Aug 182014
 

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Got IQ? The Sigma DP2 Quattro Review. 

Here I am again with yet another Sigma DP body. This time, the newest super funky DP2 Quattro model. I have never seen ANYTHING quite like the design of this Quattro and after using it and shooting with it I can state up front that I actually adore the style and design. For my hands, it feels superb when out shooting and when held correctly it really is easy to shoot with, and a joy. The last time I was with a Sigma camera it was when I reviewed the DP2 Merrill. I loved the Merrill for its amazing image quality, which was the best I have seen in any small camera. Very much like Medium Format and in some ways even better.  Now the Quattro has taken that image quality, improved the AF speed and other aspects and then jammed it into an all new body that is worthy of a whole conversation in itself.

Out of camera JPEG of my Fiancee’ Debby. This is complete OOC. Just resized to 1800 pixels wide and no sharpening. You can see the larger size if you click the image. For me, this is gorgeous out of camera color and IQ. From detail to color to bokeh. It looks fabulous. 

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So what is the Quattro?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a super funky designed camera that houses a new Foveon sensor and it will give you some of the best image quality you have ever seen, period. Even when shooting JPEGS. IN fact, I much preferred shooting the enhanced resolution JPEG’s over shooting RAW as shooting RAW is a process. Why you ask? Well, shooting RAW means you have to process those files in the Sigma Slow Photo Pro software as the files from the Foveon chip are not compatible with any other software. This means, no using lightroom for your Sigma DP2 files.

The Quattro has a 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS image sensor which will give you 5424X3616 files. The color and detail in these files is absolutely beautiful. Some of the best I have ever seen.

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The Quattro has a unique design as well and does not look like any other camera I have seen or used. It is long, oddball and with a strange reverse grip. When I first held it I was saying “OH NO! What have they done? The grip does not feel right”!. Then after  few hours of use I was saying “This feels great! Shooting with two hands feels natural and easy”.

My Quattro Video Overview

Basically, the design..while odd..is very effective for me. I have small hands but the camera fits me well and the buttons and dials are easily within reach.

Image quality is through the roof and when browsing over images I took, which were mainly quick snapshots, I was continually blown away by the complete lack of adjusting the photos. No need for changing or adjusting color, no need to sharpen, no need to fix exposure and no need to change ANYTHING. Out of camera JPEGS were just so pleasing with a rich file and crisp 3D feeling images. The Quattro, IMO, offers the most pleasing IQ from any DP camera to date though I have found the Dynamic Range to be on the lower side when compared to other cameras like the E-M1, A7, etc. When you blow a highlight you will not be able to bring back the detail if it is severely blown.

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The lens is a 30mm f/2.8 that gives us the equivalent of a 40mm 2.8 with the APS-C sized sensor. The lens is sharp and with great color and rendering. The Bokeh is smooth and pleasing and there is plenty of detail to be found here. No complaints on the lens at all.

Build quality is also fantastic and a step up from the previous versions. It feels solid and well made but I do have one major complaint. I feel it is a big one. The door that houses the SD card is not a door at all but a rubber flap that has to be pulled out and moved to the side to access the SD card. Over time this rubber will break off and this will mean that the SD card compartment will be exposed to the elements of dust, dirt and moisture. Horrible design on the SD card part. Sigma should actually fix this in the current production and replace it with a legit door. Not sure who designed that or who approved of it but it is the worst design SD card compartment cover I have seen.

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The Sigma is also missing any kind of EVF or OVF and the LCD does not tilt or swivel. If Sigma would have added these two things they would have had a serious camera that would be tough to pass up for those who love their image quality. The brand spanking new Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is quite a bit different from the previous Foveon sensor due to a new top layer with a higher res. This should now give more detailed results with faster image processing and overall speed. So Sigma has reworked their sensor tech and the 29MP Quattro is said to give the results and resolution of a 39 MP normal sensor. Pretty cool.

Here is what Sigma says about their creation:

“Unique and without peer among image sensors, the Foveon direct image sensor is similar to traditional color film in that its multiple layers capture all of the information that visible light transmits. Vertical color separation technology produces incredibly rich color gradations, which in turn make possible texture and expressive power that are immediately apparent to the eye. Even when you are photographing an object with a single color, the sensor captures the full gradation perfectly, with no discordant jumps between lighter and darker areas. Proof that capturing color accurately one pixel at a time really makes a difference, these perfect gradations are at the heart of what we call “full-bodied image quality.”

While delivering this rich, colorful, ultra-high resolution that optimally replicates what you see in the real world, the new dp offers image files of a reasonable size in an easy-to-process format. To achieve this combination, we thoroughly rethought and redesigned every aspect of the camera, including the sensor, engine, lens, body, and interior layout. The result is a camera that carries on the dp tradition and gives you unprecedented image quality.

To a radical degree, the new-generation dp series embodies SIGMA’s philosophy of creating cameras that produce works of art. Featuring the highest level of fundamental performance, this series unites artistic expression and daily experience as no other cameras can.”

As it stands, the camera produces some of the most gorgeous colors and files I have seen…comparable to real medium format files but are the weaknesses enough to put you off from buying it? Let us take a look at everything in a little bit more detail.

My son Brandon and my Nephew John while visiting the domes of Casa Grande, AZ. Sigma Sp2 Quattro at 2.8. This is from RAW. Click it for larger!

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The Auto Focus speed of the Quattro

With the DP2 Merrill the AF speed is what killed it for me. Even the write times to the card were horrible. I wanted to love the DP2 Merrill and buy one as I started to get addicted to the image quality. At the end of the day I could not do it as when it launched it was $999 and for me to spend a grand I need a camera that will not frustrate the hell out of me to get a shot. The DP2 Merrill with its quirks and annoyances put me off from buying one, even at the current price of $699. It is just too slow and doesn’t feel right in the hand to me. You can read my review of that camera HERE.

With the Quattro I had hoped that Sigma improved the Auto Focus speed. If not, it would be the same thing for me and the design would not have saved it.

After shooting the Quattro in many different conditions I have found the AF to be much better this time around but still on the slow side of the tracks. It will not compete in AF speed with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the Fuji X-T1 or the Nikon 1 series. It is nowhere near DSLR Focus speeds either, but it is much better than the old DP2 Merrill. The camera is full of flaws but IQ is not one of them.

When shooting in decent light it is quick enough to get a grab shot though not fast enough to catch a super quick moment. Even with the speed increase, which also is seen in write times, it does not even come close to making the Quattro any sort of action camera. I still say that this camera is best for static subjects. Portraits, scenes, landscapes, urban decay, etc. This is where the camera will excel. I have found the images to have a medium format feel in color and details. In fact, the IQ is so special with this camera that I feel the speed increases seen, while still slow, make the camera worth a purchase for those who value superb color and IQ. For portraits this camera just gets it right and if used from ISO 100-800 you will not be let down by the IQ. If coming from a Merrill of even older DP2 you will find the speed increases very welcome indeed. Just do not expect a speed demon, as it is in NO WAY a speedy camera in operation.

The next three images..all OOC JPEG

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What the DP2 Quattro is missing, in my opinion

While I have been enjoying my time with the little Quattro I have been wishing that it has a few things that it does not, and if it did, it would make it complete IMO. For one, I love the fact that it is so simple. It is a device built for one thing, all out image quality without any stress of color, sharpness or quality. In this regard, it just works. Image after image, even of plain old mundane subjects looked superb, reminding me of the old Leica M9 in many ways with the crisp yet pleasing details and slide like film color. Add in some medium format smoothness and you have a camera that REALLY delivers in the IQ department. I know I said this already but for me, the IQ is almost worth the asking price alone here. Add in the funky design (which I love) and the ease of use and you have a real camera that photo geeks and enthusiasts will really enjoy when shooting in good light.

But the DP2 is not perfect, far from it.

For starters, there is no EVF  here. An EVF embedded into the body would have just added so much to the experience. When out in bright light the LCD gets hard to see and framing your shot is basically not possible. It turns into a guessing game for everything. An EVF would have solved this and made it more enjoyable to shoot. Sigma is releasing an OVF (Optical View Finder) for the Quattro but there are issues to using an OVF with a digital camera.  For starters, let’s say you shot with the LCD off (which is as easy as a button press away) and wanted to frame with the OVF. You will not get an exact framing nor will you know where the camera focused. If you want precise focus you will need to use the LCD. An EVF would have been perfect.

Also, the LCD does not swivel and while I appreciate this being done to keep clean lines and save on thickness, it hurts the usability because without the EVF or a tilt LCD it takes away points for versatility. Then we have the shoddy high ISO performance. I have been using the Sony A7s as my main camera for months now and have become quite spoiled with the ability to shoot anywhere and at anytime. With the DP2 Quattro forget low light interior shots or ISO above 800. After ISO 800 the noise gets nasty and even with color I would prefer to stop at ISO 400. This is one area where the Foveon sensors just have not been able to improve upon. At base ISO and up to 400 the file quality is outstanding in color or B&W. After 400-800 you will want to go B&W only, and yes, you can get good results at ISO 3200 with B&W. OOC B&W mode looks great.

So while the IQ and design is beautiful (for me and my tastes) the camera still lacks due to not having an EVF, swivel LCD and not so great high ISO performance.

With that out-of-the-way, if one wants a camera for certain subjects like portraits, landscape or scenic type of stuff then the Quattro will deliver better than almost any other camera. I feel it has better IQ than the Leica M9 that came in at $7k. From color to detail, it is stupendous. If we treat it like a “Mini Medium Format” then it is understandable  that it is lacking in many ways but up there with the best of the best in other ways.

As long as you know what you are getting with the Quattro then it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed with it. I recently saw a YouTube video review of this camera and the guy concluded with “It’s a piece of crap”. I have never seen such a horrible review as the guy had no idea how to use it to its potential. The Quattro is far from a piece of crap and is highly capable when it comes to making/creating an image. From the color to the detail to the rich file. You just have to realize what it is and what it is not!

The NONO’s: No action shots, no low light interior or night shots, no easy framing in harsh sun. Battery life is below average but camera comes with two of them.

The WOW’s!: Gorgeous MF like IQ & color, unique design and simple menu setup. OOC JPEGS look fantastic.

There more OOC JPEGS…

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The Shooting experience with the Quattro

The DP2 Quattro, as previously stated, is a unique design. I am a HUGE fan of those companies that go outside of the box when it does to design and features. I love to see companies push the envelope and do or try things that no one else does. When I saw the design of the Quattro before it was released I was very excited about it because it was something different from the normal ho hum camera shape. I found the DP2 Merrill to have an awful body design. The Quattro, while odd at first while holding it soon becomes comfy and natural. I had zero issues using the body, holding the body or controlling the camera. The magnesium alloy body feels solid and secure and everything is top quality (besides the dumb rubber SD card cover).

Brandon getting the shot with his Diana camera. OOC JPEG. Blown highlights outside in the sun. 

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Using Auto Focus with the Quattro is a much nicer experience over the DP2 Merrill, which was borderline unusable for most situations. At least now we have a somewhat snappy AF and while it will hunt in low light, it is not bad at all. I expected worse, so it exceeded my expectations in the Auto Focus speed department. The Quattro does not do the fancy tricks that other cameras do. Video? Nope. Fancy built-in effects? Nope. No panorama, no smile detect, etc. It is a simple camera with a simple design and button layout.

The Menu system is superb. Clean, elegant and easy to browse. I wish all were like this. It reminds me of a Leica menu in its simplicity and the quick menu is so clean, so easy to navigate and make changes. I love it.

When I washout shooting with the DP2 Quattro I always loved taking it out of my bag to shoot and I even had a few people ask me what it was I was taking pictures with. It is a conversation starter and stare getter for sure, so forget about being stealth with the Quattro. Never once did I have an issue with anything and it always delivered the goods. I had a wonderful time shooting with it unlike the previous DP2 Merrill.

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It’s all in the details

Even when shooting JPEG you can see the immense detail in the image. Below are three images with 100% crops embedded. You must click the image to see it with the crop. Remember, these are from JPEG!

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High ISO Test and Crops

The Sigma DP2 Quattro, or any DP camera for that matter is NOT a camera made for low light shooting. In fact, for best IQ keep this camera set to ISO 100-400 and no more than that. Yes, very low on the ISO scale but there are always trade offs as there are no perfect cameras. The DP2 Quattro is a camera to pull out of the bag when there is good light available. Then it will reward you with beautiful colors and results.

I am posting a few high ISO files below starting with base ISO 100. I them move on to 400, 800. 1600, 3200 and 6400. The best are 100 and 400 but see for yourself. Once you get to ISO 1600 problems start to creep in including odd color shifts and reduced DR. Stick from 100-800 and you will be just fine.

For best viewing experience, right-click and open each image in a new window. These are full size files from the camera, OOC JPEG

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JPEG vs RAW comparison

I have found that shooting the Quattro in JPEG  to be quite good. In fact, with all of the hassles of processing the RAW files of the DP2 Quattro I would just shoot JPEG for 95% of what I shoot. If I was shooting something very special that I was going to print large t hen I would process the RAW file for sure. Below are two images, one out of camera JPEG and one processed from RAW.

JPEG is up top, RAW underneath. Right click and open in a new window to see the files in their full size. 

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding Medium Format image quality!
  • Unique design and shape that works well for my hands
  • Conversation starter
  • Detail, color and 3D feel is all here
  • Camera ships with two batteries and full charger
  • 30mm f/2.8 lens is sharp corner to corner
  • Sigma’s best DP to date
  • Faster Af and processing over previous DP cameras
  • Great JPEG engine
  • Super JPEG size:  7,680×5,120
  • Superb for B&W shooting
  • OVF is available for those that want one
  • Good Dynamic Range up to ISO 800
  • Menu system is simple, clean and elegant
  • Most Unique camera of 2014!
  • IQ puts most other cameras to shame…really.

Cons

  • Still slow to AF compared to other (non DP) cameras
  • No swivel LCD
  • Must get exposure correct as it is tough to recover highlights
  • SD Card rubber “door” will break eventually
  • No kind of EVF even possible
  • Shape may be trouble for some
  • Battery life is not the best, sucks down quick.
  • Fixed lens means only 40mm equivalent
  • Limited ISO use, best from 100-400
  • Dynamic Range suffers after ISO 800+
  • RAW files can only be opened and processed by Sigma Software, which is SLOW as molasses.

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Who is this camera for?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a camera for camera pros, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It is not a P&S for a new camera buyer or for someone without any knowledge of how a camera works. It is for those who crave detail, rich color and unreal micro contrast. It is for those who want a Medium Format look and feel in a camera that is much smaller and lighter, as well as cheaper. It is a camera for portraits, landscapes or still life. It is not for someone who wants to shoot running kids inside the house. No way, no how. If you shoot outdoor scenes, landscape or people and you want a camera that will deliver some of the most beautiful files you have seen, the this may be your camera. I find it works great as a 2nd camera for special situations or those moments when something like this will work for you.

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Final Word

As I sit here and think about my time with the DP2 Quattro I am extremely pleased and happy with the image quality. It exceeded every expectation and beats out some much more expensive cameras when shooting in the iSO 100-400 range. For IQ, this is one of those camera that just scream out with it. It doesn’t get better in IQ even in the 3K range! It was reminding me of such cameras as the Leica M9, Sony RX1R and even a few Medium Format cameras when it comes to IQ. That is some pretty impressive company, especially when you consider that the camera sells for $999. Well under the others I mentioned.

But will the IQ be enough for most of you who are in the market for a new camera? Probably not. The Sigma DP Quattro would not make for a good “one camera” to own because it limits your shooting to daytime or good light, ISO 100-800 for color shooting and it does not offer an EVF or swivel LCD. The Battery life is tough (but it does ship with two) and the camera does not do video or the gimmicky tricks that some other cameras do so well.

The DP Quattro is about one thing and one thing only…making memories in decent light with the best quality possible in this size and format for under $1000.

The Auto Focus has improved greatly from the DP2 Merrill I tested but it is still lacking in speed when compared to other cameras. I never found it unusable or missing the shot, not at all, but again…it is only good for still shots, NOT action or moving subjects and in low light it slows down and hunts. The DP2 Quattro has the all new sensor that delivers faster speed and better performance across the board and the 29 MP Foveon sensor is said to give the same results as a standard 39MP sensor. I would not argue that point. The battery life has improved from the Merril’s 50-60 shots per charge and now I can get about 120-140 shots per charge The two batteries supplied should be good for a day of shooting as long as you are not a speed demon machine gun shooter (if so, this is NOT your camera).

Shooting the Quattro is something you will either LOVE or HATE. If you can get along with the funkytown design then you will enjoy shooting with the Quattro. If you find the grip odd or off, then forget it.

Me, I love the design. I think it is the loveliest camera design of 2014.

So will I buy one? When B&H Photo sent me this camera to review I assumed I would “like” it but not “love” it. Well, I fell hard for the special image quality which does have some magic embedded in it. I also enjoyed the faster AF and write times and beefier design. I hate the flimsy rubber SD card “door” but overall enjoyed my time with the camera. I feel it is worth the $999 if you are after IQ for landscapes or portraits and as a 2nd camera for those times when you want the Foveon Look. So I have to ask myself if I would use it enough. I have a Leica, I have a Sony A7s and still have an Olympus E-M1 lying around. Do I need this one? NO, not at all. Do I want it? Sure, I would love to own it just for the IQ, color and design. I feel one day this camera will sit in a museum for its unique yet oddball design! It may be a flop sales wise but it sure is unique ;)

So would I buy one? Yes indeed, if I had the spare $1k to spend, without hesitation. If I can save some cash I may just go for it. I passed on all previous DP models but this one is my favorite without question. I can not image ANYONE being disappointed with the image quality. Just beware that you will need light because after ISO 400 or 800 the IQ degrades fast.

I would love to test this camera and the upcoming DP1 (28mm equivalent)  during my upcoming Southwest workshop as it would create some breathtaking images I am sure. I may have to buy one just for that trip :)

WHEN YOU SIT AND THINK ABOUT IT…the Sigma DP Quattro beats the Leica M 240, Sony A7 and others for Image Quality, has Auto Focus (the Leica does not) and comes in at $6k less (than the Leica) but includes a lens where the Leica does not. When you look at it in this way then it is a no brainer and worth the cost if you value high image quality above all. Just be ready for what this camera does NOT do well (low light, action, etc).

Overall it gets a recommendation from me, and a high one..but only if your main concern is image quality and you do not need a camera for low light or for fast moving subjects.

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Where to Buy

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is available at the links below from my recommended dealers:

B&H Photo – You can see or buy the Dp2 Quattro at B&H Photo HERE

Amazon – Buy the Quattro at Amazon by using my link HERE

Outside the USA? Use my Amazon UK, Germany and Canada links HERE.

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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Aug 142014
 

 Sigma DP Quattro in the house! 

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Today the UPS guy brought me a package from B&H Photo with a shiny brand new Sigma DP Quattro, so this is an EARLY 1st look with a few snaps from around my house in the past 30 minutes. THIS IS NOT MY REVIEW, that will be coming soon.

In the past I have used the Sigma DP cameras and while I have always enjoyed the image quality from these little powerhouses I always hated the design, the cheap feel, the super slow operation, the cranky autofocus, awful high ISO performance and the awful battery life. The DP2 Merrill was jaw dropping for static subjects in good light but everything else, forget it.

When Sigma announced the DP2 Quattro and shown everyone what it would look like the reactions were split in the photography world. Some thought it was super cool and others thought it was ridiculously ugly. I was in the “super cool” camp, but hey, I am cool, so what can I say? Lol.

As soon as I saw the design and read that many of the issues were fixed with the Sigma DP cameras I had to take a look because I LOVE when camera manufacturers think outside of the box, and there is nothing like the design of the DP2 Quattro. In fact, it may be one of those cameras that end up as a classic just due to the design. I would not be surprised to see it in a camera museum in 30 years.

One thing that really irked me with the previous DP2 Merrill that I reviewed (see it here) was the AF speed. It was a camera only good for static subjects, period. I can state that after just taking 20 snaps with the Quattro, the AF is indeed faster than the previous DP cameras. Is it fast enough? No, not really. It will not be a camera one grabs to snap their running kids. Instead, it is really made for things like beautiful landscapes and colors, along with portraits. The Foveon sensor is very special for thing such as this as the detail and quality of file it can pump out at base ISO in good light is extraordinary.

High ISO also suffers with the Sigma DP series and I can say that the Quattro looks better at ISO 800 than the previous model but at the same time, I have noticed that for color work, nothing over ISO 800 will do. For B&W, even ISO 3200 can look good. Even so, I can tell that the Quattro will not be a threat to the amazing Sony A7s for low light shooting.

In the hand the Quattro feels good, looks cool but different and is faster than any previous DP series camera. While still slow, the new Foveon sensor inside is pumping out beautiful color and details even when shooting JPEG mode (all I have tested so far). One thing I already dislike is the fact  that there is no viewfinder of any kind, no swivel LCD and the side SD card door is not a door but a piece of rubber that will break off eventually after so many card changes. Not sure who thought up that design but for me, it is a fail. I can already tell that if the DP Quattro had an EVF, swivel LCD and an SD card door, I would buy one without hesitation.

A few images below, all JPEG from the Quattro within 30 minutes of it arriving to my house. My full review will be up in about two weeks. You can order the Quattro HERE.

ALL JPEGS from the Sigma DP Quattro

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Below an image resized to 1800 pixels wide, shot in B&W mode with the Quattro, JPEG..then a 100% crop! Click them for larger, how they were meant to be seen. 

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and the 100% crop (you MUST click on it) in JPEG mode. Pretty damn good for JPEG mode!

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The color right from the camera in 1X1 mode

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and another 1X1 shot with 100% crop embedded. Must click it to see it correctly. ALL JPEG!

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Aug 132014
 

roadtripsouthwest2014

OFFICIAL: Southwest Road Trip/Workshop. An Epic Photo Adventure awaits!

Antelope Canyon, Zion, Sedona, Horseshoe Bend and more!

UPDATE 08/14: In less than 24 hours we have received HUGE interest in this event with many sign ups! It is going to be pretty full, so if you are interested I would get in ASAP before it sells out!

As promised, I am posting details for this EPIC workshop/Road Trip that will take place November 6th-10th 2014. FIVE days of events, activities, photography, food, new friends, adventure and fun. I only do one or two of these per year now and only do them when they are done right and offer something special and unique for those who attend. This time, with the help of Todd Hatakeyama and Jay Bartlett I think we put together a wonderful trip that will give you a lifetime of memories and photographs.

We will start out meeting in Phoenix, AZ and will travel via either chartered bus or caravan style (depending on how many want to go on this trip). I am probably more pumped about this trip than any previous workshop I have done over the years. It will be the most scenic for sure, and we will be avoiding the blistering heat by doing it in November.

Breakfast and Lunch will be included (breakfast is included with hotels) but dinner will not be included. Hotels and all transportation will be included in this trip. Sony is also pitching in to this event and will be loaning out various cameras and lenses so we will have them on hand for you to test/use! How cool is that? How about testing an A7s on the sunset Jeep tour we are doing?

This will be a wonderful trip, probably my largest one yet packed with amazingly beautiful southwestern landscapes that you may have seen in photos but never been able to get to and shoot. Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Sedona and more.

We will be doing two full on JEEP tours in Sedona. One sunset tour and one during the day with pro guides. We will also be doing a full guided tour of Antelope Canyon.

Below is the full Itinerary.

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Steve Huff Photo Road Trip – Southwest USA

All will meet at the Aloft Hotel in Phoenix, AZ on Thursday Nov. 6th. We will depart this hotel at 5PM SHARP on Nov 6th either by chartered bus that will hold us all or via 3 vans. The schedule is amazingly cool and if you have never been to these destinations, it will be jaw dropping beautiful to you. I am in Sedona 4-5 times per year and the beauty there is heart warming. I am telling you now, THIS will be an amazing trip and the photos you will get from it will be worthy of huge wall prints! I will be on hand for any questions or help and Jay Bartlett will also be on hand for instruction (he will be shooting medium format for anyone interested in this).

Price per person will be $1800 for a private hotel room all to yourself. If you want to bring a spouse then price will be discounted to $1300 each for a shared room. Single participants can also book a shared room at the discounted rate of $1300 but you will be sharing a room with someone else. 

This price will include hotel and transportation for entire trip, breakfast, lunch, tours and instruction. The only thing NOT included here are the DINNERS as everyone has different tastes in food and drink, so we did not want to put a limit on the food for dinner, and some may be tired and choose to eat in their room. Will be up to the individual for dinner but we will have group dinners for anyone  that wants to join in. Hotel stays are all included as is every single tour. All you have to do is get to Phoenix, AZ on the 6th of November and we will take care of the rest. 

Our bus for the entire trip. Yes, we will be riding in comfort and style :) 

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*We can also pick you up from the airport if needed but you can NOT be late as we will leave at 5pm sharp on the 6th from the Aloft Hotel*

Day 1 (Thurs, Nov 6)
5:00pm Depart Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
7:30pm – 9:00pm Dinner in Flagstaff
11:00pm Arrive at hotel in Page, AZ

Day 2 (Fri, Nov 7)
7:30am – 8:30am Breakfast at hotel
9:00am – 12:00pm Antelope Canyon Photography Tour (this will be a professionally guided tour)
12:30pm – 2:00pm Horseshoe Bend
2:00pm – 3:00pm Lunch in Page
3:00pm – 6:00pm Drive to Zion
6:00pm Arrive at hotel in Springdale, UT
7:00pm – 9:00pm Dinner in Springdale

Day 3 (Sat, Nov 8)
7:00am – 8:00am Breakfast at hotel
8:00am – 6:00pm Zion hiking (lunch in the park)
7:00pm – 9:00pm Dinner in Springdale

Day 4 (Sun, Nov 9)
7:00am – 8:00am Breakfast at hotel
8:00am Depart Springdale
1:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch in Flagstaff
3:00pm Arrive in Sedona
4:00pm – 6:00pm Sunset Jeep Tour 2 hours (these are AWESOME and will take us into places you would have never even knew existed)
7:00pm – 9:00pm Dinner in Sedona

Day 5 (Mon, Nov 10)
7:00am – 8:00am Breakfast at hotel
9:00am – 12:00pm Scenic Rim Jeep Tour 3 hours (another amazing Jeep tour, off road, hills, crevices, and all kinds of cool things to see as well as getting out and exploring)
12:00pm – 1:30pm Lunch in Sedona
2:00pm – 4:30pm Drive back to the Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel

Antelope Canyon

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How to Sign Up

As you can see, this trip will be rocking so I hope to see many of you there with me! I am looking forward to this one and counting the days. If you want to sign up, and want in 100%, then make sure to do so quickly as these events tend to sell out quickly. The last one at Valley of Fire sold out fast and this one is an even better trip. That is not marketing hype, it is reality. Last trip we had to turn a few away as we sold out. If you want in, email me here and I will give you instructions on how to pay and set your reservation!

Driving into Sedona..

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Aug 122014
 

Copenhagen with the Leica M 240 and 50 APO Summicron

by Howard Shooter

Copenhagen is a difficult city to shoot. The buildings are spotlessly clean and beautiful, the roads are spotlessly clean and beautiful and guess what…the people are spotlessly clean and beautiful.

This presents the street photographer with a problem; no urban decay, no old men with interesting creases which tell the story of their lives and therefore no photography which is focusing on the contrast of modern society. Denmark, like their most famous invention, Lego, is designed beautifully.

My wife and I managed our lucky annual weekend away without our gorgeous children to have a little of us time leaving our three children, happy as could be with the grandparents.

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Copenhagen is famous for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, Canals that look like they are straight out of Amsterdam, (as a result of the Dutch building some of them), interior shops, posh designer food, beer beer beer, bicycles and a design ethos which is evident everywhere.

I was looking forward to using and testing my newly acquired Holy Grail of lenses, the Leica 50mm APO Summicron with the Leica M240.

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These shots are a miss mash of images and colours taken from around the city. I didn’t take hundreds of shots as I was there to relax and soak up the atmosphere rather than document it but I was pleased and I’m still learning all the time what this lens is capable of. I feel I always need about six months to a year to understand a lenses characteristics and this little gem is no different.

Now I think this is a lens which once purchased needs some financial justification as it is stupidly priced. I am not rich, I am quite sane (sometimes), and I am not a man who easily jumps on bandwagons. However I am a professional food photographer, I did sell two lenses to help pay for this piece of glass and I do use the Leica for the odd professional celeb chef portrait when the opportunity arises. I had ordered one of these, cancelled it and then six months later wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

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I think with lenses there is a misconception about what quality is all about when all of these graphs and charts and grids are produced by scientists who are comparing various tolerances across various apertures. I’ve seen enough shots of bookcases and scenes of toys with colour charts to last me a lifetime. Lenses are not solely about sharpness and yet this lens is sold partly because of its incredible sharpness. This, in the grand scheme of things definitely isn’t the main part of this lens that interests me. I did have a Leica 50mm Summilux and on the M240 it does display a little softness but it is a beautiful, quiet lens displaying subtlety and beautiful bokeh which is arguably nicer than the 50mm APO.

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What this lens does better than any other on the M240 is incredible dynamic range to the point where shots properly look like medium format film. The bokeh is nice but not incredible in my opinion, but the 3D pop combined with the sharpness and dynamic range is remarkable. It gives this lens a versatility like no other. Images can be deliberately overexposed and look subtle and beautiful without the whites bleaching out, and yet dark shots are rich and saturated with black blacks and eye popping colour. Black and white converted RAW shots look so authentically Bressonesque in their tonal values that the digital Leica feels like it has come of age.

The big question surely is “is it worth the money?”….. well for me it makes using extra lenses on the Leica seem superfluous and to that extent if you have a few lenses and traded up to the 50mm APO you wouldn’t be disappointed… I wasn’t… but blimey…. how much!

Howard Shooter

www.HowardShooter.com

Aug 052014
 

USER REPORT: Shooting the Sigma Dp2 Quattro and Fuji X100

By Michal Adamczak

Hi Steve and all,

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

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

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

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

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

International Balloon Fiesta

Incense

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

Michal Adamczak

A few from the X100…

Super nanny / Super niania

Najlepsza knajpa na Tokashiki.

House with a view / Domek z widokiem

Bramy nocą

Japanese wedding

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and a few from the Dp2 Quattro

Nephila pilipes

Emerald Valley

Youzihhu

Screenshot 2014-08-01 14.03.39

Screenshot 2014-08-01 14.07.27

Aug 042014
 

ttmitr

The Mitakon 50 0.95 lens Review on the Sony A7s

My Review of the Mitakon 50 T 0.95 Lens as used on a Sony A7s camera by Steve Huff

It appears that B&H photo is taking orders for the popular Mitakon 50 0.95 (see the review I posted earlier today) with a ship date of 2-4 weeks. You can pre-order HERE direct from B&H Photo.  

All images here shot as JPEG on the Sony A7s (review of the A7s is HERE)

A few months ago I wrote a first look on the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens for Sony E mount cameras. The Mitakon is a unique lens in that it is built like a tank to a very high level, comes in a deluxe hard shell case and is uber fast at 0.95. It is also a full frame lens, so basically it is MADE for the Sony A7 series of cameras which all have a full frame sensor. It CAN be used on APS-C E-Mount cameras of course but the full benefit comes when using it on full frame. There is no real vignetting issue (though there is slight vignetting wide open), no color issues and at the price of the lens (which is now $999) it is a great buy for anyone looking for an artistic lens for their Sony A7, A7r or A7s. if you can find one for sale that is…

My 1st look of the lens in April created a buzz and many shooters ordered the lens. I must have had over 75 e-mails from those who said they placed an order within a couple of days of my post. Wow. Only if I made a commission ;) So it seemed to generate quite a bit of attention, and that was with my 1st look and a few other blurbs from others online at the time. Today, four months later there are a few others who own the lens and more is being written about it on various online forums and sites.

My months of use with the Mitakon, still enjoying it!

The Mitakon really surprised me and here I am now four months later, still using it and still enjoying the hell out of it. I have been shooting with it on the Sony A7s as I felt that this combo would be the ultimate low light dream team. An 0.95 aperture lens with a camera that can shoot in darkness as it is. Wow. I used this lens in such darkness that required 0.95 and ISO 102,000. INSANE, but man, it has the capability to be used in some crazy situations when it comes to available light. As of today, August 2014, the A7s is my favorite and most used camera. Pictured below is an A7 with the Mitakon, from my 1st look report.

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This post will be my follow-up to my 1st look (which can be seen here) and I have found that using it on the A7s to be the best experience yet. The color is fantastic, the depth is superb and even the Bokeh is very pleasing in many shots.

Shot wide open with smooth Bokeh. Shot as a JPEG and accidentally had it in Vivid mode but still looks pleasing. Sharpness is there and color is as well. Sony A7s.

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I wanted to use the heck out of this lens before writing this as I was making sure the lens would not fall apart on me or have some other serious issues. To date it has performed flawlessly and is still as solid as it was on day one. I even lucked out and had serial # 000001 sent to me. Yep, the first production model off the line. The fit, finish and performance has gone above and beyond the price range. When you consider that the full frame Leica 50 0.95 Noctilux goes for $11,000, ($10,000 more than this one) and that they are both full frame 0.95 lenses built to a high standard..it makes you wonder..$10k difference? Does the Leica have that much difference in its build and feel and performance? Well, no it doest. The Leica is indeed the much better lens but I would say it is about $2,000 better, not $10,000 better. The Leica will have a better build, is heavier, larger and sharper (when calibrated correctly) and will have world leading Bokeh quality unlike any other lens made. It will also have more CA/Purple Fringing, which is odd but true. The Mitakon is surprisingly absent of CA from my shots (in which I have not seen much of it at all).

Smooth, silky, nice color once again and fantastic sharpness and transitions from sharp to blurred (DOF). Sony A7s

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Bokeh test..looks good to me for a $999 lens.

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When I sit down to write about a lens, or review a lens, I always try to make sure I am not rambling on about it, but sometimes I still do. This review will be short (for my standards, long for most others standards) and I will keep it under 3000 words. There is not too much to say about it anyway but I will break it all down from packaging to build to feel and use to sharpness, issues and final conclusion. Will even throw in a quick comparison to the Sony 55 1.8. While the Mitakon is not a perfect lens, and there are some things to be aware of like the fact that it is manual focus only, for $999 I have never seen a lens like it.

Mitakon has created something that is not only affordable for this  type of lens, but very useful and with good quality all the way around. In no way is the lens they sent me shoddy in workmanship or focus feel. It is up there with any Leica lens I have used or owned when it comes to focusing feel (which is smooth and nice). Remember, the Leica Noctilux is $11,000 (one of mine had to be repaired twice after the aperture blades broke down inside), the old SLR Magic 50 0.95 Hyperpriime was $4500+ (which never gave me one problem) and then there are the various $999 0.95 50′s that were just awful from color, to sharpness, to bokeh. None of those $999 lenses even come close to this Mitakon. None of them.

A few images shot indoors and wide open at 0.95 at low light during a Phoenix AZ meet up I set up last week.

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As you can see from the JPEG images above, in low light, the Mitakon 50 0.95 is a great performer, especially considering what it is, what it costs and what it can do. If you click the images here in this review you will see them how they were meant to be seen. All I have done with these is resize them to 1800 pixels wide for web viewing. They look great on my 27″ screen. Even looking at the Bokeh in these images, in no way do I find it irritating, busy or offensive. Actually, I am finding it pleasing, creamy and “fat”. With that I mean the highlights that are Out of focus are big, fat and puffy which is an effect of the large aperture. Overall the character of the Mitakon is sort of “rounded” meaning it is not analytically sharp nor is it soft. The focus point, which is VERY small when shooting wide open will be sharp but the rest of the image will look more dreamlike. For example…

Shot this below in JPEG and focused on the glasses. The rest of the image is a tad soft due to Depth of Field, not because of sharpness. This lens is plenty sharp, even at 0.95 AT THE focus point! Remember when shooting 0.95 of full frame your depth of field is TINY! All three images below were shot at 0.95 and are right from the Sony A7s JPEG mode.

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In fact. this lens remains pretty sharp wide open but gets sharper when stopped down to at least 1.4. Almost 95% of the images here were shot wide open at T0.95. Yes, this is a T 0.95, not an F/0.95. What does that mean? Well, to make it simple it basically means that it is FASTER than an f/0.95…but only slightly. So for me, having a T 0.95 lens at $999 that is full frame, well made and performs well in regards to color and sharpness at T 0.95, well, it is something we never see. This lens is up there with lenses that cost much more so $999 is a great price point for the lens. Anyone who owns a full frame Sony E mount and has interest in a fast lens..well, I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in the 50 T 0.95.

The lens comes in a deluxe case like the one you see below. Nice touch,

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My 1st Look Video

Below is the video I did of the lens in my 1st look. You can see the lens, the case, etc.

The Sony 55 1.8 vs the Mitakon 50 T 0.95? A comparison.

No, it is not as crisp of analytical as the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8, which is a FANTASTIC lens for the Sony A7 cameras. The Sony/Zeiss 55 is sharp, has AF and has no issues with color, distortion or sharpness. At all. It has pleasing Bokeh as well. So who in their right mind would choose the Mitakon over the Sony when you lose Auto Focus, across the frame crispness and the lightweight construction of the lens making it easier to carry? Well, that is a tough one as the Sony is such a good lens and the cost is about the same at around a grand.

For me, I would choose the Sony if I wanted ease of use, convenience and perfection. I would choose the Mitakon if I enjoyed using a manual focus lens (which I do) and even faster aperture (T 0.5 vs f/1.8) and enjoyed a more artistic rendering and Bokeh. The Sony is more “correct” but the Mitakon is more “Creative”. The Sony will deliver pleasing results but some have said the Sony lens is too crisp and analytical with no real character. I agree with that somewhat as it is a bit “bland” in its rendering. I am a fan of character which is one reason I love so many old Leica lenses. The Mitakon has loads of character but it may not be everyones cup of tea. The best way to find out is to look at image shot with the Sony and images shot with the Mitakon. Then decide for yourself which rendering you prefer.

Below is a crappy test shot in my yard at 8PM  - one taken with the Mitakon at 0.95 and 1.8 and then one shot with the Sony 55 1.8 at 1.8. You can compare them for yourself.

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Low light use

Many have asked me how hard it is to use the Mitakon, as in.. not only in good light but in low light as well. How is it to focus the lens using the Sony EVF? Does focus peaking work well?

When I was using the lens in almost complete darkness I used the EVF and have my custom button set to magnify for critical focusing. This will slow you down but at T 0.95 in the dark it is hard rot rely on peaking alone as you may miss when you think you hit. Using magnify I never had an out of focus shot but it did slow me down. The Sony 55 1.8 would have AF’d using the A7s in the dark so it would have been a better lens to use for speed but not for character, as mentioned above.

I shot this guy and pushed it to the limits, even going to ISO 102,000 at T 0.95 in almost complete darkness. I found it has a flare issue if pointed direct into a light source and also found it has some barrel distortion. Other than that, the lens is problem free, or has been for me at least.

The performer I shot in the 1st image personally emailed me and told me how much she loved that image and she invited me back  to shoot them again next time they came to town. It is always nice to get a compliment on your work. The fact that the Mitakon worked here is quite amazing as no other camera or lens would. I tried my Leica M and 50 f/2 and it was impossible even at ISO 6400 (max of the M). Even with an 0.95 lens on the M it would not have worked as I needed to go to ISO 25,000 and up for this light.

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and 102,400 again but with the flare

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Using this combo of A7s and 50 Mitakon in extremely low light, bordering on full darkness in some situations was a pleasure. I had no idea if anything would work out or be usable (especially the insane 102k iso shots) but man…when I came home and downloaded the images I was shocked. Not only were they all usable, they looked good! Up to ISO 32,000 was fantastic, and this was all JPEG shooting!

It was during this time that I bonded with my A7s and Mitakon. This also made the Sony A7s my #1 go to camera for day-to-day shooting. While I normally use the Sony 35 28 and 55 1.8, I bring out the Mitakon when I want the look and feel that it offers, which is similar but different to any other 0.95 lens I have used.

While not perfect for most A7 shooters due to the fact that it is manual focus only, the fact that it is such a fast lens and will be hard for amateurs or those new to fast glass to focus at 0.95, the fact that it does have some slight barrel distortion and flare (if pointed to a light source, but so do many Leica lenses), well, makes it NOT perfect. But no lens is perfect (besides THIS one) and at $999, for a lens of this build quality, speed and performance, well, we have a home run hit for Sony shooters who want something like this and want something that will perform without breaking the bank.

One thing about the Mitakon that is unique to lenses such as this is the close focusing ability. Yep, you can focus this lens as close as .5 meters, which is pretty close. When shooting at the closest focusing distance it is very tricky to nail focus when wide open but when you do, you will get a somewhat sharp image. For comparison, the Leica Noctilux will focus only to 1m.

Two images of our new puppy “Olive”. The 1st one at 0.95 and the 2nd at 0.95 but at the closest focusing distance of .5 meters. Love the OOC color here from the A7s and I even have a print of this I made at 8X10. Looks lovely.

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Where to Buy the Mitakon?

Well, here is the tricky part. I was sent the lens to review and the site that used to have them listed for pre-order has seemingly taken the lens off of its site. I can not find it as of today yet it was there 4 months ago when I wrote my 1st look. I did find a few e-bay listings for pre-orders but this lens is only available buying direct from Hong Kong. There are no distributors in the USA it seems. I remember SLR Magic having these same issues with no real easy way to order their lenses. I find that to be a huge mistake as ordering should be simple, easy and hassle free. Yes, all three of those words mean the same thing but c’mon! Pushing out a cool lens like this, asking for a review and then offering no real way to order the lens? Odd.

So I would suggest going to MXcamera (if you have interest in it) and sending them a message about this lens..as in..”how can I order and when can you ship”. The ordering is the one area that makes me uneasy about this lens. It just doesn’t seem to be obtainable, at least in an easy way. So if you can find one and want one I do recommend it as it is a super lens for any A7 shooter.

You can buy the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

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My Final Conclusion

The Mitakon is a very good lens for full frame Sony A7 shooters and it is MADE for the Sony E mount. It is not usable on Fuji, Micro 4/3 or Leica. It is a wonderful creative lens and I am proud to have one in my collection. I know that if I have to shoot something in insanely low light that the combo of A7s and Mitakon will get it done without issue. The more I use it, the more I like it. There is a slight learning curve here with the lens as well and it may take a few days to get used to focusing it and nailing the shots. The lens does show some slight barrel distortion if shooting straight lines up close and has slight vignetting wide open at 0.95 (as do all 0.95 lenses). It is not the easiest lens to get a hold of but I have nothing but praise for this guy because at $999 it is well wroth it to anyone who has a Sony A7, A7r or A7s. I liked it best on the A7s.

Steve

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Aug 012014
 

Friday Film: Velvia

By Gabriel Leibovich

Hello,

I wanted to share a few photos that I shot with my favorite color film, Velvia 50. The camera I am using is a Nikon FM with 50mm f/2, so nothing fancy. I also have a Fuji x-pro 1, which has something called velvia simulation but it can’t do justice to shooting the real thing. In my opinion, velvia has a remarkable and unique way of rendering colors that no other film or digital simulation can compare with.

Velvia-3

Velvia-2

Velvia-1

Jul 302014
 

sctitle

My Photo and Camera Journey

By Steven Crichton

The first act: Style and Ergonomics.

I suppose the first time I realised I had a look to my work was when a lecturer watched a group project and exclaimed “That’s a Crichton shot if ever I saw it”. I suppose it was at this point it dawned on me that I’d finally achieved the personal nirvana that so many of us dare not mention to ourselves in our work. I had a style unique to me.

I’ve been involved in photography since about 1996, when a few friends were applying to go to Art School. I looked at their portfolios and said to myself, “I can do that” and that was the point at which I paid £5 for a beaten up Fuji ST501, started to invest my pocket-money and hard-earned cash from a dishwashing job in film. I was abysmal!

I tried every technique. Read every book. I could never stick to one thing and dipped my toe into every known stylistic pattern I could achieve with a 50mm lens and a darkroom. Just the other day I found a bundle of solarised prints, no doubt borne out of a section in a book borrowed from the library on Man Ray, along with a passage in a John Hedgecoe Darkroom Techniques.

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Anyway as time went on I jumped about gear too. As I aged, my credit rating aged, my earning capacity increased and by the end of my initial film use period I was deep into a canon EOS system. With a healthy splattering of M42 adapted lenses. A Russian fisheye and a motor drive meaning I’d achieved 7th heaven for a then aspiring Skateboard photographer. However, around this time I started wearing glasses and this is where the second part of the tale comes in.

I’m left eyed. I wear glasses. Find me any camera designed for eye level use for a left eyed glasses wearing photographer! My right eye had been damaged by spray painting accident as a 5-year-old in helping dad fix the car. An incident where a man underneath a dismantled engine, holding a crankshaft doesn’t sometime have the time to realise he forgot to put the safety cap back on the spray can. I cried yellow and didn’t get the chocolate I was promised. Other than that I became predominantly left eyed and forever the last person the R&D department of every camera manufacturer would think about.

Back to the rest now.. It was about the time of starting university that I gave up taking photos as voraciously as I did before. I stopped carrying a camera and concentrated on playing the Guitar. Also as many camera toting musicians will know if gear is addictive in photography, with electric instruments my word the possibilities are endless to allow your hard-earned money pour from your pockets. Anyway, University ended, I bought a car .. cue next money / energy waste. Then I met a girl! (I had met them before, just not a significant one)

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She was an art student and did a film course. Bang I was back. Starting out with the most beaten up canon F1n you had seen. I alas didn’t get to meet Crocodile Dundee whilst using it ( I later stupidly refused an offer to buy the actual camera from the film ), but I found my love again. This combined with a purchase of a proper film scanner a DSLR and a Seagull TLR camera I dipped my toe back in. Excited as well by the advent of Flickr. A wonderful place where we can all have our backs patted and have a serious amount of paid work time wasted if your then employer doesn’t understand what you really do for a living.

Hasselblads, Contaxes, Leica R’s, Nikons (to which I stayed loyal on the periphery) , Linhof’s. Even a B17 Bomb-door Aero-Ektar mounted into a Graflex to shoot handheld. I jumped about a lot. My nose firmly planted behind the back of each of them. Glasses pressed to the side of my head. Still jumping between a lot of things as formats and my taste changed.

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Then suddenly. Something worked.

It’s that moment I hope all of you will have one day that. The camera comes up and goes down. You don’t look at the screen and you know what you saw you captured as you intended.

It came in the form of a Bessa R3a and a 40mm Nokton. Plus add into the mix Kodak UC 400 and Ilford HP5. I’d bought the hand winder, so no more poking my face winding on. I’d bought the grip to push the winder into my hand that looks like a dildo. Plus I’d actually read and paid attention to the wonderful font of knowledge that Roger Hicks and Frances Schulz bestowed upon us in their book of Exposure. ( for anyone looking at it .. take older sensors as slide film and newer ones a little more like print film)

It’s about this time things became consistent. I found my eye.. I found the lenses that fitted my thoughts. Then got an M2 then an M4-P to use in tandem. Looking back now at work from then it’s almost the same as it is now in the composure, the colour and ways I’ve torn a set of shapes my brain was faced with into a picture to draw someone in or hopefully let them see a little of what I saw in someone.

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The Second Act:

Life sometimes deal’s strange a strange hand to us and I was given the opportunity to study an Imaging masters at Duncan of Jordanstone art school in Scotland. I jumped at the chance, after being so angrily denied previously by my parents.By then video in DSLR’s had hit, I had a D90, I’d wasted countless hours reading about T stops, Focus Pulls, made dubious home-made rigs and all the like. I’d even written my own video editing software as by trade I’m a programmer. I sold almost all my film stuff keeping the M4-P and 2 lenses and hit Nikon hard for a range of lenses, tripods and bags.

The Crunch. No one tells you how much you will hate something when you are forced to do it!

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Creative work for me had been an escape. It now became a battle when I had to justify it with research and abstraction in every way. I wished people would get it ..

“If I think it’s interesting and cool and so do you, why do I need to back reference this to some made up back story or delve into the battle that art has with science”.

As you all can gather in an art school this is like presenting a lecturer with a freshly scraped up piece of roadkill. So I stopped. Completely. I graduated and stopped. 3 years passed and thankfully, the bitter taste of pressure gone, I wanted to enjoy the process of photography again.

Moving to a city such as London, you downsize, rapidly and totally. I went from a 4 bedroom house to a single room, so the loss of equipment was brutal. No more Leica’s, 1 Nikon d300s and an old F3 I had if I wanted to shoot some film. After a year of the city I left, but in the strange hand of fate kept a full-time night job with the Tate gallery, as well as my new full-time position back in Scotland at a Medical School in Dundee.

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I had money!

I mean I had the kind of money you either put a deposit on a house with or you consciously waste on every childhood dream toy you ever wanted. I drove a fast car, toted a Nikon D3s. Had the best zooms, the best primes (according to reviewers) and still had the same style! At last consistency in my work. Alas my nose and my eye hated placing a D3s shaped brick to it, but I went on.

The Final Act:

Then I sold it all. 4 backpacks of lenses bodies, supports, diopters you name it. If there was something in a drawer and it had Nikon or was “compatible” I put it in the camera bags I had and jumped on the train. 8 hours later standing in the North of Scotland I had an M9. Along with it, 4 lenses and the viewfinders needed. I genuinely felt like I had just come back home.

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A bit of time with adjusting the focus to allow for my eye being at an angle to the viewfinder and a soft release to boot I haven’t looked back. Throughout all of this time since getting it my shots look like my shots, I know what to expect and I know how it will all sit together still.

Then all of a sudden I’d expanded this kit a bit. G.A.S struck! Things like the voigt 12mm the summicron v4 etc .. all lenses that are according to the internet “sub par” on an M9. Little do they know .. I don’t shoot test charts and I actually print stuff I like out. I also work to the limits of what they can do. Then came along came Sony!

The crowning glory that Sony have managed, that is ignored by all. Is that the A7 range cameras can use every lens known to god and can nearly accommodate a part Italian Scottish nose when combined with a left eye. People bang on that lens X is awful, and continue to do so. “You need a Leica M240 or if only they had …” I say to you, when you use it does your style show through? Does it fit you? As nothing else matters. (unless it’s a biogon lens then yes they are awful… sorry Zeiss and sorry for the double standards people of the internet these are bad on the A7 ranges even adobe’s DNG light field correction filters can rescue them).

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So what do I grab now? I grab what works. I don’t assume a lens will deal a magic blow and I don’t assume the camera has an automated mode that makes me a grand master selling work for more money than I earn in a year. I grab the M9 or the A7 dependent on weight/laziness/feeling/weather and go out and shoot.
Probably by this time you are all very bored with this and looking for a conclusion. Well it’s in the Title; Style and Ergonomics.

If you can get a style stick with it, keep on working with it. If you can find something that fits you as a human, even if it’s not resolving 100000 lph or has a dash of vignetting and aberration, you will use it more than the 20kg Zeiss Otus that your wrist screams at. For me it’s a badly worn M9 and an A7 with a ragtag bag of lenses and I’ll be keeping it that way for years to come.

http://www.zuikomedia.com/

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Jul 242014
 

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The Sony RX100 III Review. The best pocket camera ever?

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

Man oh man oh man! Sony is on fire and hotter than ever (Sony A7s just recently and now this) and while the RX100 III is sort of older news already, as in, it has been released and in the hands of many shooters for a while now it is just now that I have been able to sit down, relax, and write down my thoughts about it after using it for 2-3 weeks. As many of you know, the RX100 III is the latest and greatest version of the Sony RX100, a true pocket rocket of a camera. In my review of the original RX100, I praised it up and down for what it was, what it could do and how it could do it, all while fitting in a front pocket. You can read that review here and to be honest, the original is still a damn fine camera today and can be had at a much better price than when it was launched.

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After the original RX100 came the RX100 II and after I had one for 2-3 weeks I found it was NOT enough of an upgrade to the 1st version to warrant the expense. With version II Sony added the capability to use an external EVF and improved the sensor slightly, but for me, I preferred the original sensor. Odd huh? Because of this, I never really reviewed it. Instead I took a quick look at it HERE. 

Now with version III Sony has given us a pop up EVF which is absolute GENIUS! It stays hidden until you want to use it, and then you flick it up with a switch on the side. It pops up just like a pop up flash would and then you pull it out to use it. It is a very welcome addition to the camera and for me, makes the upgrade worth it right there! But Sony did not stop there as they also changed out the lens, which is now a 24-70 equivalent ranging from f/1.8 to f/2.8. Even at 70mm you can stay at f/2.8, which will allow more light to come in. Faster is always a good thing when it comes to aperture. So while we lose some of the reach of the Version I and II RX100, we gain speed and IMO some slight improvements to the lens quality.

We still have the same RX100 size, tilt LCD, selfie mode, and all of the usual Sony features and gimmicks. The lens barrel rotates and can control just about anything you want it to. I have it set to aperture but you can also set it to control color mode, or even ISO. The camera is a VERY polished and “finished” type of design. Smooth jpeg files as well with plenty of pop for a small sensor camera, and do remember that this is a small 1″ sensor camera that is not meant to replace a larger sensor mirrorless or DSLR as it does have limitations when compared to its larger cousins.

One of the 1st shots I snapped in JPEG with the RX100 III. Our new puppy “Olive” – Was in some weird mode so high contrast..

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One in High Contrast B&W Mode (JPEG) – click for larger. Focus was on the hair (of the wig) in front of his eye. Even with the small sensor you get some shallow DOF at the widest 24mm setting.

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Since the RX100 III is basically an RX100 with an improved sensor, new lens and new EVF it is still at its heart, an RX100. Same idea, same body, same concept, same shooting experience. So to read about all of that, click here to read what I said about the original in regards to all of that. In use, the new III is not only just as fun, fast and slick to use as the I and II, but even more so. While it may be small for some hands, there are a few grip options out there including Sony’s own grip made for the camera. There are also cases, and my fave is the one made by Gariz, which you can see below and order HERE. It’s really an attractive and useful accessory for the RX100 III and makes the camera look “luxury”. Much like a Leica ;) If it had a red dot…Hmmmm.

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Out of the Box impressions

The RX100 III arrived in a TINY cute Sony box and when I opened it I was welcomed by a familiar shape and design. As I stated before, the RX100 III is the same shape and design as the original, but in its III form it is like a “Super RX100″. In fact, I will call it the “Super 100″ from here on out as I feel it is so jam-packed with features that PHOTOGRAPHERS want. Nice fast Zeiss zoom, pop up EVF, swivel screen, fast and accurate AF, slim design, high quality video, etc. After taking it from the box I charged inserted a battery (I have six of them from my previous RX100) and popped the camera in my pocket. I shot a couple of frames at a KISS concert (though had seats off to the side) and around town during  my day-to-day errands. I shot JPEG 100% of the time.

For me, a camera like this should be able to do JPEG well, and the RX100 does indeed do it well. For me it offers a fun factor and stress free experience, which is good. While it does not compete with a DSLR or one of the larger sensor mirrorless cameras it does blow away any other point and shoot style camera out of the water. Forget Canon, forget Nikon and yes, this one even smokes any Olympus compact I have tried. This “Super 100″ is on another level from any other P&S and is still the best there is in this area. It has class, style, grace and it performs without breaking a sweat. The build feels solid and nothing about it feels cheap or hollow. I like this.

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Using the selfie mode, the LCD flips up so you can see it and  then the camera counts down  - 3-2-1 on the screen. This is a useful little mode that sounds silly to some, but I used it 4 times in my 2 weeks with the camera. 

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Did a similar shot in my review of the RX100 I so I figured I would do the same here, why not? Excuse the dirty mirror.

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This “Super 100″ (RX100 III) is perfect for an EVERY DAY camera. Phone? Naaaaaaa.

Do you want something of high quality, something that is small and hassle free to carry yet offers you a huge improvement over your cel phone for images? You want ease of use, HD video, a fast lens and great low light performance? Look no further my friends as the RX100 III can do it all, and it does it so much better than your phone. While the most popular camera today is the iPhone, there are still those out there that care about quality, and I am one of them. There are those who want a viewfinder, who want the experience that once upon a time came with photography. A phone does not give you that experience and while it may be capable and easy, it is not like using a real camera.

For me, memories are meant to be captured and preserved. Not everyone wants to carry a large DSLR or mirrorless but something like this RX100 III takes all of those issues away. It can take nice quality photos, without using a flash, in almost any light. While it will not be an “in the dark” shooter, it will give you so much better results than your phone in 99% of situations.

BTW, Every image in this review was shot as an OOC JPEG.

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The image below was shot by Bill Goodman, a local Phx photographer who was checking out the RX100 III when I brought it to Az Hi Fi 

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The color, the smooth files and the dynamic range are fantastic for what this little guy is. I was finding that the “clear” JPEG setting was giving me rich and punchy results that I liked. The way the RX100 III handles light and shadows can indeed be dramatic and very pleasing to the eye…it’s funny but there are times when the images I took with the RX100 III looked better in the final file over my Leica M 240 for resized web images! The color and smooth look is a signature of the RX100 series. With only a 1″ sensor it punches well above its weight class, for sure. When compared to a Nikon V1 or V2 or V3, the RX100 series presents images in a smoother way, reminding me of a larger sensor without the grit.

Dramatic color and tones…JPEG

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Shot in CLEAR JPEG mode..which is what gives it the look you see…

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TECH SPECS

Below are the tech specs of the RX100 III, or the Super RX100 :) I highlighted in BOLD the features that are worth mentioning and remembering as to me, these are what make the camera.

20.1MP 1″ Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor
The large 20.1 megapixel 1″ Exmor R CMOS sensor features backside-illuminated technology to enhance its low-light capabilities to a native ISO 12800 while still retaining vivid clarity. Using Sony’s Column A/D Conversion and area-specified noise reduction, images are rendered with impressive quality and smooth gradations between tones and colors due to the marked, intelligent reduction in apparent noise. Further enhancing imaging quality, detail reproduction technology works to increase the fine detail rendering capabilities for a more three-dimensional, realistic image quality while diffraction-reducing technology helps to enhance the optical qualities of the lens by suppressing diffraction that is common when working at smaller apertures. Additionally, aiding working in difficult lighting conditions, the sensitivity can be extended to an effective ISO 25600 when using Multi-Frame NR, which records and composites sequential images in order to attain high sensitivity with minimal noise.

Also benefitting the image quality, as well as overall camera performance, is the BIONZ X image processor, which provides continuous shooting up to 10 fps in Speed Priority Mode, 2.9 fps shooting with single-shot AF, a shutter lag time of just 0.008 sec., and a start-up time of 1.6 sec.

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
The built-in Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-70mm, covering wide-angle to portrait length perspectives to suit working in a wide variety of shooting conditions. An f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions throughout the entire zoom range and also enables greater control over focus placement for shallow depth of field imagery, which is further accentuated by a seven-blade diaphragm to produce a smooth out-of-focus quality. Nine aspherical elements, including two cemented AA (advanced aspherical) elements, are incorporated into the lens design to minimize chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range to benefit creating sharp, clear imagery. The lens also features a Zeiss T* anti-reflective multi-layered coating to help minimize lens flare and ghosting in order to produce imagery with rich contrast and color neutrality.

Benefitting the 2.9x reach of this lens, as well as supporting working in difficult lighting conditions and with longer shutter speeds, is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which helps to offset the effects of camera shake. When recording movies, the image stabilization utilizes an Intelligent Active Mode, which also uses electronic image stabilization to compensate for both camera shake and rolling shutter effects.

Additionally, a neutral density 0.9 filter is incorporated into the camera’s design, which provides a reduction of three stops in exposure to enable working in bright conditions with wider aperture settings and for greater control over how subject movement is rendered.

Direct OOC color from the RX100 III JPEG – this one was shot in VIVID mode.

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Camera Design
Within the compact design of the RX100 III is both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a large rear LCD monitor. The 0.39″ 1,440k-dot SVGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF provides a bright, clear means for eye-level monitoring, which is well-suited to critical compositions and working in bright conditions. It features 100% frame coverage, a unique pop-up mechanism, and a Zeiss T* coating on the optics to reduce surface reflections and flare for enhanced visibility. Alternatively, a 3.0″ 1,229k-dot Xtra Fine LCD screen is also available and features a tilting design (180° up, 45° down) to benefit working from high, low, and front-facing angles. WhiteMagic technology has been applied to the LCD’s design, too, to increase effective brightness for easier viewing in bright lighting. When working with both viewing means, an integrated eye sensor automatically switches between both the EVF and LCD. Additionally, the camera can be turned on simply by popping the EVF into place.

For intuitive, SLR-like adjustments over a variety of camera settings, a manual control ring surrounds the lens and features a smooth, click-less design for quick and quiet changing of settings. The ring can be assigned to control a variety of features, at different values, such as zoom, aperture, and Picture Effects. A step-zoom feature can be utilized, too, to allow instant switching between commonly used focal lengths.

Full HD Video Recording
Full HD 1920 x 1080 movies can be recorded in the high-quality XAVC S format, which uses a Long GOP (Group of Pictures) structure, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression, and linear PCM audio compression, and saves within the MP4 container format. These compressed files permit recording times up to 29 minutes while allowing 50 Mbps video recording at 1080/60p, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, and 720/120p frame rates. Full-pixel readout helps to minimize any artifacts in recordings due to the ability to utilize data from the entire image sensor, which ultimately results in smooth, high-resolution recordings. Movies can also be recorded in the AVCHD format, which is ideal for HDTV playback and Blu-ray disc burning, and the MP4 format, which is ideal for uploading online. Additionally, when shooting for two purposes in mind, dual recording is possible in different formats-XAVC S and MP4 or AVCHD and MP4-for the ability to instantly share footage while also having a higher quality version for subsequent editing.

Benefitting advanced video applications, the RX100 III also supports clean HDMI output for recording uncompressed video via an optional external recorder and for real-time viewing on an accessory monitor. Recording frame rates include 24p, 60p, and 60i, and the shooting info display can be turned off during recording for a cleaner view when utilizing an external monitor.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables instant transferring of imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices, with no complex set-up required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and, using Smart Remote Control, remotely control the camera’s shutter release.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

Other Camera Features
A contrast-detection autofocus system works to acquire precise focus using single-shot or continuous AF modes. When working with moving subjects, Lock-on AF, with wide, center, and flexible spots, adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame. Face detection and face registration technologies can be used to base focus on recognized faces and Eye AF is also available, which is a detail-oriented focusing function that prioritizes and dedicates focusing performance on a subject’s pupil for sharply-rendered portraits.
For manual focus control, DMF (Direct Manual Focus) and standard manual focus options are available. Benefitting precise manual focus, focus peaking can be used, which highlights edges of contrast within the frame for a more objective means of determining critical sharpness, or MF Assist is available, which enlarges the image for a better view of important details.

A zebra function can be used for easier detection of exposure clipping to prevent overexposure.

A dedicated Custom button permits assigning of one of 42 possible functions for instant, one-touch access to a chosen control.

A digital level gauge detects pitch and roll types of movement and helps to produce even, consistent horizons and plumb verticals.

Smile Shutter technology enables the camera to automatically release the shutter when a subject’s smile is detected

Multi Frame NR records consecutive images at a reduced ISO sensitivity and then composites them into a single image to realize higher effective sensitivity (up to an equivalent ISO 25600) with minimal image noise. Standard image compositing is comprised of four exposures and High image compositing utilizes 12 distinct exposures.

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.

Picture Effect modes allow you to apply creative settings and emphasize certain facets of individual images for a richer, more aesthetic picture quality. Posterization (Color/B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration modes are available.

Creative Style settings provide control over how the camera processes images based on different predetermined styles: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia, and Style Box. Within these settings, contrast, saturation, and sharpness can also be adjusted depending on personal preference.

To extend the effective reach of the optical zoom lens, Clear Image digital zoom can be used to intelligently magnify scenes up to 5.8x at full-resolution. This digital zoom technology uses an intelligent interpolation process to minimize the amount of image degradation in order to produce realistic, high-quality images.

In-camera creation of 4K slide shows is possible for rich playback to ultra high definition televisions. An HDMI port is incorporated into the camera’s design, too, to enable direct connection to HDTVs.

TRILUMINOS Color support is supported to produce rich, natural colors when imagery is viewed on a TRILUMINOS Display.

I enjoyed having 24mm for the wide end…

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For me, the new EVF rocks..though it is SMALL

As soon as I saw that Sony included a new pop up EVF in this model I was instantly attracted to the camera. If this one feature was NOT put in then the RX100 III would not have generated as much attention as it has and the camera would not be worthy of the III name, it would be more like an RX100 II. The new pop up EVF if really an awesome and fantastic addition to an already great camera model. The coolest part is that if you do not want to use it then it stays hidden. There are no humps, no evidence it is even in the camera. Without using it no one would even know it was there but flick a switch located on the left side and BAM! There you have it, instant EVF. Now you can put it up to your eye and frame with a viewfinder. The EVF is very small but much better than something you will see in a Leica C for example.

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The color is good, the clarity is good and i used the EVF quite often..and I can prove it! See my reflections in the window shots below? Look how small and compact the RX100 III is here! It is small but feels nice and weighty in the hand. The lens offers great clarity and snap and the EVF takes this model over the top.

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Is this camera for you? Answer these questions to find out!

The RX100 III is not a cheap camera, in build or design or in cost. It will cost you about $799 to purchase the greatest Point and Shoot of all time, but to see if this is worth it to you, answer the following questions, if you answer yes to ALL then you would benefit from an RX100 III.

1. Do you want a pocket-size travel type of camera to take anywhere?

2. Do you dislike larger and heavier cameras?

3. Do you value QUALITY when it comes to images? As in, IMAGE QUALITY?

4. Do you like having a convenient and fast zoom?

5. Do you like to shoot hassle free, and even shoot JPEG?

6. Do you often want the “best” you can get to avoid making mistakes in purchases?

7. Do you value having an electronic viewfinder to frame with?

If you answered YES to ALL of the questions then you would not be sorry with the RX100 III. In fact, I guarantee it!

Again, to get what the RX100 III is all about, read my RX100 review. Most of the camera is the same in regards to what it is, what it does and why it is so awesome :) This is a “light” review going over the new features only!

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The Pros and Cons of the RX100 III

Pros

  • It is small and fits in a front pocket
  • Pop Up EVF addition is AWESOME!
  • Camera AF is fast and accurate
  • Tilt LCD is very useful, even selfie mode
  • Build quality is good
  • Lens 24-70 1.8-2.8..nice
  • pop up flash if needed/wanted!
  • HD video is nice with optical steady shot!
  • WiFi built in, works well
  • Camera apps can be downloaded and used
  • Built in ND filter for when the sun gets bright, automatic
  • Smooth control dial on lens will control almost anything you desire
  • Many cases and grips made by third parties
  • Batteries are small, and cheap (third party sellers)
  • Best in class image quality and color

cons

  • Price of $798 is a little high for a P&S
  • Small sensor cannot compete with larger sensors for DR or ISO NOISE
  • Not the best for really low light, NR gets aggressive
  • Can be too small for some with large hands
  • Does not come with dedicated charger

 

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My final conclusion on the RX100 III

The newest RX100, or what I call it,  “the Super 100″ (RX100 III) is a genuine masterpiece of a point and shoot. It does NOT get better than this in a pocket P&S camera, period. From the design, the build, the EVF, the swivel LCD to the fast lens and punchy color and pop from the files, the RX100 III is the real deal. Once again Sony hits it out of the park here, as they have been doing for 2-3 years now. Sony is surpassing companies like Nikon, Canon, Leica in many areas with some of their recent cameras and they are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping and I think…yes I think..they are just getting started. Call it intuition but I have a feeling something ver special is coming in the high-end arena from Sony..very soon.

Keep in mind, the RX100 III will not and can not replace an APS-C or full frame camera (get the same results) as you just do not get the dynamic range, ISO performance or depth of field possibilities with the smaller sensor RX100 III. What you do get is a camera that is perfect for family use, vacations, world travel, and every day shooting. I have seen images from the RX100 (original) that blew away images I have seen from large DSLR’s, but that was from a VERY talented photographer. It seems that if you really know what you are doing then the RX100 III will reward you with its capabilities. I have noticed the DR is not up there with larger sensors as highlights can get blown, but it is not a big deal or deal breaker. The files from the RX100III are sublime and as good as you can get from a camera of this size.

The lens is fast with a versatile and normal 24-70mm range. With an aperture starting at f/1.8 and slowing down to only 2.8, the camera is highly capable even in low light. The EVF works great and stays out-of-the-way until you need it. It is not the largest thing ever but it works and works well. The design is genius! The RX100 III also has a built in ND filter which will automatically activate when needed. You have all of the Sony usual tricks here as well like panorama, color modes, art modes and intelligent auto modes. This camera can be used by amateur and pro alike. In other words, Sony makes it easy to either pick up and shoot in full auto or delve into the camera and use manual features.

All in all, this is indeed the best pocket camera ever made in the digital world. The price is steep at $798, but if you want the best P&S available and do not want to mess with lens swapping and larger bodies, this is one way to go that will leave you satisfied.

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

The Sony RX100 III gets my highest recommendation for this class of camera. Way to go Sony!

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Jul 222014
 

The new Hasselblad CFV-50c CMOS Digital Back. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research:

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

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Tech Specs:

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

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

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

Jul 212014
 

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The Olympus OMD-EM1 goes to Spain

by Neil Buchan-Grant

I have a few pictures I thought your readers may like to see, taken over two trips to Spain and Italy this year. These were all shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 camera, lenses specified below. I am still using the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH, currently on the Sony A7, but in general I find the OMD to be the camera I reach for first.

The first visit was to the village of Vejer de la Frontera near Seville in Spain. This hilltop pueblo blanco remains quite unspoilt compared to the towns on the costas further east. I was there to shoot the Feria, a 5 day-long party with fairgrounds, displays of prize cattle, equestrian displays, flamenco dancing, live music and many hospitality tents where everyone is welcome. Vejer is a special place anyone who wants to experience the real Spain should have on their list.

My second trip was to Venice where I and the professional landscape photographer Steve Gosling, ran a workshop for 9 students who came from all over Europe to learn about landscape and people photography. Steve concentrated mostly on the landscape and architecture and I focussed on the street photography and model portraits. This was an Olympus sponsored workshop so most of the students were using OMD cameras. It was a punishing schedule as Steve was up at the crack of dawn and the day would finish quite late, often followed by communal food and drinks!

Andalusia Spain – Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 23mm) This shot was made with the aid of a polarising filter in the village of Vejer de la Frontera near Seville. Its a traditional village but this is one of their newer buildings.

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Andalusia Spain – Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f4 12mm) This is Canos de Meca beach, which is about 15 minutes from Vejer de la Frontera, also made with a polarising filter.

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Andalusia Spain – Pana-Leica DG25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This chap was visiting the Vejer annual ‘Feria’ a post easter spring celebration which combines music and dance with horse and bull displays.

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Andalusia Spain – Pana-Leica DG25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) The Paul Newman of cats! in the back street of Vejer de la Frontera

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Venice Italy – Olympus 45mm 1.8 (at 1.8) Professional model and television presenter Chiara Sgarbossa wearing her own Venetian mask, maintains her composure as she is surrounded by hoards of tourists during our shoot in Piazza San Marco.

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Venice Italy – Olympus 75mm 1.8 (at f1.8 1/30s handheld ISO 2000) A romantic moment caught at around midnight in the dimly lit Piazza San Marco

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4, 1/8000 with 3 stop ND) This shot was made through the window of a Vaparetto water bus stop.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model and 3rd year law student Ira Lothiriel is captured in the basement of an old venetian house with natural light spilling in from the canal.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model Chiara Sgarbossa was laughing because the gondoliers below the bridge we were shooting on were serenading her. She handled their advances with movie star charm!

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This charismatic lady was looking around the superb Irving Penn exhibition at Palazzo Grassi. The large windows in here were covered in white muslin making huge softboxes!

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Ira Lothiriel in one of the sun-drenched squares, lit with a reflector.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Chiara Sgarbossa lit with a reflector

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Venice Italy – Olympus 75mm 1.8 (at f1.8) A wedding shoot in Piazza San Marco and a generous model/bride

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Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 40mm) On old lady taking some shade near Piazza San Marco as others are served iced tea.

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Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 12mm) This man was seen in Piazza San Marco at 5.30am, an Italian you’d think, but no, he was a Londoner killing time until his flight home that day.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This man was very keen to help me scout for locations to shoot in. Nothing to do with the beautiful model that I was with of course!..:)

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f3.2) This Chihuahua was wary of my lens!

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model Chiara Sgarbossa shot in a Venice alleyway, with the help of a reflector

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Ira Lothiriel posing on one of the many bridges that span the back streets of Venice

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Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com/
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

Jul 212014
 

My few days with the very fun Leica C Camera

By Steve Huff

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A couple of months back I had the opportunity to try out the Leica C for a few days. Usually, I am not a BIG fan of small P&S cameras as they always lack something in regards to image quality. For me, I would normally rather take out a camera that is slightly larger as there are many that will give me much better performance, then again, sometimes we want to go SMALL, and the Leica C is a very attractive came that also happens to perform very well for a small and tiny P&S. It even has an integrated EVF (though not to the level of the Sony RX100 III, which my review IS coming soon).

The Leica C is basically a Panasonic LF1 with a new facelift and design on the outer shell. The Leica has some snazzy accessories available for it as well where the Panasonic is sort of “plain jane” when it comes to appearances. If you want to stick out in a crowd and say “look at my beautiful camera” the Leica would be the one to get over the Panasonic, which to my eye is sort of plain and dull looking. We all know that the looks of a camera do not make the images, YOU DO and the cameras guts, or internals, is what pumps out the files for you. IN that regard, the two cameras are the same. Period.

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The LF1 comes in at $319. A very good price for this camera as I found it to be quick, stealthy, quiet and with very nice image quality for a small sensor P&S camera/

The Leica C comes in at $699, NEARLY $400 MORE. So what do you get for that $400? For starters you get Adobe Lightroom software, a better warranty and the Leica design. For some, this is worth it as many “want” a Leica. While not a “real” Leica, it does have the red dot which tells everyone else who has no clue about the details, that yes, this is a Leica.

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The good thing is that it does look like a Leica camera, and if that inspires you to get out and shoot more, then yes, it could be worth it. Just remember though that the Panasonic is $380 less, and is in reality, the same camera besides for the outer design.

With that out-of-the-way, this is not going to be a “review” but my thoughts on the camera after a few days of real world use while on vacation a while back.

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The Leica C is beautiful to look at and hold. It is small but felt nice in my hand. I found it to be quick, snappy, and with a nice menu layout. The EVF was a but on the almost too small side but would do in a pinch. For 90% of shots I used the LCD. The LCD does not swivel, so that was one thing I missed but for a small P&S, this was a little firecracker and while not up to the level of the $798 Sony RX100 III, it had its moments.

I enjoyed shooting this camera in high contrast B&W, which is where it did really well for OOC images. I also found the OOC JPEGS to be crisp with great color. Probably my 2nd fave P&S camera ever, next to the new Sony RX100 III which is the smarter buy at about $100 more, but then again, the Sony doesn’t have the red dot!

Below are a few images I snapped with the Leica C. I had fun with it, and for me that is key. If I can have fun with a camera instead of having frustration, then it goes on my list of “must think about” cameras. The Leica C is not a low light type of camera but it is an every day, take everywhere camera.

You can buy it from Ken Hansen, PopFlash, The Pro Shop, B&H Photo or Amazon! It also comes in a cool dark black or a nice white. There are also deals to be had and you should not have to pay retail on this guy. For example, Amazon has them for $590 right now, using Prime. 

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Jul 172014
 

Photographing 100 Strangers with Fuji

By Justin Holder

Steve,

Earlier in the year, I started what seemed like a mountain of a project, planning to meet 100 strangers over the next years, interviewing them and compiling them into a book for my two sons. The project is called “Advice For My Boys” and has ended up being not overwhelming, but an incredible journey.

Just last Friday, a couple of days before Father’s Day, I had already hit my 100th stranger since mid February.

I have a Canon 5DMKII and a host of L-lenses, but I knew that would add an intimidation factor, beyond what there would already be. So, I shot the entire project with my Fuji X100s, Fuji X-E1 and then the Fuji X-T1. As many of the other Fuji fans know, these cameras offer such incredible results, yet seem so cosmetically casual and unassuming. I could not be more pleased with the results.

Now, over 100 deep in the project, I have decided to keep going. I always ask my strangers initially three questions: happiest time of your life, toughest time of your life, one piece of advice for my boys. Amazingly, not ONE person has said no to the project.

Even more cool has been the ripple effect of it. One of my favorites, Lois, who worked at McDonald’s said, as we were sitting down to talk, “you know, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been noticed.” I asked what she meant. “Oh, I’m just one of those people who goes through life and you don’t really notice if I’m there or not.” The next day, lots of readers of the project showed up at her McDonald’s with cards, notes, little gifts, etc. Even the president of the bank went over to see her. She emailed me that evening and said it was the best day of her life. There have been so many similar stories in this project…and I feel certain there’s not one stranger I’ve met by chance.

We’re all fans of Steve’s site because we love cameras and photography, but even more the opportunities and experiences they often allow. If you’ve been considering doing something out of the box, I’d urge you to make the leap. Yes, it’s intimidating, but the rewards greatly outweigh the risk. Cheers to all of you!

Website for the project: www.AdviceForMyBoys.com

Nashville NBC affiliate news story

Thanks, Steve!

Justin

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Jul 162014
 

Where has the time gone? Memories of my life.

by Steve Huff

Tic Toc Tic Toc…Where has the time gone?

As I wake up from bed and head to go look in the mirror in my bathroom I see a face that has looked back at me for nearly 45 years. Today the lines are forming, the aging is evident and the energy that I had in my 20′s is just not the same. For me, the older I get the faster the time goes by. It seems like literally 2 weeks ago that I started this website, yet it has been six years already! Before that I used to be a regular on the DPreview forums, hanging out in the Leica forum and chatting it up with people like Ashwin Rao, Peter (Prosophos) and Amy Medina (Dangrabbit). Posting images, tests, crazy comparisons and more. It seems that just 10 years ago I had the enthusiasm and energy of a 9 year old kid at christmas. But that was a good thing because I then took that enthusiasm and passion and turned it into this website, and it has grown behind my wildest dreams thanks to all of you who come here to read what I have to say, as well as see what the talented readers post. It is because of you that I still have the enthusiasm and passion to keep it going though I admit, I do not stress myself out over it at all. Life is too short. I just do what I do, and what I enjoy. I see so many bloggers who stress about content, getting a “staff” and trying to take over the photo blog world. Not me. I am happy where I am as to me it is not worth the stress and worry. If I were to always have stress that would ruin photography for me and I would be miserable. So I like to keep thing simple and while I still work round the clock on this site (shooting, writing, editing, emails, social media, etc) I love every second of it simply because I do not stress about it.

It is now mid 2014 and I sit and think…ho much longer will I do this? I mean, what about when I am 65 in 20 years? Then I sit and think of the possibilities and facts and I have my answer. “For as long as I can read, see and type and for as long as there is someone out there who can benefit from what is written on these pages”! The cool part is that there are now thousands of posts and articles here that will always be here..as a reference. Maybe even after I am dead and gone and my son takes over this website (my plan anyway) there will be someone out there who wants to read up on a Leica M8, or Sony NEX-5 or even learn some tips like how to shoot architecture or how to shoot a lens wide open for maximum impact.

What has been accomplished on this site has been remarkable, and it was not all from me! The ones here who have contributed to the site will also always have your words here for others to learn from. So while I have spent countless hours at my desk during the day, out shooting on weekend and even answering emails at midnight, it has all been worth it without a doubt. Over 90 million views to date…yes almost 100 million views, 1/10th of a billion! That is some exciting stuff right there and makes me proud of what I have created here. It makes me tell myself without a doubt that YES, this site will always be here and continue. One day there will be a new design, and TENS of thousands of posts for reference. For anyone who wants to see all of the posts here already, click here for the list and links to them all. 

Photography is a powerful thing..

As I look deeper into the mirror and think back through the past 20 years I have flashes of memories go through my head from my son Brandon being born, to my old dog Scrubby who is no longer here to just recent times of meeting Debby and having a renewed zest for life. When I see these flashes, many times I am seeing a photograph I took  - because that photograph created the memory in my head. It’s a magical and powerful thing. Without photography in my life many of these memories would be foggy and that would be horrible. Because of me taking my camera everywhere with me I have amassed a huge amount of these memories and I have hard drives filled with moments that most have never seen. Some that no one else besides me have ever seen. I look through them every few years and it brings back the joy, pleasure and emotion of the time.

So as I started this post talking about getting older and thinking about my life I also want to say that I have only just begun this journey and this site will always be here for as long as I am able to keep up with it. With that said, I hope all of you out there keep the passion alive within you. Keep the love, energy and passion! I am telling you that is a key to life happiness. Get out there and enjoy your hobbies, all of them. Take a camera with you every day and take photos of YOUR LIFE. One day you will look back at all of the memories and be very glad that you did. I know I am.

With that out of the way..how about some flashbacks of my life dug up from the depths of one of my hard drives that I had stored in a cabinet for years? I have 20-30,000 images and these were just random choices..nothing specific! Just a mish mosh of images from the last 12-13 years.

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Jul 152014
 

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The Sony A7s: A New Camera for Leica M lenses

By Ashwin Rao – HIs flickr is HERE, his Facebook is HERE

Hello, gang. It’s Ashwin, back from a bit of a hiatus to discuss the camera du jour, Sony’s impressive A7s. The A7s has gotten quite a bit of press, in particular for it’s remarkable ISO sensitivity/performance, for it’s 4K video, and for it’s buck-the-convention 12-megapixel sensor. It’s been hotly debate, in light of the already-exceptional performance of its two siblings, the A7 and A7R, which offer different full frame sensors. I have extensively shot both bodies, and while I enjoyed the experience, I was left a bit in the lurch for entirely selfish reasons. Unfortunately, extensive shooting bore out that the A7r is really not a great option for Leica M lenses due to the critical nature of the sensor and how it plays (poorly) with M lenses, causing excessive vignetting, color casts, and detail smearing at the edges. The Sony A7 is better with regards to its capacity with M lenses (most lenses 35 mm and above do “okay” to “great” on the A7), but after shooting these 2 cameras, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Leica M lenses were best suited to be used on Leica M camera bodies, from a purely imaging standpoint. One can argue endlessly about the rangefinder (beyond the frame lines) vs SLR/mirrorless (tunnel vision) way of seeing, and there’s really no right answer there, as it’s more a matter of preference. But until recently, while the A7R and A7 were capable of using M lenses, they didn’t really make M lenses shine. And thus, I moved on, continuing to genuinely enjoy my Leica M bodies for my M lenses.

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A few months ago, whispers of a new camera began, and what resulted was the Sony A7s….a low megapixel (in today’s market), high ISO monster reportedly designed for videographers ready to make use of its full frame sensor and 4K recording potential. What people did not speak so much about was whether it would handle Leica M lenses better than its siblings. Maybe it was a lack of interest, and maybe the conversation moved on, but for me, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered whether the sensor’s lower megapixel (less critical) sensor, coupled with its gapless sensor design, would allow it to handle rangefinder lenses, which notoriously bend light into difficult angles at the periphery of digital sensors. My curiosity was also piqued by the high ISO capabilities of such a camera. If the A7s could handle high ISO’s as well as was being made out, suddenly, one could use compact, relatively “slow” M lenses such as the f/2 Summicrons, f/2.5 Summarits, f/2.8 Elmarits, and f/4 Elmars in low light conditions at high shutter speeds. Further, faster M lenses, such as the f/1.4 Summiluxes and f/0.95-1 Noctilux options might allow the photographer to see into the dim light of night like never before, and the lenses remain relatively compact to top it off. Leica M and other rangefinder lenses are generally much smaller than their mirrorless (at least FF mirrorless) and SLR counterparts, and balance quite well on the A7(s/r) bodies quite well, so one could make incredibly versatile images at very low light, using a very small kit…..in theory.

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To top it off, the Sony A7s was soon announced to have a “silent shutter” option, allowing the photographer to shoot with a full electronic shutter that would not announce itself whenever a photo was being taken. To me, this was one of the huge potential benefits to the Sony…Silence means that a photographer can work discretely, and the A7s, for the first time, offered this option to the photographer choosing a mirrorless body for work…For a Leica photographer-nutball such as myself, the value of discretion is part of the “rangefinder way”, and now, here was a mirrorless body that did it even better than the Leica M3 through M7, with their lovely/subtle shutter sounds….Here was a camera that could offer silence when shooting (albeit with the risk of a rolling shutter effect for fast-moving subjects)….wow, the A7s was now really grabbing my attention.

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But, All of this was fine and dandy, but only, and only if M lenses would play well on the Sony….

So the early reports came in, including Steve’s own detailed, fantastic, glowing review of the camera, using mainly FE lenses…Steve was blown away by the camera’s AF performance, high ISO performance, and it’s overall handling, for a full frame camera. But the images that intrigued me most from his review, as well as those of others, was the performance of the tiny Cosina Voigtlander 15 mm Heliar lens. Many of you know that while this lens one of the widest fields of view for a rangefinder lens, it plays quite poorly with the M9 and M240, and doesn’t do well on cropped sensors in many instances, due to excessive color shifts (magenta) and vignetting, due to the physics of the optics at play and how they project light through the lens and onto most sensors…Yet, the Sony A7s was handling the CV 15 mm lens, no sweat.

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So off I went to my camera store, armed with a host of Leica M lenses, ranging from a 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar through a 90 mm f/2 APO-Summicron. After a few preliminary shots, I took note of dramatically less vignetting and what appeared to be more uniform color through the image field (i.e. no color casts). Hmmmm, great start, I thought….

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But what about smearing? One issue with using lenses 35 mm or wider at full aperture, is that many lenses start to smear details at the periphery of the imaging field. It’s a dirty little secret that Leica’s own wide angle lenses tend to do this on digital bodies, and this was one of the reasons that it took so long for Leica to introduce a digital rangefinder (and ultimately, the Leica M8 with it’s 1.3x crop sensor, designed to avoid the physics causing some of the issues mentioned). At one point, Leica’s CEO at the time mentioned that it might never be possible to produce a digital M body, but we know how that prediction turned out….

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Smearing has been a major issue for me with full frame bodies such as the Sony A7r and A7, and when added to intermittent color casts and high levels of vignetting, I had previously found that files just took too much work to get things right, and I gave up. Now, sitting home at my computer with a variety of files from a variety of lenses ranging from wide to telephoto, I was not seeing any objectionable colorcasts and much improved vignetting. How about smearing, then? Well, the jury is still out, but for the most part I have been entirely pleased. Of the wide lenses in my possession, I found that the 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar did exhibit slight detail loss at the far edges of the image, but this was not objectionable, just more than what I had seen on the M9 and M240 bodies. The lens that continues to “misbehave” on the A7s was the Leica 28 mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. This lens gives even Leica M bodies some trouble, and in the case of the Sony A7s, it has continued to produce moderate smearing at the edges. For real world street photography, in which edge sharpness may not be important, the smearing rarely matters, but if one were shooting landscapes, he or she would notice this, so it’s I lens I have considered avoiding for those moments when edge sharpness matters (For most other moments, the 28 ‘cron works great). Beyond that, I have had no issues with edge smearing. Everything works great. My Wide Angle Tri Elmar (WATE) works perfectly at 16 mm on the A7s, though this lens’ design plays reasonably well with even the A7r. My 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE, which didn’t work well on the A7 due to odd vignetting, works perfectly well on the Sony A7s.

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To add to the story, I have found that the Sony A7s does a great job with colors. It presents a palette similar to that of the Sony A7 and A7r, so if you are used to the files that those cameras make, the A7s will be similar. One nice added perk is that at higher ISO, while dynamic range does start to drop off a bit (particularly past ISO 4000, though files are totally useable, in my opinion, through ISO 12,800), the color reproduction at those high ISO’s remains solid. There’s only so much you can push today’s sensor tech, in terms of dynamic range and high ISO noise and color performance, but the Sony A7s is today’s state of the art.

Ultimately, I have been thoroughly pleased with my time using Leica M lenses as my sole lens set up for the Sony A7s. Everything works well. High ISO – check! Silent shutter – check! Minimal muss and fuss with edge image quality – BIG check! Colors and skin tones. Check that as well. Handling of camera with M lenses…big HUGE check! It all seems to work well.

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In summary, I have found the Sony A7s to be a great option on which to use Leica M lenses. If you have an investment in rangefinder lenses, or intend to do so, the Sony A7s is the current camera that you’d want to have on a budget. Sure the Leica M9 is fantastic, but it has high ISO limitations. The Leica M240 is great, but tends to start banding around ISO 3200. Those are fantastic options and allow one to see in the “rangefinder way”. But separating yourself from that, the Sony A7s is an incredible imaging machine. Sure, it has a lower megapixel count, but 12 MP files are plenty for the vast majority of us. The camera’s incredible ISO performance allows for the use of slower lenses, and thus more compact lenses, in low light shooting circumstances. Suddenly, your Elmars and Summicrons become relevant options for night photography, and lenses such as the Noctilux allow you to pear into the night better than your own eyes….it’s rather incredible. Creative possibilities open up, and I see new photographic horizons ahead! The Camera’s EVF is sufficient to reliably focus lenses, particularly if one uses the “Focus Magnify” option to achieve critical focus. The silent shutter allows for very discrete shooting, and for most street photography moments, it’s a perfect option (I have yet to see the Rolling shutter effect for my style of shooting) that’s silent and discrete. And year, silent shutter means no shutter shake to blur your images at that pixel level. Speaking of pixels, the camera’s lower pixel count allows for easier achievement of sharp images at slower shutter speeds, if desired, as 12 MP is much easier to hand hold than 36 megapixels in nearly any circumstance…something to consider if pixel peeping for sharp images is your thing.

The list goes on and on, but you can see that I am quite convinced that the Sony A7s is a viable option for those of you who want to use small, high performance rangefinder lenses on a mirrorless body. It’s the way to go. By the way, every image you see here was shot with the A7s and a M mount Leica lens. Now go out, test one out, and see if it satisfies you. The Sony A7s has certainly satisfied me.

All the best to you, my friends!
Ashwin (July, 2014)

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