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Apr 182016
 

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PIMP YOUR SONY RX1 MKII with these awesome accessories!

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

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

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

First, check out the video to see it all

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

FROM METRO-CASE.COM 

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

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FROM J.B. DESIGNS

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

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LENS HOOD

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

SHUTTER RELEASE – Best release I have ever found!

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

Check them out HERE.

STRAPS?

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

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

BATTERIES – SPARES and EXTRAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 142016
 

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

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

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

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

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

IMAGE QUALITY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LEICA = SIMPLICITY – PASSION – GORGEOUS BUILD AND IQ

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

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

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

But odd as in good. Different. Unique.

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

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

WHERE TO BUY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 112016
 
TRAVELINDIADF

TRAVELINDIADF

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

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Sebastien Bey-Haut

Apr 092016
 

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

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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

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

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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

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

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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

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

Leica Q

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Olympus PEN-F

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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Apr 092016
 

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A Sony A7II long term review

By David Lintern

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

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

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The practicalities – size and weight

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

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

Glen Etive – Sony 28-70 Kit Zoom

Glen Etive, Sony 28-70mm

Lenses

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

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

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 

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

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

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

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

Body

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

Shelter on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

shelter on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

Silver birch on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

silver birch on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

The one camera to rule them all?

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

http://www.davidlintern.com

Apr 042016
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20.8MP BSI CMOS Sensor and EXPEED 6A Image Processor

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

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

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

UHD 4K Video Recording & Slow Motion

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

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

Advanced Hybrid AF System

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

Body Design

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

SnapBridge Connectivity

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

Other Features

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

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

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

Mar 312016
 

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

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

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

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

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

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How about some color?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Auto Focus Speed

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

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

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

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

PRE ORDER THE LENS!

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

PRE ORDER THE SONY 50 1.8 AT AMAZON HERE

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

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

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

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

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

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Mar 302016
 

FIRSTLOOK

HANDS ON: Sony RX10 III. Some Samples & Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

An out of camera JPEG

CLICK ON ALL IMAGES FOR BETTER VERSIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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The power of the zoom. 

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

1st, 24mm

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Same position at 600mm..

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With 600mm, you have a TON of reach.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

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

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

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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

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

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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

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

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

Mar 292016
 

New Sony RX10 III and Lenses Announced. 1st Look coming TODAY!

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Hey guys! I am in San Francisco today with Sony as they unveil the new RX10 Mark III camera. I know what you are thinking..didn’t they just recently release the RX10 Mark II?!?!? Yes but this one is an all new beast with all new capabilities. I was just briefed on it but in a few hours I will be out shooting the new camera and testing it all the way to its monster 24-600mm telephoto lens.

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I’m actually excited about this RX10III as it seems like it is so versatile for almost any need. Stay tuned for the hands on report and possibly a live stream over at my Facebook page today (UPDATE 1:45PM: already did the live stream, go there to check it out!) with the new Sony products. So if you have not been to my Facebook page in a while, go check it out!

You can already pre-order the RX10 III at B&H Photo HERE. 

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Below is the press release from Sony, but more coming today on this and the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 E mount lenses that were also announced today!

New RX10 III Model Boasts Versatile 24-600mm1 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar F2.4-F4 Lens, 20.1 MP2 1.0-type Stacked CMOS sensor, Internal 4K Video Recording, Super Slow Motion Capabilities and more

SAN FRANCISCO, Mar. 29, 2016 – Sony – a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer – has today announced an exciting new addition to its acclaimed Cyber-shot RX lineup, the high-zoom RX10 III camera.

Featuring a newly-developed 25x super-telephoto zoom lens with an extensive focal range of 24-600mm, the new RX10 III camera is able to produce high-quality content at a variety of focal lengths and camera settings that would require three or more large, heavy and expensive lenses for an interchangeable lens camera user. It’s an outstanding choice for a shooting anything from landscapes to distant wildlife and everything in between.

The RX10 III high zoom camera is equipped with a 1.0 type stacked 20.1 MP Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor with DRAM chip and advanced signal processing, along with a powerful BIONZ X™ image processor. These components work together to ensure the highest possible image quality throughout the entire zoom range of the 24-600mm lens. Additionally, they are responsible for a variety of standout professional-caliber features including 40x super slow motion video capture at up to 960 fps, an ultra-fast Anti-Distortion Shutter with a maximum speed of 1/32000 second, high resolution 4K movie shooting and more.

“By pairing the convenience of an ultra-telephoto lens with our innovative stacked CMOS image sensor design, we’ve created a whole new image experience unlike anything else in market today,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “The new RX10 III offers a true ‘all in one’ package that will appeal to a wide range of amateur, hobbyist and professional photographers and videographers.”

New ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* 24-600mm F2.4 – F4 Lens

The impressive 24-600mm ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* lens on the Cyber-shot RX10 III camera features a large maximum aperture of F2.4 – F4.0, helping it achieve outstanding image quality throughout the entire zoom range, all the way up to ultra-telephoto. This differentiates it from many other high-zoom lenses that often struggle with light-gathering at longer focal lengths. The aperture unit itself has nine blades that are designed to create a near perfect circle in the F2.4 – F11 range, enabling shooters to create content with beautiful bokeh, where the subject stands out against a softly defocused background.

In total, the extended zoom lens features eight ED glass elements including one super ED glass element, five ED glass elements and two ED aspherical lenses, which all work together to minimize chromatic aberration and deliver high-contrast, ultra-sharp image quality. It also has ZEISS® T* Coating for minimizing flare and ghosting and delivering accurate, faithful color reproduction.

The new lens has built-in Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization that helps to reduce camera shake and image blur, in particular when shooting at longer focal lengths. When active, the OSS is equivalent to shooting at a shutter speed approximately 4.5 stops3 faster than the current setting of the camera.

Additionally, with a minimum focusing distance of 72 cm (2.36 ft) and 0.49x maximum magnification at a fully extended 600mm, the new lens is capable of producing amazingly detailed tele-macro images.

High Quality Image Detail

The RX10 III features a back-illuminated 20.1 MP 1.0-type stacked CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine that allow the camera to achieves a wide sensitivity range of ISO 644 – ISO 12800 and produce images with exceptionally low noise, even at higher sensitivity settings.

Additionally, the rear of the sensor has a DRAM chip that allows it to read and process large volumes of data exceptionally fast, enabling the camera to shoot super slow motion video at up to 960 fps. The powerful DRAM chip also allows the RX10 III to shoot continuously at up to 14fps with minimal blackout.

With shutter speeds as fast as 1/32000 second, the electronic shutter on the RX10 III minimizes image distortion at faster shutter speeds. It also offers silent shooting at all settings and speeds, ensuring all content can be captured quietly without disrupting the subject, a powerful feature when combined with the wide-ranging zoom lens.

High Quality 4K Movie Recording

The new RX10III model becomes the latest and most versatile Cyber-shot RX camera to offer the advantages of 4K (QFHD 3840×2160) movie recording thanks to its far-reaching 24-600mm lens, which gives videographers the luxury of shooting high quality 4K video from extreme distances.

In 4K video mode, the RX10 III camera utilizes full pixel readout without pixel binning, capturing approximately 1.7x more information than is required for 4K movie output to enhance image detail and minimize moiré and jaggies. It achieves these high-quality results through use of the XAVC S codec, which records video at a high data rate of up to100 Mbps during 4K recording and up to 50 Mbps during full HD recording5.

The new camera also has a variety of other professional caliber video features including Picture Profile, S-Log2/S-Gamut, Gamma Display Assist, Time Code and more, as well as input for external microphone and output for headphone monitoring.

Super Slow Motion Video Recording

The new RX10 III also possesses the ability to record super slow-motion video at up to 40x slower than the standard rate, allowing users to capture and replay fleeting moments of action with incredible detail, resolution and clarity.

In “HFR” (high frame rate) setting, it offers the option to choose among 960fps, 480fps and 240 fps frame rates and among 60p, 30p and 24p playback formats4,5 with the option to use the movie record button as a ‘start trigger’ to begin recording once button is pressed or ‘end trigger’ to record footage up until the button is pressed.

High Speed Autofocus

The new RX10III camera is equipped with an impressive autofocus system with spatial object detection, allowing the camera to detect and predict motion of a subject before the shutter button is pressed, This helps the camera achieve an incredibly fast and efficient AF response when the shutter is halfway pressed, enabling it to lock on to a subject in as little as 0.09 seconds 8. This is a yet another compelling technology, especially when paired with a versatile, highly capable 25x zoom lens with a range up to 600mm.

Ergonomics and Design

Aesthetically, the new RX10 III features a number of upgrades compared to existing RX10 models including triple lens rings for focus, zoom and aperture for direct, precise control. The hand grip shape has also been optimized for the new high-magnification, large-aperture lens to enhance stability when holding the camera at eye level. There is a new focus hold button on the lens barrel as well, allowing the focus to be easily locked on a subject while the shooter reframes the image.

The new model features a high-contrast XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ with approximately 2.35 million dots of resolution, ensuring true-to-life image preview and playback functionality. The camera is also dust and moisture resistant and both Wi-Fi® and NFC™ compatible, with the ability and can access Sony’s growing range of PlayMemories Camera Applications. Learn more at www.sony.net/pmca. A dedicated LCJ-RXJ soft carrying case will also be available for the new camera.

Pricing and Availability

The new Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III extended zoom camera will be available this May for about $1,500 US and $2,000 CA, respectively. The new cameras and all compatible accessories will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.

Mar 242016
 

The Sony A6300 is STUNNING. Small, fast, powerful. 1st Look. 

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I was going to wait to write about the new Sony A6300 until I did a full review. After using it for the past two days, I became excited by it and knew that I would be using this camera over the next few weeks more and more. I own the A6000 (see that review here), and have since it was launched. I have used it for video, I have used it for family snaps and even loaned it to others when they wanted a quick, and very nice camera. I will admit, when the A6300 was announced I thought it would be just another rehash and slight improvement.

But seeing that the Sony A6000 was the hottest selling mirrorless camera over $600, I knew I needed to drop my A7RII for a while and my other cameras to concentrate on the A6300, which comes in at under $1000. So I will be using and digging into the A6300 over the next 2-3 weeks and will be writing up a full review soon, using all  kinds of glass from Sony native to Zeiss to other surprises, even the TECHART adapter. For now, I just wanted to share some 1st thoughts on performance.

An Orangutan who was just staring into space, looking very very sad. I would be too if I were imprisoned. Click for larger.

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With its new sensor, new 4D focus, amazing focus speed and tracking abilities (that are still not perfect) and great low light performance, the A6300 is a very real alternative to the much more pricey and larger A7 series. It is smaller, but faster. It is very versatile with its EVF, 4K video, Swivel LCD and very hard to knock AF performance. IQ is up there with the best of APS-C and for many this is better than full frame as we do not have to worry about TOO SHALLOW depth of field with some of these fast lenses. The A6300 is small, sleek, built well, weather sealed, has a great EVF, swivel LCD and fast and accurate AF. All under a grand.

NEW SENSOR AND AF SYSTEM

*The a6300 has a new 24.2MP sensor with a top ISO sensitivity of 51,200. More importantly, the sensor’s hybrid autofocus system offers a whopping 425 phase-detect points for burst shooting at 11 fps with continuous autofocus. At 8 fps, a live feed makes it easier to follow fast action*

Yep, the A6300 has amazing specs, and is a camera that I feel will be relevant for many years. The IQ if the new sensor is stunning, both for color or B&W work.

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4K VIDEO WITH FULL SENSOR READOUT

The a6300 reads the entire sensor area to maximize the quality of its UHD 4K/24p videos. Videos use the XAVC S codec with a maximum bit rate of 100MBps. In addition to 4K, the a6300 can also capture 1080p video at 120 frames per second, which can be played back in slow motion.

Tilting LCD

The a6300 has a 3″ tilting LCD display with 921k dots and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Tilting displays are great for overhead and waist-level shooting.

A little girl as she looks at the captive Orangutan, staring into HIS sad eyes. Click for larger.

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Weather-resistant body

The a6300 is a well-built camera with a magnesium alloy body. Its various buttons, dials and ports are sealed against dust and moisture.

The Pink Flamingo. I shot this with the 85 1.4, used spot metering to meter for the very harsh and direct AZ sun that was on the Flamingo. Click the image to see it larger and crisper. 

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It seems the new A6300 is gearing up to be a worthy successor to the hottest selling mirrorless camera ever (over $600), the A6000. In APS-C land, I find it hard to find a camera, at this price, that offers more or even gets close to what this new Sony offering serves up. Look for my full review soon. I think this would make a great camera all by itself or for some, a backup to their A7 series body.

As for the 85 1.4 GM lens, it is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I must own this lens. My 1st look at the lens can be seen HERE. 

The TECHART Adapter with M lenses works very well on the A6300. This one is with the Jupiter 3+

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You can order the A6300 at Amazon or B&H Photo

REVIEW SOON!

Steve

 

Mar 092016
 

Alex Stars 3

Photo Contest from SteveHuffPhoto and Olympus! Win an Astrophotography Experience! 

Hello to all on this lovely Wednesday! I have some exciting news for all of you today as I have teamed up with Olympus to create this awesome photo contest where the winner will be awarded one spot in the upcoming Astrophotography Workshop (lodging included in Flagstaff, AZ) where you will Join Olympus Trailblazer (and my good friend) Alex McClure for his sold out Astro Photography workshop from May 6th to the 9th! Jamie Macdonald, another Olympus Trailblazer will also be there and when Jamie and Alex get together for something like this, believe me, it is so so so worth it. Both really know this kind of work VERY well.

But I am not trying to sell you on this workshop as it is sold out, instead Olympus wants to give one of you here a spot, which is perfect for ANYONE wanting to learn how to shoot the stars.

Photo by Alex McClure

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In order to capture stunning astro shots of the Milky Way and star paths, attendees will be staying at a 8,000 ft. elevation in Northern Arizona in some of the darkest skies in the U.S. The group will also be staying close enough to take day trips to the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona.

Yep, Sedona, Grand Canyon – amazing beauty in the Southwest, and the winner will have his or her workshop paid for along with all lodging. Just be sure that you are free May 6th-9th 2016! Travel/Airfare NOT included. 

Alex Stars 2

HOW TO ENTER and WIN?

Entering this contest is super easy but winning may be a challenge! Be sure to get your best shot ready for this! 

· Enter to win by tagging your best outdoor or astro image with #OlympusOutdoors on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – Starting NOW!
· Prize: 1 spot in Olympus Trailblazer Alex McClure’s Astrophotography workshop (valued at $999.00, lodging included – travel and meals are not included in the prize) (see details here)
· Dates: May 6th to May 9th
· Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald will be onsite for further hands-on instruction

The workshop will take place for 3 nights from Friday, May 6th at 5pm to Monday, May 9th at 10am, offering hands-on instruction from Alex and Jamie, guided fieldwork, editing training, and helpful critiques of your digital files. Olympus cameras will also be on hand if you want to try out their abilities with Astro. This will be a fun, educational and fantastic workshop for  those with an interest in this type of shooting, and the locations will be beautiful.

All that would be required of the winner is to get to Arizona where it all begins on the 6th of May, Friday morning. The winner would connect with Alex McClure about carpooling to the event. The workshop and lodging will be covered by Olympus to the winner. This is a sold out workshop but there is room for one more, and it could be YOU. So get your best outdoor or Astro image and tag it on social media with #OlympusOutdoors (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram). 

Alex Stars 5

Get your best image ready and ENTER anytime between NOW and March 31st 2016 by posting your image using the hash tag #OlympusOutdoors on social media (FB, TWITTER and INSTAGRAM).

Only one entry per person please! 

Winner will be chosen on April 1st 2016 and announced HERE! 

Mar 072016
 

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PRESS RELEASE: New Sony HX80 Compact Camera and Wireless Flash System Announced

Sony has announced the new HX80 Compact camera which I had a small preview of last week while in Miami shooting the new 24-70 f/2.8 and 85 1.4 G Master lenses. It is a compact, smaller than the RX100 series and comes in at an affordable $349. Below is the press release and stats for the HX80 and the new Wireless Flash System for the Sony system..which has finally been created ;)

Sony Announces New HX80 Compact Camera with 30x Zoom and Electronic Viewfinder

New Model is World’s Smallest Camera with 30x Optical Zoom Lens1

SAN DIEGO, Mar. 7, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced the newest addition to their compact zoom camera lineup, the DSC-HX80 model.

The new camera features a variety of advanced imaging capabilities including 30x optical zoom, a high-resolution 18.2 MP2 Exmor R CMOS Sensor and a retractable OLED Tru-Finder in a class-leading compact body. Along with the DSC-HX90V model, the HX80 camera becomes the only compact high-zoom camera with a retractable electronic viewfinder, making it an extremely appealing and flexible solution for travel and family photography and video shooting. .

The HX80 also features a high-resolution, 921k dot LCD screen that tilts a full 180 degrees for comfortable arms-length portraits or “selfies” and is Wi-Fi / NFC compatible.

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Key features for the new model are included below:

Compact Hi-Zoom HX80 Camera w/ Built-in Retractable EVF

Available in April for about $350

· Premium 30x ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* optical zoom lens with 60x “Clear Image” digital zoom capability

· Built-in pop-up OLED Tru-Finder EVF w/ high contrast and vivid colors

· 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ X processor ensure the finest capture details for still images and Full HD videos in all lighting conditions

· Optical SteadyShot with 5-axis image stabilization minimizes effects of camera shake

· 921k dot, 3.0 type LCD screen that tilts a full 180 degrees

· Full HD movie shooting capabilities including high-speed XAVC S format at 50 Mbps

· Built-in ‘pop up’ flash for low-light shooting support

· Compatible with Wi-Fi / NFC for seamless wireless transfer of content and with select Sony PlayMemories™ Camera apps

A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with Sony imaging products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, Sony’s growing community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony imaging brand.

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Sony Announces Development of New Wireless Lighting Control System at WPPI 2016

LAS VEGAS, Mar. 7, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today announced plans to release a new wireless lighting control system to meet the growing demands of professional Sony photographers.

Designed for compatibility with their α interchangeable cameras and external flash units, the new lighting system will include the FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander as well as the FA-WRR1 wireless radio receiver. A prototype of the new system will be on display in Sony’s booth at WPPI 2016.

With a maximum range of 30m (approx. 98 feet), the new radio controlled system will allow for an extremely flexible wireless flash shooting experience with exceptional performance in all types of shooting conditions. In total, the system can control a maximum of 15 separate flash units in up to 5 groups of flashes. While using the system, photographers have the ability to control the exposure of connected flash units either manually or automatically depending on preference. Additionally, the new lighting control system will be capable of flash sync speeds of up to 1/250th of a second with high speed sync (HSS) available as well.

The new Wireless Lighting Control system will be available this summer at authorized retailers throughout the US and Canadian markets. Pricing and detailed specifications will be released at a later date.

Mar 042016
 

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Thank You All for your continued support!

You know, it has been many years now that I have been running this blog/website and it never gets old for me, even going on eight years of daily work here, I still LOVE it. Sure, the camera business has its ups and downs..some months are super hot for camera news and reviews and some are just slow. These days, it seems camera releases are slowing down somewhat from just a couple of years ago. Sure, Sony is still at it and they are on a roll, and Olympus continues to innovate. Panasonic is still in the M 4/3 game and Leica is trying to diversify into all kinds of camera segments, hinting at something to do with phone photography in the future. Fuji is plugging along with new cameras and lenses and Nikon and Canon are still sticking with their DSLR roots and the photo community is probably happier than ever with all of these amazing choices out there. I mean, just look at the choices we have as passionate photographers. That is if you want a NEW camera! Look past that and we have thousands of old cameras on the used market we can use to bring our vision to reality.

For the enthusiast, it’s tough to go wrong as most nice cameras today are just fantastic.

As for this website, my reviews will always be here and I will be writing them until I just can not do it any longer. Truth be told, what helps keep ME going is all of YOU. Your kind words, your kind messages and emails and your submissions like the daily inspirations, reviews and sharing of your work and thoughts. It’s a pretty cool community and while there are hundreds of sites out there doing similar things, tens of thousands of you still visit me here daily! Amazingly cool. I appreciate all of you, and will always do my best to deliver reviews on the products that move me, that motivate me and that I feel are worth taking a look at..

Sony 24-70 G Master – Super dark environment and I overexposed this one but managed to salvage it

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Believe it or not, this website was the worlds very 1st REAL WORLD review site, as in NON technical..using real photos to judge a camera instead of test charts, graphs and studio scenes. There was a strong need for it at the time, and today there are  a gazillion real world review sites out there, and I love all of what I see from them. It’s so cool to see reviews being done in this way in addition to those who do technical reviews. I feel there is a need for both, and always have, which is why I started this site may years ago. The internet can be a wonderful thing…it can also be a horrific thing but for the most part, it is so wonderful to see so many conversing about something they love, on an intellectual and positive way.

THANK YOU!

Just this week I received some great emails from readers, and it is stuff like this that also motivate me to kick my butt into high gear and work more and more on this website (which now houses THOUSANDS of posts, over 7 1/2 years worth).

Check out these nice messages that just came in….so awesome to see positivity and happiness in a world that seems like such the opposite these days…

“I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks for your wonderful website. I like your positive, upbeat energy, and your focus on the products, techniques, and approaches that make photography fun and engaging for so many people.

While other websites like to be armchair critics, you engage your audience, teach them, and inspire them to try new things. That’s appreciated.

Incidentally, I have been following your camera advice carefully, and recently upgraded from a Olympus OM-D EM-1, which I absolutely loved, to a new Sony A7rii, which is just awesome. Your advice helped with both decisions, and I never regretted listening to you.

Thanks again for what you do. Stay positive and enthusiastic! It’s refreshing to see in this era of complaining and tearing others down.

Cheers, Jon”

and this one…

“…Thanks for all your words on this gear, it helped me pull the trigger and my first day with this setup clearly marks the beginning of lots of awesome. I reread your Lecia Summilux 35mm review and the images that combo gets and I’m seeing form on this gear are amazingly similar and satisfying.

May your shutter finger never fail you,

Justin”

So thank all of you for being here, thanks to those who send messages like this every single day and thanks to all who help support this site with your guest posts, reviews and even for using the links here when you buy anything at Amazon or one of the camera shops that sponsor the site. It all helps dramatically and keeps me plugging along day-to-day.

Lots of new things on the way in 2016 from what I have been hearing and while the death of the point and shoot is upon us, and camera companies are making cameras more and more for the enthusiast, it’s all GOOD. Choices are great to have when you are a crazy photo nut and it seems they just keep rolling along to make us happy, and broke..but hey, I only am going to go round this earth once and I love living life to the fullest so I do what I love each and every day.

So I will be here for years to come, writing down my thoughts on cool new cameras and allowing all of you to have a voice, if you want one, right here at stevehuffphoto.com

THANK YOU! Have a great weekend!

Steve

Two more from the Sony 24-70 G Master lens..

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Mar 032016
 

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Two days with the Sony G Master 24-70 f/2.8 Lens

This week I was able to have two days in Miami, FL with the Sony A7RII, Sony A6300, Sony 85 1.4 G Master and the 24-70 f/2.8 G Master. Today I head home back to Arizona and while tired from getting only 6 hours sleep the last two nights, these lenses have inspired me to write about them. I showed a few out of camera samples from the 85 the other day, if you missed it, see it here.  Many asked for samples from the 24-70, so here you go!

As always, click the images to see them correctly. If you do not, they may look soft..

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In the new G Master line of lenses, Sony has told me that they decided to create a NO COMPROMISE set of lenses. They are a full pro line lens, with pro build and optics and even some exotic techniques in making them. They are not cheap, but they are lenses that can go head to head against Canon and Nikon equivalents, and in my opinion, beat them. The build and feel is so nice, they feel and look like nothing Sony has ever released. They are stunning in person, and me, never being a zoom guy, actually really enjoyed the 24-70 2.8 for the two days I was able to give it a try.

While large and pricey we are talking about top-tier full frame glass, and we can not escape physics here. Full frame lenses that are high quality, have AF and are sealed, need to be large. Sony does offer a much smaller set of lenses, and the 24-70 f/4 is tiny in comparison to the new G Master 24-70 2.8.

Miami – 24-70 G Master f/2.8

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Shooting in any situation the 24-70 2.8 never flared, never gave me CA and never gave me focus issues. It is fast to AF, accurate with AF and the detail/sharpness and overall rendering is quite beautiful. The way it renders the light is among the best lenses in the world. Truly beautiful.

Click for larger!!

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As I was able to shoot all kinds of subjects I found this lens was really nice for portraits. Shooting a portrait with a fast f/1.4 lens can be fun, but challenging. Shooting a portrait at f/2.8 or f/4 is much better as we can get the entire subject in focus. The 24-70 is considered the jack of all trades, and if it’s a quality 24-70, then a master of MANY things. It is one of the most useful focal length ranges as we have a wide end at 24 and a mild telephoto at 70mm. In between we have the classic 35 and 50 focal lengths.

Click to see this in a much nicer version…

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In the past few years I have used many zoom lenses..the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 and even the new Leica 24-90 zoom lens that was released with the Leica SL.

While the Leica SL 24-90 is probably the best zoom I have ever used, this Sony G master comes in a tight 2nd to that but the Sony is smaller, lighter, and less than HALF the cost of the Leica while giving 96% of the quality. With the new line of lenses from Sony, we FINALLY have true pro level optics to go with the awesome capabilities of the A7II, A7RII and A7SII.

Some details…click it!

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I will say what I have said many times..IT IS ALL ABOUT THE GLASS!

When buying a really nice camera (such as the A7RII) my opinion is it would be a waste to slap on a cheap kit zoom as they are ALWAYS compromised. Either in speed, or sharpness, or contrast or color or just overall WOW factor. You truly need great lenses if you want your work to stick out. For example, these new lenses are going to be eaten up like mad by the wedding and portrait crowd, they are absolutely perfect for that situation. I feel these lenses will help propel Sony even farther and they are already growing very fast. Sony is leading the mirrorless revolution from what I see. I think because they are giving us what we want..they listen to feedback and offer a quality product that many are jumping to the A7 series ever day.

While DSLR sales are declining more and more every year, mirrorless is strong.

More and more are using these A7 cameras and today, with the G master lenses, they have “arrived” officially for the pro market.

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What I have been seeing with these new lenses is fantastic balance…great color performance, contrast, bokeh and details/sharpness. They also can give off a little bit of magic in the way they render the light. I see sharpness from edge to edge and no faults. Keep in mind I only had it in my bag for two days, so further testing will be needed but in every day shots, real world use, this lens is perfect for anyone who is a fan of the 24-70 focal length.

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All images here are pretty much right out of the A7RII as I did not have time or my main computer to work on, so what you see is what you get.

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The beauty of the A7RII and a lens like this is that you can shoot at extreme ISO’s and still get beautiful results. I remember the days when shooting ISO 1600 would be an awful noisy mess. Today we can easily go to ISO 6400 without noise reduction and even higher with something like an A7SII.

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So far so good. Sony has impressed me and all that were here with me that I spoke with about the lens felt the same. The 85 1.4, for me is the drool worthy lens but for many, this 24-70 2.8 will be their main go to lens for their A7 series camera. THE PRICE IS NOT CHEAP! But it is a pro lens, with amazing optics. To put it in perspective, the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 VR which is much longer and larger, is $2400. The Sony is $2200. The Nikon is 1″ longer and .35lbs heavier and $200 more expensive. So the Sony is not overpriced, at all. It is right in line with other pro 24-70 lenses. The Canon 24-70 2.8 is the least expensive at $1750 but it lags behind the Nikon and Sony for performance IMO (and many others opinions).

In any case, I can’t wait to see what Sony has up their sleeve next. I predict and A9 pro, new sensor, pro build, weather sealed, an EVF to beat the Leica SL, and the fastest AF speed yet. But that’s just a guess ;) I have NO inside info, and it is not a rumor. Just a hunch.

I will be posting more from the G Master lenses soon, as soon as I get review samples. But believe me, they are the best Sony has ever made, ever. Even they say so. Stay tuned…

Steve

You can pre-order the Sony 24-70 G Master lens below:

AMAZON PRE ORDER

B&H PHOTO

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