Buy a summart, summicron or summilux and ALL of them will deliver what you want although they will all have a different character.

With Leica it is all about the “character” of the lens and how it renders and this is what makes them special, as there are not many lenses out there that refer quite like a good Leica lens.

As with all posts here on this website, clicking the images below will open up a much nicer and larger version, how they were meant to be seen. All images below with the Leica M-P 240 and 90 Summarit. 

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VINTAGE MODERN

The entire Summarit line, for me, renders in a way that is a mix of classic, modern and everything in between. It has the sharp crisp details that Leica is known for (modern) and also gives you a bit of that classic feel without being soft or too “vintage”. I’d say 80% modern, 20% classic. My time with the 90 was short as I rarely use a 90 but if I were a guy who loved this focal length, it would be a choice between this and the Summicron. I have owned and loved the cron, and have to say I do prefer the rendering of the APO Summicron but it is MUCH heavier, larger and expensive. This Summarit is just as good if not better than the previous summarit, and again, my review of THAT lens is HERE. It is also just as good as the old and very much loved 90 2.8 Elmarit, which is now discontinued.

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ANY ISSUES?

Not much to say here but this 90 will give you some CA (purple fringing) as you can see below in Wyatt Earp’s hat. Even the $11,000 Noctilux has CA, as do the Summilux line. For me it doesn’t bother me but I do not shoot critical work where it needs to be printed at 60 inches wide for public display, so for me this is just part of the digital course. Many say CA is a sensor issue, others say it is the lens. But it is common in good fast lenses when shooting digital… Always has been and unless the camera itself corrects for this, it will be in your photos. It is also easily taken care of with your favorite photo editor.

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The bottom line is that this version of the Summarit excels over the old version with a closer focusing distance of 0.9m, included metal hood and leather case and in use, the lens is buttery smooth to focus. I had no issues with the lens, focusing or anything.

This is a solid performer and while I did not use it a ton (again, I am not a 90 guy) I did see it’s potential. It would be very tough to choose the 90 Summicron APO over this at $4000 vs $2350. But that is all personal preference. I know what I like, and for me, I prefer the 90 Sunmicron rendering but I prefer the price of the Summarit.

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MY OVERALL FEELINGS ON THE SUMMARIT LINE as a WHOLE?

These lenses are beautiful, gorgeous, and the performance is what yo would expect from a Leica lens. Just because they are considered the “starter” or “budget” line does not mean they are sub-par. The 50 is my favorite summarit followed by the 35 and then 75. The 90 is my least favorite simply because I am not a 90mm shooter. The lenses are ALL fantastic, and one could never go wrong with any of the Summarit lenses. You will save some cash, and have some of the most beautiful and compact lenses ever made.

5 STARS for all of these because for the price, for the name, you are getting great performance at a much better price than normal.

WHERE TO BUY

You can buy these lenses from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop, or B&H Photo. Even Amazon sells them via PRIME.

———–

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.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

May 082015
 

Spring time with the NEW Petzval Art lens

By Dierk Topp

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Hi Steve & Brandon,

on October 8, 2014 I read about the NEW Petzval Art lens in your blog – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/10/08/the-lomography-petzval-art-lens-review-surreal-beauty/

…and wrote this comment:

Hi Steve, you got me! I saw and read this and needed less that 30 min. to order it for my A7R. Two days later I got the lens and enjoyed very much shooting with it. After the gray winter I took it last week and started shooting in our spring wood. You wrote everything about the lens and I don’t have anything to add. Just a few quotes from your conclusion:

“…I was hooked. After shooting off 10 frames or so I was sold.”

“…this lens has some craziness to the rendering, but I am a crazy guy so I love it. But…I would tire of it if I used it daily, really quick. Depending on the background of your subject you could end up with a nasty busy mess or a beautiful ethereal image that looks like a painting. But it does take practice to determine the best distance from subject to lens and subject to background. Get these just right and the images deliver the look you want. It’s a hell of a lens!”

Here are my Spring Time pictures with this special lens, all with f/2.2 on the Sony A7R. These images and more here in my flickr album.

#1

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#2

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#3

if you look at this on a large screen, you get dizzy:-))

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#4

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#5

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#6

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

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Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

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the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R

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Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

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Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#11

and one from last October with this extreme bokeh again

The new Petzval 85/2.2 on Sony A7R@f/2.2

#12

I like it for stills as well

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R @ f/2.2

#13

and of course for portraits, this one with f/5.6 for the shot you have to keep the eyes in the center and crop later in PP for the desired image

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R

#14

here is the beauty on the Sony A7R

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R

#15

and next to an other beauty, the Zeiss OTUS 1.4/85mm

shot with Sony A7R with Micro Nikkor PC 85mm/2.8, tilted

shot with Sony A7R with Micro Nikkor PC 85mm/2.8, tilted

regards
dierk

May 072015
 

Project Compact Photography

By Roy Teo

Hi Steve and Brandon,I have been following your site for years but back then you were mostly reviewing Leicas which at that time was out of my reach. I’m not a professional photographer but just someone who loves taking photos as a hobby. I was a DSLR user for many years and most recently with the Canon 5Dmk3. It was when you started to review more mirrorless cameras that I got interested to explore that avenue and i got myself a used Nex6 to try it out. I was soon hooked on the small size and not long after, i made a complete switch and sold off all my Canon gear and got the Sony A7r and the A6000 about 2 years ago and have never looked back since.

Going mirrorless, I enjoyed the small size and light weight and was amazed at the technological advancement on these mirrorless cameras. There are plenty of amazing examples of the images these new generation of cameras and what they can achieve and I wanted to challenge myself to do something different. I wanted to see how far i can push the files from a mirrorless camera but not just any mirrorless camera like the A7r or any A7 series. I wanted to go even smaller, to push my own limits on how much I can edit the files in post production. Because all my photos go through some kind of post production, having a good enough RAW file capability is essential having used the A7r.

I gave myself 2 criteria, one was to go even smaller than the A7r and the other was the ability to use off camera lights. After researching, I decided on the Sony RX100mk2. there was the cheaper mk1 that you highly recommended and the newer mk3. However, neither had the hotshoe where I could use triggers and flashes on, so I had only the mk2 to go for.

I started this little ongoing project for a few months now. To do shoots only with this camera, leaving my A7r at home. Everything i shot, i had to do with this camera only.  To my surprise, although it only had a 1inch sensor, the files were incredibly easy to edit and the dynamic range from this camera was decent enough to push. An added bonus which i only found out after using it was that it uses a leaf shutter which means, i could gp up to its max 1/2000 shutter speed for flash photography. The A7r was limited to 1/160 and this was a bonus for me.

Here are some examples of the images from this camera and a simple one light setup using the Godox AD360 light.  And because of its small size, there wasn’t any filter adapter I could use but being small and light, i could easily hand hold any filter i wanted in front of it and shoot with one hand.  All these photos were taken with fast shutter speeds in daylight to darken the background.

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My ongoing album dedicated to this project can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.723826737734682.1073741889.266838383433522&type=1

And my other works can be found here:
www.royteophotography.com

Thanks
Roy Teo

May 072015
 

A carefree trip to Siem Reap with Leica D-Lux

by Paul Chan

Leica DLUX

Although I am a proud owner of a Leica M240, I opted for a small and easy camera for my recent trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  It was a vacation and I did not want to bother with the whole “thinking process” involved when shooting with a rangefinder.  Above all, the thought of lugging multiple lenses and a metal camera body in the heat of above 90°F just terrified me.

Knowing that the Leica D-Lux is virtually the same camera as the Panasonic LX100, I still bit the bullet and spent more dough on the “red dot” so that I could travel in style.  To my pleasant surprise, the handling of the camera was foolproof, with all commonly used features within easy access.  Since I prefer to shoot in the aperture priority mode, the exterior aperture ring is particular invaluable.  On that note, the add bonuses are the built-in EVF viewfinder and the quasi-four-third sensor.

The D-Lux is by no means the best deal of cameras in that price range, but it accommodates all my needs as a photography hobbyist who seeks the equilibrium of functionality and sleek design in a camera.

Here are some of the pictures I took of the wondrous ancient city.  Most pictures were taken with spot focus; some were intentionally underexposed by 1 stop in order to increase their color saturation.

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© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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