Apr 132015
 

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The NEW Leica Summarit Lenses. 35, 50, 75 and 90 2.4. Part 1.

These lenses were sent to me to review by Leica Dealer Ken Hansen. He has these and many other Leica items in stock, so email him if interested at [email protected].

**This review will be in two parts. This part will mainly focus on the 35 and 50 with a few 75 samples thrown in. I will show many images and talk about the character of the lenses. Part 2 will feature more 75 and 90 and go over my final thoughts on the Summarit line as well as some comparisons. So my conclusion, comparisons, and more images will be in part 2 in about 1-2 weeks. Enjoy!**

1st, a video showing the Summarits with my new Safari Leica M-P 240 

Man, these brand new 2015 Summarit lenses from Leica REALLY surprised me, and these days it takes A LOT to Surprise me. The fit, the finish, the build, the design, the smoothness, the hood’s, the caps, the whole package with these little Summarit line has gotten better than ever before with the new improvements. Optically they are STUNNERS and IMO beat many of the classic Leica lenses. For example, I prefer the new 2.4 Summarit 50 to the older 50 Summicron f/2 (non APO). The 35 Summarit is TINY but STUNNINGLY sharp. The 75 is probably the coolest of the lot with its 2.4 aperture, close focusing distance of .7 and the slim slender profile. I loved the old summarit line (which are not really that old) that Leica introduced at the end of the M8.2’s life as they released them to create a more affordable lens for what would be the M9. They did a great thing with that lens line as they were Semi Affordable in Leica terms and they were fantastic performers. 

The new line is even better with a new design, new metal hood designs, new metal lens caps, new silver or black finish, improved optics, new closer focusing distances, and each lens comes with a real Leica leather case (the old line came with a bag). So the prices have went up from $2000-$2350 but they are still the least expensive REAL Leica lenses made today for the M and they give up nothing in performance to their more expensive siblings.

The 35, 50, 75 ad 90..look at the stunning silver finish. I am not a HUGE fan of the black focusing rings on the silver body but I would still choose Silver for my Safari M-P. 

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After shooting with the 35, 50, 75 and 90 I can say that I would love to own the 50 and 75 AND 90, but may end up buying the 50 for now, and one of the other telephoto options later. I own a 35 Summicron so do not need another 35 but man oh man. The details and color..some of these have that old M9 pop that many look for IMO – all from Leica’s latest and most affordable lens line for the M.

Click this image for a larger 1800 pixel size to see the details, and depth. This was with the 50 f/2.4 and it is STUNNING at any price. If Leica packaged this as an all new special 50 with a new name, they could have priced it at $3000. It is crisper than a Summilux, sharper and has better color than the old 50 Summicron, along with a smoother Bokeh and it is smaller and sleeker and looks amazingly beautiful on the camera. Click the image of the Cowboy to see the depth, detail and character of his face. Amazing lens. 

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When you view the above image, you will see that Leica pop and look from the contrast, sharpness, color and the WOW. It is in a class of it’s own. The gentle transitions from focus to out of focus is organic, the color is scrumptious and the glow is here as well. Take a look and click on the image below. From raw, wide open at f/2.4 on the new 50 Summarit.

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But let us keep going as I think I want to make this review more image based as the images are what tell the tale.

Click on the image below for a larger sized version. Here, you can see Leica’s color signature, the glow, the detail (see the eyes) and the smooth transition from sharp to butter. :) This 50 2.4 is a smashing lens. Many will feel they need a Summicron or Lux and they will miss out. Today, there is no need to spend more for better. Each Leica lens, the Summarit, Summicron and Summilux each have a different character, but ALL are stellar and better than any DSLR 50 ;) 

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The 35 Summarit inside at ISO 2000. Still crisp, still “leica” in the feeling. Nothing special about the image but it does show that even in dark indoor interiors the 35 Summarit and M 240 can pull it off.

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Always love old doors and this one was taken in Tombstone, AZ at an old abandoned building. The 35 now has a .8 meter close focus distance, is made to a higher standard, has improved optics and again, comes with metal hood, leather case and the full Leica treatment. This 35 goes for $2250, much less than the 35 Summicron or 35 Summilux. This lens feels amazing on the M. Small, solid, smooth focus. Not much more you could ask for. Click images for larger. 

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Another with the 35, right out of the camera (RAW)…

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The 50 has its own unique mojo and character that sets it apart from the Summicron and Summilux. I know of one guy who has ALL of the Leica 50;s and chooses which one he wants to shoot depending on what he is going for in looks. For me, the 50 Summarit provides a crisp and “perfect” style of image while not being analytical or hard in any way. Look at the image below. The man WAS this red as he had a slight sunburn and he was HOT wearing his MARSHALL uniform. The Leica did color here better than my A7II did the same day and place. So Leica has finally got the old color issues settled. Now I see Leica color I remember. 

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Another with the 50, which became the most used Summarit for me while having them all. I shot with the 90 the least as I never use 90 but it is beautiful none the less. Look again at the detail the Summarit gives as well as the overall character of the rendering. 

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A quick grab shot this guy was a blast. He hung around all day dancing and playing his finger instruments. Never hounding anyone for money, just smiling for all who passed by. I used the 50 here again. 

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These two were on the street in the harsh AZ sun and I thought there is no way this image would come out OK. Usually these harsh sun images lead to faces in shadow, uneven exposure, etc. When I arrived home I was able to easily pull out the shadows on the faces while retaining highlights. 

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RICH reds here with the 50

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Again, the 50 shooting a happy young man on the Trolley Tour. LOVE the way the 50 renders images..so crisp and so colorful..with ACCURATE color. I think Leica enhanced these for use on the M 240 as the color that comes from these lenses is superb. 

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The 75 is a lens I have a love hate relationship with. Not because it is a bad lens, because it is SO GOOD and SO gorgeous, I want it. Problem is, I rarely use anything above 50. Even so, I will own this lens one day. I loved the old version of the 75 Summarit and this one is even better. Retains the Summarit look of crispness, great color, smooth transitions and this time with the new 75 we get .7 meter close focus, which is AWESOME. 

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Horse with the 75 in the direct sun. Look at how it handles the harsh light. Contrast is a but high but that is what gives these lenses the pop and 3D separation. 

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The local high school band from Nogales Mexico in Tombstone. They sounded great! The 75, even from across the street gave me detail, snap and pop. Color is spot on and the M handled the harsh light VERY well.

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I saw this lady having a BLAST watching the parade..she had her bubble machine and was getting the biggest kick out of it. She was enjoying life with a smile. I snapped this one with the 50..

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One more with the 50..love the dog ;) 

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Just a simple shot to show the detail and the Bokeh of the 75mm at 2.4

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…and a shot with a 100% crop from the 75 inside my home, no special light. Wide open at f/2.4. 

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It is safe to say that I am enjoying these Summarit lenses. I will be shooting over the next few days with the 75 and 90 more so my next report, which will be part 2, will go over these lenses more as well as a couple of comparison like the 35 Summarit vs the 35 Summicron vs the Zeiss 35 Loxia on the A7II.

REFERENCE: My old 35 Summarit review is HERE. My old 50 Summarit review is HERE. My old 90 Summarit review is HERE.

So that is all I have for now on these fantastic new lenses from Leica. ALL are stunning in their build, performance, styling and included accessories (Hood, caps, leather case, etc). The Summarits are now better than ever and are in no way handicapped by the more expensive line besides being a tad slower at f/2.4 vs f/2 or f/1.4.

If you want to save some cash and some weight, you will still get that Leica quality from the entire line of Summarit lenses. Watch for part 2 SOON which will have more on these beauties. Again, these came from Ken Hansen, email him and mention me for a GREAT buying experience ;) His email is [email protected].

MORE SOON!

Steve

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Apr 102015
 

Medium format goes medieval: comparing a Nikon DSLR with the latest from PhaseOne

By Andrew Paquette – His Website is HERE

A couple weeks ago I started making plans to do a photo shoot at the ruins of a local castle. I intended to bring my D800 and a Zeiss 55mm Otus as the primary rig, along with an A7r with a Zeiss ZA 135mm for action and close-up shots. However, a few days before the shoot, my wife and I were talking about medium format systems, the photographer Jason Bell, and then PhaseOne medium format cameras. To find out more about PhaseOne, I performed a few searches on the Internet, but didn’t get very far with pricing information because every page led me to a form that I could use to get a free test drive of a PhaseOne system. I was primarily interested in knowing what a refurbished system cost, but since I had to fill out the form to find out, I filled it out. A few days passed, and then on the day before the shoot, I got a call from PhaseOne. Would I like to borrow a camera for a test drive? The rig suggested by the salesman was the 645DF+, the IQ250 50MP digital back (their first CMOS sensor), and a Schneider Kreuznach 80MM f/2.8 leaf shutter lens. This is the exact same rig Bell mentioned when talking about one of his shoots. Curious to see how it would work out, and with a little trepidation that GAS syndrome may have just had a peek in the room, I decided to try it out.

Dungeon corridor, shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8

Settings: f/2.8, 1/5 ISO 400
Considering the slow shutter speed here, I really should have shot this at a higher ISO

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Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/3.2, 1/60 ISO 400

Robin in red

The primary reason I was curious about medium format in the first place had to do with my discovery that almost all of the photos I like the most were shot on medium format systems. In one case, a photographer had one shoot of many on her site that I liked a lot, while the rest were good but not as creatively inspiring. That one shoot was done with a PhaseOne. The more I looked, the more references to medium format and PhaseOne I saw. What finally decided me to look into it was a photographer who wrote how he had tried and tried to make images that had qualities he associated with his favourite photographers, like Annie Liebowitz, but couldn’t do it until he switched to medium format. Until then, he thought there was some problem with the way he was taking the photos, setting up the lights, or editing them in software. It wasn’t any of those things—it was the type of camera he used. After switching, he was able to get the look he wanted.

The D800 and the Zeiss 55mm Otus is a very nice combination for DSLR shooting. Short of the D800E or D810, it is about as good as it gets. The lens is the second-highest ranking lens rated by DxO labs (after the 85mm Otus), and the camera is one of the highest rated among DSLRs. The Phase One is similarly one of the best offerings from a brand that is popular among professional photographers. From my perspective, I wanted to know if the image quality difference would be noticeable, and if it would be worth the huge price difference between the two systems. Lately I have been gravitating toward portraits and fashion, both of which genres seem to benefit from medium format cameras.

Disclaimer:

This purpose of this article is to provide some information about how a high end DSLR system compares to a well-regarded medium format system, for those who are considering a switch. This is not meant to be a definitive scientific test. There are plenty of examples of beautiful work by professional photographers on the PhaseOne website, as well as on Nikon’s and Zeiss’s websites. These are great for showing the best possible results from the most highly regarded photographers, but it is hard to know from these gallery images what went into the shoots. What I found difficult to find were articles that compared DSLRs and medium format cameras by shooting something outside the range of normal technical tests, which are usually just a couple of distant buildings, a girl in the forest, and head shots of the camera salesmen at Photokina.

Expectations:

When I rode the train up to the PhaseOne dealer, I was fantasizing about getting some pretty amazing shots simply because I was using a PhaseOne. That said, I knew the possibility of that happening was remote. The D800 and Otus are an excellent combination and I had been using them for a year. Comparing that to an unfamiliar system automatically puts the PhaseOne at a disadvantage. Another problem is that the DSLR is much more useable in low light than the PhaseOne—or at least most medium format cameras, which operate best at 100 to 200 ISO (with 400 ISO the maximum). The IQ250 back I was using was different because it could go up to 6400 ISO. Despite this, I was thinking of the PhaseOne as a system that required studio lights, as opposed to the D800, which worked fine without them. I was planning on using a reflector and sunlight for the shoot, and had no room in my transportation for lighting gear. I hoped this wouldn’t compromise the PhaseOne too much, but that was what I had to work with so I’d just have to see how it turned out.

At the store, the salesman gave me a quick tour of the camera. During this short tutorial I shot a couple images of objects in the store. What I saw really surprised me: there were prominent green and magenta bands running along the edges of many white objects in the scene. Most of the Zeiss lens line have very little fringing problems, and the Otus has none. I literally hadn’t seen fringing for months because I have been using the Otus as my go-to lens. Even when I use other Zeiss lenses, like the ZA 135mm f/1.8, I rarely have fringing issues. Seeing fringing on the first couple of shots taken with the PhaseOne was disheartening, but on the other hand, the system I had in my hands was the same one used by the royal family’s photographer. There had to be a way around it.

Because of my concerns about the lighting and the lens, I was prepared for the test to go either way, but was rooting for the PhaseOne, if for no other reason but that it is always fun to discover a way to improve the quality of one’s images. It was a fairly dark day, so most of the shots were made with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Conclusions:

Ergonomics… The 645DF+ felt great in my hands, the menus on the touchscreen were easy to understand and big buttons were easy to press without accidentally pushing something else (as I do more often than I like with the D800 and A7r). The optical viewfinder was like looking into the detachable Zacuto viewfinder I use on my Nikon, but integrated with the camera and brighter. The live view screen was very nice, slightly higher resolution than the LV on the D800, and most importantly, the IQ250 has the built-in ability to transmit the live view and preview photos to an iDevice. I tested this on my iPad and it worked very well, using the free app provided by PhaseOne, Capture Pilot. This app can also be used as a remote trigger for the camera. This functionality makes focus checking trivially easy compared to the D800 (and probably the D810 as well) because of the much larger iPad screen. Overall, I felt that the camera was easier to hold, to carry, and to use in some ways than the D800. The only exception to this are the aperture and shutter control dials, which are smaller and thinner than their Nikon counterparts. This isn’t a big deal, but I found them more difficult to find and use than on the D800, probably because I’m not used to them.
The case this camera came in was much bigger and heavier than it needed to be for a camera that felt to be about the same weight as the D800 + Otus. As for overall dimensions, they weren’t much different there either. If I were to get one of these, I’d probably opt for a backpack instead of the gorilla-proof case I was handed for the tryout.

Image quality… Overall, I liked several of the shots from both cameras. In all but one of the examples where I shot exactly the same subject with both cameras, I preferred the PhaseOne result. I shot the PhaseOne in aperture priority mode because I wanted to avoid an excessively shallow depth of field in shots with multiple actors. This worked against the PhaseOne because I was able to use much faster shutter speeds with the Nikon. I initially had the impression that the Schneider-Kreuznach lens was softer than the Otus because the images themselves were softer overall, but the slower shutter speeds almost certainly allowed enough motion to lose some sharpness compared to the Nikon.
Despite the slight softness to images shot with the PhaseOne, in all but one example where I shot the same scene with both cameras, I preferred the PhaseOne because of the superior colours and tonal range. Both camera/lens combinations produced nice images, but the colours that came out of the PhaseOne were noticeably stronger.

I’m not totally convinced that the PhaseOne is hands-down better than the Nikon/Otus combination, but am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt until I have the opportunity to test it again*. I do know that the colour from the PhaseOne system and richer tones are very appealing compared to the more limited range available in the Nikon system.

*Update: I have retested the Phase One system and answered some of the questions left with the previous shoot.

1) The colour differences between the two systems are partly attributable to having used Capture One to process the Phase One shots but Lightroom for the Nikon shots. Despite this, the greater dynamic range of the IQ250 over the D800 is obvious.

2) The CA problem with the SK lens is very real but goes away at higher f-stops. I did some shots of dark tree branches against the sun at f/2.8 (heavy fringing) and f/5 (no fringing) as a test. If shooting at less contrasty subjects, the bigger apertures can be used. The Otus remains the winner in this category.

3) The SK lens is very sharp when setup properly. It really doesn’t like low light situations, and ‘low light’ for the Phase One is a lot brighter than for the D800. I had been setting the Phase One to match the Nikon settings—a big mistake because medium format requires more light than a 35mm.

4) The Capture Pilot utility is really awesome to use. It helps get steadier shots, and allows high resolution exposure and focus checks in the field.

Below are some more of the images from the shoot (and at the end, a couple of bonus shots from the more recent test):

Brigands. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/6.3, 1/15 ISO 200

Brigands

Dejeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the grass). Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/2.8, 1/223 ISO 200

Renaissance battle_4

Thom. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/3.5, 1/111 ISO 200

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Merlyn. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/9, 1/7 ISO 100

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Merlyn. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/7.1, 1/125 ISO 125

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Unruffled. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/5.6, 1/100 ISO 1200

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Sparring. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/7.1, 1/30 ISO 125

Sparring

Triple portrait. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/4, 1/200 ISO 125

Triple portrait

Robin. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/3.5, 1/100 ISO 200

Robin at the window

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The new test shots were made primarily to check CA and sharpness of the SK lens. All were shot with the 645 DF+, IQ250, and SK 80mm LS lens. Here they are:

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mirrored wetlands

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Apr 092015
 

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Leica M-P Safari Set & Summarit Lenses Hands On Video Overview

My Safari set came from PopFlash.com 

The Leica brand has always been known for crazy special edition versions of their M camera line. Some speculate they do them when they want to clear some stock of bodies (and paint them to match the special editions) and some just accept it as part of Leica’s way of doing business. Like it or not, Leica has a base of fans and buyers who LOVE the special edition sets. From the Titanium M7 and M9 to the Stainless Steel M 60 to the Safari sets that go back to even the R bodies.

My video look at the Safari and Summarit Lenses

I remember when Leica released the Safari M8.2 and I wanted it badly. At the time, it came with a silver 28 Elmarit and was under $10k if I remember correctly. I loved the Olive Drab color and thought it was a great looking camera while others thought it was tacky and ugly.

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When Leica released the M9 there were no Safari sets but they did release many M9 and M9-P special editions such as the all WHITE edition and the Hammertoe LE set. Today Leica has the Lenny Kravitz Correspondent edition as well as the new M-P 240 Safari and of course the M 60. Out of these sets, the best value is with the Safari because it actually comes in CHEAPER then if you were to buy the pieces in the set separate in a normal standard production run color.

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The M-P 240 is a Leica M-P 240 ($8000) with a Leica 35 Summicron f/2 Lens in Silver with an old school Lens hood and metal lens cap included. This lens in standard black will set you back $3200, so already with the M-P and 35 Cron we are looking at $11, 200. Add in the strap and accessories and you can easily add another $300. So say $11, 500. THAT is if you went out and bought a standard black or silver set yet this special limited run of Safari sets will set you back $9800, or in some cases a little less. So yes, it is odd that Leica did this as usually their special editions cost you MORE, by anywhere from $1000 to $10,000. So if you can deal with the Army green color you will save a couple thousand dollars, and have a limited edition to boot!

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The set is complete with an amazing display box, typical of Leica Special Edition cameras. Open the top box and you will see the camera in Olive green with silver knobs and dials. You will see a 35 Summicron with old school metal lens hood and metal cap. An exclusive Leica leather strap and wallet is also included. I acquired this set in a trade deal from POPFLASH.COM. They had six of these in stock when I acquired this one, not sure how many they have now but I do know the Safari set has sold pretty well considering Leica sales have been slowing lately (just due to not having anything new and WOW….yet).

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I like the fact that Leica did the Safari in the M-P style and not the standard M 240 style. So we get the Leica log engraved up top and the special Sapphire LCD as well. So if you have the itch for a new Leica M, and want to save a couple grand over a black or silver and do not mind the Olive Green, this set is actually the rare deal from Leica where you will spend less and get more. I think this may be a first ever. ;)

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This set came from PopFlash.com and they are a fantastic Leica dealer, highly recommended. Their Safari set page is HERE. You can also pick this up from Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]), Pro ShopLeica Store Miami and B&H Photo. 

Also, all four of the new Summarit lenses have come in for review, so you will see them here soon (they are also shown in the video above, beautiful set of lenses)

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Apr 072015
 

Lots of new stuff arriving!! Bags, Cases, Goodies..

Hey to all! Hope you are having a wonderful start to the week! It has been busy here for me with work, family time, hobbies and non stop LIFE happening. Time sure does fly when you are having fun, that is not a lie! In any case, just an update on some new things coming in, upcoming reviews and maybe a rumor or two…

The beautiful new Summarit 35..review VERY soon along with the 50, 75 and 90.

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LEICA

Leica seems to have been slipping a but lately but I am confident that they will bounce back with something new, special and WOW. I mean, they HAVE To. They have a new CEO yet again and maybe they are going to change strategies? If they got me into a meeting I would tell them to release THIS:

A REAL Mini M rangefinder. M mount. Basic, no video, no-nonsense. Just the camera, the exposure dial, the power button and the shutter. Make it mini-fied, not as solid as the M 240, but a compromise between a real M and something like an X. A mini rangefinder M camera WITH built in RF/EVF hybrid. A real RF though, not a fake on like Fuji uses. Price: $3500-$3700 MAX. THIS would be a hit. This and the new Summarits would rock the world. Will it happen? Probably not but one can dream, and it would boost Leica’s sales in a huge way.

Speaking of the Summarits, Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]) was kind enough to ship me ALL four new Summarits  so I can review them! (when I send them back he will be selling  them as Demo’s at a great price, so be on the lookout). I hear nothing but GREAT things about the new Summarit line and being Leica’s most affordable lenses, I am anxious to give them a try. My Safari M is waiting :) HOPEFULLY I do not fall for the 50, 75 or 90 as I will want to buy them. Being a reviewer has it’s pros and cons you know. Lol. I always review stuff that I want to keep.

So look out for the Summarit reviews in 2-3 weeks. 

Also for my Safari set I have a VERY cool bag and case on the way from Angelo Pelle. He is sending me his Henri bag in Camo as well as a Half case in Camo, perfect for the Safari. Angelo does amazing work, each case is hand stitched and takes a few days to make. He is working on mine as I type this. The bag will hold the Safari with lens and one other lens inside a lens pouch. Take a look at the bag, and the Camo case on a Sony A7II. Pretty sweet! When it arrives I will be doing a full video review of the bag, the case and my Angelo Pelle case for my A7II. Lovely hand made items for two amazing cameras.

See more at his website HERE. 

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Speaking of the Leica Safari M-P set, check with PopFlash.com and Ken Hansen if you want one while there are a few left. To me, it is the best deal ever for a Leica special edition as it comes in CHEAPER than if you bought the standard pieces separate! You save about $1000 and get a limited edition set with a gorgeous silver 35 cron. The cron is YUMMY. It’s a gorgeous set which I will also have a video on this week. But yea, the cron on the M is beautiful..

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All 35 Summicron, at f/2 – the color, the detail the “organicness” is all there..at least I see it! I chose to make them VIVID with color pop! All test shots to see if my RF was focusing correct and it was.

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So Leica will be getting some attention here on these pages REAL soon. The Safari set, the new Summarit line and maybe even more surprises. To get you Leica fix, as mentioned, check with Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop for Photographers or LeicaStoreMiami.com 

MORE BAGS!

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Check out  this beauty above. It is the HoldFastGear.com Roamographer Mini. I own the full size Roamographer and for me it is the highest quality bag I own, even surpassing the amazing and great Wotancraft bags for construction and quality. When the full size Roamograoher arrived I requested they make a MINI version, and they told me they were working on one, and here it is.

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I love my full size Roamographer BUT for me it is a tad too large. I have a Mini on the way and will be reviewing it as soon as it arrives. For me it looks like it can hold a Sony A7 system with a couple of lenses or a Leica M system with a few lenses or an Olympus system with a few lenses. It is small enough to remain compact yet not so small as to cause a problem. I use my Wotancraft Ryker EVERY single day. I love my Wotancraft THOR..will the new Roamographer Mini be my new fave? Check back soon for a full review. If you want to check out the Roamographer in more detail, see my review of the original full size bag HERE or see the website at HoldFastGear.com for more.  Yes, some of you will cry MAN PURSE but hey, these are amazing quality bags from build to style, and I am confident as can be in my masculinity, so I like Man Purses. They do the job when I have to carry goods around with me. :)

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SONY

I still have to finish my Sony 35 1.4 Zeiss lens review (1st hand on look is HERE). This lens is a BEAUTIFUL beast. Large, in charge and outputs some serious IQ, in line with the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux. Only neg is that it is LARGE. I also hope to try the wide angle converters for the new 28mm lens (my review here) and the new 90 Macro should be arriving SOON. Sony is always releasing new goodies and I have a hard time reviewing them all, so I stick with what I know will be FANTASTIC.

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VOIGTLANDER

The new 15 f/4.5 Heliar is GORGEOUS. It fixes all past issues when used on digital full frame bodies. It works perfect on the Leica M or the Sony A7 series. No more colored edges or soft corners. THIS is a true 15mm wide angle with no distortion and yes, is the BEST choice IMO for a 15mm view on your Leica or Sony full frame. Price is $750 but it is about equal to other lenses in the $2-$5k range as far as I am concerned. A true deal if you enjoy wide angle from time to time. You can buy it at CameraQuest.com with free shipping and free BW filter. HIGHLY recommended.

1st three is the new 15 VIII on the A7II

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2nd set, all on the Leica M

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Other than that I know there is new stuff coming from Olympus, Sony and others. As always I will review the best of the lot and what I think you guys would enjoy. New bags, new cases, new lenses, new cameras…all on the way. Stay tuned right here as always! Also, keep on the lookout for my new one on one Sedona photo adventure..details soon.

Thanks to you all!

Steve

Apr 062015
 

Site Update: I am more pumped than EVER!

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Photo Above: Me and Debby taken with the Sony A7Ii and Voigtlander 15 V III (vignetting added with filter)

Hello to ALL!! The weekend is HERE and last weekend I was out in California with buddy Todd Hatakeyama doing some off roading in our Jeep’s at Joshua Tree National Park. We enjoyed some trails as well as some photography and I brought along my Sony A7II new 28 f/2, the 35 1.4 and the Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2. Also brought along my new Leica M-P 1240 SAFARI set, and it is a beautiful set and $1k cheaper than buying a standard black or silver set, and a limited edition to boot. For those wondering, I will have a full video and thoughts on the Safari set within days, but if anyone is interested in seeing what it is all about, PopFlash.com has SIX in stock HERE. ;)

As for me, this site and the state of affairs here, things are better than ever. Traffic is fantastic, interaction on reviews is at an all time high and I have so many companies wanting to advertise that I ran out of space and can allow no more! All of those ads you see on the left sidebar? Most are site sponsors and they help keep this site going and growing just like all of you do, so take a moment to check them out if you have not done so already! I also just picked up a HUGE sponsor, largest ever for the site who will start at the end of this month. So things are going GREAT.

This site (V2 of the site) to date has received over 105 Million visits. To me, that is HUGE.  Amazing… and so so awesome. Why? Because I never planned or dreamed or even tried for this to happen, it just came naturally and without me ever stressing about traffic, promotion, social media or ANY of that, the site just continued to grow and grow and still is to this day. After seven years, this site is well established and many come here for their fix of real world reviews, user reports, daily inspirations and much more. For that, I THANK YOU!

So here I am, seven years after starting my original site out of our passion and excitement for cameras, lenses and photography. It was in my blood, my senses and with me for my entire life. Nope, I never went to college or school for photography besides a few college “classes” on film (and a couple can’t stand that about me)  but for me, it has never been about following the rules or being perfect. For me it has ONLY been about the enjoyment I get from it, the memories created with it and the absolute joy I get from new technology. I am a tech geek and love reviewing and testing new things. Check out the amount of posts and articles posted since day one on THIS site (doesn’t include the old site reviews)  – see them HERE, there are thousands!

Since its beginnings, this version of the site has received over 105 MILLION visitors with over 111,000 comments left. The biggest day ever was when I posted THIS post on post mortem photography. It went viral and brought in nearly 240,000 views in one day.

I still spend 40-60 hours per week on this site. I receive hundreds of emails per week (and not all can be answered) and I live, eat and sleep STEVEHUFFPHOTO.COM as well as a couple of other things I do these days that bring in even more emails and traffic than this site does! Yes, I am a busy guy but I love it. Keeps my brain working and sharp.

Today, in 2015 I am probably the happiest I have ever been in my life. No stress, no worries, health is good, family life is awesome, and how can I complain when I can wake up, lounge around in my PJ’s while I write, answer emails, make new friends and do my work..that I love?

I never dreamed for a second when I started this site as a hobby long ago that it would turn into what it has become today. Many tell me they love this site due to the variety of what gets posted. Articles and reviews from everyday people just like me get to share their experiences, photos and sometimes private moments with us all, right here. I allow ANYONE with the passion of photography a place to share their experience and while not everyone is a master photographer, all have something to share and we can all learn from everyone who posts here. I do every day.

As always, the site is able to continue with all of the support from YOU, the sponsors and when you guys use my links to purchase whatever it is you purchase. :)

One other thing that has seemingly almost vanished (from this site) are the haters and trolls. They used to be everywhere..maybe they thought I would go away but of course that was not going to happen. Today they stay away as they know this site is a success and that I could care less what they say or have said. They also stay away as they will get banned if they start trouble. I strive to keep this site positive as negativity is something I do not allow into my life for so many reasons. It’s actually one key to happiness in life IMO. But the 1-2 haters left, you are ignored and your comments never make the site, so sorry :) You lose again. Wasting your time, never mine.

Anyway, I thank ALL OF YOU 1000%,  I THANK my site sponsors 1000% and I thank my friends and family who have supported me and this little website from its early beginnings. Know this, I am more pumped than ever and there is so much more to come!

Steve

PS – Current Site Sponsors, check them out!! – Ken Hansen (Legendary Leica Dealer – [email protected]) , PopFlash.com, Tenba, Hold Fast Gear, 5 Shiny Buttons, Cosyspeed Camslinger, Pro Shop for Photographers, Lens Rentals, CameraQuest and Wotancraft. 

Apr 062015
 

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The Sony 28mm F/2 FE Lens Review

By Steve Huff – Pre-order this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE!

Wow. If I were to tell you that I have a lens here that gives some of the best quality I have seen in any 28mm lens, yet it comes in at around $450, would you believe me? I have been shooting with the small compact Sony 28mm f/2 lens and WOW, this guy is pretty incredible for the size, the cost and the lightweight build. In other words, the image quality is WOW!!! But! It is not perfect and has flaws, but these flaws are to me, nothing to worry about.

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When I saw that Sony was going to release a wide-angle f/2 prime, and it did not have the Zeiss or G moniker attached to it, I assumed it would be an average lens. Cheap build, large size and soft performance wide open. Little did I know that this lens would deliver some of the sharpest results I have seen in any 28mm lens. While not perfect, as in an “optical masterpiece” the cons are few and the pros are many. So take a look at some images I was able to get with the lens as well as my thoughts on this new semi-wide angle from Sony. :)

The Mighty 28mm f/2

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This little lens is just that. Small. While not as tiny as a Leica lens, this guy is basically a tad longer than the 35 f/2.8 Zeiss, which is tiny. The 28 is longer but not wider and it ships with a plastic petal type lens hood. The review unit was sent to me without a retail box but seeing that the lens ships in May (and my review unit was sent to me in March) they may not have had them made up yet.

Upon taking it out of the box I was surprised at the small size and light weight. BUT, I liked it as I love small lenses. Still, I “assumed” it would be soft at f/2, which is where I would want to shoot it.

I attached it to my A7II, took a few test snaps in my backyard and when I came in to look at the JPEGS I was WOWED! The sharpness, pop, detail, contrast, color and overall vibe was superb. For black and white the contrast is just right out of the camera, giving your photos some real pop.

Brandon – 28 f/2 – Sony A7II – B&W JPEG

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Debby – Color is great as well, and this was on a bright harsh day out in the desert. 

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I am not usually a 28mm guy but I have been tempted to order the Leica 28 Elmarit for my M but at $2200 I did not feel I would use it enough to warrant a purchase. With this new Sony 28mm, at $450 it is a NO BRAINER. I can shoot with the 28 when I like and will never feel guilty about breaking the bank for the lens. In fact, the 28mm f/2 shows some of the same character as my Leica 35 Summicron. Again, all for $450. Sony may have been wanting to make a statement with this one, showing us that they can produce a small fast prime, on the cheap, that delivers pro quality.

In fact, I have been shooting it quite a bit and I have not noticed any major issues. NO CA issues, NO speed issues (the AF is fast with this lens on my A7II and A7S) and no busy bokeh, no off color…this is a solid lens in ALMOST all aspects.

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So what IS wrong with the lens?

When I review lenses I just get out there and shoot them. I do not go set up a studio scene to test for detail (others do that), I do not shoot resolution charts (others do that) and I do not talk all scientific using big words that confuse many readers (others do that as well). What I prefer to do is USE the lens! When the lens was made it was built for one purpose…to mount on your camera and make memories. So I take photos with the lens and look at the quality, color, distortion, sharpness, pop, contrast and bokeh. I can instantly tell from the get go if a lens is a MUST OWN or NEVER OWN type of lenses.

Today there are so many lenses out there to choose from. Expensive, cheap, off brands…lots of jewels and lots of garbage. With a 28mm focal length and a speed of f/2, we usually have some kind of issues whether it is vignetting, soft corners, or distortion. So what is wrong with the Sony 28?

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It has some distortion. If you shoot JPEG in your Sony A7 series camera you will never see it, as the camera corrects for this automatically, and I admit, sometimes the JPEGS out of the A7II look better than my processed RAW files so shooting JPEG for me is not an issue. But since the lens is not yet shipping, there is no lens profile in Lightroom or ACR for this lens, so when shooting RAW, right now, you will see distortion. Much like the powerhouse Sony RX1 and RX1r, the lens will show some barrel distortion and it needs correction. I used the profile for the Sony 28-70 and it took care of it pretty good  – but even so, if you shoot RAW, the lens will need a lens profile to fix the distortion.

Below is a sample shot – One from RAW without any lens correction, one out of camera JPEG with the distortion fixed. This way you can see what to expect if you shoot raw and do not use correction. Click them for larger.

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As you can see, there is distortion but as I said, even the now legendary RX1 has this issue if you shoot RAW. MANY cameras do this today, have in camera lens profiles that fix the issues automatically. With lenses being made smaller, compromises have to be made and I will take in camera  profile correction any day over a lens that would be 4X the size. This is one reason why Leica lenses are so expensive. They are all optically superior lenses that will not distort and do not need correction. They are already corrected..and small. But the drawback is that they are UBER EXPENSIVE. The 28 f/2 from Leica is $4300. The Sony? $450 or almost 10X less expensive. So do not expect optical perfection, instead, expect a lens that will give you fantastic out of camera quality that is sharp, colorful, higher contrast and has load of pop.

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How could this lens be so good for under $450?

It just is. Sony has created a fantastic lens here. It is fast with AF, locked on quickly every time. It is light and compact and it provides smashing color, contrast and pop. Some may think it has too much contrast so you may want to lower the contrast in your favorite editor.

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So I am excited about this lens. After shooting it for 2 weeks I do not want to be without it as it has become glued to my A7II. The 35 1.4 Zeiss is stuck on my A7s. Both lenses are fantastic that propel the A7 system into the stratosphere in my opinion.

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Sony is maturing their FE line and it is looking fantastic. All kinds of lenses, all kinds of choices, the new bodies with more to come. They are on a non stop roll and if they keep it up, this will be the system to beat. Many predicted Sony’s doom, many said they can’t compete with Fuji or Leica.

WRONG!

Not only are they competing with Fuji and Leica, they are surpassing them quickly. The quality from a camera like the A7II and these new Sony FE lenses is nothing short of astonishing. If the A7II and 28 f/2 came out 10 years ago, we would be saying “THIS IS COMPACT MEDIUM FORMAT” and it would have skyrocketed to the top. But of course this new tech in sensors and bodies did not exist then, but I predict Sony has another Ace up their sleeve as they are always thinking forward and to the future which is the way to do it. I know many photo geeks who are thrilled to death with their Sony A7s and A7II cameras whether they use Leica glass, Sony glass or Zeiss glass.

My son Brandon, now almost 19 (where has the time gone)? Shot at f/2 with the 28 on the A7II – he never likes to make a serious face these days :) 

Click image to see the 100% crop.

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Another with a 100% crop embedded – click it

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At night in my bedroom. As I prepare for bed my dog took it upon herself to lay on my pillows. Used the light from the lamp on the nightstand. ISO 800 at f/2. Focus was quick and accurate. 

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Pros and Cons of the Sony 28 f/2 Lens

Pros

  1. Small and Light
  2. Priced RIGHT at $450
  3. Extremely sharp lens, even at f/2
  4. Higher contrast, deep color, rich POP
  5. Close focus ability of 0.96 foot.
  6. Smooth creamy Bokeh
  7. Fast AF, Accurate AF
  8. Seems like a perfect size for the A7 series

Cons

  1. Has distortion with RAW files  – needs a profile. JPEGS are fixed in camera
  2. Build quality is that of a $450 lens. Not tank like in any way.

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My Final Word on the Sony 28mm f/2 Lens

Sony has come a long way since the NEX-3 and 5 from when they started on this mirrorless path. Little did we know that a few years after these tiny cameras Sony would release a full frame system that no one else has yet to compete with. Not Fuji, not Leica, not Nikon, not Canon, not Ricoh, not Pentax, not Olympus..NO ONE. So for now, here in 2015, Sony is gaining serious steam. I see it in comments, in sales and in clicks. Sony is leading the pack in the enthusiast market.

Many used to complain that Sony did not have enough lenses for the FE system yet here we are a year and half from the start of this brand new system and we have tons of lenses to choose from. Many GREAT, some GOOD and some average. But the choices are there. We now have this 28mm, which has add ons for wider views and even fisheye effects. We have the 16-35 Zeiss and we have the 24-70 Zeiss and the 28-70 more affordable option. We have the 35 2.8, the 35 1.4 and the Zeiss Loxia 35 and 50 f/2. We have the 55 1.8, the  90 Macro (coming) and the supremos and even pro 70-200. There are more and more to be announced.

As for this 28mm, it is to me, a no brainer at $450. You will not find a better new production 28mm for full frame for this price, period. While not perfect due to the distortion that is present without correction or using a lens profile, it is easily overcome. Shoot JPEG and they are perfect out of the camera. Shoot RAW and you will need to apply the camera lens profile to fix the distortion, but when it is fixed the images will be gorgeous.

I liked shooting this lens JPEG as the color and pop right from camera was fantastic. I also shot RAW, and those were great as well. For me, this 28mm is a must own, and my pre-order is in. It will ship in May and is priced at $450.

Where to Buy the 28?

You can pre-order it at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

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—————————–

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

Hello to all! For the past 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 received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, 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. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Apr 032015
 

Punjab part 2 – with the Contax G2 and 3 Film selection

By Ibraar Hussain – His flickr is HERE

I thought I’d just add a Part 2 to my Punjab trip here for you and for stevehuffphoto.com viewers and lovers.

I really enjoyed shooting with my Panasonic Lumix GX7 with the couple of lenses I had with it. But as usual whenever I travel I take my Contax G2 along with me.  Unfortunately, out of a 15 day trip, 9 days were rained off so I was unable to go where I wanted to and shoot the exotic things at the places I had in mind and planned.

I was able to expose 3 rolls of Film though and experiment with my seldom used lens – the 90mm Sonnar T*. Now this is a lovely portrait lens, great contrast and sharpness and a perfect portrait length – there is one problem though, shooting wide open with it is tricky as the focus on it for some bizarre reason doesn’t always hit right. When nailed the results are spectacular, but more often than not most people have difficulty with this lens. I have hardly ever used it in the past and then not often at f2.8 so I decided to give it a bit of liberal use.

Family of beggars
GT Road
Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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My usual lenses are the unparalleled 45mm f2 Planar and the 21mm f2.8 Biogon, but this time I was after portraits of local people in villages around the town of Sarai Alamgir in District Gujrat, Punjab.  The town straddles the Jhelum River and lies close to the city of Jhelum – Ancient Hydaspes of Alexander The Great fame.

I decided to shoot a roll of some different Films than my usual Kodak Ektachrome e100vs and Fujichrome Velvia. I had two rolls of The Original Fujichrome Astia 100 (not the later inferior 100F) my rolls were procured from eBay at a high cost as allegedly they had been frozen and gave accurate colors. I managed to shoot one of these.

My other roll was of a rare Film by Adox – Adox Silverman 21 at 100 ISO. This is a German made B&W Film which allegedly has a high Silver content and gives some unique results. And finally a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 people tend to rave about.

Shoe Shine and Repair Man
GT Road
Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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My results were a mixed bag. The 4mm Planar shots were nailed as usual and keepers.  The 90mm Sonnar T* shots wide open at f2.8 were hit and miss. I had as many off focus shots as nailed ones and I was very disappointed with this lens. Sure, the nailed shots are beautiful, but I want to be in charge and not subject to the whims of a focussing system. Anyway, the Astia 100 was pretty nice, not as nice as my beloved Kodak e100vs but not bad. The Adox Silvermax I shot with and without a Hoya Orange filter. I gathered the higher contrast Filter may give some good effects outdoors.

Kashmiri Child
Sargodha, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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I developed the Adox Silverman in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned everything using my Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner. I cleaned up the scanned Astia Slides in Photoshop (rid dust and spots), resized and gave them a border – hardly any post processing. The Adox Silverman results were very pleasing, I did foolishly drop the negatives after drying and there was hence some dust but very nice tones and feel – I’d love to print these. I used Photoshop Layers to dodge and burn and levels, then resized and border applied – not USM at all here!

The retired Soldier
Jhelum, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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The Matriarch
Jhelum, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100
90mm Sonnar T* (bottom)

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The Kodak Ektar is a nightmare. I cannot understand why people use this stuff. In almost all respects it is Inferior to a decent E6 Slide film – the only reason to use this would be latitude and I had no need of such huge Dynamic Range. So this is the last time I will use this or any other C41 Colour Film (unless forced to). Give me Slides, BW or Digital any day. A royal pain to scan and to get the colours and contrast right – at least Slides (and in camera Jpegs) give me everything as I want with no fluffing around – shooting C41 is worse than RAW capture (which I find to be a total waste of time and effort and of vital minutes of ones life).

Anyway, enough ranting, here are even some samples. The others can be found on my Flickr.

Cheers!

Punjabi Widow
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Old lady with a Hukkah pipe
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Jatt Villager
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Jatt Village women
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Happy Village child
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Blind Kashmiri Gent
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Retired Village Gentleman
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Man with Motorbike
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Old Matriarch
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Servant Girl
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Punjabi Matriarch
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Hoya Orange Filter
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Brothers
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Hoya Orange Filter
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Retired Village Gentleman
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Kashmiri Village Girl
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Mar 272015
 

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Add-on Review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7II

by Brad Husick

Recently Steve Huff wrote an extensive review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7S.  Rather than repeat his conclusions, with which I agree, my intent here is to add on to his review by shooting the lens on the Sony A7II.

The photos here were taken at ISO 100, RAW, auto-exposure. The lens does not communicate aperture to the camera. They were opened in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.1 with Camera Raw 8.8. No adjustments were made in Lightroom. In the first series across the lake, the images were shot at f/2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11,16, 22. In all the subsequent series the images were captured at f/2.8, 5.6, 11, 22. In each case you first see the entire frame at f/2.8 followed by 100% crops.

The lens displays some interesting characteristics. There is vignetting when wide open at f/2.8 but not severe. The camera chooses an exposure for f/2.8 that is different from all the stopped down exposures and you can see this in the crops. I did not adjust for this in Lightroom so that you could see the effect.

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Also when wide open the focus plane is not uniform across the image when focused on infinity. There are some areas in focus and some out of focus as you travel across the image from left to right. This variation settles down as you stop down the lens, nearly disappearing by the time you get to f/8. This behavior is far less obvious when focusing on closer subjects.

By the time you stop down to the lens’ limit of f/22 you have passed the diffraction limit of the sensor. Without going into gory technical detail, the final image degrades at f/22 so you’re better off limiting yourself to f/16 or so. The lens does not have click stops in the aperture ring, so you can stop anywhere you like. It does have a tendency to move rather freely, so check each time when shooting.

Overall the lens produces lovely images and is about as compact as a lens could possibly be. Build quality is superb and typical for Voigtlander. The nickel finish adds a nice retro look to the camera. I shot all of these images in overcast / light rain conditions with the small built-in hood rather than the longer metal hood and lens cap provided with the lens. My objective was to keep the package as small as possible since that’s one of the key selling features of this lens. If you own the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter for the Sony E mount (which you really should own as it is superb) then adding the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 lens should be a natural addition for your setup. You can almost stick the Sony A7II with the collapsed Heliar in a jacket pocket. Note: the lens REQUIRES the aforementioned adapter to enable focusing and it will not function properly without such an adapter.

Thank you to Stephen Gandy of CameraQuest.com for instantly loaning me the lens for review. He’s the best source for Voigtlander and always provides the best customer service. Shop there with confidence. 

The case in the photos is the Angelo Pelle leather half case for the A7II.

ALL IMAGES BELOW should be CLICKED on to see them the right way. Details are on the photos upper left text

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SET 2

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SET 3

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SET 4

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SET 5

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SET 6

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Mar 242015
 

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LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

This is my second user report I’ve written for your great site but this one is quite different from my last one (An Englishman in New York).

I’ve been a Canon user for years having had a 5DMK II, a 7DMK I and the camera I shot for part of this review the excellent Canon 5D MKIII. I have a little Olympus E-PL 1 and a Canon G11 too but my pride and joy is my Leica M240. That camera is the second M I have owned having upgraded from an M9 about 18 months ago. And what an upgrade! I really can’t understand those who prefer the M9, the colours, the noise, the dynamic range – all much better on the M240 to my mind, with live view to boot with EVF support (this is important for this article).

I’m not exaggerating when I say the Leica M240 is the camera I had hoped the M9 would have been, but whenever I shot with the M9 I found the images a little muddy in their tones – like the files were missing some information – not so with the M240.

After bumping along happily with both the 5D MKIII and the Leica M240, I realised the Canon was mostly staying in its foam-lined drawer in my study, I preferred to shoot with the M240. This wasn’t something that had happened with the M9 – the 5D MKIII gave me better images, but not so when compared to the M240. So, I began to wonder whether I actually needed the 5D MKIII… Of course letting go of the body was one thing but letting go of the lenses was quite another. At this point in time I owned a 300mm f/2.8L (easy to get rid of, I seldom shoot long), a 24-105 f/4L – a nice enough lens but not one that I actually used that much, a 16-35mm f/2.8L II – a lens I was nervous to lose (the widest I had for the Leica was 28mm) and a 85mm f/1.2L II – a gem of a lens that I loved. These two lenses were the anchor of my Canon system – they were preventing me from moving on.

However, when I sat down and worked out how much I would get by selling the Canon kit new possibilities opened up, but first I needed to see whether I could fill the niches of my Canon anchor lenses with a couple of Leica compatible lenses. Here’s what I bought: For the wide end a Voigtlander 21mm f/1.9 and for the fast portrait niche a Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R (with a Novoflex R to M adaptor) – my EVF for my little Olympus would be put to good use! These two lenses complemented my existing M lenses – a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, a Jupiter 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 (calibrated to f/1.5) and a Jupiter 85mm f/2. To be honest, I never really used the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 that much – too long for street work and for portraits I found it to have too much contrast for my taste.

Once I’d secured the lenses I thought I would do a comparison shoot before I made a decision whether I could/should divest myself of the Canon kit (although by this point the 300mm had already gone). So, I booked a model that I’d worked with on previous occasions and set to work. Some notes first though… I’d never done a lens test before so apologies for any errors in the process I may have made, also – the M240 doesn’t record lens data from my non-coded lenses and estimates the aperture based on the exposure settings. In some of the pictures my model Holly is holding up fingers to help me record the aperture I was shooting at.

Long end first – the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/2.8 at 21mm (TOP) vs the Voigtlander 21mm @ f/2.8 (Bottom) – click images for larger!

Canon21mmf2.8

Voigt21mmf2.8

Of course with all of the camera and lens changes, I forgot to let Holly know that the Canon would collect its own data! Indeed the EXIF data let me know that I was actually at 22mm, not 21mm.

I don’t think there is that much in it in terms of sharpness but the Canon lens shows less divergence of vertical. Nonetheless I prefer the tones from the Leica. I also think more shadow detail is captured, look at the purple sofa and Holly’s dress in the Leica/Voigt. combination. Unsurprisingly, both lenses show some chromatic aberration in the window frame.

At f/5.6 both lenses now have the chromatic aberration broadly under control:

Top is Canon, bottom is Voigtlander. Click images for larger!

Canon21mmf5.6

Voigt21mmf5.6

Differences in colour balance / colour rendering aside, the Leica/Voigt. combination seems to hold much more detail now and is much sharper at the edges of the frame, look at the green Tibetan chair-bed bottom left.

Peripheral sharpness picks up on the Canon at f/8 (TOP) but it is still outperformed by the Voigtlander (BOTTOM):

Canon21mmf8

Voigt21mmf8

This was enough to convince me that despite the 16mm to 21mm wide end variance, the Leica and Voigtlander would look after me. And…. The Voigtlander could shoot at f/1.9:

Voigt21mmf1.9

I then went a little longer and compared the mid-range of the Canon with my Zeiss 28mm f/2.8. First, wide open. TOP is CANON, bottom is ZEISS, both at f/2.8:

Canon28mmf2.8

Zeiss28mmf2.8

Here, it’s a mixed picture, more chromatic aberration in the window frame with the Canon but it is giving better shadow detail (look at the front of the cabinet) and it is sharper in the peripheries of the frame. The Zeiss is sharper in the middle and could be said to have greater contrast (the flip side of the lower shadow detail). I prefer the colours with the Leica/Zeiss combo though.

At f/5.6, the Canon looks really good, the chromatic aberration is under control , central sharpness is higher too. Slight exposure differences aside, the Canon is still showing less contrast than the Zeiss – which is now showing sharpness to rival the Canon right across the frame.

At f/8, it’s really only the higher contrast of the Zeiss that is separating them:

Canon28mmf5.6

Zeiss28mmf5.6

So, after all that I felt I was OK at medium wide – especially give the relative sizes of the two setups!

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the long end of the Canon 16-35mm with my diminutive vintage Soviet – the Jupiter 35mm f/2.8 – I was not expecting comparable images and the differences were clear at f/2.8. Canon on top, Jupiter and M on the bottom:

Canon35mmf2.8

Jupiter35mmf2.8

The Canon, even wide open at the long end of its zoom range, seems to control chromatic aberration well and is offering significantly more contrast than when zoomed out. It’s pretty sharp right across the frame too. The Jupiter is another story altogether, unable to control the bright window light, the veiling flare lowers the contrast significantly and although centre sharpness is at least as high as with the Canon, it drops off drastically as we move away from the centre. Look at the candle on the left and even Holly’s feet on the right. I do like that vintage look though, it’s why I bought the lens.

Canon35mmf5.6

Jupiter35mmf5.6

As shown above, at f/5.6 there’s little to complain about with the Canon and it is significantly sharper than the Jupiter everywhere, including in the centre of the frame. And although contrast and sharpness is better with the Jupiter than it was at f/2.8 it can’t keep up with the Canon. This is the same for f/8 too, as shown below. Canon is the 1st image, the Jupiter is the 2nd.

Canon35mmf8

Jupiter35mmf8

Of course, the Jupiter was never going to be the equivalent of the Canon, but it is a fun little lens to have nonetheless. However, I may need to get myself a higher fidelity M lens if I want to shoot with precision at that focal length.

Now for what I think is probably the main event of this head-to-head review – a comparison of portrait lenses. Mainly, it’s about comparing the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II with the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. But, I’m going to throw in the Soviet 85mm f/2 for good measure too.

First of all, at the widest common aperture of f/2, they really are quite different. The Canon is sharp and exhibits high contrast – it is crisp, as one might expect. But when you cast your eye from that image to the clearly softer and lower contrast Leica image, the Canon begins to look a little ‘crunchy’ – I wonder if others would agree? Then comes the Jupiter, like its 35mm cousin it is low in contrast, but nonetheless it does appear to be pretty sharp:

TOP: Canon 85 L at f/2, MIDDLE: Leica R 80mm at f/2, BOTTOM: Jupiter 85 at f/2

Canon85mmf2

leica80mmf2

Jupiter85mmf2

At f/2.8 things aren’t particularly changed – same differences, perhaps just a little less extreme:

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

Canon85mmf2.8

leica80mmf2.8

Jupiter85mmf2.8

Of course, one really buys these lenses to shoot wide open – we’ve seen the Jupiter wide open but what about the other two? Firstly, both at f/1.4:

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

Canon85mmf1.4

leica80mmf1.4

I don’t believe the Canon is any sharper now – look at Holly’s eyes on both. The Canon still has more contrast, but I am struck by the sophistication of the Leica image – sharp and soft and the same time. Also, look at the decoration on the wall and the edge of the sunlight, the Canon is exhibiting some chromatic aberration. OK, let’s see the Canon at f/1.2 – that aperture is the reason for buying this lens after all:

Canon85mmf1.2

To me, on the eyes – this looks a bit sharper that the f/1.4 shot. I was shooting from a tripod but perhaps this is just the difference between hitting the eyeball with the focus point rather than the eyelashes. I just don’t know – although Holly’s mouth is sharper too.

All this out of camera comparison is a bit artificial though isn’t it? I’m never going to shoot models (or any portraits for that matter) without editing – I pretty much edit everything. So, given that – if I had to work on the three wide open images from each lens (I pretty much always shoot portraits wide open), what do I get? I’ve deliberately over-edited a little – particularly the eyes (using a detail extractor) because I wanted to see what information was there to be had and to share it with you. They are all edited slightly differently but with the aim of them bringing the best out of the lenses while getting them to a fairly similar end point:

1st CANON, 2nd LEICA, 3rd JUPITER – all wide open

Canon85mmf1.2Edited

leica80mmf1.4Edited

Jupiter85mmf2Edited

I found the results surprising. The ‘crunchiness’ of the Canon (something I’d have never attributed to it prior to putting it against the Leica) was difficult to overcome. Transitions between light and shade seemed to accentuate really easily in the edit and I found the highlights difficult to control too (perhaps related to the sensor rather than the lens). The Leica on the other hand is, I think, quite beautiful – I’ve been able to reveal the sharpness of the lens (look at the eyes) but the softness and smoothness puts the Canon to shame – at least in my view. Then there’s the Jupiter – a dark horse: with a careful edit, it performs really well. Given that it cost me less than 5% of either the Canon (new) or Leica (used) that’s remarkable. I should say I used the EVF for both the Jupiter and the Leica. The Leica isn’t coupled so that was a must, but my Jupiter was designed for another camera and can be a bit focus shifted on an M.

For me the quality of the Leica has surprised me and shows that sharpness on its own can leave you wanting. This test allowed me to be happy to let the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II go, and with it the 5D III and the other lenses too. That’s allowed me to buy a Sony A7 II, a Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, a Voigtlander close focus M to E adaptor and a Canon 50mm f/0.95 rangefinder coupled lens, which I will get back in a few days when its conversion to M mount is done. I’ve also bought a dinky Nippon Kogaku (Nikkor) 5cm f/1.4 SC for a bit of fun after having let my Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar go too. I’m finding I’m preferring a more classic low contrast look nowadays. So with those bits of kit and some LTM to M adapter rings, I can use all but the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 on both cameras and I’ve kept some autofocus capability for shooting moving targets too. Additionally, I think the A7 II with its in-body stabilisation might be useful for some low light work when the need calls.

Altogether I feel I have gained flexibility from making the change.

A final word on the Leica 80mm f/1.4 though… It might not stay. I love how it looks, I’ve included a couple of real (non-test) shots below, but as an R lens it is a bit of a pain to use. Shooting it wide open requires precise focus and it doesn’t exhibit enough contrast for focus peaking to be effective so focusing through the EVF (it can’t be done any other way) needs to be done in zoom. Since there is no coupling, this requires the button on the front of the camera to be pressed, the eyes located, precise focus found (without peaking), the button pressed again to de-zoom, and the frame recomposed. By which time your subject is frustrated. As am I.

So there you have it, a long and rambling lens comparison posting that started out as an exercise for me to inform myself. I hope sharing it will be of interest to others too. I’m not sure how many comparisons between those particular portrait lenses are out there – I haven’t come across any.

At the moment then, I’m really looking forward to getting the 0.95 Canon back, something I wouldn’t have been able to justify buying without selling on the Canon SLR kit and I do feel broadly happy with the lenses I have. I may yet get a stronger 35mm and I may yet swap out the Leica R too.

So, thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a couple of shots that I made with the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. After all, I may not be keeping it for long…

Canal1

Canal2

I hope this reads alright Steve. I’ll send the images on in following emails – it might take two or three.

I hope you will be able to let me know whether you think it is suitable – I hope it is!

Cheers

Paul

—–

From Steve: As always, for your Leica needs I recommend Ken Hanson, PopFlash.com and LeicaStoreMiami.com

Mar 162015
 

battle-title

Battle of the Champions: Leica M & 50 APO vs Sony A7II & 50 Zeiss Loxia

by Brad Husick

It has been an exciting few years in the development of high-end digital cameras. With the advent of full frame sensors in compact mirrorless bodies, it is now possible to obtain truly outstanding results that can be printed at virtually any size for the home or gallery.

My objective in running this test was to examine the image quality of two of the most highly regarded full frame digital mirrors cameras today – the Leica M model 240 ($7,250) and the Sony A7-II ($1,699), paired with the best available standard optics for each. For the Leica the choice was obvious in the Leica 50mm f/2 APO Summicron ($8,250) and for the Sony the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* ($949). The prices listed here are retail. Street prices can be lower.

The cameras are very different from each other and there are many articles and reviews that go into these differences. My purpose here is to look only at image quality regardless of other factors such as price, functionality, shooting style, build quality, etc. The key question here is which camera and lens combination produces the best images under a variety of real world shooting conditions. This is not a scientific laboratory bench test, it is meant to see how well the cameras do under reasonable realistic conditions.

My methodology was wherever possible to shoot the lenses wide open at f/2 and match the other shooting settings as closely as possible, including ISO and shutter speeds. Both cameras were shot in RAW and the images are displayed in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.1. No adjustments other than tiny overall exposure movements used to match the images were made. Settings were left in default positions and do not differ between camera images.

These lenses are both manual focus lenses so I used each camera’s focus magnifying tool at maximum to obtain the sharpest images I could. I did not achieve 100% focus accuracy despite using a tripod for all the indoor shots and high shutter speeds for the outdoor shots. This points to my abilities and the nature of f/2 lenses having very thin depth-of-field when wide open. The indoor shots were taken at ISO 1600 and the outdoor shots at base ISO 200. The wind was blowing at about 5 mph outdoors. The cameras were set on manual exposure and automatic color balance. I did not re-adjust color balance once in Lightroom. These are “as-shot” images.

Each comparison starts with a “master” image showing the entire frame, followed by a few 100% zoom details taken from various positions around the frame.

Rather than try to make this a guessing game, I will tell you up front that each of the side-by-side comparisons has the Sony on the left and the Leica on the right.

I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions about the relative strengths of each image.

My conclusion, with which you should feel free to disagree, is that there is a surprisingly small difference here. Based on image quality alone, it’s very difficult to choose. I must conclude that both systems are capable of producing outstanding images, and other factors such as price, preferred shooting style, features and functions, and others are much larger influencers in the decision between these cameras and lenses. One might come to the conclusion that if you choose to invest $15,000 in a Leica system then $2,700 for the Sony system is cheaper than buying one more Leica lens, so why not own both if you care to?

I hope you enjoy this comparison.

IMAGE ONE – FULL FRAME

m1

Sony crops on left – Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops!

(Steve’s Opinion: The Loxia is sharper here in these MAP crops to my eye)

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d1-2

d1-3

IMAGE TWO – FULL FRAME

m2

Sony crops on the left, Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops

(Steve’s Opinion: These appear to be so close, I would call it a tie)

d2-1

d2-2

IMAGE THREE – FULL FRAME

m3

Sony crops on the left – Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops

(Steve’s Opinion: What sticks out to me here is the warmer WB of the Leica, sharpness seems similar)

d3-1

d3-2

IMAGE FOUR – FULL FRAME

m4

SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT – CLICK ‘EM!

(Steve’s Opinion: The LOXIA seems sharper in crop 2 and 3 with Leica for the 1st)

d4-1

d4-2

d4-3

IMAGE FIVE – FULL FRAME

m5

SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT – YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO!

(Steve’s Opinion: To my eye, APO wins this one)

d5-1

d5-2

d5-3

IMAGE SIX – FULL FRAME

m6

SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: LOXIA wins this one – less CA and sharper)

d6-1

d6-2

IMAGE SEVEN

m7

SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: These are close, VERY close)

d7-1

d7-2

d7-3

IMAGE EIGHT

m8

SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: Again, VERY close but I pick APO for this one)

d8-1

d8-2

d9-2

IMAGE NINE

m9

SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: Almost a draw again but the APO Bokeh is a TAD smoother)

d9-3

d9-4

Best regards,
Brad

Mar 062015
 

The Zeiss 16-35 FE F/4 lens on the Sony A7r

by Raymond Hau

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 9.27.42 AM

Sony’s A7R is great little camera in some respects, not so in others and that is especially true when it came to a native wide-angle offering. For the past year, my A7R has been running the FE55mm and an adapted ZM50 Classic Sonnar and all was good as the RX1 and X-T1/E1 paired with the excellent XF14mm lens catered for anything wider. But sometimes that is not enough.

With the release of the new Zeiss FE16-35mm offering, the A7R finally has something to offer.

I run two brands of camera equipment, Sony and Fujifilm, and for a long while now Fuji has had a few native wide-angle offerings with the XF10-24mm being the closest to the Zeiss FE16-35mm. At an equivalent of 15-36mm focal length, with f/4 minimum aperture and with optical stabilisation it is on par with the FE16-35mm. Priced at HKD $6,500 being two-thirds the cost of the FE16-35mm (I paid HKD $9,700), an aperture dial and reports of it being extremely sharp and distortion free makes this doubly attractive; so why did I end up with the Zeiss FE16-35mm on my latest trip to Europe?

Simple, there are no aperture dial markings. It is a ridiculous reason but it is something that I know will annoy me to no end and I knew I could not live with it. I would love to say that the Zeiss won on merit but I had initially wanted the XF10-24mm, then eagerly awaited a Zeiss Loxia wide-angle announcement before deciding, the day before I flew to Europe, that I needed something wider and so settled for the FE16-35mm.

Not the greatest of starts but will see how it fares.

Initial impressions

It is made of metal, rather large and wide compared to every other lens I own at the moment and looks like any other wide-angle zoom. It is impressively well made and as expected has a very large front element, the first thing I did was to put a B+W filter on it. It was a large expensive but seeing nothing that seemed obscene for the money.

The images coming out of the lens didn’t wow me, it appears to lack a bit of contrast and the colours are subdued with a cool temperature cast. It does feel like a Zeiss over done.

Below you can see the FE16-35mm (at 35mm) compared to the Zeiss FE55mm on the left and Fujinon XF14mm on the right. At 16mm length, the front element moves out from the front of the barrel.

I was also impressed by the hood, it is part plastic and part metal and clicks reassuringly into place. This will not come off unless you want it to.

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Overlapping views

I like primes, it keeps my shooting rhythm simple, it is manageable and it suits my style. I have 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, 55mm, 85mm focal lengths and that is the way I prefer to shoot. I’m not a working photographer and so do I worry much when I don’t have the right focal length.

I generally pick a camera, pick a lens and then go shoot but with the introduction of the Zeiss FE16-35mm in my bag I now have a dilemma, I have overlapping lengths on different cameras bodies. Whereas once I would take either the Sony RX1 (at 35mm) or a Fuji with the XF14mm (at 21mm), I now also have the A7R with FE16-35mm as a single option.

I was intrigued to find out how these compare although I will not perform any ‘scientific’ testing – that stuff bores and for anoraks but I will at least try and provide some images for comparison. All that I need to satisfy me is to use them all in the field and see what happens.

Sony A7R & FE16-35mm and Fujifilm X-T1 and XF14mm in the snow (shot with Sony RX1)

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The Kit

For my week-long Europe (mini) road trip, I took the Sony A7R, Sony RX1 and Fujifilm X-T1 and for lenses the Fujinon XF14mm F2.8, the Zeiss FE55mm F1.8 and the Zeiss FE16-35mm F4.

I also took the Gitzo Systematic Series 2 tripod with the Markins Q10i ball head and various ND filters, Triggertrap cables, batteries and other miscellaneous items all contained within a Lowepro backpack. It is the first time I have travelled with such a large equipment bag but since this trip was to test out these cameras together it worked well.

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All Weather Support

This lens isn’t advertised as weather-proof, I’m not if any of the Sony system is. It’s advertised as “Dust and Moisture Resistant Design” which basically means it’s okay if it sits on the shelf for a while.

Anyway, this lens has so far been used in the wet and rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures. In the cold and wet, my Apple iPhone 5S actually died before the camera or lens gave any indication of following suit. The battery of the iPhone actually gave out, turning back on when I warmed it back up later.

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Mountain landscape taking of the Alps, 10,000 feet above sea level – Gornergrat, Switzerland (shot with Sony RX1)

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Against the Fuji X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R

Some shots of the FE16-35mm at 21mm as compared to the Fujinon XF14mm.

Initial impressions are that the A7R and FE16-35mm combination gives a cooler image. Obviously much for fine detail close-up given that it is 36MP versus 16MP of the Fuji but the images are a little flatter.

Obvious differences to note are the changes in field of view between the two combinations.

The Zeiss FE16-35mm images are at the (top) with the Fujinon XF14mm images at the (bottom).

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Pier and Water Jet – Geneva, Switzerland.

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Palais de l’Isle – Annecy, France

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St Pierre Cathedral – Geneva, Switzerland

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St Pierre Cathedral – Geneva, Switzerland

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Against the Sony RX1

Images of FE16-35mm at 35mm as compared to the RX1.

Again, there is a slight difference in field of view (or whether the focal lengths are exactly equal) but the overall image is similar. Obviously the 36MP of the A7R gives more fine detail close-up than the RX1 at 24MP but overall sharpness appears to be largely similar.

The last image of Hong Kong rooftops was one of the very first images taken with lens immediately after purchase. The FE16-35mm appears softer than the RX1 image but after more investigation and use over time I suspect the lens is back-focusing. Using auto-focus does not guarantee an image that is in focus, I have found that I need to manual focus-peek to obtain perfect sharpness. I have somewhat confirmed my suspicions over the course of this trip as even at f/8 to f/11 on a tripod shooting the Matterhorn I have been getting some soft images on auto-focus.

The Zeiss FE16-35mm images at the (top) with the RX1 images at the (bottom).

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Bâtiment des Forces Motrices – Geneva, Switzerland

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Prince Edward rooftops – Hong Kong, China

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Optical Stability System

So I went to CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider. Before the tour, there was an exhibition of the called the Universe of Particles, in the dark. I took this; 16mm f/4.0 ISO 32,000 at 1/10s handheld. I have also given a 100% crop of the centre of the frame showing lettering on the far wall to illustrate how well this works if you also have an extremely steady hand. It doesn’t work miracles as out of the three images I took in this situation, only two came out perfectly as sharp as this.

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100% crop of the above shot took at 1/10s handheld ISO 32,000.

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Sun Flare

So I was on top of the Alps, Gornergrat home of the Matterhorn and it was a gloriously sunny day. I took a shot into the sun at f/22 – this is the sun flare and it is good. The FE16-35mm handles sun flares far better than the XF14mm and slightly better than the RX1.

This compares the Zeiss FE16-35mm to the Fuji XF14mm. The Zeiss gives a sun burst effect, the Fuji doesn’t. Simple.

The Zeiss images are at the (top) with the Fujinon images at the (bottom).

Swiss Alps – Gornergrat, Switzerland

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Too infinity and beyond, if it gets there

Whilst I was up in the Swiss Alps, I noticed that the Milky Way was positioned in such as way as to show the central mass. I could not miss the opportunity to attempt some long exposure astro photography, living between London and Hong Kong does not present much of an opportunity to see let alone attempt to photograph it.

The FE16-35mm was being a royal pain in the ass.

I really do not like electronically coupled focus rings with no hard stops. I had no idea where infinity was because it was definitely not where the OSD says it was. Getting infinity focus on the stars was a hit and miss affair and more luck than anything else. This is where the Fuji lens really shines, hard stops with distance markings on the barrel – I know where infinity focus is all the time and it works.

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Trying to find infinity focus is so bad that I may be thinking I have a bad lens; coupled with the back focus issues on AF and I think I may have a bit of a lemon.

Out of the 29 shots I took of the Milky Way, the one focused to and around infinity according to the A7R on screen display were extremely out of focus. Through trail and error, the one focussed at 11m (according to the Sony on screen display) was in focus. Extremely annoyed, go figure.

This is a 100% crop of the out of focus image at infinity. Just stupid. I hope so as I can then get a better copy from Sony.

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I’m still unsure what to think of this lens. It’s not a bad lens, it does what one should expect and the price, although expensive, is not that offensive. I can’t put a finger on it, perhaps it is the size dwarfing anything else in my bag, perhaps it the infinity focus issue (I will get this checked out with Sony when I get back to Hong Kong) or perhaps that it’s a zoom and I prefer primes.

I can not say I love this lens and I wanted to, while it has not given me the initial wow factor of all the others lenses I have purchased over the last couple of years, it does the job and works as it is suppose to. It is something that gives me my wide angle craving – if Zeiss ever decides to release a 18mm or wider Loxia, I would be tempted to switch but until then, this just works.

Would I be tempted to take this over a Fuji & XF14mm or the RX1? For sheer convenience I would but it hasn’t won be over as a conscious choice always to reach for the FE16-35mm. I think I will need a little more time.

Until then, enjoy the images.

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See Steve’s 16-35 FE Zeiss quick review HERE.

Mar 032015
 

opendocument.do

HANDS ON: The Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA Lens. Samples, and my 1st thoughts!

THIS IS NOT MY FULL REVIEW, JUST A HANDS ON 1st LOOK WITH SAMPLES! – PRE-ORDER at B&H Photo HERE – Amazon HERE

WOW! I have been shooting with the brand spanking new Sony FE 35 1.4 ZEISS lens and let me tell you right now..this lens may just be the best 35mm lens I have ever shot when it comes to IQ, pop, color, detail and overall rendering. It is gorgeous. Really.

Sony sent me the lens for a long term review but I have not had enough time with it just yet for a full review but can and will give you my very 1st thoughts, some image samples and a video telling you just what I think SO FAR about this lens, which you can watch below:

I have been shooting with it for a few days but the 1st thing that popped to mind when it arrived was “DAMN! THIS IS HUGE!”. This lens is NOT small in any way, shape or form but it is indeed BEAUTIFULLY built, made… and man oh man, can it give some sweet Zeiss 3D pop! It is about the same size as the 16-35 F/4 Zeiss.

Click on the image below which was shot with the Sony A7s and this 35 1.4 at 1.4. I have not seen this kind of detail and pop since I shot with the Leica 35 Summiulux FLE on my old M9. You must click the image to see it larger and correctly!

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For me, it actually is meeting or beating the Leica 35 Summilux FLE for overall IQ and color performance (A $5500 Lens). Of course, the Leica is TINY in comparison, as is the new Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 (that I also have on hand), but this lens offers Auto focus, click or clickless aperture and a way of producing images that will make you say “WOW”. For me, this is TRULY the 1st native “WOW” lens for the Sony full frame FE system. It easily surpasses the 55 1.8 for me as well as the 35 2.8 that I have been using since the launch of the A7 system, and those are both beautiful lenses when it comes to image quality. The 35 1.4 has such a beautiful character and rich rendering.

The 1st image is an OOC JPEG, but look at the nice color and rendering. This one was shot with the A7II…

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…and how about the same image with a VSCO film filter applied?

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Again, the A7II and Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 Lens. Click it for better version and to see the 100% crop below it to see the DETAIL even at the bottom of the frame!

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The A7s and this lens are like a match made in heaven. It seems to bring out extra detail in the A7s shots. This is a full size shot, right click and open in a new tab or window to see it. The 12MP of the A7s is fantastic here. The double image part of the text in front of his hands was like this, it is not from the lens ;) 

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This lens is going to be HUGE for Sony A7 shooters and I found that it works just as well on the A7s as the A7II. BOTH cameras will give you incredible detail when using this guy, even at f/1.4 wide open. I was put off by the large size (it is about the same size as the 16-40 f/4) when I first attached it to my A7s but after a few snaps and seeing what it could do, I quickly forgot about the size. The lens is not very heavy, it is just large. Even so, it is large for a reason as they packed some magic pixie dust inside of this lens.

Three of Debby, two B&W and one out of camera Color. All from the A7s again, with B&W conversion from VSCO

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I look forward to spending some quality time with this lens and so far, it has been one of those lenses that make me want to get out and shoot. The color performance and the sharpness make the images just POP much like Leica lenses do on the M9 or M 240. In some cases, even better. This lens is a masterpiece for IQ and rendering with the only weakness..size.

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As for Auto Focus speed it seems semi-quick and VERY accurate. I have shot maybe 50 shots with it so far and none have been mis-focused. In low light it is a bit slower but still very good. By todays 2015 standards it is fantastic, and better than one would expect for a 35 1.4 lens.  I will have much more detail about AF speed and EVERYTHING in my full review in 2-3 weeks. But look at this detail and pop and color that oozes from the lens…

A7s, 35 1.4 at 1.4 and closest focusing distance of .3 meters. No distortion and no issues. 

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It was VERY low light in this restaurant and I asked this guy if I could snap his portrait. He was amazed that no flash went off. I told him “with this lens it is not needed” and when he saw the image on the LCD he was double amazed at the clarity and how it lit up the scene without any real light being there! A7s

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Same restaurant..A7s..

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And some graffiti with the A7s and 35 1.4

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All images below are from the Sony  A7II and Zeiss 35 1.4 – check out the rich color of  the 1st image. A good lens will be sharp, have great bokeh, have minimal distortion, focus close and give you enhanced color performance. From what I see so far, this lens gives all of these things.

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Sony’s Official Word on the 35 1.4  (the cool parts are in bold)

ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA (model SEL35F14Z) Full-frame Wide Angle Lens

This new ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA full-frame wide angle prime showcases legendary ZEISS® optical performance in a compact design. With a minimum focusing distance of approximately 12 inches, the ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 is the first E-mount lens to feature an exceptionally fast aperture of F1.4. The lens has a 9-bladed circular aperture, which makes it a superior choice for creating smooth bokeh (defocus) during portrait shooting. It also performs extremely well in low-light shooting scenarios or for simple everyday photographs.

The new 35mm prime lens produces stunning corner-to-corner sharpness – even at maximum aperture – thanks to its advanced optical design with 3 aspherical elements including one Sony advanced aspherical element and a 9-bladed circular aperture. It also features ZEISS® T* coating that suppresses flare and ghosting for natural color reproduction and excellent contrast. Additionally, the lens has a Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) system that enables whisper-quiet precision focusing, even at the shallowest depth of field. A dedicated aperture ring can be set for smooth, continuous operation – ideal for movie-makers – or with click-stops to provide tactile feedback when shooting still images. The ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 is also dust and moisture resistant design for reliable operation when shooting outdoors.

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A quick detail shot – A7II, f/5, click the image to see it correctly with a 100% crop of the fine detail. Even at 1.4 it is just as sharp. 

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You can pre-order the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 FE lens at Amazon using the link below. The lens will ship in April. My full review will be in 2-3 weeks when I can get out and get some serious use out of it.

PRE-ORDER the ZEISS 35 1.4 FE Lens at B&H Photo HERE.

PRE-ORDER the ZEISS 35 1.4 FE Lens at Amazon HERE

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Mar 032015
 

Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM Distagon (Leica Mount) on the A7s part 2

by Sean Cook

See Part 1 HERE.

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Hello again Steve!

It’s been two weeks now that I’ve had the Zeiss 35mm 1.4 Distagon ZM on my A7s, and despite my initial reservations, and a lot of mental back and forth, I’ve happily concluded that I’m keeping the lens and it will become one of the three lenses I regularly use (replacing the actually wonderful Sony 35mm 1.4G on the LA-EA4 adapter). It is still not a perfect fit for the Sony A7s (nor is there a perfect E-mount MF 35mm 1.4), and I will be the first in line when a Loxia version is announced, but its character and rendering are just beautiful, and I love the ergonomics, so I can work around the issues.

Much like the A7s itself, there are things that I would change about the Zeiss, and that I will forever work around, but given the options available, and my needs, its beauty and potential as a tool outweigh its shortcomings, and make it a better choice than any other 35mm (again, for me). It’s like deciding to use a Noctilux all the time; you accept its flaws as part of the price for the rendering. (I know that’s a silly comparison, but I think you get the idea).

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My wife and I just took a short vacation to Austin to visit some dear friends, and I was able to use the lens in the way I will be using it in the future — mostly outdoors, in the sun, with couples, wide-open. Now, being that they are dear friends and it was a short trip, I again wasn’t aiming for portfolio photos. Moreso I was just trying to see how the lens reacted to different situations, so forgive that it’s mostly photos of people looking at phones, and of backlit cats. :-)

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To me, the take-home message from the photos below is that if you are shooting a subject within 6 feet or so, you can shoot 1.4 and it will produce magic; the closer the subject, the more incredible. Beyond that, do yourself a favor and shoot at f2.0/2.8. Every photo below, except for the vertical photo of the couple (f16) and the very backlit tree (f2.8), is shot wide open.

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You can see that the photos where the subject is within a few feet (which again is mostly how I will use this lens), the background is a gorgeous blur of colors, and the subject is sharp, with a smooth transition from in-focus to out-of-focus. There is a softness without feeling hazy, and everything is exactly what I want from a high-end 35 1.4.

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However, when the subject is further away than that, things get a little dicey, especially toward the edges. The best example of how to use this lens at a distance can be seen in the different between the photo of the man riding the bike through the alley, and the very backlit tree. The trees to the far left in the man-on-bike-in-alley photo are a CRAZY wash of coma, haze, and blur. But the closeups on the backlit tree (shot at 2.8) show a great retention of contrast, and wonderful sharpness all over.

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Three other things to note in the photos. First, one of my biggest concerns with the lens was that because of the double-image thing, if the subject was slightly out of focus, they would look crazy, and way out of focus despite only being a little out of focus (anyone out there who shoots a lot of manual focus knows all about this; you can’t nail focus everytime, so you need the lens to do you the favor of retaining clarity, even when it’s not sharp). However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. If you look at the vertical photo of the cat, it is not in sharp focus, but still looks satisfyingly clear. A good sign.

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The second thing to note is the vertical photo of Joe with a flare splotch on his face. I included it to show the worst I could get the lens to flare. That is wide open, super backlit, and placing the flare right on the subject. Otherwise, that T* seems to be really doing its job.

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Lastly, look at that cat on the balcony! Not only is it the cutest cat I’ve ever seen, but the bokeh is so rich. I personally enjoy a little more character to the bokeh, and not just completely clinical flatness, and the Zeiss delivers. The super close-focus shot of the cat (yes, is a little out of focus — can’t blame the lens, it’s a cat, at minimum focus with the VME adapter, at 1.4) has some of the most gorgeous bokeh I’ve ever seen.

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Other than that, I think the photos should tell you everything else you need to know. They are once again edited in LR using VSCO, so they have artificial grain, and mostly haven’t been sharpened at all (the exception being the 100% crop of the cat on the balcony — that is no grain added, normal LR sharpening applied. I know it’s not a mountain focused at infinity, but if this is a real world review site, consider that a real world sharpness test ;-) ).

If you have any other questions about how the lens works for me, feel free to comment below, or check out the flickr album full of more photos for more pixel peeping (which is not the way to enjoy this lens, I assure you).

Thanks again for reading, and I hope this has been helpful! Again, part 1 can be seen HERE. 

Sean

www.SeanCookWeddings.com

BTW, PopFlash.com has this lens in stock, in black. 

Feb 252015
 

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Low light photography with the Nikon V3

By Aspen Z

Hi Steve and Brandon, it’s great to be here again! The last time I posted was when I took the V2 to South Africa where it did the entirety of the trip. Since then, I’ve done many more excursions with it and from the tone of that post it shouldn’t be a surprise that I upgraded to the V3 as soon as it was out.

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Most recently, I embarked on a solo trip to Norway with the primary intention of seeing (weather/solar activity permitting) the auroras- a phenomenon I’ve always been fascinated with since young and somewhat sceptical of. Dancing lights of varying colours? Hmm…

There was just a single snowy day spent in Stockholm mainly for ease of flights, but it turned out to be very interesting a place and I’m definitely gonna give it a proper visit someday. For some reason, none of the locals knew where the Nobel Museum was and I found it in a square after crossing a secluded alleyway in Gamla Stan.

Arriving in Tromsø, with skies deep blue, I was abruptly reminded of the possible challenges ahead; polar night just ended and there was no true day to speak of. It meant working with ISOs I’m not usually comfortable with on the V3. I’d admit that there were at least two occasions before the trip I hesitated getting another camera (namely D750) so that I wouldn’t need to fret about noise. Besides, I’ve never photographed the auroras before and common advice online suggested full-frame cameras, fast lenses and possible weather-proofing. There was no telling if the V3 would fail me on multiple levels.

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I did learn a few things, some are tips from the perspective of a first-time aurora shooter, others just discoveries in general.

1) Unofficially, the V3 handles up to -16°C or heavy snow with no problem. I frankly believe most modern cameras can perform in conditions beyond their ‘limits’, much like how the Galaxy S5 can go underwater but isn’t given a special mention for it likely due to unnecessary warranty claims.

2) Test run a shot, i.e. do the highest ISO possible on your camera with a shorter shutter speed and adjust as needed. Suggestions of ISOs, exposure times and other aspects vary wildly from site to site and there’s no telling what light conditions were present or lens they used for such settings. Unfortunately for the V3, the sightings were during the new moon so the landscapes were very dark. Worse still, there’s not a fast ultra-wide lens for the N1 and it meant working with a relatively slow f/3.5. 90% of my shots warranted 15-30 seconds shutter speed with ISOs 1600/3200. These settings are typically not recommended due to noise (and they’re referring to full-frame!) but I knew trying ISO 800 and pushing up exposure was much worse in the V3. My focus was manually adjusted to infinity dialled back a notch. Be sure to check beforehand how long a shutter speed you can pull off before star trails become a problem.

2) The V3’s virtual level was immensely helpful (note: not the same as grid lines!). Except for the occasional compositional advantage, I couldn’t afford to crop with such light conditions/settings and wasting it on straightening horizons is entirely avoidable! Also, the tiltable touchscreen meant easy adjustments and no need for remote shutter.

3) The batteries drain faster but no faster than constantly using AF-C for motorsports/birding (in terms of duration). Warming up a frigid battery did restore some of its charge. I got through a night with two batteries, each left with the final bar of charge.

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Autofocus, as with its predecessors, was a joy to use and very swift even in poor light. At no point did the V3 falter and the magical twilight colours of Tromsø were captured accurately. The N1 lenses in general have stunningly good stabilization (rivalling IBIS?) and typically give you 5 stops of advantage (with the infrequent 6-7 stops from time to time on telephoto lenses). Viewing Tromsø after a cable car ride, I decided to settle with the 32 prime for composition, forcing ISO 6400 due to no stabilization, and it was then I really missed the lenses with VR. Reine was my last destination and I was greeted with much milder weather. The days were just a bit longer and the bright red Rorbu cabins with seaweed sprawling along the intertidal zone lent contrast to the dull light and snowy mountains.

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The auroras were indescribably amazing, with many colours in every form and shape, and they would disappear, capriciously, at times, only to reappear with greater intensity than before. They renewed in me a sense of awe so rarely experienced after childhood. My photos might have been better with a full-frame camera but I’m pleased with the V3’s output and glad that it shared such an experience with me.

More photos to be found here:

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

BUY: The Nikon V3 is available at Amazon.

Feb 232015
 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MIRRORLESS BATTLE! Micro 4/3 vs APS-C vs Full Frame!

E-M1, X-T1, A7s – 8 side by side tests

This was a blast to do, and shows the STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES of Micro 4/3, APS-C and Full Frame cameras, specifically the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s. Even I was surprised at some of these results and I did each test fair and square according to my rules below, which have been my comparison rules for seven years because it shows REAL WORLD shooting (not nonsense that no one does when shooting an not pro studio or lit images from a shooter who is sponsored by a camera company). This is as close as I will ever get to a “scientific test” while keeping it “real world”, and yes, it is what it is. Even so, whatever camera “loses” this test will have the fans of that brand attacking me, no matter which one loses. Should be entertaining in that regard as well. :)

Images and test descriptions will speak for themselves. Just how much difference is there between Micro 4/3,  APS-C and Full Frame when using the same or equivalent focal length? Sharpness, IS, color, detail, B&W conversions and more are tested here. 

  • I let each camera choose exposure. 
  • I am using the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s for this test so take it as just that. 
  • I set the aperture on each camera to match DOF of the smaller sensors the best I could for some tests.
  • For one test I will use each lens wide open to show DOF differences.
  • I shot each camera in the same way for each test, either hand-held or tripod.
  • ALL images are converted straight from RAW, WYSIWYG
  • Used the 25 1.4 on the E-M1, 35 1.4 on the Fuji and 55 1.8 on the Sony
  • I will pick my personal preference winner after each test based on the test itself. Score will be tallied at the end. These will be my preferences and may not be yours, which is OK. 
  • I used Adobe Camera RAW for ALL conversions which is what 95% of us use for our RAW files. No jumping through hoops to help any brand.
  • Was going to use A7II but it has many more MP and I had loaned it out to a friend for a few days so I did not have it. The A7s is the Sony Flagship in the A7 line, and is closest in MP to the Olympus and Fuji.
  • As this is a test of cameras in real world use, I let cameras choose exposure and used AWB so we can see what to expect in the real world. When we go out to shoot these cameras 95% of us use them in this way..auto exposure and auto white balance. So what you see here is what you can expect to get from each systems flagship camera. For detail shots all cameras were set to same ISO and Aperture. 

With all of that out-of-the-way, remember that the tests here are all dependent on lenses used. Some lenses on some systems will render differently when it comes to sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. I used a well-regarded lens for each system, lenses that have had rave reviews. OLY: 25 1.4 Panaleica. FUJI – 35 1.4 Fuji. SONY – 55 1.8 Zeiss.

Hand held test at 1/60th s. and basic overall IQ.

My pick for best IQ here at 1/60th is the Olympus E-M1 for sharpness and color. Right click on each image and open in a new tab or window for full size files.

The reason the E-M1 did so well and WON the 1st test below? The 5 Axis IS kept it steady letting me shoot in lower light at a minimal ISO. The other two bumped ISO but also were stopped down a little more. ALL were at 1/60th S. If each image was sharp, it would almost be a wash here and would have to go by color preferences. I still prefer the E-M1 color here as well but what is important is it shows how useful the 5 Axis can be, even for 1/60th s.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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Tripod Test Stopped Down for DETAIL – Same aperture on each camera.

The winner to my eyes is Olympus yet again.

Here I stopped down each lens to F/4. NO, I did not stop down the larger sensors more as this is in no way a DOF test, it is a detail test and each lens should be at the same aperture to be 100% fair. So the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.4 was set to F/4, the Fuji X-T1 and 35 1.4 was set to f/4 and the Sony A7s and 55 1.8 was set to f/4. All were ISO 200, all were shot from a tripod that was in the same exact position for each camera.

YOU MUST CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THE LARGER VERSIONS AS  TRUE 100% LARGE CROPS

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SMALLER CROPS 

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Each Lens Wide Open – A Shallow DOF Test

For me, there is no substitute for Full Frame if you want shallow DOF, but some will prefer a little bit of a larger DOF that you get from Micro 4/3 or APS-C. The reason being is that with the Olympus, you can still get some shallow DOF but you image will be sharper with more detail in most cases, if using a good lens. Same with APS-C in most cases. With full frame you can miss focus easily due to the shallow DOF. BUT if you nail it with FF the results are indisputable. For this reason, I choose the SONY as the winner here as it has the most capability for SHALLOW DOF or LARGE DOF and  this is a shallow DOF test :)

 BTW, the most detail at 100% came from the E-M1 but for shallow DOF, nothing beats full frame. The differences you see are from the lens focal length, not the sensor. The wider the less the larger the DOF (less blur), the longer the lens the more shallow DOF (more blur). Olympus used a 25mm, Fuji a 35mm and the Sony a 55mm. All give the same equivalent field of view but each lens has an effect on Depth of Field which is why you see a more shallow DOF on the Sony. As you can see, the difference between the DOF with the APS-C Fuji and Olympus are actually slight. Nothing to stress over.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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B&W Conversion Test

I did a crazy comparison test once showing how the E-M1 could replicate the Leica Monochrom to some extent, when it came to tonality (not detail) so how will this test go for B&W conversion between these three powerhouse cameras? For this test I shot in color and then converted to B&W using the same exact Alien Skin B&W filter for each file. Many claim Fuji has an amazing capability for B&W conversion, above other standard cameras. I never noticed this at all, so  let’s see how that holds up…

CLICK EACH IMAGE TO SEE IT CORRECTLY! 

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For me, and my tastes, I prefer the Olympus rendering the most. To me, it resembles the Leica Monochrom more than the others, and that is a camera I consider to be the best B&W camera ever made (next to film of course). In fact, this E-M1 file looks eerily similar to a Monochom file. There seems to be more grayish tones and more black details which is preferred, especially for post processing. The Fuji is 2nd place for my tastes and the Sony 3rd but they look the same as any camera B&W conversion. For the most grey tones, the Olympus somehow gets it.  You can see more details when clicking on the images for larger sizes (as long as you are not viewing on a phone).

But let us see another B&W example…CLICK THEM TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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Again, here I slightly prefer the Olympus but ALL are great. I see none here that are a huge step above the others though the Olympus has the most detail yet again. Interesting huh?

SCORE SO FAR: So far we have Olympus with 2, Sony with 1 and Fuji with 0. Let’s keep on moving.

Color Test

Just to show how each camera renders colors. These are all from RAW so any in camera color choice will not come into play.  Shot outdoors in natural direct light to give all cameras the best chance at showing their stuff. This will be 100% personal preference as what I like in color you may not. I did three color shots and chose three different winners, so this one is a draw as color can be quite good from all of these cameras.

The 1st sample is for color accuracy only. After looking at the crayons with my own eyes and looking at these images I feel the Sony comes closest to reality, with Olympus being 2nd and Fuji 3rd. 100% crops are embedded when you click on the image for a larger view. 

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Another color test and this one was between the Fuji and Olympus with the edge for me going to the Fuji. I feel Olympus is equally as good but the Fuji shot has a teeny bit more something that I like. Either are superb. The sony has a yellow cast here so it gets last place. 

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Finally another color shot in beautiful morning light. My grass, up close. ;) This time I much preferred the Olympus shot with the color, the light and the highlights all working for me. Then the Fuji. The Sony here is a bit dull but that is only in direct comparison. Many may prefer the Fuji or Sony here.  All from RAW. There is no “winner” – just preference. 

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SONYCOLOR3

Portrait Test

Many of us love portraits, so how will each camera do with a basic portrait? Let us see which YOU prefer. I prefer the Olympus as the Sony AWB really screwed the pooch creating a much too cool image. The Fuji is a bit overdone with color and INCORRECT color IMO while the Olympus strikes a balance that is most pleasing to me. This was just a simple indoor natural light test shot and nothing more. I am not a huge fan of the rendering of any of these to be honest as it was a quick indoor portrait with no good light, but it had to do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

fuji

sony

Here they are converted to B&W using the VSCO T-Max Preset. Click them for larger 1800 pixel wide versions to see the detail and rendering better. The Fuji has the most contrast here,but it looks better than the color version. The Olympus stays nice and neutral and the Sony looks much nicer in B&W due  to the color being off in the original. But one is Micro 4/3, one is APS-C and one is full frame. NOT that huge of a difference. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

fujibw

sonybw

DR Test

Dynamic Range is good from all three of these cameras, and the Olympus E-M1, contrary to popular belief has is about equal in DR to the Fuji X-T1 with 12.7 stops of DR. The Fuji, in RAW (it is less in JPEG) can do between 9 and 13 stops of DR and the Sony has 13.2. So all are similar but the Sony has the most (as you can see below). The Olympus is quite amazing for its smaller sensor to have 12.7 stops but in the real world, the full frame sensor shows its stuff. Here is a shot that was blown out. I recovered the highlights the best I could for each file.

Below is the Sony file AFTER I brought back the highlights that were blown to shreds. The SONY has the most DR hands down, which is what I figured due to the full frame sensor and big fat pixels. 

fullsonyafter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Low Light HIGH ISO Test 

Sony Wins ISO, no contest. ;) What is interesting is that Olympus had the most detailed file at high ISO. For some reason the Fuji, even though tripod mounted and focus point selected manually, looks very soft (and yes, this is the sharpest part of the Fuji image) and that may be due to the NR Fuji applies that you can not turn off. The Sony looks softer but this is due to DOF even though I stopped down the Sony. It also appears that the Fuji RAW files are also doing some sort of Noise reduction even when turned off, which also loses detail. Me, I much prefer detail which is why I turn NR off on all cameras that allow it. (Fuji does not).

It seems here that the Fuji is even or slightly better than the A7s, but remember, the A7s allows you to go above and beyond most cameras with 102,000 ISO capability. Shooting at ISO 32,000 on the Sony provides usable and nice files. Not possible on the Fuji  or Olympus.

The Fuji, as I said, is applying NR to the RAW file and the Sony and Olympus are not. So not a fair test as the Fuji does not allow removing all NR. You can see the noise is smeared. The TRUE winner for high ISO is the Sony A7s. The winner for most detail at high ISO is the Olympus E-M1. The CA in the OLy shot is a result of using a Panasonic 25 1.4 which is an awful performer for CA.

FULL

ISO 3200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

fuji3200

sony3200

Now ISO 6400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

fuji6400

sony6400

Again, (many do not read what is written above the tests) the Fuji has NR as it can not be turned off, which is why you see the noise is actually smoothed and smeared. So in the above examples the Fuji has NR and the others do not. The Fuji is also the softest (which some has to do with NR as it robs details) – a shame you can not turn it off on the Fuji. It is even applied to RAW files.

My Final Thoughts and which camera I prefer out of all of these..and WHY.

Moral of this story? Anyone who tells you Micro 4/3 cannot hang with larger sensors is 100% incorrect, as I have said for years.  Also, what was not mentioned yet is the fact that the best made and designed body here is the Olympus E-M1. It is built to a higher standard the the Fuji X-T1 from solidity, quality of dials and buttons, and unlike the Fuji  – ZERO hollowness and zero cheap feeling parts without much extra weight at all.

In other words, I found the Fuji’s build quality to be the lowest of the three from body to dials and switches to the D-Pad, etc. This is not just talk, it is fact.

The E-M1 feels and operates like a pro camera, the Fuji *feels* more toy like (though it is NOT a toy, at all). The Sony is solid and hefty without any cheap feeling parts but again, the E-M1 slightly beats it in build quality and feel and control. The new Sony A7II stepped it up and is now about equal to or better the E-M1 in build.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of these three cameras my money would be spent on the Olympus 1st and Sony 2nd (and it was). I would skip the Fuji for my tastes. Just not my cup of tea from feel, focus, usability, speed and IQ in most lighting scenarios. For me the E-M1 has it all from build, speed, looks, feel, features, In body IS, lens selection, IQ and capabilities. The Sony A7s is a low light champ and works great with 3rd party and Leica glass but overall, the best all around general use every day and pro camera *of this lot* is the E-M1 by Olympus, and I say that without hesitation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So take this for what it is, a few tests with a few cameras using one lens each, all 50mm or so equivalent. Any IQ discrepancies there may be with Micro 4/3 (and there really are none besides shallow DOF possibilities of full frame) are easily over ridden by the amazing tech in the body and the features, usability, and overall quality of the images. It’s not only a superb camera to use, but it is a very FUN and enjoyable one to use. Many times the Fuji, again, frustrated me (dials would move too easily so settings were changed just from placing the camera in my bag, the way to change the drive mode is odd, with a cheap lever that also switches way too easily…overexposure on many occasions…etc). The Sony was fine besides a few AWB issues that I never noticed until doing these side by sides. So seeing the files next to each other and handling each body one after the other told me a lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At  the end of the day these cameras can all do a great job, but it will be personal preference as to which one is best for you. Do some PP and the images can go to the next level, so remember that as well.

So for me, I love these two plus the Leica M, which will always have a place in my heart.

At the end of the test, here is the score with my eyes on all of the tests: Olympus with 6 wins, Sony with 4 wins and Fuji with 1 win. Your score may be different of course, as this is not a cut and dry thing. It is personal preference. So for you, Fuji may win or Sony may win. That is the beauty of it. It is not about WINNING or LOSING it is about WHAT YOU PREFER. 

Even though this test is what it is..some owners will come here to defend their choices, which is fine. But it doesn’t change reality. Also, no need to say ‘Fuji needs Capture 1, Fuji needs EV comp set at -1, Fuji needs sharpening, Fuji is light and hollow feeling  because of weight, Fuji needs a special technique for AF, etc etc”. To me, these are all excuses and we should not have to fly through hoops to get the best quality from our cameras. It should NEVER be “work”. All cameras were tested the same with no special treatment to any of them, that was important. Enjoy ;)

REFERENCE: See my Olympus E-M1 Review HERE, my Fuji X-T1 Review HERE and my Sony A7s Review HERE.  For the record over the past seven years I have been called a Leica, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Nikon and Pentax fanboy. Lol. Why? Because I love many cameras from all of these manufacturers. 

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