Dec 182014
 

Last Minute Photo Christmas Gift Ideas!

With only a week until Christmas day, I sure hope that most of you have completed your Christmas shopping! Me, I just started yesterday and finished today. Love shopping online as it is so easy these days  – avoiding the crowds, the parking lots, the stores…though I do find that to have some charm during this time of year. But this year I have been too busy to get to the mall and shop, so all of my shopping was done online at B&H Photo and Amazon.

If anyone out there is still looking for a nice camera gift for their Husband, Wife, Child or someone special, take a look at my list below of cool photo related items that would make for a fantastic Christmas gift this year! With the same day fast shipping from these online shops, getting the gift in time is not a problem.

How about a list of some cool small photo gifts that will put a smile on anyones face?

Tactile Feel? Check out these little buttons…

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I have a couple sets of these, one on my A7s and I love them. They provide a 100% tactile feel to the buttons and improve the feel and use. For $25 you can’t go wrong if you have been looking for something such as this!

Check out the website HERE.

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Want an awesome NON SCREW IN soft release for your Mirrorless? Artisan Obscura is the place to go!

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I have three of these and they STAY PUT. While I lost every screw in shutter soft release I have ever owned, these are the real deal and you will NOT lose them. Superb!

You can check them out HERE.

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How about a strap or two?

There are a couple that I like on Amazon and some are dirt cheap while being very well made and looking superb..

1. Vintage flower strap – wide – under $26

2. Street Strap LONG – I have three of these! 

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3. Braided Leather Barton strap! One of my all time faves!

4. The most amazing strap ever made for the serious photographer or working pro. The MONEYMAKER.

5. Also check out classicases.com as they have some cool new leather straps that I have on hand and LOVE

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How about small pocket cameras that are easy to use but give amazing image Quality?

B&H Photo has the Hasselblad Stellar’s in stock at 70% off

with the black carbon, white/white and orange in stock at $999. I own the Orange one and LOVE it. Been using it every day or two since getting it and it has gotten the most comments of any camera I have carried around with me to date. Plus, it’s a fantastic camera (Sony RX100) and made in Japan vs China of the Sony version. The style, looks, build, packaging and experience is top notch. Well worth the $1k for me as I have been enjoying it more than some $3k cameras I have had in the past.

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The Stellar is HERE at B&H Photo at 70% Blowout Pricing

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or if you want to save some cash, the Sony RX100 V1 is a tremendous value!

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You can buy the RX100 HERE at Amazon for just under $500

The resale of the Hasselblad Stellar will be much better than the Sony but they are basically the same camera (one made in Japan (stellar) and one in China (Sony) and have different cosmetics ad materials used in build. Still, IQ will be the same. RX100 Review is HERE.

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The Ricoh GR – A serious large sensor pocket camera for photographers

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The Ricoh GR is on blowout right now as well. This is a pro level IQ machine that fits in a pocket. Not as slick as the Sony but this is one that steps it up a notch with image quality due to the large sensor. With a fixed 28mm lens though, make sure the person who will be using it is OK with wide angle! My GR review is HERE!

Buy the Ricoh GR HERE at B&H while it is on special!

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Let’s take it up a notch..more performance but a bit larger..

Compact High Performance Cameras (Not quite pocketable)

The new Leica D-Lux (or Panasonic LX100)

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The new Leica D-Lux is actually a Panasonic LX100 in disguise. Much like the Hasselblad stellar situation, Leica places their outer shell on to the LX100 innards and call it their own. Same camera, same lens, same IQ as the cheaper LX100. With the Leica you get the Leica styling, packaging, red dot, better warranty and better software, so paying the extra $300 or so is worth it to many. Resale is also better with the Leica Panasonic versions and this  has been proven in the past.

The LX100 is under $900 HERE

The Leica D-Lux is $1200 HERE

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The Fuji X100T

The latest and (some will say) greatest X100 is the X100T. I have had one for 2-3 weeks and have been happy with it but to me it is pretty much like the previous S version with a new EVF feature that I actually do not like. In any case, it still uses the X Trans sensor which many love and it is a retro styled camera capable of beautiful images. If you have that retro vibe and want a camera to inspire, take a look at the X100T, prob my fave Fuji in production. Still small, and with a great 35m f/2 lens built right in. You can see my X100s review HERE.

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You can buy the X100T at Amazon, B&H Photo or PopFlash.com

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The Sony A6000

Probably the most bang for the buck APS-C large sensor mirrorless camera on the market today. The Sony A6000 is small, sleek, blazing fast (faster than most DSLRs) and can mount any Sony E mount lens or one of any THOUSANDS of lenses from almost any manufacturer using adapters. Great AF, great response, super video and an all around great camera for under $600 with lens. My review is HERE.

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You can buy the Sony A6000 at Amazon or B&H Photo

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..and finally, some more serious cameras for the real enthusiast…

The Sony A7s

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I LOVE this camera for quite a few reasons. You can read my review HERE if you like but the fact is that this guy is about as versatile as you can get.

1. Will shoot in ANY light. From light to dark. Will also AF in the dark with amazing accuracy. 

2. Best low light HIGH ISO camera made today in full frame 35mm.

3. Shoots fantastic video

4. File sizes stay small due to 12MP sensor. 

5. Can mount native E mount lenses or one of thousands of third-party lenses. M mount, S mount, Contax, Nikon, Canon, etc. 

6. Has a silent mode where you can not even tell it is being used or an image being taken, 100% silent.

7. Small and compact for a full frame camera. 

8 Again, did I say it can be used in ANY light?

This was my #1 camera and now is #2 ever since the next camera on the list showed up..

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo!

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The Sony A7 Mark II

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Now with 5 Axis image stabilization, tweaked and improved image quality, faster hybrid AF and fantastic pro level build and feel, the Sony A7II is a redesign and enhancement of one of 2014’s most popular cameras. I am finding the IQ to be better, the speed to be better, the IS to be amazing and the feel and build to be superb. It’s a beefy feeling camera. Solid.

The A7II is a versatile monster camera with stellar video and image performance. Again, mount some cool vintage RF glass for a unique experience and classic image quality results.

You can order the A7II at B&H Photo or Amazon

There are so many photo related items that would make superb gifts. NO way I can list them all but feel free to browse the online shops of Amazon, B&H Photo, PopFlash, Leica Store Miami, and the Pro Shop! All highly recommended dealers!

Dec 152014
 

Sony A7II Review on the way…until then…

Many have been asking “Steve, where is your Sony A7II review?!?!?” – Well, I have only had the camera for a week or so and I need a MINIMUM of two weeks to do a review, sometimes 3-4 weeks. So I am now shooting with it, testing it and trying out the 16-35 f/4 Zeiss with it as well as a few other lenses like the Sony 55 1.8, 35 2.8 and the Voigtlander 40 2.8 and others.

So far it is one hell of an amazing camera. Mark my words, this WILL be on many “Camera of the Year” lists as Sony just pushed it out for 2014.

The JPEG rendering is fantastic and the ergonomics, build, and 5 Axis IS have made this new A7II the “creme of the crop” in the mirrorless digital world. There is absolutely NOTHING like it available today. My video on the Sony A7II is HERE. AF is much better than it was with the previous A7 and is almost up there with the A7s in AF capabilities (The A7s can somehow see and AF in the dark).

My review will be up by the end of the month, but here are a couple of shots to check out until then. All JPEGS from camera.

B&H Photo has some in stock HERE with the 28-70 kit zoom. Amazon has some in stock body only from 3rd party vendors HERE.

A full size out of camera JPEG. Click it for full size. This was at 55mm and 1.8 (typo on the JPEG itself says 50 but it was shot with the 55 1.8 Zeiss). 

Brilliant color, sharpness and remember, this is at f/1.8 and an OOC JPEG!

**Right click and open in a new window to see it the way it should be**

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Here is one with the Voigtlander 40 2.8 – Again, a JPEG shot wide open at 2.8 – click it for larger

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The Zeiss 16-35 at f/5.6 – click it for larger

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Dec 122014
 

Did you receive your A7II? If so, send me your thoughts…

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I know many of you ordered the A7II and they started shipping this week, so many of you should have one in you hands by now. I am curious as to what your thoughts are on the camera because I know what mine are. I feel it is a special camera that ticks most of my boxes from the build and feel to the 5-Axis IS to the IQ and color to the video performance. I think Sony hit it out of the park with this release, as well as on the price.

I am planning to post my full review by the end of the month and thought it would be cool to get a few opinions and image samples from the readers here to include in the review, so there is more than my opinion. I feel this would make for a really interesting review with not only my thoughts, but YOURS as well.

If you ordered and received your Sony A7II camera (or will receive it in the next week or so) and would like to write up a paragraph or two on it and share 2-3 photos from it for my big review, then send this info and images to me (JPEGs no larger than 1500 pixels wide) at [email protected] 

Depending on how many replies I get, your images and text may end up at the end of my review in a special section called “Your thoughts on the A7II”.

I think this would be great and informative to have in the review so hope to hear from a few of you!

Thanks!

Steve Huff

Dec 102014
 

Ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 and the Sony A7r

by Dirk De Paepe

After ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 I thought it was a good idea, to share my findings.

This Loxia Planar, as you probably already know, is the first one of the new Loxia series, that was put in the market by Zeiss right after Photokina, where the first two Loxias were launched. Being thrilled by Zeiss coming up with those lenses, dedicated to mirrorless cameras, I ordered both the Planar 2/50 and the Biogon 2/35 immediately, but the latter probably won’t be available before the end of the year.

Well guys and gals, I can tell you right away that in several domains this Planar offers even more than I expected – and I had really high hopes! But at the same time, in a few other fields, I had pictured something different. Luckily those don’t concern essential issues, so all in all I’m absolutely thrilled with this Loxia, to the point that it quickly became my absolute favorite lens. It’s the one that I always have on my camera when traveling, as my “ready-to-shoot-in-all-circumstances” lens. Before this Loxia, the ZM Planar 2/50 played this role. No surprise, since those two Planars are very familiar lenses in concept (click here to read the ZM Planar 2/50 review on this website). Where the ZM Planar is without any doubt an exquisite lens, the Loxia Planar is even better.

Planar versus Planar

In a former article that Steve published here, right after Photokina, I wrote about the Loxias and already explained the main differences between Loxia and ZM. (Click here to read this article.) So I’ll resume the additional Loxia features here: transmission of Exif data, shorter minimal focal distance (45 versus 70cm), automatic enlargement in the VF when turning the focus ring, de-click possibility of the aperture ring and last but not least improved optical performance for mirrorless cameras.

Optically both Planars are pretty familiar – to my eye, the produced images have the same character, the same color signature, the same clarity, the same detail, etc… As a matter of fact, it’s hard to tell which Planar took which picture, unless you do an A/B comparison. Of course I didn’t perform any measurements, since I’m a user, not a professional photo journalist, but still, in a direct comparison, it was immediately clear that the Loxia performs better in the corners. Although the ZM Planar files remain detailed until pretty far in the corners, I’d say Loxia diminishes the (already small) “vague zones” with at least three-quarters and also the vignetting is less. I have been thinking of publishing A/B pictures here to illustrate the corner performance, but abandoned this idea, since it’s only visible looking at full size, and I really never experienced this matter as a problem with my ZM. Like I said, although the ZM performs excellent, the Loxia just performs quite a tad better. I expect that their will be some improvements measured on other domains as well – we’ll probably read about it soon in different reviews.

But fact is that Zeiss really reworked the optics for Loxia, so this is absolutely no “adapted ZM lens“. It also shows by the field of view, that’s a tiny bit narrower (I reckon some 4%) with the Loxia Planar, compared to the ZM.

Maybe you wonder if this is sufficient to switch from the ZM Planar to Loxia, since the ZM already works so terrificly well on the A7x. Well, I have been wondering about this as well. But I made the move to Loxia, because first of all the wide angles (like the Biogon 2/35 that I tried at Photokina) will perform better with my A7r than most of the M-mounts, but also because I truly believe in FE-mount and Loxia will be totally dedicated to FE. Further it will offer the most modern MF applications, which simply will make me perform better as a photographer, and will be optically 100% developed for mirrorless bodies. I also saw it as a kind of statement: “Loxia is the way to go for manual focus with FE bodies!”. Loxia is dedicated to mirrorless indeed, so to me it feels right being dedicated to Loxia. And the fact that it’s Zeiss (my first and lifelong love in photography) that comes with this modern, all manual lenses for mirrorless generates only one spontaneous reaction in my mind: yes!

Now that I really own and use the Loxia Planar 2/50, I’m feeling for 100% that this was the right choice, and this feeling is even a lot stronger than I expected. The satisfaction and joy to experience this fully dedicated lens, it’s extra features, IQ, styling, and ergonomics is simply bigger than I expected. Yes, some of my reasons are subjective, only based on feeling, but subjectivity is a reality in life, so it’s something that has value to me. Maybe you will feel it differently, because this is partly a personal matter, but still there’s a lot of really objective criteria here as well.

Improvements

I love the shorter minimal focal distance a lot. Combined with the A7r, with its 36MP and its cropping power, it enables “near to makro” pictures. “European Money” is an example hereof. When looking at the 100% crop in the second picture (please remember that you can enlarge all pictures by clicking on them and that you get the real colors only then), you can see that lens and sensor are absolutely keeping up, with no real visible loss of IQ when looking at 100%. I think this indicates that Loxia probably can deliver at resolutions that are even a lot higher. I was pretty flabbergasted, when I looked at this detail. What I see here reminds me of what I get with the Otus 55 (although the Otus delivers exceptional in virtually all circumstances, and the Loxia needs be used with greater care to deliver at this level, for instance regarding choice of aperture). On my monitor, the real world dimensions are enlarged by 7 (the surface by 49), revealing details that aren’t visible with the bare eye. IMO the detail that is rendered here, is simply top-notch.

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02European Monecrop

But apart from this detail power, shooting at smaller distances further narrows the DOF, significantly increasing the bokeh abilities. The bokeh character is pretty much comparable with that of the ZM Planar, but by enacting its formation, it becomes the more clear that this is really a very smooth bokeh, in hind as well as in front focus. Its character reminds me of the Otus again, although I find the latter producing even an a tad more creamy bokeh. But bokeh is a matter of personal taste, so I let you judge for yourself. I’ve shot some wide open pictures, specially for this report, because I know that many followers of this site care a lot about shallow dof and bokeh. The pictures show bokeh in different combinations – front and hind with close and further focus – all shot wide open at f/2. Here they come.

03. Red beauty

05. Jaguar emblem

04. Jaguar headlight

07. Austin Healey Cockpit

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07B Getting in the mood for Christmas

When street shooting wide open, one needs to focus fast. If you do this manually, the modern manual focusing features of this lens/body combination do a terrific job. The two following pictures illustrate this. In the first, I focused on the cigaret smoke and only had a time frame of around two seconds to frame and focus. IMO, this is a typical shot to benefit from those modern manual focus features. I used the automatic VF enlargement here.

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Personally I like the front bokeh yet a bit more than the hind one. IMO, the latter sometimes can get a bit nervous, especially when a very detailed background is involved, like leaves, while the front bokeh always remains super creamy in all circumstances.

All-around

Although this is only a f/2 lens, I find it usable in very divers light conditions. In the White Ochid picture the backlight from the bright white sky made the flower almost transparent. With the focal distance at 45cm, I set the aperture at f/4, in order to obtain the desired dof and a very slight but subtile blur in the hind part of the flower. To provide the right exposure, the setting of the shutter time was very delicate, because 1/3 step away killed the transparency effect.

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In “Watershow”, the exposure and processing was delicate as well, to combine the obscurity of the people with the clarity of the water. The EVF is a great tool for shooting that kind of pictures – if you read any of my former articles, you’ll probably remember that I’m a big EVF fan.

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The chiaroscuro was even pulled a bit further in the B&W “Evening at the Efteling”. And in “Compelling Show” I think I proved that also with the A7r and an f/2 lens, shooting in near dark environments is possible. This was of course shot wide open, at ISO8000 and 1/30sec. Here are some more low light pictures.

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15. Liège by night

This lens really is a high quality all-around piece of equipment – not that much a “specialised shallow dof lens”. IMO it specially shines, when you want to apply blur in a moderate, delicate and precisely controlled way or when you want to apply zone focusing and even hyperfocusing. It’ll capture light terrificly well. It’ll provide a color richness that allows you to work in post production with the colors in any way you want. On the Sony A7x this lens feels perfectly in balance, allowing very fast, spontaneous and precise shooting. Here are some different kinds of pictures to illustrate this.

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The Loxia Planar 2/50 is a very fine lens. It produces almost no barrel distortion (IMO the distortion is negligible), making it very useful for architectural shooting. And combined with the A7r, you get enough pixels to perform some “substitutional tilt/shift” work in post production. I went to the beautiful Liege Guillemins train station (Belgium) to live it up.

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Considerations

I guess you wonder if this Loxia has been a windfall to me for 100%. Well, no. In a few domains I had hoped for something slightly different.

First of all size and weight. This Loxia Planar is really a category larger than the ZM Planar (adapter included) and it simply weighs more (some 75gr – I use the Novoflex adpater for the ZM). I feel like it puts the lens/camera combination really in the next category, regarding size and weight, the more when carrying a few lenses in your bag (I will need a larger bag!). It feels like regarding size and weight it’s more to be compared now with the Leica M as a system, where in the past there was a real gain in this department for the Sony. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty comparable with my old Canon A1 with (latest generation) FD lenses. Strange how our perception changes, since at that time the A1/FD was regarded as a full size system. Although this Sony/Zeiss combination is still working fine for me, I’d say: this is the limit, guys – don’t make it grow any further!

Compared to the NEX bodies, like my NEX-7, this combination (A7x/Loxia) allows a bit less stealth shooting, particularly when the lens shade is mounted (although I believe stealth shooting is mainly a photographer’s attitude, as long you don’t use a large DSLR). Seen from a distance, the shade gives this lens the look of a medium zoom lens. When you really want to perform discrete shooting, you need to take away the shade, bringing the size “back to normal”. This is a massive lens shade, that does a great job in its own, but it’s large. For transportation, its size doesn’t pose a problem though, since you can mount it the other way round on the lens, so that it doesn’t take extra space in your bag, because it’s no longer sticking out. So all in all it’s a great working shade, that you only need to remove when you want to shoot discretely.

But every downside has its upside. I have to admit that the extra mass ads to the shooting control. In one of his articles, Steve mentioned that he felt like the size and weight of the M-system offered the ideal combination of compactness/weight and handyness and I wonder if I don’t need to share his opinion here, now that I feel the A7x/Loxia combination is playing in the same league…
The lens is bigger than the ZM, this mainly means thicker. Less stealth (a bit) and more weight on the downside, but more feeling from the focus ring at the upside. With its large (but not too large) swivel range, it allows very precise focusing. The smoothness/resistance is absolutely perfect for “one finger operation”.
The larger diameter of the barrel also makes for a bigger lens cap – less “wobbly” than the ZM caps. And as far as I heard, Zeiss has the plan to provide all Loxias with the same diameter, which would economize on the filter budget. I hope this doesn’t result in a limited lens offer, because then I’d prefer buying a few extra filters! I wonder though if this diameter will allow for a super fast 85mm. I guess and hope they’ll come at least with an f/2 which I reckon must be possible with this diameter – but wouldn’t an f/1.4 in time be nice!…

To conclude about size and weight, I initially had hoped for a lighter, more compact Loxia. But I guess, when able to choose between the two, eventually I’d probably agree with Zeiss’ choice, since it handles better. I think they had the perfect “manual focusing machine for out of hand shooting” in mind, and I have to agree that they both (Zeiss as well as Sony) have come pretty close. Furthermore, the Loxia sure looks absolutely beautiful on the Sony body.

The build quality is very good. The barrel is all metal, which gives confidence. Both the rings feel like they’ve been engineered with the finest precision. Their operation is super smooth with the perfect resistance to give you the right feedback about what you’re doing. The finish, with both rings being perfectly integrated in the barrel surface of the lens, is perfect. The look and feel is wonderful. With one consideration.

What initially disappointed me, was the design of the aperture ring. It’s placed close to the body, where on the ZM you’ll find it at the end of the lens. The placement is a matter of habit, of course, so no comments here. But because of the aperture ring being perfectly integrated in the surface of the lens barrel, I had it more difficult to feel it and thus to find it anyway. It took me a while to find my way here, missing it quite often at first. After a while however, I started using just my thumb (no second finger) at the underside of the lens to turn it. It’s really easy to find the aperture ring in this way, because the body is your guide. Both the aperture and focus rings have small knurls that provide excellent grip and both have a wonderfully smooth action, that make it easy to operate them with one finger. With my thumb on the aperture ring under the lens and my middle finger on the focus ring on top of the lens, I find it very easy and adequate to set both rings at quasi the same time, making the setting of focus and dof easier and faster then ever. Zeiss needed to place the aperture ring close to the body, to make this happen. In this position, my index finger is supporting the body in a quasi symmetric position to the right hand, which provides and equal pressure on both sides of the body, when relaxing both arms, and as such creates a perfect balans, that enables shooting out of hand with exceptionally long shutter speeds as well as allowing very fast setting and shooting. I have been shooting out of hand up till 1/15sec (the night shot with the Coca-Cola umbrellas), without really paying special attention (well, in fact, I always kind of pay special attention when pushing the button) and when looking at 100% (visible at my flickr page) you’ll see that even the fishnets are sharp.

I have been wondering if Zeiss had this way of shooting in mind when designing the lens, because it’s exactly this design that directed me to this way of handling, opening up the most effective way of shooting with manual focusing lenses that I experienced up till now. I wouldn’t be surprised of it, since Zeiss is primarly a specialist of manual lenses and Loxia is developed for mirrorless, which, due to it’s compact size, is the most handy option for manual shooting. Still, up till now, this new way of holding and setting has not yet become an automatism to me. I need to initially concentrate on the way I hold and handle camera and lens. But when I do, it’s really working excellent and faster than with any other lens I know. I’m sure, eventually, I’ll get used to it and it wìll become an automatism. But I also fear that quite some people, who are less keen on experimenting with different ways of handling, will find this recessed aperture ring to be less convenient in action than the one on the ZMs. Too bad, since it really can help you to perform better than ever.

To finish this of, a word about the price. Looking online at the Zeiss lens shop, this Loxia costs 849.00€, which is 100.00€ more expensive than the ZM. Regarding the extra functions, I’d say it’s more than worthwhile. And when you buy the ZM plus a good adapter, you’ll be spending even more money. (The Voigtländer adapter, with close focus ability, even costs a good 300€!)

*pre-order the Zeiss Loxia lenses HERE*

Conclusion

Well, I hope I elucidated the pro’s as well as the con’s of this new Loxia, as far as I could pinpoint them, that is. All in all, to me, it’s the pro’s that prevail. Largely. It asked for a period of adjustment, regarding the handling of the aperture ring, but once I did it right, it allowed for the greatest manual shooting experience that I ever had.

Regarding IQ, this Loxia offers exceptional value for money, it sometimes it even makes me think of my Otus 55, regarding IQ, not regardin budget :-), without the size and weight and without giving in that much on IQ as the price difference suggests.

My “old” ZM Planar is a great all-around lens. The new Loxia Planar improves this concept on all domains where improvements were possible. For all those manual shooting enthusiasts: IMO Loxia is absolutely the way to go with mirrorless bodies – Sony today, other brands to come really soon, for sure.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures that I added, many of them were specially shot for this user report. I also placed them in a dedicated folder on my flickr page, where you can look at some of them in full resolution, to even better illustrate the IQ in all detail and where you can check full exif data of all pictures. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157649262134498/)

All shots were taken out of hand, with the exception of the “European Money” and “White Orchid” pictures (tripod) and “Liege by Night (holding the camera against a tree). Of course shooting out of hand renders a bit less detail than when using a tripod. But I just love shooting out of hand, since this gives me more possibility to react to a moment’s. Some of the shots weren’t even possible to take with tripod, like the ones of the ceiling and tracks on the train station that I shot from a moving escalator.

Two pictures (Seagulls and Splashing Boat) actually were pretty heavy crops, to illustrate the A7r’s cropping power.

I leave you with a few extra shots now, taken at the beautiful Liege train station. Thanks for reading, guys! And I specially thank Steve and Brandon for their fabulous work on this site!

Dirk De Paepe

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Dec 052014
 

1STLOOK

The Sony A7II – First Look and Video!

Order the A7II at Amazon – Amazon says they start shipping on the 11th of December

Order the A7II at B&H Photo – B&H says shipping starts December 9th

Steve

The Sony A7II has arrived and is in my hands and I am much more impressed than I expected to be. I assumed it would be an A7 with 5-Axis IS but it is quite a bit more than that. At the price of $1698, this is THE full frame camera to have for any enthusiast, hobbyist or anyone who has the passion of photography and wants extraordinary results with their camera gear.

1st off, take a look at my video below where I talk about my 1st impressions of the Sony A7 II…

 

The camera feels awesome in the hand, so much better than the old A7, A7r or even A7s. The new button placements are just about perfect and the larger grip (that I thought I would hate) feels JUST right. The camera also looks nicer, and feels much better built  – more solid. Feels like a pro camera in my hand and the 5-Axis worked wonders during some test video footage I took today. Made it appear like I was using a steady cam. The AF is indeed faster than the old A7 and the IQ, just as Sony has claimed, has been improved. I now see the better color, AWB and punch of the A7s but with more detail..amazing detail..even when shooting plain old JPEG.

Three 1st snaps with the A7II in my house, which was dimly lit BTW – One with the Zeiss 35 2.8 and two with the Voigtlander 40 2.8 – you MUST click them for larger and true 100% crop. These are JPEG! AWB did well for all three with no odd color casts.

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Click the image below to see just how rich, deep, colorful and detailed an OOC JPEG is from the A7II using the 35 2.8

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and one in B&W at ISO 2500 – NR turned off – 35 2.8

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So my enthusiasm went sky-high after taking the A7II out of the package and putting it in my hand. My A7s can not be replaced by the A7II as the II can not do low light like the A7s but it will be the PERFECT companion to the A7s (which will be moved to low light status) as  the A7II now has stellar color and IQ.

Sony is kicking ass and I have yet to use a camera this year that feels as good, looks as nice and performs like this one. No Fuji, no Olympus, No Leica, No Nikon has done it. The A7II makes the Nikon Df feel like a toy in the hand, that is how much better it feels over the A7 Mark I. I love the Nikon Df, it is the only DSLR I would own (and did for a while) but the A7II has shown that Sony still means business and they are not backing down.

An OOC JPEG from the A7II and Voigtlander 15 (The A7s is on the table)

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and another shot of the A7II

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As you can tell, I am excited about this one..more so than the LX100 and X100T I have here to review as well (though I prefer the LX100 to the X100T).

I will be posting a full review of the A7 Mark II within 2-3 weeks. I need to make sure I get some quality time with it and snap all kinds of images in all kinds of situations to see just how well it behaves when pushed. 1st impressions are all positive so far!

Just some quick notes: This does NOT have a touch screen, it does not have the silent shutter and it will not perform as well as the A7s with Leica M ultra wide angle lenses. When using manual lenses the 5 Axis works well – you can assign what focal length you are using and the camera does the rest. Easy as pie. Buttons are all customizable..Sony has come a long way since the NEX series! The A&II also has a sturdier/beefier lens mount than the previous A7!

You can order your A7II at the links below, starts shipping December 9th! My order is in ;) 

Order at Amazon – Amazon says they start shipping on the 11th of December

Order at B&H Photo – B&H says shipping starts December 9th

Steve

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

Hello to all! For the past 6 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

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

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

Dec 022014
 

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Hasselblad Stellar Special Edition Video & Samples!

**B&H Photo has a few of these left, blowing them out at 70% off at $999**

Many of you e-mailed me asking for an update once I had the Hasselblad Stellar SE in hand. Well, mine did arrive and it is a beautiful little camera. If course we all know it is a Sony RX100 V1 in a Hasselblad disguise but the cameras high end extras, design, wooden grip and sturdier controls as well as offering Adobe Lightroom software makes it stand out from the standard (now $500) RX100 V1. Much like the Leica D-Lux is the same camera as the LX100 yet $400 more expensive. Same concept.

My quick look video is below!

It has become the “thing to do” in the photo world to trash this Hasselblad, but this was well deserved as Hasselblad went insane with the pricing out of the gate at $3500 for this SE model. I will tell you now that this camera is in no way worth $3500. So since its launch it was laughed at, trash talked and made fun of (though not as much as the LUNAR which is even more insane with pricing and has an ugly design) ONLY due to price and the fact that it is an RX100 with some new cosmetics and sturdier dials, etc.

Leica has been doing this for years with Panasonic cameras and raising the price, but they kept it in check, sticking with a $400-$600 price premium, not a $3000 price premium as Hasselblad attempted. Now that we can obtain one for $999 instead of $4000, it makes it MUCH easier to swallow and the reality is that this camera is nothing to balk at , laugh at or out down. It is a VER capable and beautiful camera.

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After snapping some images with it I was reminded how lovely the original RX100 renders an image (slightly different and more organic than the II and III) and while the III has the most nag for the buck with the pop up EVF, the Stellar SE, now that it is 70% off ($2300 OFF) it makes for a special buy. B&H Photo have sold out of one color but have a few left of the others and once they are gone they are gone for good. Other shops did not reduce the cost of this camera so stores like Amazon are still selling it for $3500-$4200. Other shops who carry this camera are sticking with the $3500- price tag which means when B&H Sells out, there could be a possible resale on eBay profit so I will buy a couple more to do just that ;)

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In the flesh the camera looks killer (IMO) and I bought the orange as for me, it sticks out and screams “what the hell is that”?!?!? The main thing I prefer over the standard version is the wooden grip, it is perfectly placed for maximum gripe and comfort.

To those who say “you are buying old tech, and it is just GAS” well..I say those who chase the latest tech are the most guilty of gas! This camera, the RX100 V1 is highly capable of gorgeous and stunning results. Just see this post here for proof of that.

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It will take gorgeous images today and in 5 years it will as well. Cameras made in trees last 2-3 years are mostly all fantastic today just as they were years ago. Look at the Nikon DF using the old D4 sensor. Amazing camera.

Differences of the Stellar SE over the standard Sony RX100?

  • Different cosmetics
  • Hasselblad name
  • Italian Leather Strap & Wrist Strap included
  • Wooden Storage/Display box Included
  • Exotic Wooden Grip
  • Metal parts and sturdier dials
  • Adobe Lightroom Included

Now 2X the cost instead of 8X the cost of the RX100 V1 ;) 

In any case, I recommend either the RX100 V1 for under $500 or this Hasselblad version of it for $999. Either would make an awesome X-Mas gift for the special photo enthusiast in your life.  Other great options are the new Panasonic LX100 or even Fuji X100T. 

PS – Oh! Before I forget...For those of you who are angry, bitter, full of negativity and hate about me posting the deal on this camera, get over it. Your negative remarks will not be approved if that is what you decide to leave. Cameras are PERSONAL CHOICE and we buy what we enjoy, like, use and cameras that can be fun, inspirational and ones that get the job done. If someone wants to buy a Leica M for $8000, so be it! If someone wants a Canon Rebel, then good for them. If someone wants a Leica D-Lux over an LX100, more power to them. If someone wants a 70% off Stellar over an RX100 then that is cool as well. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me this camera is gorgeous. It was just insanely priced before and that is what made it the laughing stock that it was. At $999 it is a great buy, and again, one that can be resold later for more (mark my words), so nothing to lose :) I may buy 3 more just to sell later!

UPDATE Dec 3rd 2014: Some stats..over the past three days nearly 30 of these have been sold from my link to B&H Photo here. This means that 30 of you bought one after reading this. The interesting thing? Orange has been the top color with over 22 sold! White sold 5 and black sold 3. I figured most would go for the classic black but it appears many of you have the same taste as me  and went for the orange! My guess is that B&H has about 20 of each color and it started with two orange combos, one sold out. For those who asked, I will be doing a just for fun crazy compare between this camera, the X100T and the Lx100 soon! 

UPDATE Dec 5th 2014: I just re-read an article I wrote about the Stellar SE when it was announced and it is funny as I said “I would pay $1000 for one” and here we are, at $999. Priced just right. You can see that article here. 

 

You can buy the RX100 V1 HERE or the Hasselblad Stellar SE HERE. 

My 1st three snaps with the Hasselblad Stellar SE at home!

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For reference, Amazon has one listed for $4,250 as of December 2nd 2014 – $999 at BH is a great buy.

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Dec 012014
 

Cyber Monday Deals (Things I would Buy) – Sony, Cosyspeed and more!

Hey guys! It’s “Cyber Monday” and while every year stores and manufacturers try to get me to push their deals on things I would not personally ever buy, every year I do not post 95% of those deals simply because as I said…I would never buy or use these products. But sometimes there are deals that come along that I feel are special, or well worth the cost and sometimes, a downright NO BRAINER. Things I WOULD buy! Last week I posted a couple of deals..one on the Hasselblad Stellar SE at 70% off (and I ordered one myself), the deal on the Sigma DP Quattro, which is almost half off from $999 to $599. The Sigma is a unique camera and was not tempting to me at $999 but at $599 it is something that some will want for its unique IQ and capabilities for certain subjects.

Below are a few more deals on things that I feel are a great bang for the buck…

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Sony also has some AWESOME deals on the A6000 camera (which is FANTASTIC, see my review HERE)..

Sony A6000 with 16-50 Power Zoom lens – $598!

Sony A6000 Body only – $448!

CAMSLINGER 160 Paris Gray

CosySpeed has a great deal on their Camslinger bags at $69 each! THIS BAG IS A STEAL FOR $69 and is one of the most useful camera carrying cases I have ever used. See my video on it HERE.

Buy the Cosyspeed Camslinger in BLACK for $69 HERE at B&H Photo. A $50 SAVINGS.

Their finger strap is something I actually prefer to a wrist strap, and it can be had for only $12.90. See it here. (Also used in the video at the above link) 

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How about a deal on the Fuji X100S?

$899 in black!

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Also, do not forget Leica has some cool discounts right now. $750 of an M 240 and $250 off of most lenses. You can buy Leica from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop or Leica Store Miami.

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NIKON!

There is a great Nikon Df deal over at Amazon (Through ONECALL) where you can get a Nikon Df and 50 1.8 for $600 off (in black) for a total of $2396 (20% off). Check it out HERE.

Nov 262014
 

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The New Sony A7 Mark II – Pricing and Ship Dates!

**Pre-Order the A7 II at B&H Photo NOW! – $1698 – Ships December 9th**

The KIT Lens version with the 28-70 Zoom is $1998 HERE

As many of you have seen, Sony Japan announced the new A7 Mark II with a slew of improvements. I had a meeting with Sony where I heard all about the new camera last week and wow, they really did their homework. The A7 Mark II is not only going to be just a full frame mirrorless, but a powerhouse of a photographic tool. Yes, I am excited. I fell in love with the A7 series a year ago and even more so when the A7s was released (My current #1 camera). With the A7II, Sony has struck a nerve and finally added the game changing 5 Axis Image Stabilization. YES. This is good.

There are a few improvements over the old A7 and the best news is that you can PRE-ORDER the A7II (links coming today) at $1699. yep, $1699. Sony did not gouge the price of the A7II, instead they kept it the same as the older A7 and have now lowered the price of the original A7 to $1299 (as of this weekend)! A full frame mirrorless that accepts ANY lens made (just about) for $1299.

Order the original A7 here. It will be lowered to $1299 by Friday. 

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But the A7II is the one I am lusting for just due to the fact that it is now even beefier in build with a new more robust mount, better weather sealing and now 5-Axis Image Stabilization. This is the best IS you can get in a digital camera, period. Better than ANY lens, or any in body IS. This is basically what we have in the Olympus E-M1 and it is AMAZING. The best news is that this 5-AXIS will work with ANY lens, even Leica M glass, Canon or Nikon. Sweet! You will gain 4.5 stops by using 5-Axis. This seems like a polished and very capable camera. The 5-Axis IS is what set apart the Olympus E-M1 from the pack, and now Sony has it.

Sony tells me IQ of the A7 II is improved from the A7 even though the A7II is using the same sensor as the A7. Yes, it is the SAME exact 24MP sensor, but the processing has been tweaked (hopefully to match the superb A7s).

The Af is now 30% faster than the A7, video has been improved to A7s specs, and the re-design places the shutter button in a much more comfy spot as well as adding a bit more grip to hold on to.

Sony is on fire yet again and I can not wait to see what else is coming down the road from them. Rumors of a PRO A9 series is making my mouth water and I can only imagine the possibilities.

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PRE-ORDER the SONY A7II for $1699 – Shipping starts December 9th!! Just in time for X-Mas!

Order at Amazon – – – – Order at B&H Photo

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  • Higher bitrate video – 50MBPS – same as Sony A7s, which is astounding
  • Same Sensor – No changes to sensor but A7II has improved IQ due to new processing
  • Worlds first 5 – Axis IS on a full frame camera model
  • IQ improved over A7
  • ALL lenses stabilized – even Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc
  • 30% faster AF, improved tracking
  • More robust mount
  • Body redesign, new shutter placement

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PRICING of the Sony A7 Mark II:

$1699 BODY ONLY – Ships December 9th 2014!

$1999 KIT lens  – Ships December 9th 2014!

AND YES, I will be doing a full “real world” review of this new Sony A7II as soon as I can one shipped to me for review, which should be less than a week from now!

 

PRE-ORDER the SONY A7II NOW for $1699 – Shipping starts December 9th!! Just in time for X-Mas!

Order at Amazon – – – – Order at B&H Photo

Nov 252014
 

Crazy Comparison! Leica 50 APO, Sony Zeiss 55, Voigtlander 40 2.8

Hey to all! Happy Tuesday! Just a couple of days until the big Thanksgiving feast and I am lounging around my home relaxing an injured knee (which is improving and on its way to a full recovery). I have had quite a few emails in the past week asking me to compare the Leica 50 APO miracle lens to the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8. I have done this before but this time it is more controlled and using indoor natural light, which believe it or not was quite dim in reality. I had my blinds slightly cracked open to allow some light to come in and I snapped a basic image to test for out of camera color, sharpness, micro contrast, etc.

 THIS IS A “JUST FOR FUN” CRAZY COMPARISON!

Below is a quick size compare. All are smaller lenses that are fairly light and trouble free. The Sony is the largest but light. The 50 APO is compact but solid and the Voigtlander is small and light with the Jupiter being featherweight. NONE are large or cumbersome in any way.

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Yep, a $8300 lens vs a $999 lens and then I also threw in the $400 Voigtlander 40 2.8, which is actually a GREAT buy for a very nice lens. I also included the very cheap Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 just for fun. (and it is not bad at all I must say)!

I have been doing Crazy Comparisons since the first week my website went up, and they are always popular but sometimes controversial, which is understandable. ANY comparison that is done will always be controversial as those who own Lens B want to know why Lens A appears better. Those who have lens C will say I did the test wrong and I must have misfocused or those who own Lens A will argue about something. Just take it for what it is, a snap shot at the same aperture for the 50 APO and the 55 1.8 (f/2), Jupiter 8 and one at f/ 2.8 for the Voigtlander, which is wide open for that lens. ALL lenses were manually focused (The Sony was as well for critical correct focusing and to rule out mis focus).

To me, when I click on the images below I see a richer color in the 50 APO as well as MUCH more detail and micro contrast. The Sony/Zeiss flared a bit (no hood on the Sony and the APO did not have the hood pulled out, so no hood on either), was softer and had a less vibrant color. The Voigtlander shows its weakness here against these two lenses and is softer still with less contrast and color depth.

The 50 APO and the Sony A7s is pretty amazing. I mentioned it last week HERE but every time I use this combo I am thrilled with the results, and the cool part is that it is easier to obtain perfect focus on the A7s than it is on the Leica M itself.

Click the images below to see the larger versions with full 100% crops embedded. As it is, the Leica is the better lens. Better made, smaller, jewel like, better optics, better color and flare resistance..but it is 8X the cost of the Sony/Zeiss! EEK! $8300 vs $999. The Leica BETTER BE BETTER! I think the Leica, in the real world, is worth about $4500 but Leica being Leica..well..that will never happen. All I know is for me, Leica makes the best optics in the world. The 50 Lux, the 50 APO, the Noctilux..all special, unique and amazing 50mm lenses. Buying them all would set someone back about $24,000. I know of some towns in the USA where you can buy a house for $24,000 :)

When the Zeiss Loxia lenses come in I will pit the 50 f/2 against the APO, and I expect that one to be pretty close.  See my 50 APO review HERE, see my Voigtlander 40 2.8 review HERE and see many shots with the Sony 55 1.8 HERE.

CLICK THESE IMAGES FOR LARGER and 100% CROP! THEY ARE DIRECT FROM RAW!

The 50 APO at f/2

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Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 at f/2 – Manually focused 

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A Jupiter 8 50mm f/2

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Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar at 2.8

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Nov 242014
 

Character Style and Mood in Photography

By Peter Maynard

Adelaide, South Australia

Hello Steve. Allow me to open by saying thank you for running this site. It is one that I visit regularly for inspiration and information. I thought it was time I went about trying to inspire by providing some thoughts on the importance of character, style and mood in photography. It is a wee bit lengthy but I hope it’s worth it, so here goes.

In photography, many of us start our journey by studying and learning from the masters of the art. But my belief is that many of us will eventually develop a desire to create their own personal photographic style, rather than just copying others. This requires experimentation, learning, effort and creativity. In my case, I approach photography as an art form, not just a mechanism for documenting and recording events. This more expressive approach influences my work greatly and my ability to use photography to express myself artistically is the thing that constantly challenges, engages, enthuses and energizes me. Oh, and did I say frustrates?

What really counts for me is the creative process itself and ultimately what is important is whether I like the resulting image. I understand that not everyone approaches photography in this way and that is fine but this is my way so it is all I can tell you about. What this article is about really is the need for photographers to develop character and style in their work and in particular I would like to demonstrate the role that mood can play in image making as a part of this.

Although like many photographers, I started “serious” photography by shooting black and white, my preferred style now most often involves using colour because I find it lends itself better to artistic interpretation for my type of work. This is not invariably the case though – I like to let the image “decide” if it wants to be in colour or in monochrome, if that makes sense. It is a simple fact of life that some images work best in monochrome and some in colour. Part of our job in image making is to work out which is which. So I usually shoot in full colour then convert later if needed. Here is one where monochrome seemed to work better to convey the feeling I thought the image was crying out to convey – solitary, thoughtful, a little gloomy. I can’t say it’s a perfect photo – it has too many blown highlights for that, but it has mood in bucket loads and that is what I wanted.

Image 1

I always feel that photographs are at their most interesting when they require some degree of interpretation by the viewer. And as I have already hinted, as much as anything this is about creating mood in images rather than just capturing a scene accurately. It is about what is suggested in the image more than what is recorded. My personal belief is that this kind of photography is at its best, not necessarily when the images are technically perfect, but rather when they either capture or create a mood that “speaks” to the viewer. of course a viewer may interpret my photographs as having a very different mood or message from the one I intended, because of course the viewer will interpret the image through his or her own eyes and own experiences.

Here is a colour example I happen to like very much. Like many images that I like the best, it is not technically perfect. And like many presented here, it was shot through a window and as a result is distorted and softened by flare and reflections. Technically it may be questionable, but artistically I feel it works. This image reminds me very much of early autochrome colour images which have a lovely softness and pastel quality. And it has a lovely intimate mood which sets me thinking: who are they, why are they here, what are they talking about? That is exactly what mood should be able to achieve – set the viewer thinking.

Image 2

I am happiest with my own photos when they are somewhat ambiguous (one reason I often make liberal use of reflections when I can – think Saul Leiter who had a similar approach for, I imagine, similar reasons). I think of a good image as being one which allows room for viewer interpretation as I mentioned earlier. Here is another example. Again, it’s an image of a group of people in a warm café; sitting, passing the time, drinking coffee and enjoying each other’s company. Once more, critics could be forgiven for saying it’s a bad photo – excessively dark, soft, indistinct and vague. But these are exactly the things I love about it. It has an intimate mood that draws me back to this place and time. Hopefully it does something similar for others who may remember times when they have sat amongst just such an intimate group of friends. Once more this photo is all about its mood.

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Why is it that looking in through a window on a scene so often creates that feeling of intimacy and warmth? I find this again and again – it is like looking in on a secret and private world. Here is a further example, an image that speaks to me once more of comfort, intimacy, congeniality and friendship.

Image 4

Of course the same technique can be applied in other settings. In the following two images, shot through windows in Kowloon, Hong Kong I captured the staff of two of the many small restaurants that line the streets in this part of town, at work in their kitchens. Shadows and light complemented by the blur of steam on what probably has to be admitted were grimy windows transport me back to my time in that place. To me this type of travel photo is more evocative than any number of wide-angle scenes of iconic buildings and skylines, perhaps because the images’ human scale because they capture the feeling of the places depicted. They are photos which make the most of mood and looking at them transports me back to that place and time. This is what mood can do when it works for the viewer.

Image 5

Image 6

But of course, mood does not always rely upon reflections in a window. In the following shot my aim was for the image to be about the triangle made by this mother’s face, her hands and the face of her child to emphasize the relationship between them. So after making the image I applied a vignette to emphasise those elements and not much else – perhaps just enough to give context. I have often felt that in image making a successful image is as much about what you leave out as what you capture. And that is a key creative choice that photographers should keep in mind.

Image 7

The same kind of technique can be successfully applied to other types of photograph to create mood. In this image of a city skyline, the natural shadows have been enhanced to focus the eye where it needs to be – on the juxtaposition between old and new as represented by the buildings in the image.

Image 8

In all of the above images there has been some degree of post processing to draw out final image. Perhaps it is surprising for many people to learn that the processing has involved taking detail out – not maximizing it. As I said at the outset, to me a photograph can often work best when it is a little ambiguous and allows room for personal interpretation by the viewer. This can often only be achieved if the image has lost some detail that might otherwise distract the viewer from the main message or make the main point of interest in the image less obvious. But there are times when little effort is needed to achieve this.

Sometimes, as in this photo all you need to do is to rely on natural light to capture the mood that was present when the image was made. And then maybe tweak it a smidge in post.

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But I can never quite let go of the idea of using reflections so here is one final photo to illustrate a variation on this theme. In this example it was as simple as photographing the distorted image of a crane against the sky, with both elements reflected in a grimy upper story window of a warehouse. No tricks, little processing, just an image that is both vague and at the same time, somehow evocative. You may have guessed. I love reflections for their ability to create mood.

Image 10

So there you have it, some thoughts on creating mood in photography to illustrate my central message of the importance of photographers creating a personal style for themselves. And of course to illustrate this I have shown you something of my own personal style. Your task is to find a style that works for you – a style which gives you a voice. And what about creating mood? Well, unsurprisingly I find that much of it is about using shadows and light. Speaking personally I just wait till I see an image that looks as if it is interesting then compose and press the shutter. Then when I am processing it and begin to see an image emerging that I like, I may add a bit of shadow here, subtract a bit of light there – or visa versa, till I am happy. No secret, just experience and a certain sensitivity to an image that in some way makes me go “wow, I like that, I think I will stop now!” If there is interest and |Steve agrees I am happy to prepare another article for his site on how to use post processing to enhance mood and style in photographs.
I recently found a photography book containing photos of Australia in the 1950’s and 1960s. A sentence in it caught my attention, part of which referred to “the ability of a lens to give a vision not seen by the eye”. How true that is. If we are doing our job right as photographers we will sometimes manage to capture an image that no eye, including our own has ever seen. We have caught a moment in time and when we first see the photo realise we have really seen it for the first time. I am sure we all have had that experience and am constantly amazed by the ability of photography to do this. But my central idea in this article is that even though a photo can capture something not seen directly by the eye, if done well it can tell an even deeper truth about the image by speaking directly to our emotions. That is the elusive frustrating demon I constantly chase. Maybe we all do.

I hope you have enjoyed this and even more, I hope you have found it useful or at least thought-provoking. More of my photos can be seen on my Flickr page. Nothing fancy, just photos from my everyday life and travels. Some good, perhaps some indifferent, but I hope not many that are bad.

Please visit and if you feel so inclined, leave comments. https://www.flickr.com/photos/life_in_shadows/

Or you can visit some I have placed on Pinterest for a more succinct overview of some of my images. http://www.pinterest.com/peterm1001/

Nov 212014
 

A taste of the Leica 50 APO on the Sony A7s

Many have been asking me “when is your part 2 of the Leica 50 APO coming out”?!? To be honest, I have been so busy with other cameras and lenses that this one has fallen to the wayside. I felt that my part 1 review of the 50 APO was quite complete in what I wanted to say about it. Quite simply, it is the finest 50mm lens I have ever tested or owned, and it is one of 2-3 lenses that bring out the best of the Leica M 240 or M-P (others are 21 Elmar and 90 APO).

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I have been using it here and there on the Sony A7s with the Voigtlander adapter and it holds up just as well on the Sony with gorgeous color (the main signature of the APO) and sweet sharpness. What I mean by “sweet” sharpness is that the lens is sharp on the M and Sony but not in any kind of clinical or harsh way…at all. It has all of the ingredients of a legendary lens. Sharp, no distortion, no flare issues, VERY low CA and outstanding color. These ingredients bring the images to life no matter the camera though I feel it does its best on the M 240 or M-P or MM.

My part 2 review will be up within 2-3 weeks (first will be the Sony 16-35 lens review) using the Sony A7s but for now I wanted to show a couple of files so you get an idea of how gorgeous this lens can do on the Sony A7s. This lens is insanely expensive and is in reality a “statement” piece from Leica to say “look what we CAN do”. The lens has jumped in price since launch to over $8,000. It is tiny, it is built to Leica standards and it is a modern-day marvel of optical quality. The 50 Lux ASPH can not compete with it in any area of optical quality and that 50 Lux ASPH is considered a legend as it is. (It is also half the price of the 50 APO).

As for the Sony 55 1.8, I will be doing another side by side using the A7s. The under $1000 Sony vs the $8000 Leica. Will we see $7k difference? No. I do not think so. I have used both lenses extensively and the Sony/Zeiss is fantastic. The Leica is better (for color and character especially) but with Leica you pay the price for jewel like build, small size, and stellar optics. Just how it is and always will be. I will also pit it against the Voigtlander 40 2.8 that I recently reviewed. Should be fun :)

See my part 1 review of the 50 APO here, and an extension of that HERE. Part 2 soon!

A couple of dealers may have one of these in stock. If you want one, check Ken Hansen, The Pro Shop or PopFlash.com 

Sony A7s – Click this image for larger..

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Click this one to see the true 100% crop

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and a couple more…

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one at ISO 3200 and zero NR

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Nov 192014
 

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (10)

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

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

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

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

CAMSLINGER 160 Paris Gray

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

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (10)

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

CAMSLINGER 160 Street Edition

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

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

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

Steve

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PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

New CAMSLINGER bags from COSYSPEED.

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

AD Steve NOV14

A quick word about Street Photography

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

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

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (6)

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

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

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

 

Nov 182014
 

Leica Sale: INSTANT Cash Discounts..here is the list..

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With the holidays coming even Leica is in the giving mood (sort of) – with $750 off on the Leica M 240 and $250 off of most lenses, this is a chance to save a little more on your new Leica lens purchases. Below are direct links to B&H Photo and each lens that took me over an hour to compile..by using those links to purchase anything it will help this site move on and continue ;) So I thank anyone in advance that uses any of my links on this website.

You can also get these discounts at my other recommended Leica dealers – Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, LeicaStoreMiami.com, and the Pro Shop. 

THE LEICA M 240 – $750 OFF, NOW $6500 NEW

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/893170-USA/Leica_10770_M_Digital_Camera_Black.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837/BI/4399/KBID/4837

Here is a list of Leica lenses on sale:

18 3.4 Super Elmar – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/609382-USA/Leica_11649_18mm_f_3_8_Super_Elmar_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 21 Super Elmar f/3.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/798854-REG/Leica_11145_Super_Elmar_M_1_3_4_21mm_ASPH.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 21 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586191-USA/Leica_11_647_21mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 24 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586206-USA/Leica_11_601_24mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 28 Elmarit f/2.8 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/461972-USA/Leica_11606_28mm_f_2_8_Elmarit_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 28 Summicron f/2 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/214061-USA/Leica_11604_Summicron_M_28mm_f_2_0_Lens.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520349-REG/Leica_11_643_35mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 Summicron f/2 – $250 Off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/134723-USA/Leica_11879_35mm_f_2_0_Summicron_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/720355-USA/Leica_11663_35mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520350-USA/Leica_11_644_50mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 f/2 Summicron Original – $250 off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/86059-USA/Leica_11826_50mm_f_2_0_Summicron_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 1.4 Summilux ASPH – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/332585-USA/Leica_11891_50mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 0.95 Noctilux – $250 off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586190-REG/Leica_11_602_50mm_f_0_95_Noctilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The  75 2.5 Summarit – $250 off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520351-USA/Leica_11_645_75mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 75 f/2 Summicron – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/378040-USA/Leica_11637_75mm_f_2_0_APO_Summicron.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520352-USA/Leica_11_646_90mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/2 Summicron APO – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/162726-USA/Leica_11884_90mm_f_2_0_APO_Summicron.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 135 f/3.4 APO – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/162727-USA/Leica_11889_Telephoto_135mm_f_3_4_APO.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/4 Macro – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1054674-REG/leica_11670_90mm_for_4_macro_elmar_m.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The Wide Angle Tri Elmar – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/461969-USA/Leica_11626_Tri_Elmar_M_16_18_21mm_f_4_Asph.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

Nov 122014
 

Feeling Warm and Fuzzy, a big thanks to all of you!

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I just wanted to give a big shout out and thanks to some important people in my life…ALL OF YOU who read this website! Going on 7 years now, this website has grown, stabilized and changed a bit turning it into what I have always wanted it to be.

  1. A place to share my real world reviews that are easy to read, understand and have loads of samples with actual thoughts on USING the camera or lens or accessory. This is something that I will never stop doing and my #1 priority.
  2. Next, I always envisioned a place where others who are passionate about photography can share their experiences, their photos and their websites. No matter how good they are, all I require is passion and a desire to shoot. No need to be a pro, no need to be an amazing photographer. None of us are experts in photography and we all have our own styles. We all have room to grow and by sharing photos, stories and user reports it helps not only everyone who reads them but those who write them as well. I learn every single day from all of you!
  3. A friendly community of passionate photographers and yes, even gear heads to chat and discuss that passion!

That is all I wanted and today, it is right here as I envisioned all of those years ago. (as a tear flows down my eye) ;)

Thanksgiving is coming up and it is making me feel all warm, fuzzy and in the holiday spirit. I am thankful for all of you, my wonderful life, my fiancée Debby and all of my friends and family. I am planning 1-2 intimate events in 2015. Just me and 3-5 others. No fluff and no giant production. More of a learning experience for ALL involved, even me. So keep an eye out for that announcement soon. One amazing thing that has come from all of this is getting to meet so many of you over the years, most recently my big Southwest Road Trip event which was a HUGE success and we all came away with some fantastic photos, memories and good times.

So just wanted to say THANK YOU TO ALL and that I will be here for as long as is humanly possible ;) After that, maybe Brandon can take it over when I am ready to retire. That would be awesome. As it is now this site has THOUSANDS of articles, reviews and posts. You can see  them ALL right HERE. Doing so may take a few days if you look at them all ;)

Over the years that this version of the site has been up it has enjoyed 95 MILLION visits. Yes, almost 100 Million. Over 100,000 comments as well. Approximately 15-20k hits a day come from Google where thousands of articles are indexed there. Amazing, and still brings a smile to my face every day when I sit down and go to write an article or review. I am never worried about stats, numbers or any of that. In fact I stopped checking all stats a while ago and only check them every few months because whether they go up or down, doesn’t matter. All I worry about is reviewing gear that is top notch, gear that works as it should and when something comes along that excites me, I write about it. The reason you do not see me reviewing everything is because if it is not very good, or lacks in any way or is something I would not recommend, I do not review it. Period. I am not out for mass traffic, I am out for quality content, which is what I feel most of what I put up is.

It is a special place here and I want to preserve this for years to come.

Thanks so much for your continues support…EVERYONE!

COMING IN THE NEXT 1-3 MONTHS: Zeiss Loxia Reviews, Zeiss 35 1.4 M mount Review, Sony/Zeiss 16-35 FE Lens Review (NOW IN HAND) AND MUCH MUCH MORE!

Steve

 

Nov 122014
 

A Dedication to Chris Brunkhart

By Alex Bacon

Thank you Steve Huff for allowing me the opportunity to write about my friend, Chris Brunkhart. Chris is an amazing and influential lifestyle/snowboard photographer who was just recently diagnosed with Stage 4 colon and liver cancer.

Many of you who visit this website daily may not recognize Chris’s name but you may recognize his iconic photography. Chris’s images have documented the world of snowboarding in Snowboarder, Transworld Snowboarding and Frequency
magazines—to name a few. His editorial work in the 1990’s was often described as having a dark atmospheric quality, that gave as much attention to ethereal, snowy landscapes as it did to the athlete he was photographing.

I can truly say, that it isn’t just shooting the best athletes, over six continents that makes Chris tick. It’s the freedom of self-expression and the process of creating and capturing life’s fleeting moments which fuels his creative fire. His photography evokes emotion on such a deep level. You don’t just “see” what’s happening in the frame, you feel it…you’re in it, experiencing that moment physically, and I can’t think of a more apt compliment for any photographer. Chris’s creative vision and unique photographic style has influenced many young action-sports photographers over the years. Seeing Chris work first hand, applying his gift of capturing that moment in time is what drove me to pick up my first camera and pursue photography as a passion, I thank him for that gift every day!

For the past year, Chris has been living in Brooklyn, NYC where he has been shooting landscape photography and field portraiture, as well as dabbling in mixed media sculpture, woodworking, and continued contributions to underground film and video projects.

Upon his diagnosis in September, Chris returned to his home city of Portland, Oregon so he could be close to his friends and family during his treatment. Chis has recently begun his treatment of Chemotherapy and has started to fight against the cancer which is threatening his life.

There are two benefits being held to help raise funds for his ongoing treatment and everyone reading this is welcome to attend. The first will be on November 14, at NEMO Design in Portland, Oregon, and the second will be on November 20, at The Boathouse Collective, in Costa Mesa, California. A GoFundMe page for financial donations has also been set up at www.gofundme.com/chrisbrunkhart.

Image caption guide:

Meeting the heli, Juneau Ice Field, Alaska

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 Yakutat backcountry, Alaska

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Matt Donahue, Mountain pass near Briancon, Italy

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Craig Kelly, warming hut, Revelstoke, BC

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Devon Walsh, Mt. Hood, OR

brunkhart_port-6_DevonWalsh

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Dan Peterka, Stepping off into the Vltava river, Prague, CZ

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No Tennis. Creston Park, Portland, OR

brunkhart_solo-4_TennisCourt

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A woman waits on a cold winter day, Prague CZ

brunkhart_solo-10_Prague

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Jamie Lynn, about midnight in Seattle, WA

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On his way to work. London, UK

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Silhoetted by the clouds. Craig Kelly, near Pucon, Chile

brunkhart_solo-17_CK-Chile

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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