Aug 292011
 

The deadline for the early bird special savings price of $50 off of the upcoming Chicago September 24th workshop ends September 1st. If you want to attend this workshop you can lock in with a 25% deposit at the special rate with balance due by September 15th. E-mail me HERE if interested. Few seats left!

Aug 292011
 

Well here we are at the tail end of 2011 and good old Photokina 2012 will be coming up before you know it. Lot’s of speculation about what maybe coming from Leica but no one really knows for sure, or do they? With all of the rumors spreading about a new 50 Summicron ASPH, a new mirror-less design and even a new M10 from Leica I decided to whip out my old Crystal Ball to see if I could see anything or get some clues.

As I stared in to the ball I saw an odd camera pop up – was very foggy. It was not an M9 or M9P or M10..no, it was smaller, it was M like in its look and I saw a built in EVF. Also saw what appeared to be an M lens on it as well as another lens, pretty sexy looking. For the life of me I could not make it out though. As it spun around I saw live action on the LCD. Looked kind of pricey, I saw 3  $1000 bills float by, and some other bills. :) Just as that flew by I could have sworn I saw an M with an EVF and live view and maybe even a dual viewfinder kind of like the Fuji X100. For one second I saw the eyepiece come closer and I though I saw an RF and an EVF but I could have been mistaken. Did I also see video capability? Hmmmm. I also saw a huge 10 pop up like a flash of lightning but does  that mean M10 or $10,000? If my Crystal Ball is correct, this new camera will be a huge leap forward and the 1st time Leica leaves the classic and traditional design behind to boldly go where no Leica M has gone before. Only time will tell!

That was all I saw for Leica but there could be more. My ball is quirky. Before the ball fogged up 100% I thought I saw a small mirror less Canon that looked like a Micro 4/3 camera. Call me silly but thats what I saw. Maybe my crystal ball has seen its last days, but in the past it has had a 99.8% accuracy rate. Maybe I will check again in a month or two to see if I can see anything else like a “Pro Olympus PEN” or small Nikon interchangeable lens camera (which I did see a huge N pop up for a split second, but who knows what that means).

2011 was a great camera year, let’s see if 2012 can top it!

Steve

Aug 292011
 

VOTE NOW! The top 10 in the Noktor/SLR Magic Lens give-away has been posted!

Here we go! I received just over 300 entries in the Noktor/SLR Magic Lens give-away and the top 10 are posted below. Before I get to that I wanted to say that there were MANY great entries and also MANY SUPERB entries did not follow the rules 100%, so because of this I could not consider them! Just to be clear, the rules are reposted here as they are posted on the contest page:

RULES, follow them or else your image will NOT be entered!

  • Images must not be any larger than 1600 pixels wide horizontal or 1000 pixels wide vertical.
  • ONLY ONE IMAGE can be submitted. JUST ONE! If you send more than one you will be disqualified!
  • Post Processing is allowed but nothing so crazy that it changes the image. In other words, no “photo art” or additions to the image in PS. Just things like levels, contrast, color, etc.
  • Images MUST be shot with a SONY NEX camera. NEX-3 , 5, VG-10, 3C, etc.
  • Old or new images can be submitted but must be with a SONY NEX
  • EXIF data MUST be intact.
  • Submit image with your full name and mailing address.
So if you did not follow all of the rules above your image was not considered. 

 

Ok, on to the top 10! The images are numbers #1-#10. YOU will be picking the winner so vote for your favorite in the poll under the images. The top three vote getters will win! The 1st prize is the NOKTOR f/0.95 50mm for NEX mount. The 2nd place prize is the SLR Magic 28 2.8 lens for NEX mount. The third place prize is a Think Tank photo Retrospective 5 bag.
#1 – Audun Brekke – NORWAY
#2 – Roger Lim – Singapore
#3 – Chris Su – Japan
#4 – Elaine Dudzinski – Gilbert, AZ
#5 – William Harris – Fayettville, NC
#6  – Nicolas Vedrenne – France
#7 – Fabrizio Siano – Miami, FL

#8 – Andy Tran – Singapore


#9 – Jeff Mesko – Rolling Meadows, Ill

 –

#10 – Maria Avramidou – Greece

There you have it! The top ten chosen out of the entries that were submitted that followed the rules. To be honest, there were 2-3 images that did not make it but could have won. I could not break the rules as it would not be fair to those who did. So vote now for your favorite image! The voting will last through Sunday September 4th and the winners will be announced on September 5th 2011.

Only one vote per person will count and be registered! GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

Aug 262011
 

Motivation, Passion and Love. 

Time for another post where I sit and reflect on the last couple of years of my life and take a look at where I have been, where I am at, and where I want to go. Over the past two years I have been really motivated at times, but on some days I have felt frustrated and burnt out, which is easy to do when you work day in and out with cameras and writing.

You guys all know… well, the ones who have been reading this site every day, that I say it like it is, and I am very passionate about what I do. Running this site is my passion but man, it is NOT easy to come up with something interesting EVERY single day. Believe me :) I also am not afraid to write about personal things, and be myself. I feel this is important to a blog such as this as I consider all of you guys my friends even though I have never met 98% of you.

Some of you also know I have had my challenges in the last year or so in my personal life but things have turned around and I am currently doing GREAT, which means yes, I can now pay my mortgage, buy my food, and pay my car payment…all from the income from this very website. This is incredible to me that I took my passion and through hard work and dedication I created something that so many of you learn from and enjoy on a daily basis. I am proud of all of you who frequent this site as I feel the community here is TOP NOTCH. Really.

I started this website about 2 1/2 years ago, at a time when I had NO IDEA what I was going to do with my life and after 13 years of being self employed. Married for 15 years, my (now EX) wife encouraged me to go for it and do something I loved. With her support I started this web site and worked day in and out on it.

See, I LOVED Leica cameras though I did not really have the bank account to match that love. I did end up with an M8 and 50 Summilux and I was inspired by it so much that I decided to write a review of the camera. While searching online I had a hard time finding anything about Leica. All that existed was the Leica forum and that was usually filled with a bunch of grumps complaining about this or that, which is something I never understood.

After my M8 review went live, my very 1st EVER experience writing a “real world” review, I started getting emails from all over the world. More importantly, it seemed that my passion was conveyed in the review as before long I was receiving emails from hundreds of people who were buying an M8 camera…and LOVING it. Sure I had the ones who told me I was too excited and enthusiastic (when is this ever a bad thing)? but I just wrote what I felt, not trying to impress anyone with anything. I wrote from the heart. I was not trying to write for money, for search engines or for any other reason than to share my passion and excitement for  this camera that not many people online were talking about.

It was a VERY cool experience to have this average kind of lower grade website (my 1st site was done on iWeb) out but mostly everyone who was reading it was enjoying it. After a month or so I received an e-mail from the music artist Seal who said he loved what I wrote about the M8. He wanted to chat so we started talking and before long became very good friends. After a year of working on the site day in and out I went through a horrible divorce where I was left with NOTHING but huge debt. It was a BAD time and there were some very dark moments for me where I wasn’t sure if I would even make it. I remember my friend telling me he could tell I was hanging by a thread…that grey area where you are not even sure if you want to continue, and looking back I could say he was spot on. Was a scary time and for any of you reading this who went through something similar, I feel for you…I really do, but it will pass.

My site was only a year old and was not making enough money to even pay my house payment let alone my car, utilities, or food so I ended up having to sell almost all of my belongings to get caught up. My M9…GONE. My HiFi system that took me years to build up..GONE. My lenses, all GONE. I remember sitting in my nearly empty house in the dark. Just me and my faithful dog Scrubby. I said to myself  “what the hell are you going to do”? Then,a few days later a miraculous thing happened. Many of the readers of this website sent in donations to help me through this tough spot I was in. I paid my mortgage, paid my car payment and stocked up on food. I decided from that day on that I needed no one but myself and I would do whatever was in my power to keep on going with this website. IT WAS and STILL IS all I want to do, and these days it is just getting better and better. Again, I thank ALL OF YOU!

I also decided that I would live life to the fullest, always try to be happy, to never let small things bother me, to never kiss anyones ass, to always be open and honest with everyone and to always stay true to myself.  I became filled with a renewed passion and that passion came from sitting up one day and realizing that this time in my life was a defining moment. I decided to drop the sadness and that I did indeed love myself and loved what I did, so my passion was re-ignited. I worked day in and out the best I could and to this day am still full of passion, energy and motivation with big plans for the site.

BUT, I never defined success as making loads of money, and still don’t. I define success as BEING HAPPY. If you can live life and be happy with all aspects of your life, then you have achieved more success than 98% of people and I am 99.9% there.

I have very little. A small house, a small car, my camera gear, and some clothes. Simple. That is what makes me happy as I am a simple man and appreciate everything I have and own.

Since I started this website there are now at least 20-30 Leica web sites online. Believe it or not, I do not consider this site a “Leica” site even though it has been the main topic over the last couple of years. I consider this a site full of passion that involves ALL OF YOU, the coolest new gear and great photography. The community here is amazing and with your submissions, your comments, and your daily inspirations we can spread that passion across the world, and we are!

So I thank all of you who visit my site, send in daily inspirations, attend my workshops and meetups, and e-mail me every day (even though I do not always get back to everyone). I thank my friends who helped me along the way and know that I will always be here for YOU if you need anything. I am in a good place and I hope all of you continue to join me for the ride. If any of you are in a dark place right now like I was over a year ago remember that things DO get better and once you ignite the passion inside you then anything is possible. Remember, motivation comes from passion and passion comes from love!

Have a GREAT weekend! 

PS – I will have a new review next week of the SLR Magic 11mm f/1.4 for micro 4/3, tested on the E-P3. I will also have a cool “name which camera took which photo” post and more cool stuff. Also, be sure to check out the new toolbar at the bottom. There is a search bar, Facebook, twitter share and like buttons, real time chat that works great, a quick view of my youtube videos and more. Give it a try and let me know how you like it!

Also, only a few days left to save $50 for those who want to attend the Chicago Workshop!  

Aug 262011
 

New toolbar added with some cool new features!

Hey guys! Just wanted to let you know I added a new toolbar at the bottom of the site. This toolbar has many features and functions that should be pretty cool. First off, there is a chat feature if any of you guys want to chat. There is also a youtube button that will allow  you to watch all of my youtube videos and browse through them easily without having to leave the page you are on. There are also Facebook like buttons, tweet buttons, a translate tool and a recent posts button. Check it all out and let me know what you think!

Aug 262011
 

Hi Steve,

Here are a few shots from my summer in Europe with the X100. I was skeptical about taking just the X100 on my trip but it was a joy to use and so much easier to take with me than my SLR. I converted the black and whites with silver efex and the color pics are OOC JPEGs. I switched to JPEGs part way through the trip (didn’t want to buy more memory) and was more than happy with them. I was very impressed with the high ISO performance of the X100, loved the fixed lens, and was amazed by how useful the flash was. My only complaint is battery life and MF, but both these things are very easy to work around and the images I got with this camera exceeded my expectations. Coming from a SLR I loved slowing down and seeing shots rather than walking around with my motor drive blazing. I found that I got more out of my trip this way as I only took photos of things that caught my eye rather than trying to get pictures of absolutely everything like I used to do.

1. Woman begging in Florence

2. Pastries in Venice

3. Fountain in Vienna

4. Train somewhere in Czech Republic

5. Skulls at Sedlec Ossuary

Hope you enjoy some of these photos and thanks for a great site with info that is actually useful.

Manson

Aug 262011
 

Sony NEX-C3 vs Olympus E-P3 – JPEG Test

Uggg. I’ve been sick for the last two days so I have been in my house, huddled up in my blanket and bored out of my mind. Trying to beat whatever this is that is attacking my system. While I sit here at my desk in my Pajamas I decided I would post some snaps I took a few days ago that compared the Sony NEX-C3 and Olympus E-P3 and I will only use JPEG this one. I have heard by many NEX users that the NEX-C3 has better JPEG output than the older NEX-3 and 5 so why not put it up against the camera company that is known for their out of camera JPEG quality, Olympus.

These are just boring snaps and I was not even going to post them as I took them due to my own curiosity. Maybe some of you may find it interesting. I used the 16mm 2.8 on the C3 as it is a 24mm equivalent. The Olympus had the 12mm which is also a 24mm equivalent. Same aperture on all shots, 2.8.

One thing to keep in mind is the NEX-C3 is $599 with the 16m lens. The E-P3 is $1700 with the 12mm lens. Usability of the E-P3 is superior in my opinion but thats a huge price gap. Let’s see how they did.

The E-P3 – OOC JPEG. Click image to see the larger size with 100% crop.

NEX-C3 – Again, click for larger. This is right Out of camera, even the odd color shift. The Olympus did not get the color right either, but it was much closer.

Again, OOC JPEG – Click it for larger and 100% crop – 1st – E-P3

Now the NEX-C3. Up close is where the 16mm shows its softness. The 18-55 zoom is sharper than  the 16mm up close. 

E-P3 – no crop this time but do click it for larger view. The color is right on this one…

The NEX is a bit cooler in its output…

So there you go! Again, this was just a JPEG test. Why bother you may ask? Well, when I was in Las Vegas last week I saw no less than 13 NEX shooters. MOST were moms, tourists, and even a few teens. I’d bet just about anything they are shooting JPEG with their cameras. MANY people who buy these little NEX cameras at best buy are people who are upgrading from a P&S and many have no idea what RAW is. So this is for the JPEG shooters out there. Also, it doesn’t really say much as the Sony 16mm lens is mediocre and compared to the Olympus 12mm it falls short. I’m still waiting for Lightroom/Photoshop support for the E-P3 so I can see how the RAW files hold up.

I am happy that Sony is releasing the Zeiss 24 but at the same time, they need MORE high quality lenses for all of us camera crazy “enthusiasts”. Olympus is on the right track. Oh, and I should have my 45 1.8 any time now, so that review will be coming soon!

One more thing! There may be some changes to the site in the next week or so. I am working on making some changes so it may look different over the next few days as I test out different things and features. Ok, now I am off to drink down my NyQuil and get some more rest. Until next time!

Aug 242011
 

SONY GROWS SOME BALLS! The NEX-7 has been announced and it looks AMAZING!

The Sony NEX-7 has been announced and I have already Preordered Mine From AMAZON!. I RARELY pre-order anything but I have to say that I have been waiting for the “pro” NEX and Zeiss lens for quite some time and now that it has been unveieled it appears to be a camera that I am really going to dig. BIG TIME. I mean, this IS the PRO NEX we have been waiting for! SONY beat Olympus, Sony beat Panasonic, Sony beat NIKON, CANON, and all others to the punch and released a PRO SPEC mirror-less camera and matching Zeiss lens!

First of all, the resolution is there at 24 Megapixels. That is MORE than enough, and borderline TOO much… but man, there would never be a need for more. The EVF is there and from what I have been reading, it is superb and as good as it gets in an EVF to date. It is larger than the tiny NEX-C3 and the new NEX-C5 which is good as those cameras are a bit too small at times depending on the lens you have mounted.

Check out this preview WITH video at ENGADGET.

Before you read further, if you want to PRE-ORDER this camera you can do so here, at THIS LINK at AMAZON. The cool thing is, you won’t be charged until it ships but Amazon is known to take pre-orders and then cut them off when they sold too many. If you get in now, you will be one of the first to get a shipment. I ordered mine already along with the Zeiss 24 1.8 which is also available for pre-order HERE. The NEX-7 will be $1199 for the body only and the Ziess will run you $999. It will be released and should be shipping by the first week of November (just in time for my birthday)!

This is not a cheap camera setup at $2199 but it does not appear to be a cheap camera in any sense. Amazon already has a cool video up featuring the NEX-7. You can check that out HERE –

I am excited about this one and I have to say that 2011 has been a GREAT year for kick ass cameras. The Fuji X100, the Olympus E-P3, and even the Leica M9-P which is the best looking Leica digital ever.

So what is there to be so excited about here? Well, we will be getting all of the good stuff from the NEX system and ALL of the new super cool stuff as well. The new menu control system, the super resolution, the built in EVF, the larger body and grip….as the title says, SONY GREW SOME BALLS and I am glad they did. If they would have left this batch of NEX news with only the C3 and C5 it would have been a big yawn IMO. The 7 is where it is at and where the serious enthusiasts are looking. I believe this Sony will be a HUGE seller just due to everything it has going for it. Here is yet another site (in French) with some real world photos of the camera with the Zeiss lens attached.

I just hope it isn’t a dog when it is finally delivered but I seriously doubt that. When reading all of the 1st hand reports from the mega sites it seems like Sony did their homework, listened to the customer base of enthusiasts and created this camera that is still small but has the control, the viewfinder, the sensor, and build of a pro camera, but all in the compact size. The new lens should take advantage of the sensor as the old Sony kit lenses still are mediocre at best. The glass is always where it is at!

So one more time, let’s take a look at the NEX 7’s main features and why it is so special in the world of smaller mirror-less APS-C cameras.

This is the 1st ever APS-C size sensor camera to break the 24MP barrier. The OLED EVF has a resolution of 1024X768. The hotshot is a full size version, like the one they use on the larger ALPHA DSLRs. It will have 1080P HD AVCHD video. Also, a brand new “Tri Navi” interface where you will use the two scroll wheels at the top to control the menu while looking through the EVF. It has a magnesium alloy construction. The LCD on the back is tilt-able. THE NEW ZEISS 24 1.8 lens! This will give us a 35mm equivalent. It may be a bit large but my money says it will be QUALITY.

I know I will get the questions…So why am I so excited about this Sony when I have a Leica M9P? Well, I do not always take out my M9P and I love technology. I love photography. I love when companies push limits and create new and exciting things. I also love a well designed and built camera that is well thought out and I also always want a smaller camera that is high quality, a joy to shoot and one that also takes video. So yea, I pre-ordered mine even though I already have an M9P and Olympus E-P3! PLUS, I happen to know Leica is not sitting still in all of this and they will have an announcement in 2012 that will be pretty exciting. It never ends!

Again, you can PRE-ORDER the NEX-7 at Amazon using THIS LINK.. Also, the Zeiss 24 1.8 can be pre-ordered HERE.. Amazon doesn’t charge you until they ship, which is cool. As soon as I get my hands on this camera I will have a huge thorough real world review. Can’t wait! Oh, and Sony Japan already created a site for the NEX-7 which can be found HERE. The camera is scheduled for release the 1st week of November and I am guessing there will be loads of people using their Leica glass on this one. With the focus peaking and EVF..wow. No more awkward shooting with manual lenses.

It appears B&H Photo has now listed the NEX-7 on their site but they show it as coming with the 16mm lens for $1199 or the 18-55 for $1349. B&H is not taking pre-orders yet though. They usually wait until 2-3 weeks before the camera starts shipping.

Also, just because I am a fun guy, take a look at this commercial below..it’s not for the NEX-7 but for a product Sony will now need with their new set of Balls! Lol…

Let’s have even more fun. Vote in the poll below and let us know if you are planning on buying the NEX-7!

Aug 232011
 

Will you buy the upcoming Fuji X50?

Well, it appears to be coming soon…the Fuji X50. The pint sized baby of the X100. Looks like the X100, feels like the X100, works like the X100, has the same build as the X100 but it is half the size of the X100, with a small point and shoot sensor. Me, I will pass as I am no longer buying any small sensor cameras but I have to admit, this will look pretty cool with a wrist strap :) I just do not think the success will be there for the smaller version. The X100 is almost the camera so many of us have been begging for (just needs a few tweaks and enhancements to make it perfect). I don’t see a small sensor zoom version to be anything too exciting. BUT what about you?

Here are the specs of the X50:

12 MP 2/3-inch EXR CMOS – SMALL sensor so this camera will be competition for something like the Leica D-Lux 5
4x f/2 manual zoom lens (Fujinon) – Zoom lens…f/2 at wide end
Optical view finder – NOT hybrid
1080p HD movie recording
RAW+JPEG
Same lovely X100 build quality
Just under $600 at $599

So the question is..WILL YOU be buying a Fuji X50? Participate in the poll below!

Aug 222011
 

The SLR Magic 28 2.8 “E” Mount Lens Review using the Sony NEX-5 and Sony NEX-C3

Yet another lens real world use review using an SLR Magic lens! This is a company that in the last year has brought out some interesting lenses for Micro 4/3 and Sony “E” or NEX mount. I reviewed their fun Toy Lens for M4/3 and their equally fun “SLR MAGIC” lens for the Sony NEX and the reason I enjoyed those lenses so much was due to the fact that they were tiny, light and CHEAP! Plus the results were pretty cool and unique. Recently they sent me their new more serious lens for the Sony NEX mount. A 28mm f/2.8 lens made of metal. This is a manual focus lens and has aperture click stops from 2.8 up to f/22.

I had this lens a while and did not get to use it much but did manage to get a few shots in here and there. I finally have shot this lens enough to give it a fair review so here we go! Keep in mind that this is a real world review. The same type I have done for 2 1/2 years. The images you see here are all snapshots. Images I captured during my use with the lens to test the output and character of the glass. Nothing more, nothing less :)

The SLR Magic 28 2.8 equals about a 42mm on the NEX. A not so fast 2.8 aperture would make this lens seem good for landscape or maybe even portraits but this lens has a unique character just like most SLR Magic offerings. No, this lens will not give you funky swirl or crazy bokeh but it will give you a rendering that is a bit soft when wide open and with softer corners. It is a lower contrast lens as well when shot at 2.8 but when you stop it down, watch out! It sharpens up and the contrast gets a little higher as well. Also, tweaking the image in Photoshop or Lightroom easily fixes and lower contrast issues that may arise.

One unique thing about this lens is that it has a new “Revolver Style” aperture ring which gives you circular bokeh at every aperture. It also helps to cut down on size. SLR Magic also sent me the image below that helps explain the best aperture to use for certain situations.

The Build, The Look, and Feel

This lens is pretty solid. It comes in a box with a metal screw in lens cap and a rear cap. The lens is made of metal and has a good feel about it. It does not seem as “polished” as something that would come from Nikon, Canon or Leica but look at the price. A measley $169 on their E-Bay page. For that price, I can not complain about the build at all, only praise it.

I shot with this lens on a Sony NEX-5 and a Sony NEX-C3. The lens is small enough that it felt good on both cameras. It’s not long and it’s not to heavy. When manually focusing the new peaking feature worked GREAT. I was able to shoot without using the magnification, and 95% of the time the focus was spot on. This is a manual lens folks, so that means no auto focus and no turning the dial on the back to choose aperture.

NEX-5 and the 28 2.8 wide open

The Character of the 28

This lens is NOT going to be a lens that gives you perfect corner to corner sharpness. This lens has a but of unique character and even a little bit of a classic draw. I found it good for people and if you stop it down to f/8, good for landscapes when the lens does sharpen up considerably. I love lenses with character though this lens was not so easy to use when I first started shooting with it on the NEX-5. I had many out of focus shots due to the complications of shooting manual lenses on the NEX system. Once Sony did the focus peaking update, the lens became SO MUCH better and easier to use for me.

On the NEX-5 with the new firmware. Messing with the new color effects…

Using the NEX-C3 with the 28.28  at ISO 1000 – rich color wide open here but I adjusted contrast in Photoshop. Shot in Vivid mode on the C3.

Shot during a gloomy “funny” day in Amsterdam on the NEX-5 – 2.8

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW FOR A FULL SIZE FILE FROM THE NEX-5 and 28 2.8  – This is wide open and shows the softer corners.

Low light portrait…wide open

This shows a hint of the slight dreaminess you can get from this lens…

…and by f/8 it sharpens up considerably. The next two are JPEGs from the NEX-C3,  f/8

ISO 1600, NEX-C3 – JPEG – f/2.8

below, f/8 in the full Las Vegas sun

Wide open at f/2.8 indoors – NEX-C3

The tree below was shot on the NEX-5 with the 28

The corners are soft when shot at 2.8 but the lens is sharp in the center wide open…see the sample below with 100% crop at 2.8 – MUST click image to see 100% crop


Full Size Samples from wide open to f/11

Some of you may want to see full size samples wide open and stopped down. The following images are all right out of camera JPEGS, saved as a “9” quality in Photoshop. Click on each image to see the full size version.

So, What do I think of the SLR Magic 28 2.8?

This lens is cheap at $169 (plus shipping). For your cash you get an all metal manual lens made for your SONY NEX camera. Shipping from SLR Magic is quick, and they are a great company when it comes to customer service. I have had several lenses shipped to me from SLR Magic and never had one issue. Well, that is not true. One time they sent me a lens and it never arrived. They sent me a replacement and then right after the original came. They told me to just keep both and give one away. Pretty cool.

This 28 2.8 lens is somewhat classic in its rendering when shot wide open and when you stop it down to f/8, forget about it! It sharpens up and gives really great results. When shooting on the NEX-C3 the color seemed better to me over the NEX-5 which seemed duller but that could have been the color mode I shot in as the NEX-5 shots were RAW and the C3 shots are JPEGS.

I had a love/hate with this lens from the get go though. For the first month of shooting I disliked it as I found it a chore to use on the NEX (but I found ALL manual lenses slow and cumbersome on the NEX). I did enjoy the SLR Magic 35 1.7 on the NEX-5 but that lens was made to be imperfect, like a toy lens so missing focus wasn’t such a big deal. But when you use a lens like this, which is a bit more serious, you want your shots IN focus. Not until Sony released the focus peaking feature did I really start to appreciate this lens, and again, at $169 there is NOTHING here to complain about.

My Pros and Cons? Simple really:

PROSPrice of $169, well made, manual aperture ring, rounded aperture, sharp center

CONSA but dull in the color right out of the camera, lower contrast and soft corners until stopped down a bit. 

They even sell a version of it with a Macro adapter on their E-Bay page for $100 more. (which I have but have not used yet. I will update this review with MACRO pics as soon as I get something decent with it)

After spending $899 for an E-P3 and $799 for the 12mm f/2 lens, paying $169 for a lens like this seems like a steal. BUT!!! You must remember what this lens is and is not. It is an ALL MANUAL lens. This means you have to manually focus it. You have to set the Aperture on the lens. These two things are very “Leica Like” but the quality of the lens, and it’s rendering is somewhat classic wide open. It’s one of those dual personality lenses…wide open you get a softer glow at times and stopped down you get plenty of contrast and sharpness. I like it but it is what it is. A great lens for $169. if you like the look of the photos above and do not mind a manual lens, you will probably really enjoy the SLR Magic 28 2.8. At the asking price, it’s worth it! You can buy the SLR Magic 28 2.8 direct at their E-Bay page HERE.

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Be sure and visit the all new forums on the site HERE.

Aug 212011
 

Check out the Olympus 45 1.8

Hello to all! It’s Sunday night and I am sitting here at my computer figuring out what I should be posting tomorrow. For now, I was browsing the net and found the 1st real review of the new Olympus 45 1.8 lens for micro 4/3. This is one of the two new lenses Olympus announced along with the 12mm f/2, which we already know is a fantastic (but pricey) lens. The cool thing is that the 45 1.8 will be half the price of the 12. I pre-ordered mine from B&H Photo as I heard they may be shipping in the next week or two. Their pre-order link is HERE.

 

To see the 1st real review from Robin Wong, click HERE. Love the real world style there so I am happy to link to it! The lens looks pretty promising and at $399, not too horribly priced. This seems like it will make for a great portrait lens. All I can say is that FINALLY Olympus is releasing some really good glass for micro 4/3. I have a feeling this lens will be available in the next 10 days…

Chicago Workshop/Meetup Selling Fast!

To all of you who had interest in the Chicago workshop, it will be held on September 24th, which is a Saturday. I posted about it here and I am having an “early bird” special until Sep 1st, so get in now if you want in. There will be two guest presentations, it will be held right smack dab in the middle of downtown and we will be doing some cool street shooting, having a killer lunch (all paid for by me) and a great breakfast with world famous coffee and espresso (also paid for by me). It will be a jam packed day of learning, shooting, food and fun with an optional night out at a local pub/bar for those who feel up to it :) Check out the page here and to sign up, email me at [email protected]

Don’t forget the Leica M9/Thumbs Up promo!

or the Sony NEX/SLR Magic contest (over 200 entries so far!)

In the mood to shoot some film? B&H has a used Leica M7 and an M6 for sale. 

UPDATED my Olympus E-P3 review with a side by side shot between the E-P3 with 12mm and the NEX C3 with 16mm (near the bottom)

IN STOCK! Fujifilm LH-X100 Lens Hood + Adapter Ring

Leica M9 and 50 Lux  review from Forbes – They love it!

Aug 202011
 

Out on the street with the Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens

Yep! I’m still using this little Olympus E-P3 and 12mm lens and am letting my Leica M9-P get some rest. On my recent 24 hour Vegas trip I left the M9-P at home as my mission was to shoot the Sony NEX-C3 and Noktor 50 Hyperprime as well as the SLR Magic 28 2.8. I did bring along the E-P3 and 12mm in case I wanted to shoot any side by side stuff. What ended up happening though was I started shooting the E-P3 more than the NEX! Even my buddy kept reminding me that I was shooting with the wrong camera, haha. Well, this is the thing I am talking about with the E-P series. They are so damn fun to shoot. They feel great in the hand. The controls are just right there where you want them and with the new E-P3 being so fast, it’s almost foolproof.

I shot the camera in the full Nevada sun (which can at times be a little more intense than the Phoenix sun), and also at night time at ISO 3200 using the grainy black and white setting which adds MORE grain to the images. I have tested small AF cameras on the street like this before. Cameras like the Ricoh GXR which gave me good output but was very slow to focus in the low light. The NEX-5 which did great when I shot it at ISO 6400 on the light rail. The Leica X1, which would not even be usable in low light like I shot the E-P3 below,  just due to it’s very slow AF. It could be used in manual though, but not with 100% accuracy when moving quick.

Then we have the Fuji X100, which I adore. BUT if I tried using it in the late night darkness the AF would fail. Too slow. When shooting the E-P3 with the 12mm, even wide open and in dark areas the AF is just about instant, even in lower light. The KIT ZOOM is also lightning fast which tells me that cameras like this, with their contrast detect AF, CAN BE SUPER FAST. It just makes for fun, stress free, and exciting shooting. Then, with a lens like the 12mm, if I want to go manual I just slip the focus ring back and set my distance in feet for some zone focusing fun. I have been reading complaints online where people who do not own the E-P3 are moaning and groaning saying the sensor tech is lagging. Even DPreview posted their full E-P3 review only to conclude that it would have gotten their highest recommendation if the sensor was more megapixels and newer. So what they are saying is that the sensor in the E-P3 (which apparantly is the old E-P2 sensor, but has been tweaked) is too old. Does this mean that you can not take quality photos with it? The answer to that is NO. Of course you can. As a matter of fact, the only one s I have seen complaining about the E-P3 are the people who do not own one. Those who do seem to LOVE the camera, which is my experience as well.

I mean, how long has Tri-X been around in the film world? It still works and I am here to say that the sensor in the E-P3 does indeed still work :) Could it be better? Not really much better as this is micro 4/3 and there are limitations but the quality as it stands now is good enough for 98% of shooters.

The fact of the matter is, even in the new Panasonic G3, which to me, does not feel as nice in my hand, nor to control as the E-P3, has more megapixels and about a half stop improvement in high ISO. It may be a tiny but sharper but I mean, really? The 12MP of the E-P3 is wonderful. Much like another camera that I used to own and LOVE. It was a favorite of mine back in the day and I got slammed when I would post how great it was on forums. I remember taking side by side shots with it and the Canon 5D and I would get better results with the 4MP camera in many situations! I was SLAMMED for saying  this but I did show examples. That camera was the Nikon D2Hs. It was 4MP but man, the quality of the pixels was amazing. Those who owned one (or still do) know what I am talking about. That camera now has sort of a little cult following, even today.

But I am not here today to talk about the D2Hs. Instead, I am here to show some recent examples of out of camera JPEGS shot with the E-P3. Some street shots at night with high ISO and the grainy B&W art filter and a few things in between. Enjoy, and if you have been on the fence about the E-P3 and are invested in the M 4/3 system, I’d say GO FOR IT. It is wonderful and a big improvement in just about every area over the E-P1 and E-P2. The new Panasonic 25 1.4 lens and the new Olympus 45 1.8 (both of which I will review here) will give us a GREAT set of fast primes..12, 25 and 45 which will equal 24, 50 and 90. I’m so happy that the M 4/3 format is starting to mature. The camera is slick, it’s fast, it’s comfortable, it’s built well and like I said in my review, it is THE BEST PEN to date!

OK, ON TO THE IMAGES!

UPDATE – A couple of grumpy people seem to be confused and think my review shots are meant to be works of art to be hung on walls. No, they are not :) – My review shots are just that, shots to review the camera. Snapshots like most people will shoot. Just showing what to expect out of cameras and lenses. My Photo work and print sales are not the photos you find in my reviews :) So keep this in mind. As with ANY camera review site, judge the camera output, not the photo itself. Thank you!

All images are JPEGS from the camera. In some images, contrast, saturation have been adjusted. CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION.

Walking the street in downtown Las Vegas (Fremont Street) is an explosion of light and color. This was shot with the 12mm at what appears to be f/3.2 (exif says so). Love the color. 

and more from Fremont street

Inside Caesars Palace I shot this at f/2. Out of camera JPEG here. Click for larger.

Olympus E-P3 – ISO 1000 – Inside Ceasars

Fremont Street with 12mm

Street performers are everywhere it seems…

Switching over to grainy B&W mode and higher ISO – These were all shot late night

About to get a new tattoo.

Remember, grain is ADDED to these by using the grainy art filter – gives it some grit and grime – ISO 2000, 12mm.

woody just chilling on the strip…ISO 2000

Minnie Mouse taking a break – ISO 3200 – Grainy mode – 12mm

This was shot in a dark casino, ISO 3200, grainy mode AS I WALKED by. I lifted, the camera focused and I snapped. All took place in a fraction of a second. Yes, it is blurred because I was walking but shows how fast the AF is in low light.

My buddy Mike  – ISO 2500 – grainy B&W

and again a few minutes later – ISO 1250 – f/2 – Grainy B&W mode.

Aug 192011
 

 



Testing the Noktor 50 f/0.95 for the Sony E Mount with the new NEX-C3

Hello to all! It’s been a LONG LONG day for me but I am back in my office and doing what I love to do most, and that is to sit here at my desk while in my big comfy chair and tell you guys about my experiences when shooting with new gear :)

The 24 Hour Adventure

Yesterday afternoon my buddy Mike and I took a drive to Las Vegas, which is about a 4-5 hour drive from Phoenix. I brought along a very light kit consisting only of the Olympus E-P3 and 12mm lens and the brand new Sony NEX-C3 camera. I decided last minute to drive to Vegas just so I could have a change of scenery to test out the Noktor Sony “E” mount 50mm f/0.95 Hyperprime, which is basically the same lens (though now made in a new factory with better fit and finish) as the Micro 4/3 version I reviewed over a year ago. Seeing new things can inspire and I needed it after spending day in and day out in the hot blazing sun and brown desert that is PHOENIX. Yep, this was gonna be a quick 24 hour trip but I was excited.

Another Noktor Hyperprime?

Some of you probably remember that I was the 1st in the world to review the Noktor 50mm Hyperprime for Micro 4/3.  I was also the first to say I didn’t care for it. It was OK for what it was, but it was very soft, very low contrast, and the colors were not so hot. I did manage to get some decent shots at a wedding with it attached to an Olympus E-P2 but at the end of the day, the lens just was not for me. Shortly after that review Noktor seems to have disapeared and then later resurfaced when SLR Magic bought them out.

SLR Magic made a few tweaks to the lens design and started manufacture of the lens in a totally different factory, and then they released it for the Sony E mount. Yep, a 50mm f/0.95 lens for the Sony NEX mount cameras, which will give you a 75MM equivalent, unlike the 100mm equivalent on Micro 4/3.

Many out there argue that this lens (well, not THIS specific version) can be bought on ebay (but without the “E” or M4/3″ mount) for less than the $1000 or so Noktor charges for it. Well, the lens as it is now is pretty slick looking and does indeed come complete with the mount of your choice, a box, metal screw in lens cap, etc. None of this means SQUAT if the lens sucks though, so my curiosity was aroused.

After asking SLR Magic about this lens they shipped out the Sony version to me so I could give it away to one lucky reader in my SLR Magic/NEX contest. That was pretty cool of them to just donate the lens for me to give away. Since I had the lens here, I decided to take it out and see if it performed better on the NEX with it’s larger sensor than it did on the E-P2 and to see if the color and contrast was any better (it was pretty bad when I reviewed the 1st version of this lens on Micro 4/3)

I will make this quick as this is really just a quick look at the lens. I only shot with it for one night so all I am qualified to talk about is my quick experience with the lens.

 

FIT AND FINISH

The lens feel and looks GREAT. It’s metal, it’s very solid, and it’s built very well. This lens is actually a lens designed for cinema so the aperture ring does not click. Instead it is just free and smooth and you can lock it down with a twist of a metal knob. I left it wide open all night at f/0.95. I have NO COMPLAINTS on the build or look/feel. The build of the Hyperprime gets a B+ in my book and a lens like the Leica Noctilux gets an A+, which is a TANK. So a B+ is actually quite good for a $1000 f/0.95 lens.

PERFORMANCE

 

I will not lie or sugar coat it. As with the Micro 4/3 version, this lens is a CHALLENGE to use. I shot it all night in the Fremont street area of Las Vegas and it was tough to get sharp images. Why? Well, this lens is NOT really that sharp when wide open. It CAN be a teeny bit sharp if you nail the focus, or if you stop it down to 1.4 but using focus peaking, shooting quick, and shooting wide open was a HUGE challenge. I love challenges though so what did I think after a few hours of use? Well, I do indeed like it better on the NEX than I did on Micro 4/3 but it is still a challenge to use due to the shallow DOF.

I ONLY used the focus peaking feature of the NEX-C3 when shooting this lens. Basically, when you manually focus there are bright red areas on the screen that pop up on the in focus areas of the image. Never once did I stop and magnify the back LCD. Shooting in this manner with the Noktor and NEX was a breeze and I want to give Sony huge props for implementing this peaking feature. It works very well. BUT as I already stated the Noktor lens itself IS INDEED a somewhat soft lens when shot wide open. I mean, it is a f/0.95 50mm for around $1000 so we can not expect miracles.

The lens felt good on the NEX-C3 but the camera is just a bit too small for my tastes when using lenses like this. The grip is semi useless and everything is just too cramped. IN use, I MUCH prefer shooting the Olympus E-P3 as it is a little larger, has better controls, and feels great in my hands. The C3 was just too small for me to really get into it with the Noktor and if I were buying a NEX today, I would go with a NEX-5 over the C3, no contest. It has a better grip, feels more solid and because of this, it feels better in my hand. I can say that with the 16mm kit lens, the NEX-C3 felt good but still a little small. Maybe I am just so used to the larger grip on the NEX-5?

Ok, how about the images? I did say this was a “quick look” so let’s get to what is important, the RESULTS!

You can click on any image for a larger view and to see the pictures how they should be seen. Also please note, every image in this review was shot as a JPEG. Photoshop/Lightroom does not process NEX-C3 RAW files yet. Some of  the JPEGs had minor enhancements – Levels, contrast, color saturation, etc.

Shot wide open and from a distance using the Focus Peaking of the NEX-C3 – The Noktor gives you the dreamy creamy look. Color does seem pretty good, and better than what I got on the M4/3 version over a year ago.

You can get good results if you concentrate. Again, the colors are saturated and bold here. Wide open, click for larger.

These girls were taking photos of themselves with all of the cool lights behind them.

The Bokeh? What do YOU think?

I did NOT focus on the letters here but instead on the cable/wire in front of them. Again, wide open and you can see the look you can expect from this lens on the NEX cameras.

Shot very quickly as I walked by and was lucky to nail it. Again, click image for larger view!

A walk by shot. I raised the camera, aimed, quickly focused and when the NEX told me I had focus I fired away!

Another quick raise and shoot! 

What a combo, spongebob and chucky.

More Bokeh testing….Vegas is so colorful!


In the mirror :)

and stopped down to 1.4..it sharpens up quite a bit when you stop it down a little

Click the image below for a straight from camera JPEG and 100% crop shot at 0.95, wide open. 

So what is the verdict on the Noktor Hyperprime f/0.95 E mount? YOU be the judge!

Ok, some of you may have not even read what I wrote above about how I disliked the Micro 4/3 version of this lens. Well, as you can see from the images above, the lens does seem to do better in most areas when using the larger image sensor of the NEX. The color is better and the contrast is better. Period. STILL, this lens is a challenge to use. MANY shots that I took WERE soft and out of focus so I did not always nail it. I thought I did when shooting but when I looked back there were many that were just a bit off. So yes, this lens can be a challenge if you are shooting street, wide open at night! Hell, ANY fast lens is a challenge at night! This IS f/0.95!

Also, NOKTOR IS a site sponsor (see their ad to the right) and  they did send me this lens to give away as part of my contest BUT this does not mean I am going to tell you that this lens is superb. I am just telling you MY THOUGHTS after one night of use. That’s it. The build is great, the feel is great, it’s a fast 0.95 aperture lens BUT it IS SOFT wide open. It IS a challenge to shoot on the NEX and always get good results. It DOES have a dreamy creamy look, and you will either like it or you will not. YOU CAN buy a Voigtlander 50 1.1 and adapter and shoot it on the NEX but it will run you a little bit more money and it will be bigger. It will also be sharper and more correct. So it is up to you as to what you are looking for.

I guess it will come down to if you like the look of the Noktor or not. Personal preference. I mean, a Leica M9 and 50 Noctilux 0.95 will set you back $18,000. The NEX-C3 and Hyperprime will set you back well under $2000. A savings of $16,000. That is A BIG DEAL. Will you get Leica performance from this combo? NO. It MAY get you somewhat close to the look and feel of the old Leica F/1 Nocti but not quite. This combo is pretty cool though. Even with its quirks and challenges, it is indeed looking better on the NEX system that it did on Micro 4/3. Only you can decide if it is something that floats your boat! YOU be the judge!

Remember, every image in this review was shot as a JPEG as Photoshop/Lightroom does not process NEX-C3 RAW files yet. So, what you see here is not representative of the NEX-C3 and Noktor RAW performance.

Also, do not forget to enter the contest so you can WIN THIS EXACT lens! Click here to read about it and enter!

A Few Words on the Sony NEX-C3…nice but nothing groundbreaking

As you guys know, I have been a fan of the Sony NEX-5 since its release and have written many articles on it. The review, shooting it with Leica glass, comparisons, etc. The NEX-5 was never a perfect camera but the one thing it had going for it was its large APS-C sensor, nice construction, great grip, and swivel LCD. The weak link in the NEX cameras have always been the Sony lenses. Simply put, they kind of suck for any kind of critical shooting and they fail to please most “enthusiasts”.  This is why many who shoot the NEX cameras use adapters and slap on Leica glass. BUT in the past this has been slow, cumbersome, and tricky because you would have to magnify the LCD, compose, focus, then shrink the LCD and take your shot. I was never a fan of this so I always shot it with the Sony branded 16mm.

Recently Sony updated the firmware to give filters similar to Olympus’s own Art Filters as well as “Focus Peaking”. THIS is the winning feature as we can now shoot with fast 3rd party lenses and get focus MUCH quicker! No need to magnify the screen. Many of the test shots above were taken VERY quickly. I would raise the camera and quickly focus until I saw the bright red lines showing me what was in focus. BOOM! Thats it. Even with a fast 0.95 lens it was easy and do-able.

The NEX-C3 is the latest camera from Sony in the NEX lineup. It replaces the NEX-3 and what we get is now an even smaller body, a two tone black and silver trim that is very slick looking and the C3 also gets a new sensor with 2 more megapixels (went from 14 to 16). The C3 has the new “BIONZ” image processing (who thinks of these names?, lol). Everything else, in all reality is the same as the NEX-3. So new smaller and slicker body style, new sensor, and new processing. Sony also separated the SD card from the battery compartment and it now has its own little space and door. I do like  this improvement. Sony kept the same menu system and it is exactly the same as the NEX-3 and 5 with the new firmware.

I really do not see why anyone would choose a C3 over the NEX-5 right now, especially when they are about the same price, $599. I do see the NEX-5 has been discontinued as the new C5 is on the way, and then the NEX-7 which is still in the rumor phase but very likely.

The C3 is a very sweet and cool looking camera with the Sony 16mm mounted but IMO it is almost too tiny, especially if you are going to mount glass like this Noktor Hyperprime. Personally, I can’t wait for the NEX-7 as if this camera pans out as we are thinking, it is going to be a 100% winner. The NEX-C3 is sort of just here and there. Not really much of an improvement over the 3 and hard for me to get excited about. If you are looking into the NEX system, and never bought a NEX camera then I could recommend the C3 or the 5. To see the specs of the NEX-C3 and read more about it, OR TO BUY IT then click HERE. 

If you are wondering if the C3 is worth upgrading to from the NEX-3 then I would say not really. The new firmware will work just fine on your current NEX and give you the new features like Focus Peaking and the picture effects. Save your case. But if you want a new NEX then the C3 is worth considering if you want to get in to it for the least amount of money. B&H Photo usually has it in stock HERE. The NEX -C3 can indeed give you some stellar IQ with the right lenses. I’m getting fantastic results with the SLR Magic 28.28 (review coming soon).

Click image for larger – NEX-C3 with SLR Magic 28 2.8 – Out of camera JPEG!

PERSONALLY, I am still LOVING this Olympus E-P3 and can not recommend it more highly with the 12mm f/2 lens. It is just a joy to use and LIGHTNING fast (faster AF than the NEX). I shot with it a ton in Vegas and will post some shots later but here is one comparison I did with the E-P3 and 12mm at f/5.6 and the NEX-C3 and the 16mm 924) at f/5.6. You can click each image below to download the full size out of camera JPEGS from each camera. The NEX gives more megapixels and a different color signature but the Oly file is great as well, and the camera is soooo much fun to use. Love it! BUT, the Oly combo is about $1100 MORE expensive than the C3 combo and the C3 gives you a smoother IQ due to the larger sensor. Once again, it all depends on what you are looking for in a camera.

SONY NEX-C3 – CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG – 16mm (24) – f/5.6

OLYMPUS  E-P3 – CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG – 12mm (24) – f/5.6

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Be sure and visit the all new forums on the site HERE.

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