Sep 022014
 

Two new E Mount Full Frame Lenses from Zeiss! Loxia 35 and 50 f/2!

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PRE-ORDER THE ZEISS LOXIA LENSES AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Zeiss has announced a couple of new lenses for the Sony E mount, specifically the A7 series. The new Loxia 35 and 50mm f/2 lenses are going to be superb I think and I love the fact that they are MANUAL FOCUS lenses.  These lenses feature a declick mode so you can turn the lens into a click less aperture lens or leave it with click stops. Zeiss says the Loxia line has distortion free optics, all manual focus, full metal casing and of course, the lenses are designed for full frame. The 35 and 50mm focal lengths are the two most popular amongst street shooters, Leica shooters and many enthusiasts. There is not much more I like more than a sweet 50mm or 35mm lens, and these two lenses are very welcomed in the Sony A7 world.

Below is what Zeiss says about the new releases:

With the new Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 lenses, ZEISS combines maximum image quality with classic ease of use for E-mount full-frame cameras

The ZEISS lenses Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 are the first members of a new family of manual focus lenses for the E-mount full frame. They are optimized for digital sensors and electronic viewfinders and feature a mechanical aperture setting and the mechanical deactivation of the click stop (de-click) for ambitious videography.

“Ever since the Sony Alpha 7/7r/7s helped compact system cameras break through to the full frame, there has been a growing desire for a ‘digital manual focus‘ experience that combines the best of both worlds. The Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 are the first members of a new family of manual focus lenses for the E-mount full frame. By entering this field, ZEISS not only wants to meet this desire, but exceed it,” said Christophe Casenave, Product Manager with ZEISS Camera Lenses.

The Loxia 2/50 will be available worldwide starting October 2014 and the Loxia 2/35 from the end of the fourth quarter of 2014. The recommended retail price of the Loxia 2/35 will be $1,299.00 and that of the Loxia 2/50 will be $ 949.00.

ZEISS Loxia lenses were specifically designed for Sony α7 cameras. This means that they can make the most of the mirrorless, full frame system, while giving you all the creative possibilities of ‘classic’ photography with manual focus at the same time.

And that’s not all: ZEISS Loxia lenses also provide everything you need to shoot high quality video, such as the unique DeClick feature for smooth adjustment of the aperture, for example.

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As soon as I can get a hold of these lenses I will give them  a review! You can read more about the Loxia 50mm HERE and the 35mm Loxia can be seen HERE. 

PRE-ORDER THE ZEISS LOXIA LENSES AT B&H PHOTO HERE

 

Sep 022014
 

A Fuji X100S report

By Lachlan Burrell

I’ve been using the Fuji X100S for about 16 months now, and I believe it’s one of the greatest digital cameras ever made! Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me on that, but here’s why I think so highly of this little camera:

Firstly, I’m a die-hard film shooter, and lover of traditional manual cameras. I learnt the ropes on great 1980’s era SLR cameras like the Olympus OM1 and Nikon FM2, and I still find the direct manual controls and simplicity of these kind of cameras such a joy to use, not to mention the wonderful tones and colours I get from film. So I was never quick to jump into the digital camera market. I got some very nice results from Nikon DSLR’s like the D200 and D3; both were and still are great cameras, but were a very different beast to the old film cameras that I loved.

Then along came the X100 and really caught my eye. Could this be the missing link between nostalgia, classic design and a practical, digital tool? Not one to rush into the latest thing, I waited to see how this camera would be received and how it would perform in the real world. Turns out there were some issues, as there often is with the first generation of any product. When the highly anticipated X100S was announced, I thought it was about time I took the plunge.

It didn’t take very long to warm to this little camera, most of the controls were very familiar and intuitive. I started playing around with the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom using VSCO (Visual Supply Company) Film presets that I had tweaked a little. It was then that I started getting a bit excited! Not only was this a beautiful camera to use, with traditional controls I was accustomed to, the images were the closest thing to film I’d seen come out of a digital camera. I’ve used the VSCO Film presets on the Nikon D3, but I’ve never been able to achieve a film look like I can with the X100S. There’s something about the Fuji sensor that lends itself to the tonality and feel of film. Some might argue, why bother trying to make the images from a digital camera look like film? Well that’s fine if you’re happy with a digital look, but to me digital often looks a bit “plastic” and surreal compared to a film image, and the colours don’t always appear to be rendered naturally. For those of you who are interested, I’ve outlined a few key changes I make to the standard VSCO preset settings in Lightroom. I don’t make any drastic changes, but as a general guide using the Kodak Portra 400 preset, for example, I add about 5 points more Saturation overall. Then I go to the HSL panel and into the individual colour saturation I nudge up the reds, oranges and yellows by 5-10 and knock the green down by about 5. In the hue settings I also nudge up the orange hue by 5-10 points, and knock the yellow, green and purple hues down by 5-10 points. In the luminance panel I knock the yellows and greens down a bit and nudge the purple and magenta up slightly. This all helps achieve a more natural creamy-warm skin tone. Another important adjustment I make is in the Split Toning. As a guide I set the highlights hue at about 40, saturation 5, and the shadow hue at about 210, saturation 5. This really gets close to emulating true negative film tonality. Play around with the grain settings to your own taste; for Portra 400 I have it set at 30, 30, 40. I use the Portra presets for most of what I shoot, but I’ve also customized presets for Kodak Tri-X black and white, Fuji Velvia, Fuji Astia and a couple of the Polaroid presets, which can be very interesting and moody. It really comes down to individual taste, but having shot film for so many years, I have a visual target to aim for when customizing the presets.

As far as my personal camera setup goes, I never use the accessory case, it just adds bulk and gets in the way. I also ditched the lens cap and attached the accessory filter adapter and a top quality B+W UV filter, primarily to protect that beautiful front element. I never use a lens hood, as lens flare isn’t an issue for me…I actually like the effect, and the Fuji lens doesn’t seem to suffer from it excessively.

In addition to the beautiful image quality the X100S can achieve, there are other things about this camera that just rock, in my opinion!

1. The exposure metering is superb; it nails it almost every time. And the rare times it doesn’t due to very challenging lighting, the dynamic range of the RAW files is huge, allowing highlight and shadow detail to be easily “rescued” later. The highlights don’t tend to blow out harshly, but fall off very gradually and naturally, something I haven’t experienced with other digital files.

2. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is just lovely to use. I used to be a little irked by electronic viewfinders, but this one has changed my attitude. I still prefer the optical for general everyday shooting, but there are times, particularly when framing is critical or when the lighting is dim, that the electronic option really shines. The ultimate would be to have a true optical rangefinder with manual focusing, like so many popular consumer cameras made in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t believe it has to remain the exclusive domain of Leica with a price tag to match. I wait in hope for a manufacturer to break the mould!

3. The compact size and near silent shutter is just perfect for travel and street shooting! I don’t believe there’s any other serious competitor for this camera, i.e. compact, light, full manual control, classic styling and design, delivering professional results.

Is this the perfect camera? I don’t think there is such a thing, because the needs of photographers are so diverse, but this comes close for a travel/street/documentary shooter. If I could change one thing about the X100S what would it be? The fixed 35mm equivalent lens can sometimes seem a limitation, but it’s also what gives the camera its unique appeal. I’ve often felt that a 40mm or 50mm standard would be more useful; I’m not a big wide-angle fan. But now with the option of 28mm and 50mm conversion lenses, I think Fuji have it covered quite nicely!

Lachlan Burrell

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Aug 292014
 

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A night with the Monochrom at ISO 10,000

So yesterday you saw where I wrote about the new Leica M-P and the silver Monochrom. Last night Debby and I decided to take a drive down to a cool hangout here in Phoenix called “The Lost Leaf’. We have been there a few times now and it always offers a great atmosphere, a huge selection of beers and drinks and every single night, live music. The last time I was there I brought along the Sony A7s and tested it in the torturous low light conditions of the Lost Leaf, which at times borders on near darkness. The A7s did well, even when pushed to over 80,000 ISO and seeing that I was going that high in ISO with the A7s, I did not think the Monochrom would be able to handle it, especially with the 50 f/2 lens I had on the camera. But I gave it a shot. I cranked the Monochrom to ISO 10,000, which is the max ISO for this camera, and I snapped a few frames.

Before heading in I set the MM to ISO 6400 and snapped a shot of this mural on the wall across the street. Click on it to see  the tones, graduations and sharpness. It was shot at 50mm and f/2, wide open.

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At ISO 10,000 the Monochrom puts out files that look like Tri-X 400 film.  All images below were shot at ISO 10,000

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People hanging out on the patio waiting for the nights musical act, Copper & Congress. 

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As the band started to play I took a test shot from my table to test the lighting and to see if ISO 10k and f/2 was enough. I managed to get 1/60th second.

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I feel the Monochrom puts out convincing B&W that does remind me of my M6 ad M7 film days..

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I moved in closer to get some shots of the band..

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By far my fave shot of the night, and this one is a JPEG from camera. ISO 10,000, f/2 – click it for much better viewing experience.

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The Sony A7s was also with me…

I also brought the Sony A7s with me along with the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss. It focused so accurate and fast for me using auto focus, even in these dim conditions..it was amazing. With that said, I had to crank the ISO higher on the Sony as I was using an f/2.8 lens so I used ISO 16,000 and 32,000. Only problem was I had the camera (by accident) set to JPEG only, and was shooting in the gimmicky “high contrast B&W mode” which killed the tonality of the image. None of them looked good, but it was my mistake for using the HC B&W option. Here is one example below of what that setting will do when used at high ISO and low light:

The next two shots were taken with the Sony A7s at ISO 16,000 and 32,000 using the 55 1.8 and 35 2.8. Problem is I had the camera set to JPEG only and used the High Contrast B&W mode which destroyed the tones. Lesson learned.

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As you can see, using high contrast B&W on the A7s destroyed the details, the tones and the overall look of the image (IMO). From now on, no more gimmick modes for me! If it were set to standard B&W it would have looked great. I can also see the NR at work from the camera even though it was set to low. Still, the A7s performed like a beast. Fast AF, quick and easy shooting, no issues. If I had it set to RAW and JPEG I could have saved my photos so user error on that one.

At the end of the day though I soooo loved shooting the Monochrom last night. It has been a while since I shot anything like this with a Leica and with the insanely low light here (It’s literally lit up by one red light bulb) I did not think the Leica would cut it, especially with a 50 f/2. While the Noct would have been amazing here, the little Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 did well. For me the Mono images have a teeny something about them that is beautiful and now I know that I can go up to ISO 10k in the dark without issue. It’s all about the exposure and if you nail it then you will have minimal noise.

I will be back to the Lost Leaf soon I am sure because it is great fun to see and shoot these live acts in such a cool inmate environment.

You can check out the Lost Leaf here and if you are ever in Phoenix I highly recommend stopping in. You can check out Copper & Congress at their website HERE. 

Aug 292014
 

Sony A7 and the Nokton 40mm f/1.4

By Andrew Kaiser

I’m going to share a dirty little secret that is hard to admit. My favorite M-mount lens of all time is not made by Leica. It’s not made by Zeiss either. No, it’s not a vintage Canon or Nikon screw mount lens. It’s a lens made by that red headed step child of a manufacturer Voigtlander and it comes in the form of the 40mm Nokton f/1.4.

I purchased this lens along with a Bessa R3A more than a decade ago. To this day I am primarily a film shooter, mostly medium format. However, at the time I wanted something small I could carry around on occasion and the Bessa was an affordable option. I loved that camera and still own it to this day. Even more importantly I loved the lens. The 40mm focal length is as close to the field of view as my actual vision as I’ve ever used. The lens is sharp but not too sharp. The bokeh is smooth but not dreamy. It’s slightly gritty and feels very authentic to me. Best of all, the lens is ultra-fast and yet comes in a very tiny package making it easy to stick in the side pocket of a camera or messenger bag. When paired up against my medium format gear, I need any and all additional equipment to be small and easy to pack away.

These days I rarely shoot with 35mm film. I like the large negative of medium format and when I want something smaller I go with digital. Unfortunately, using the 40mm Nokton wasn’t much of an option in the digital universe without compromise. Digital Leica M cameras don’t have frame lines for 40mm lenses (yes I know I can approximate with 35mm or 50mm, but considering the price of a Leica I want precision). Adapting the lens to an APS-C camera wasn’t much of an option either as the lens becomes closer to 60mm, a focal length that feels very awkward in my creative brain. Even in the world of 35mm film, the 40mm Nokton was a bit of an oddball. To my knowledge, only the Bessa R3 camera line, the Leica CL, and the Minolta CLE had frame lines for a 40mm lens. So sadly, for a few years my 40mm Nokton sat on a shelf untouched and unloved.

All of that changed when Sony released the A7. I am not ashamed to say I bought the A7 with the primary purpose in mind of using my 40mm Nokton in a digital medium at the focal length the lens it was intended to be. That might seem silly considering the Nokton is typically considered more of a budget lens and not the kind of equipment a photographer should obsess over. But hey, to each their own!

The Nokton pairs beautifully with the A7. The overall package is small and compact, and yet I don’t feel like I am holding a toy or compromising on creative control when I use it. After spending a little time setting the camera up to my liking, its operation is completely intuitive. Nearly everything I want is accessible via its own dedicated dial or button on the outside of the camera. Why it took so long for digital camera designers to grasp the importance of this I will never know, but they are certainly getting it right with the A7.

I admit, having the majority of my photographic experience rooted in the film world made me very apprehensive about the EVF on the A7. Thankfully these fears were put to bed after using it for about two days. It takes some getting used to, but as with most things photography related, there are advantages one quickly learns to embrace, and some disadvantages one learns to overlook. I still don’t love the feeling of looking at my subject through a digital screen, but I have learned to appreciate focus peaking and focus assist when using vintage glass as well as being able to gauge depth of field in real-time.

If I have any complaints about the A7 they are relatively minor. The first would be a purely cosmetic one. I very much wish Sony would drop the bright orange color accents on its professional grade cameras. It’s ugly and sticks out painfully against what is an otherwise attractive camera design. The second is more functional. I would have really appreciated if Sony would have made the shutter release button threaded. This is not only nice when one wants to use a cable release, but it also gives photographers the ability to use a soft release. I’ve become completely addicted to soft release adapters in recent years and consider them an essential part of any camera purchase. Luckily I managed to find a mini-soft release that adheres to a flat shutter button via an adhesive method, but I’m still a little annoyed my choices were so limited. Sony got this right with the RX1, I don’t know why they didn’t do the same with the A7 line.

Still, minor nitpicks aside, the A7 paired with a 40mm f/1.4 Nokton has become my go-to travel companion, and a permanent fixture as a back-up camera next to my medium format film gear. Sony has really made something here that I can see myself owning and utilizing for years to come.

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Aug 132014
 

A Pair of Fujis in Paris

By James Conley

France’s importance in the history of photography cannot be overstated. Some of the most significant documentary images in the history of photography were made in Paris, and it was the home of photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Today, the city is full of commercial galleries dedicated to photography. During any given week there are dozens of elaborate exhibitions and public displays of images. Photography is respected as an art, and it is actively promoted. Indeed, France is home to Jean-François Leroy, the founder and sponsor of Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan. Paris is at odds with itself, however. It’s an easy city to shoot, but a frustrating city to shoot in.

~First, the backdrop.~

Paris is divided by the Seine. The right bank is to the north, and the left to the south. The left tends to be rather rich (read: touristy) and the right bank tends to be more artsy (and frequently seedier). The right has interesting places like the medieval-streeted Marais, and the left was Hemingway’s stomping ground. The right is hillier, the left flatter.

Regardless of where you go, though, Paris is a victim/beneficiary of Georges Eugene Haussmann. Until the middle of the 1800’s, Paris had the same structure as it had during the Middle Ages—small, interwoven streets and cramped buildings. In 1794, under the influence of the miasma theory of the day that the tight quarters were the cause of illness, a Commission of Artists came up with a plan for redoing the streets. Nothing happened with the plan until Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became emperor in 1852. He wanted the government to better control a capital where several regimes had been overthrown since 1789, and wanted wide avenues through which to move troops.

Napoleon III tasked Haussmann with reurbanization, and gave him broad powers to implement the plans. Haussmann used that power to seize property, require owners to make changes to building facades, and to completely level and rebuild parts of the city. Haussmann defined the maximum height of buildings, and their features—including balconies and roof pitch—was mandated. Neighboring buildings had to have floors at the same height, as well as matching exterior lines. Quarry stone was mandatory along the avenues. Wide boulevards, landscaped gardens, and monuments were designed to frame France’s imperial history. The plan and its result made the city look like an extensive palace.

What all this means from a photographer’s point of view is that the city provides a fetching backdrop for almost any picture, no matter what part of the city you’re in. It also means that no matter what part of the city you’re in, it runs the risk of looking remarkably like any other part. The buildings are beautiful in their own way, but they lack individuality. It’s as though Disney had the power to reface a major city.

Paris has some of the worst traffic of any major city. Cars are numerous, but mopeds and motorbikes are a close second. They are everywhere. Vehicles clog the streets and they park in any available place. Because of the chaos of so much traffic, Paris has placed a seemingly infinite number of three-foot tall poles to block walkways from vehicle parking. Parking on the streets is relatively unlimited, however, and there is almost no street that doesn’t have cars or mopeds lining it. This means that nearly every street scene will be blocked by either a pole or a vehicle.

Light is also an issue. Paris is a very northerly city. It is on a latitude similar to that of the U.S./Canadian border. In the autumn, this means that the sun is low in the sky, but it’s very bright. Shadows are strong, and highlights are glaring. Dealing with the contrast is not an insignificant challenge. Partly overcast is a friend to the limited dynamic range of a digital sensor.

Most of the traditional sites are worth seeing, even if their inspiration to make images is low. The Eiffel Tower is impressive. The Louvre is stunning. (Outside, at least. I think the Met is better curated, regardless of the difference in volume.) The city’s elaborate gardens are interesting and relatively attractive, if a rigid approach to horticultural design appeals to you. The streets are obtuse and there is no grid, which makes for convenient backdrops. The Latin Quarter and Ile Saint Louis stand out as particularly photogenic. As discussed below, however, many of the sites aren’t accessible to photographers. For example, Sacre Coeur doesn’t allow photography inside, nor does the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. The Louvre, however, does. Most storefront businesses do not allow photography—including of the street. Most people out on the street will wave you off if they see you taking pictures.

~Second, the law.~

Contrary to France’s very welcoming approach to photography as art, it is also the home of two laws which restrict it: Droit d’image and La Loi Vie Privée. Basically, a French citizen can sue a photographer for using any image which includes the citizen or his property in the picture.  So, for example, you see an interesting farmhouse in Versailles. You snap a picture, and then want to use it on a blog which has advertising from which you profit. Unless you have the written permission of the owner of the property, under French law you can’t use the image. And what if the property gets sold later? That’s right—you have to get the new property owner’s permission.

The law against using someone’s likeness commercially is not particularly different from the protection other countries provide: you can’t associate someone with a commercial product without a model release. The French people, however, generally fail to understand that taking pictures of someone in a public space and using it for an artistic or editorial purpose is allowed. The French assume they have the right to interfere with all photography.

This confusion has led many photographers to avoid France, and to not publish their work in France. Whether or not these laws would be enforced against a particular photographer with a particular image, it certainly casts a pall over the desire to make images.

~Third, the people.~

Paris is a busy city. The streets are full of a variety of shops. People live in the city, and despite their cars, they shop very locally. The Haussmann design leaves little interior space for working at home, so people are out and about. Cafe tables are plentiful, and people loiter for hours working or talking. Pedestrian traffic is heavy, as is bicycle and motorized transport. Shops tend to close around 6 p.m., but cafes and restaurants are open later.

Despite (or because of) the number of tourists, people tend to be fairly aware of photographers. More so than in cities like New York, Parisians seem to be constantly on the lookout for someone taking a photo. There are few smiles in Paris, and even fewer when a camera is around. Shopkeepers will confront you if they even see a camera. They’ll also come out of the store if they see you taking pictures in the street. Signs forbidding photography are everywhere.

Outside of stores, the people on the streets are less confrontational, but it’s wise to be aware and not push the issue. It’s best to follow the fancy footwork of Cartier-Bresson and blend blend. He was a master at taking photos fast, with his subjects unaware they were being photographed. Zone focusing and the use of the rear LCD display on cameras so equipped is required practice. Waiting in the right spot for the right time is also handy—people get used to your presence and pay less attention.

~The Fujis~

I took an XE-1 and an X100s to Paris for two weeks. and racked up over 100 miles of walking around the city and its environs. I shot with two lenses on the XE-1: an 8mm Rokinon and 18-55mm Fuji. The X100s has a fixed 23mm. I found the Fuji X cameras to be very adept at the kind of speed required for Parisian street photography. The small bodies go unnoticed, and as mirrorless cameras the Fujis are quiet. The X100s is particularly easy to adjust for zone focusing and is virtually silent. The rangefinder style X series in general are well-suited to be quick to the eye, making stealth shooting easier.

Like any city, the best way to approach Paris as a photographer is to walk. There are opportunities for images on the plentiful buses and metros, but the action (as always) is out on the street. Having lugged 35mm and DSLR equipment for more years than I care to remember, the small and light Fujis are much easier on the shoulder and the back for extensive city walking.

Paris is a great city. The air and the water make delicious pastries and bread. The streets are picturesque, and there are interesting places to see. The art is impressive and ubiquitous. It’s worth a visit to the galleries and museums. But it’s a tough city to work in. The people are not friendly to photographers, and the traffic and poles make it a challenge to find a clean foreground, much less a background. The pollution is horrendous, and the noise is incessant. The most photographed places are the most accessible, which means being original is not just a challenge—it’s risky. Having a street confrontation in a foreign language does not a good trip make. But Paris is worth the challenge, and forewarned is forearmed.

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

—James

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A woman on the Paris Metro reads among a plethora of geometric patterns.

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Waiters take a break outside a cafe in Paris.

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Aug 112014
 

The Samsung NX Mini

By Milo Hess

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Thank you Steve for the opportunity. Been following your excellent blog from the beginning!

This is going to be a mini review. No not the Austin Mini or mini cupcakes but the recently introduced Samsung NXMini.

Marketed pretty much as a selfie camera for tweens/teens I had my doubts. What am I going to do with a selfie camera?….I’m not a fan of any pictures of myself let alone selfies taken by me. By way of background I currently shoot photojournalism ( media credentialed) for a few weekly newspapers here in NYC….shooting news, lifestyle, documentary, street as well as events both personal and business. In the past I have been an award-winning art director in broadcasting working in network and cable news and as an art director/graphic designer in the corporate world. I am very particular what my imagery looks like always trying for something a little different with what I guess is a graphic eye. With a sense of humor as well when possible. For full disclosure I am a Samsung Imagelogger testing out their new products as well.

Again what am I doing with a selfie camera? Using it as a terrific tiny everyday, always have it with you, walk the streets, interchangeable lens miniature dslr that has excellent optics, does RAW, has wifi, a larger than normal for a camera of this size 1” sensor, 20.5 megapixels and a flip screen. This camera to my surprise is a tiny gem. Fun, solid, very small and a kick to use. The lens quality ( there is a kit lens 9-27 and a 9mm prime) is surprisingly good. In fact the sharpness is extraordinary for such tiny optics. Yes the buttons are somewhat small and the screen can be hard to see in bright sunshine. … then again not unlike many small compact cameras on the market. This for me is a camera to always have with you for those moments. Not your smart phone. It’s fast, fun with quality output. Would I shoot an entire paying assignment with it? Prob not…although I have used it for a few newspaper images. A selfie cam that does much more than selfies. And a pretty damn good one at that.

Milo

Work can be seen at:

capturedcolor.foliohd.com
www.facebook.com/capturedcolor
instagram.com/capturedcolor
twitter: @capturedcolor

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Aug 062014
 

Locho Camera Bag review

By Justin Heyes

Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes from little pocket pouches to heavy-duty rolling rigs and for the most part they can be pretty ugly. Would you ever walk around carrying your belongings in something that resembles a heavily padded diaper bag? No. Then why would you want to carry your camera, a tool for your creativity, in something like that? Style should matter to you when it comes your photographic life – enter Locho.

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Usually fashionable camera bags cost you as much as much as you paid for the camera itself. You justify the cost by telling yourself that everyone else has that bag so it must be good. Locho is a new comer to the seemingly overcrowded camera bag world. Jeremiah Robison Kickstart-ed the Locho DSRL Satchel in December of 2012. After a month the campaign was unsuccessful, but that didn’t stop the bag from coming to market.

The Locho Satchel is modeled after the Cambridge style satchel and can either be worn on the shoulder or as a backpack with the set of included straps (3 straps: 1 shoulder, 2 backpack). Measuring 16.5” x 6” x 11.5” the Locho Satchel is by no means a small fry. The exterior is made from top quality water resistant vegan leather (polyurethane) and the interior is a soft felt material. It comes in four colors: black, blue, brown and red. It has a subtle distressed look like it had already been well-worn. The side of the satchel was stiff and a touch boxy. The main flap is not floppy like a messenger bag and kept its shape when folded back.

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It has ample room with pockets for a 13 inch laptop and tablet. It also provides a padded interior pocket and magnetic side pockets. The pockets are described “for phone storage” and seem a bit small with the dimensions able to hold something the sized of an iPhone 4. The satchel comes with 3 adjustable Velcro dividers that almost are the full depth of the bag. Two dividers can be laid on their side to crate a bottom compartment. Locho’s logo is embossed on each side pocket flap and on the front pocket with their stylized “locho” underneath.

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Locho uses a tuck-lock closure instead of hidden magnets or traditional buckles. This give the bag an old world style. The closures are attached by a non-adjustable buckle and don’t have satisfying click when closed, but they held strong when needed. On the back there is a zippered pocket that can be open to slide over the handles of your luggage; it can also be used to store the set of straps that are not in use.

When I chose to carry my tripod with me, I used the backpack straps to attach it to the bottom of the satchel. The straps attach to D-rings around the satchel. There are two on the sides for the shoulder strap and three in a V-shaped pattern on the back. Neither set of straps include padding. Wearing the back as a backpack doesn’t cause any strain or fatigue on the neck or shoulders, but the body strap will dig into the shoulders a little when the bag is fully loaded.  When the satchel was shipped to me it was in a plain cardboard box. It was wrapped inside a dust bag with Locho logo printed across the front. There was a subtle smell of leather not as strong as a normal leather bag, but not overbearing.

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My initial feelings toward the bag were not very good. I thought it was big and boxy. It was much different from most soft sided bags I have used, not at all what I was expecting. I was informed what the difference between Cambridge style satchel and a messenger style bag were. It is a different style and required a different approach.

With any traditional soft-sided camera bag I have had, placing it on the ground I would make sure it wouldn’t get bumped or get knocked over. The Locho Satchel has proved time and again that it is rugged and tough. I have placed it on the muddy and rocky ground with out damage to my glass inside. I just wiped it off and continued on my way.

I always wonder why only few people care about the weight of the camera bag, albeit many seem to care about the weight of the camera. Camera manufactures are also crazy about reducing the weight of the camera, but bag manufactures aren’t. Bag weight only reflects it’s construction and padding or lack of.

The recommended capacity from Locho is one DSLR and three lenses. It can handle the 5D Mk IIIs and D800s out in the world without a problem. What I got into my satchel was a Fuji X-E1, a fist full of lenses, two flashes, a flash recorder, external drive, my tablet and notebook and miscellaneous cables and extra batteries with room to spare.

The use of vegan leather (polyurethane) as the external material may be a problem for some, but it has its benefits. It’s waterproof and socially conscious. It won’t age, become discolored, or stretch out over time. Leather is nice for occasional carry but is susceptible to damage from abrasion and stains. While genuine leather is great, it is costly and needs regular maintenance.

I gave the bag to another photographer and a local artist an this is what the had to say about the bag.

Few things to say about Locho Satchel:

Let me start by pointing out the obvious but also my favorite thing about this satchel; the color! I’m a really big fan of vibrant colors and this bag nails it. The 4 colors available really appeal to my sense of aesthetics. Its got an old style feel to it (with its design and clasps), a leather look to it, soft interior, and eye-catching colors with a handle and strap (very functional).

Now to move beyond the eye candy, the other aspect of this satchel that I like is the SPACE. I personally did not give the dividers a chance because most of my art supplies I keep in their own containers, but I was able to fit so much into the bag. I could fit my tablet, sketch book(s), 2 containers of markers, and 2 separate pencil cases. I never felt my stuff was crowed or worried the I would crush anything. Re-arranging things I bit, my 15 inch laptop, charger, small sketch book, and more were able to be fit in the main compartment. This isn’t even with me taking advantage of all the extra side/back/interior pockets.

My only real complaint for this bag it that its bigger then what I personally would need for my supplies. It’s large and very block-y. It’s a very rigid bag. But I’m also not using it for camera gear were I assuming the need for dividers and space to keep fragile equipment would come in handy. The plus-side to a bag design like this is that with wear I believe it would hold up and it would give you a really nice worn in look and with colors that would last.

Include in the box with the Locho Satchel was their DSLR strap. It is a nice little strap with a woven wool exterior and rubberized backing. The nylon attachment straps are a little too thick to easily thread on the plastic slide. The padded rubberized backing was nice when used on the shoulder and didn’t slip off nearly as much as a stock strap; when used on the neck it grabs the skin and can be uncomfortable. I would have liked this if it were padding on the satchel strap. Locho offers the straps in colors to match their satchel so you can mix or match.

 

Aug 052014
 

USER REPORT: Shooting the Sigma Dp2 Quattro and Fuji X100

By Michal Adamczak

Hi Steve and all,

I wanted to share my experience with Fujifilm X100 and Sigma DP2 Quattro. Attached are the pictures I took during my last trip with X100 as well as during my first trip with DP2Q. Note that the X100 pictures were developed from RAWs, while in case of Sigma they all are out of camera JPEGs (except for the balloon picture which I developed from RAW with corrected exposure). That may be not a fair comparison but I don’t really mean to compare them against each other. While I have been shooting RAWs only with X100, for practical reasons I plan to change my workflow with my new camera and use the OOC JPEGs most of the time. The size of the Sigma RAW files and the speed of their PhotoPro, the only software supporting the camera, make working with the DP2Q RAW files quite troublesome.

Back in 2011 I decided I would not carry a DSLR during my next trip. I though I would buy the best P&S I could find, one with a fairly big sensor and ideally with a bright prime lens – if there was such a camera. I had not been really following the market and was happy to found out that Fuji just released X100 – the camera I dreamed up and it was just a few clicks away from being mine! (Obviously the Fuji product managers must have dreamt about it a year or so before I did.) The camera looked great and felt good; even more so with the leather case which covered some of the plastic parts. Nothing is perfect but the camera was very close it to. I was happy with the image quality; the ergonomics and controls were great too – no need to enter menu while shooting. If I could change anything that would be the Manual Focus which I found out not really useable. I would love to have a mechanical focus ring in a “street” camera.

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Fujifilm X100 felt great and I love shooting with 35mm yet I found it limiting at times and wanted to change perspective. If the tele conversion lens for X100 was available a few months ago – I might have ended up buying just it. But it was not. I was in Japan when Fujifilm XT1 was released and if it was available in a small photo shop in Okinawa I visited – I would probably have bought it. But it was not. Then I found some pictures from Sigma DP Merrill cameras and knew what would be my next camera. And it turned out an updated version was about to be released!

Sigma DP2 Quattro is very well made. I like the futuristic design though I would still prefer they kept it shorter, even if thicker and taller, to make it more pocketable (which it is not). The camera feels a bit weird to hold at first but personally I find the ergonomics good *if* using both hands; it is not comfortable to use with one hand only. The menu and buttons are well organised, LCD is good except.. that in no way it is a substitute for a viewfinder. I was using EVF 90% of the time on X100 and that is probably what I miss most in DP2Q. I have read a lot about how slow Sigma Merrill was. I cannot compare it with Merrill, Quattro is not a speed demon but I don’t find its speed a huge problem either. Autofocus is fairly fast in good light (similar to X100) but can be very slow in low light (then again – it is not a low light camera). It takes about 8 seconds to write a single photo and there is a buffer for 7 pictures. Depending on shooting style it can very little or just enough. Personally I don’t remember filling the buffer while shooting. I find it very annoying, however, that the camera is not useable 2 seconds after taking a shot.

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Sigma DP Quattro offers quite a few usability improvements over Merrill but at the same time have somehow compromised Foveon sensor with low resolution Red and Green layers. It was a hard choice to make , but eventually I could not resist and decided to take the blow and test DP2Q myself. One of the reasons was supposedly improved JPEG engine (especially considering that the Sigma RAW files can be process only with Sigma’s own software). So how the image quality live up to the hype? Well, see for yourself. Overall I like the rendering, it’s smooth and have somehow painting like feeling. While I find the default sharpening too aggressive, there is definitely a lot of details there – just check the people on the beach or next to the balloons. Disappointingly there is a noticeable smearing in some parts of the pictures – check the grass in the shadow on the balloons picture. The camera gets very noisy starting from ISO 800 – check the incense picture; I find the B&W part very nice, however the red colour is washed away. (For a comparison ISO 3200 picture from X100.)

International Balloon Fiesta

Incense

Retro X100 and futuristic DP2Q – the cameras are quite different to use and have different strengths. I find it a good opportunity to “change a perspective” which after all was the reason to change my camera. I am still learning about DP2Q. I have a bit mixed opinion regarding the image quality – there is a lot of “good” there but some “bad” as well. I was considering using the low resolution JPEGs (without extrapolation) but while 19MP is more than I need, 6MP is a bit too little. The camera feels good though and I am looking forward to using it during my next trips. I will probably buy an optical viewfinder which shall solve its biggest, usability wise, problem.

Michal Adamczak

A few from the X100…

Super nanny / Super niania

Najlepsza knajpa na Tokashiki.

House with a view / Domek z widokiem

Bramy nocą

Japanese wedding

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and a few from the Dp2 Quattro

Nephila pilipes

Emerald Valley

Youzihhu

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Aug 022014
 

A special Hasselblad 503CW on E-Bay..beautiful!

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Hey! Hope everyone is having a GREAT Saturday! I am going to head out today and shoot some but had to share this e-bay listing with you guys…it’s gorgeous.

Back when Hasselblad really MADE beautiful and meaningful cameras they also would release special editions, much like Leica. I remember seeing one special edition, limited to 500 pieces worldwide many years ago and I lusted after that camera in a big time way. Just no way I could have afforded it then, and at the prices this piece commands today, it’s the same story.

Since I can not own it, maybe there is someone out there who also lusts after this model, and if so, there is an amazing one on e-bay right now. It is the Hasselblad 503CW limited edition Gold Supreme with 80 2.8 and all accessories, new in box, never used and get this..#500 of 500. This #500 was never sold, but given away back in the day and it was never used. So now it sits in its box waiting for a new owner.

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Sure it is flashy, sure it will even be a bit gaudy to some, but to others…they will see the beauty in it. The 503Cw is a GORGEOUS camera in its black or black/silver versions but this one is over the top. A true collectible that also begs to be used. If I bought it, I would use it on occasion for special portrait sessions. The Hasselblad 503CW is one of those rare cameras that has it all..beauty, build, feel and performance. Yes it is film, but remember..you can even add the new digital back to this guy as well ;) Also know that you can buy a 503CW in its standard configuration for much less, around $2500-$3500 for a kit.

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But this one is a special piece and I knew there would be a few out there who felt the same as me. You can see the listing HERE.  The seller has over 2100 100% feedback.

Jul 292014
 

A look at the Lumu iPhone Light Meter

By Brandon Huff

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Ahhh now here we have it! The Lumu, which is an external iPhone light meter! This little device plugs right into the headphone jack of an iPhone. Once you do this, all you have to do is download the Lumu app which then shows Aperture, Shutter speed then ISO you simply use it like a normal light meter, putting it next to your subject or pointing it in the direction of which you are shooting press measure then it shows all the information needed. Take this information and set your camera using it and you should have a perfect exposure!

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The light meter and app itself are very snappy. Let’s say you want to shoot at ISO 800 and need the shutter speed info for your lighting situation…you simply set the meter app to ISO 800 and then press the”measure” button and it will give you the shutter speed and aperture needed for that scenario. Same goes for if you want to shoot at f/2  - set the app to f/2 and it will tell you what ISO and exposure to use. Simple.

BUT! In use I have encountered one little issue. After you get used to the app and actually take a photo I noticed it was slightly underexposing when using my Nikon V1 to  test it with.  You can calibrate it inside the app although it does not really explain how to do it perfectly, but I was finding my shots slightly underexposed. This is great for preserving highlights but it is not a 100% correct exposure. See the samples below…

Using the Lumu  - Nikon V1

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Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

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These photos are straight from camera JPGS and there has been no editing of any kind. Yes, the difference is not huge and its nothing too crazy that a little Photoshop can’t fix but it is not perfect.

The price of this Device is $150 US Dollars and you can buy it direct HERE. In my opinion it is worth it if you wish to have a small yet useful light meter. Problem is when your phone dies you have no light meter, other light meters batteries last way longer than an iPhone battery will which makes them more reliable.

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So I decided to try the meter in direct sunlight, F4 with the Nikon 30-110 lens I must say it really underexposed on this one,  now could this be user error? Sure, it could be! I have only used this tiny guy a little bit, but imagine if I was shooting out of an old TLR and I thought all my images were coming out correctly, when all I’m actually doing is wasting film and money for images that may be unusable. I verified I was using the meter correctly and following the directions supplied with the device. It says to bring the phone by your subject and aim the meter towards the camera. This is what I did and you can see the results below:

Direct sun Lumu Metering

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Direct sun aperture priority mode – Nikon V1 meter (overexposed)

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The Lumu always seems to underexpose it and the in camera meters have slightly over exposed this photo, it seems you just have to mess with it a little bit, figure out what you are looking for. In the above situation the Lumu gave me the preferred exposure as I can always lighten that image up but can not really fix the blown highlights in the V1 exposed image.

If you are using strictly analog I recommend getting a proprietary light meter, however if you shoot mostly digital but film sometimes I strongly recommend this Lumu.  Another good feature of this little gizmo is that you can measure light intensity in the room at a constant scan rate. For the price though this product isn’t too bad. IMO it is better than spending $400+  on a light meter if you don’t need or rely on one all the time. It is pocketable and you can even wear it around your neck with the included necklace or carrying case (that will connect to your strap).

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If you are thinking about purchasing one of these Id look to see if it will work with your device if using Amdroid, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and it won’t register even though I have the app. Its made for iPhones more than android devices and it works great on my iPhone.

Brandon

Jul 222014
 

The new Hasselblad CFV-50c CMOS Digital Back. 

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The new CFV-50c from Hasselblad. A 50 MP CMOS digital back with ISO up to 6400 for the iconic V system. Hasselblad is promising amazing IQ and colors in any light, which is unheard of when it comes to Medium Format as they have always been very limited in this area. While not cheap, the new CFV-50c is not nearly as expensive as I expected it to be, coming in at $14,900 US. Now yes, that is insanely expensive but I expected Hasselblad to come in with this at $25,000. With their Stellar and Lunar Sony bodies coming in at such insane prices, the thought of a full on Hasselblad NEW CMOS 50MP digital back for such an Iconic camera line had me thinking $25-$35k. So $15k, that is about the cost of a Leica M and a 1-2 lenses. ;) Add in a used V series camera setup with lens and you will have a classic, iconic and gorgeous modern day masterpiece. Old with the new. Modern meets classic. I love it. So who makes this sensor? Well, the one company who keeps pushing the limits..SONY. There are even rumors that Sony will be releasing a Medium Format fixed lens MIRRORLESS camera soon. ;) 

You know, there was a time when Hasselblad stood for many things including quality, precision, build, design, soul, magic and originality. Their classic V series of medium format film cameras have always been the gold standard for MF shooting. I have lusted over a 501CM camera for many years, and have only shot with one for one day of my life. It was a very nice experience. The negatives that came back from that camera were gorgeous as there really is nothing quite like a medium format negative. Rich, full of texture, full of soul and life. Using the camera was an exercise in slow, steady and using my brain. Looking through the finder was a very cool experience that felt natural to me.

Sadly, over the years the Hasselblad system started to fade as digital came into play and soon, many of these classic systems started to appear on e-bay for peanuts. Many dropped the system as they no longer used film. Some tried out the digital back that was released a while back, the CFV 50 (minus the C) with good results, but it was limited to ISO 800 and CCD.

This week, Hasselblad has launched the new CMOS digital back for the V system…

Lately it seems Hasselblad has been focusing their energy and time on silliness such as the Lunar and Stellar cameras, which are rebranded high prices Sony bodies that are now out of date. Many have lost faith in the once mighty Hasselblad, writing  them off as a company who would soon be history, or become a spoof of its once former self. Now it seems they are giving something back to all of those who own and use the classic V system. Well, not GIVING, but making it available…at a price.

YEP, this week Hasselblad has announced the CFV-50, which is a new digital medium format back that can be used on all classic V system cameras. Yes, that 501 you have in your closet? You can now add a state of the art digital back to it and use it once again, just as you did in the glory days of film. :) OMG, I so want one. In fact, I would love to have the system just as shown below. This is a new CMOS sensor guys, so much more usable than the CCD sensors in previous digital backs.

The stock image of the new CFV-50 on a 501CM. What a combo!! 

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Unfortunately for me, I do not have a spare $20k or so lying around to create something like that but maybe..one day. For me, something like what you see above is sort of a “Holy Grail” setup. Modern Medium Format Digital connected to the most gorgeous and classic medium format FILM camera ever made. It is a thing of beauty and while not a camera for daily use, it would be one for SPECIAL use. I can not wait to see examples that come from this beauty. Hasselblad will NOT be recreating the camera body of course , so you must have a classic V model to use the back. I think this may just drive up prices on the used market for them. You can see a list of compatible models HERE.

From Hasselblad CEO Ian Rawcliffeon the new CFV-50 Back:

“We have experienced a substantial resurgence of interest in our iconic V cameras – users love the traditional ergonomics and the unique appearance. Our research has shown that although we no longer manufacture V models, there is a big demand from our dedicated V System users who want to be able to continue to use their classic cameras but also desire access to our latest technology.”

Research:

See more at the Hasselblad site HERE.  Compatibility page is HERE and Planet V page is HERE. 

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Tech Specs:

Sensor type: CMOS
Sensor size: 50 Mpixels (8272 x 6200 pixels)
Sensor dimensions: 43.8 x 32.9 mm
Image size: RAW 3FR capture 65 MB on average. Tiff 8 bit 154 MB
Capture rate: 1.5 capture/sec. 35 captures/ minute (based on a SanDisk Extreme UDMA7 120 MB/s)
Single shot
16 bit colour
ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 & 6400
Longest shutter speed: 12 minutes
Image storage: CF card type II (write speed >20 MB/sec) or tethered to Mac or PC
Color management: Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution – One generic profile
Storage capacity: On average 60 images on a 4GB CF card

Battery type: Sony™ InfoLithium L NP-F series
Colour display: 3.0 inch TFT type, 24 bit colour
Histogram feedback: Yes
IR filter: Mounted on sensor
Feedback: IAA – Instant Approval Architecture: provides acoustic and visual feedback
File format: Lossless compressed Hasselblad 3F RAW
Software: Phocus for Mac and PC (included)
3FR files are also supported directly in Apple and Adobe environments
Macintosh: OSX version 10.5 or later. PC: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit), Windows 8
Camera support: Hasselblad V System cameras manufactured since 1957. 2000 series cameras and 201F with C lenses only. 202FA / 203FE and 205FCC camera models need a minor camera modification to use F/FE lenses. All other cameras with Hasselblad V interface.

Host connection type: FireWire 800 (IEEE1394b)
Battery capacity: Sony™ InfoLithium L, up to 8 hours of shooting capacity
Operating temperature: 0 – 45 °C / 32 – 113 °F
Dimensions: 90 x 92 x 57 mm [W x H x D]
Weight: 530 g (Excluding battery and CF card)
Package contents: Hasselblad CFV digital back with protective cover, adapter cables, rechargeable battery with charger, EL camera battery adapter, FireWire cable and 8 GB CF card. Focusing Screen (Split image / Micro Prism) with dual format markings.

Jul 212014
 

The Sony NEX-5R with Russian lenses

By Freddy Robles

Hi Steve, Greetings from Mexico, well first of all I want to say I’m a fan of yours for a long time and congratulate you for this site because is truly inspirational.

I write you from the little magic town of Cuetzalan. Cuetzalan is a small town set high in the hills in the north of the Mexican state of Puebla , 183 kilometers from Puebla , the state capital. I lived in NY for a while and it was there where I grew the interest in the photography, street photography and mobile photography (iPhoneography) started with the mirrorless cameras and now that I have returned to my country again I have had the fortune to travel widely in different communities and learn more about our mexican culture.

Cuetzalan offers a spectacular mosaic integrating the exuberant subtropical vegetable proposal with its falls and its water sources; it also offers its surprising geologic structure, its remote past and its traditions which are recalled in clothes, in celebrations and rites surprising. This tiny town surrounded by a tropical forest filled with waterfalls, grottos, archaeological site, colonial buildings as churches and coffee plantations also has like characteristic the existence of an endless number of underground caverns. Although the majority of them are not accessible to the public, these caves have stirred up the interest of national and foreign investigators.

The climate of the town is semi-warm humid with rain throughout the year, favoring flora and cloud forest tree species with sweetgum and ornamental flowers such as orchids, Calla Lilies, azaleas, hydrangeas and ferns.

Most of its population is from the Nahuatl culture that still preserve their customs and traditions. So I started wearing the nex5R, everywhere, my main lens is the Jupiter-8 50mm f2 and Industar-69 28mm though the Sel35mm f1.8 fascinates me, the tones in B / W that produce these Russian lenses are phenomenal. Thanks to this blog, Steve, I used more the VSCO filters, IMO, are very essential, useful and give a radical change to your photos, and I’ve even made ​​several shots with the iPhone and using these filters in VSCOcam, are incredible .
Ahead are some pics of “The Magic Town Cuetzalan”

1.-image of the ”litte boy” nex7- canon 135mm f/3.5 ISO200 1/100s

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2.-image of the ”collecting coffee bean” nex5R -Sel50 mm f1.8 f2.2 ISO 400 1/100s

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3.-image of the ”the boy behind the school gate” nex5R -SEL18-55mm 40 mm f 4.5 ISO 100 1/60s

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4.-image of ”the 4 boys” nex5R -SEL18-55mm f6.3 ISO 200 1/100s

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5.-image ”la abuela” nex5R- SEL18-55 mm 55 mm f5.6 ISO200 1/160

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6.-image ”thinking” nex5R -SEL18-55mm 52mm f/5 ISO 200 1/160S

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7.- image of “Alone ” nex5R-Leica APO 135mm f3.4 f/3.4 ISO100 1/250s

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8.- image of “two guys ” nex5R-Industar-69 28mm f2.8 ISO100 1/400S

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9.-image of “strong look ” nex5R- Leica APO 135mm f3.4 ISO 200 1/100s

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10.image of ”nahua women” nex5R-Leica APO 135mm f5.6 ISO100 1/200s

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11.- image of ”Little Lupita” nex5R -SEL18-55mm f/8 ISO200 1/160S

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12.- image of ” green and cloudy”, nex7 – SEL55-210mm 62 mm f8 ISO400 1/160

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13.-image of ” Las amacas” nex7-SEL16mm f2.8 f22 ISO400 1/10s

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14.-image of ”Yohualichan” nex7-SEL35mm f1.8 f/13 ISO100 1/15s

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15.- image of ” Cuetzalan” nex7-SEL50mm f/1.8 f/9 ISO100 1/200s

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16.-image of ”Voladores de Cuetzalan” nex7 -Voigtlander Color Skopar 28mm f/2.8 f/5.6 ISO 200 1/400s

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Jul 122014
 

The Overlooked 50

By Jorge Torralba

The Overlooked 50.

Over the past year, there has been resurgence in the market for 50mm range lenses from a wide variety of manufacturers. Needless to say, they all claim their 50, 55 or 58 are the best in their class. If it’s not the Nikon 58, then it must be the Sigma ART, Leica APO, Zeiss Otus or Lens X from Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Let’s face it, we have seen them, praised them and condemned them all without even owning them. It’s too big. It’s too expensive. It produces beautiful bokeh. It’s sharp. It’s dull. It is full of CA. It’s manual focus. It focuses too slow. It’s not weather sealed. And so on … But, we talk about them. Either in a positive or negative way, they get our attention and become the topic of discussion for the day, week or however long that thread on a forum lives for.

I am here to tell you of a not so talked about or popular lens that gets overlooked way too often. Rarely gets mentioned as a super lens or a must have. I am talking about the Sony Zeiss ZA 50mm 1.4 Planar. A lens made for the A mount Sony cameras like the A900, A77, A99 etc … When paired with an A99, A6000 or A7 it produces amazing images with such contrast and detail that it’s hard to imagine even considering a third-party lens for your Alpha camera. Granted, it is a little expensive but you can find deals now and then and when compared to some other high-priced 50’s, it starts to look even more attractive and worth considering. It is less expensive than the new Nikon 58, Zeiss Otus or Leica APO. However, It’s is worth every penny and when you start using it you will know why. Simply put, this lens is result oriented and it delivers without question.

For years I have been a fan boy of the Zeiss family of lenses I have owned the Otus, and several other great Zeiss lenses for my Nikon cameras which over the years have developed a reputation which has made them coveted by many. However, not long ago I decided it was time to move on and catch up with technology. I wanted autofocus Zeiss glass and a good full frame camera to use them on. Due to licensing restrictions, I was not going to find what I was looking for in either Canon or Nikon mount. The only modern solution which met my requirements was to switch to the Sony Alpha system and use the ZA lenses with a native Sony A mount and autofocus. Boy. You have heard the saying, never say never. But, let me tell you. After the switch and seeing results that clearly show why the Zeiss glass is so coveted, I find it hard to imagine ever going go back. The 50 ZA is weather sealed gem which focuses extremely fast, renders beautiful bokeh and is built like a tank. The 50 ZA sits nicely in your hand when attached to a DSLR or a small mirror less camera with the Sony LA-EA4 adapter. It is comfortable to hold and easy to focus when switching to manual focus. It is a true example of getting what you paid for. It has become my most used lens and it has yet to let me down. It is wonderful for street photography, snap shots landscapes and just about anything else you can think of. It even makes a great paper weight when it sits on my desk.

You have to ask yourself why this lens is overlooked by so many. Is it because it is for a Sony? Is it big or small? Is it too expensive? There are many thing s to bring up about this lens in conversation but you rarely read or hear about it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that only Nikon and Canon are at the top. Sony is on a steam roller squashing the competition with innovation and advances in sensor technology that is defining the photography of tomorrow. Their alliance with Zeiss was a brilliant strategy that was successful in converting me from Nikon to Sony and the 50 ZA is just one of the reasons I have not even thought of turning back.

You can see much more from the 50 and other great Zeiss or Sony lenses on www.ZeissImages.com or www.SonyAlphaImages.com . But, to give you a sampling of its capabilities, here are just a few examples from this wonderful lens used on my A99 and A6000

The Annex Bar in downtown Portland. Hand held A99 and 50 ZA at f4 and ISO 800

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For a much larger image to view follow this link.

http://zeissimages.com/gallery/4/U4I1395985868.SEQ.0.jpg

I met this gent outside of the rescue center near Burnside in Portland. He was very friendly, polite and did not mind me snapping a few pictures. For the most part, It looked like an average photo to me. However, when I started processing in Light Room and magnifying certain sections for a bit of pixel peeping is when I started seeing the detail and was taken by surprise by what I saw. Here is a full frame capture again at f4.

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What you really need to look at now is a tighter crop of the face and the detail. The amount of detail in the lips and eyes is amazing. Follow this link for yourself and wee what this lens can do.

http://www.sonyalphaimages.com/gallery/4/U4I1402098920.SEQ.0.jpg

This was just outside of Escape from New York Pizza in the NW District of Portland. A little roughed up from a street fight the night before, a gracious pose was in order. This was shot at f3.5 and ISO 400 with the A99.

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Follow link for a larger version

http://www.sonyalphaimages.com/gallery/4/U4I1395280407.SEQ.1.jpg

My son staring at a computer monitor in low lighting conditions. ISO 200 at f2 1/15th of a second.

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Larger version here

http://www.sonyalphaimages.com/gallery/4/U4I1394212795.SEQ.0.jpg

Here is one of those typical boring shots that you do just because you had nothing better to do. But this shows a good example of the out of focus areas from this lens. Shot at f2 with the A99.

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And finally a snap shot from the A6000 and the 50 at f2.0

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Larger version here

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/U4I1401936661.SEQ.2.jpg

 

Jul 102014
 

Using a Zoomfinder

By Steve Tsai

Hello Steve Huff Photo community, I have stumbled across an invaluable side benefit of a zoomfinder in my photography process and would like to share my experience with it. It is for wide-angle application and architectural interior photography in this report, but hopefully it can be beneficial for other applications as well!

For those unfamiliar with a zoomfinder, it is an external finder with a zooming capability for compositional aid, typically used on a rangefinder or a non mirror-reflex camera. It mounts to the hotshoe and there are a few choices out there. In my case I use the Voigtlander Zoomfinder, Arca Swiss Vario Finder, and to a small extent the Alpa eFinder App on the iPhone.

Framing aid Apps on the smart phone is pretty handy indeed but the requirement of an external wide-angle lens adaptor and the annoyance of dealing with electronic device where multiple button presses, non-instantaneous viewing, and concerns of battery life hinder the speed and usability for me so I am skipping it in this report.

Below are brief descriptions of the zoomfinders in use:

The Arca Swiss Vario Finder

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Along with different masks it simulates framing including rise/fall and shifted lens positions. Users zoom the housing to desired lens focal length marking and put a corresponding metal mask on the front which clips on by the recessed magnets in the front frame. There are 3 masks in total but for my use I only need 2 of them. My finder is an older design, newer finders have guided pin slots which is even cooler for keeping orthogonal movements.

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The mask can be slid in both axis to show movement – each dot simulates 5mm of movement and can be seen through the viewfinder. Here is a view that simulates 10mm of rise and 10mm of left shift.

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The image quality is nice and bright, with apparent barrel distortion, gets much better when zoomed in though. The image appear to be slightly blurry on the periphery if your eye is not in the right position or not square to the eyepiece which acts as a clever visual feedback to put your eye in the right position for accurate framing. The proportion is 4:3 which corresponds to medium format digital back sensor size.

Here is how it looks like when mounted on the technical camera, it has mounting foot for both landscape and portrait orientation.

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Voigtlander 15-35mm Zoomfinder
This a well designed and solidly-built finder which operates similar to a zoom lens. There are notched positions for focal length presets similar to aperture ring on a M rangefinder lens and has a built-in diopter on the eyepiece. Depending on the model it will also indicate equivalent focal lengths for various cropped sensors. In use on a rangefinder it is a bit of a dance as Steve explained in a previous post. Metering and framing are carried out by viewfinder on camera and the Zoomfinder separately. Due to the larger distance it mounts away from the lens, parallax effect is more exaggerated for closer distance subjects with the super wide lenses. Here is how the zoomfinder looks like when mounted to the M9-P.

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The experience is similar to an SLR where views are masked instead of frameline overlay of a rangefinder, there is a dotted line on top to indicate close range frame edge. The images quality is excellent, distortion is very mild and zoom simulation works extremely well. There is slight fringing if you point at bright sources. The proportion is 2:3 which corresponds to small format sensor size. Here is a comparison showing 15mm and 35mm views, note the slight fringing.

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Now to the main point of the article – how the zoomfinder can make our lives easier. For years I have looked for solutions that will help with certain challenges I encounter on a shoot – which the zoomfinder eventually solved for me.

Here are the benefits:

1. Scouting Aid
Prior to the shoot, one can go around the space and preview contemplated scenes using various focal lengths in a very nimble fashion. For architectural interiors, one frequently gets pinned to confined space during framing, it is much easier to handle and preview with such a small and light device.

2. Visualization and Focal length selector.
For those of us sensitive to the compositional impact related to exaggeration of perspective inherent in various wide-angle focal lengths it is sometimes hard to choose the proper prime lens without preview. The zoomfinder shows the effect in combination with the physical distance to the subject. You can quickly decide if you want to stand back and use a 28mm or get closer and use a 24mm along with the look of each lens. It is such a time-saver. The relatively low optical distortion in the viewfinder just makes the preview actually enjoyable and non-distracting compared to lower grade viewfinders.

3. Stitching Preview
For those of us that use shift lens and stitching capture workflow it is hard to see the composition during the shoot. Through my own tests I have worked out equivalent focal length of the stitched focal length. The 24 PC-E becomes 18mm with cropped sides or 21mm safe frame. The 45 PC-E becomes 28mm with cropped sides or 35mm safe frame. Safe frame is for cropping out the corner vignette when maximum shifts are used. You can quickly preview the finished image with the zoomfinder. Here is an image that shows 3 images from capture and the finished stitch.

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4. Camera Position Aid
The effect of camera height is very important in interiors. With the viewfinder I can preview the scene and determine exact camera position very quickly. Once I identify the desired position, I will hold the zoomfinder in place with one hand and then drag the camera + tripod over with the other hand to match the optimal position quicker and then fine tune to suit.

For the benefits above, the zoomfinder has become so invaluable that I carry it on me during the shoot at all times. Previously I used a mini ballhead along with a tripod button and a safety noose.

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Early on in the year I dug into my luthier roots and made a stabilized hardwood handle for it. A belt clip gun holster provides easy reach and secured carry. I often have to move furniture and arrange items in the scene so the belt clip is the best carry as it will not swing around during active motions.

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I know this is a very specific application and a small camera with a wide zoom can achieve the same function. However the small size and simple, convenient use during a physical shoot just makes it so much easier for me. If there is a wish to make it even better… a 15 to 50mm zoomfinder would make it out right amazing although definitely not at the expense of distortion though! The experience is so important and can make your shoot enjoyable when scenes do not appear warpy like a Salvador Dali painting. I have considered a dual hot shoe that mounts both the zoomfinder and a separate 50mm finder but it will make the size much larger and stability would be of concern.

If one can make a custom precision mount that adapts the zoomfinder to a smartphone it can be used as a good quality wide angle zoom adaptor as well. Maybe it will be a project for the DIY crowd with a 3d printer out there!

Maybe in 5 years google glass will have a thought controlled view window that can zoom and crop to simulate a viewfinder – consider this a free idea if anyone wants to take this on with crowd sourcing!

You can find me at:

Website
http://www.stevetsai.photography/

Stevie Rave On blog
http://stevetsaiphotography.com/wp/

Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieraveon/

Jul 082014
 

Neko Case

Taming the Nokton 50 1.1

By Manikarnika Kanjilal

My name is Manikarnika Kanjilal. I am a doctoral student and I devote my almost my entire (lately dwindling) free time in pursuit of photography. I was always interested in photography but started being seriously into it for the last couple of years – after I found a Digilux 2 on ebay. It was Steve and Thorsten Overgaard’s reviews that made me acquire the camera and thus start exploring my photographic vision. This post is however not meant to wax poetic about that cult camera but on another “controversial” lens about which the photographic community seems to be divided.

Last summer I acquired a second-hand Nokton 50 1.1 in a moment of insanity and went on to use it in a one-lens-one camera challenge to myself. What was even more insane was that I did this while covering a four-day music festival in my city.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is quite the religious experience for a huge number of music lovers in this town. People queue up at the gates for a chance to place their tarp as close to the main stage since 3 am or some ghastly time like that. The main stage is at the bottom of a hill and people sit on the hill as a natural amphitheater. For four days tarps and their placements become an extension of the private space and ego for many of the audience members. For someone like me that attends the festival alone and spends most of it standing or walking or crouching to not get in the way of other photographers, tarp politics is fascinating. There are six side stages that hold simultaneous workshops during the day and the main stage performance starts at around 7 in the evening when audience from all these side stages come back to their tarps and settle down for the evening like homing pigeons.

My motivation for choosing a Leica film body and the Nokton f1.1 came from the fact that carrying a backpack full of stuff up and down a hill very soon starts to feel like I am carrying a backpack full of sins from all my past lives. In short, I wanted to travel light and be able to capture decent photos on stage after dark. I did carry my Digilux 2 as a backup but I liked the images from the film set-up way more. It was at times disconcerting because I had no immediate feedback like that in digital. I was being extremely cautious with achieving focus as well as not shooting too much and wasting film. It was quite the lesson in constrained optimization. I had a couple of rolls of Portra 400 in my pocket along with a 4-stop ND filter for when the sun was too strong. This was pretty much it. I ended up using a total of 4 rolls of Portra over four days. I shot everything either wide open or at f1.4. A huge advantage of working with such a constrained/minimalist set up is that this year I had a lot of time to enjoy the music instead of being glued to the camera viewfinder. Often I pre-focused and waited for the musicians to hit the spot instead of trying to track them in their movement. The other advantage of shooting a film rangefinder is that the photographer doesn’t hide behind the camera. With a little practice one shoots with both eyes open and it does wonders when actually connecting with the subject – be it musicians on stage or people on the street.

I ended my nokton-festival challenge with the portrait of a very young music-lover and her mom holding the Forever Folkfest candles in the dark. Nokton 50/1.1 is a beast that needs to be tamed. Using it on a film rangefinder feels almost like writing with a brush pen blindfolded and the challenge could be a source of constant excitement for any photographer.

Cheers!

Manikarnika

Website: http://kanjilalmanikarnika.com/

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chhayanat/

Havana d'Primera

Avett Brothers

Portrait by the candlelight

Neko Case

Neko Case

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

Forever, Folkfest

Fatoumata Diawara

LP

Delhi to Dublin

Delhi to Dublin

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones with Vioux Farka Toure and Amos Garrett

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