Nov 202014
 

How I became a Zeiss fan

by Toni Ahvenainen

This article is closely related to my personal photography project called ‘Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography – http://www.yearofthealpha.com.

I have written about it here at Steve Huff’s website before, so I’m not going to repeat all the things I’ve written earlier. Instead I give you the short version: at 1st of January I started a year-long and Sony Alpha related photography project which focuses on creative photography taken with Sony Alpha cameras. Because the positive attention my project has gathered in social media circles I found out that the Zeiss was willing to support my project. They offered me two lenses from their Touit line up, Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M, if I would share my experiences about the lenses through my project. I have never shot with any Zeiss lens before, so I seized for it and the story I’m sharing today is based on my first Zeiss experience. To learn more about my project and its background, I recommend you to check these two articles which I have published here earlier:

Year of the Alpha by Toni Ahvenainen

First time with Zeiss by Toni Ahvenainen

Be sure also to check my website at: www.yearofthealpha.com 

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO1250, 1/60sec, f2.8, Raw

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After making an agreement with Zeiss, the lenses finally arrived one Friday afternoon with UPS delivery and I was of course very excited about it. I had read about Zeiss’s legendary reputation from many photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. To me, like for many others, the most exciting lenses have always been something I can only see through a store display window.

For my photography this was a very unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. If you haven’t yet become acquainted with the Touit line up before, it is the new family of Zeiss lenses which are targeted to mirrorless system cameras (Sony E-mount & Fuji X-mount). All the lenses have full autofocus capabilities and they represent a modern Zeiss design with black matte finish and more contemporary look – but most importantly they convoy the famous Zeiss optical quality for mirrorless system cameras.

The Touit 2.8/12 is an ultra wide-angle lens with a focal length of 12mm (equivalent of 18mm on a full frame system) and has a relatively large maximum aperture of f/2.8. Then the Touit 2.8/50M, being a macro lens, is kind of opposite with a focal length of 50mm (equivalent of 75mm on a full frame system) and 1:1 reproduction scale.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/400sec, f5.6, Raw (focus stacked)

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My first impression was really good regarding both construction and image quality. Right from the first photo walk with Touit lenses I could see a difference in images I took, but it was really hard to put in words. To be honest, I felt certain cognitive dissonance for the first four weeks, because I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference in images to myself. Sometimes I even thought it was just a placebo and that I was just seeing what I was expecting to see, because of the almost mythical reputation that Zeiss has in many photography forums in the net.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO100, 3,2sec, f7.1, Raw

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Now that I’ve used these lenses for longer period of time, I think I have finally gain better understanding of how good optics will affect the image quality and what one can expect of them in general. In terms of sharpness, both of these lenses do very well indeed. The Touit 2.8/12 is very sharp right from the start and the Touit 2.8/50M is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, also quite sharp wide open and gets very good after that. I could go on and describe how changing aperture size affects the overall sharpness, but truth to be told, I find most of the lens reviews putting too much emphasize on sharpness alone. Let’s just say that both are very much sharp enough. When it comes to high quality lenses, I would much more prefer to emphasize the contrast and colors, because it’s where the quality shows.

To understand where I’m coming from, you need to know that before these Zeiss lenses I was shooting with 18-55mm and 50mm Sony E-mount lenses (SEL1855 & SEL50F18). While the 50mm Sony is a pretty good lens, I was only rarely fully satisfied with my colors (very close but something was missing). While I couldn’t exactly put my finger on my definition of ‘good colors’, all the same I knew when I saw them and especially when I didn’t. Having shot over 30 000 shots with these Sony native E-mount lenses and worked with over 5000 raw-files, I can say for a fact that the Zeiss lenses deliver more contrast and better colors. Because I’m not an optical engineer I really can’t conceptualize my experiences with objective scientific language, but in my experience the better contrast shows with greater clarity while colors stand out better and have certain fidelity in them which makes, for example, the primaries look very pure and good. Together they form pictures that often have a deep colors, but retain their subtle nuances and natural look in overall image.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/2000sec, f5.6, Raw

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Before my Zeiss experience I had a preconception that minor color & contrast differences between lenses is insignificant and something that can be ‘fixed’ and ‘made better’ with computer and post processing. I guess this is still a pretty common conception and while images can and surely are made better with post processing, it is still just the perception of things what we are editing and the actual light signal digitized by the camera isn’t going to get any better (meaning more accurate colors for example). It is in my experience that the Zeiss lenses deliver better contrast than my Sony E-mount lenses. Now, I can try to adjust ‘contrast’, ‘clarity’, ‘curves’ or do some fancy tonal contrast thing with software x for the pictures taken with my Sony lenses and hope to make them as good as Zeiss. In practice I’ve seen that, while this might work for some pictures, most of the time pictures just get congested and stuffy before they reach same overall clarity. And it’s the same with colors. While in theory the usual HSL tab (hue, saturation, lightness) should open the entire color space for editing, in practice it’s often too cumbersome to touch the subtle textures and grading of natural colors. As I said, I’m no optical engineer, and the only way I can explain this experience to myself is to think that with the Zeiss lenses the contrast and colors are captured more accurately and that this accuracy transfers into final pictures as well.

This altered perception of clarity, contrast and colors was really an eye-opening experience for me. With these lenses I suddenly felt, for the first time, that I was actually pretty satisfied with the colors I was achieving. Not with every shot of course, but more and more I was amazed how good colors I could achieve with these lenses and some post processing. When looking some of my pictures taken with the Zeiss lenses I sometimes felt my old Sony Nex-5N had transformed into some other camera. In fact, I’m willing to say that this experience is the single most important thing which justifies the Zeiss’s legendary reputation in my eyes. However, I don’t want to claim that there is magic ‘Zeiss color’ or something similar. As much as I liked the colors, claiming something along those lines would just be essentialism and I think there is already enough mythical stories build around Zeiss (and other gear as well). To put it in plain words, I think Zeiss builds high quality lenses and when it comes to colors and contrast they certainly get it right.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO800, 1/15sec, f14, Raw

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Through this experience I also came to appreciate that these two Zeiss lenses actually gave me a very good reference point regarding image quality. I’m not talking about ‘image quality’ in absolute terms, but as a valuable standing point where I don’t need to speculate if some other piece of gear would have provided me the result I was looking for. If I don’t get it with Zeiss it’s because of me, conditions or something else – and not because the lack of ‘right gear’. This sort of certainty which comes with more expensive high quality gear is something that is often less talked about aspect in gear reviews and forgotten when putting value for photography equipment. Personally to me, it has made my photography easier since I don’t need to worry if I have equipment good enough. Instead I can concentrate on particular situation, getting my images and feel good about it.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO400, 25sec, f2.8, Raw

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Finally for the end of this article, I will try to expand the usual views how we taught to approach the photographic equipment we use. I’ve been talking a lot about sharpness, colors and other things that make up the image quality, and which is, in the end, something you would expect to get for your money when buying Zeiss lenses. However, there are other point of views as well which are often forgotten when approaching from a technical point of view. Zeiss has been manufacturing lenses for a long time, probably longer than any other of the current companies. This means tradition and maybe it’s because of this tradition Zeiss tends offers more information and history about their lenses than other companies. For example, the Zeiss staff scientist Dr Hubert Nasse has written excellent papers explaining the history of their designs like Distagon and Planar. Reading these I got the impression that Zeiss takes its tradition pretty seriously and tries to transfer it into their designs as well. Honoring the tradition and craftsmanship is similar to values which I believe many photographers share as well – at least ideally. Therefore I think using Zeiss is something that can also support one’s identity as a photographer.

I don’t know about others, but at least I enjoy using tools and equipment that are aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually pleasing to me. When I’m trying to capture ‘that moment’ which speaks to me about my life, time and being, I need to get away from all the technical discourses. Using something that I connect with, whether it is the rugged point&shoot, high-end camera or a shoebox with a hole, certainly helps me to see and feel these moments. In the end, I think the Zeiss succeeds very well in this and perhaps even better than most of other lens manufacturers. It is also the final reason why I became a Zeiss fan (might lead to expensive taste, though). Not only did I find that I could finally get the colors I was looking for, but I also found certain intellectual and aesthetic pleasure using Zeiss lenses. And I believe I’m not alone here, these kind of experiences shared by other photographers like me may eventually be the reason for the Zeiss’s high reputation.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO800, 1/60sec, f13, Raw

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The definition of good photography is, of course, not related to equipment one uses and there are many paths to photographic success. Therefore I don’t want to say with my article that you should run to the nearest camera store and put your last money on Zeiss lenses – there are other ways to succeed as well. But if you already are on a verge and maybe considering the Zeiss, you should know that it’s really more than just ‘image quality’ if you open up to it. And while I can’t tell anyone that Zeiss lenses would be worth of their price for them, I can certainly say that their high quality shows in terms of image quality, construction and total shooting experience, and that they are not overpriced for what they offer.

As for right now, I have just entered into last phase of my photography project. With the ‘Season of Photographic Eye’ I will be discussing about the photographic eye, which is a particular way of seeing things and subjects, which is partly subjective and partly cultural. While I’m trying to explain why I approach the photography the way I do, I will also try offer some inspiration for others to contemplate their own photographic eye. If interested, be sure to check my project at: www.yearofthealpha.com

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO800, 1/20sec, f2.8, Raw

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 Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO800, 1/80sec, f13, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO200, 1/60sec, f7.1, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/500sec, f5.6, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO100, 1/2000sec, f5.0, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO160, 1/80sec, f13, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/80sec, f2.8, Raw

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Nov 202014
 

A Zeiss Otus studio shoot

By Andrew Paquette – See his website HERE

I had been wondering what it would be like to shoot in a proper studio for some time. After buying the 55mm Otus, I had an excuse to do it. I arranged for a group of models, and then had the good fortune to have a couple of athletes ask if they could come by as well for some portraits. A couple of nights before the shoot I woke up at 4 AM with the realization that I should have a plan in mind before I got to the studio, so I stayed up for a few hours making sketches of things I could try. For the athletes, both of whom were basketball players, I wanted clean shots of some of the basketball juggling tricks they wanted me to shoot, but for the models, I wanted some humorous images that told a story.

For gear, the Otus was going to do most of the work, but I took a few other lenses, just in case. From Zeiss, I brought the 55mm Otus and the 135mm ZA (mounted on an A7R). I also brought the Nikkor 35mm and 85mm 1.4G lenses, to be mounted on a D800. In the end, the Otus did most of the work, the 85mm didn’t get used, the 35mm took one of the better shots, and the 135mm was used for some portraits of the basketball players. For me the big surprise was the 35mm Nikkor. I expected good shots out of the Otus and the other lenses, but worried the 35mm might be a little soft in comparison. It was used because it was the widest angle lens I had with me and the only one that could take the shot I wanted. Otherwise I would have used the Otus.

The first thing I found out is that it takes a long time to set up the lights for a shot. Instead of getting the fourteen setups I had made sketches for, I got three of the models and three of the basketball players. Also, unlike shooting on the street, I kept shooting the same thing over and over again until I thought I had what I wanted. On the street, I’d shoot as much as possible and hope that something decent was captured, but in the studio I could check on the spot and then make whatever modifications were needed to correct any errors. For this I wish I had brought my laptop because I could have shot tethered. That would have made it a lot easier to check the photos than looking at the screen on the back of the D800 or the EVF of the A7R, but I hadn’t known in advance that the studio would have the cables I needed to do tethered shooting (they did).

Working in a studio was a great experience, but it was also very expensive, so it isn’t something I can do every week. That said, now I want to shoot in a studio more often because the control over lighting is a fantastic thing to experience. In comparison to the cost of buying all the lighting gear that came with the studio for a day rental, it was pretty reasonable.
Below are some of the images from the shoot:

Waking up Fabienne, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/8, 1/250 ISO 100

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Gust of wind, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/6.3, 1/100 ISO 100

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Family portrait, shot with a Nikon D800, Nikkor 35mm 1.4G f/7.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Kieboom dressing room 001 (1 of 1)

Michael Evolution juggling, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/7.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Michael overhead juggle (1 of 1)

Michael Evolution juggling, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/7.1, 1/250 ISO 100

Michael side juggle (4 of 1)

Michael Evolution juggling, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/7.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Ball levitate (1 of 1)

Michael and Galdino juggling with motion blur, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/9, 1/6 ISO 100

Double Dribble (5 of 1)

Michael and Galdino in suits, shot with a Sony A7R, Zeiss 135mm ZA f/97.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Michael and Galdino corp (1 of 1)

http://www.paqart.com

Nov 192014
 

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (10)

Testing the new CosySpeed Camslinger Bag for Street Shooting (Video)

A month or two ago I was out in Las Vegas with the Head Honcho of CosySpeed (Thomas Ludwig) who travelled all the way from Germany to let me see his newest bag as well as shoot some video of me street shooting while using it and putting it to the test. I also did an interview where I answered quite a few questions about photography as well as discussing things I enjoy, my style and what drives me. It was a great time and I enjoyed it as I was doing what I love to do in a city I enjoy for its vast amount of photographic subjects.

Here I am using the new “Paris Grey” Camslinger in Las Vegas NV a few weeks ago. See how I prefer to shoot on the street…

I talked about the CosySpeed Camslinger bags when they were launched and I actually really enjoyed them. I even used on my recent Southwest Road Trip workshop during the Antelope Canyon portion of the event. It worked out VERY well as it allowed me to carry my Sony A7s without even realizing I was carrying it. Much lighter than a backpack, less noticeable on my body than a strap and a great fast way to get your mirrorless camera ready for action.

CAMSLINGER 160 Paris Gray

In Vegas I used the new Grey model which I thought was pretty nice, especially when compared to the Green and Black original. The grey was classy and looked great. As I walked I even had a couple of people ask me what bag it was. The whole concept of the bag came to CosySpeed owner, Thomas Ludwig while he watched two of his favorite movies. One was a Clint Eastwood western, which insider him to make a holster style case that was a bit different from the typical “Fanny Pack” we see today. The Camslinger does not sit on your waist like a fanny pack, it sites more like a holster for your camera…slightly lower on one side for easy access to the camera inside.

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (10)

As I walked the streets of Las Vegas with the Camslinger I found that I never even noticed I was carrying a thing, until I went to grab my Camera. It is that light and un-obtrusive. After that shooting session I was sort of hooked on the holster bag. It was functional, it was attractive and when it was on me, I did not even realize it. Thomas told me they also were releasing an all black version MINUS the green, which is also killer for those who want their case/bag/holster to be all black and stealthy.

CAMSLINGER 160 Street Edition

The belt is adjustable, the bag is adjustable and can be made wider depending on your needs and they come in a couple of sizes. They also do not and wilt break the bank. These bags are well worth the cost at $99 for both the special edition Camslinger 160 in Paris Grey and the 160 Street Edition in al black.

In this world of $400-$600 camera bags, getting a simple, functional and very lightweight holster for your camera at $99 seems like a bargain of the year.

Don’t be put off by the looks, in use it is fantastic. You can buy these Camslinger Bags at B&H Photo HERE.  I now own the Paris Grey version I used in the video above and love it. When I need to take one camera with me, the 160 Camslinger goes with me and it is like not even bringing a camera as you really do not realize it is on!

Steve

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PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

New CAMSLINGER bags from COSYSPEED.

Just in time for the Christmas season, COSYSPEED introduces two new color editions of its CAMSLINGER camera bag for compact system cameras: the CAMSLINGER 160 Street Edition and the CAMSLINGER 160 Paris Gray. Both versions of the bag will be available by mid-November for a special price of 79.99 Euro / US-$ 99.00.”

AD Steve NOV14

A quick word about Street Photography

A week or two ago I posted a video I whipped up about how I GO ABOUT shooting images on the “street” and a few of you (only a few) chimed in saying “taking portraits in not street photography” – well…who defined what street photography is? Those who like to shoot the backs of heads or sniping shots of unaware people? To me, that is just random shooting.

For example, Vivian Maier is one person I consider to be an amazing “street photographer”. In fact, I prefer her work to any of the old masters many rave about. She did a mix of “decisive moment” shooting as well as “street portraits” and she is now known as a great street photographer, as she should be. That is what she did and she was fantastic at it. But saying portraits of strangers is NOT a form of street is incorrect, as it is.

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (6)

I do not and have never posed anyone though sometimes they pose themselves if I am doing that sort of street portrait. I like to mix it up and get people without me telling them up front and I also like to chat it up with others, and then ask them for a photo. It works both ways but I do not “pose”  – I just go out, walk around, look for interesting people to meet and try to be as social as possible as this approach usually yields some great results, more so than sneaking shots of people walking by or “decisive moments” of someone walking out of a shadow in front of a building which is so overdone it is quite boring to look at today.

I find people interesting and in a place like Las Vegas, most are willing and excited to talk with you. It’s a fun time and shooting strangers is something I have always enjoyed. Its therapeutic and feels great and yes, this is indeed a form..a version..a variant of “Street Photography”.

I enjoy it and in the grand scheme of things, that is ALL that matters ;)

 

Nov 182014
 

The new Fuji X100T is IN STOCK now!

x100t_front_16p

Enough Said…go get it..

Buy it at PopFlash.com, IN STOCK

Buy it at B&H Photo – PRE-ORDER (stock arriving NOW)

Amazon – Out of stock but more arrives every few days..PRE ORDER

and yes, I will be reviewing this one as I do all X100 cameras. The X100 series is my FAVE of all Fuji’s, period.

Nov 142014
 

loxia

The Sony A7 and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Lens Review

by Tomer Vaknin

Dear Steve,

First let me say how much respect I have for you and the other members of your website, I have learned a lot by exploring the wonderful photos you all shared, equipment reviews and inputs. I would like to share my own personal experience with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lens.

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As a proud and very happy owner of the Sony Zeiss 55mm, I was hesitant to purchase the Loxia. However, after reading the positive impression of the lens in Photonika 2014 and as a huge fan of M mount lenses that I am, I simply had to try the Loxia. Here are some photos I took with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* in Amsterdam streets, Marken village and Rennstrecke Zandvoort, during a holiday I took with my wife in the Netherlands.

I hope these photos, along with my personal impression of the lens, will help some of undecided readers in making the right decision for themselves.

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My personal take on the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*:

- Great 3D feel (Check the box shot that was -take on a bed)

- Wonderful Bokeh

- Lovely Creamy look

- Great character

- Great colors and contrast

- Very sharp!

Overall, The 3D look, the creamy bokeh and feel + the very nice tone and color makes it a winner. The shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* looks like they were taken with the Leica lens.

Although the Sony Zeiss 55mm is an amazing lens and you can’t go wrong with it, I personally prefer the Loxia.

www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

You can order the Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H Photo HERE

Nov 112014
 

The Sony A7s – Handlheld Antelope Canyon

Using the Voigtlander 15 4.5 and Leica WATE

During my Southwest Road Trip one of our stops was Antelope Canyon. With 28+ of us inside we broke it down into four groups and went to different areas so we would not all be crowded together. Most had tripods (which are 100% recommended for shooting Antelope Canyon) and only a few were shooting handheld which meant they would need a camera capable of great high ISO performance. Me, with my Sony A7s and very slow aperture Voigtlander 15 f/4.5..I knew it would be a challenge even with this powerhouse as the Canyons are dim and dark. With an f/4.5 lens, could the Sony pull off some handheld shots at high ISO and keep the dramatic color and light needed for these kinds of shots?

Before I get to those, let me share an image I took with the A7s and Voigtlander 15 at Horseshoe Bend (our 2nd stop on this tour). This image has some PP and color boost to give it some drama but with the A7s and 15, no corner fix is needed. It does not have the same issues that the lens has on the A7 and A7s.

Click it for larger version to see it the correct way – the light was not ideal at all on this day but was still a great experience.

horseshoeb

As we traveled through the Canyons I was a little worried. I had others on this road trip who were shooting with some SERIOUS gear, costing as high as $65,000. Some were shooting with M9’s, some with M 240’s, some with Sony A7r’s, and some with Nikon D750’s and D800’s. Many had the Olympus E-M1 or E-M5 and I was the only guy with the A7s because the mindset here was MORE RESOLUTION is better. In this case, yes, that is true. Shooting landscape is always better with more resolution if you want a very large print. If you want a 20X30 print you will see more details up close with an A7r, D800 or Leica M9 even. But for just hanging a 20X30 in my office, from normal viewing distance, 99% of people would never see a difference between my A7s and a D800 file.

In any case, I had to crank the ISO to 3200, 6400 and in some cases 12,800. The good news is even at these high ISO’s the Sony did fantastic. Are they 100% noise free? No, of course not but they look pretty damn  good for these high ISO’s.  Just think, if I attempted this with digital cameras from 3-4 years ago it wold be impossible. Images would be grain city, washed out, harsh…but the Sony A7s, as I have been saying since its launch, is quite special. It is an ANY light camera capable of so much. To see more from this trip using the A7s click here.

I was using the Voigtlander 15 for many shots and they looked great. When I switched to the Leica WATE (borrowed) it got even better with color and contrast. NO edge issues with either lens on the A7s but the WATE is a much better lens (as it should be for 12X the price).

SO yes, I still adore my Sony A7s. 

Below are a few images, all handheld. Some with the Leica WATE, some with the Voigtlander 15. All without ANY NOISE REDUCTION. What you see is what you get. 

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canypn

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Some of the images looked interesting in B&W and what we were looking for here were shadows, light, texture and detail. 

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 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 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. 

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. 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.

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Nov 112014
 

DSC04308

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar Aspherical Lens for Sony FE Review

*See my full Sony A7s review HERE*

I have had this new Voigtlander 40mm f.2.8 Heliar lens for almost 2 weeks now (Thanks to CameraQuest.com) and it is a unique lens to be sure. On one hand, it looks like an old classic lens and on the other, it is actually a modern-day lens made to modern-day standards by Voigtlander. It is a lens made for the Sony E or FE mount (It is a full frame lens) yet it was made in Leica M mount. Even while being made with a Leica M mount, it can not be used on a Leica M as there would be no way to focus the lens…

Yes, this lens does not have any focusing mechanism built into it. It is not auto focus or manual focus! As it comes out of the box, it is NO FOCUS as you will need an adapter to focus this lens.

If you have not watched my video on this lens, do so below to get an idea of what I am talking about

It all sounds confusing but it really isn’t. What Voigtlander has done is create a lens for the Sony system, cameras such as the A7, A7r and A7s while keeping the lens tiny and jewel like. It’s al metal construction and nickel finish is gorgeous and the lens is collapsible as well making for a very compact lens on any Sony camera. All you need is the Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter, which is the Leica M to Sony E adapter. When using this adapter (which is a must) you use the adapters focusing mechanism to focus the lens. I keep my VM-E Close Focus adapter on the A7s all of the time as most of the lenses I use on it are M mount lenses. So snapping this guy on is no problem at all.

This is a file from RAW, NOT HDR. The DR of the Sony A7s is HUGE and the things you can do with one file is astonishing. Shot at f/5.6 and ISO 100

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and a crop from the above scene

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At $400 or so for the lens itself, it seems VERY inexpensive when you consider it is a small, well made collapsible f/2.8 prime that comes with a metal hood. metal cap, and smaller cap for those who do not want to use the hood. $400 is nothing in the world of lenses like this, and yes, this is very much like a Leica M mount Voigtlander lens. The lens gets more expensive when you add in the $300 Adapter but even so, at $700 it is a lens that after using it for a couple of weeks I wanted to keep. IN fact, I slightly preferred it to a mint+++ Leica 50 ELmar f/2.8 collapsable when it came to IQ, sharpness, and Bokeh.

WOW.

Using this lens on the Sony A7s (my Fave Sony A7 camera) I tested it in high contrast B&W JPEG mode. I love HC B&W and while I feel the Sony delivers TOO much contrast (as I found out when reviewing the images) the lens had no fault. It was sharp even when wide open and provided the typical Voigtlander Bokeh which delivers a classic look reminiscent of rangefinder glass. Click images for larger. Remember, these were in HIGH CONTRAST B&W JPEG mode on the A7s, so this is why they are so dramatic and high contrast!

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When I opened the box the lens was so tiny I was thinking…”this may not be a good lens”. Coming in at $400 or so, it seems like this would be an average lens with average optics. When I put the lens on my Sony A7s with the Voigtlander Adapter I was impressed with the build quality and feel. The collapsible action was easy and smooth, just as easy and smooth as any classic Leica I have used. When I twisted the aperture dial is when I was surprised. It is a clickless design so it is EASY to move. This was the only thing about this lens that I did not care for. There were 2-3 times when I thought the lens was at f2.8 and I later found out the dial slipped to f/22.

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I feel that they could have added clicks or at least made it a little stiffer.

After evaluating the build and feel I started to shoot with it..and I was very surprised by the performance in color and B&W. It was very nice..organic…flowing…and yes, it had some of that rangefinder glass rendering. I also found the lens to be super sharp at the focus point with pleasing Bokeh and contrast/snap.

Just a JPEG here but this was mid day in Phx AZ yet the lens rendered the scene in a non harsh way (think I had the camera set to VIVID)

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Here is an out of camera image set to f/2.8 – click it for larger. One thing I found with this lens wide open is that it will vignette slightly. You can see evidence of this in the photo below..

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The color is fantastic with this lens…

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The more I shot with the combo of A7s and this Voigtlander 40 2.8 the more I really enjoyed it. The color rendering was beautiful, and the bokeh was very pleasing as already stated. It is always nice to slow down and use a beautiful prime lens that is built to OLD standards. Standards that give you that solid and small build, smooth operation and great image quality overall. I could not believe how sharp this lens was, even wide open. It beat my Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 which is larger, built to a lower standard, and is more expensive. The Sony has AF but this Voigtlander was a sinch to manually focus on the A7 series of bodies. I use focus peaking and I nail it 95% of the time. When the situation is more critical, like a portrait I may use magnification as well.

Click on this one to see a larger and better version. I focused on the eyes and having f/2.8 is just right for this type of shot as the eyes, nose and face will be in focus unlike using an f/1.4 aperture for a similar shot. This is right out of camera from RAW and was just a quick snapshot, INSIDE without any lighting or flash. NO problem for the Sony A7s, which is a master of ANY light. 

This lens is very nice for portraits…

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Putting it to the test…

I decided to bring the lens to my Southwest Road Trip which was AMAZING! Almost 30 of us embarked on a FIVE day journey aboard a fully chartered bus as we hit Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon and Sedona AZ. It was my best workshop/road trip EVER and if I ever do another one, this will be the one that all others are based on. It was fantastic. I shot the 40 2.8 for portraits and some scenic shots to give it a test and it never let me down though it did have the slight vignetting and in one case, flare. When points into the sun directly you will get some flare, much like the standard Leica 50 Summicron.

What I loved about this combo is that I could use it in any light with the Sony A7s even though the lens is a “slower” f/2.8 design and not an f/1.4. As I get older I am noticing that I am starting to appreciate slower lenses such as f/2.8 designs because it allows for great shaprness, easier focus and still some fantastic shallow DOF when used on full frame sensors such as the Sony A7 series. Below is a series of portraits I did in JPEG with the camera once again set to high contrast B&W. Again, you can use this setup in ANY light from bright to almost pitch darkness.

Yes, they are contrasty but this is due to the camera setting.

This first image was shot at ISO 8000 inside a somewhat dim restaurant. Shot wide open at f/2.8 and direct from camera. 

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Another in very harsh light but I like it. Wide open once again…

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…and a few more in the same lighting…all JPEG HC B&W on the A7s with 40 at 2.8

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 After using this lens and having so many see it and ask me about it I decided that I enjoyed it so much that I should buy it. I already have the $300 adapter so spending $400 for a gorgeous collapsible lens that gives stellar performance is a no brainer. It is small, it is gorgeous, it is stellar in its  rendering. It has three faults, or things that could have been improved upon…

  • The clicks aperture dial that moves too easy
  • It can flare if shooting direct into sun
  • It will vignette slightly wide open and it is noticeable on a full frame Sony.

Aimed direct to the sun (which was above the frame) the lens flared here…

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Other than that, I really feel that Voigtlander has been upping their game lately with the lenses they have released in the past year or so. This is another one that will go down in history as a beautiful and awesome Voigtlander lens. It gives us that little bit of classic (Vignette and Bokeh), little bit of modern (sharpness and pop) and overall a very nice and pleasing rendering.

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The quick bottom line on the Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar for the Sony E mount

If you want an old school looking lens with fabulous performance in color or B&W and you shoot with a Sony A7 series camera or even a Sony NEX or APS-C body, then this one is a cracking lens. The lens claim to fame is that it is VERY compact! When collapsed, it is only 12.6mm and when expanded for use it is only 21.4mm in length. As stated previously, it is usable on full frame or APS-C NEX cameras. The lens has a 37mm filter size and will close focus to .5m. I love the classic Nickel finish. If you do not mind manual focusing and slowing down, all the better. I found it easy to focus on the A7s and it was a pleasure to use. The 40mm focal length is interesting as it is in between the famous and classic 35 and 50 focal lengths. It took a few days of using it to really get where it was but after I got it I loved it :) Many of you know I really only review and recommend gear that I LOVE and would buy myself…and yes, I purchased this one for keeps!

Highly Recommended!

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Where To Buy?

Mine came from CameraQuest.com and you can purchase the lens or adapter at the direct links below:

Order the Voigtalander 40mm f/2.8 HERE

Order the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter HERE

Order the Sony A7s (My #1 Camera since its launch) – at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 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 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. 

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. 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!

Oct 302014
 

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Which one? Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 FE and the Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Heliar

HELLO TO ALL OF YOU PHOTO AND GEAR NUTS OUT THERE!

I posted a very 1st quick look at the new Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar a few days ago and one question was: “Why would I want this when there is already the Sony 35 2.8 Zeiss lens that has Auto Focus”?

My answer to that is that not everyone will! Some of us NEED Auto Focus and others much prefer a mechanical old school lens with a solid build, gorgeous appearance and the fact that we need to manually focus the lens! When you have an old school (but brand new like this lens is) lens on the Sony A7 series of camera, manually focusing is not only very fun, it is also a way to slow you down, take your time, calculate your shots. It is an alternative to the quick AF snaps we so often do. It will have us looking more and taking our time with the composition.

In other words, I much prefer a solid manual focus lens over an AF lens when using the A7 series. Especially M mount glass, classics and new lenses alike.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 is TINY but hefty and solid. It has a Nickel finish and looks amazing. The sharpness? Just as sharp as the Sony/Zeiss at half the size and cost. All you miss out on is Auto Focus yet you gain small size, solid build and a much more beautiful lens to look at..as well as a $400 savings.

Below is a video I made on the two lenses with my thoughts on them and after that a quick comparison shot with full size images direct from RAW from the Sony A7S. Also in the video you will see the striking new strap from Artisan & Artist, which is their new ACAM-310 silk strap. Also, the wooden sticky shutter release from Artisan Obscura and the shiny metal buttons on the back of my A7s from rluther.com. 


This is how each lens performed on the camera, and I let the camera choose exposure for each lens to show how each lens will behave on the camera. They are similar for sure..both are sharp yet each lens made the camera expose slightly different. I also see more of a 3D look to the Voigtlander lens. Both of these were shot wide open at f/2.8. Click them for full size.

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So which one is for you? That is easy..the one you feel most drawn to! Do you need AF? If so, the Sony is the one! If you prefer manual focus and some old school charm, plus a smaller and better made lens, the Voigtlander is the one to beat. :)

Where to Buy?

You can order the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at cameraquest.com HERE

You can order the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at Amazon HERE

You can order the cool all wood sticky shutter release at Artisan Obscura HERE

You can order the Shiny Buttons or read about them HERE

Oct 282014
 

Quick 1st Look: Voigtlander 40/2.8 Aspherical Heliar for Sony E-Mount!

My Sony A7s with the brand new Artisan & Artist ACAM-310 Red Silk Strap

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Yesterday another new lens arrived via the wonderful mailwoman who delivers so much gear here she had to ask me what it is I do for a living :) The new Voigtlander 40mm F/2.8 Heliar Aspherical lens is a beauty, especially on the A7 series of cameras. It is small, collapsible, solid and made to a high standard. But this lens is unique as it is a Leica M mount lens (Voigtlander VM) but can not be used on a Leica M as there would be no way to focus it. Instead it is designed to be used with Sony E Mount using the Voigtlander VM to E close focus adapter. Yep, just mount this lens to the adapter and then on to your A7 or A6000 or any E mount camera, full frame or crop sensor, and you will have a gorgeous small lens that will deliver sharp yet beautiful results.

Image below is from cameraquest.com where I received the lens from… you can see the cap, hood, etc. 

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When I mounted it to my A7s it gave the camera a solid heft that I loved and in use it was very easy to focus. The color is rich, the sharpness is there without being analytical or overdone and while there is slight vignetting wide open at f/2.8, it adds to the character of the lens.

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The lens comes with a cap, a hood and is collapsible on the A7 series of cameras. When collapsed it makes for a very nice compact lens. Even when extended it is compact. After only testing this lens for a brief moment yesterday after it arrived I was very impressed with the handling, build and image quality. I only snapped three shots with it so far but will be getting out this week and weekend with the lens so a full review will be on the way soon..and damn, looks like yet another lens I will want to purchase. At $400 it is a very good buy and if you have the VM to E adapter already, a no brainer. NOTE: This lens is only designed to work with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter but I think any adapter that is similar (close focus) will work (HAWK). Still I recommend the Voigtlander 100% for adapting M lenses to E mount. 

So if you own this adapter, which IMO is the best adapter made for converting Leica M lenses to Sony E mount, then this gorgeous lens is a MUST BUY! It gives that old school feeling, look and the rendering is quite nice.

The lens is IN STOCK now at Cameraquest at the direct link HERE. 

My full review of this lens will be up in about 10-14 days!

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Oct 272014
 

Fuji Deals. Hot Fuji lenses and cameras ON SALE now!

Looks like there are some Fuji items on sale!. The 23 1.4 is one of my favorite Fuji lenses, the 56 1.2 is a fantastic portrait lens and the 10-24 is for all of you who crave a wide-angle. The following three lenses and cameras are now available, brand new, for $$$ off. Get ‘em while you can!

 

The Fuji X100s Camera is on sale IN BLACK for $200 OFF. B&H Photo link HERE

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The Fuji 23 1.4 – $200 OFF – B&H Photo link HERE

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The Fuji 56 1.2 R Lens – $150 OFF – B&H Photo link HERE

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THE Fuji 10-24 F/4 OIS  – $200 OFF – B&H Photo Link HERE

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The Fuji 14mm f/2.8 – Now only $699, $200 OFF! B&H Photo link HERE

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Oct 272014
 

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The SLR Magic CINE 10mm t/2.1 Lens Review

by Amy & Tony Medina

Generally, I’ve really enjoyed the SLR Magic lenses, as I already own the 23mm f/1.7 Hyperprime and 35mm T/1.4 CINE, and use them on my Fuji APS-C cameras often. When Steve asked me if I wanted to review the new SLR Magic CINE 10mm T/2.1 for Micro 4/3, I jumped at the chance.

To start with, I think that overall, if you’re a fan of SLR Magic lenses, this one will not be a disappointment.

The time I spent with this lens, I shot it primarily on the Panasonic GX7. They paired well, but I think on a slightly bigger body it would be every better. My husband paired it with the GH1 for video, and he thought it balanced on the camera really well. SLR Magic lenses in general are well built, and they aren’t what I would call light. They have a nice heft to them, and they pair well with bodies like the Fuji XT1, Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Panasonic GH Series that themselves aren’t the smallest of the mirrorless cameras. It did work well on the GX7, and I’m sure it would feel good on equally small bodies… I just think they pair better with bodies that seem a touch more solid themselves.

One nice feature right off the bat that those of you with SLR Magic lenses will appreciate… no screw-on cap this time. Finally! It was your typical snap-on-type lens cap. Ya know, sometimes I like the fact those screw-on caps stay put, but most of the time I find them to be a royal pain in the butt, so I really appreciate a “normal” lens cap on this one.

Call it a pet peeve, but it really irks me that not all SLR Magic lenses are built the same. Some have the f-stop (or t-stop) control on the outside ring, furthest from the body… others have this ring closest to the mount. When I switch back and forth between their different lenses, I find this quite annoying! As a photographer, to me all f-stop dials should always be the furthest one from the body. Of course, it’s mostly just a minor annoyance, and it’s not something that would keep me from buying the lens, but I just wish they were ALL made with the f-stop control in the same place.

As for image quality, there were no surprises. I feel like I know what to expect with SLR Magic lenses, and that consistency carried through to the 10mm T/2.1 CINE.

SLR Magic lenses have that wonderful character they’ve become known for… a bit of a dreamy retro look around the edges, but nice and sharp in the middle. Typically, they shoot just a little flat.. they aren’t super contrasty lenses straight out of the camera, but they grade beautifully and just have so much charm. I find their color rendition quite neutral — not too warm or too cool — and I’m never disappointed with the images I get out of their lenses… it was no different with the 10mm T/2.1. I was very pleased with nearly every photo I took with the lens.

First one is straight out of the camera, the second is post-processed to my taste…

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In my opinion, SLR Magic lenses perform okay stopped down, but that isn’t why we buy them. Sharpness edge to edge, that’s not usually the priority of the SLR Magic user. These lenses are really meant to be used wide-open, or more on the open side of things, where they shine and show their unique personality. They provide excellent subject isolation while delivering a lovely “magic” image quality.

The front element is rather large (77mm in diameter), which isn’t a surprise on such a wide lens. Of course, that seems to make it a little prone to flare. However, I find the flare itself to be of the attractive type, and I have the kind of personality where I like to use flare to my advantage to enhance a photo. With a lens like the 10mm T/2.1, where I find the flare so pleasing, I’m often tying to introduce it rather than eliminate it.

It’s up to you whether you want to let that flare creep in or find a 77mm wide angle lens hood that will work to keep it out. The lens does not come with one.

A bit of flare…

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I can’t say 10mm is my favorite focal length on micro 4/3, but that’s a really personal thing honestly. Sometimes I did find it a bit awkward… but that’s no shocker when I tend to gravitate more towards the normal focal lengths from 35mm to 55mm (full frame equivalent), or I go for the ultra-wides, like 15mm. 20mm, to me, is just at that point a bit in-between.

Now, my husband on the other hand, when shooting some video tests, loved that it was right there in between… he told me that he liked that it didn’t give that overly distorted look that ultra wides often do, but certainly gave a wider, much more unique perspective than lenses in the mid-normal range.

What’s interesting is that we often disagreed a bit about this lens: some of the things that I would criticize are things he would really liked. An example is that he loves the clickless aperture dial, where that’s one of the things I generally don’t like about SLR Magic lenses (I think I even mentioned that in another review here on Steve’s site). But seriously, that’s not at all unexpected when it comes to a photographer’s vs. a videographer’s opinion.

It’s part of their CINE line of lenses of course, which means it’s optimized for video and has some of those built-for-videographer features, like click-less aperture and a focus ring that will mate up with follow-focus gears. The focus throw is smooth as silk, and comfortable for shooting both photography and video.

For my husband, the wide angle helped minimize shakiness when hand-holding the camera, and having a lens so wide, but also fast, can make for some really cool shots.

All of the footage below is just test footage shot by my husband, and we thought we’d share it. It has been color graded a bit… but most serious videographers will appreciate that rarely are you using footage that you don’t color correct and enhance.

This was all shot on an original GH1.

 

In conclusion, the best way to express how much we both think this is a great lens is to share that we indeed plan to buy it.
For me, even though the focal length was a little “in-between”, I think I can find use for it in my growing arsenal of wide angle lenses that I use for work. And since my husband and I will share it, and he loves it, the biggest downside will be us fighting for it when I want to use it. LOL

As I started off by saying, if you’re an SLR Magic fan already, there’s a lot you’re going to like with this lens. It delivers exactly the way you’d expect it to. It’s wide without being fisheye-distorted, and it’s fast to let in tons of light and allow that great depth of field control.

Overall, it delivers quality images with tons of personality — exactly what we’ve all come to expect from an SLR Magic lens.

 

You can purchase this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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Oct 242014
 

The Zeiss 50 f/2.8 Macro Touit Lens Review. A cracking good lens for any occasion!

You can buy the Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 in Sony or Fuji mount HERE. 

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A few weeks ago B&H Photo asked me if I wanted to test out the Zeiss 50 2.8 Touit Macro lens for Sony E-Mount, and since I am always excited about any lens with the ZEISS name on it, I of course said “SEND IT MY WAY ASAP”! When it arrived I was so busy with other gear reviews that the lens sat in the box for a week or so before I even opened it up.

When I did open the box to check out the lens I saw that it was small, light and fit nicely onto my Sony A6000 and A7s. While this lens is an APS-C lens it will work on the full frame Sony’s using a crop mode. Overall the lens was a great size, not far off from something like a Leica 75 Summicron, but lighter and with auto focus. Coming in at under a grand, or to be more exact, $999., the Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 Macro lens is a lens that will bust a wallet but not break the bank, if you know what I mean.

When I started to use the lens I realized that I am not that big into macro shooting, at all. I will occasionally use a Macro lens but the last time I reviewed one was quite a while ago when I wrote about the fantastic Olympus 60mm Macro lens and while I loved that lens I never did buy it because I am just not a Macro shooter. With this Zeiss lens, it appears and looks like any normal lens so I wondered if it would be good for double duty and would be good for shooting any scene, not just macro.

So away I went, shooting it in many different lighting situations to judge the AF speed and sharpness. I was also curious if it would exhibit the famous Zeiss look (rich color, 3D pop, etc) and hold up to the other two Zeiss Touit lenses I reviewed, the 12mm 2.8 and 35 1.8.

So away I went with the Sony A6000 (which is a FANTASTIC camera, read my review HERE) and Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Touit and shot whatever I cam across that looked interesting to me. When I go out to test a lens or camera I am not out looking to create works of art with the camera but instead I am looking for scenes that will test the lens or camera – maybe something to test low light, bokeh, color or other aspects of the lens or camera. With that said, I do try to at least bring interesting sample shots to the table ;)

The image below was shot at the AZ State Fair and this guy was the person in control of the “CreepShow” ride, a haunted house that was not scary in any way and lasted under 1 minute as a ride through. The funny thing is that I shot this same guy a year ago at the fair, operating the same ride. The Zeiss was set to f/2.8, wide open and it focused perfectly at this distance. The lens is a 50mm lens but on an APS-C it will give you more of an 75mm equivalent, so it has some reach. Even at f/2.8, which I consider to be on the slow side, the lens had no issues on the A6000.

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Zeiss lenses and color..two things that go together just as well as peanut butter and jelly. 

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Click for larger. I was testing to see how the lens would Auto Focus on the moving swing that was quite far from me. Being a Macro lens you would think the lens would be slower than normal to AF…and it is when comparing it to a normal 50mm lens. With that said, it was still pretty snappy on the A6000 and gave me the sharpness and color I was looking for. Click the image for larger view. 

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Still at the State Fair. I saw this guy doing a performance and lifted the camera and snapped. The lens nailed the focus and I was happy with the result. 

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This is a Macro Lens Steve! 

Lol, yes I know. So far I have shown a few images but none are using the lens as it was made to be used! Yes, this is a Macro lens but what I found is that it also made for a VERY nice 75mm equivalent lens as well! I did do some macro testing but I am horrible with Macro and have maybe shot 75 Macro images in my entire life so while I will talk about this later on, I feel this lens is a jackal and hyde, a lens that is very usable at any distance from you subject. Even for street style photos.

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One thing I found that was nice was the Zeiss color. I love Zeiss color. I see it in all of the Zeiss ZM lenses that they make with a Leica mount. Luscious and rich colors that would always POP from my screen, more so than when I used Leica lenses which render in a more cool way. I see Zeiss as rich, warm, and lush. I see Leica as cool, calm, collected. Both have their place and some feel Zeiss is too warm and rich. Others love and adore this look. Thinking about all of this reminds me from a time about 15 years ago when so many would swear there were no differences between lenses. The big photo forum at that time had people arguing almost daily about the Canon lenses and how the L glass was no different from the cheap lenses when it came to image quality. Today it is well-known and accepted that YES, the lens is what gives the character and look to the images and some lenses are spectacular and some are less that wonderful.

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For example, some lenses I have tested recently have had dull off-color and some have amazing color. Some are sharp, some are soft. Some have funky Bokeh and others have beautiful Bokeh blur. So lenses are the most important part of your kit when it comes to being a photographer. You are basically painting with light when taking a photo, and the lenses are pretty much your “brushes” and each one will give you a different result..or stroke if you will. Some will render with amazing character, some will be sterile and clean and others will be sloppy. So where does this Zeiss Touit fit in? Well, pretty much just where you think it would. It is clean, sharp across the frame and has the Zeiss punchy color. Nothing unique or magical, just a nice clean lens that will deliver a “correct” image whether you are shooting up close or far away.

Many will say “why isn’t this an f/2 lens”? Well, usually macro lenses are not built for speed. Instead they are built for performance up close and up close, you will want to stop down to f/8 to get some depth of field otherwise it will be tricky to nail the shot.

Zeiss Greens..

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below is a 100% crop of the image above..

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Lately I have been more about the PHOTOS than pumping out 10,000 words in a review. Usually my lens reviews average 2,500-3,500 words but sometimes they are super short and sweet at only 1,000 words. When a lens is so good at what it is built for there is really little to say and very little to knock down about it. Such is the case with this Zeiss Touit 50 2.8. It never failed me, never had an AF miss, and delivered sharp photos full of color and sharpness. Even B&W conversion look fantastic with this combo of A6000 and Zeiss lens. I even pit it against the Leica Monochrom recently in a just for fun poll. 

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The image below will give you an idea of the Bokeh at f/2.8…

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Finally..up close performance. As I said, I am no macro shooter but the lens will focus to about 6″ and give you a 1:1 ratio. Shooting six inches from your subject is pretty insane and this is when you need to take lighting into consideration as being so close will cause shadows, which is why many Macro shooters use ring lights and various lighting sources to brighten up the subject, extract more detail and avoid shadows. I shot enough up close to realize this lens really has no big weakness. If I had to complain about something it would be that the Auto Focus is a tad slow when shooting up close, but all macro lenses are like this so it is not a fault at all. Just how it works. :)

click images below for larger view and you can see the 100% crop in the 2nd image below. 

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My final thoughts on the Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 Macro Lens

So after carrying around this lens on my Sony A6000 for a couple of weeks I have to say that I really like this lens. If I was a macro shooter, it would be mine. If anyone out there is looking for a fantastic Macro lens for their Sony E-Mount camera, look no further than this guy right here. At $999 you get the Zeiss name, Zeiss performance and a small, light and well made lens. I tested it on my Sony A7s as well and it was just as fantastic as it was on the A6000 but with even richer color. It had to shoot in crop mode though because this is not a full frame lens. Even so, for APS-C Sony NEX or A series owners, this is a solid lens and I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in it.

Highly recommended if Macro is your thing, or if you want a nice 50mm f/2.8 for general use AND macro.

You can buy the lens in Sony E Mount or Fuji Mount at B&H Photo by clicking HERE.

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

Hello to all! For the past 6 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 web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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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. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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Oct 242014
 

Bicycling to Spain, an account with Hasselblad Xpan shots

By Dirk Dom

This is the Hasselblad Xpan, sorry, it’s a bit dirty

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Today I looked again at the Xpan shots I took on my bicycle ride from Antwerp to Spain from two years ago, not that I ever got there.

The reason I looked was that I shot Kodak Ektar on that trip and Matthias, my Australian friend, has discovered Ektar and he told me this film was so special. Two years ago I wasn’t very experienced with shooting digital and I had forgotten how Ektar looked. Well, it looks different. I like it.

Looking back at the eighty shots I took then, the film indeed captured very nicely, I think you couldn’t emulate these with digital.

The Xpan is an extraordinary camera, it’s the most fun camera I have, as much fun as my digital Olympus PEN. It shoots 24 x 65 mm panorama’s on 35mm film. I have the 45mm lens, which is about equivalent to 24mm on full frame.

Well, here goes:

I left home, fifth of July, at about 8.30. my friend Hugo had called me half an hour before to wish me all the best. The secret for such a trip is not to think about the 2,500 kms ahead, but be relaxed and just start. Ten minutes into the trip a woman on a bicycle pulled up to me: “What an nice Koga!” And I told her I was on my way to Spain. It was the first of countless contacts which made the trip so worthwhile.

Namur, the river Meuse, start of the Ardennes.

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I did between eighty and a hundred kilometers a day, three days riding and one day of rest. The days of rest were boring, I’ll not do that again on my next trip.

The very big advantage is that you can stop anywhere, any time and you have NO parking problems. The Xpan was in a 8mm thick neoprene sleeve which I had cut out of an old diving suit, in a box on the handlebar. I had forty Ektar films with me, 20 shots to a film. During the trip I shot 19 films, so that was more than plenty.

Poppies. Didn’t look through the viewfinder for this. Meuse valley.

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This was my first ever field of poppies, just entered into France. I had this shot scanned at 8,000PPI on a Hasselblad Imacon, that was 150 megapixel. It just resolved the grain, but the shot was’t sharp enough to go for enlargement beyond 1.5 meters. That’s the limit you run into when you shoot handheld.

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My Koga. I had 29 kilograms of luggage with me. That was ridiculous. Next time I’ll take twelve kilo’s max. I had a pair of wirecutter pliers with me which weighed over a kilo to cut the cable to the brakes should I replace it! Imagine! Stupid. The weight made me walk uphill a lot but I didn’t mind.

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Of course I took some artisty shots, too:

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I had driven through France by car countless times, on the highway. I had always longed to stop at a sunflower field and shoot it extensively. That was not possible. Now, I could take my time.

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Here, I just left my bike and walked into the field for half an hour until the composition was to my liking:

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A ray of sun on these geraniums, I postprocessed this image.

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Biking, the most beautiful thing is perhaps the ever changing skies.

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I didn’t make it to Spain; my 29 kilograms of luggage got the better of me in the Massif Central. Also, I was insufficiently trained to do the Cols in Spain. So I stopped near Avignon. It was marvelous.

Next summer I’m bicycling from Antwerp to Santiago de Compostella, 3,000 kms in six weeks. I’m taking the Xpan with me again.

Bye,

Dirk.

Oct 142014
 

Fuji GX 617 panoramic camera

by Dirk Dom

Hi, all!

I want to share some shots made with my Fuji GX617 panoramic camera.

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This monster, pictured here next to a Minox, yields 6 x 17 centimeter slides or negatives on 120 film, 4 images on a roll which you can blow up to insane dimensions. It all started in my photo club, where someone showed 1 meter big prints from Schotland. These landscapes were so incredibly detailed and rich they totally overwhelmed me, they hit me like lightning. They were taken with a Linhof 6×17 panoramic camera.

I wanted to do this, too, and started researching panoramic photography. The price of the 6×17 camera’s was so high, however, that I couldn’t possible buy one. The, in a local photo shop, this Fuji for sale. With a 90mm (90° image angle) and an 180mm (45° image angle) A search on the Net confirmed that this, with its interchangeable lenses and good viewfinder, was probably the best 6×17 camera. The price was good, too, 5,000 Euro’s! Impossible. Every time I drove by there, that camera sat there, just to annoy me. I had it taken out one more time, what a piece! In the end I couldn’t bear it anymore and I took out a bank loan.

In the photo club they had told me that finding compositions in the 1 by 3 aspect ratio was extremely difficult. I didn’t dare shoot the camera. After three months of hesitation I decided it was enough and I took it for a spin. All worked fine. That day the lid was off the pot, I shot all day, went to four locations. Then the moment of truth: got my slides back.I can tell you that absolutely nothing matches the impact of a sparkling 6×17 Velvia slide on the light table. The detail was insane. I can tell you I was hooked, then.

The 1×3 aspect ratio came very natural to me and soon I began to shoot worthwhile images. I ran into another limit: The images screamed for really big printing, at least two meters, and such a print, mounted, cost about 400 Euro’s. I got a few made, which were overwhelming, but when I tried to sell them, no one wanted them. First of all, the price (everyone buys posters at the IKEA for 6 Euro’s) and second, no one could hang such a monster print. I could hang one in my small home.

So, there I was, totally frustrated, with 60 mind-blowing images I couldn’t do anything with. Should I sell the camera? I decided on a moratorium of a year.

I found out after a year that I don’t need 2 meter big prints to enjoy the camera. Half meter images also show that there’s something different going on from your regular DSLR images. The detail and colors are much richer. So I started shooting the camera again. Technically, the camera is extremely basic: distance (no rangefinder), speed, opening, transport. It requires very strict discipline to shoot it. That make it a very enjoyable experience, because you’re in total control. The lenses are very, very sharp.

Well, enough talk, let’s see some images! All shots are from Antwerp, Belgium.

This is Antwerp, with the cruise ship Europa in front of it. I read in a local magazine it ‘d be in town for just one day and I went out to shoot it. The original slide is just not sharp enough to read the licence plates of the cars parked. Because the 2 minutes exposure you see no people. At 1PM the boat’s horn went off and a firework started. I had crossed a perimeter to do my shot, and a continuous rain of firework debris fell on me. I was afraid for my lens. I was too close to the firework to make decent images.

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That you make one image, complete, at exposure, is vastly advantageous to stitching in a DSLR. You can take action shots. One of my panorama’s is a flock of pigeons passing over at close distance.
This image I stood on the road, waited for a car coming to me, another coming from behind and exposed for 30 seconds.

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This is the image of the fireworks of the inauguration of the MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom, museum at the river) I was at the other bank of the river, used the 180mm; To my amazement I was the only one there, which makes this shot unique.

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I had set up, needing 2 minutes’ worth of exposure.

While exposing, a flash went off. A guy with a point and shoot. My exposure was ruined. I waited until he was gone and started over. Another flash. The guy had come back! Started over again, a third flash. The guy had come back again. I explained that he ruined my exposures and asked him to not to flash anymore. Without a word he turned away.

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The petrochemical industry downtown. On the slide, you clearly see a crane cable two kilometers away.

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The Antwerp cathedral. To make this shot, I went downtown five or six times to get the clear sky. Then I waited until the light was all balanced.

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This is a shot hyperfocally set. The cathedral tower could be a little sharper because of it, but still you see the cement bonding the stones together at the top.

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Bye,

Dirk.

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