May 022016
 

BOKEHDREAMS

Bokeh Dreams…The Petzval 58 1.9 Bokeh Control Art Lens Review

By Steve Huff

All images here were shot with the Petzval 58 1.9 and Sony A7RII. 

I have been shooting with a lens that looks mighty familiar to me in design and looks. Brass, VERY Old School and unique in the way that you change aperture and even focus the lens. That lens is the new Petzval 58 1.9 Bokeh Control lens, and to me, it looks like a smaller version of the Lomo 85 Petzval  f/2.2 Art Lens, but this 58 1.9 is actually, IMO, a much better lens that the 85. When I was asked to review this lens I assumed it would be like a 58mm version of the 85. Soft wide open, low contrast and washed out colors.

Nope. Not only does this 58 1.9 offer me sharper images (ONLY at the focus point though), it also gives me more contrast and better colors than I remember getting from the 85 Petzval. But in addition to this, we get full Bokeh Control where we can dial it in on #1 and get a nice smooth-ish Bokeh or we can go to #7 and get swirl city.

When set on #7, this lens delivers SWIRL like I have never seen before. Click it for larger and see his face is pretty sharp, wide open shot. 

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Thanks to Joseph Petzval and his swirly Bokeh from the 1840’s we are now being able to purchase a replica of sorts, but even better as the original Petzval had ONLY massive swirl where this recreation gives us choices of Swirl Level with a focus ring type of dial on the lens barrel, allowing us to dial in what we want. Pretty cool if you ask me. When Lomography put up the kick starter for this one, they reached the $100,000 goal within FOUR HOURS. This tells me that there are plenty out there looking for something different, and this just may be the most unique lens I have ever touched, used or owned (yes, I am buying this one).

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Truth be told, these types of lenses are usually very gimmicky, and this one is no exception. Even so, I LOVE this lens and can not bring myself to let go of it when I am done with my review time (which is why I am purchasing my demo model) as to me, it sort of reminds me of another lens I adore, the old Canon RF Dream Lens (See my review here, and 2nd look here). While not the same, both of these lenses offer something that I like to pull out of my hat from time to time, and that is 100% UNIQUE rendering that not many of us use, or see often in everyday photos.

The 58 1.9 comes in a fantastic package with book, manual, pouch, Waterhouse aperture plates and a Brass cap. $749

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I have a history of shooting, testing and really liking small, prime and unique lenses. While many will ay “THAT BOKEH IS NASTY”, I say “THAT BOKEH IS UNIQUE” and in the right scenario, can look quite nice. Artistic, as I said, unique and different. I like my shots to be different from everyone else and seeing that most these days shoot with phones, a lens like this would make some of those phone shooting young ‘ens ask “HOW DID YOU DO THAT”?

Click images for better versions!

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Now of course a lens like this is not for every day use. If you did end up using this lens every day for two weeks, you would tire of the look and you would be frustrated for missing some shots, as it is 100% manual focus and that Bokeh is wild, meaning you really need your subject in the center-ish area of the frame to be in focus. Take a look at the shot below and see that one face is out of focus due to being out of the sharp area of the lens, which is dead center:

Click it for larger, swirl on 7

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Same here…swirl on 7

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So in reality, for me anyway, a lens like this is meant to be on your shelf for those days, times and moments that you want to be a tad more creative or want the swirl. Speaking of swirl, I know that many out there hate swirly bokeh, and many out there also love the effect from time to time.

THE SWIRL – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SWIRL but you CAN DIAL IT OUT! 

This lens is so cool as it gives you a choice with your Bokeh. It has seven settings  though I admit, I was using either #1 or #7. From mild to wild. Setting 1 will give you an old school smooth bokeh but you will still have a little swirl in the corners. This is not a “corner to corner” sharp lens..if you want this, grab a normal 50mm f/1.4 and stop down to f/5.6. Those seeking any kind of perfection, stay away from this one as you never know what will pop up on your LCD when shooting a lens like this. As I said, it can go from MILD to WILD.

Here you can see what I mean. On Setting 1, below, you still see extreme blur mostly at the edges. Even this is unique and delivers a very interesting look. But when turned up to 7, the swirl really shows up..

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And now on 7 – behind the lamp you can see more swirl as this will be directly behind your subject.

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You can see that this lens is doing some crazy things at each setting. It’s a wild lens but it’s also quite charming with its old school all Brass construction.

NIKON or CANON MOUNT ONLY! BUT, IT CAN BE ADAPTED TO SONY!

The Petzval 58 1.9 is made for Nikon or Canon mount. I have a Nikon mount version in Brass, and the lens also comes in a slick-looking shiny black. But I will choose brass as the 1840’s originals were all brass, from what I understand. If I am going to buy a vintage lens recreation, I want it to look like the original as much as possible. In fact, while out shooting this lens I had three people approach me to ask me what lens I was using. One guy thought it was an antique lens I somehow managed to adapt to digital. When I showed them what it was and how it worked they were very intrigued and gave a huge smile. It’s just so different from the norm that in this day and age of black zoom lenses and iPhones, the Petzval really stands out with its striking looks and design.

Image one is set to 7 for swirl, image two is set to 1 and the 3rd image may be somewhere in between..

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WHO IS THIS LENS FOR?

At $799, this is not a cheap $250 lens. It shouldn’t be as the construction all brass quality is stunning. The design is very old school and there is not any other lens like this in production. It’s worth the $799 but only to the photographer who wants to think outside the box. The person who wants DIFFERENT and UNIQUE. The guy or girl who sees the beauty in the SWIRL and the old school 1800’s Bokeh. I have seen some great work with this lens, and my experience is limited to a couple of days shooting so far but I already know I am hooked. If I sent this back to cameraquest.com I would miss it one day when I wanted this style and look.

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If you shoot with a Canon or Nikon DSLR I could see this being a little challenging to nail the focus as I never found MANUALLY focusing with a DSLR to be very good. I prefer using a good EVF for that and the Sony A7RII that I am using it on makes it able to 100% nail the focus, every time. I feel Lomography should start making these in E mount as well as they are made for it, so it seems when using it. So if you shoot Canon, Nikon or Sony, this is a lens you can shoot with. The Sony Nikon adapter I have is from Amazon and cost me $13. I use this one and it works perfect. 

I dig this lens more than the 85 Petzval (My review HERE) for its smaller size, better IQ and Bokeh Control as well as focal length which I prefer to 85. So for me, I love the new 58 and have  told Stephen Gandy he is not getting this review sample back, and to charge me for it. Yep, I bought it. Because sometimes, on some days I just want to go to dreamland with my photos and this is a lens one can grow with, learn its nuances and characters..and then, when that happens you will have a lens that will reward you with surreal beauty when you take your shot.

I mean, C’mon! Sometimes you just need to break from the norm of perfect sharpness and “create” instead of “snap”.

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WHERE TO BUY?

My lens came from CAMERAQUEST.COM. You can order it or take a closer look at it HERE. The price is $749. They are now IN STOCK and shipping!

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MORE INFO FROM CAMERAQUEST:

After Joseph Petzval introduced his iconic lens in 1840, portrait photography flourished. Now, 175 years later, it’s your turn to explore these first footsteps of photography with a handcrafted lens combining historical design and modern, yet original, Russian optics.
We’ve taken the best features of the New Petzval Art Lens to the next level: The New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens comes with an unprecedented Bokeh Control Ring paired with a versatile 58mm focal length. Together with an f/1.9 maximum aperture, these traits will let you explore new photographic paths. For the first time ever, you have total freedom over the blurred areas in your pictures thanks to the Bokeh Control Ring that lets you determine the strength of the Petzval’s swirly bokeh.

Boasting a shiny varnish black or brass body, the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens is great for all different types of photography. From captivating portraits and busy streets scenes, to impressive architecture and wide landscapes, every image showcases harmonic color saturation and fine contrasts.

Just like its predecessor–the New Petzval 85 Art Lens–the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens features a classic gear rack focusing mechanism and Waterhouse aperture plates for a truly 19th century-like photographic experience.

Compatibility:
The New Petzval 58 Art Lens comes available with Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, which means it’s immediately compatible with a whole host of analogue and digital cameras. You can also pair the New Petzval 58 Art Lens with many other analogue and digital cameras, like the Sony A7 for instance, by using adapters which can be purchased separately.

Package includes:
New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens Brass or Black
Standard Waterhouse aperture plates
Front and rear lens cap
Leather Pouch
Photo and manual book
Instruction manual
Features:
Focal Length: 58mm
Aperture: Waterhouse aperture stops, f/1.9, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16
Image Circle: 44mm
Field of View: 41 degrees
Optical Construction: 4 lens elements in 3 groups
Lens Mounting Profile: Nikon F or Canon EOS EF
Electronic Contacts: No
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.6m
Focusing Mechanism: Gear Rack Focusing
Filter Thread: 52mm
Bokeh Control Levels: 1 (minimum swirl) to 7 (maximum swirl)

May 022016
 

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The Mighty Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm Lens Review

By Bob Towery

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I recently acquired the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens to go along with my Olympus OMD-M5 Mk II kit. I didn’t start off with the idea of writing a review but as I began getting to know this lens I thought it might be a nice addition to Steve’s excellent collection of resources for us enthusiasts. (From Steve: Thank you Bob)!

As background, I have been shooting digitally since 2001, with Canon bodies and a wide array of L lenses. I have had a number of 70-200’s, as well as 300mm and 400mm L primes.

About five years ago I wanted to get into a smaller kit for travel work. Partly with the excellent information I got here on Steve’s site, I got a Leica M9 setup and used this for quite a few trips. But I do enjoy telephoto work as well, and certainly that’s not the M9’s forte. And although I became pretty proficient at both manual focusing, there are still those instances where you have one second to get a shot and it’s lucky indeed to have pre-focused accurately. I found I was only using my M9 when going street shooting.

Fast forwarding, when the Fuji XT series came out I dove in. Somehow I just never warmed up to this system. It’s AF was exceedingly poor (since improved I’m told). The camera also failed on a trip, the first time that had ever happened to me. Although Fuji did a stellar job of repairing it quickly on their dime, this unnerved me and I sold that kit off.

Knowing Steve had always been an Olympus fan, I followed those reviews, and when the OMD M5 II was released I jumped into the Oly pool. Using the Olympus kit has been very rewarding. It’s a high performing camera, with the only limit (for my use) being the noise at higher ISO’s.

THE SCENE

Living where I do on an island near Seattle, I have a lot of opportunities to shoot interesting birds like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. The Fuji would nearly always miss. So the first paces I put the Oly through were to shoot these birds, and its AF performance was excellent. This was with the 40-150mm, so fully zoomed in we are at 300mm effective. But even these large specimens of the bird world are pretty small subjects. BTW, below I’ll do a few comparison shots with both the 100-400mm and the 40-150mm.

It’s spring time right now and there are a lot of beautiful flowers to shoot here. This will be a “real world” review. Some of the images are those subjects I enjoy shooting, and some are just for the review factor.

THE MIGHTY PANASONIC-LEICA 100-400mm

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Enter the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm! Image stabilized, effective focal length (long end) of 800mm. Before we get into the pictures, I want to state that I’m not a professional reviewer, or even photographer, just an enthusiast. I know many of you would do your own tests differently than mine. My testing was around the kinds of things I like to shoot, which don’t involve test patterns. And all of these are real world, no tripods involved (well, one exception). Also, to be practical when I give a focal length, it will be what LR reports and is on the lens body, i.e. in-between 100 and 400. If you want to double the focal lengths you see given the body’s crop factor that is fine by me.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW OLYMPUS 300mm?

We all know Olympus was building and releasing their 300mm prime at about the same time. I considered this for a short time, as I prefer Olympus products and given the price of this glass, it’s going to be a fine prime performer. I’d bet my 401k that the Oly 300mm will outperform the Panasonic 100-400mm handily at the same focal length. But for me, these primes are impractical. “Zoom with your feet” really doesn’t work when say you are standing on a beach looking out, or trying to catch a flying bird. There have been times where I approached a sitting bald eagle with my full frame body and 400mm, and by the time I got close enough to make them fly away for a glorious picture, I can’t get the whole bird in the frame – too close! At an effective 600mm, I just can’t count on being the right distance from my subject. So the Oly 300mm prime is out for me.

HOW’S YOUR STABILITY?

I’m sure most readers know the camera has IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) and the lens has its own IS. Unlike a Panasonic body mated to the lens, sadly the Oly IBIS and the lens IS do not speak the same language. From my reading, and brief testing on my own, the best option is to turn IBIS off and use the lens IS, so that is what I did.

IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW

Also, Steve told me to process as I normally would. In general, this means a few tweaks in Lightroom, 90% of the time less than one minute’s work. I’ll point out below when I did no post. All images were made with the Olympus OMD M5 Mk II and the Panasonic/Leica 100-400 unless otherwise indicated. Only one shot was with a tripod. Others are hand held, sometimes with me leaning against a post. Apologies in advance if I didn’t test something as you would have. I really wanted to include some people shots, seeing how it rendered faces, even if that isn’t a practical use for the lens, but I didn’t have an opportunity to work that out.

Also, all images were exported from Lightroom using Screen/Normal sharpening. I decided to number the images, as readers often comment by number.

All right, let’s hit the road.

THE SAPSUCKER STUDY

Shortly after the lens arrived, I had a lunch planned with a friend who happens to be a great and dedicated wildlife photographer. Our lunch date was to discuss an upcoming joint trip. I had thrown the Oly and the lens in the bag, basically just to show him. He’s a Canon shooter too, no M4/3 experience.

When we got back to his home I opened the trunk and zipped open the bag. I handed it to him and we were chatting, but noticed a loud woodpecker nearby. I said, “let’s go check this out” and he said “they usually fly away once you start staring at them.”

#1 – 264mm, f/5.5, 1/2000, iso 640

Before we get to the “good shots,” I want to share this one, to show you what we were up against. (And it turned out to be a red breasted sapsucker, not a woodpecker, but they still bang away on the tree.) The sapsucker is in constant motion, including jumping from one branch to another. The tree is filled with branches both in front of and behind the bird. But notice that even in this tangled mess, with center dot focus selected, the lens focused perfectly.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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So as I began shooting, I had to move both left and right around the tree, while waiting for him to get clear.

#2 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, iso 640

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It was a pleasure to have the reach to fill the viewfinder with a bird that is just say six inches high. Here at 400mm and a distance of perhaps 20 feet, the bird and the branch are magnificently sharp.

Crop of #2

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Here is a 1:1 crop from this frame. How long is that talon, 3/8”s of an inch?

#3 – 300mm, f/8.0, 1/500, iso 640

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Moving along to bokeh, this certainly isn’t the finest I have ever seen. And I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the massive range of this lens, the f/6.3 aperture when fully zoomed, and the sub $2,000 price tag.

#3 with background smoothed in Lightroom

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However here’s what I got in about a minute in Lightroom. I used the Adjustment Brush, with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders all the way to the left. Then I went around the birdie numerous times which did a nice job of softening up the background area. I then lightened up the bird’s back just a tad. Given the fact that I’d have no shot at all with most of my other lenses, I can live with this.

As I’m getting these shots and my friend and I are viewing them on the LCD, he begins getting jumpy and then dashes into the house. He returns with his amazing Canon 200-400mm, mounted on an older 1D Mk IV. I have serious lens envy, but that kind of size just isn’t practical for me.

#4 – Iphone

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My wife got this shot of us with her iphone. Guess who can handhold longer?

#5 – Samsung S6

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Here we have King Kong on top and Cheetah below. Interestingly, my rig is both wider and longer than his, focal length speaking. His is a 1.3 crop body, thus the “widest” is 260mm. The lens has a 1.4 teleconverter built in, so with that engaged, he’s at 728mm by my calculation.

Of course I would never expect the Panasonic to compete with this Canon in IQ. However it does cost six times as much and weighs eight pounds. (My apologies, my friend didn’t get any shots that he felt like sharing, so we could compare.)

IMAGE WITHIN AN IMAGE

Over the years I have found finding new compositions within my images to be very rewarding. View your image full size, set a crop, then drag the crop around in the Navigator window. It’s surprising how often you can get an additional image or two from one of your shots. Sometimes even more compelling than your in-camera composition. But of course there is a penalty in terms of resulting image size, due to the crop. Not a big deal for blog/facebook posting, but would come into play say if you intend to print.

#6 – 100mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 400

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When I saw the scene above, my thought was that the child on the bike could be interesting. Looks like a beginner, the setting is quite nice, and so on.

#7 – 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500, iso 400

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Look what happens zooming way into the scene. The rider is nicely isolated. Bonus points for my timing of an otter jumping into the scene, what do you say? Normally I’d crop that out but it’s so unusual I left it in just for the fun factor. If I cropped that deep into the original image, there just wouldn’t be enough pixels left for much use. I believe at the time I planned to wait for the rider to get into that sunny area, but the otter surprised me so much I lost track. (I scrambled down on to the beach to try to get him too, but he was long gone.)

#8 – 141mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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When I saw this sailboat going by, I wanted to get a couple shots just to see how clearly the lens would render the lettering and sailboat details. But thinking about this “image within an image” idea I zoomed all the way in and moved the lens around the boat.

#9 – 400mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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I found this colorful and pleasing composition and grabbed a couple frames.

#10 – 400mm, f/8, 1/1250, iso 400

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This kayak was WAY far away. I would estimate 300-400 yards. The piling and bird are about half way to the kayak. Thought it would be interesting to see how the foreground would be rendered when I focused on the kayak. This is about a one quarter frame crop!

MT. RAINIER STUDY

So I’m very fortunate to have a view of Mt. Rainier from my backyard. She’s only out one out of every three to four days. There are often clouds that completely obscure her.

#11 – 70mm on a Canon FF body

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Google Earth says the summit is 60 miles from my house. I wanted to get a full frame shot at 50 mm to show you what that looks like in person. But the weather hasn’t cooperated, so here is an older image I shot at 70mm on full frame. What can we do with the Panasonic 100-400mm on a nice day?

#12 – 400mm f/9, 1/800, iso 200

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Here we are at 400mm. Handheld! Note that between our positions are Seattle’s southern suburbs, as well as the Sea-Tac airport. The sky is continually filled with jets. It takes a rare day to have completely clear air, and I didn’t have any while preparing this piece. So I believe some lack of sharpness here is because we are looking through 60 miles of air as opposed to lens performance.

#13 – 300mm f/8, 1/200, iso 200 – tripod mounted – 12 sec timer

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I took this one at 300mm as it includes an island that provides a little context. Used a polarizer to cut through the haze.

GOING BOATING

#14 – 100mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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There is a continual parade of boats in front of my place. Including ferries, commercial, military and pleasure craft. Here is one that isn’t real attractive but serves our purpose of seeing what this lens can do. This is a small boat, 30 feet at most. Above is what it looked like at 100mm.

#15 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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Full zoomed in. Keep in mind the boat is moving, I’m having to pan to keep up with it. Pretty acceptable detail.

#16 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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Google Earth tells me this buoy is 735 yards from my location (that’s more than four-thirds of a mile).

Sea lions often jump up onto the buoy and boats and other passersby stop in for a look. In this case some kayakers. Previously I have only been able to see this kind of detail with my high powered binoculars.

#17 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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As I’m shooting this, a speedboat comes along. While I can’t make out the license numbers on the bow, I can clearly read the model letters on the side. See the faded “4” on the top right of the buoy? Not bad from this distance.

#17 – crop detail

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FYI this shows the crop in the boat/buoy image.

#18 – 300mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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This boat was much closer. This is the uncropped shot at 300mm. Boat is going perhaps 20 mph; I’m panning. Everything looks good to me.

#18 – crop detail

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Take a look at this crop. Look straight down from the second zero in “2000.” There are two openings there. The one to the right is most likely a drain from an ice chest compartment. We are talking two inches wide, at the max. I’d say that’s pretty amazing detail. One can see that the dye from the canvas is leaching out and staining the hull, and this is in a shaded spot!

#19 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/640, iso 640

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Lots of small details to look at in this ferry shot. Note that these ferries really move – about 23mph. This is a bit of a crop. Full size, it is very sharp.

#20, 100mm, f/4, 1/80, iso 1600

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This shot amazes me. There had to be some luck involved with my panning here, given that I’m at 1/80th and the shot is very sharp. But look at that perfect focus, in the dark.

BUILDING STUDY

#21 – Panasonic 100-400 – 146mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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Let’s get into comparing the 100-400 vs the Olympus 40-150 PRO. I really didn’t expect the Panny to hold up well against this lens, but once again I am surprised, in a good way. These shots are about a minute apart. I’m standing in the exact same location, attempting to have the Panny at 150 but missing by a couple mm’s. I turned IBIS on for the Olympus lens. The shot is cropped just a bit to be identical.

#22 – 40-150mm Olympus Pro – 150mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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There isn’t really much between these two, is there? When I look at them full screen in Lightroom’s compare mode, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Even the tonality is remarkably similar – the building, the sky and the grass. No post on these images by the way.

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Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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What happens if we examine crops to show us more detail? Here are crops of the same two images for closer comparison.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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I can see the wording on the sign is a bit sharper with the 40-150 shot. The focus was on the center rectangle, so the building was the focus spot. Perhaps the result here would have been different had I focused on the sign? It’s a slight difference in any case.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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And here is the upper right corner, which I chose because of the tree branch.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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Once again, the 40-150 shows more definition, at least to my eye. But I don’t think there is much to complain about with the 100-400 version.

(This setting by the way is http://www.bloedelreserve.org )

FLOWER STUDIES

#23 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The wind was blowing these plants around, so the shots don’t look as identical as they could.

I focused on the center flower in both cases. I think both images are perfectly reasonable. Kind of like the bokeh on the 100-400 shot a bit better actually.

#24 – Olympus 40-150 Pro – 150mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 200

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But there is definitely more detail in the lightest part of the flower with the Oly 40-150 version.

#25 – 264mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The post for this image was +38 on Vibrance, +12 on Saturation and a touch of vignette. I didn’t mess with the background area at all. Gorgeous bokeh, I’m sure due to my distance to the blossoms, and then the distance to the background.

#26 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/1250, iso 1600

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Just a touch of Vibrance.

#27 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250, iso 640

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I came across this tuilip in someone’s yard and thought it would be interesting to see what the lens did with the very busy background. I added Vibrance as well as a graduated filter at the bottom in post, but left the background alone. Using the adjustment brush with de-Clarity would fix that right up.

#28 – 100mm / f/5.6, 1/250, iso 500

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Here is the scene, from the exact same spot, minimum focal length.

#29 – 100mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 1600

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Another shot from someone’s yard.

#30 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/1250, iso 200

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One more, just to show that a background doesn’t have to be completely blurred to add to the image.

BIRD STUDIES

#31 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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We have some spectacular birds in our area. On the larger side, we have Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. Wasn’t fortunate enough to get any Bald Eagles but Ms. Heron decided to join in the fun.

Herons are very aware. They are able to get airborne with one leap of those long legs. So they don’t fly off unless you get too close. Given their great size, in the past I have gotten some nice images with my full frame Canon and 400mm fixed, approaching very slowly.

#32 – 318mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 200

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These birds are a joy to see in flight. They are gorgeous and graceful. Unfortunately they will show their tails in nearly all shots. That is because if you approach from the side, they fly the opposite way. If you approach from the back, as I did here, no matter which way they go, you only see the back. I really need to try this from a kayak or boat.

They are also smart and often wait to fly off until you look down at your footing, back of your camera, etc. So you have a very small reaction time. To me the important thing about this shot was that I sensed the takeoff, raised the camera, framed, autofocus was instant, and I got a crystal clear shot.

There’s just no griping about autofocus with this lens.

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Here is an even better test. I was out on my deck, which is about 75’ above the water. I believe I was shooting the Harlequin ducks when all of a sudden I see movement in the sky. I instinctively raise the camera, get focus and shoot. No time to play with any settings. And we have a crystal clear shot in glorious focus.

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I was very close to this tiny bird, about 15-20 feet. This bird is perhaps 6 or 7 inches beak to tail. There was a concrete half wall between the bird and I, perhaps that is why it didn’t fly off. At 200mm on a full frame, this wouldn’t be much of a shot as the bird would be too tiny for any usage. Very impressed with the lens in this situation. The definition in the feathers seems just about perfect to my eye.

#35 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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Mallards are relatively large, but at this distance, only this sort of focal length will create any type of reasonable image. This is a crop – about one-third of the frame.

#36 – 300mm, f/8, 1/500, iso 800

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These harlequin ducks are regulars in my back yard every Winter/Spring. They are extremely shy and fly off basically as soon as they see you. I have never gotten a decent shot of them until now. This shot was taken from about 100 feet away. I’m far enough back that they don’t panic.

#37 – 318mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 500

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Having this range leads to some compositions I have never been able to consider before.

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#38 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/800, iso 320

While shooting the ducks, walking back to my house, I ran into this lizard. Pretty good size, probably 9″ long. Why not give it a try? Minimum focusing distance is 1.3 meters, which is where I was (moved a bit back and forth until I got focus lock.)

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CONCLUSION

I like this lens a great deal. I have never had this kind of reach before, and for some of the subjects I like to shoot I feel it will be invaluable. I’m very impressed that the IQ compares “quite well” to the Olympus 40-150mm. If I was going on a trip where I wanted this extra reach, I’d have no problem leaving that Oly lens at home, maybe throwing in a couple of Olympus primes for the intermediate range.

All things considered, this is an effective 800mm lens that is 6.5” long (collapsed) – a modern marvel, in my book anyway.

Would really have been nice to compare my images with my friend’s, with his Canon bazooka. Especially since his older body is also a 16mp like the OMD M5 II. But I’m not trying to get into NatGeo with my images. I especially appreciate the size/weight/value proposition of this Panasonic lens. His outings with that lens are few and far between, whereas I can bring this lens along anytime I want.

Although I didn’t show these images, for a while it appeared to me that images at 300mm were superior to those at 400mm. I did some test shots and cropped the 300mm ones to see an equivalent. Upon review, my thoughts just didn’t seem to hold up. I didn’t see any significant degradation at 400mm vs 300mm.

#39 – 400mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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If you want to be able to shoot anything moving, quick AF is a must. This lens has it. I was down by the beach having a cocktail with my wife this evening. I noticed this heron feeding. I took some shots of her wading, but really she was just too far away, even at 800mm, to make an interesting composition. Somewhere between 100 and 150 yards. I didn’t even have the camera to my eye when I sensed the movement. Quickly raised, got focus, fired. I love this artistic rendering, with the sun more or less directly behind the heron.

Of course I wish Olympus and Panasonic would cooperate such that the body-lens combo would use both IS systems. But these results are plenty good IMHO. Every single body/lens combo is a compromise in one way or another. Even a brand new Leica SL with the 90-280 zoom could not get many of the shots on this page, not being able to reach out to an effective 800mm.

#40 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 1250

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I’m closing with this one last image. First, it is my favorite image in the review. The camera and lens performed perfectly, the lighting was favorable, and Mr. Heron contorted himself into this wild position. This is a crop, it’s about 60% of the frame. Imagine the FF Body/800mm lens it would take to get a shot like this? I could own one, but it is doubtful I would be all set up with it to capture this moment.

Which brings me to my very last thought (finally! You are thinking). Had it not been for needing to go shooting for this review, I wouldn’t have a lot of these shots. As I’m quite pleased with many of them, this is a reminder to us all to get off the computer and get shooting. It’s a beautiful world, and at least for me, this lens is going to help me capture that much more of it.

Thanks Steve once again for your site. Thank you to my fellow photographers for reading and I hope this is helpful.

Apr 282016
 

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The NEW Leica M – The Leica M-D without rear LCD. Back to basics.

Looks like Leica has announced a new basic M-E style M to the Leica Rangefinder lineup! Much like they did near the end of the M9 days, releasing the M-E, which was a basic M9 at its core, it seems they did it again with this new M-D. THIS tells me that a new M will be on the way this year, end of year. Yep, that is my prediction. It’s been 3 years since the M240, the M has a 3 year life cycle, and they now released the M-D. Which is in all reality, a BASE M 240, much like the M-E was a base M9.

BUT doesn’t this sound odd? Did Leica not release the M 262 not too long ago which was a basic M240? Yep, but this time, the 5th member of the M family in production currently is without a rear LCD, much like the uber expensive M60. Instead of the rear LCD we have an ISO dial, much like on the old film cameras. THIS IS COOL, AND I NOW WANT ONE.

PRESS RELEASE BELOW but my email is in to Ken Hansen ([email protected]) to pre order this one! Pricey as always at $5995 but this one will be SWEET. 

You can also pre order at PopFlash.com

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Leica Announces Latest Addition to M System: The Leica M-D

New Leica M-D Eschews LCD Screen to Focus on Essential Features and Minimal Design
For Intuitive and Classic Handling

April 28, 2016 – Leica Camera today announced the addition of a new model to their M rangefinder system, the Leica M-D (Typ 262). Together with the Leica M and M-P (Typ 240), the Leica M (Typ 262) and the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246), this latest release from Leica marks the fifth addition to the digital family of M cameras and the first serial production model of the digital M system to be made without a monitor. The screen on the back of the camera is now replaced by the ISO sensitivity dial – a key exposure setting for any camera which harkens back to the ongoing legacy of analog Leica M rangefinders. The Leica M-D contains only the core technical features required for photography – shutter speed, aperture, focus and ISO sensitivity – allowing users to concentrate on what is most important: capturing the decisive moment.

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The technical specifications of the Leica M-D are similar to those of the Leica M (Typ 262). As with all other digital cameras in the M family, the Leica M-D (Typ 262) features a high-resolution CMOS full-frame sensor. The 24-megapixel resolution ensures exceptional image quality and extreme sensitivity to light, allowing photographers to shoot in even the most difficult lighting scenarios. The camera’s Maestro processor guarantees fast processing of captured image data and yields a camera that is responsive and always at the ready. Exposures are saved exclusively as RAW data in DNG format, enabling photographers to apply all their desired adjustments when using post-processing software. The camera is dedicated exclusively to rangefinder photography and deliberately supports neither video recording nor Live View. Leica M-D users can shoot pictures confidently knowing that they are utilizing the latest generation of Leica M camera performance, albeit with all extraneous features intentionally omitted for the most pure experience.

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Leica’s passion for minimal design is immediately recognizable in the makeup of this camera. The Leica M-D expresses a purely functional form factor, and features design characteristics such as a top plate in brass with a step at the end citing the design of the Leica M9. The omission of the Leica red dot logo or M badging on the front makes the camera even more unobtrusive when shooting and traveling. The average observer could easily mistake the Leica M-D for an analog M camera, giving the user a level of discreetness that does not often come with using a digital camera. The design philosophy of the Leica M-D gives its users the most analog experience of shooting a digital camera, and returns to the ritual of waiting to see the images until it is time to sit down and edit.

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In addition to its simple design, the hardly audible shutter of the Leica M-D guarantees maximum inconspicuousness when shooting, ideal for photographic situations where discretion is key. The camera also features a shutter cocking system that is particularly quiet in single exposure mode and enables a shutter release frequency of up to two frames per second. In continuous mode, the M-D has the same sequential shooting speed as its sister models and shoots up to three frames per second.

The Leica M-D (Typ 262), priced at $5,995 is available the first week of May at local Leica Stores, Leica Boutiques or Leica Dealers. The camera package includes a carrying strap in full-grain cowhide leather.

 

 

Apr 262016
 

Twenty Four Hours with the Leica Q

by Andrew Gemmell

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I’ve been thinking of buying a digital camera suitable for street photography recently. I’ve been using film for the past 2 years and it does grow a bit tiresome after a while and sometimes it’s just nice to be able to shoot, adjust on the run and keep going knowing you won’t be up for film processing costs!

I was fortunate enough to be offered a Leica Q to borrow for a day. The owner had a window open so I grabbed the opportunity to see what the hype was about. The first thing I noticed, even though it’s not a rangefinder it was very Leica like with intuitive and simple controls. This camera really does make the process simple. Limited menu’s and certainly less controls than most other options in this class.

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Control – ideally as photographers if we can control our shutter, aperture, ISO and focusing it’s really all we need. The Q lets you do this very easily for the first three of those and as for focus the AF was fast and hit the spot 9 out of 10 times. Granted I didn’t use this camera during the evening so couldn’t comment on performance in very low light. Having used the Monochrom in the past it was like using a rangefinder, minus the rangefinder!

Features – the macro I tried a couple of times and I could see it being a feature you could call on from time to time. The frame selector down to 35mm and then 50mm was easy to apply on the run and personally I could see myself using the 35mm though rarely the 50mm.

Lens – Can’t complain here. This lens is superb and at 28mm is ideal for street photography and to an extent broader documentary photography. I usually prefer 50mm as a focal length. I did find this lens does force you to move closer to your subject and with that think about that challenge more as you walk through the streets. In that respect I genuinely think it could really help people, like me, to bring yourself into the moment more than I have in the past. If I’m learning then that’s a good thing.

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Conclusion

All in all it’s a very nice camera. I’ve used the Leica Monochrom, the original Fuji x100, the original Olympus EM5 and on pure specs, simplicity and suitability for street this would be no.2 for me behind the original Monochrom (Though even I admit that is an apples vs oranges comparison)! It’s now “getting on” in this fast paced world, so will be very interesting to see what Leica do next with the Q. I can’t comment on the x100T (improved alot from the x100 from all reports), Ricoh GR or RX1R as direct competitors and no doubt they’d all have there own strengths and weaknesses.

All images in this post were shot with the Leica Q.

Thanks Steve and Brandon for continuing to run a great photographic reference site.

Regards

Andy

Buy the Leica Q at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash, B&H Photo or Amazon

Apr 252016
 

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Never Ending Love with Ricoh GR

by Lorenzo Moscia

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When I first purchase the Ricoh GR I never thought a camara of that size will catch me for so long time. It is almost two years now since I start to bring the Ricoh basically everywhere on my assignment trip. At first it was Cuba where I brought a Canon as well wich it was staying most of the time at home, just because that was more than a family trip than a real assignment. But right there I discover the beauty of walking all day around a city without look like a photographer and my back and knees were so happy by the end of the day.

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To begin with I was a little scared of sending Ricoh files to my agency. Would some editor buy and publish files made with a pocket camera? When I got on assignment I normally use two canon bodies (5d MkIII with a 16-352.8II and 6D with 50 1.2) sometimes I bring the little 28mm II and the 35f2.

If I m on assignment for a travel Magazine in Europe I will carry the Ricoh in a Hama pocket on my belt and I could barely take it out. But if I m doing something else like in Easter Ukraine,Thailand, Sri Lanka or Africa with ONG well I find out just using more and more the Ricoh, especially when I have some free hours in wich I m left to walk around a place with no fixer or driver. Canon stays home and I m free as a bird with Ricoh in my pocket.
After the Cuba experience I order one more battery and a wall charger.

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When I m editing even magnifying the image I cannot spot if is the Ricoh or a Canon with the 28. Colors are so great and dynamic range is even better than Canon!. Ricoh is just a bit more noisy.Of course I wont get the bokeh of the 50.1.2 or the 135 f2! When I was in Brazil for the World Cup back in 2014 my assignment was to follow the Colombian supporters for the Colombian football FEderation. My gear at that time it was two Canon bodies with 28 and 50 in a little Domke F5 XC. I was supposed to be all time on the road, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiabá and Rio. But when I get int o Rio and went back in to a Favela I regret so much to not have brought the Ricoh with me. Even if that Canon was a very light, effective combo I missed so many shots especially in some complicated streets were I dind have the balls to bring out any Canon at all.

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Bangkok, Thailand, feb 2014. Scenes durign the Chinese Lunar New Year.The political crisis in Thailand is afecting tourims as well.Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports Somsak Phurisisak recently predicted that february arrivals would fall by half to 1 million, with some hotels in the capital, Pattaya and elsewhere experiencing occupancy rates of just 30 percent. Much of that decline is thought to have come from the Chinese market after the nation warned its citizens to avoid protest sites and reconsider nonessential travel to Thailand over the popular Lunar New Year travel period.

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Kieve, Ukraine, March,11,2015. Vita diaria por las calles de Kiev.

It was the new GR, same sensor, same face,but the body-material more Anti Scratch and few improvements all around.I was happy man again. In Ukraine on the fire line of course I would use the Canon but as I walk around Mariupol with the Ricoh I felt like invisible and could catch so many shot without people even notice me. No sound it also very important. In Sri Lanka, Colombo during a assignment for a Canadian ONG I brought tow Canon, 28, 35.1.4 and 50 1.8 (the 70 dollars lens) and the Ricoh.

Ukraine, march 2015.

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Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

My task there was to photographs students in school and in their homes. 35 1.4 I bought used in Rome it was performing just great and the combination with the canon 6d body was just going to be my best assignment lens. But too good to be true after a couple of days I notice that at 1.4 lots of shots were out of focus. they look all right when I took them but once open the file in lightroom I just find out that the focus was some cm over the front. It didn’t happen once with the 50 1.2 so what was that??! 35 was back int the hotel room. And once I was in Rome send it back to canon service but the problem didn’t go away. End of love with the canon 35. But back in Sri Lanka when I was not working for the ONG I just left the Canon at the hotel and went around with the Ricoh, inside a Hama belt case and two batteries. That was haven! So my bottom line here is that I would love to find another little body with a 50 2.0 or less, something like Ricoh that could give me a bit of bokeh. And going out there and shoot some assignment with just that combination!

Take care everyone!

Lorenzo Moscia

Apr 202016
 

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The Sony 85 1.4 G Master Lens Review. A Lens full of WOW. 

You can order the Sony 85 1.4 G Master at B&H Photo or Amazon. 

My video with a look at ALL of the new Sony lenses!

 

I have had the pleasure of using the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master Lens (and the 24-70 G Master) for a few weeks now. While I have not used it every day due to other things in life keeping me busy as well, when I have used it I have been wowed each and every time.

My guess is that some of you, if not MANY of you here have pre ordered this lens. B&H Photo has had it up for pre-order for a while and some have received their 85 1.4 already if you take a look at the reviews there (some of which say this has a noisy AF motor, which I will touch on later) most are loving this lens, and some are naming it the new “Bokeh King” for its amazingly smooth and nice Bokeh.

USING THE 85 1.4 GM on an awesome night in Miami

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As for me, over the years I have used so many 85 1.4 lenses. I have always enjoyed the Canon 85 1.2 back in my DSLR days due to its uber creamy bokeh and very unique way of rendering. In fact, that lens is so unique I look at it sort of like I look at the Leica Noctilux, which is that of a specialty lens. One you do not want to use daily because of that specific look…it can get old and does BUT IT IS a legendary lens with hundreds of amazingly good reviews. The only problem with the Canon is its weight and its crazy slow AF performance. YES, the Sony is much faster to AF than the Canon 85 1.2 and it offers its very own beautiful way of rendering, one that gives even better color and sharpness wide open. While there is a huge difference in Bokeh between something like the Canon 85 1.2 and Sony 85 1.4 I feel the Sony offers a more “everyday” look to its rendering.

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In fact, the Sony does not have a certain “look” that makes it unique and oddball, instead it delivers near perfection in the 85mm focal length. It is the best 85mm lens I have ever used, period. From build to image quality, all the way around, it is a stunning lens.

Be sure to click on all images in this post to see the images how they were intended to be seen..EXIF is embedded in all.

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In fact, this Sony lens delivers amazing sharpness even at f/1.4 and the rendering is also very organic and full of life. The bokeh performance is quite nice and over the weeks of using this lens I started to really appreciate what it offers me. I shoot with an RX1RII and a Sony A7RII for most of my personal work these days, along with some Leica thrown in here and there and occasionally a Olympus when I am in a fun type of mood.

I usually use lenses like the 16-35 f/4, the 35 1.4 and the 55 1.8. In fact, I have never owned a lens longer than the 55 1.8 for the Sony. I have reviewed the 90 Macro but I am usually always a 50mm or under type of shooter. After getting this lens in for review I wondered why I stopped using an 85 or longer lens. Back when I owned my old Canon 5D (The original many years ago) I used lenses like the 85 and even 70-300 quite often, and I really used them.

On the new A6300, this lens is amazing as well. CLICK IT for much better view.

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Last week I pulled out some old had drives from my old DSLR days and was going over images. Not only was my son so so young (he is now 20) but I had tons of images with that old Canon 5D, my old Nikon D700 and tons of Leica M8 and M9 shots. I think when I moved to the Leica M system I stopped using long lenses. I shot the hell out of those Leicas and to be honest, it was the funnest time of my Photographic life. Nothing quite like a Leica M even though the cost of ownership is just too high today for most, even me, especially with solutions like we have from other manufacturers.

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But this is not a post about a Leica or Canon or Nikon. It is about Sony, and this 85 1.4 G Master lens has basically renewed my love for longer lenses. Being mainly a 35-50 guy, when I first attached this 85 to my A7RII I was like “WOAH! This lens is too long”.. then after a few shots I was getting used to stepping back more than normal and even grabbing shots of things that would normally be out of reach with my 35 or 50..

Click the image below to see the full size crop

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With this lens, the magic happens when you shoot it wide open to f/2.8 or so, and it is just made for portraits. The Bokeh is smooth and rich, the color pops and the sharpness is as  good as it gets in a lens of this type. You will not be wanting for sharper images.

Subject isolation is always something you get with a lens of this type. When shooting at 85mm, at 1.4, your subject should be clearly defined and the area around your subject should be creamy, dreamy and beautiful. This may be why some are calling it the new “Bokeh King” as its bokeh is never offending, ever. Instead it is smooth, creamy and delicious. Sony’s engineers really delivered the goods in the IQ department with this lens (and the 24-70 G master).

Wide open f/1.4 goodness. Look at the amazing Bokeh. 

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At the end of the day, it is a great time to be a Sony A7 shooter. The cameras are fantastic and there is nothing they can not do for me and my style of shooting. There are now tons of lenses available and even the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 are fantastic. In fact, there is only one stinker of a lens I have found in the entire Sony lineup, and that is older the 24-70 f/4 Zeiss/Sony lens. I have had that lens for review for months and just can not grow to like it, thus I never reviewed it. I find it flat, dull and soft. So there is my review of the old 24-70 f/4!

BTW, the NEW G Master 24-70 is in the same vein as this 85 1.4 though, and it is gorgeous. I will have a new post on the new G Master 24-70 soon (but see my old post with samples here) – IT IS without question the best 24-70 I have ever used, and I have used quite a few, all of the big names.

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Is this lens NOISY and SLOW and HUGE? 

I see a few stating  this lens has noisy AF and is slow. In my use of this lens in all kinds of light, I have never found it noisy or slow. When I plop and 85 1.4 of any make to any camera I never expect blazing performance like I would get with a wider angle lens. Mostly all 85 1.4 lenses of any make are not blazing AF performers. Most are quick and fast and there has been only one 85 I consider SLOW and cumbersome, and that is the Canon 85 1.2, but even with those weaknesses it is well worth it for the IQ and rendering.

The Sony G Master is in the same class as most other fast 85’s and I have no issues with the copy I have here. No noise, no slow AF. In fact, it is the best 85 I have ever shot with when it comes to build, feel and image quality.

As for the lens being huge, well, it is. It’s bigger than the Nikon 85 1.4 but smaller and lighter than the Canon 85 1.2. 

SONY 85 1.4 G MASTER – 3.52 X 4.23 – 1.8lbs 

CANON 85 1.2 – 3.6 X 3.3 – 2.26lbs (Largest/Heaviest)

NIKON 85 1.4 – 3.4X3.3 – 1.3lb (Smallest/Lightest)

So there you go, the Sony is lighter (though not really smaller) than the Canon by nearly a 1/2 lb. The Nikon is smaller and lighter than the Sony by 1/2 lb! This means the Nikon is 1 lb lighter than the Canon, HOLY COW! I have used all three of these and for my tastes the Sony wins on build and feel but the Nikon wins the size dept, and one would expect the Nikon size on a Sony mirrorless system but this is not the case.

That leads to the biggest argument I see online AGAINST this new Sony. It’s massive size. When the lenses were announced I could not make the New York event as I had injured my leg a week prior, so I asked my good friend Amy Medina to cover it for me as she was local to NY and she is crazy passionate about photography and cameras. Check her Facebook out HERE as she has been running her picture a day series now FOREVER!

When Amy came back she told me “MAN, that lens is HUGE”! She was referring to the 85 1.4. She said it looked great but the size… this made ME nervous as I am not fan of large bulky lenses for daily use. It was soon after that I went to Miami to see and use the lens in the flesh. When I saw it I said…”yep, that is huge”. But once I started using it, on the smaller A7RII body it seemed like a good fit, if not a tad large.

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This lens performed shot after shot..no matter the light. Good, dim, dark. While the AF struggled in very low light, it did not struggle in decent light. It always locked on and nailed the focus which is good as the old days of Sony cameras (very early days of their 1st mirrorless) the focus was slow, dodgy and all over the place. It is amazing how fast they have grown their cameras and lenses. Amazing actually.

After a few weeks of use, I will say that this lens offers the user something very special. If you love the 85 1.4 way of shooting and you own a Sony A7 series camera then you MUST MUST MUST check this lens out, even if you just take a look at a shop or rent it. Yes, you will think it is large and heavy but after using it, you will realize that it was worth it.

If Sony compromised on size, it would NOT deliver as good of IQ, color or contrast or sharpness. It just would not.

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Sony Went for Ultimate Quality

In the G master lineup, Sony went for QUALITY above all else. Above size, above cost and above anything else. The G master series of lenses are designed to represent the best of the best from Sony. It is not designed to represent the smallness of mirrorless. If you want small, there are plenty of small lenses to be found..the 35 2.8, the 55 1.8, the 50 1.8, the 24-70 f/4 and many more. There are also tons of third party lens options from Voigtlander and others that can be used on the Sony system if you want small.

I see this 85 1.4 for the pros, enthusiasts and all who have that crazy passion for photography. Pros can use it for wedding work and I am confident that this lens will deliver amazing results for that kind of work. Portraits – studio or natural light..this lens will work magic. For the enthusiast, this lens will deliver all you could ask for  – your family shots, vacations, artistic..this lens is only limited by YOUR vision.

I personally have found no weakness with this lens besides it larger size. But than again, without the size this kind of quality would not be here and at the end of the day, this is still much smaller than shooting a D800 and 85 1.4 vs the A7RII and 85 1.4. It is also much smaller than a 5D and 85 1.2. The lens may be the same size as the DSLR fast 85’s but this 85 is for me, the best performer of the lot, and the body that it will attach to is quite a bit smaller than either of those DSLR’s, so yes, it will still be smaller and lighter and the lens barrel is so fat it is easy to hold in your hand as you carry around your camera. .

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Some Details

Take a look at these by clicking them to see the 100% crops..

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The Bottom Line

In 2016 we are in a crazy world. Cameras have seemed to reach ultimate quality where over the past 10 years it seems camera companies were scrambling to keep up with the tech by releasing new bodies every few months. Today, a few of those companies seem to be absent now from the camera world and for the big players it seems to be down to Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus and even Leica.

Sony is pushing ahead and putting crazy resources into their digital imaging division and it has paid off. Today when I talk to my photo friends on social media, most are using Sony and the rest are using a mix of Fuji, Olympus and Leica. It is rare I see a D800 or 5D in use in the real world as well. When out shooting I see loads of mirrorless and of course smartphones but DSLR’s seems to be dwindling compared to what it was just 5-6 years ago.

Mirrorless cam offers us TINY (Think Olympus or even the Pentax Q) or it can offer us more serious and small (Leica M). It can offer us unique sensors (Fuji) and fun and it can also be quite serious with full frame options and loads of lenses (Sony). We have choices and we can go as small as we want and as large as we want.

If you chose Sony for your camera of choice, and made the full frame choice or even the A6300 which is a remarkable APS-C camera, you owe it to yourself to check out this 85 1.4 if you are a fan of fast primes or are a wedding pro, portrait pro or just a passionate enthusiast like me. I just can not see this lens disappointing anyone. Just be sure your wallet is loaded as this lens will set you back $1800. Around the same price range as the competitors..this is just what it costs for that step above in quality.

The Sony 85 1.4 G Master is the real deal. Sony did it again.

ORDER

You can order it at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE. Two of my highest recommended Sony dealers. PRICE IS $1798.00

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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 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 182016
 

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PIMP YOUR SONY RX1 MKII with these awesome accessories!

I have to say, I love my Sony RX1R MKII. I loved the original, then the R and now the MKII is what I feel is the smallest body on the market with the most serious IQ and capabilities, IF 35mm is your thing. In other words, there is no camera that is this size or smaller that packs this kind of IQ, low light and full on potential. The Sony RX1 series has sort of a cult following as the ones who own it and use it seem  to truly adore it, and those who never did bond with it just sold them. But no matter how you look at it, the RX1R MKII, or any of the RX1 series of cameras can produce stunning results in the right hands.

I often get asked “what strap do you use” or “what bag was that in your last video” or “hey, what shutter release is that” or even “what grip are you using”. I get these questions very often, and this post is going to tell all of you exactly what I did to my Sony RX1R II to make it my own, and make it much more comfy to use.

I will show you two grips I love and recommend, the best soft release I have found to date (for ANY camera), the sun shade I chose for my RX1RII that is much more affordable than the Sony version as well as what strap I use when I use one on this camera. Usually though, I have it in a small bag and without a strap.

First, check out the video to see it all

Then, below, , check out these two grips for the RX1R Mark II (NOTE: These will NOT fit the old Mark I versions as the MKII body has changed ever so slightly)

FROM METRO-CASE.COM 

This for fitting sleek and functional grip is quite nice. When I attached it to my RX1RII I was pleased with the design, looks, the way it keeps me from pressing the video/movie button and the fact that it is compatible with ARCA SWISS style plates. It also adds a nice grip to the camera while looking like it fits in with the design of the Sony itself. It has a solid feel and construction and for most, this would be the perfect grip. Click the stats below to see more or order. Price is $89 direct at METRO-CASE.COM

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FROM J.B. DESIGNS

I LOVE LOVE LOVE JB Grips! The wooden materials and nice design mean my cameras always look unique and cool when a JB Grip is rocking it. While this look is not for everyone (some will prefer the sleek design above from METRO-CASE, but some will also prefer this all natural wood look as it really gives off a nice vibe and makes the camera look a bit old school, a bit different and it feels great in the hand. I love this grip because of the look, design and the way it feels on the hand. It is easy to remove, lets me have full access to memory and battery and can mount on a tripod. This JB Grip is $85 and available at AMAZON HERE!

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LENS HOOD

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I looked for a nice lens hood for my RX1RII and ended up buying THIS ONE from Fotodiox on Amazon. It is all metal, is squared off and looks perfect on the camera. Not much else to say about this as its a lens hood but it does the job, looks great, is all metal and while not dirt cheap, it is well worth the cost. You can see it at Amazon HERE.

SHUTTER RELEASE – Best release I have ever found!

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WOW! I stopped buying shutter soft releases quite a while ago. WHY? They always fell off. The screw in models fell off almost daily, and they would be lost forever. Then there were even some stick ons that would always fall off as well. I gave up. UNTIL NOW. Check these out guys and see me attach one to my Sony A7RII in the video above. These come in all sizes and all shapes and are attractive with a clean design. You can go with concave or convex and 10mm or 13mm. All kinds of colors to choose from and they are not expensive coming in at $9-$15

Check them out HERE.

STRAPS?

I have to say, I do not use a NECK strap with my RX1RII often, but when I do it is this one. I always love smaller leather straps, and this one is affordable and nice ;)

 but I do use this WRIST strap from LV Designs more often.

BATTERIES – SPARES and EXTRAS

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I must have 12 batteries for the RX1/RX100’s around here but most of them are cheap spares I bought from Amazon, along with a cheap dual charger that works amazingly well. The batteries can be found cheap HERE (Two for $12) and the charger I use is HERE Highly recommended! 

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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 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 142016
 

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IN USE: The Leica T and the new 35 1.4 Summilux T Lens!

THIS IS AN “IN-USE” REPORT – Giving my thoughts after a week or so of use. Shorter than a full review, with plenty of image samples. Click ’em for larger! 

Hello to all of you here! It’s another beautiful day (90 degrees in sunny Phx AZ in mid April) and here I am looking at one hell of a gorgeous lens today. Now, I will admit up front that the Leica T camera is lagging today when it is compared to its competition, it just is and this is a fact. Yep, it is slower than most, not good for moving subjects as its C-AF is sluggo, it has a lag after every shot and will not give you cutting edge low light or high ISO shots that can compete with the newer cameras today (that are less expensive than the T), but then again, neither does a Leica M but it still has its charms and has many buying it at $6-7k, it’s the Leica way after all. We buy with our heart, at least I always have.

As for the Leica T, I expect that a new T model would be in the works by now, but who knows. Maybe, maybe not.

EVEN with that bit of info, and even though the T is not great at high speed, high ISO, or 2016 functionality (no built in EVF, no tilt LCD) when compared to newer APS-C offerings, it does one thing better than all of those other APS-C competitors and with this lens, even more so.

IMAGE QUALITY!

With the new 35 1.4 Summilux T lens, the T has some new life breathed into it as this lens is a stunner, even outperforming the M version (if it were to be used on the T) and that is saying A LOT. This new lens for the T system is gorgeous, and can also be used on the new Leica SL in crop mode. THIS IS an APS-C lens as is the T itself but it has the traditional Leica build, feel and performance.

YOU MUST CLICK ON ALL IMAGES HERE to see them the way they were meant to be seen! The 35 1.4 for the T has a beautiful way of rendering. 

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I was actually VERY curious about this lens and wondered if it would be worth a look so when Leica asked if I wanted to give it a try, I could not resist! I am glad I did as I really enjoyed using it, and it had me, at times, wondering if it was worth it for me to own just to use on the SL as I do not own a T and have no plans to buy one at this point in time. With a price tag of $2395 new, this lens is NOT cheap. It’s more expensive than the full frame top tier professional new Sony G master lenses, and those are some mighty fine pieces of glass (of course, they will not work on a T, was just comparing cost) though much larger and heavier, and again, for Sony not Leica.

For most, a crop sensor prime lens for $2350 is tough to swallow but then again, all of Leica’s cameras and lenses are on the pricey side. That is no secret or mystery as it has been like this forever. Just look at the 35 Summilux M lens for a REAL expensive but oh so gorgeous 35 1.4 lens that is small, built like a tank and delivers that Leica look and glow we all love :) Just under $5k. Makes this one look affordable ;)

If you own a Leica T though, and If you have the money to spend, you could do worse than buying this lens. Believe me when I say that this lens is a stunner in every way. Sharpness, Bokeh, Color, Contrast, Build, Feel, AF accuracy and speed (limited only by the T itself) is as good as it gets in a 35 1.4 APS-C lens.

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I am not sure how many of you that are reading this own a T but if you do, and love fast prime lenses, this is one you WILL want to take a look at.

While being a 35mm lens, the equivalent focal length of this lens will be more like 52mm so many will see it as a 50mm lens. Due to the APS-C crop factor of 1.5, 35mm is not the field of view you will get, so keep that in mind. But hey, 52mm may be even better for most as 50mm is usually a goto for most prime shooters.

The Leica 50 Summilux has always been their most popular lens for the M mount, and this lens will give you a 50mm reach (though not a 50mm character) when used with the T or SL, so what is NOT to like?

The struggle for some will be the price. Many have been wondering what is going to happen with the Leica T line as it has been sort of slow out of the gate and talk about the T is quiet sparse on the forums, even the Leica forums.  It never seemed to take off even though it has a slick interface, is created from a solid block of aluminum and hand polished for hours in Germany :) My full review from when it was launched can be seen here. It is like a camera that APPLE would create in so many ways.

Even so, many have been harsh critics of the T. When I originally reviewed the T, I enjoyed it and thought it was great for the time. The IQ stood out with the Leica X style of IQ and color, and the only issue at launch was the two lenses you had to choose from. One a slow expensive zoom and one a 23mm Summicron f/2 prime that stopped down to a slower aperture if you focused closely.

These days there are a few more lenses to choose from with the T but jumping into the T system could cost you more than jumping into other possibly more attractive systems. $4100 is what it would cost you for a T camera and this one lens. Around the same cost as a Q and $1000 more than an RX1RII. More than an A7II or Fuji X-T1.

Is the T worth buying just for this lens? For some, it just may be. For others, no. For those who own a T, it is a MUST to at least look at it, rent it or give it a try.

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LEICA = SIMPLICITY – PASSION – GORGEOUS BUILD AND IQ

Leica offers simplicity, solid build and gorgeous IQ and lenses. That’s what you can expect from them in todays world of whiz bang cameras that are really computers in disguise. Many buy into Leica just for that reason as many feel, myself included, that Leica IS photography. There has always been a mystique around the brand and while many cry they are only for the elite, I say this is NOT true. Leica is for the passionate photographer which is why I jumped in with an M7 many many years ago while my income at the time was below poverty level. I saved, and saved and sacrificed other things to own it and that camera was with me for a long time, and I adored it.

My 1st Leica was an M7, and I adored it and shot hundreds of rolls of film through it with my 50 Summicron

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I was not ever any kind of “elite” and never will be but I appreciated the design, the form, the way it worked and the small jewel like lenses that were just at times, GODLY. I enjoyed the history of the company and knew I had a product in my hand I could be proud  to own, happy to own. It’s a special thing when you own a Leica as it is the passion inside of us that attracts many of us to the brand.It truly is. So not all Leica users or owners are “Elite’ or “Rich’ or “Snobs”. Many are true working class photographers, others are hobbyists and enthusiasts and yes, some are collectors. But most of the friends I know that shoot Leica, are in no way rich. They just really enjoy the Leica experience, and contrary to what many may say, you do get a Leica experience with the T, as there is nothing else like the T from any other camera manufacturer. While not an M or an S or an SL or X, the T is like the red headed stepchild of the Leica family. The oddball in the bunch.

But odd as in good. Different. Unique.

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So in my opinion, this is who a lens and camera like this are made for, the passionate photographer who has always had a thing..a spark or a love for the Leica brand of cameras. It is expensive, sure, but gear like this always rewards you with gorgeous results and that pride of ownership that many cameras lack. To some, a camera is just a tool they use occasionally. For others, they bond with their cameras and make the most of owning that camera. They use it daily, learn its weaknesses and strengths and exploit those strengths.

The Leica 35 Summilux T is by all accounts a fantastic performer in the real world. While I have never done scientific chart testing, I am sure this lens will test out great as the real photos from it bring out the best of the T itself. FOR ME, it is the best T lens available to date. If you love your Leica T, this is where it’s at! I always say these days, buy ONCE and be done with it. Meaning, I quit buying cheap lenses as I never liked them or loved them, even though I knew I was saving money. Buy once, and you will not lose money as you will have something you love and can bond with. QUALITY.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can pre-order the Leica 35 Summilux T at the dealers below, all whom I recommend 100%

KEN HANSEN – Email him at [email protected]. Ken is a legendary Leica dealer.

POPFLASH.COM – PopFlash.com is a huge Leica dealer as well. Tony Rose is very well respected in the Leica world.

B&H PHOTO – Order the 35 1.4 at B&H HERE

A few more samples with the Leica 35 Summilux T on the T. CLICK the images for larger, better versions. EXIF is embedded on all of these shots. 

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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 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 112016
 
TRAVELINDIADF

TRAVELINDIADF

Travel photography in India with a Nikon Df and Zeiss Otus 55

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

It’s always a great pleasure to be featured on your site so I’d like to share my experience on shooting a pretty unusual combo: a Nikon Df and a Zeiss Otus 55.

Why unusual? Simply because both camera and lens seem to follow really opposite paths:

– The Df is one of the smallest (if not smallest) and lightest Full Frame DSLR with a modest 16Mp resolution
– The Otus is the most gigantic and heavy 55mm ever produced for a DSLR and could certainly out-resolve a >50Mp sensor

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So, is it as a stupid pairing as it looks? I actually don’t think so, let’s look a bit further than Mp and weight metrics… Beside its fancy retro design the Df has a strong argument in how its sensor renders colors (brilliantly if you ask me J). And what is the best way to get 100% out of a sensor? Simply put it behind the best possible lens! The Otus is not only about sharpness, it’s also excellent with contrast and colors!

Let’s now forget the technicalities and focus on the user experience: I just came back from a 10 days trip to Varanasi (India) and shot from 6am to 8pm almost non-stop using the Df / Otus combo 90% of the time.

First thing I have to admit is yes, walking >12h a day with an Otus around your neck is painful, really painful. I even had a blister on the finger I use to support the weight of the camera while shooting… That said, travelling more than 12h in economy class from Zurich to Varanasi is also painful, so the Otus weight is just a small additional element of discomfort…

The only thing I really don’t like is the lack of weather sealing… Maybe we’re not so many to use them outside of a studio but still, that would be appreciated Mr Zeiss…

So yes, it’s not a trouble-free experience, but what you get in return is still worth the hassle: the haptic of both the Df and Otus are just pure pleasure and contribute a lot to the fun of shooting. The manual focus is butter smooth and the finishing of the lens is just perfect…. Even if I’m not a big fan of the rubber band on the focusing ring: it’s nice looking and very comfortable but does not go well with strong anti-mosquito sprays (the formula attacks rubber). I managed not to damage the lens but had to be extra careful.

Then of course having the best possible optical performance is also very enjoyable: aperture becomes irrelevant in terms of sharpness (f1.4 is as good as f16), you just chose it according to the depth of field you’re looking for. Manual focusing requires a bit of practice but after getting used to the camera / lens combo I easily achieved 70-80% spot on shots. Moving subjects are a bit more challenging but it’s more a question of shooting style: instead of running behind the subject trying to nail the focus you just chose a good spot, prepare your focus, and wait for something / somebody interesting to enter the frame for 100% success. I occasionally used a tripod but could probably have done without.

Actually beside gear the most important thing simply remains the “access”: I was very lucky to be with a local friend who knows everything (and almost everybody) in Varanasi so it made finding the right spots a lot easier… He’s occasionally offering his services as a guide so feel free to reach out to me via my facebook page if you want his contact.

Enough talks for now, here is the set titled “Varanasi dream” because as a friend said these images show Varanasi as you could see it in a dream.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM MUCH CRISPER, MORE COLORFUL and FOR AN OVERALL BETTER VERSION!

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You can find more of my work here: https://www.facebook.com/lumiere.exterieure

Thanks for reading,

Sebastien Bey-Haut

Apr 092016
 

5

Five Reasons why I prefer Mirrorless to a DSLR, ANY DSLR…

By Steve Huff

You know, ever since the humble beginnings of this website I have been drawn to smaller, sexier and cameras that have fun factor and mojo to them. I started this site with a Leica M8 review due to my love for what was at the time, IMO, the sexiest digital camera available. It was so different from the standard DSLR’s that flooded the digital camera market for so long. It was small, but had a serious heft, feeling like it was made out of a block of stone. The viewfinder on a Leica M has always been a tried and true old school rangefinder, which offered a much more challenging experience, at first. Soon, it became my favorite way of “seeing” with a camera viewfinder.

The Leica M8 had a good run, but when the full frame M9 hit, all hell broke loose. At the time, the only full frame digital cameras were things like the Canon 5D and Nikon D700. The M9 hit and there it was, a full frame camera that was much smaller than any DSLR. The M lenses were and are tiny in comparison to DSLR lenses (due to being manual focus) and the M9 made an amazing small, but very well made (better made than any DSLR) full frame powerhouse, with image quality that could no be matched, at the time, by any camera. Even today no camera can recreate the look of the old M9, not even the M 240 which is Leica’s latest M camera.

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But this article is not about Leica, I only mention the M8 and M9 as I feel, for me, these are the cameras that were very important at the time they were released, as there was simply no other full frame offerings that could come close to the build, size and performance (as long as we had decent light of course, those early Leica’s were not so hot in low light). The M9 was huge for Leica, they sold a ton of them and it was the M9 that had Leica selling out their entire stock of M glass for months at at time. Wait lists were long, and Leica was riding the new mirrorless wave. There was a reason for this, and it is called TIMING.

LEICA T AND NEW 35 SUMMILUX 1.4 T Click it for larger.

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Soon after the M8 and M9, other companies started releasing convincing mirrorless cameras that lived up to the promise of smaller size, and more fun factor but many of them were flawed with lack of lenses, slow AF or quirky performance. Many looked gorgeous, like the Olympus EP1, but it was so dog slow, had no EVF 0r OVF and it had only a couple good lenses to choose from. Panasonic made waves with the GF1 and soon, many were on the mirrorless train, but it was a slow road. Over the years these companies were releasing body after body but the lenses were taking time. This caused the DSLR crowd to predict the demise of mirrorless … “What good is a small body if you do not have good lenses”..

Then Olympus and Panasonic started kicking ass  by releasing amazing lenses that were small and performed incredibly well. Fast primes with attractive jewel like design and stunning performance. Lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8, 45 1.8 and the Panasonic 20 1.7 and the drool worthy Nocticron..today we have LOADS of lenses for the Micro 4/3 system, all we could ever want or need from ultra wide 7-14 or 8mm fisheye to 300mm fast pro primes and consumer zooms.

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Fuji was going full steam ahead as well, let us not forget about them! Fuji created TONS of excitement for mirrorless with the original Fuji X100. Many were saying “Now I can have my affordable Leica M style camera”..some were calling it a rangefinder, of which is most certainly was and is not, but it gave us the same kind of feeling as using one. Image quality was up there with the M9 even though the X100 was an APS-C camera and not full frame. Low light slaughtered the M9 and many feel the X100 was the start of Leica’s sales decline. See, Leica attracted the MASSES with the M9, unlike what they have done before (and after). The masses came out for the worlds first full frame mirrorless camera, which was the M9, there was nOTHING like it. I was getting THOUSANDS of emails over 6 months about the Leica M9 from normal joe’s who heard about it and was intrigued, even at the high price tag. When the X100 came out, that halted Leica’s mystique a bit as many saw the X100 as being like an M. While it was not, in any way – not in build, feel, shooting experience, or output, an M, it resembled one with its shape, and put out fantastic performance, so that was plenty good enough for the masses, at 1/6th the price.

Sony 24-70 G Master and Sony A7RII. Click for larger!

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When Sony hit the market with the original A7 series, I was excited by the possibilities. Attaching Leica M glass to it, shooting great full frame video, and having this full frame powerhouse taking up less space in my bag than a DSLR. While the A7 was larger than anything from Olympus, Panasonic or the other guys, it was indeed full frame. Much like the Leica M9, the Sony had the same benefits, but more of them. While the Sony was nowhere near as beautiful in design, build or feel as the Leica M9, the sensor inside the Sony was much more versatile. Able to capture scenes with massive Dynamic Range (the M9 did not have a huge DR) and even at night with low light high ISO performance that was cutting edge (unlike the Leica which suffered even at ISO 1250). Add swivel LCD’s and the EVF and video performance and you had an all in one powerhouse that was smaller than an APS-C DSLR yet full frame. Again, the weakness was LENSES. Sony had a 28-70 kit zoom that was average, and a couple of primes, the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss.

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I jumped in but over time realized the A7 series would need a lot of polishing to get up to speed and be better than most of what was out there. Soon we had more lenses, and more bodies. The A7 and A7R were replaced with the A7II, A7RII and A7S and A7SII. NOW we are talking! The MK II bodies improved the shape, build, and feel of the old A7 series. Also, the AF speed was improved quite a bit and we had a better EVF and better specs all the way around. Lenses I love for my A7RII are the Sony/Zeiss 16-35, Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, Loxia 50 and the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master which is just gorgeous. The new 70-300 looked very promising as well.

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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Today there are tons of lenses for Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony and always have been for Leica. The choice of high quality Mirrorless systems out there today is head spinning. Most looking to dive into mirrorless TODAY have a tough choice, and again, I get so many emails asking me “which one should I get” and I do not really answer those questions as a camera choice is personal, and should be made by the buyer, not me! With that said, I love them all but my faves, today are still Leica, Sony, Olympus and a couple Fuji models. After using them all, shooting with them all, for me, these brands make cameras that just fit “me”.

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Leica’s M 240 is a beautiful camera in every way but with so many other full frame offerings today (from Sony) the Leica M 240 did not sell as well as the M9. The Olympus E-M1 and PEN-F are fantastic as well, mature cameras that perform to a high standard, look and feel amazing and just “work”. Sony is on a roll with the RX1RII which I have not even mentioned yet! The RX1R for me, was a huge step forward for Sony as they created a SMALLER than Leica M full frame mirrorless with a Zeiss 35 f/2 that beat Leica’s own 35 Summicron (and the Leica lens cost more than the entire CAMERA and LENS from Sony). To me, one of the most magical cameras ever made was the RX1RII, for IQ. The new Mark II has slightly different image rendering and color but has improved the AF speed and performance. I own the RX1RII and adore it and use it for personal shots all the time.

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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With an RX1RII I could not even imagine wanting to replace it with a large bulky full frame DSLR and 35mm lens that would be 3X the size, 4X the weight and not even perform as well. The RX1RII is an amazing tool, if  you can handle 35mm. The Leica Q also rocks but is $1000 more, much larger and has a 28mm. I prefer the Sony in every way but many prefer the Leica. Personal pref, and both are two of the best most practical mirrorless cameras released in recent times with IQ that is tough to beat.

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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OH! I totally forgot this article was titled “Five reasons why I prefer mirrorless to DSLRs”..so before I start on another long ramble, lets get to that:

  • THEY ARE SMALLER, PERIOD. Even the larger mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 Mark II series, are smaller than even APS-C DSLR’s while providing performance that trounces them in many areas. Low light, Dynamic Range, Sharpness, EVF over small OVF, and very good AF performance. Add something like a Voigtlander 40 2.8 to an A7 series body and you have a small powerhouse (and you can not use this lens on a DSLR). Add a HUGE 24-70 G Master lens and the fight gets closer for size but even so, still smaller in the body, which is the part you HOLD. The part that must be comfy in your hands. The Sony wins in size over ANY FULL FRAME DSLR, to which it must be compared. Take a 5DII and 24-70 and it will be larger and heavier than the Sony yet we lose the EVF, swivel LCD, and that nice Sony sensor DR and ISO performance. There is a reason Sony leads in the sensor department, they make the best. So I will choose the Sony over any DSLR due to size, features (did I say 5 Axis IS inside)? Make no mistake, the Sony A7 Mark II series may have some large pro lenses but as a whole, it is still smaller and more enjoyable for me to use over a full frame DSLR and  those large pro lenses? For me they beat the Canon and Nikon equivalents in IQ and build, so why not use them on a smaller body? Hmmmm. Take on a Olympus PEN-F or Panasonic GX-8 or Fuji X100 and you are at a whole new level of small, light and with amazing IQ. Mirrorless wins the size game every time.

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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  • LENSES! There are now plenty of lenses to choose from! No excuses now! Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Leica all have great lenses available for their mirrorless systems. Some are tiny like the Sony full frame 28 f/2 and 50 1.8, some are large and some are small and incredible (almost any prime from Olympus).
  • FUNCTION! EVF, Tilt LCD and something like 5 AXIS IS inside are things you will not see in a mirrored DSLR. While I appreciate that MANY prefer a good OVF to a good EVF I think many OVF die hards have not shot through an incredible EVF yet. Something like the Leica SL offers an EVF experience that beats ANY OVF, hands down. It’s incredible. Using a Sony A7 or Olympus E-M1 or even a Fuji X-T1 offers more function and is more versatile than any DSLR I have ever shot with. Things with Olympus like Live Bulb, Live Time and Live composite is changing the way we shoot astro. Things like this we do not see in DSLR’s.
  • ABILITY TO USE 3rd PARTY LENSES: These new mirrorless cameras work very well with Leica M lenses these days, any M mount lens in fact. I can buy a used M lens for $300 and get amazing shots with character when mounted on a Sony, Fuji or even Olympus camera. Can’t do that on ANY DSLR (mount a Leica M mount lens to it). I love shooting my Sony with a 50 Jupiter or even 50 Noctilux. We can now use these incredible lenses on something other than a $7k Leica.
  • PROGRESSION: Never have I seen technology in digital imaging move so fast. Mirrorless is moving ahead with new innovations, new designs, and new tech. EVery year we have some kind of new progression in mirrorless while DSLR’s remain pretty much the same in looks, style, function and everything else. In my eyes, DSLR’s today are getting stale. Mirrorless today is energizing so many with the size, tech inside and the things we can do with them in a much easier way than ANY DSLR. (something like shooting the night and seeing your exposure develop in real time using Olympus’s LIVE TIME)

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There are more reasons like being able to pick up something like a Fuji X100 or Sony RX1 and just be UBER light. No lenses, no bag needed. But you will come back with impressive high quality shots. The mirrorless world is growing, and sales are strong for some, stronger than DSLR’s in some cases. I remember 10 years ago (or so) going to disneyland and seeing so many with big DSLR’s around their neck (I had a Leica M7 and 35 Lux) and thought “WHY would they do that”! Today if I go to Disneyland I see MANY with small mirrorless cameras, but mostly all use their phones or even iPads for their photo and video. THIS is why DSLR’s are also losing steam with the average Joe’s of the world. While Fuji and Sony helped slow Leica’s M sales, I see the phones slowing DSLR sales. See, the mass public used to walk into Best Buy and say “I want to look like a pro”, and they would buy a DSLR and then realize that simply buying one will not make them a pro! They end up using it for a few weeks and then sitting it on a shelf due to size and disappointment. These days, the masses use their smart phones so while a few still go to Best Buy and buy those DSLR’s they have on display, as they know their phone can not compete, that number is MUCH lower today than 10 or even 5 years ago.

Leica Q

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Olympus PEN-F

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Today many have been trained by their phones (for small size and ease of use) and when they go to buy a real camera, they want something SMALLER, something FUN, not a huge DSLR. They see cameras from Sony and Fuji and think “WOW, this is smaller and looks great”, this is why the original Sony A6000 did SO WELL and sold in huge numbers. So for most of the public, the smart phone is the way to go. For most Enthusiasts and Hobbyists, Mirrorless is the choice. For most PROS who shoot weddings, Sports or wildlife, DSLR’s are still king but that is starting to also go the way of mirrorless. While many predicted the doom of Mirrorless years ago, I will say here now that I predict a continuing downward slide for the DSLR over the next few years. Eventually, Canon and Nikon are going to have to give in and create a kick ass mirrorless system. Otherwise they face the reality of even more shrinking sales over the long term. I guess time will tell but the way I see it is that mirrorless gives us smaller size, more function and features, an experience which is more fun that using a DSLR.. and today, IQ is no longer a compromise as it was a few years ago. We can have it all and then some with mirrorless today, and that is a good thing.

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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Apr 092016
 

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A Sony A7II long term review

By David Lintern

I work as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor sector in the UK, mostly contributing words and pictures to magazines in print and online. I also work as an editor on 2 outdoor magazines, so a lot of pictures cross my desk – from terrible to exceptional and a lot in between. I’m a fan of everything from Instagram to fine art and documentary, but that doesn’t mean I like everything I see. I started my own photographic journey on a Zenit 35mm camera, and have used Pentax, Box Brownies, Polaroid, and more recently Canon, Panasonic and Fuji digital cameras. I’m not beholden to a particular brand, and I’m not sponsored.

I’ve been using the Sony A7II for about a year now, not long after it came out. I wasn’t convinced about the first generation, but the second seemed to tick a few more boxes – on paper at least – so I took the plunge. I recently read an article which damned the whole idea of the Alpha system, an article which I thought was unbalanced, so felt inspired to try and give a more accurate overview of the camera in real life use. I’ll try to keep it brief and to the point.

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The practicalities – size and weight

The smaller weight and size of the body is useful for someone who takes photos outdoors. I’m often in the mountains carrying food and camping equipment, so any saving is appreciated. Compared to my previous system, a Canon 5d3 running an f4 24-105mm lens, with a Sony AII with a f4 28-70mm, I get to carry around 600g less. Obviously, I also lose some reach in that equation (the 70-105mm range) which is annoying, but the reduced bulk and weight make the compromise worth it for me personally… most of the time. With a full frame sensor, I know I have plenty of crop-ability to call upon in post.

A small note about my choices here. Primes may provide the best image quality, but on the mountain a single medium zoom is often the most practical – both in terms of weight, and lens changes in inclement weather. I’m also on a budget!

Glen Etive – Sony 28-70 Kit Zoom

Glen Etive, Sony 28-70mm

Lenses

In my experience, it really is a mixed bag on the lens front. That stock 28-70mm kit lens is not a stellar performer by any means. Viewed at 100% images are blurred, and colour and contrast are (to me) a little flat and uninspiring. A little more work in Lightroom is needed to restore what I saw at the time, to the file. However, I’ve still managed to produce high quality shots for mags and won some merits in competition, so whilst I’m not impressed with my pixel peeper’s hat on, it works well enough – particularly at f5.6 and f13 – and is lightweight.

I was concerned my technique had gone out of the window without a heavy body to steady my hand, and wanted to try the camera with some other lenses. With Canon lenses on the front and an adaptor, the colour and contrast were great, and the blur vanished. The L glass seemed to really compliment the Sony sensor. It’s the stock kit lens that is at issue here. However, the AF using Canon lenses with current adaptor technology is incredibly slow – so slow, it’s far faster to manual focus. This is just fact, as much as I’d prefer it to be otherwise. The Voigtländer 40mm F2.8 performs just as well if not better on the colour and sharpness front – as a manual focus lens it’s certainly not quick to use, but produces lovely, three-dimensional results with the A7II at it’s back.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 

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This proved to me once again that any camera really is only as good as the glass you put in front of it. Who knew?

The FE mount has its critics and it’s true that some of the higher-grade, faster lenses that are entering the market now are as large or larger than DSLR competitors. I also have the Sony FE 16-35mm F4, which is a wonderful lens with colour and sharpness to rival the Canon equivalent, and AF as fast as I need. But on the front of the small A7II chassis it does feel like a big, heavy lens, even though it’s barely heavier than my old L16-35mm.

Maybe the critics have it right – we can’t (yet) cheat physics. What we take away from the body, we often see back in the lens. These new native lenses are also expensive for those of us who are paying… but then that’s true of a whole number of brands, not just Sony.

Since I’m focusing on…focus, C-AF on the A7II is still pretty horrible. I generally shoot landscape, walking, mountaineering, a little cycling and boating, but if I were shooting faster action sports, I’d still own or rent a DSLR. Regular AF with native lenses on the A7II is now (after firmware updates) every bit as good as my Canon 5d3 (which admittedly wasn’t the fastest). Low contrast is occasionally an issue, but it’s acceptable for my needs and any issues can be worked around with a little manual focussing. Focus peaking is obviously a huge boon here (although of course, that’s not Sony specific).

Body

Overall, the picture for me is a lot more positive here. The dynamic range on the Sony sensor is like night and day compared to my old Canon – in practise, an increase of about 3-4 stops. This is useful for landscape photography as it means I use grads a little less in the field, and as a result can react faster to changing light. This extra DR is quite a shock at first – images can feel less ‘solid’ because the shadows are more complex. Once again, in that regard it helps to have a good lens up front.

Shelter on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

shelter on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

I have a FujiX100T, which I like very much indeed, but no matter how much it’s advocates protest, an APS-C sensor is not a full frame sensor. The dynamic range of the X100T sensor is impressive, but is not comparable in any way to the A7II. Sorry… as I said, I love the Fuji, it produces wonderfully usable images very easily, and for me it’s a great machine for street, family and crag photography, but – the same as the lens issue above – physics is physics, and sensor size is sensor size. No more, no less.

Incidentally, don’t even try to continuous auto focus with the X100T – it hunts harder than Donald Trump for his conscience. Relax! We can all still take great pictures with either system, if we work with each machine, not against it.

Relating to DR in the field, the A7II p/review screen is not accurate as far as clipping is concerned, and live view is best checked with the histogram. Shots I thought blown to smithereens have been recoverable in post, which just goes to show how powerful the sensor is – even when used badly.

ISO performance is stellar, and I now rarely carry a remote timer into the mountains for night shots. I can shoot using the inbuilt timer under 30secs and get stars crisper, with less noise, than I could ever manage with the Canon.

Much has been made of poor battery performance in mirrorless cameras, but to be honest this is a non-issue. Performance in the A7II is probably a half to a third of a Canon DSLR battery, and has improved with firmware updates. At any rate, batteries are small and lightweight. I just carry a few more.

More of an annoyance is the poor performance of the internal battery in ‘extreme’ cold. Several times, I’ve been forced to reformat the entire camera with date and time whilst hanging from the side of a snowy mountain. This can lead to temporary memory card/file confusion. Images have always been recoverable in back at base, however – Lightroom finds them after you replug the camera. Sony need to look at this in a firmware update – it’s not good enough at the moment for professional use.

Personally, a lot of how well I use a camera depends on the ergonomics, and I very much appreciate the level of customisation available on the A7II. I always shoot fully manual, so having the ability to access aperture, shutter speed and ISO, as well as back button focus, feels like the best of both the analog machines I grew up with, and the convenience and speed of modern digital.

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

Silver birch on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

silver birch on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

The one camera to rule them all?

It’s the dream, but like most things… it’s a dream for a reason. We are losing some of the weight and size advantage with fast lenses up front, but it doesn’t stop this camera being incredibly powerful… and it’s still a little smaller and lighter than a trad DSLR. My older DSLR felt like a chunky, clunky toy after I’d used the A7II for a month. I sold my Canon body and, much more reluctantly, gave up the glass a few months later. I still kind of resent that, because they make excellent lenses that are field-practical. But anyway, don’t believe the hype, either way. Look more closely at whose writing good and bad things about different brands, and more often than not you’ll find they have a vested interest. I’ve tried to be objective here, because as an editor and sometime gear reviewer for magazines, that’s my job. The Sony Alpha system isn’t perfect, but at the moment the A7II is a great camera for my needs.

http://www.davidlintern.com

Apr 042016
 

The New Nikon DL. The new enthusiast point & shoot Nikon

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Nikon has announced what appears to be a new powerful point and shoot series in a time when P&S cameras sales have stalled. But this is more of a challenge to the Sony RX100 series from what I see, and they are banking on YOU liking it more than your smart phone for taking images! With a 1″ sensor (like the 1 series, CX) the new DL cameras are fixed lens point and shoots with a traditional Nikon look and feel. As they say, designed to look like a classic Nikon DSLR (of which I feel it certainly does not, but still has some charm) and give modern-day performance.

The main competitor in my eyes for the new DL cameras is the Sony RX100 IV which is my fave pocket rocket P&S style camera of all time (digital).

Below are the specs for  the Nikon DL 24-85..what do you think? They also have a wide angle version that sports an 18-50 1.8 to 2.8 for just under $900. The 24-85 version comes in at $650 and they even have a monster zoom version (ala Sony RX10III) with a 24-500 zoom for a grand. You can see all of the Nikon DL options here, with specs, photos and all. 

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The mid-range member of Nikon’s advanced DL series of point-and-shoots, the DL24-85 f/1.8-2.8 Digital Camera offers a versatile 24-85mm equivalent zoom lens paired with a 20.8MP CX-format BSI CMOS sensor to deliver stunning images in nearly any situation.

This NIKKOR lens features a fast f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range that can create images with shallow depth of field and perform well in low light. Equipped with aspherical, ED, and HRI glass elements, this camera will capture images with the utmost clarity and minimal distortion and, thanks to a Fluorine coating, it will repel dust, water, and oil. Furthermore, this camera has a Super Macro Mode that can capture subjects at life-size and a Focus Bracketing feature to capture a sequence of shots with varying focus positions.

Ensuring that all of this technology runs smoothly, quickly, and efficiently, the DL24-85 leverages the power of the EXPEED 6A image processor to produce crisp, clean stills and enables UHD 4K video recording at 30p. Paired with the 20.8MP sensor, the camera can work with sensitivities ranging from ISO 160-12800 and can operate an advanced Hybrid AF system with 171 focus points, 105 of which are capable of phase detection. This AF system can even be used during continuous shooting at up to 20 fps, though with fixed focus users can boost the camera’s speed to an incredible 60 fps.

The camera’s body design is inspired by that of Nikon’s legendary DSLRs, with numerous physical dials and buttons throughout. This includes a command dial, rotary multi-selector, customizable function button, and a precision zoom ring, as well as a control ring that can be set to one of numerous functions. Ensuring composition is comfortable, the DL24-85 also features a 1037k-dot tilting OLED touchscreen. A built-in ND filter is available for working in bright light while using the fast maximum aperture. Additionally, it has full SnapBridge support with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC as well as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology for connecting straight to a smart device. Finally, it has a 24-pin hot shoe terminal for working with Speedlights as well as the optional electronic viewfinder.

20.8MP BSI CMOS Sensor and EXPEED 6A Image Processor

At the core of Nikon’s DL series is a large 1.0″ CX-format 20.8MP BSI CMOS sensor and the EXPEED 6A image processor. This pairing delivers high-resolution still and video shooting with low noise at sensitivities up to ISO 12800. Also, as the sensor forgoes the use of an optical low-pass filter, it guarantees the maximum possible resolution in the final image. This combination also boosts speed in nearly every aspect of the camera, including continuous shooting at up to 20 fps with autofocus or an astounding 60 fps with fixed focus.

NIKKOR 8.8-31.3mm f/1.8-2.8 ED VR Lens

Featuring a versatile 24-85mm equivalent focal length, this NIKKOR 8.8-31.3mm lens makes the DL24-85 a convenient camera for everyday use, including portraiture and travel. Its f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range also benefits shooters by allowing shallow depth of field and capturing more light in dim lighting scenarios. Equipped with aspherical, Extra-low Dispersion (ED), and High-Refractive Index (HRI) glass elements to combat aberrations and minimize distortion, the DL24-85 will be able to capture spectacular, crisp images. There is even a Fluorine coating on the front element to repel dust, water, oil, and more. Furthermore, the lens has Dual Detect Optical VR image stabilization that can help compensate for up to 4 stops of camera shake and a Super Macro Mode allows photographers to capture objects at life size at a 1.2″ distance. And, it has an electromagnetic 7-blade aperture diaphragm for smooth out-of-focus elements.

UHD 4K Video Recording & Slow Motion

For the ultimate in high-resolution video capture, the DL series features internal UHD 4K video recording at up to 30p as well as the ability to output uncompressed footage over HDMI. The camera’s processing power effectively eliminates rolling shutter distortion and Auto ISO can smoothly adjust the exposure to fit varying lighting conditions. Other capabilities include a new Superlapse mode which lets you experience moments at double speed, time-lapse for condensing vast periods of time into just 10 seconds, and slow motion video for smooth capture of fast-moving scenes. The DL series cameras will also capture stereo sound via a built-in microphone.

In addition to this exceptional resolution, the DL series can achieve high frame rates in Full HD at up to 120 fps for smooth slow motion capture. Fast options such as 240 fps and 400 fps are available at HD 720p and 800 x 296 resolutions, respectively, and for the ultimate slowdown, users can drop to 400 x 144 resolution for an incredible 1200 fps video.

Advanced Hybrid AF System

Capture some of the fastest-moving subjects with ease by using the DL-series advanced Hybrid AF which has a wide coverage area with a total of 171 focus points, of with 105 points are phase-detect capable for locking on to moving subjects. This also benefits the lightning fast continuous shooting speeds of 20 fps with full autofocus.

Body Design

Ensuring fast operation and DSLR-like performance, the DL24-85 has a variety of physical buttons and dials. This includes a command dial, rotary multi-selector, power switch, and a customizable Fn button. The lens has additional controls, including a precise zoom ring and a separate customizable ring that can be set for aperture, shutter speed, manual focus, or white balance. The rear of the DL24-85 sports a 3.0″ 1037k-dot OLED touchscreen can tilt up 180° for selfies or down 80° for working from multiple angles with ease. Additionally, the DL24-85 boasts a built-in flash for adding some additional light to your scene.

SnapBridge Connectivity

Connect directly to a mobile device for remote control or image transfer by using the Nikon SnapBridge app, in combination with a DL series camera. These cameras offer numerous ways to connect, including the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol for constant connect between your devices. This allows the embedding of location, date/time, and two notes into your files. Along with this standard Wi-Fi and NFC is available for a variety of methods.

Other Features

Dedicated 24-pin hot shoe terminal allows the use of Speedlights and accessories like the optional electronic viewfinder.
Raw image capture provides as much information as possible for post processing.
40.5mm front filter thread.
Built-in ND filter good for 3 stops of light reduction.
Creative Mode with five categories of customizable effects for creating a unique look for your stills and movies.
Six Picture Control options allow you to achieve a signature look that can’t be reached through camera settings alone.
Multiple Exposure Lighten setting for light trail images or time-lapse movies.
Saves images to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.
Up to 4x digital zoom is available for boosting equivalent focal length to 340mm.

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What do YOU think of the Nikon DL? Sony RX100 killer or another yawn release from Nikon? I’m still waiting for a KILLER mirrorless solution from Nikon AND Canon as I feel that when they do finally come out with one (a serious one) it will be pretty special, at least I hope so!

Amazon has the Nikon DL series available for Pre Order. They start shipping in June 2016. 

Mar 312016
 

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HAND’s ON! Sony’s Nifty Fifty! A $249 50 1.8 FE Lens

Hey to all! It’s nearing the end of the week and man it has been a busy one for me! I have a load of new camera gear at the Huff household to start using and reviewing (Leica T 35 1.4 Summilux, Sony G Master lenses, Sony A6300, Olympus 300MM) and while one of those pieces of gear sitting here is NOT this new 50 1.8 from Sony, I did get to use this lens for a day this week in San Francisco and I will tell all Sony A7 owners right now:

*If you are a Sony A7 user, as in, you own and use ANY A7 series body from the 1st to the most recent and you DO NOT own the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8..or a fast 50..then YOU MUST seriously consider this lens. For $248, it is a steal*

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Canon and Nikon have their inexpensive 50 1.8’s and now Sony does as well, and while it is not as crisp or WOW as the Zeiss 55 1.8, it comes in at a MUCH lower price of $248 and comes with a nice little lens hood as well. For $248, this is a huge bang for the buck and I feel every Sony user should own one (if you do not already have the 55 1.8 or other fast 50). Even their older crop sensor 50 1.8 is more expensive! This is a full frame lens my friends!

The 50 1.8 on a Sony A7RII at f/1.8. For $248, this is stunning performance. Vignette added by me. To see the image sharper and how it should be seen, click on it. All images here must be clicked on to see them correctly as the site softens them up (as you see them here without clicking). 

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How about some color?

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When I first held  this lens I was surprised at how light it was..then again, remembering the price point and other “Nifty-Fifty’s” I came to realize that this is how low cost fast 50’s feel. Yes, it is light but the performance is VERY good. While this is not a full drug out review (as I only had access to the lens for hours) and no huge tests against other 50’s, I can say that out of the camera files with this lens will be lower contrast than say the Zeiss 55 1.8 that has had rave reviews since its release. But this lens is much less expensive, so you will not have the out of the box performance of the Zeiss. But all that is needed is a quick slide of the contrast slider in your fave editing platform and you will have something like you see above.

Another in B&W with this lens and a crop below. This was also shot wide open at 1.8. I added vignetting here for effect, but as it is, there is none from this lens when used on my A7RII.

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When using the lens I expected the images to be a tad soft, and maybe have vignetting or issues but Sony actually added an ASPH element here to minimize distortions and enhance clarity and sharpness. They also added a double-gauss optical design to reduce field curvature and give edge to edge sharpness. This is not a “Cheap” 50. It is an inexpensive ($248) 50 that performs more like a $500 lens. Here are a few more details on this lens from Sony:

  • Normal-length 50mm prime lens is designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however, can also be used with APS-C models where it will provide a 75mm equivalent focal length.
  • Fast f/1.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions and also avails greater control over focus placement for working with shallow depth of field techniques.
  • One aspherical element minimizes spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness.
  • Double-gauss optical configuration helps to reduce field curvature and distortions for more consistent image quality from edge-to-edge.
  • DC actuator offers quick, quiet, and accurate autofocus performance to suit both stills and video applications.
  • Metal bayonet offers increased durability and a solid feel when mounting the lens.
  • Rounded seven-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality.

There is not much to say about a simple fast 50 but if you have never used a 50mm prime, then you are really missing out. I expect 95% of you reading this page probably have either owned or used a fast 50mm prime at some point. It’s the staple of many lens collections. I used to only use a 50mm and did for almost two years when I was shooting film on a Leica. The 50mm focal length was truly my thing, and the more I used it and stuck with it, the better my photos were getting. Soon, it got to the point to where I could just look at my surroundings and I could see ANY scene or frame in my head, in 50mm. I knew exactly how the image would look, Bokeh and all. I also found 50 to be a nice mid portrait lens. Many feel 85 or longer is best for portraits, and for headshots those people would be correct. For portraits like you see above, a 50 can also do the job, especially in tighter quarters.

Not all 50’s are created equal though. Some are SUPER 50’s like the Leica 50 Summilux, which I feel is the “Gold Standard” among 50’s for price, character and lovely Bokeh and 3D separation. That lens is $3500. This lens is $248 and while it is nothing like a Leica 50 Lux, it will deliver nice sharpness, no real distortions and can be used for so many situations. Being an f/1.8 it will allow you to get more light to your sensor when you need it making  this a great all around, every day general inexpensive lens.

I added a filter to this using VSCO – must click to see it correctly.

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Auto Focus Speed

When using the 50 1.8 lens I made a mental note  to pay attention to the focus speed and accuracy. Only having it for a short time, I wanted to make sure it had no issues focusing because if it did, then I would have had a problem with it. I am not a fan of lenses or cameras that focus slowly or give inaccurate AF readings.

I can say that the 50 1.8 focuses just fine. While not a speed demon with blazing AF like something you would see in a $2000 lens, it punches above its weight a little delivering consistent performance across the board from AF speed, accuracy, IQ and handling. This is an extremely light lens, and it makes your A7 feel extra light. This is good, just do not drop the lens ;) While the lens focuses it does extract in and out a bit, so the internals move and you will hear a slight motor noise as it goes in and out and attains focus. But its quiet and would never bother me or anyone while shooting.

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At the end of the day, I can HIGHLY recommend this lens. It is cheap in price, great in quality, delivers performance and speed of a $500 lens vs the under $250 that it does cost. The Bokeh seems smooth and pleasant and while the contrast and pop is low out of the box, a few tweaks to your image (contrast) will make them pop. It’s not up there in performance, build or 3D pop that you get with the more expensive Zeiss 55 1.8 but for the money, nothing will beat it on a Sony A7 system. This is a full frame lens unlike the old Sony 50 1.8 they made for APS-C. So this is the lens you want for your full frame Sony A series body.

You can pre-order the new Sony 50 1.8 FE at the links below. Cost is under $250 and it starts shipping next month in may. Pre-order assures you will get it first and these shops do not charge you until your lens ships. Pre orders can also be canceled anytime before the lens is shipped. If you have a serious interest in this lens I HIGHLY suggest pre ordering as I expect (as does Sony) that this lens will be HUGELY popular due to the cost and performance it provides. Also, using my links below will help keep this site going and going! Thank you!

PRE ORDER THE LENS!

PRE ORDER THE SONY 50 1.8 AT B&H PHOTO HERE

PRE ORDER THE SONY 50 1.8 AT AMAZON 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! Since 2007 I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Mar 302016
 

FIRSTLOOK

HANDS ON: Sony RX10 III. Some Samples & Thoughts

So yesterday myself and 20 other members of the digital imaging media world (DP Review, Imaging Resource, Popular Photography and others) met up with Sony in San Francisco for a very cool meeting where we learned of some of Sony’s future plans in the world of cameras, televisions,  and even some other innovations. We were able to check out the new Sony camera gear as well and we all had a chance to use the new camera and lenses for a few hours. Yep, the all new RX10 III and the $249 50 1.8 as well as the new 70-300 G lens. Both lenses for full frame FE mount.

I also posted a live stream video to my Facebook showing off the new gear (you can see that here) but that was before I gave the RX10 III and the new 70-300 G and 50 1.8 a try. I’ve never been a HUGE HUGE fan of the RX10 series but now that the Mark III has this new amazingly versatile Zeiss lens – yep a 24-600mm (but the kicker is you can shoot at f/4 at 600mm, and f/2.4 at the wider end) and at 600mm you can easily handhold if you have decent light due to the optical steady shot inside which offers up to 4.5 stops.

The RX10III is full of all kinds of tech. From the standard expected things like the 1″ imaging sensor from the RX100 MKIV to the swivel LCD screen to the manual controls. It’s quick and responsive and quiet as well thanks to its electronic shutter capable of 1/32,000 S. In addition to this the RX10 III has killer 4K video capabilities, in fact, Sony is saying it will put out the best 4K video of any camera as it captures in 6K and then down samples to 4 for less moire and sharper details. The RX10III has this very impressive zoom lens that is the most versatile I have ever seen. A 24-600mm equivalent, and yes, at 600mm it is sharp and looks simply amazing.

An OOC JPEG at 600mm…handheld..click it for larger

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The RX10 III opens up so many possibilities and it can do all of this wonderful stuff, like offer a 600mm equivalent lens thanks to the 1″ sensor. These days, 1″ sensors are VERY good. They have snap, pop, and the only weakness is for those who love shallow DOF, or massive Bokeh. This will never give you the DOF options of a full frame camera, but other than that, this camera ROCKS.

An out of camera JPEG

CLICK ON ALL IMAGES FOR BETTER VERSIONS

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The RX10 Mark III also has some snazzy video features such as super slow motion capabilities that offer up to a 960 FPS capture. Of course, super slow motion is not available in 4K. But this slow motion is fantastic and used to only be seen in uber expensive video cameras. The RX10 MKIII has many strengths. In fact, some would say this could be the perfect all around one camera solution for serious amateurs, enthusiasts and pros.

Out of camera JPEGS from the RX1R III, click them for larger!

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While it offers a ton of great things, it’s not perfect. I found that cameras using these 1″ sensors will never have the Dynamic Range of the larger sensor cameras. Makes sense right? If shooting in harsh sun, it can be tricky to avoid blowing highlights and they are not recoverable if blown too much. This portrait below looks a tad harsh in the highlights to me…on her face and chest. I should have dialed back the EV comp to avoid this, and I could have, but I thought I was exposed correctly. So while this is not an issue, you do need to take a little caution with these 1″ sensor cameras in these kinds of bright direct lighting.

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Dynamic Range is not up to par with larger sensor cameras but still excellent for a 1″ sensor. Below is a shot with the RX10III in direct sunlight, the RX10III burned some highlights..but it could have been avoided if I dialed in some EV comp.

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In comparison, the A7RII with the new $249 50 1.8 had no DR issues, as is to be expected from a $3000+ camera.. The new 50 1.8 at $249 is a fantastic buy..and the A7RII is a DR monster.. (my full review here) No tweaks here, just the OOC rendering. 

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The power of the zoom. 

Take a look at what 24mm looks like, and then 600mm. This is the range of the f/2.4-f/4 Zeiss Zoom on the RX10 III..

1st, 24mm

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Same position at 600mm..

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With 600mm, you have a TON of reach.

So while I enjoyed the new Sony RX10III quite a bit, I also really enjoy the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 lenses. I will have a 1st look report on those later today or tomorrow morning. I can say for now though that the RX10III is the best of the RX10 series to date. No question. With the new stunning lens capabilities, the slightly refreshed body (better grip), the impressive 4K video options, the optical steady shot inside, the super slow motion, EVF and loads of other goodies in this camera it will be well with the $1500 cost to many who are itching for a superzoom of super quality. It comes in at a couple hundred more than the Mark II (which is staying in the Sony lineup) and well worth it IMO.

Even I am considering buying this one as I could use it for video (of which I do a ton of outside of this page), and all kinds of amazing things. Having a 600mm reach on hand, in this size, is pretty incredible and this would be the main reason I would consider it myself. It’s a powerful camera, no question.

Look for more on the RX10III soon. You can pre-order the RX10III at  B&H using the link below STARTING TOMORROW. It will be shipping in May, next month!

Pre Order the RX10 III at B&H HERE AT B&H PHOTO

A few more from the RX10 III. Enjoy! ALL are out of camera JPEGS

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Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

As I sit here in a Sony “Rountable” meting with all of Soy’s top people telling me about the past, present and future of their digital imaging business, things are looking very good for Sony. Sales are up, profits are solid and they are dedicated to releasing high quality premium digital imaging products to those like me and you, who love quality cameras, lenses and also camera that are fun to use, functional and provide us with the capability to create our own visions using a tool we enjoy and love.

Ever since Sony released the original NEX series, the 3 and 5 (my review here) I have been smitten with their unique out of the box thinking and while I have not loved or even liked every camera they have released (as I feel many have been a rehash of the same designs), I have adored a few of them and feel that Sony is now, without question, the one camera company that I feel is innovating and doing the most to push imaging tech forward. During  those early NEX 3 and 5 days, many dismissed mirrorless and for good reason. They were slow, sluggish and not very “user-friendly”  – but man how things have changed in a few short years.

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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While Sony IMO is the one doing the most innovating, this does not take away a thing from others who are also innovating. Companies like Olympus are doing great things with every camera release, and trust me, they have something really amazing planned for this year. I feel it in my gut!

Then we have companies like Leica who are trying very hard to release unique cameras that are different from anything else out there. Think the T, the SL and even the super popular Q (all have been reviewed here in detail). Sure, Fuji, Sigma and even Canon and Nikon who are also releasing amazing cameras but to be honest, what I see from them is more of the same..less innovation in every release and while something like a Fuji X Pro 2 is a beautiful camera (that I actually do indeed really like) it is Sony who just keeps pushing and creating cameras that can do more.

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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While I feel Sony could have a redesign of some of their bodies, and even be more aggressive in what they are doing, I think they are on the right path and honestly, I can see them leapfrogging over Nikon in the near future. Sony is on a roll, sales wise and their popularity in the camera business is growing quickly and steadily for them.

Look at the brand new just announced RX10 III. I did not even review the Mark II version as I felt it was pretty much just like the Mark I (though it did have upgrades). I did not feel it was worth an upgrade to the II from the I and did not even want to do a review as I like to spend my time on cameras that I feel are really great and worth a purchase. It has to excite me these days to get a full long review and as I look back at my recent reviews over the past two years, the largest ones have been from Sony, Leica and Olympus.

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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I will state right here, that these three camera companies above are my faves . Each of these are doing things that most others are not. Technology is getting quite amazing, even with something like the new Sony 4K HDR video, which looks so amazing. Yes, video in HDR 4K…think MASSIVE Dynamic Range instead of the cheesy HDR look of some images when they are overdone. But back to the new RX10 III. With its all new high quality 24-600mm f/2.4 – f/4 lens. Yes, f/2.4 at the wide end and f/4 at the long end, of 600MM. With this comes incredible opportunities for shooting. Macro, video, telephoto… it’s something that has never been done, which is what I am talking about here. I mean, who has made an all in one camera with a 24-600mm lens, a HIGH QUALITY lens no less, with a starting aperture of f/2.4? No one. Add to that the impressive video capabilities of this new offering. It will be a great solution for so many.

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While I was not a HUGE MASSIVE RX10 fan, I did enjoy the 1st one (see my review here) but this one changes the game of this series of camera. It could be an all in one for almost any personal, family or every day situation. So Sony is innovating constantly and this is what I love to see.

Some call me a “Sony Fan Boy”, Some call me an “Olympus Fanboy” and some even still call me a “Leica Fanboy”. I find these terms amusing as I am not a fanboy of anything, I just love quality. I love good build, consistent focus, smaller size, great lens choices, even is using a third party lens with adapter to get my vision out there.. and each of these brands offer all of that and more.

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With that, I am thrilled to see what is happening in digital imaging these days. It seems we are getting more and more QUALITY offerings for those of us who enjoy these things (ME AND YOU) and while most of the world already own a camera in their smart phones, there are some of us who want more..a real experience and you just can not get that from a phone. At least I can’t. The feeling of holding something like a Leica M or Olympus PEN-F or Sony RX1 and using them is so much more satisfying to me than using a phone, or any DSLR.

Today, in 2016 we have choices. We can go DSLR and get great results. We can go tiny and get great results (Sony RX100) and we can go enthusiast and get amazing results with something like a Leica M, SL or Sony A7RII or A7SII.

While the death of the point and shoot is upon us, or past..the mirrorless revolution has just begun, and it’s getting so so good. Stay tuned my friends, there is so much to come this year.

Steve

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