Jul 292015
 
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A Mega Leica 28 Summilux f/1.4 Lens Review

by Kristian DowlingSee his BLOG HERE!

Review disclaimer:

*Lens was used entirely at f/1.4 for the entire review, in every picture unless stated otherwise.

*No protective filters were used.

*Editing was kept as simple as possible in Lightroom, with no clarity added/subtracted to maintain the lens’s true signature.

*This is not so such a technical review, but more so focused on the lens in field-use.

*Pictures are meant to represent a variety of achievable results, typical of the average Leica M user (nothing overproduced).

*No distortion or lens correction tools have been used.

*Special thanks to Leica Camera Australia for the loan sample.

I can’t express how excited I was when Leica announced the limited edition M100 set, commemorating Leica’s 100th Anniversary, with a new Summilux-M 28/1.4-ASPH lens in chrome, a little over a year ago. I’ve been lusting after a 28/1.4 M lens since I started M photography some 21 years ago. I knew it was only a matter of time before it would become a regular production lens, and I’m very happy that it has finally come to fruition.

My experience with the 28mm focal length has been quite extensive over the years. My first experience with using a 28mm prime came in the Nikon 28Ti compact film camera, followed by the Ricoh GR and the Nikon AF-D 28/1.4 lens, which at the time delivered fantastic results (at the time). Fast forward to 2015, and we now have the ultimate (and only) ‘fast’ 28mm lens ever produced – the Leica Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH lens.

Image shot with Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH on Monochrom

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I first got to see this lens at the Australian Leica Q launch last month, and was lucky enough to have been lent the only Australian copy for the last month (no pressure for a good review). During this time, I have been able to use it in many different situations, over a variety of genres, which you will see throughout this user-review. The 28mm focal length isn’t easy to get along with, but once you get to know her, she becomes a very, very versatile focal length – probably the reason why Apple employ it in their iPhone 6 and 6 PLUS smartphones, making it the most used focal length in the world.

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It may come as a surprise that Leica is focusing their two latest products (including the Leica Q camera) on the 28mm focal length, but in my opinion it is a very smart move. There is no shortage of great 35mm lenses, and while the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH is an excellent lens with a very smooth character, the ability to isolate doesn’t make it stand out amongst a lineup of fast class-leading lenses, like the Noctilux for example. Leica are arguably the best in the 35mm-format game when it comes to lens design, quality and performance, so it is important for them to showcase their abilities – and the new Summilux-M certainly makes a strong statement.

Previously, there were a couple of 28mm options in Leica’s lineup, and all have their unique place and usage intentions. The previous models were all mainly focused on the Elmarit as the demand for fast 28mm lenses only came about in the last decade. All previous generations of the Elmarit-M were fantastic, with the quality really stepping up in V3, where wide-open performance was significantly improved across the frame. Currently, the two Leica-M lens alternatives to the Summilux are:

· Elmarit-M 28/2.8 ASPH – small compact, well-priced and well-controlled distortion. Great for the traveller who doesn’t need speed and is more focused on keeping their gear lightweight, compact and values the lack of distortion over speed.

· Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH – A nice mix of speed, performance and size in this compact lens that is a nice jack of all trades, known for it’s smooth character due to the transition from sharp to soft wide open.

Build Quality and Design

As expected, everything about the 28 Summilux-M is typical Leica. Superb German, handmade craftsmanship, along with great handling and smooth focus and aperture action. It only comes in black (currently), most likely to keep M100 kit owners happy with their unique purchase, but knowing Leica, I would expect them to release a chrome version sometime in the future. The size fits directly between the 35 Summilux-M and the 24 Summilux-M, which was really good to see. The initial fear was that it was going to be very similar to the 21/24 Summilux-M lenses, which are a little on the large and heavy side, bordering on Noctilux territory. Thankfully, it’s not much bigger than the 35 Summilux-M so it’s great as a carry-everywhere, everyday lens, and balances really well on the M body.

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The newly designed lens hood is similar to that on the 35-Summilux-M, only a little thicker which is a nice change, and screws in firmly and perfectly aligns right on the center as it should. I’m happy to report that during the last 5 weeks using this lens, it has never come loose. Finally, it has the typical Leica depth of field scale, which is very important to those who employ the hyper-focal focusing technique, which works very well on a 28mm lens due to the extended depth of field over standard and telephoto lenses.

Optically, this is what Leica has to say about the new Summilux.

“The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. rounds off the range of high-speed M wide angle focal lengths. It offers exce lent image performance over the entire image field even at full aperture and in the close-up range thanks to a „floating element“. With its exceptional contrast, the lens delivers the same recognized high performance level as the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH., and in some respects actually outperforms it. The vignetting that is typical of every optical system is naturally more defined on a wide angle lens, particularly a high speed one like this, than on standard lenses or those with a long focal length. At full aperture in 35mm format it is a maximum, i.e. in the corners of the image, of around 3.4 stops, around 2 stops on Leica M8 models with their slightly smaller format. Stopping down to 5.6 visibly reduces this light falloff – to 1.8 and 0.8 stops respectively. Stopping down further does not bring about any notable reduction as essentially only the natural vignetting remains. Distortion is extremely low for a wide angle lens at a maximum of 1.1% , which is rarely noticeable in practice. A total of ten lens elements are used to achieve this exceptional performance. To correct color defects, seven of these are made of glass types with anomalous partial dispersion, while one has an aspherical surface. To maintain performance in the close-up range, one element towards the rear of the optical system is a “floating element” that moves independently of the rest of the mechanism.
Summary: The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. offers maximum image performance with a focal length / speed combination previously unavailable in the M system. This extends the composition options of M photography, particulaly for available light shots, but also thanks to a previously unattainable reduction in the depth of field combined with large field angles.”

Here are the graphs important to you techy-geeks out there. The MTF especially suggests that performance wide open is incredible, and equal to many other brand lenses stopped down to their best. This is truly where Leica stands above the crowd.

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Depth of field at f/1.4 is very narrow, but compared to what many are used to with 35mm, there is a little more room for error, and allows greater possibilities in certain situations where having focus is more important than not.

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Depending on how picky you are, the chart suggests excellent distortion control, and when you consider the speed of the maximum aperture, this is a design Leica should be very proud of, at least on paper. In the field ‘could’ be entirely different (though it is not haha).

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> Keep reading to see how Leica’s words translate into image quality during my field test.

Handling

Due to the size and weight distribution, the lens handles wonderfully on the M, enabling focus and aperture changes to be smooth and accurate. I have a full production sample, and the focusing action is even smoother than most 35 Summilux’s I’ve used. I believe ‘perfect out of the box’ would be an accurate description. You do notice a weight increase over the smaller 35 Summilux-M but it’s not a lot more and the size is comparable in operation. In fact I found the 28 more comfortable to use than the 35 because of the slight increase in length, making focusing and aperture changes easier with my medium sized hands. As the lens hood is screwed in flush with the lens, changing the aperture is very easy, compared to previous Elmarits and Summicron that use a large plastic clip-on hood.

Leica M | Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH

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Leica M (Safari) | Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH

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Leica Q | Summilux-M 28/1.7 ASPH

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In the Field

The 28mm Focal Length

Those who don’t have much experience using the 28mm focal length may need to be patient with this lens. Some say it’s too wide and others say it’s not wide enough, and the others say it’s too ‘in-between’. A comment I’ve been hearing a lot lately (since the Q’s introduction), is ‘28mm is the new 35mm’. Well I’m not so sure I totally agree with that, but considering the iPhone has a 28mm (approx) focal length and has the most used camera in the world, there is some argument that suggests the comment isn’t so far fetched. Back when the great Henri Cartier Bresson was roaming the streets of Europe, the 50mm focal length was the norm. Later, photographers started getting closer to their subjects and preferred the wider frame of the 35mm focal length. Considering today’s style of shooting (including paparazzi), it’s understandable how the 28mm focal length has several advantages over 35mm.

Firstly, it is wider, fitting more into the frame than 35mm at the same shooting position, also creating a slightly more dynamic ‘in-your-face’ perspective, if used correctly. You can also get closer to your subjects, while fitting more background into the frame, giving you more compositional options. Having said that, this may not be an advantage, depending on your style of shooting. The one thing I’ve always loved about shooting with the 28mm focal length is that it’s the widest focal length you can shoot without having to worry too much about tilting or placing subjects/objects on the side of the frame. When you go wider to say 24mm or 21mm, perspective distortion becomes a real issue, making it quite annoying for documentary purposes. While the 28mm perspective does come with some distortion, it is tolerable, and even when tilting, it is negligible and I have no issues with placing my subjects off-center.

Simple Model Shoot

Shooting with the 28 Summilux-M for portraits takes some getting used to, especially for 35/50mm users. The angle of view is extended quite a bit for only 7mm, giving much more depth of field and background to work with. Nailing focus is quite easy as the f/1.4 aperture is more forgiving at 28mm due to the increase in depth of field, but the drop-off from sharp to unsharp isn’t as abrupt as say the 35 Summilux-M.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot  at f/2.8 on the Leica M240

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The colour signature is as you would expect from most Leica lenses – very neutral, and with medium to high contrast, but in these samples bear in mind that the light was strong, emphasising the contrast even more. When the light gets low, this is when the 28 Summilux-M really shines.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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General Photography

For general street and travel photography, the 28mm focal length is an ideal choice as you don’t often feel limited for a majority of scenarios, unless shooting architecture or grab shots of people from a distance is your thing. The lack of distortion for such a fast wide angle lens is quite impressive and never felt it hindered my pictures of building etc. If you don’t like tripods, this lens will delver. At f/1.4, sharpness is already close to it’s maximum resolution so there is never a compromise in sharpness throughout the f/1.4-f/11 range, and at certain distances, the f/1.4 depth of field will provide adequate focus throughout the entire image.

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BELOW: Crop from image above

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As you can see here, there is some viewfinder blockage which is a bit annoying, but not a deal breaker. While some may prefer to use an external finder which gives not only as clean view, but an accurate perspective of distance and framing, they are a hassle if you’re shooting in situations that require speed.

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Below: Crop from image above

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Below: Crop from above image

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There is some field curvature, but at further distances this is not a problem, and in this image the entire frame is sharp at f/1.4 – quite amazing!

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Bokeh is very, very smooth, much like the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH, except at f/1.4, the focus drop-off is much more dramatic and compelling for times where you’re trying to isolate your subject from a background.

Shooting in a nightclub with screaming fans for UK pop star Craig David was no match for the 28 Summilux-M, delivering crisp images, even against backlights and fairly poor lighting……oh and did I mention it’s damn sharp too?!?

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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It wouldn’t be a Leica review without at least one cat or flower picture right?!? Well considering I’m a cat-lover, no flowers were shot during the testing of the 28 Summilux-M.

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Below: Crop from image above

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Shooting with the 28 Summilux or any 28mm on the Leica M can be a bit frustrating due to the incorrect perspective you see through the built in finder, which is more suited to the 35mm/50mm focal lengths. When you first start shooting a 28mm lens on the M, you need to remind yourself that you’re further away from your subjects than how it looks through the viewfinder, so getting closer is important.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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CROP from above image:

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Shooting as a Wedding Guest

I was fortunate to be the guest at a very special wedding of two very good friends, Lawrence and Tukta, in Hua Hin, Thailand. Lawrence is also an avid Leica user and owns an M60, so the pressure was on to capture a couple of nice moments before the alcohol got to me, hehehe. Here Lawrence is seen waiting for the wedding to begin.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Using the 28mm Summilux-M at a wedding all day was a real treat. I love to get up close to my subjects and combined with the stealthy M, I was able to move in and out of places without people looking directly at the camera or feeling intimidated by the usual large and loud SLR cameras seen in these scenarios.

I found that my hit rate of in-focus shots was at about 90-95%, which is a little higher than my normal 85-90% on the 35 Summilux-M. Obviously the increased depth of field at f/1.4 helped significantly.

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Crop from above image:

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I’m not a wedding photographer, but like any documentary work, there are always those little moments happening around the bride and groom you need to look out for. Here, I love the way the focus drops off to a smooth background, and while I don’t condone shooting wide open ‘all the time’, I do enjoy keeping this lens at maximum aperture most of the time.

Below you can start to see the effects of distortion creeping in on the top corners, but it is totally fine in my opinion, and is more so due to the tilting, rather than the geometric distortion occurring.

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It doesn’t matter what the situation, I felt so comfortable shooting wide open all day long and f/1.4 always seemed to be the right aperture choice for all the scenarios. It’s perfectly sharp wide open, has beautiful contrast and colours, and drops off focus like a champion.

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It doesn’t matter what the situation, I felt so comfortable shooting wide open all day long and f/1.4 always seemed to be the right aperture choice for all the scenarios. It’s perfectly sharp wide open, has beautiful contrast and colours, and drops off focus like a champion.

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Due to the mixed lighting I found that the final two images look better in Monochrome. For the first I pre-focused on someone in the crowd and waited for the subjects to hit their mark before firing, ensuring accurate and sharp focus. What a great end to an amazing weekend!

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Muay Thai Camp – Coaching One-on-One

As a photographer and coach, I was employed to train an enthusiastic Thai photographer named Miti. During his training he was using the Leica Q entirely, and I was snapping a few test shots on the M with 28 Summilux-M. I had previously shot a story on this place around 7 years ago and a lot has changed. Please keep in mind this is not a complete story, but a selection of images I shot while coaching my student.

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Below: Crop from above image

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Below: Crop from above image

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While this looks like a slow moving wrestle it was anything but. I was shooting at ISO 1600 with 1/1000sec to ensure sharpness at the plane of focus. Due to the extreme movements I had to prefocus and guess my distance and pray for focus where I wanted it at the time of shutter release. Dare I say it, a majority were out of focus, so I have to say, the M isn’t exactly recommend to those wanting to shoot erratic, unpredictable action. I am pleased to say that my student Miti was able to achieve a good number of sharp in-focus images with his autofocusing Leica Q.

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extra

Muay Thai fighters are often viewed as celebrities in Thailand so vanity also comes with the business of winning. Let’s just say the mirrors are used more often than you’d probably expect from young men, capable of breaking you in two.

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Below: 100% crop from above image

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The previous time I shot a professional Muay Thai fight, I was using an autofocus SLR with a short zoom lens. Using the M and 28mm, my ability to be effective was lessened and I certainly relied more on hope and luck. Luckily my 21 years experience helped me pull out a few keepers.

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Compared to the Leica Q

While some may assume this is an unfair comparison (either way), I think the two lenses should most definitely be compared. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time, nor patience to compare side by side – sorry, I’m travelling and working. Though I will give a brief analysis after spending time with both lenses/cameras.

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Firstly, there is no debate that the M lens is superior in sharpness wide open, and there is a more dramatic fall off from focus to blur. Other than that, they are quite similar lenses, though the Q lens has one major advantage. It was not only designed for the sensor it is attached to, but it has processing built into the Q body that corrects the image for any lens limitations, including distortion. Currently, there is no Lightroom profile for the new 28 Summilux-M lens, so any corrections need to be made manually if desired – at least until a profile is released by Leica.

The question on many M users’ minds will be whether to buy the Leica Q or buy the new Summilux-M, which is actually more expensive. My answer is “it depends!” It depends on price (US$1500 difference) or how you like to shoot and whether you want a second camera. Personally I prefer to shoot on an M, regardless of the better sensor used in the Leica Q. Image quality is important to me, but picture quality and the shooting experience is more so. I love shooting with a rangefinder and while it has a lot of drawbacks (compared to the Q) like I experienced in shooting Muay Thai, I still prefer the feel and manual focus elements enough to accept what I cannot change in the M.

Another difference between shooting the Leica M240 and Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH vs the Leica Q, is that the Leica Q files come out of camera with more vibrant colours and slightly higher contrast. This may no may not affect your decision if considering either of these two fine tools. Finally, the one major factor to consider is that the Q’s electronic rangefinder not only shows 100% of the frame without lens blockage, but it also shows you the exposure and correct 28mm perspective, whereas the M does not, which can be very frustrating. The Q also has macro focus ability using the maximum aperture of f/2.8, and of course AF, which could be the deciding factor for many.

On the flip side, the constant use of EVF and/or LCD can be draining on the battery, which is quite average compared to most cameras so extra batteries will need to be stocked up. Long story short, if you can afford it, buy both.

Conclusion

My long 21 year wait for the Leica Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH has been well worth it. I’ve always been more of a 35mm user, but while the Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH FLE is a great lens it’s never really got me excited. It’s sharp and has very neutral rendering but I always preferred the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH due to it’s soft rendering and smooth character. The new 28 Summilux-M has combined my two favourite lenses into one and delivers big time. The only real flaw I found was that like most lenses, it is prone to purple fringing in high contrast situations, which is easily removed in Lightroom in 2 seconds.

At about US$1500 more than either a Leica Q or a 35 Summilux, it’s arguable whether that figure represents good value for money or being too pricey to consider. From my experience with this lens, and having used lenses like the Noctilux and 50 APO which cost a lot more, I think the Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH represents fantastic value for money – considering that value is represented by the effort the user makes to use the lens to the best of their ability. A photographer and his tools are only as good as the opportunities he/she creates with them.

If you are after a fast 28mm M lens, there is no substitute, no alternative available. If there was, they would be trembling with fear because the Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH is the real deal. Think 50 APO incredible, and there you have it – it is THAT good!

Be sure to visit Kristian’s Blog HERE!

You can buy the Leica 28 Summilux from any of my top recommended Leica dealers below:

Ken Hansen: Email him at [email protected]

PopFlash.com Website

B&H Photo

Leica Store Miami

Jul 282015
 

User Report: A Nikon J5 Review

by Eyal Gurevitch

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What makes a small camera great?

When asked what camera is compact and excellent I have no straight answer. It’s complicated, I tell them. You must sacrifice zoom range, or the max apertures of the lens, or the price of the camera, or its controllability, or its size.

So what’s the best compromise, they ask. It depends, I say. Would you call yourself an advanced photographer? Do you enjoy controlling your camera? Change its settings much? Must you have a large zoom? Can you pay more? Can you carry more?

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How can you compete with a x30 zoom of a 240 gram camera, or a x83 in a camera the size of an entry-level DSLR? How can you challenge a 1” sensor in a 300 gram camera that also has a useful zoom range and an f/1.8-2.8 aperture range?

It’s tough for camera makers to keep pleasing us photographers. To keep surprising us. But somehow they keep it coming. Such is the Nikon 1 J5. No, it’s not a groundbreaking camera, it doesn’t bring anything entirely new to the market. What it does it to balance some really great qualities in a single, triumphant package.

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Size matters.

With its 10-30mm kit lens, the J5 is not any taller or wider than the implicitly aforementioned RX100 IV. It is thicker, due to the length of the lens, so it’s not pocketable and that’s a big difference, but in terms of conspicuousness, they are virtually the same.

So why even consider the J5 over the RX100IV if they have the same sensor size and body size, but a large difference in max apertures, in favour of the Sony? The first and most obvious argument would be the ability to switch lenses. However, most Nikon 1 lenses mounted on the J5 would render it cumbersome and unbalanced, so other than for a niche use of a large aperture prime or a long zoom here and there, the capital practical use of this camera would undisputedly be with the 10-30mm along with its f/3.5-5.6 apertures.

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The grip. The controls.

There are two significant changes the Nikon did with the J5 over the previous body. The first is the all new BSI-CMOS sensor that delivers 20.8 megapixels but much more importantly better image quality and richer colors. The second is a thought out design of dials, buttons and controls added to the camera body without adding to its size. There’s a new Fn button in the front, a new dial around the video button, PASM modes in the main control dial and there’s a new grip. I would never understand why all cameras don’t have a grip as deep as their smallest attachable lens. The new grip of the J5 makes it oh-so-much easier to hold, especially compared to J4’s bar-of-soap-like slippery body. All these additions turn the J5 into a camera that’s easy to use and easy to control.

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The Speed

Nikon take pride in the fast shooting abilities of the J5 and they have almost every right to do so. Just like the J4, it can shoot a max of 20 shots per second with AF at full resolution, or 60 shots per second with locked focus. It has an impressive variety of slow modes in video (but an unimpressive 15fps in 4K). The only caveat being its slow processing, taking long seconds and sometimes even minutes to save the large amount of photos taken during a quick burst.

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There’s also the cool best moment capture feature, which keeps buffering images as long as you half press the shutter, taking a batch of 20 shots when you fully press it, 10 out of which are from the second before you pressed it.

In this regard there’s no change at all from its predecessor – you’re sure to capture the decisive moment, but probably not the next one.

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The Bottom Line

The Nikon 1 J5 is a highly capable, intuitively controllable compact mirrorless camera. It’s a huge step up from the J4 in terms of body design and as well as in image quality, making it a viable competitor in the high-end, large-sensor compact camera market, standing against the likes of the Sony RX100 IV as well as the Panasonic GM5, and with a truly attractive price tag.

Check out the Nikon 1 J5 at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Jul 242015
 
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Olympus EM1 + Sony A7s – Still my favorite Combo!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve

I thought I’d share some new images with your readers. I’m still loving the Olympus EM1 and Sony A7s although I have to say, since the Olympus 40-150mm zoom and the new 7-14mm zoom came out, the Oly has had more use. I also recently bought the Oly MC-14 1.4x tele converter for the big zoom and for me its performance in terms of resolution and sharpness underlines the big range now offered by the Olympus system. These 3 PRO zooms give me pretty much all I need for general travel work and the 12-40mm has all but replaced my wide primes with no loss of image quality. I still only tend to get the A7s + Leica M 35mm or 50mm f1.4 Summilux’s out when I’m out at night or I’m shooting low light work but with these lenses it still offers something a bit special.

My friend a few weeks before giving birth – EM1 – 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 25mm – available light and off camera flash

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My friend and her baby girl who had just had another lifesaving operation only days after her birth – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – mixed available light

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My friend holding it together by reading Winnie the Pooh to her baby girl who was still gravely ill only one week after her birth – Sony A7s – Leica M 35mm 1.4 – mixed available light

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My work here is a mixture of commissions and personal shots ranging from an architecture job in Oxfordshire, corporate portraits and a trip to Wimbledon tennis championships to some intimate portraits of my friend Scarlet and her baby, Frida. The baby had a traumatic and complicated birth and had to be resuscitated several times in her first few days. Thankfully she’s doing brilliantly now and is thriving! Thanks again for the opportunity to share these with your readers and keep up the great work! If anyone is interested, I have a new, short program of workshops on my website here:

My friend and her baby Frida who was finally out of harms way and seemed to be enjoying her new world – EM1 – Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light

 

 

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Frida just a few days ago, now 2 months old and currently my favorite model! – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light

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The Prado Museum in Madrid during a quick break – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 15mm

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A late night bar in Madrid – Sony A7s Leica M 35mm 1.4 – available light

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A studio portrait of the actress Hetty Baynes Russell, who was married to Ken Russell the British film director. – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – continuous light through 4ft softbox

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Another shot of Hetty – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – window light

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A photograph of a rather special Barn design in Oxforshire at dusk – my friends Arthur and Kate were the architects who designed it – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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The same building during the day – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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A model in Prague – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light and reflector

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A corporate shoot in London – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – Off camera flash

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Self portrait in the studio – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 35mm – continuous light through a 4 ft softbox and reflector

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Britain’s number one female tennis player Heather Watson winning her match at Wimbledon – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4

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Another self portrait in my garden – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 10mm – available light and off camera flash

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A tree surgeon working behind my garden – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO + MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4

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The same shot as above from the same spot, the tree surgeon is just visible – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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http://buchangrant.format.com/workshops where you can join me in Berlin, India or China/Tibet over the next 10 months!

Jul 212015
 

Moment, Chaos and a Personal Perspective

By Shaul Naschitz

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I have been featured on your site more than once before, but hopefully you allow me to contribute a few thoughts once more.

I consider myself a savvy amateur photographer. I started with this means of self-expression about thirty years ago and kept doing it with more or less involvement ever since. Naturally, the digital revolution inspired a significant boost to my photographic endeavors; not least by the ever evolving technologies of creating photographs and “publishing” them. Between 2010 and 2012 I dedicated a lot of my spare time to writing about photography. The resulting blog, with its 900+ posts, never got much attention (maybe because it’s written in Hebrew…). One day, perhaps when I retire, I might try to make a nice and thick book of it.

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Anyway, in the past year or so my interest in photography has been progressively waning. I don’t carry a camera on a daily basis anymore and when I do use one I tend to do so more purposefully than before, so I shoot much less. It is not the cost that deters me like in the olden days; it is the tedious task of browsing through a mountain of rubbish to pick the few gems worth keeping. The paintwork on the Delete buttons on the backs of my cameras is always worn out.

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Another recent development is I don’t care anymore what others think of my work. Especially peers on web-based communities. I have long ago forsaken the aspirations of making a living of my hobby and finally accept the notion that I am not “better” than others. If anything, my sense for business is way below average, just like the pleasure I get from fulfilling the expectations of complete strangers. So why bother? I am old enough to serve as my own judge.

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I know that all of this sounds like old cynical bickering, but I assure you I have never felt happier, more light-hearted and liberated about my photography. After so long I feel free to explore this fascinating medium and create art, my own art. The charm in photography to me has everything to do with its inherent limitations and “flaws”. It is a great tool for observation, much less so for expression. In fact, any other art form is superior to photography in terms of sheer creation. Photography is so tightly embedded in the physical world it can’t really escape. So creating art using this medium must involve dismantling rather than construction, authorship rather than creation. Photography dissects the flow of time into distinct moments and allows us to concentrate on those fragments. That property is unique to this medium and gives it its strength.

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Cartier-Bresson coined the obscure and much debated “moment decisif” as an ideal of thematic and geometric order in a chaotic situation. But I am interested in the opposite: chaos itself. A bit of chaos makes things messed up, tense, interesting. Instead of fighting the ever-present, crude randomality I now work with it.

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The symbiosis of moment and disorder is what makes photography so fascinating to me. An extreme example of that are group dance performances, where despite the meticulous planning a lot of individual character comes through. You can’t usually observe slight synchronization errors or fleeting facial expressions when watching a live dance show, but a camera can reveal a lot. The same principles are obviously relevant to more reactive genres, such as street photography and photojournalism. It is just a matter of giving up control and letting chance play its role. And I didn’t even mention the fun in doing so.

Shaul Naschitz

Jul 212015
 

Winning 1st Place in The World’s Largest Photo Competition!

By Andrew Suryono

Hello Readers, My name is Andrew Suryono. I won 1st place in this year’s Sony World Photography Award, Indonesia National Award. Below is my winning photo, “Orangutan in The Rain.”

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This year 173,444 images was submitted from 171 countries, making Sony’s photography contest the largest in the world. Winning 1st place in this competition means a lot to me. Not only because this is the largest photo competition in the world, but also this is my first ever international award. I’m an avid reader of Steve’s site. I sent an email to Steve asking his permission to share my experience from winning the competition with you and he replied to me with a resounding YES in less than 5 minutes.

I’m super excited to share my experience with you here. Here we go! I’m sure many of you already have a question in mind: “What’s the prize of winning this competition, Andrew?” Did I read your mind correctly? :) Sony gave me a Sony A7s, a Carl Zeiss 24-70mm lens and a flight ticket to London (return). They also took care of my hotel accommodation, meals and transport during my 5 days stay in London. During this trip, Sony organized a photography tour where I can try all kinds of Sony’s new camera and lenses. I tried the Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens, the Sony 28mm f/2 lens and the Sony 90mm Macro lens. Sony also did a photo exhibition to showcase of all the winners’ photos and finally end it glamorously with a gala dinner for the awarding ceremony. Here’s a picture of me holding the trophy during the Gala Dinner ceremony.

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On top of all that, I got tons of publication requests. My winning photo was featured in big sites such as CNN, National Geographic, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, The Telegraph and many more. I view photography as my hobby and I never thought I could make it this far. Hopefully my winning photo and achievement can inspire you or at least light up your day!

Until then, take care! If you want to learn more about me, feel free to visit me at: My Blog: www.photoseis.com My Photo Gallery: photoseis.smugmug.com

Jul 202015
 

New Panasonic GX8 is coming! Pre-Orders Up!

Pre-Order the GX8 at B&H Photo or Amazon HERE!

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The new Panasonic GX8, which appears to have taken some ideas from the Olympus E-M5 Mark II (swivel screen being one of them) and some unique and one of a kind features from Panasonic (swivel up EVF) and turned it into what appears to be the best Panasonic Mirrorless to date for those who love the GX style as opposed to the GH style of body. 4K video, tillable EVF, swivel out LCD, and more are all packed inside this new GX8. The previous GX7 was a fantastic little camera, and I reviewed it HERE.

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I have the Olympus E-M5 II Titanium Edition here and think it is a stunner. Would I like the GX8 better? No idea as I have not touched one yet but I hope to soon but would be tough for me to part with the amazing 5 Axis IS in the Olympus as I use it mainly for video, and it’s amazing. Just as with the Olympus, the GX8 allows you to swivel out the LCD to the left and close it up to where we do not even see the LCD, which I like and shoot often with the E-M5 II.

I like the dial based AF selection here as well as the simplistic layout. Could be a great street or every day camera. At $1200 for the body only, it is a bit steep but I shall soon see if it is worth the cost. Keep an eye out for a review SOON!

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The GX8 Specs (from B&H Photo HERE)

Pairing 4K recording and an updated Micro Four Thirds sensor, the black Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is a sleek, compact mirrorless camera enabling versatile, multimedia recording. Utilizing a high resolution 20.3 MP Digital Live MOS sensor, along with a Venus Engine image processor, the GX8 is able to record 4K UHD movies at 30 or 24 fps; record full-resolution stills at 10 fps with AF-S or 8 MP stills at 30 fps; and work in difficult lighting situations with a top sensitivity of ISO 25600. Complementing the imaging capabilities is a unique Dual I.S. system that offers the use of both in-camera and in-lens image stabilization systems to effectively minimize the appearance of camera shake. The body design is also characterized by a durable, magnesium alloy construction that incorporates a tilting 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder and a free angle 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear OLED touchscreen to suit working from a variety of angles. Offering an enhanced set of imaging features with a comfortable form factor, the GX8 is an everyday camera designed with advanced multimedia capture in mind.

Among other features, the GX8 also features built-in Wi-Fi with NFC to enable seamless wireless image transfer and remote camera control from linked smartphones or tablets. Benefitting both stills and movies, Panasonic’s DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) AF system helps to quicken focusing speeds while a Starlight AF feature maintains focusing accuracy in low-light down to -4 EV and manual focus is accented by focus peaking and Touch AF controls.

20.3 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine
An updated 20.3 MP Digital Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor pairs with the Venus Engine image processor to deliver fast overall performance, a wider dynamic range, with notable image quality to suit working in a wide variety of conditions. 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 single-shot or continuous autofocus. Using the mechanical focal plane shutter, you can shoot up to 8 fps with AF-S, 6 fps with AF-C, and 5.5 fps during live view with AF-S. For even faster performance, up to 10 fps shooting is possible with the electronic shutter function or 30 fps at 8 MP using the 4K Photo Modes.
4K UHD Video Recording
In addition to the versatile still shooting modes, the GX8 also supports recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video with either 30p or 24p frames rates at 100 Mbps 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 2.5mm jack for even clearer sound.

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.

Dual Image Stabilization

Helping to achieve the utmost sharpness when photographing handheld, Dual I.S. combines the GX8’s sensor-shift image stabilization technology with lens-based image stabilization to compensate for a broader range of movement types to render sharper, clearer imagery. Dual I.S. requires the use of compatible Lumix lenses featuring O.I.S.
Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

A large OLED Live View Finder features a unique tilting design to benefit working from low angles and also has an impressive 2.36m-dot resolution, 0.77x magnification, and 10,000:1 contrast ratio.
A larger means for image composition and playback, the 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear OLED monitor has a free angle, tilt and swivel design to support viewing from a variety of angles. It is also a touchscreen, which permits intuitive menu navigation and settings control.

Constructed from magnesium alloy with die-cast front and rear frames, the GX8 features a durable design that also incorporates extensive sealing at each joint, dial, and button to render it both splash- and dust-proof.

The sleek flat-body profile incorporates both front and rear dials for intuitive control over aperture and shutter speed settings. Eight assignable function buttons are also available, as well as a dedicated exposure compensation dial.

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC allows for wireless image sharing and remote camera control from linked smartphones and tablets.

Depth-From-Defocus and Starlight AF Technologies

For accelerated autofocus performance, 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, which enables continuous shooting up to 6 fps with continuous AF. 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. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.

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 Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation.

Other Camera Features

A mechanical focal plane shutter enables a fast maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec., as well as a top flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. An electronic shutter function also avails a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec. to better enable working in bright conditions and with wider aperture settings.
More than 100 consecutive full-resolution JPG files can be captured in a burst, or approximately 30 consecutive raw files in a single burst.
Raw image files can be processed in-camera for a more streamlined post-production workflow.
Depending on the lens in use, the included DMW-BLC12 battery provides approximately 330 shots per charge when using the rear monitor, or 310 with the electronic viewfinder.
Photo Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom, Cinelike D, and Cinelike V.
Creative Control modes: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color, and Sunshine.

Jul 202015
 
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Getting a Grip on the Leica Q: The Match Technical Thumbs Up EP-SQ grip Review

By Ashwin Rao

Hi everyone,

I recently had a chance to test out a production proof of the Thumbs Up EP-SQ grip for the Leica Q. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Match Technical’ s Thumbs Up grips, they are mountable on a camera’s hot shoe and provide a nice firm rest upon which to rest the thumb. Many people who shoot Leica cameras, which can be slippery in hand at times, prefer to add these grips to the camera. They act similar to how the film-advance levers of days-gone-by work as thumb rests. I can honestly say that this is a great ergonomic addition to the already fantastic Leica Q, adding that little extra bit of purchase that makes Match Technical’s Thumbs Up grips so popular.

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One “criticism” of the Leica Q is that the thumb indent, which Leica astutely placed on the camera’s rear, is a bit too far off to the edge of the camera and creates hand fatigue if solely used for gripping. I definitely found this to be an issue and addressed the issue in part by adding Leica’s own baseplate/grip. The EP-SQ design uses the indent as a method for securing the grip in place, while adding a nice rest that places the photographer’s thumb in a more comfortable position for shooting.

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One important added benefit of this Thumbs Up is that its design limits inadvertently bumping the Diopter adjustment dial(adjacent to the EVF), which often does go out of whack without protection. The grip effectively limits access to this dial, which is a good thing, as it prevents shirts or other factors to bump the deal and cause your EVF to be thrown out of focus.

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Unfortunately, by mounting the Thumbs Up EP-SQ on your Leica Q, lose access to the hotshoe, but with the Q’s ISO capacities, a flash is rarely needed. This, to me, is a small price to play for the ergonomic benefit of having a better grip on the camera.As an owner of the Thumbs Up Grips for the Leica M8, M9, M240, M246, X1, and Fuji XPro-1, I can confidently say that that Thumbs Up EP-SQ does much of the same for the Leica Q as it does for those cameras….it adds a nice secure grip if one feels that they require more than the Leica’s own offerings.

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I personally use the Thumbs Up in conjunction with Leica’s baseplate grip, for a really firm grasp and a camera that’s well balanced for me (not front heavy). However, may prefer to use their cameras with just the Thumbs-Up Grip, and I can confirm that using the camera in this manner feels quite secure as well.

Below are a few more pictures of the grip. I have been a fan of the Match Technical’s Thumbs Up designs for nearly a decade, and I suspect that you too will enjoy the experience of using a Thumbs Up on the Leica Q.

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You can find pre-order options for the EP-SQ through Match Technical’s own site, or through many of Leica’s own authorized dealers.

http://www.matchtechnical.com/Pages/purchase.aspx

Steve’s Leica Q Review – HERE

Ashwin’s Leica Q Review – HERE

Jul 182015
 

My Experience with the Voigtlander 15 Mark III

by David Farina

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This is my second article here. My first one was a short review of the amazing and tiny Voigtlander 40mm 1.4. Since then, a new Voigtlander lens found its way to my camera bag; the Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 III. I have to admit that I’m a total ultrawide-angle lover. Images produces by such extreme wide-angle lenses have something to them that makes you feel like you were there on that moment. And this is after all one of my biggest goals in photography. I want the viewer of my images to feel the way I felt when taking the pictures. I want the viewer to have an idea how the place looked, and this works best with an UWA in my opinion.

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I primarily bought that lens because I became a total fan of the 40mm 1.4 from Voigtlander, and this lens surely does not disappoint. The lens itself is not as small as the 40mm but its still tiny compared to the Sony FE 16-35. The finish and build quality is as good as can be. The aperture smoothly clicks in half stops, the focus ring is dampened nicely and generally this lens feels good in my hands. This lens has a built in lens hood, so forget about using your existing filters on that one (except you own 58mm filters). When I received the lens, it felt like the focus ring would be a bit stuck when I turned it. However, this disappeared after a few days so I guess it just needed to get used – and thats what I did:

Why did I get this lens? One could say that it is redundant getting this lens when you already have the superb Sony FE 16-35, but theres a clear difference. First, 15mm is quite a bit wider than 16mm, I was actually surprised that it is substantially wider. The second thing is, it is extremely small. I wanted to have choices when I go out to take pictures; a small and light set for travelling or quick trips consisting of the A7R, A7S, 40mm 1.4 and this lens. This pretty much covers all my needs, and weights as much as my 6D (that I sold yesterday) with one lens. That way, I dont need to swap lenses, I just grab the right camera.

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and a crop:

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I think the boring part was hard enough to read, so lets get to the interesting things like sharpness! I’ve been using that lens on my A7R most of the time, which is great for testing sharpness of a lens. The lens seems to be plenty sharp, already by f/4.5 which is wide open for this lens. When stopping down to f/8 or f/11 which is the lens’ sweet spot, you get tack sharp images from corner to corner. Yes, it competes the Sony FE 16-35 in that regard! I found it best to shoot at f/8 or higher and just leave the focus at 1m on the distance scale for hyperfocal focusing. This is better than autofocus as you don’t have to focus at all! Without hesitating I can say that this lens is amongst my top 3 sharpest UWA lenses I’ve ever used, which is impressive considering the size and cost of the Voigtlander 15mm. There are, however, some drawbacks. It is a rather slow lens in terms of aperture, which makes it a lot less useful for example for astrophotography than the Samyang 14mm 2.8. If you shoot interior or real estate handheld, you might also be limited when light is not that great.

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How do the colors render with this lens? I found the Sony FE 16-35 to be too sterile in many situations but when I took the Voigtlander out for the first time, I found it gave me rich and popping colors. The colors are nicely saturated but still natural. I also found that it renders green and blue tones better than the 16-35 which is fantastic for landscape photographers. Pair the sharpness with the amazing colors of this lens and you get a fantastic UWA for landscapes. Like the Voigtl‰nder 40mm 1.4, this lens also seemed to render brown tones in a very pleasant way.

A drawback of that lens is purple fringing. This lens has plenty of chromatic abberations in contrasty, sometimes also in less contrasty areas in edges and near the frame. I also found it to be quite difficult to remove in post-processing, althought I was able to get totally rid of it with a few tricks. This is maybe this’ lens biggest fault, but I can live with that.

What really surprised me is the amount of distortion this lens has. I found it to have almost no distortion other than perspective distortion. This makes this lens also suitable for architecture and other subjects with a lot of straight, perpendicular and/or symmetrical lines. It is impressive how well corrected this lens is, as I find 15mm to be extremely wide (widest I’ve used so far). What I think is also worth a mention is how this lens renders flares. Sunstars look great and flare occurs only when directly pointing at a bright light source. The coating of this lens prevents a lot of flares and ghosts, which is surely a good thing, as the sun or a street lamp often find its way into the image. This lens also renders beautiful 10-pointed sunstars!

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Many people were asking if this lens works better on the A7R than the version 2. I can say that the images do look great, but in very rare occasions it can happen that there is a slight magenta cast or vignetting. It seems to happen when it is very bright, but I can’t say for sure. Due to the fact that in real world this issue only happens maybe in one of a few hundred shots, it is negligible for me and will not hinder me to come to a positive conclusion:

Now will this lens stay in my kit in coexistence with my 16-35, or does one of them need to go?
This lens is very good, period. It is plenty sharp corner to corner, it has fantastic colors which I found to be way more appealing than colors some modern lenses give, it has not much distortion, it is small and the price is just about right. Did I mention it is sharp? I’ve never used a Leica lens, but judging from samples I’ve seen I’d say if you’re about to expect Leica-like micro contrast you’ll probably be disappointed. But like I already said, this lens is as sharp as Sonys fantastic FE 16-35. This little lens is definitely a keeper!

You can check out more images on my new website and 500px:

www.davidfarina.com
www.500px.com/david_farina

Happy shooting everybody!

Steve’s thoughts on this lens can be seen HERE.

Jul 182015
 

Great Sale on Voigtlander  Lenses at CameraQuest!

Stephen Gandy over at CameraQuest.com is having a FANTASTIC sale on all Voigtlander lenses for M mount and micro 4/3!!

ALL sale lenses bundled with a Premium B+W Nano 007 Filter! All have free expedited shipping. Lenses over $600 have free Next Day Shipping to most lower 48 locations. Sale available for North and South America only.

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Voigtlander Micro Four Thirds Lenses

https://shop.cameraquest.com/voigtlander-micro-4/3-lenses/

17.5mm f/.95 $1200 now on sale $900
25mm f/.95 VII $1000 now on sale $800
42.5mm f/.95 $1000 now on sale $800

Voigtlander Leica M Lenses

https://shop.cameraquest.com/voigtlander-leica-mount-rangefinder-lenses/?p=catalog&mode=catalog&parent=191&pg=1&pagesize=48

12mm f/5.6 Leica M $750 now on sale $700
21mm f/1.8 Leica M $1200 now on sale $1050
28mm f/2 Leica M $630 now on sale $600
35/1.2 VII Leica M $1200 now on sale $1000
50/1.1 Leica M $1000 now on sale $900
50/1.5 Black Leica M $900 now on sale $800
50/1.5 Chrome Leica M $1050 now on sale $950

SL II Lenses for Nikon and Canon EOS

https://shop.cameraquest.com/voigtlander-slr-lenses/

20mm f/3.5 Nikon $550 now on sale $500
20mm f/3.5 EOS $530 now on sale$500
28mm f/2.8 Nikon $500 now on sale $480
28mm f/2.8 EOS $500 now on sale $480
40mm f/2 Nikon $500 now on sale $450
40mm f/2 EOS $550 now on sale $450

Jul 172015
 
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VIDEO: The Olympus E-M5II, 8mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95!

By Steve Huff

Hey guys! It’s FRIDAY! That means the weekend is here, and what a better way to spend it than with a new camera, and two new lenses for me to test out. WooHoo!

No, I never ever tire of getting these new jewels in the mail. In the case of the 8mm fisheye, I rented it as Olympus has a wait list for reviewers so I wanted to check to out NOW, so I went to lens rentals.com (site sponsor) and rented it for a week. The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com, who happens to be the USA distributor for Voigtlander, so his site is the place to go for new Voigtlander lenses.

With that out of the way, the new Titanium E-M5II is stunning in appearance. Very Classy. Best color option IMO. To those wondering, “is it really titanium”? NO, it’s titanium in color, not material ;) Even so, it is beautiful and gives the camera and extra bit of pizazz and as I said, class. No cheap looking paint jobs here, in fact, this should be a standard color for all future Olympus bodies. Reminds me somewhat of the old “Steel Grey” of the Leica M9 days. You can order it at B&H Photo HERE, it is IN STOCK NOW!

My video on the E-M5II Titanium, the 8Mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

After owning and using the crap out of the E-M1, I am finding the E-M5II to give me things I never realized I missed. The swivel out LCD, I use it ALL the time. The new 5 Axis is amazing, especially for video. Eliminates the need for big stabilization rigs. Really. The small size and gorgeous lenses. Even though this is not a full frame camera, and I have been shooting my full frame Sony A LOT, I still adore the Olympus and use it often for personal shooting. The size, speed, response and lenses all put it up in my “top two” status these days.

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With the limited edition Titanium set, of which there are 7000 made, we get a leather wallet with limited edition numbered card telling us what number we have, we get a custom made leather strap that matches the camera and we get the limited edition color, Titanium. This camera comes in at $300 more over the black or silver versions, and all we are getting are those three things. For me, it is worth it just to have this color. The strap and wallet are nice, but the color is what I love about it and when I was in a meeting with Olympus month ago they told me about this edition, and I said :I WANT ONE”. I knew it then and when I saw B&H Photo had them IN STOCK I ordered my own to replace my E-M1, of which I have been shooting since it was launched.

If you missed my big E-M5 II review you can see it HERE. This is the same camera, just with a new paint job so it will not be reviewed, just showing it here in the video so all of you can see what it looks like.

I will have full reviews of the 10.5 f/0.95 and 8mm Pro Fisheye SOON. But for now, here is a blurb and image or two or three from each:

The Olympus Pro Fisheye 8mm:

I have always loved fisheye lenses. In the past you may have seen my write ups on the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for Micro 4/3. Believe it or not, that was one of my fave lenses for the system. I love ultra wide fisheyes as I can do so much with it. Unique images, cool video, and they are just fun. At $550 the Panasonic was pricey, especially with options from Rokinon and the like at a fraction of the cost. With the new Olympus they have taken it a step further and produced the worlds 1st f/1.8 8mm fisheye. Usually these lenses are f/3.5-f/4. This Olympus is f/1.8!

I find this to be amazing as while we do not need a fast aperture with a fisheye, IT HELPS for low light, especially with Micro 4/3 who lacks at high ISO compared to full frame offerings many of us are used to.

This lens focuses to 1″, yes ONE INCH, and when you do this you can actually get some BOKEH, crazy but true. With it’s pro build, weather sealing, fast aperture and auto focus it is the premier Fisheye lens for ANY system, and it beats my old Panasonic in sharpness, color and pop. So far so good.

You can buy the 8MM fisheye NOW as B&H Has them in stock. $999 is not cheap, but IMO its the best fisheye in the world. 

click them for larger and sharper versions ;) 

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The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

Another lens that just hit the streets is the Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 for Micro 4/3. This lens goes with the line of f/0.95 lenses that Voigtlander developed for Micro 4/3. ALL of them are beasts. Heavy, large and FAST aperture. All are manual focus only. This lens is something. It is built to a high standard, and if you have tried the other lenses in this line, the 17.5, 25 and 42.5 then you know what I am talking about.

With this lens on the E-M5 II (see it in the video above) you have a pretty cool setup allowing you a 21mm equivalent focal length while giving you close focus performance. While not crazy sharp wide open, it does produce  the same flavor and character as the others in the line.  It’s a gorgeous lens, and so far the only negative I have found is the purple fringing that is prevalent on all of these lenses when shot at 0.95 (to be fair, fast Leica glass does the same).

Look for my full review soon, but for now, you can buy this lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. He has a few left. Limited quantities. I’s a gorgeous lens. Kind of like shooting the Voigtlander 21 1.8 on a full frame M.

Click images for larger, sharper and better versions!

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Jul 152015
 

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sunning it up with the Sony A7s and A7II

by Craig Litten

Hey Steve & Brandon,

And hello to all of the followers of Steve Huff Photo! I’ve totally switched over to the Sony system late last year, and have been loving the system since then. I have your review of the A7s to thank for getting me really interested. I have now shot about four big jobs with the Sony’s, and they have performed nearly flawlessly so far. I own the A7s and the a6000, but have rented the A7II and the A7r trying to decide which body if a good fit, and I may just go with the newly announced a7rII. Attached are a few shots from my latest shoot with my Sony a7s and a rented Sony a7r along with the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 and Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8. lenses. I really love the size and rendering of the FE 35mm f/2.8!

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also like to keep it simple: two bodies, two lenses, a bunch of batteries and memory cards and normally zero lighting. But this shoot was different. It was a catalog shoot for Sun Bum (www.trustthebum.com); makers of sun products and a hot new company who is sweeping the industry. The company started in surf shops, but are now nationwide in Target as well as other stores. I shot their last catalog two years ago…

… and the photos from that shoot can be seen here on my website: www.craiglitten.com/galleries/#sun-bum

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Since Sun Bum is a sun-based company, the plan was to shoot all day in the bright sunlight, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we had two days of rainy weather as a big storm passed by in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. We had models coming in from everywhere, and Sun Bum staff members coming from California (the company is located in Cocoa Beach where we did the shoot), so scratching the entire shoot would have been very expensive. Besides, we also rented a house on the beach, so we had to improvise. My background is as a newspaper photojournalist (since 1991), so part of that job description was to make something out of nothing daily.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also hate using strobes, and no longer own any lighting gear, but prefer to shoot in natural light. So one of the assistants went to Home Depot to purchase a couple sets of 500 watt halogen lights costing $35 each. These are the kind of lights that you utilize while working on a car in your garage or use at a construction site, but they were a perfect solution and created what I call “liquid sunshine” giving the gloomy day the warmth it needed. We still have to reshoot to supplement these photos with “fun in the sun” photos, but they were pretty happy with the results.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Jul 152015
 

Leica Tri-Elmar 28/35/50 Ver 1.0 on a Sony a7

By Sunil Mehta

Hi Brandon and Steve,

In the past I have used the Leica Tri-Elmar Lens on a Leica M6 body. With the arrival of digital technology and due to less and less availability of films and also Leica digital bodies being expensive this lens was not in use for many years. I also moved to Nikon/ Fuji etc… When Sony dropped its a7 price to $998, I bought one just to put back this lens in use. With this lens and the Sony A7 I recently visited “Mission San Juan Capistrano” in Orange County, CA. It’s an interesting place, I attached a few photos of the Mission and the streets around it. Hope your readers will like it.

Technical detail:

Lens: Leica Tri-Elmar-M 28-35-50mm F4 ASPH – Silver / v1 / E55
Camera: Sony a7 with Metabones M-E Mount.
RAW conversion in LR and Silver Efex for BW.
In situation like this, on a bright day I focus using Zone Focusing, aperture always at f8 or f11, ISO 200 and let camera decide shutter speed, for Indoor shots I change ISO.

I regret not carrying a Tripod and ND filters.

Thanks and best regards,

Sunil Mehta

https://500px.com/mehtasunil/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mehtasunil/
https://instagram.com/mehtasunil/

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Jul 142015
 

In praise of the Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2

by Fahad

Last February, I went to Istanbul for a quick visit, of course along with my camera and lenses.

As soon as I arrived, and started taking few pictures, I noticed that my Summicron 50mm (the one i used in both previous articles) is out of focus on all distances, after a full day of testing, I was certain something is wrong.

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Luckily, for that trip I had space to bring along the nokton 35mm 1.2, which I rarely use and was thinking about getting rid of it, the weight was the major disadvantage, and 35mm was just too wide for my taste.

So I had no other option but to use the nokton for now and buy another 50mm lens once the shops are open.

Well, that quick walk using the nokton changed my mind. now its my favorite lens. and I just appreciate the luxury of having f1.2, as for the weight, I just got used to it.

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I found that the 35mm is more versatile for the streets than the 50mm, with the 35mm I can shoot few building then go back my normal photo subjects without changing the lens. only now I understand why most photographers prefer the 35mm range.

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One last observation, the focus ring is smooth and you can feel so confident with this lens’ build quality.

attached are a few images.

my flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/

Fahad A

Jul 142015
 
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Sony RX100 IV Review. The Original Pocket Rocket Blasts Higher!

By Steve Huff

You can order the RX100 at B&H Photo or Amazon!

Wow, time has sure FLOWN by since the original RX100 Mark I was released and in my hands. I remember that camera arriving to my house for review like it was yesterday. Small, fast, a 1″ sensor that performed like a larger one and the video capability that made it a perfect go anywhere small high quality camera. That RX100 did very well for Sony, so well in fact that today in 2015 we are already on the Mark IV version of the RX100. While it looks 90% the same as the old Mark I, and 100% the same as the Mark III, the new Mark IV is the best of the RX100 series to date, and while the improvements from the III to this new IV are small, if you are looking for a pocket camera, the Mark IV may be the best out there today.

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Before you start to read this review, please take a look at my previous RX100 reviews as most of what is in the Mark IV is in the Mark III so I will only be sharing some photos and some experiences I had with the new IV after mentioning the new improvements from the III. This will be a short review as I have said most of my praises in the previous reviews of this dynamite camera.

See my RX100 Review HERE

See my RX100 III Review HERE

I skipped the Mark II as I felt it did not have enough improvement to warrant a full review. ;)

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So let me start by saying the RX100 IV is still as beautiful as ever, but now we get some new improvements that keeps it as the premier pocket “do it all”  camera. Sure we have the Ricoh GR and new upcoming GRII, with a larger APS-C sensor and all but this RX100 IV will deliver some amazing features such as 4K Video shooting, Slo Motion 960 Frames shooting, 1/32,000S Shutter Speed for those bright sunny days and a new stacked sensor that offers the best IQ and ISO performance yet.

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While in my hand it feels, looks, smells and operates just like the RX100 III. We still have the pop up and out EVF that is very small nut useful on Bright Sunny days, and the swivel out LCD that gives us the best way to take selfies ;) Let me just say right now that this is almost the perfect selfie camera. I do not care what anyone says, SELFIES are HUGE! If I am out and about in a big city shooting I see maybe 100-200 selfies being taken during the day when I am out. It is every where and we have social media to blame for this new phenomenon. It’s crazy but a reality so I love the way Sony has implemented the Selfie Mode in the RX100. Flip up the back LCD so you can see it from the front, smile, press the shutter and the screen will countdown from 3 to 1 and then snap the shot.

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You can turn off the countdown but if doing a group selfie everyone will know when the shutter will fire! So it’s a cool feature to have even if you will never use it. I messed around with the selfie mode combined with the High Contrast B&W mode…

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With the 24-70 built in f/1.8 – 2.8 lens we get  wide angle with a bit of mid telephoto and at the wide end we get f/1.8 aperture speed, so we can use this little guy in all kinds of light. As I said, it is basically the RX100 III with some enhancements to the sensor and video. Here are the specs of the Mark IV Rx100:

20.1 MP 1″ Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor (stacked backside illuminated sensor)

BIONZ X Image Processor

Internal UHD 4K Video & S-Log2 Gamma

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 Lens

24-70mm (35mm Equivalent)

2349k-Dot OLED Tru-Finder Pop-Up EVF

3.0″ 1229k-Dot Multi-Angle Xtra Fine LCD

Slow Motion Video at 960 fps

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Native ISO 12800 and 16 fps Continuous Shooting

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So we know have a backside illuminated sensor which is giving us the native ISO capability of 12,800. We are also getting  16FPS continuous shooting and as well as slow motion video capabilities at 960 FPS. This is so cool to have in a little pocket camera. 4K video clips up to 5 minutes are now possible as well.

You can order the RX100 at B&H Photo or Amazon!

“No line skipping or pixel binning and with minimal moiré or visual aliasing. The XAVC S format is utilized to maximize high-bitrate shooting up to 100 Mbps for professional-quality video. When recording in either the NTSC or PAL video standard, creative potential is further extended with the ability to capture Super Slow Motion High Frame Rate movies at up to 40x slower than real time. These slow motion clips are recorded at 960 fps, 480 fps or 240 fps and can then be played back at 1920 x 1080, in 60p, 30p, or 24p when the camera is set to NTSC. When set to PAL, slow motion clips are recorded at 1000 fps, 500 fps, or 250 fps and can then be played back at 1920 x 1080, in either 50p or 25p. At resolutions below 4K, including Full HD 1920 x 1080p, movies up to 29 minutes in length can be saved.”

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So with the new capabilities the RX100 IV is a treat and joy to use. Below is a shot taken at ISO 6400, with standard NR in an OOC JPEG. This was shot in a pretty low light environment and when I saw this on my iMac screen I was pretty impressed. Yea, there are some tell tale signs of noise reduction but this is ISO 6400 JPEG in a small tiny pocket camera!

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As I used the RX100 IV in my travels from Phoenix to Atlanta to South Florida recently the camera never gave me one issue. From the desert 110 Degree heat of the desert to the 95% humidity in Florida the RX100 IV just worked. The AF was fast as it always has been with this camera and the accuracy spot on. When I would pull it out of my pocket it would power on quickly and be ready to shoot within moments. It just worked, and worked well it did. The IQ is not going to be anything like what I get from my A7II and 50 Loxia lens but at the same time, it is much better than what my iPhone 6+ is giving me so I am happy to carry it with me. With WiFi and NFC on board it is simple to get the photos from the RX100 IV to my phone of choice.

Click images below for larger size to see how they were meant to be seen. These are all OOC Jpegs with the bottom two images using the cameras built in High Contrast B&W Mode.

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Below is a full size OOC file using HC B&W, click it to see what came out of the camera in regards to detail and rendering..

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Slow Motion Video – 960 FPS

The one feature I thought was cool on this camera is the Slow Motion video feature. I remember being teased by this super slo motion YEARS ago with the original Nikon V1. While it was allowing us to record slow motion it was playing it back in a super low resolution. With the Sony RX100 IV we can play back 960 FPS video in super slow motion in full HD. It’s a pretty cool thing. Below is a sample of how slow 960FPS shooting actually is after I talk a bit about the camera:

Press play below to see my RX100 Video including the slow motion samples!

So there yo go. The new RX100 IV is a super pocket rocket that will not disappoint. It is nice to look at, nice to hold, nice to use. It is responsive and fast just as the RX100 always has been and the image quality is about as good as it gets in a small 1″ sensor. This Sony delivers the goods yet again and for me, would be my pick for best pocket camera in 2015 EVEN THOUGH there are others with larger sensors. For me, this Sony offers me a little of everything so when I want video, I have it. When I want Slo Motion I have it, when I want super fast AF and great IQ I have it, if I want a great selfie, I have it.

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The RX100 IV is NOW available and NOW shipping.

You can order it at B&H Photo HERE

You can order it at Amazon HERE

If you do not need the new features like the new sensor tech, the new 4K video features, the 960 FPS shooting or 1/32,000S shutter speed then maybe you should consider the RX100 III, II or I as ALL are still in production and being made. Sony is offering us a level of pocket camera, so we can choose whatever we desire. I thought this was quite cool as from Version I to IV, all are fantastic and highly capable pocket cameras.

Order the RX100 V1 – $448

Order the RX100 V2 – $598

Order the RX100 V3 – $798

Order the RX100 V4 – $948

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ME, if I were buying one RX100 today for my pocket needs I would go with either Version I or IV. Version I is great as well and while it is missing the pop up EVF, the backside illuminated sensor, 4K video and other new modern day bells and whistles it still takes an amazing photo for a pocket camera. Version II and III are slight upgrades but you get the most bang going from I to IV. All are fantastic and Sony has proven that a pocket camera with a small 1″ sensor can really deliver the goods. 10 years ago this type of thing did not exist and if it did it would have cost $3000.

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Can’t wait to see what we have 10 years from now ;)

My Final Word on the RX100 IV

What you will read below is pretty much what my final word on the V III was, but updated for the Mark IV:

The newest RX100, or what I call it, “the Super Pocket Rocket 100″ (RX100 IV) is a real deal masterpiece of a point and shoot. From the design, the build, the pop out EVF, the full swivel up and down LCD to the fast lens and punchy color and pop from the files, the RX100 IV is a  joy to use and shoot with. Once again Sony hits it out of the park here, as they have been doing for years now. Sony is surpassing companies like Nikon, Canon, Leica in many areas with some of their recent cameras and they are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping. With cameras like the A7RII on the way any day now, Sony is delivering mirrorless cameras from the starter range (RX100 series to mid enthusiast range (RX10 II) to the Super Enthusiast and Pro Range (A7RII). Lenses are now plentiful with more and more coming soon.

Keep in mind, the RX100 IV will not and can not replace an APS-C or full frame camera (get the same results) as you just do not get the dynamic range, ISO performance or depth of field possibilities with the smaller sensor RX100. What you do get is a camera that is perfect for family use, vacations, world travel, and every day shooting. I have seen images from the RX100 (original) that blew away images I have seen from large DSLR’s, but that was from a VERY talented photographer. It seems that if you really know what you are doing then the RX100 of any variety (1, 2, 3, or 4) will reward you with its capabilities. I have noticed the DR is not up there with larger sensors as highlights can get blown, but it is not a big deal or deal breaker. The files from the RX100 IV are sublime and as good as you can get from a camera of this sensor size.

The lens is fast with a versatile and normal 24-70mm range. With an aperture starting at f/1.8 and slowing down to only 2.8, the camera is highly capable even in low light. The EVF works great and stays out-of-the-way until you need it. It is not the largest thing ever but it works and works well. The design is genius! The RX100 IV also has a built in ND filter which will automatically activate when needed though with a 1/32,000S shutter speed, you may never need it. You have all of the Sony usual tricks here as well like panorama, color modes, art modes and intelligent auto modes. This camera can be used by amateur and pro alike. In other words, Sony makes it easy to either pick up and shoot in full auto or delve into the camera and use manual features.

 

With the new sensor tech, the new 4K features and the new Slow Motion features and added high ISO capability this is the best Rx100 to date, hands down. What is really cool though is Sony is keeping all four models current and in production, so if you want to spend less, get an RX100 V1, want the best of the lot, spend a bit more for the IV!

VS Go Pro? I was recently going to purchase a new GoPro 4 and the full setup with camera, accessories, extra batteries, charger, etc was going to cost me around $800. After using this Sony RX100 IV I realized I may be able to use this camera for my on the go video needs and would have better quality footage, better audio, more features and a much nicer camera for stills. Sure, I lose the small GoPro design, the underwater capabilities and ultra wide lens but I gain IQ, Features, Sound Quality and Capabilities. What this tells me is that the RX100 V4 is pretty damn cool and able to double as a still camera, blogging camera, and even high quality B roll video footage capture to compliment my A7II and A7s.

All in all, this is indeed the best pocket camera ever made in the digital world. The price is steep at $950, but if you want the best/most feature packed and capable P&S available and do not want to mess with lens swapping and larger bodies, this is one way to go that will leave you satisfied. Another winner from Sony.

YOU CAN ORDER THE RX100 V4 AT B&H PHOTO HERE, OR AMAZON HERE!

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HLPHH

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!

Jul 132015
 
tyninghame july 2015-22-Edit

Fingers Crossed: Leica Q Landscape Impressions

By David Nash

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I have to come clean: despite happily sticking with the wonderful Nikon D800e since it came out – and having no wish to change it in the forseeable future – I’ve bought and sold so many “small” cameras over the years that I’ve never settled with. To rub it in they’re all still there to remind me, listed every time I open in my Lightroom metadata tabs. Mmm.

Then along comes the Leica Q and seems to tick so many boxes: weight, size, IQ, DNG, fast sharp lens, full frame, fast autofocus, real dials, build quality, and very important for me with varifocal glasses – a really good built-in EVF (not an ugly plastic one to stick on top!).

Oh, and there’s one more key requirement for a walkabout camera: I have to be able to take photos one-handed while holding leads for to 25kilo poodles in the other hand…….

But like many I was initially slightly put off by the 28mm as opposed to 35mm which seemed about right for a general purpose carry around camera – and also by the emphasis in reviews on street photography (Not my comfort zone. I prefer trees – they don’t move so readily). Then I thought it through – I can easily crop to 35mm and still easily print A3+ and larger, and I can zoom with my feet.

So I took the plunge. Below are some of my first shots. A little work in Lightroom for the black and white images, and I’ve included at the end a color landscape, more or less as shot.

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Touch wood, this really does seem to tick all the “small camera” boxes for me. Your needs might be different. Your dogs might be smaller and lighter than mine. You might not wear varifocals and be happy without a viewfinder.

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Yes there are quirks. I don’t get why there are no tabs on the menus so you have to scroll through them all, why you must have jpegs whether you want them or not. The auto white balance seemed strange at first (7500k in sunlit scenes??) but it does actually seem near enough right. And yes it is very, very expensive.

But the bottom line is so easy to use casually, and fantastic IQ from a fantastic lens. For once Leica seem ahead of the game and listening to potential users. So maybe, just maybe, this one won’t be going on eBay in a month or so…

Thanks for reading and thanks Steve for your great site!

David Nash
Edinburgh, UK

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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