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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

boot afgewerkt klein

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.

Pano Gent.fff 001

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.

vuurwerk afgewerkt lage res

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.

lange wapper afgewerkt klein

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

petrochemie afgewerkt klein

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.

toren afgewerkt klein

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.

toren met put afgewerkt klein

Bye,

Dirk.

Oct 132014
 

My First time with Zeiss

by Toni Ahvenainen – His blog is HERE
About eight months ago I started my Sony Alpha related photography project called ‘ Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography‘. The aim of my project was to find my inspiration again for photography and gain better understanding of my own photographic eye. On top of that I decided to set up a photo blog, where I would share my images at least two images per week and hoped it would gain some interest plus convoy inspiration to other photographers like me. Right from the start I got lucky and my site had much more traffic than I ever believed would be possible. Because of this the project turned into something that has given me a lot of inspiration and energy, not only for photography, but for life in general. It is also partial reason why I am doing this story here today.

As I have already introduced my photography project here before and with greater length I won’t go anymore into details. You can find the earlier story about my project here.

Because of my photography project and the way it had drawn attention in social media circles, an unexpected opportunity came to me: Zeiss was willing to support my photography project and they would let me use two lenses from their Touit line up. 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.

So, at one Friday afternoon, after UPS delivery had brought me a parcel which I had opened with child-like enthusiasm, I had two Zeiss lenses in my hands that in real life would be very much out of my reach: Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. I had of course read about the famous Zeiss from countless photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. Like for many other photographers the most exciting lenses and their magical qualities were always something I could just see through a store display window. And while the Touit is not exactly an Otus (optically the most advanced DSLR lenses currently available, also build by Zeiss), for my photography it was a unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. For return favor I would need to tell story of my experience with the Zeiss lenses.

Like any true and committed photography enthusiast, I was very interested to see how these lenses would affect my photography. What will be my first impressions? How will they fit into my shooting habits? How I will be using these lenses? What kind of optical qualities will they have and will I be able to find the famous ‘Zeiss look’, described with terms like Zeiss contrast, punchy colors and 3D-pop? In short, what will be my first time experience with Zeiss?

I will be exploring these and other questions as well for 10 weeks in my photo blog. The Zeiss lenses will accompany me with a theme called ‘Season of Touit’. With this theme I will move away from the standard focal lengths that I’ve used thorough the year so far and concentrate doing ultra wide and close-up photography which are, regarding the perception of the depth, kind of extreme ends. If you are interested, you are most welcome to follow my story through this season. Later on I will do a more complete story about my findings right here at the Steve Huff’s website where it will surely find the most friendly and kind audience one could ever hope. (Thanks for the opportunity, Steve!)

To give you some insight right now, I can already say I’m very impressed by colors and contrast the Zeiss Touit lenses convoy. At the first day, right after I had opened the parcels, I did a short photo walk and immediately noticed that the images looked a bit different from my cameras lcd. Maybe more vibrant and subtle regarding the overall look. Am I imagine things, is this just the placebo effect, I thought to myself. Even at home, looking pictures from computer screen, I felt certain anxiety because the pictures looked different and better, but felt that I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference to myself. After using these lenses for about a month, I honestly feel they have trained my eyes for better understanding of how good optics will affect the contrast and colors.

I’ll show couple of examples here taken with Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. Everything you see here has been post processed with my own regular methods and with a help of VSCO film pack 4. While the pictures in this state doesn’t offer a neutral starting point, if there even exist one, for detailed analysis of Zeiss look, they however represent the great results I’ve been able achieve with these lenses – and which I think are extraordinary regarding color & contrast. In future article I might also present images that will be better suitable for detailed analysis, if I find meaningful ways to do it.

Thank for reading my story and if interested you can follow it at: www.yearofthealpha.com. Also remember that within five or six weeks I’m going to do a longer story which I’m going to share right here at the Steve Huff’s website.

Toni Ahvenainen


Snap from the street – Didn’t do much of post processing with this snap, but immediately thought that nothing from my camera has looked so good before regarding colors & contrast. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO100, f/6.3, 1/400sec, raw)

Pic-01

The Great Divide – Touit 2.8/50M doubles as a macro lens and let’s one approach the wonders of the macro world. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO250, f/10, 1/80sec, raw)

Pic-02

Simple landscape – I just love how easy it to get great clarity and contrast with these Zeiss lenses. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO100, f/4.5, 1/200, raw)

Pic-03

Unusual church ceiling – Relatively fast wide-angle lens like Touit 2.8/12 offers certain freedom in dim lighted interiors like churches. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO400, f/2.8, 1/25sec, raw)

Pic-04

From Steve: Thanks Toni! If anyone would like to submit a user report or guest article, just click here for details!

Oct 102014
 

title

1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E – Shooting family, friends, fashion and famous!

By Andy Jackson

Hi Steve,

Thanks for all your great dedication to your site bringing us all sorts of articles, new gear, digital or film and your never-ending enthusiasm! So, about four years ago you published a Daily Inspiration from myself, shots from my Leica CL. The images were mainly of my son, who was about 2 years old at the time. After reading your write up on the Rolleiflex Hy6 (which to be honest, I didn’t even know existed!) I thought I could do a User Report on my 1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E.

My friend Ludi – this was shot on Rollei Retro 400.

Ludi 02 - Rolleiflex

I’d shot film/transparency for a long time as a photographer working on a snowboard magazine and acquiring the Leica kind of reignited the idea of shooting analogue again. This time I was more interested in shooting black and white and was partly inspired by another article on your site by Max Marinucci about home processing. My late Uncle also had an influence on me from an early age, with his camera in hand, his slides and his black and white prints of me as a kid. I’d done darkroom work at my first job many moons ago at a design company in London, so I knew how it went, but had never done it at home. Having bought the necessary bit and pieces and some chemicals (totaling €80!) I started to develop the negatives from the Leica. Yup, the same grin factor as getting my transparencies back after a snowboard shoot but with the extra satisfaction of doing it myself! Now, I’m not even going to go into the practicalities or convenience factors of digital over film, as to be honest, as you said in your article “Analog is a different beast than digital in almost every way.” If I’m processing film or going through a digital shoot on the computer I like to get ‘in the zone’ – cup of tea and some decent tunes on the stereo and off I go!

Branko from Croatia, I used the Rolleinar close-up lens for this.

Branko - Rolleiflex

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My good friend Doris, a yoga teacher. We’d been for a hike on the mountain and I had the 2.8E in my bag along with a Hassy 500cm, this is from the Rolleiflex.

Doris yoga 02 - Rolleiflex

So on to the Rolleiflex! After searching around on Fleabay and websites and doing some homework I realized I was going to have to spend a decent amount of money for a good one. At the same time I bumped into a friend here in Innsbruck who’d seen some of my film shots online. He told me his mum used to be a professional photographer and that she had a few old cameras left from her working days. I asked if any had two lenses on the front, he said he seemed to remember playing with something like that when he was a kid and he’d ask his mum. Two days later he calls me and tells me she still has her old Rolleiflex. He gives me the serial number and I track it down to a 1959 2.8E. Oh yes, the Carl Zeiss Planar. He’d been online and checked out the prices, not cheap really, a good one is at least €1000. He offers to sell it to me for €250 – I can hardly contain my excitement. So, off I go to meet his mother, she’s actually thrilled to be able to sell it to someone who’s actually going to use it, it’s been doing nothing for about 40 years. As you can see from the shot, it’s in pretty good shape. I sent it in for CLA to a company in Salzburg, it needed some work, lightmeter was replaced and some bits in the shutter – €400, so in the end I still have a sweet deal and the camera stays in the area.

_MG_0085

Preparation and handling.

The Rolleiflex is not a heavy camera. It fits nicely into my Lowepro Event Messenger 150 bag, leaving enough room for the Leica or my FM2 or OM2, lightmeter and film in the front pocket. I’ve replaced the old leather strap with a modern one, this puppy is not gonna end up on the floor. Once you get used to it, it’s a quick camera to pull out and start to shoot with. Take a light reading, set aperture and shutter speed, flip the lid and focus. So, we have aperture from 2.8 – 22 with half stops marked. Shutter runs from 1 sec 1/500th plus B. Loading film isn’t too tricky, just remember to put the paper through the bottom rollers then close the back and start winding on with the lever. There’s a mechanism that ‘senses’ when the film goes through these rollers and then the exposure window starts to register, wind on and it will stop on the first frame. Ready to rock. I’ve also acquired a Rolleinar 1 close-up lens for it, these are rare as rocking horse pooh because of the Bayonet 3 mount and some people ask silly money for them – I paid £120 for mine, I’ve seen ‘em go for a lot more.
Looking through the viewfinder you realize everything is in reverse, this takes a bit of getting used to, especially trying to keep things level. We get twelve shots and twelve shots only, so patience and practice will pay off!

I shoot the odd landscape. Dolomites, Italy.

Dolomites - Rolleiflex

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Francois, from, er, France. My friend was looking after his Indian motorcycle that broke down on a run here in England. He came back to pick it up. How could I not shoot this portrait.

Francois - Rolleiflex

Shooting family and friends and others.

I use this camera a lot for shooting images of my son. Sure, I could use my 7D and autofocus as he runs about (and I do) but over the last few years he has learnt that when daddy points the two eyed black box thing at him, he must stay still! It’s not about getting the right camera for the child but training the child for the camera ;-) Sometimes he’s not in the mood for stillness, so I leave it for a bit. Using a TLR at the right time though, I think is the secret. When he’s focused in on something or climbing a tree, I just ask him to stop and look up. Nine times out of ten he does. Candid racing about shots are best suited to newer technology, what I want from my Rolleiflex is the more thoughtful images, maybe even posed, if you can call it that. I prefer to look at it as shots where I have his attention, where we have our connection. Having the twelve shots makes me choosy about when I hit that shutter, I really have to be sure it’s what I want. I usually take one shot of a ‘scene’ and leave it at that then move on. Sometimes I don’t even move on, a roll can sit in the camera for days or a week or two. There’s no rush with this camera, no incessant need to snap everything in sight, it’s way more about gathering some great memories for me, of my little man growing up.

Rolleicord. My son Noah on a rainy afternoon.

Noah - Rolleicord

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If any one photo sums up why I love this camera, it’s this one. I took one shot of this scene, kept my fingers crossed that I’d nailed the focus and kept the camera steady, 1/30th of a second.

Noah bamboo - Rolleiflex

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Zeiss Ikon Nettar. This camera is small when folded, very small for 6×6. Beautiful results.

Noah field - Zeiss Ikonta

Shooting friends is a little easier, they know how to sit still. The Rolleiflex instills a sense of wonder in everyone. I get the usual question – “Do they still make film for that” and the remarks about how beautiful it is. I’ve used it a lot at weddings, it’s a talking point for guests, certainly breaks the ice. Bride and Groom are always super stoked on receiving a set of hand printed images, the Rolleiflex shots are the highlight without a doubt. I’ve noticed people feel way less intimidated with the Rollei than they are with a DSLR.

Like the Leica, the Roleiflex has it’s own brand of magic dust it sprinkles on your images. The awesome depth of field, that ‘otherworldly days gone by’ vibe where your natural light shots look like from another era, which in a sense they are! 6×6 analogue is affordable for nearly all of us, whereas digging into our pocket-money for a digi Hasselblad or Leica S2 isn’t such a do-able proposition (well not for me at least!) I love the 2.8E, I love to photograph people with it, I love the results and I love the fact that I have a fixed lens (with option of close-up). It takes 25 minutes to develop a roll of film, then about half hour to hang up and dry. Scanning is painless on my Canon flatbed 9000f and results are ok – it’s no Nikon Coolscan but I get 50cm by 50cm scans out of it. My favourite shots I print in my darkbathroom ;-) but that’s another story.

Stephen Bartels, gallery owner of the same name, London.

Stephen Bartels - Rolleiflex

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Sir David Rodiagn, MBE (left) and his agent Ricky McKay (right). David is a living legend Reggae DJ, radio DJ (BBC), famous throughout the world. Ricky presented him with a 50cm x 50cm framed print of this shot for his 60th birthday. Proud moment indeed.

Rodigan and Ricky 16bit

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Terje Haakonsen, one of the world’s most famous snowboarders. This is part of a series I made of Snowboard Legends in 2013 and was published in a couple of magazines. This is one of my few flashed shots with the Rollei.

Terje Haakensen - Rolleiflx

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Tomi Toiminnen, ex pro snowbaorder, shwoing his tattoos ‘Never Forget’ one for an old friend of his who died too young, the other for a friend of ours who lost his life in an avalanche.

Tomi Toiminnen - Rolleiflex

If any readers have ever thought about getting into analogue medium format photography but are put off by the hassle of processing their own films, don’t be! It’s way easier than you think and once you’ve successfully hang up your first roll to dry you’ll be hooked. As for colour. Well, that’s turning out to be a pricey business these days. Colour negative processing has just doubled in price here, about €8.99 per roll, so include the film cost and you’re looking at €18 at least for twelve shots (without scans). My friend has just started doing colour at home because of this and is really happy with the results, I will go the same route very soon.

I’d like to also mention two other cameras as a much cheaper alternative to a 2.8e or such like. I acquired a Rolleicord IV with a 75mm 3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar for €120, see attached images for comparison. The other camera that really surprised me is the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 with a 75mm 3.5 Novar-Anastigmat – I picked this up from a local flea market for €35 in fully working order! This is a zone focus camera so I got my hand on a Voigtländer rangefinder that attaches to the cold shoe, this helps loads. The images form this camera are also sublime though a bit slower to use than the Rolleiflex, the output is worth it.

Lisa Marie, test shot for her model agency. Available light coming in through a window.

Lisa Marie - Rolleiflex

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Ludi again.

Ludi 01 - Rolleiflex

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Viktoria. Test shot for her agency when she was starting out two years ago. She’s all over the planet now.

Viktoria - Rolleiflex

So, in conclusion, I use my 2.8e for just about anything and everything as long as it’s not running. It’s light and very, very quiet. It can be discreet as you can just stand in the street looking down and press the shutter and no one really knows (I guess this is how Vivian Maier took a lot of her shots). There’s still plenty of specialists servicing and repairing them and has a strong enthusiast following and collectors worldwide. Shoot one roll of film on this and I’m sure you’ll be hooked. At the end of the day it’s just another tool for us to realize the images we want to create and like each of us has our own favourite bits of kit to do the job we all end up in that ‘special realtionship’ with one or two cameras. Happy shooting people

All the best,

Andy Jackson

Shoe repair dude, Goodge Street underground station, London. It was very dark.

Shoe repair dude - Rolleiflex

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Paul Clements, photo journalist, Beatles and Dylan fan, guitar and sitar player at Stephen Bartels Gallery, London (with our 3 Leicas huddled together)

Paul Clements - Rolleiflex

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Feeding the duck and goose on a rainy afternoon in the Lake District, Cumbria, England on a visit to my mum this year.

Noah goose - Rolleiflex

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Reflection in a pond.

Noah pond - Rolleiflex

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Ice cream on a Sunday.

Noah ice cream hut - Rolleiflex

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Rolleicord. Kayla, my Siberian Husky and test model, never to be trusted off the line in a forest, or anywhere for that matter. Highly successful hunter.

Kayla - Rolleicord

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Ingemar Backman, Swedish snowboard legend shot at the Air & Style contest here in Innsbruck. Google him for insanely high backside air shots!

Ingemar ©andyjackson

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A friend of mine asked me to shoot a wedding shower for her friend. Grandma showed up and watched the proceedings from this chair. One of my favorite shots ever despite the light leak.

Grandma - Roleliflex

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This is Glenn, I used to work with him on the snowboard magazine. He works in Thredbo Ski Resort in the Aussie winter then travels around Europe to visit his adoring friends. The man is a legend.

Glenn - Rolleiflex

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Rolleicord. Forest scene. A much cheaper alternative but not the build or lens quality of the 2.8. Still not bad at all!

Forest - Rolleicord

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. Gabrille du Ploy shot in her gallery, Zebra One, that specializes in music photography amongst other things. That’s part of the complete set of original images shot for Beatles Abbey Road sleeve on the wall. And you thought a Leica was expensive…

Gabrielle Du Ploy - Rolleiflex

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Sort of street photography shot in Charlie’s mens hairdresser in Camden, London.

Charlies Camden - Rolleiflex

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Alex, a yoga teacher friend of mine, we did some shots in the forest near me. A reflector was used to light the face.

Alex yoga - Rolleiflex

Oct 092014
 

The CicLaVia ride to East Los Angeles

By Huss Hardan

A group of us just participated in the CicLaVia event. “What is CicLaVia?” I hear someone ask..

www.http://www.ciclavia.org/.org

Their website says it better than I can:

CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free streets. CicLAvia engages with people to transform our relationship with our communities and with each other.

CicLAvia makes the streets safe for people to walk, skate, play and ride a bike. There are activities along the route. Shop owners and restaurants are encouraged to open their doors to people along the CicLAvia.

Ciclovías started in Bogotá, Colombia, over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Now they happen throughout Latin America and the United States.

Connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic. The health benefits are immense. Ciclovías bring families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space. In Los Angeles we need CicLAvia more than ever. Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options. CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun. We can’t wait to see you at CicLAvia!”

Got that?! In practice what this means is that a route is chosen (this October it was about 12 miles in length) in Los Angeles where the streets are closed to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders etc are all welcome. Just no motos! The vibe is really neat, one of celebration and unification, taking advantage of the four-hour opportunity to see the city in a way that would not normally be possible.

My group chose bikes, and I shot while in motion on my bike. Like most people at the event we took the Metro train into downtown LA. My gear was simple – a Leica M5 with Zhou half case (more on this in a bit), a Zeiss Planar 50 (with ND filter), a Leica Summicron Asph 35 and one roll of Kodak Portra 400 rated at ISO 200. I shot one-handed while riding, and the Zhou case really helped as it has grips on the front and back of the case. I was able to focus with one hand as the Zeiss lens has a ribbed metal focus ring so I could turn that with one finger. I had to zone focus the Summicron as it only has a focus tab which I was not able to use while holding the camera with one hand. Oh yeah, one hand because the other one was steering the bike!

It was an unusually hot day – about 100 degrees – but it was a lot of fun. The next one is in December and I highly recommend it.

Peace out
Huss

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Oct 032014
 

Testing the Zeiss Loxia, ZM 35 1.4 and Otus lenses on the A7r

(some quick shots from Photokina)

by Dirk De Paepe

zeissloxia35

Recapitulation of a Problem

Perhaps you look upon the Sony A7x series as the first full frame alternative to the Leica M: a compact, high quality full frame camera, that’s about perfect for manual shooting – although not without issues, but then, I’ve yet to see the first perfect camera. :-)

Today the A7s gets a lot of applause, not only for its high ISO capability, but also because it “fixed” some of the issues of the A7r: the shutter sound is one, but IMO the questionable compatibility with quite some M-mount wide-angle lenses is an even more important item.

For many photographers, the possibility of using the compact M-mount lenses on the A7x, via adapter, is one of the attractive features of those cameras. But particularly the corner problems that primarily the A7r poses, when used with (quite some) wide-angle M-mount lenses, are mentioned frequently as a set back, reducing the A7r owner’s choice regarding compact wide-angle glass. Not all M-mount wide angles pose this problem though: some of the Voigtländers work flawlessly. But most Leica M en Zeiss ZM wide angles render this purple/magenta color shift and smearing in the corners, which we really don’t want.

I own the Zeiss Biogon 28 ZM and have experienced it too. Although with certain apertures it’s possible to avoid almost all of the smearing and the color shift can most of the time easily be neutralized in Photoshop, still it limits the possibilities and ease of work. So I mainly use the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 (very compact M-mount) and some wider Canon FDs as WAs for now. For now, indeed, because I was pretty confident that a “solution” would be in the make. As a matter of fact, I hoped for some time that Sony would somehow fix this problem. But is it really Sony’s problem to fix? Well, recently I changed my mind about it…

The solution has a name: Loxia.

When Zeiss announced its new Loxia series for Sony’s FE mount and when I saw that those were based on the compact ZM series, I immediately wondered: what about the corners when shooting a Biogon wide-angle on the A7r? The so far published images (that I’ve seen) didn’t mention which A7-type was used (there was no Exif data available), or they were taken with the A7s, on which the WA M-mount glass poses no problems. So I was stuck with the question: how will the new Loxia Biogon 2/35 perform on my A7r?

The Loxia Biogon 2/35 on the A7r

Living at less than 2 hours from Cologne, I decided to make the trip to Photokina, to get the answer. I was there on Saturday, when the fairground was pretty crowded, with lots of people thronging at the Zeiss technicians counter, wanting to get answers to their questions and trying all kinds of Zeiss lenses on all kinds of cameras.

So I had to take my shots pretty fast and I had to take them all from the same spot: my position at the technicians counter. Sorry for that. But my goal was not to shoot nice pictures, my goal was to get answers. Does the Biogon perform well on the A7r?

Short answer: YES it does! Absolutely!

I first checked if there was any color shift at the corners, putting the aperture wide open – the most sensible setting. With a booth made from white/greyish panels, it was easy to check. It’s very clear: the Biogon produces no color shift what so ever! It was immediately absolutely clear, from the first shot, but I can add to that: in none of my shots, at whatever aperture, there was even the faintest glimpse of color shift to be noticed.

Pic 1. Loxia 3/35, f/2, &/500s, ISO200. No color shift whatsoever. I focused in the left upper corner, to check the corner detail at f/2. IMO a bit ridiculous to absolutely want perfect corners when shooting wide open, but since some people come up with this issue, I wanted to check it. Next picture gives a 100% view of that corner

01. Loxia2-35 f2 corner focus

And what about the smearing? Well, again when shooting wide open the image remained pretty clear and detailed in the corners, with only some loss of detail in the farthest reaches and (IMO) no smearing. Considering how deep in the corners I’m talking about, I’d say only a slight loss of detail in the corners. But let’s be honest, when you really want every spot of your picture to be clear, you don’t shoot wide open, do you… In general I was absolutely astonished with the level of detail this Biogon renders at f/2. Without ever getting razor-sharp, the amount of detail is pretty amazing, even when looking at 100% and shooting with a 36MP sensor. And also the vignetting is at a very low-level, IMO negligible.

Pic 2. 100% crop. In the farthest reaches of the corners, there is some loss of detail. Not too much, I’d say, because I can even read numbers there. I certainly wouldn’t talk of smearing. There is some difference in detail to be noticed, due to some items being positioned slightly out of focus, like in the text on the left box. Don’t be mistaken there. Anyway, I find the detail that this Biogon renders wide open to be really astonishing. 

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Pic 3. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. Also the vignetting is negligible, even wide open. Focusing in the center.

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Pic 4. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Without being razor-sharp, all the detail is there. No added sharpness.

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Pic 5. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. No 2/35mm renders a spectacular bokeh. Still this one is pretty smooth and for sure renders a nice 3D separation.

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Pic 6. Loxia 2/35, f/4, 1/60s, ISO400. DOF is a bit larger, still with beautiful bokeh, also in front.

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Pic 7. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Even at f/4 focusing needs to be done with care on the A7r. I missed the focus on the watch here and placed it on the guy’s shirt, revealing all the shirt’s detail…

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At the more narrow apertures, those that are used when pursuing a wide dof, the detail is excellent all over. Is it absolutely perfect? Well, no. This is no Otus, but a three times less expensive Loxia. Still, IMO, the IQ is excellent, with clear detail all over, although still slightly soft when looking at 100%, but not at all to the extend that one can call this a weakness.

Pic 8. Loxia 2/35, f/11, 1/40s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 9. Loxia 2/35, f/14, 1/10s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 10. 100% crop (click to see full size)..

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This is absolutely not a lens test, so I won’t go into all lens characteristics. I couldn’t take enough different pictures, nor perform tests to do that. I’m sure there will be enough articles in the near future from professional photography journalist that will come up with all the details.

Still, what I also noticed is some fringing (diminishing with narrower apertures of course), which I always could correct with great ease in Photoshop. I didn’t check the distortion, but personally I don’t mind that too much, since this is also easily correctable. BTW, I understand that Zeiss also gave extra care in that department, so again, I have no worries here. Overall, I liked very much what I saw, also regarding the OOC color balance, dynamic range etc. – so I’m very confident that I won’t be disappointed in this Biogon and that it’ll render a typical Zeiss IQ – I expect it to be even slightly better than my ZMs.

Improved optics

When I told the technician that I was pleasantly surprised, after being worried when I noticed the great similarity between the Loxia and ZM Biogons, and that I wondered how Zeiss has solved the corner problems without considerably lengthening the distance between back lens and sensor, he told me that the two Loxia lenses are admittedly built after classic Zeiss concepts, but that the whole calculation has been redone, resulting in differences in the thickness of the glasses and the space between them, whereby the light approaches the sensor in different angles, thus avoiding the known problems of the older ZM lenses (lenses that were conceived for film cameras and Leica digital cameras, not for mirrorless sensors). Even the Planar, that in ZM version doesn’t pose any problem at all on the A7r (and is BTW my personal favorite lens) has been reworked and optimized with enhanced performance. Regarding the Biogon, even after a few shots, I can without a doubt state, that they did a great job. I leave it to the professional reviewers to determine exactly how great. But I’m impressed. And excited. There simply is not a shred of color shift in the corners and wide open there’s only a slight decrease of detail in the farthest corners, which I wouldn’t call smearing at (far from what we know from the ZM Biogons, when used on the A7r). What I also noticed was that this lens renders about the same detail wide open as it does stopped down (with the exception of the farthest corners, as I said), which was a véry pleasant surprise. There is some vignetting wide open (but really not much) and some fringing as well (always very easily removable in Photoshop). What did you expect. This is no Otus, it’s not perfect. It’s three to four times cheaper than Otus and still is an excellent lens. I’m sure future tests will confirm this.

General Loxia advantages for Sony’s A7x

So the Biogon is absolutely “good to go” on the A7r IMO, or in other words, it’s a great option to buy, if you’re into manual prime glass. You won’t be surprised that I placed my order for both Loxias. Also the Planar, which maybe will surprise you, since I own the ZM Planar that really is without issues on the A7r. But Loxia offers a lot more than ZM. First there is the better optical performance (reworked for E-mount), then there is the shorter minimal focal distance (30cm for the Biogon and 45cm for the Planar versus 70cm for both ZMs), further there is the transmission of full Exif info, which I applaud because after a series of shots with different lenses I tend to forget what lens I used for which shot, let alone what aperture. Often I can “see the lens in the shot”, but really not always with absolute certainty. And I find it very interesting to know the exact aperture afterwards. And finally, the last big advantage of Loxia over ZM is the activation (which is to be programmed on your A7x) of the automatic enlargement in the VF, by the slightest movement of the focus ring, which completes all means for performing “modern manual focusing” on the A7x. IMHO, all the focusing functionalities of the A7x/Loxia strongly outperform any optical viewfinder. OK, a range finder is something special, but personally, I don’t wanna do without the modern EVF functionality anymore. No way. They abundantly outweigh the range finder’s advantages (all IMO of course).

Pic 11. Left half: Loxia Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Right half: ZM Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Both picture were shot at minimal focal distance – Loxia at 45cm, ZM at 70cm and they were only horizontally cropped. Impressive difference. A big advantage of the Loxia. (The ZM picture was shot back home.)

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Personally, I’m really thrilled about Zeiss developing the Loxia line. There has been lots of reactions on it, with many complaining about the first two lenses being 50 and 35mm again. Why not chosing other focal lenghts that people miss right now? The answer is really simple. Loxia is for a totally different type of photographer, namely the typical manual shooter, like I am. As much as I admire the image quality of the AF Zeiss lenses, I’ll never buy them because I don’t feel good when the camera decides for me. The only “automation” that I use is aperture priority and still, I’ll determine the exposure with the compensation dial or by holding the release button halfway while reframing.

The core of any optical system is, no doubt, the lens. I think we can say that Zeiss plays in the same league as Leica. Both have passionate proponents. I guess it’s probably the kind of photography one practices, that make one belong to either camp. Personally, I’d mix both brands, if the Leica prices were at Zeiss level. But they aren’t. So I don’t buy Leica… a personal matter.
The core of the body is, without any doubt, the sensor. Sony, a leader amongst sensor manufacturers has an excellent position in this department. The rest of the body is functionality, in other words advanced electronic applications, and build quality. It needs no saying that Sony is an electronics giant and in many branches, and in general the Sony quality is legendary. I’m not saying there are never issues with Sony products, everybody makes “mistakes”, but this a giant and I believe that this giant is determined to succeed in photography. So the Sony/Zeiss combination has for sure a lot of things in its favor. Now, with Loxia, the glass is perfectly maching the body, adapter free, with transmitted Exif data, automated magnification in the EVF and a design and feel that perfectly matches the body.

I told you that I already placed my order, even for the Planar, while I’m owning an Otus 55 ànd ZM Planar 2/50. But the Planar is my all time favorite lens. Its compact size, ease of use and always reliable IQ grants it this status. This is the lens that I always carry on my camera, making it possible to carry a high-res/high-IQ camera with me whenever I want, wherever I go to, without ever being bothered by it. Now, with the Loxia Planar, my carry-all-time lens will match my body for 100% and add some functionality that I welcome very much.

Loxia is made for sensors of mirrorless cameras, Zeiss ZM (and Leica M) is made for film. In its digital M bodies, Leica corrects its lenses with software. The Zeiss Loxia doesn’t need to be corrected, because it’s optically designed for sensor. BTW, I wonder if Zeiss doesn’t think of making Loxias in M-mount, or at least come up with a new generation ZMs, that would have the Loxia optics. Makes sense IMO.

The Otus 85 on the A7r

With so many Otus lenses on their Photokina booth, ready to try out, of course I asked for the new 1.4/85. You probably already knew from a former article that I own the Otus 55 and believe that Otus is a great combination with the A7r. This top-level Zeiss line is developed for the latest (and future) generations of hi-res sensors, and Sony plays a leading role in this, with the A7r still leading the pack. So I pulled out my Novoflex adapter and mounted the Otus 85 on the body. The bystanders payed extra attention, when I then pulled a vertical grip out of my bag and mounted it with some swift moves on the A7r body.
My goal was in no way to test the lens on itself. Knowing the 55 and reading from all thrustful sources that the 85 is even a todd better (is it really possible?), I have not the slightest doubt that this lens will perform to its expectations. What I was curious about was how it felt in the hand, when mounted on the A7r, and I also wanted to get the “focus experience” at f/1.4, because already with the 55, focusing at 1.4 needs to be done with great care.
I immediately felt that the 85 is an even heavier and thicker beast than the 55. It’s a muscle trainer for sure. I don’t know how long I would be able to shoot continuously with it, I can only say that I felt it considerably more than when holding the 55. But I can’t tell if it’s only because the physical geometry is different and that it’s gonna be a matter of getting used to it, or if it really would tire me out faster. But what I can tell you for sure is, that, with the same way of holding it as I described in my Otus 55 article, this lens/body combination lies incredibly stable and well-balanced in the hand. I already said that the shots were to be made fast at the Zeiss technicians booth, so I took a fast picture of the gentle technician that was helping me. He was standing pretty close, at the other side of the counter. I focused on his eyelashes and took the shot at 1/25sec, which is in fact insanely slow for an OOH shot with a 85mm lens. But the total absence of motion blur proves the perfect balance of this lens/body combination, again indicating that the A7r is a body worth considering for use with the Otus 85, as it is with the Otus 55. That’s exactly what I wanted to know with my trial shots.

Pic 12. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/25s, ISO100. Shooting at this shutter speed with an 85mm lens is only possible when the lens/body combination is in perfect balanse, which IMO is the case with the A7r + vertical grip. At the crowded Zeiss booth, this shot of a (very busy) Zeiss technician needed to be taken in seconds.

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Pic 13. 100% crop (click to see full size). What stroke me is the extremely shallow dof. I don’t know how this can be possible (maybe somebody can explain), but I have the impression that the Otus 85 produces an even more shallow dof than the Canon FD85 at f/1.2, that I also own. And if not, it must be véry close. But for sure, I’d swear it’s the Otus that wins this trophy. While the eyelashes are in focus, the eyeball is already out of focus. The eyebrow is only partly in focus. At this distance, I normally wouldn’t take this shot at f/1.4, because I’d surely want a somewhat larger dof. Still it’s nice to have the potential at hand and for greater distances it will surely do a great job.

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Focusing at f/1.4, for use at full size images with a 36MP sensor (or more in the near future), must be done with the greatest care. This was no surprise to me, with my experience with the Otus 55, it was just a confirmation. It’s odd that I have the impression that focusing the Otus 85 at f/1.4 requires even more precision than with my Canon FD85 at F/1.2. I even think to notice an even shallower dof with the Otus. It’s just an impression, a feeling. But a strong one. Maybe it’s because of the incredible detail Otus renders, combined with 36 megapixels. Again, I didn’t perform test procedures with this in mind, it’s just a feeling. BTW, I love the FD85/1.4.
Last thing about the Otus 85: I absolutely love the super creamy bokeh!

Pic 14. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/20s, ISO100. Only horizontally cropped. Is this a creamy bokeh or what?…

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The ZM Distagon 1.4/35

By then, after shooting the Otus 85, the guys behind me were increasingly insisting to get a place at the counter. But still I managed to get the new ZM Distagon 1.4/35 for a few super fast shots. I simply wondered whether Zeiss, knowing of the problems that some of the ZMs have with modern hi-res sensors, would take this into account when developing new wide-angle ZMs. I quickly took two shots with the new ZM Distagon. In the first I just shot the grey-ish white wall, to check for color shift. The picture is absolutely dull, of course, but it was conclusive: no color shift.

In the second (and last) super fast taken shot, I focused on a guy in the upper left corner, to check for smearing. No smearing (although the picture isn’t perfect, with a tiny bit of motion blur, but no smearing). What I did notice in those shots was that, wide open, the vignetting and fringing was more prominent than with the Loxia Biogon. But then, this is a f/1.4 vs. the f/2 Loxia. So this is normal. And nothing that I couldn’t correct in Photoshop.

So I guess that future Zeiss ZM lenses will work perfectly on film bodies, Leica M bodies ànd fullframe mirrorless bodies – from Sony and other brands to follow.
And I’m very much looking forward for future new products in their new lines, Otus and surely Loxia. I’ve been having a soft spot for Zeiss for about 50 years now. I think this spot is only going to further grow in the years to come… :-)

Pic 15. ZM 1.4/35, f/1.4, 1/25, ISO100. A clearly more explicit bokeh than with the Loxia 2/35, but also more fringing (as well as vignetting, which this pic doesn’t show clearly) – though nothing that can’t be corrected, I guess.

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Pic 16. Defringed crop. I thought, since the shot was not really OK, it wouldn’t be fair to show the fringing. So I corrected it in Photoshop for this crop.

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Epilogue

IMO, the Loxia line, once it’s to be completed as yet, will definitely turn the A7x series into today’s superior compact system for manual shooting, offering a more modern concept than Leica. I can truly say that I don’t dream of Leica anymore. This Sony/Zeiss FE-system really is more desirable to me than the Leica M-system – outperforming it (again IMO) and… reasonably priced! My personal dream of today: owning both the A7r (for resolution) and A7s (for ISO) with a complete set of Loxias. But what I expect (of course I can’t be absolutely sure about it) is a future Sony sensor that will combine resolution and high ISO. I’m sure it will happen, maybe in some years time, but probably earlier than I expect. And it will be mounted in an FE-mount Alpha body! Thàt will be my next camera…

Dirk De Paepe

B&H Photo sells the Loxia lenses HERE, the OTUS is HERE and the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM is HERE

Sep 262014
 

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A quick 1st look video on the Petzval Art Lens!

Received this gem yesterday from Cameraquest.com and upon opening the package I was surprised at the quality of the packaging, and then the gorgeous hefty all brass lens inside. For me, at $600, this lens is priced JUST RIGHT as you are getting not only a unique lens for those times when you want that classic look and wild bokeh, but you are also getting a piece of art in the lens itself, which is a huge conversation starter. Go out shooting with it and you will be stopped throughout the day asking what you are shooting with.

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Besides being an 85mm f.2.2 lens, it is a classic formula and will give you a classic look. The original Petzval lens was created by Joseph Petzval and this one is sort of a replica though not quite the same of course. Even so, this lens will give you some crazy unique portraits with bokeh that is out of this world. My full review will be up within 2-3 weeks but for now, check out my 1st look video below! I will state that it is easy to focus using focus peaking on my Sony A7s, no issues at all, and quite easy to nail/hit focus.

You can order this unique lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. 

Sep 252014
 

Three quick test shots from the Petzval Lens on the Sony A7s

Received the gorgeous Petzval lens today and was expecting it to be soft and low contrast. Hmmm. Not on the Sony A7s. This is a crazy lens and reminds me a ton of the Canon Dream Lens I just re-visited. Like, a lot. This is a GOOD thing. Really good. With just four quick test shots I know it will deliver that dreamy artsy look that I love on some occasions, and the best part is that it is so easy to use and focus on the Sony A7s. A breeze to focus. I am using the Nikon mount version with an adapter for use on the Sony and it is a joy to use. I will be doing a full review of this lens in the next two weeks but for now, due to about 10 requests via email, I will post the 4-5 test shots I snapped in my yard today. This will give you an idea of how it renders an image. VERY classic, VERY dreamy, VERY intense. It is an 85mm f/2.2 lens and based/re-created from the 1839 version of the lens. This lens was considered the 1st successful portrait lens back then and now it has been recreated and it offers up the same look and swirly bokeh as the original.

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FULL review soon. Will be shooting in Vegas with this guy, the Leica X and more next week. I have to say…this A7s from Sony is such an amazing camera capable of using so many lenses and with its low light and full frame abilities, it may just very well be my favorite camera. I am able to shoot the well corrected and modern Sony/Zeiss lenses, manual Leica M mount lenses, old screw mount classics and so many more including this unique Petzval lens. I would NOT want to use this lens on a DSLR, the mounts they made it for..would be too hard to focus. With the A7s’s large EVF it is easy to nail focus using the peaking (which is how these were all shot).

This one came to me from CameraQuest.com as they are now a Lomo dealer, and they have this lens in stock at $599. From its unique packaging, styling, design, heft, and rendering of course.

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Sep 252014
 

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The New Upgraded Wotancraft Scout and Ranger bags 2014

“With signature elements of rugged authentic leather and distressed hardware,
new City Explorer integrated WotanCraft’s latest developed exclusive “WAL canvas spec.1.6”
a composite waxed fabric material never seen in camera bag creations,
combining 3 crucial features of a protective bag:

WATERPROOF, ABRASION-RESISTANT, LIGHTWEIGHT”

Hey guys! I have a new video review of two new upgraded bags from Wotancraft, the new SCOUT & RANGER bags from their City Explorer line. If you remember my last Wotancraft review it was for the Ryker, which is my #1 fave every day bag ever. I use it every day and it has been with me everywhere, been rained on, been in the swamps and has been sitting in the 110 degree heat in the AZ desert. It is only getting better and better. The only issue with the Ryker is that it is too small for traveling and carrying larger things like camera gear, laptop, chargers, etc.

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The new 2014 Ranger AND Scout have a new material that is 50% lighter, waterproof and abrasion proof. They are attractive, feel great on and look great as well. THEY LOOK RUGGED and feel rugged. They are not as fancy as the Leather Ryker but they are just as beautiful and many will prefer this look over the Ryker for their personal use.

The entire City Explorer line has received the new material treatment, which is pretty fantastic.

Check out my look at these two bags in my video review below:

When the Ranger arrived to me I was VERY impressed. The bag arrived in a nice cloth outer bag to protect it and WOW..the construction is just off the charts. The hardware, the function, the features and the style..love it all. After the Ryker I became a huge Wotancraft fan. After the Ranger and Scout, I am even more of a fan. I also started to check out the other goods they sell and am impressed with what I see on their website as they have some pretty cool and beautiful accessories, even watch straps!

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For traveling the Ranger will be a good bag to choose. For every day, the Ryker or Scout is the one for me. 

You can read much more and see more and order these bags over at Wotancraft by using the direct link HERE

  

Sep 232014
 

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Jupiter 8: A cheap and lovely character lens for your Leica M or Sony A7 camera

The best $30 I have ever spent? This old, beat up, tiny 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8 Russian lens. Yes, I bought this lens on the cheap locally here in Phx AZ along with a Jupiter 9, which is an 85mm f/2 for $70 or so (though the 9 is a tad off with focusing on my M). I never owned a Jupiter though they have been around forever and what has kept me away from them is the fact that many say they are not very good lenses, will not focus correctly or are just plain cheap in construction. Well, taking all of that in to consideration I decided that $30 would be a no brainer way to test out the Jupiter 8 and I am glad I did as this is truly a “no guilt and no buyers remorse” lens. For $30, it could easily be resold if I did not like it, but again, at this kind of money, this lens will always be in my kit for when I want the character of this lens. I am a huge fan of classic Rangefinder lenses and many of them are better to me than modern-day pricey lenses.

Shot wide open at f/2 on the Sony A7s with the only purpose being to show the Bokeh. This was shot up at some trees and defocused

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I have always seen these lenses for sale on E-Bay for pretty cheap prices but samples online that show the softness, low contrast and strange rendering put me off on the Jupiter 8. While I am looking around for a decent Jupiter 3 now, the 8 has actually surprised me with just how sharp it can be, even at f/2. In addition, it has that classic Zeiss Sonnar rendering that I recognize. I will say though that an article on this very website is what really had me really wanting to give these lenses a shot. You can see that article HERE.

At f/2 focusing correctly on the Leica Monochrom. Yes, this lens focuses great on my MM. Click the image to see just how sharp it is, you may be amazed that a cheap lens such as this one can do this!

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…and it works just as well on the A7s, even for B&W :)

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Dreamy, Creamy and Classic

Basically what this lens will deliver is nothing like what a Leica Summicron or Summilux will bring you. I have talked any times about lenses being like the artist’s brush. Choosing a specific lens will help you create the vision you are looking for whether that is in the form of a Leica Noctilux, Canon Dream Lens, or a Zeiss 50 Planar. This Jupiter 8 reminds me most of the Zeiss 50 Sonnar but for 1/30th the price! While not as nice as the Zeiss in build, feel, or IQ, it has something unique about it that I can enjoy from time  to time. IN color on the Sony A7s it is gorgeous (for me) even though the Bokeh is a teeny bit nervous at times. Other times it is silky smooth.

These three test shots were taken to show the rendering and bokeh and color. All on the fantastic A7s. Click them for larger and better viewing experience! 

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Portraits

Some people use this lens for portraits due to its softer look when wide open (when compared to critically sharp lenses like a 50 Summicron or APO or 90 APO) and I tested it and found it to be lovely. The lens does feel cheap in construction but it has lasted this long so I assume to will last me many more years to come. At this price, the Jupiter 8 is a bargain of massive proportions. A fun lens to have around and mess with when you want a classic creamy look.

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So for anyone who wants to try out a new lens but you do not want to put a dent in your wallet, give a Jupiter 8 lens a try. It may surprise you. Many say that when being used on a Leica M that the lens may need shims to get it to focus correctly. My copy did not need this but I guess some do. It is a small, light, oddball lens but it works nicely for some applications. I will be using it again and again, and for Sony A7 shooters, using this lens with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter, it is lovely and a breeze to focus.

Highly recommended!

Steve

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)

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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!

Sep 222014
 

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Shooting Atlas Shrugged Part 3 Behind The Scenes with the Sony A7 and Voigtlander lenses

By Judd Weiss

Great to be back here again so soon! I was very encouraged by the reaction to my Ephemerisle 2014 photos I shared in a guest post last week , so I asked Steve if he wanted another set of photos from me for another guest post, and fortunately he said YES! I’m a long time fanboy of this site, so that’s cool with me :)

Now for something completely different from that last set. And I’m sure there’s some people out there that might find this controversial. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Atlas Shrugged and the author Ayn Rand. So when I was asked to shoot the Behind The Scenes photos for the 3rd Atlas Shrugged movie, I don’t think I let the Associate Producer finish his sentence before I jumped all over this. It’s not just that I’m a fan, but the idea of having real production value and professional actors to capture was so exciting. I’ve been extremely prolific, and I’ve moved very fast, but I’m still relatively new to photography.

When I picked up a Sony NEX-3 four years ago, I first treated it more like a much better quality point and shoot. I had NO IDEA a few years later I would be asked to shoot all these events around the country, and now BTS photos for a movie that will come to theaters and bring my photos to a much bigger audience… wow. Behind The Scenes photos are usually boring, so I was determined to create memorable pieces at the best of my ability. I had earlier gained some notoriety for my event and conference photos. There’s now probably around 10,000 Facebook profile photos of mine floating out there, being used by people for all sorts of other purposes too, from Match.com to Speaker Bios to Wikipedia to Book Jackets. And now the Associate Producer is telling me “I want Judd Weiss photos. Can you deliver us Judd Weiss photos?”. Hell the fuck yeah! The pressure was on. Fortunately production was starting the following week in LA, so I didn’t have to wait too long to jump in.

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Thank god Sony just released their earth shattering full frame mirrorless A7 right before filming started in January this year. I had been shooting on smaller sensor APS-C NEX cameras before, and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the full frame mirrorless, following any shred of rumor and news story for the previous 2 years. I knew I needed to move to a full frame setup in order to take my photos to the next level, and the A7 did not disappoint! I had never shot photos of this quality before, and my love for the camera rose along with the excitement from the production team for the quality of photos I was delivering them. I was determined to push past my limits, and over deliver, but I didn’t expect to rise to this level. The producers were ecstatic about the quality of photos I delivered. I was later told by one of the producers that my photos are a blessing and a curse, they’re helping the marketing generate interest and credibility in the film, but there’s no scene of the movie that looks as good as these photos. I really wish I could say I’m in love with how the final movie turned out, but unfortunately I’m not in love with it. But I do love my photos. In January I still had plenty of room to grow, but these photos were a massive leap of a milestone for me. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.

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And it might not be a good idea to reveal an on set skirmish I dealt with, but I’m going to anyway. There’s an interesting story I want to tell you guys. So, I live in Los Angeles but I’m not in the movie scene, and I’m definitely not union, the producers just liked my photos from other events and asked me to shoot this. If you know anything about Ayn Rand, it’s incredibly ironic that this was actually a union production, and there was a union photographer, and she was EXTREMELY territorial, and saw to it that I not be allowed near the filming. Which is bullshit because I’m not a wild life photographer. Far away crowd shots are fine, but limiting me to only that is intolerable, after I just blocked out 4 weeks of my life to do this.

I was excited and eagerly waiting to get started, only to arrive and sit on the bench off the field. What’s worse is the union photographer treated the job like any other union laborer, and despite her top of the line Canon gear, her photos were unbelievable worse than a 7 year old with a point and shoot. Out of focus, not properly exposed, her photos were unusable. But after a week on set my photos were REALLY impressing the producers; even though I was severely held back. The producers didn’t want a fight with the union that could shut down production, so they let it be, until I almost resigned after almost a week.

I don’t have a problem with the other photographer, she can do whatever she likes, additional coverage is a good thing, but just don’t get in my way, for stupid petty reasons, that’s crossing the line. So the producers ended up deciding to give her every penny in her contract and told her not to come back to the set. She was happy because she could sleep at home and get paid for the entire month of production filming. And I was happy because starting the 2nd week, the quality of my photos sky rocketed when I wasn’t held back any longer. Clearly that meant they wanted me there. The producers paid for 2 photographers just have me uninterrupted as the sole photographer on set. And most of these photos would not exist if the producers did not take that bold move on my behalf against a very entitled protective obstructive union worker. I’ll always be grateful for that.

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Pretty much every single photo was shot with a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2; I used a Voigtlander 21mm f1.8 for some wide shots. I bought both lenses from Stephen Gandy at Camera Quest a few days into the production. The first couple days I was using a friend’s Canon 50mm f1.2 with a Metabones adapter. The Canon lens takes some beautiful photos, but I was much happier when I started using the Voigtlanders because they’re much smaller (than the SLR lens, but pretty big for rangefinder lenses) and because I just LOVE true manual lenses with focus peaking on the A7. I have never used the autofocus function on the camera, and I never plan to. Because of focus peaking I’m now faster with manual lenses than most are with autofocus. Especially with a true manual lens. I love the control you get from really feeling the lens elements move directly with the turn of your wrist, instead of focus by wire from electronic signals in an autofocus lens operating in manual mode.

And when you have lots of moving pieces around you that you’re trying to capture, it’s SO MUCH easier to compose the scene and surgically adjust the focus as people move, rather than autofocus on a subject then recompose, and refocus if anything moves, then try to recompose again, and then repeat again if anything moves again… screw that. The difference is night and day for usability. Personally I don’t ever want to use autofocus again. Autofocus is a downgrade for me. It definitely takes a little bit of practice, but if only most photographers could discover how much more usable manual focus is when you’ve got focus peaking, there would be more attention devoted to creating more compact fast manual lenses for us to drool over.

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Also, the Sony A7 was a HUGE talking point on set. EVERYONE wanted to see it. EVERYONE used Canon for EVERYTHING! Who’s this kid causing all this damage with the Sony? And I would tell each of them to sell all of their SLR gear and all their SLR lenses; unless you just like to keep vinyl records and 80s cell phones, mirrorless is the future!

I’m still growing as a photographer, and I’ll keep moving along my path. I hope you like some of these shots I took back in January. I welcome any and all constructive feedback. Thank you for your attention.

Full album and original post can be found on my blog here.

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss)

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Sep 212014
 

A Quick Look (with samples) at the new Voigtlander 15 4.5 II VM Lens by Foto Ingo

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From the Specs Sheet : Super Wide Heliar 15mm F4,5 VM II aspherical Here we proudly present a completely new ultra wide-angle lens.

Current high-resolution digital cameras are demanding and so they often need a new lens construction to satisfy those megapixels in regard to sharpness, detail, colour and so on. A lot less colour-shift in the corners even (when combined with really high resolution) and better contrast, especially when using the widest aperture, are the main differences between the current and the NEW Heliar 15mm.

The NEW 15mm Heliar consists of 11 elements in nine groups.

Hello Everyone!

I’m a long term reader of Steve’s Site and it wasn’t until “The Criuse” 2012 that I was to meet him, his beautiful fiancée Debby and some other interesting people… It was an awesome trip for sure. So many friendships were born back then. But back to the present (or future??).

Right now I use a Sony A7 and an A6000 with various manual lenses (and some Sony lenses) and I’m  kind of happy with everything… Except for the fact that there was no small “rangefinder like” wide angle available for the A7/A7r series. Today I visited Photokina in Cologne (1 hour drive from where I live) and had the chance to check out the new Voigtlander 15mm for M-Mount II !! I was really happy that I had my A7 and my Leica M to NEX with me when I heard that I could use it on my own camera and take pictures with it!  (Delivery should start in February 2015!!!)

So, I thought I would give my findings to Steve and all lovers of the A7 series.

Summary: I could see no or maybe a REALLY small amount of color cast in the corners ! (maybe it was only a tiny bit of vignette?) I could see no or maybe a REALLY tiny bit of vignette ! The sharpness is nice and NOT much mush in the corners ! I sold my 15mm M39 only 1 week before so I can tell you, that the differences are HUGE ! I will preorder it for my A7 the day it becomes available ! (depending on the price of course) No word on the price so far, but I ́m really looking forward to February 2015 and not only because I have my birthday there… ;-) Thx everyone and good night.

Ingo Schäder www.Fotoingo.com

Quick Samples below:

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Sep 192014
 

New Reviews on the Way! Leica X, Zeiss Touit 50 2.8, IBELUX 40mm f/0.85, more!

 

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Next week I should have a few new items in my hands for review. First up, the Leica X with the new 23 1.7 Summiulux ASPH lens. The X many of us have been asking for (though without the integrated EVF that we BEG for) with the faster glass and stunning Leica looks. How will it hold up? From early reports and images I think the image quality will be just as it always has been, pure Leica. Even the X1 and X2 have the Leica signature, so this one will have even more of it I think due to the lens. I will so a 1st look report as soon as it arrives to me.

Also coming in next week is the Zeiss Touit 50 2.8 for the E mount system as well as the Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 for the APS-C E-Mount system. Two lenses I am happy to test on my Sony A6000 as they are APS-C lenses.

The Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 for APS-C Sony E-Mount. What a killer lens for the Sony A6000! Click here to see more at B&H Photo on this lens. 

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Finally, the Lytro Illum is coming and that should be VERY interesting indeed. I reviewed the original LYTRO long ago HERE and was not a fan. I am hearing the new Illum is pretty good, but IMO, will still be very limited. Nice to see them pushing the technology though. Will report with a 1st look next week.

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I want to wish everyone here a happy weekend and be safe, be happy and get out there and shoot!

Sep 192014
 

The Greek Holidays with a Fuji X100s

By Joao Marques

My name is João Marques i`m an amateur photographer living in Lisbon and i would like to tell about my experience, this holidays, in choosing which camera to take.

So this year my vacations were on the beautiful greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos. When i was making my bag i had a hard decision to make, wich gear should I take? My options were carrying my heavyweight equipment: canon5d2+zeiss 21 2.8+sigma 35 1.4+ canon 70-200 2.8 IS II+manfrotto tripod+ lee filter set. Or go with my every day camera, the small, beautiful and excellent Fuji X100s. Since I had to take 7 flights in total, the choice was pretty easy, those were not a “photographic” vacations, my plan was to relax and bathing on the warmer mediterranean waters.

I chose only to take the Fuji.

Let me say now that I made the right choice, this small camera is the ideal tool for an uncompromised work with a good image quality in a very light package, instead of carrying KGs of equipment and being worried all the time of being robbed in the hotels, the 500gr of the Fuji let me use it all the (at the beach, night, etc). Another reason that everyone has already talked about, is the casual look that you have when you photograph with one of this beauties on your hand, it’s completely different when you approach someone with heavyweight cameras and lens, people tend to be intimidated with that kind of equipment.

There were a few times that I missed my other gear, specially in some pictures were I wished more DOF and in some sunsets, but the happiness of being free of the extra kgs, surpass every tiny feeling for the canon.

One and a very important thing, my girlfriend loved the idea of me just having the small camera at my disposal, she knew that I wouldn`t take too much time setting the tripod, filters, lens etc. It was a winning decision in every angle :)

Now for the best part the photos, when I arrived I didn`t know what I want to photograph, but one thing I was sure, I didn’t want to go for the classic postcard photographs that you see from Santorini or Mykonos, and didn`t want also to have the pressure of photographing, so I decided to go with the flow and be alert to whatever events I might encounter. I set the camera to b&w and these were the moments that I was fortune to capture.

Hope you enjoy it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/giamppiero/sets/

Wish you all the best,
João

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Sep 172014
 

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The Fuji Monochrom

By James Conley

A major impediment most new photographers face is that color is the default mode of expression. Not only are we inundated by color images in every possible medium, but digital cameras presume color as the chosen palette. The tragic fact of these defaults is that it interferes with the development of seeing subjects and places emphasis on the impossible task of trying to capture a color reality which makes little natural sense in two dimensions. The result is a great deal of frustration when the captured image doesn’t match the experience of color.

Few cameras are available that address this problem. The Leica Monochrom is one of few. The Monochrom only records in black and white, and only displays its menus and previews in black and white. It’s the gold standard for capturing black and white—after film. However, the Monochrom body alone costs about $8k. That’s a lot of money to get rid of color. There are cheaper ways.

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The cheapest way to shoot black and white, of course, is to switch to film. Using a film rangefinder is one of the fastest routes to improving the composition and content of images, and you don’t even need a darkroom if you shoot Ilford’s excellent XP2 C-41 process film.

But I’m unable to buy into a Leica Monochrom. The next best thing is the Fuji X100s. The X100s contains all the elements needed to work strictly in black and white. To wit:

• A rangefinder, with an electronic viewfinder which can be set to display only in black and white.
• A fixed lens with a 35mm field of view.
• Small and light.
• Silent. (More silent than my Leica M6.)
• Monochrome JPEG modes with yellow and red filters.

All the images in this post are JPEGs shot on the X100s.

Learning to see in black and white is the process of evaluating the luminance of an object instead of its color. Simplistically, luminance is how much light is reflected from an object. People are often surprised when converting a color image to black and white because a bright color often has more or less luminance than expected and doesn’t appear as one would expect. Through the practice of reviewing the monochrome images you make, you’ll develop your luminance sense and start to better anticipate how a tone will translate into black and white.

A way to speed up that process is by using a monochrome viewfinder. When set to capture monochrome JPEGs, the Fuji X100s will switch its LCD back and EVF displays to black and white. This makes evaluating the scene much easier, and will helps to quickly adapt and recognize luminance values.

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Photographers are blessed with a nearly infinite variety of camera bodies and lenses, which can be shuffled into various combinations to address very specific needs. Photographers are likewise cursed with all those options. Options are choices, and choices are decisions. Having to make decisions is an active process in the consciousness, and it leads to a lot of distraction from the subject. In discussing the thought process behind a “decisive moment,” Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

It’s a question of concentration. Concentrate, think, watch, look and, ah, like this, you are ready. But you never know the culminative point of something. So you’re shooting. You say, “Yes. Yes. Maybe. Yes.” But you shouldn’t overshoot. It’s like overeating, overdrinking. You have to eat, you have to drink. But over is too much.

Making choices about lenses is just as distracting as making choices about color. One lens is enough, and your body can be the zoom. Having to move within space and time to frame your subject makes for far better pictures than standing in one place and letting a variety of lenses do the work of seeing for you.

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The X100s’s f/2 Fujinon lens would be fantastic on any camera. Fuji has a storied history in making high-end lenses for a variety of camera makers, and Fuji glass is world-class. The X100s can use autofocus, or a very smooth manual focus. It also has an excellent macro mode.

Having a small camera means you’ll have it with you, which is the most important ingredient in making any photograph. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the more likely it will be with you. The X100s is smaller and lighter than my Leica M6.

Other than opera or a royal wedding, the best way to do things in life tend to be subtle. That’s especially true for photographers, who are dependent upon other people living their lives so that an image may be made. Unless you’re shooting in a studio, pay respect to your subject by being unobtrusive. Being silent is part of that respect, and an X100s shutter is quieter than my M6.

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Photography is about capturing a moment and then capturing the next . . . and the next . . . and the next. Spending time tweaking and playing with images is decidedly not photography—modifying an image is working with software. The goal of any tool should be to do work so you don’t have to. As my dad always advises about using a saw, “Don’t push so hard. Let the saw do the cutting.” If your camera is making you spend more time post-processing than you do taking pictures, it’s either not a good tool, or you’re pushing too hard. Since we can’t get Adobe to make decent software, however, we can use the tool better by putting the work back into the camera and let it produce quality JPEGs that we merely need to review. This not only speeds up the process of selecting good images, but it also lets you learn the capabilities of the camera just the way you would learn about the qualities of a particular film. This is vital knowledge that helps you see better when you’re out taking pictures, meaning you get better results, which sets up a lovely, positive feedback loop.

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With Fuji already announcing new X-Series cameras, ifyou don’t already have an X100s, you should be able to pick one up for a good price.

Once you get it, go to Shooting Menu 1 and select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. (Red is another option, and will result in more contrast. Start with yellow.) Scroll down to Shooting Menu 2, and change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1. This will give you a decent starting place for your JPEG’s. They should require minimal development work after you import them into a computer. (**You can set the camera to shoot both RAW and JPEG files. This is a good crutch to get you comfortable with the idea of shooting only in monochrome. However, you’ll quickly discover that the Fuji’s JPEGS are very high quality and the RAW files are just a crutch.)

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Use the EVF. It will display in black and white and get you started on seeing the world that way. (Later, you’ll be able to take advantage of the X100s’s rangefinder.)

As you’re taking pictures, keep your thumb on the Exposure Compensation dial and ride it like you stole it. You’re shooting JPEGs, so work at getting the final product the way you want while you’re shooting.

With a few camera setting tweaks, you’re off to a better world in black and white! You’ll now:

• See luminance instead of color
• See shapes, forms, and shadows
• Cut down on development
• Spend more time working on your ideas and making stories

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The purpose of taking a photograph is to capture an image which conveys your impression of an event and tells the story. The purpose is decidedly not about tweaking, playing, collaging, and otherwise twisting the image into something unnatural. So, if you want to become a better photographer, you have to practice seeing what matters. Seeing what matters happens easiest with a rangefinder shooting monochrome images. Long live the X100s. (At least until those Leica Monochrom prices come down!)

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Sep 162014
 

New Voigtlander lenses for M mount and Micro 4/3!

Pre Order Links – $100 deposit at Cameraquest:

The new 35 1.7 in Black - and in Chrome

The 40 2.8

The 15 4.5 III

and the 10.5 0.95 for M 4/3

 

Photokina is the gift that just keeps on giving. Today Voigtlander announced the new 35 1.7 Ultron lens in VM mount (Leica). This is yet ANOTHER fast 35mm option for Leica M or Sony A7 users. HOW SWEET IT IS! The cool thing is that the Voigtlander lenses are just as well made as the Zeiss lenses and offer image quality that may not equal Zeiss or Leica but is still VERY nice. Take a look at the new 35 1.7 Ultron VM, which looks similar to the amazing 50 1.5 that I reviewed a while back.

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There is also a new version of the 15mm Heliar that I love so much, the new VM Heliar 15 II. No pic yet but will have one soon. Finally, another new Leica M mount lens from Voigtlander will be the 40mm 2.8 Heliar pancake lens, a slim and gorgeous retro design. So three new Leica mount lenses from Voigtlander! Woohoo!

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In addition, there is a new Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 for Micro 4/3 which will give you a 20mm 0.95 equivalent (and yes this is a 0.95 lens and has 0.95 light gathering ability, period). This kind of puts a dent in the new SLR Magic 10mm T 2.1 by upping the ante to f/0.95.

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You can pre-order these lenses at my Voigtlander recommended dealers, CAMERAQUEST.COM. They should have them listed today. I will be reviewing these new VM lenses for sure! Not sure of pricing just yet, but Voigtlander is always reasonable.

You can also buy Voigtlander at B&H Photo HERE.

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