Sep 182014
 

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Re-Visiting the Canon Dream Lens, 50 f/0.95

When we choose and buy our cameras some of us fail to realize that the heart of our camera is not our sensor or the camera body itself, it is the lens. The lens is what makes the camera “see”..it is what delivers the image to the sensor..it is the eyeball of your camera. The better the lens, the sharper your image, the more correct and richer the color saturation and you will also have the least amount of distortions. Choosing the right lens for your camera is the same thing as a painter choosing the right brush for whatever job they are doing.

For example, if I want a nice portrait lens when I am shooting a Leica M, it is hard to go wrong with a 90 Summicron APO. if I want wide angle, there is the Voigtlander 15 or Leica WATE. When I want subject isolation , a 50mm Summilux or Noctiliux fits the bill. Each lens delivers a different look, this is a fact. Some lenses are soft, have distortions and issues, yet they can still create a nice image. Some lenses create sloppy or horrible bokeh and others will give you creamy bokeh that just melts. Again, choose the lens for what you are trying to achieve.

Lenses ARE the heart of your camera system yet so many of us skimp on the lens. I wonder why? Why am I babbling on about this? Well, it is a longish story but one that I am happy to tell because the lens I am talking about today is a special one, and even a controversial one at times, but it is a beautiful lens to me regardless. One of those lenses you pull out when you want THAT look that only it can give.

Over a year ago, in June of 2013, I wrote a review on a unique lens that had gained a cult following of sorts. A lens that was known for having a crazy “dream like” rendering when shot wide open at its uber fast aperture of f/0.95. Up there with lenses like the original Noctilux or the Canon 85 1.2L. The Canon was a lens that I never saw in the flesh but was wowed by in photos (sometimes) that were taken by others using the lens. It was a quality that I never saw in ANY other lens, cheap to crazy exotic. While a lens like the Leica Noctilux is technically superior to this “Dream Lens”, it can not do what this lens does and vice versa.

The Canon 50 0.95 “Dream Lens” was originally made for the Canon 7 Rangefinder film system of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The 50 f/0.95 was the super fast aperture solution when shooting the Canon 7, and when you look on E-Bay or classifieds for this lens today you will mainly see it in the Canon 7 Rangefinder mount which is unusable for Leica M shooters unless it is modified for M mount use.

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There have been a few of these 50 0.95’s sent in for a Leica M conversion and some have been done horribly bad, some have been done pretty nicely, and some have been done superbly, as in, they could not have done it better. Some have even added a 6 bit code to the lens so the digital Leica M will recognize it as a Noctilux and apply corrections. Pretty slick.

To those who own this lens in M mount, they usually adore it and most say they would never sell it. Because of this,  you do not see too many out there in great shape with a proper M mount conversion because if you do sell your mint M mount copy, chances are it will be very hard to find another just as good, ever. I should know, that is exactly what happened to me. After writing my review over a year ago I had a flood of e-mails offering me crazy money to buy my lens. I loved it and did not want to sell but I usually love money more than gear and get it when I can (money), especially if it ended up where I actually made a few bucks. So I sold my last version over a year ago which was an 8/9 out of 10 for condition, focus and IQ. It was so so good!

Of course, after I sold the lens I missed it within 2 days, even with $3500 in my bank account from the sale. I regretted that sale more than almost any other sale I have made in my photographic life. WHY? Not because this lens was such a technological marvel, or super sharp or up there with the likes of the Noctilux. Nope. I missed it because when I was shooting a 50 Lux the day after I realized I would never again have that special look that this lens gave me. In reality, this lens is a special effects lens when shot wide open and when shot from f/2 on it is like a normal fast lens but very sharp and with a very creamy draw. But it is the wide open use is what gave this jewel its nickname of Dream Lens. It renders the background into a dream like blur. A watercolor effect almost. It is pretty amazing IMO. As I said, nothing like it out there and to be able to use it on a Leica M or Sony A7, in full frame, as it was meant to be shot but with modern ISO capabilities..wow. Take a look at the Flickr page for the Dream Lens, which has been up for years and funny enough, was started by Ashwin Rao! LOADS of samples there that will show you what this lens does.

So yea, I missed it after I sold it. Damn! Even though my last copy sold for $3500, and I had a few who wanted it at that price, and even one offer at $4000 that came after I sold it, I still regretted the sale.

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So I started my search for another MINT copy

Since the last sale I kept an eye on e-bay and some classified sites searching for the perfect copy of this lens. I was picky. I was waiting patiently for the “one”, hopefully a 9/9.5 out of 10 and I wanted a hood, cap and 6-Bit coding. I was ready to pay up to $3k for one and did see some on E-bay from China that were selling for $2800-$3000 but was hard to trust those sellers as you never know just how the lens will be. Will the focus be spot on for the RF? Will it be clean without scratches or haze or fungus? It was a chance and shipping from China to the USA was a little risky, though it could have and most likely would have worked out fine. Still, I waited until I came across one that was either local or close to it.

Then I found one…

Then, as I was ready to lose patience and jump to buy a “92 out of 100″ rated dream lens on e-bay from a vendor in China I saw a a Facebook notification, as it was a sign.. it was a a post with images of a MINT M Mount Canon 50 0.95 with 6 bit coding. Hmmm. I even knew the guy, Jeff Warren, as he was at my last workshop in Nevada! He even lived in Los Angeles, a 5-6 hour drive from me. Jeff hinted that he MAY be selling in that Facebook post so I messaged him and we chatted, I thought for a bit and I bought it. He even sent it Fed Ex overnight, the same day, for no extra charge. I received the lens in less than 24 hours from the moment that I sent him the money via Paypal, 19 hours to be exact.

My main concern was that it would be off with the Rangefinder of the Leica because at 0.95 there is a VERY thin DOF. Any misfocus would be a nightmare as I have experienced first hand with a few fast lenses over the years.

Luckily it arrived and it looked amazing, a solid 9/10. The glass was/is perfect. No issues. I mounted it to the MM (no need for an adapter as this is M mount with 6 Bit) and fired away some shots. Perfecto! I mounted it to the A7s with a Voigtlander M to E adapter and even more WOW. Was so awesome shooting it on the A7s. Easy to focus with the large EVF and it felt really good on the A7s body. NOW THIS is a low light combo to dream for.

ULTRA THIN DOF at 0.95 – Sony A7s.  Some vignetting when used on the A7s at 0.95, that is the only issue.

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Regrets?

So after a couple of hours being happy as a newborn baby with a mouthful of milk I asked myself…”so, do you regret buying this for so much money“? My answer to myself was NO!! I was HAPPY, I was THRILLED, I was ECSTATIC. I told myself that I would not sell this one. But I have been here before, with many lenses that I swore I would never sell. None of them have tugged at me like this one though. Sure, I have owned them all – the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95, the SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime, the Mitakon Speedmaster and of course the Summicrons and Summilux lenses, which are all gorgeous and technically amazing. But this lens just does something special and while it is not an every day lens, it could be if you stopped it down to f/2 or f/2.8.

I am going to start using this lens with the A7s, MM and M in various locations and clubs shooting local live bands, which on many occasions shoot in near darkness to small crowds, ver small crowds. This is a lens that will do great things in these scenarios I think. I am also going to bring it out for certain portrait sessions, to add that extra flair and uniqueness that you do not see in many photos these days. I am not talking about just doing the whole shallow DOF Bokeh thing, but using it artistically and effectively.

I missed focus on this one with the A7s somehow, but I still like it :) A B&W filter was applied in processing.

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The fact is that this lens brings us a “draw” that no other lens does. Period. This lens is also pretty rare set up in an M mount with 6 Bit coding. It is even rarer to find this in a 9/10 condition. I am vowing to hang on to this lens!! Hehehe. We will see.

When I wrote about this lens in my 1st review I mainly used it with the M 240, which also rocks with this lens. Since I did that review with the M, I wanted to focus on using it with the A7s and Monochrom this time around, so this is what this article will be about.

The Canon 50 0.95 on the Sony A7s. I also have my JB grip on the camera as well as a ARTISAN OBSCURA sticky soft release.

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First up, the Sony A7s and the 50 0.95

With the new Sony A7 series, particularly the A7s (my fave of the three) this lens takes on a whole new world of possibilities. For one, this classic fast lens can now be used on a full frame mirrorless camera with integrated EVF and up to insane ISO’s. Much like the Mitakon I reviewed a while back, this lens will make the A7s a true king of the night. At f0.95 and ISO capability up to 100k usable, there will be no light that you can not shoot in, period. Add to that the moody possibilities and artistic weirdness that the Dream Lens puts out and you can create images that not many others can even get close to in style and flash. Of course, you have to know your stuff..know what you are doing, otherwise the images will look bad, even VERY bad.

But use your skill to its fullest and you can create some interesting images that are worthy of framing. Images that people will see and say “wow, how did you do that”.

When this lens is on the A7s using the Voigtlander close focus adapter you can focus in VERY close. MUCH closer than you can when using it on the M or MM. This is invaluable and will even make the dream lens MORE dreamy. It is true, when this lens was given the name “Dream Lens” it was for a reason. Just take a look at my original review to see some dreaminess with the M 240.

When I used this lens with my well used A7s, I think it was the best ever match for this lens, and the good news for A7 shooters is that you do not need to find the rare M mount version to use this on the A7. you can now buy a standard Canon 7 version of this lens, of which they are plentiful on e-bay, and use a canon 50 0.95 to E mount adapter. This can save you about $1,000 when buying the lens if you only want to use it on a Sony A7 body.

After realizing this, I started to really realize how special the Sony A7 series is. I mean, I knew it was already but there is no other full frame system out there that can do what the A7 series does, especially the A7s. This is the 1st ever camera, full frame, that will allow you to use this Dream Lens and even use it with close focusing, AND nail focus due to the critical focus you can achieve with the EVF and magnification.

I love this on my MM and M but for the ultimate Dream Lens experience I think it should be shot on an A7s. End of story. After using it with the A7s I wanted to carve my name in the side to assure I never am tempted to sell it for some quick cash. :) I did not do this of course but I have to say, I love this lens. Below are some images with it on the Sony A7s.

All images below are from the Sony A7s and Canon 50 0.95, WIDE OPEN. You must click on the images  to see them larger and in the correct way. If you do not, you will not see  them the way they were meant to be seen.

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As you can see this lens can perform well on the Sony A7s, in daylight or in darkness. In fact, I prefer it to the original Leica Noctilux f/1. It is sharper at the focus point and has a nicer draw for my tastes. It is also easier to hold and balance on the camera. The more I use this lens on the A7s and Leica cameras, the more I realize just how special of a lens it is. At the average cost of $3-$3500, it is a great lens to add to your collection if the look and capabilities it can offer are to your liking.

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On the Leica MM this lens is a wonderful match as is any classic lens. I feel the Mono is at its best with classic glass over modern analytical glass and this Dream lens helps to round it all out. The IQ is stunning and while not like a Noctilux 0.95 in perfection it has its own Mojo going on that can not be denied.

Before I keep on going on about my love for this lens, I will say that not everyone will like this lens. Some will HATE it. Many like what I call “The Summicron Look”, which is clean, crisp, sharp and even. Many who love that look HATE the look of the Canon Dream Lens. They will say the Bokeh is awful and busy and the lens is soft (it is not soft though). So before you even think about this lens,make sure you LOVE what it does because if you do not then you will tire of it.

With that out of the way, using it on the MM is quite lovely. You lose the closer focusing of the A7s but you are shooting in pure B&W and this lens loves B&W. It has a nice micro contrast  that is gentle and allows your subject to pop while the edges and background just melt away into a fantasy land. Wide open it is quite crazy. Stopped down it is nice and smooth.

The main issue with users of the Leica M or MM is you want to make sure the M mount Dream Lens you find/buy is good with your cameras RF. Many old lenses are off, and if your lens or your camera is off just a hair, the lens will be a challenge to focus. If possible, test the lens before buying, which in 99% of cases is impossible I know.

The B&W from the MM and this lens is richer than the A7s with B&W. It’s a whole different style of shooting as well, much different. RF shooting is something that will be rewarding when you get out there and get those shots using manual focus and manual controls.

Below are a few shots with this lens on the Monochrom.

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Getting the most from the Dream Lens requires a few things..

If you choose to buy or use this lens or even if you have one and are thinking, “My shots do not look that good, mine are low in contrast and softer and do not pop like these”, then read on as I will tell you how to get this look from this lens. The Canon 50 0.95 lens is a lens with lower contrast than most modern lenses so when you process the photos you must do a couple of things to bring out the goodness in the files :)

First, PLEASE shoot RAW. This is not an OOC JPEG type of lens. For you to get the best from it you need to bump the contrast and add some sharpening as well. I shoot RAW and when processing the RAW file I bump the contrast slider up until it looks good without going overboard. I also mess with the shadow slider to bring out shadows that were covered by the contrast slider. I may also tweak the highlight slider if needed. Add some sharpening and convert that file to a JPEG. That is all you have to do, but when you do it take s an OK image and makes it into one that will be much nicer looking. To those who complain about this lens saying it is soft, low contrast, or has issues..well, you either have a bad copy or are not using it correctly.

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My Original video on the Canon Dream Lens

I did a video over a year ago on this lens with my thoughts on it back then. If you missed it, take a look below:

Final Word on the Dream Lens

I will tell you what I told you over a year ago HERE in my original review…

If you lust after this lens, BUY ONE if you can find one in great shape. Prices have went up and will continue to go up. Mark my words. In two to three years this lens will be hovering around $5k for an M mount, mint, with cap and hood, 6 Bit coded, maybe more than that in 3-5 years. It offers just as much fun as the Noctilux 0.95 with more uniqueness for 1/3 the cost, 2/3 the size and 1/2 the weight. For me it even beats the old Noctilux f/1, which Leica created due to this very lens.

If you shoot a Sony A7 series camera it is so good on these bodies, a truly drool and lust worthy piece. If you shoot an M you can use live view for critical focus and on the MM it is a beauty. But do not expect perfection, not at all. This lens is not about being perfect. It has some vignetting, it can be soft looking if you mis focus and  the contrast can be slightly low if you do not tweak it. What makes this lens so sought after is the Bokeh, which is unlike any other lens ever made. You can really make some images that are very painterly with this guy.

At the current price of around $3200 for a mint M mount copy they will not be heading down or getting cheaper. If you like the look of the images here, in my original review, or on the Flickr group then this  is the only lens that will give it to you. Happy Hunting and if you own this lens, leave a comment letting us know how you like it, how you shoot it and what you shoot it on! Thanks everyone!

Steve

Sep 162014
 

Medical Mission

By Brian Ho

Hello team Huff!

I first entered photography with a manual 1960s honey-well Pentax and 50mm lens in medical school. It was my uncles and an easy way to collect some credits. I soon expand to a canon 40d, and then the 5d mark II (85 f1.2 lens). However that 5000$ system would often sit at home and only taken out occasionally. I then read your article on the RX1 and RX100 and bought both of those at once with the slush funds of selling my previous canon system. I really loved the RX1, but longed for a little flexibility in interchangeability.

I then switched to the sony A7 and Leica summilux 50 f1.4. But for some reason I couldn’t shake my nostalgia for the RX1 and its images and feel of the camera. The Leica A7 combination felt imbalanced to me (literally b/c of the lens weight and artistically), and i re-invested in the Rx1 and sold the A7. I kept the leica lens though, maybe it’ll get me into the next leica system.

I am a Otolaryngology head/neck surgeon and recently returned from a medical missions trip in Peru. Medicine has really inhibited my interested in the arts, but photography is easily included for documentation purposes. So i hope that you guys enjoy some of my photos, with minimal touch-up and cropping. I think that the operating theater is a place that few people ever get to see the joys and awe of. It’s a place where the lighting is dramatic and where a lot of miracles happen.

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Sep 152014
 

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Black & White with the Sony A7s, Leica Monochrom and Cheap lenses!

There is a beauty to B&W that is oftentimes not seen in color. Sure, there is place for color photography as our own vision is in color, this is how we see but there is something classic about B&W that just pulls at the heartstrings for many of us. When I was growing up the big thing was Polaroid cameras and instant film. Even 110 cameras and those silly disc cameras with disc film were in. There was NOTHING quite like what we have today and photography, while well-loved by so many back then, was not practiced nearly as much as it is today.

The Sony A7s with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. For ANY Leica Monochrome or Sony A7s shooter, his lens is a MUST own. It does well on color on the A7s as well. One of my faves. At $599 shipped, you can not go wrong for those times when you want wide-angle on your full frame. 

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With so many color filled images on Facebook and in all of the social circles I have become quite fond of pure, simple B&W photography.

Yesterday I went out to shoot some portraits of my (soon to be) stepdaughter Katie. I brought along my Monochrom, a Sony A7s and even a Mamiya 645 with Leaf Credo 40 back (have it for testing now) and the HoldFast Money Maker and Roamographer bag I just reviewed. I have to say, this Sony A7s just keeps on impressing the hell out of me. Seriously. It seems there is NOTHING it can  not do. From ultra low light to super bright light. From rich color to pleasing B&W. From using Sony FE lenses to using Leica mount lenses. It just seems to do it all, very well. I won’t even get into the video aspect, which is its main feature.

Even the 85mm f/2 Jupiter 9 that I paid $80 for is a fun lens. This is another Russian Leica screw mount lens and while it is a bit soft wide open it is well worth the cost for when you want a soft look. Sony A7s.

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For me, so far, the Sony A7s has been the best camera release of the year. Even with all of the new stuff at Photokina, so far, nothing has gotten me more than the A7s in 2014. I was shooting it yesterday with a $30 Jupiter 8 lens I picked up locally, which is a Russian Leica Screw mount 50 f/2. Yes, $30. How can ANY $30 lens be any good? Well, it may not be anything like a Leica or Zeiss 50 but it has its charms for sure.

Below is an image I shot with the A7s and Jupiter 8 lens, wide open at f/2. For $30 it can render a beautiful soft image. This was shot on the Sony A7s.

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As I mentioned earlier, I also brought along the Leica Monochrom, which for me is an instant classic. I feel Leica will release a new Monochrome in a year or two based on the M240 or whatever the next M will be. If they do, it will not be like the current monochrome due to the CCD sensor. Again, as with the M9 vs M 240, there will be fans of each model. The Monochrom has something about it that makes you just want to use it, shoot it and LOVE it. Is it worth $8,000? No. But it is a wonderful camera to own and use and it has results that can be superb, depending on the lenses you use with it.

The Leica Monochrom with Voigtlander 15 (cropped)

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The MM is simple in its design, it is an M after all. It has simple menus, basic settings, and is small yet very sturdy and solid. Many scoff at buying a camera that can only do B&W but if you love pure and true B&W imaging and have a true passion for it, there is no other alternative. For me it is like having a Leica film camera loaded with every B&W film type on the market and then some. You can dial in any look you want from Tri-X to Neopan to Delta.

The Leica MM with the Voigtlander 15 – cropped

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So how much difference is there between a file from the Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom when both are done in B&W? Well, the Monochrom will have much more fine detail for super large prints and a more subtle shift of grey tones throughout but the A7s is also very nice with B&W imaging. For the images here I used VSCO filters for ALL of the images so they will all have a similar signature and look. Without those filters the differences are more pronounced with the Monochrom giving a deeper range of grey tones to the image. But I have to hand it to the A7s. It rocks with color or B&W. Daytime or night use. But I still love my Leica MM! Also, use it with some great lenses and it will really strut its stuff.

You must click on these images to see them correctly and larger/better quality. This one is a full wide image from the MM and 15.

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For this shoot I used not only the Voigtlander and the Russian glass, I also use the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 which is a fantastic lens. Contrasty, sharp even when wide open and has Auto Focus so you do not have to be critical with your eyeball :) Both images below were with the A7s and 55 1.8 lens.

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So while B&W may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love it. For me it pays homage to Photography’s past while also allowing a purity to come through. No white balance to worry about, no color shifts, no problems. Just pure. simple. photography. I would like to thanks my model, Katie Casey for her time and patience with me while I tried to manually focus those old lenses in the 100 degree heat :)

You will notice I did not include any images from the Leaf Credo/Mamiya system. I shot about 20 images with that setup yesterday and it was a BEAST. Heavy, cumbersome, large and loud.

 With that said, here is one from the Leaf setup though the shadow of my head ruined the shot:

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and again, the similar shot with the A7s and $30 Jupiter lens which shows the soft Jupiter signature:

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You can read my full Sony A7s review HERE or buy one HERE at Amazon or at B&H Photo HERE.

You can read my full four-part Leica MM review HERE, see my gallery HERE or buy one at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami or Pro Shop. Also at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Sep 122014
 

My first 6 months with the Sony A7

by Alfredo Guadarrama

Well, the first 6 months with my A7 went pretty fast and I thought it was a good moment to gather some thoughts on this system. I’m a former Nikon user that had a D600 and a D7000 before with a plenty number of lenses. I had the opportunity to have a variety on focal lengths that gave me a lot of versatility to take decent pictures in most of the common scenarios.

After having several problems with my D600 and D7000 due to oil spots issues in the mechanism that drives the mirror, I decided to sell all my Nikon equipment and look for an alternative system. This was a very disappointing quality issue. I spent a considerable amount of time removing oil spots in photoshop and lightroom. I thought this situation was unacceptable due to the high prices in this gear.

After doing extensive research on systems I didn’t have a lot of alternatives. I wanted a lighter body but also high performance with good quality lenses. The Canon system offered excellent quality with the 5DMIII and the 6D coupled with high-end lenses. The problem is that these bodies are as heavy as the D600. Most of the time I do travel photography, carrying a heavy body all day long is not very nice.

Then, I went to the Fuji X-system. The glass versatility and quality are great, but the bodies are not full frame. Despite this situation, I think that Fuji is doing a great job in terms of quality image. I think that the jpegs from the current line of cameras/lenses are superb. Finally, I decided to go with the Sony A7. I chose this body because it is full-frame. When compared to the A7R (A7S didn’t exist at that moment), I chose the A7 because it had a better autofocus system, lower megapixels (less hard drive space with very good image quality), and was significantly cheaper. The only downside was the lenses. The variety of lenses was and it is still very small with high prices. As we are seeing now with the appearance of new lenses (e.g. Loxia), my hopes of a larger variety of lenses is becoming a reality. I know that you can use third party lenses with adapters, but I’m not the best fan. I think lenses are made specifically to work well in a system, and second, I love having autofocus (I know that peaking mode works wonders in the A7).

So, the lenses I bought were the 35F2.8 and the 24-70F4 from Zeiss. Shot with the A7 and the Nikon 35mm f1.8G (Fotodiox Adapter)

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And here is the Sony A7 + 35F2.8 with a leather half case. Shot with the iPhone 5c

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Since I received my A7 I have had the chance to shoot 6000+ photos with the camera and I must say that it has pros and cons. To make it simple for readers I put them as a bullet list:

PROS

  • Lightweight when compared to a DSLR.
  • Small size that doesn’t take half of the space in your backpack.
  • Viewfinder screen, you see what you’ll get.
  • Superb image quality, especially with the 35 mm (Zeiss).
  • Intuitive and well positioned controls and dials, you have dedicated knobs for aperture, speed, ISO.
  • Internal Wi-Fi, the app works much better than the one for Nikon and the camera has built-in wi-fi. For the Nikon you need to buy a 50USD adapter.
  • Tilting screen is very useful when shooting over a crowd or close to the floor.

CONS

  • Battery life is ridiculous, cannot last one full day of shooting. I had to buy a lot of additional batteries (40 USD each).
  • Usually one stop slower than DSLRs in the same situation. I think this is related to the fact it is a mirrorless system.
  • Small variety of lenses, current line is very expensive.
  • Some distortion with the 24-70F4 at 24mm, the lens works pretty well as a general purpose lens (could be better for the price).
  • Extremely noisy. This camera has been hard to use while shooting inside a church or temple where you need to be quiet.
  • Not weather/dust resistant (would have been nice for travel photography)

I had the opportunity to use the camera in the Boston, Miami, NYC, London, Dubai and several countries Asia. I was surprised with the camera. It performed very well, it was very easy to use and despite being one of the first times using it, I didn’t have any trouble finding specific settings. The lcd screen is big enough to review sharpness and focus in the pictures. The wifi worked wonders when I wanted to share a picture with my family or in Instagram.

Here are some of the shots I have taken so far since I got the camera, most of them are edited in Lightroom with VSCO film presets:

Charing Cross in London, UK

Leicester Square Station

Ultra Music Festival in Miami, USA

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Boston, USA

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Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE

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Sumo tournament in Tokyo, Japan

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Low light performance is astonishing for a camera of this size (no tripod was used in this shot).

Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari

Geisha District in Kyoto, Japan

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Men playing cards near Guilin, China

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French Concession in Shanghai, China

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The skyline in the shot below was taken using a mefoto tripod, Victoria Skyline in Hong Kong

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Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand

Soho, NYC

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In case you own a A7/A7R/A7S, I recommend you watching this video from Ralfs Foto-Bude in YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMQES0u-9Bw .

It presents an in-depth analysis of the different menus and options inside the camera. I found it pretty useful when learning how to use the A7.

As a conclusion, buying this camera was a very good choice, amazing are results. This camera was a good choice because it adapts to my photographic needs and delivers the quality I’m expecting. It is not a perfect camera, but is the best solution for me in the current market offering. Please share your thoughts and comments. They will be interesting to read.

Thank you Steve, for giving your website readers the opportunity to share their thoughts. Congratulations for your great work.

Alfredo

P.S. If you want to see more of my work using this camera please go to:

Portfolio: www.alfredoguadarrama.com
500px: www.500px.com/alfredoguadarrama

Sep 112014
 

The most Interesting Pre-Photokina Releases so far…to me.

With only a few days to go until Photokina kicks off we have already had some pre announcements from Fuji, Sony, Olympus and others. Nothing MAJOR and nothing WOW but I feel these big announcements will come VERY soon ;) They better! So far we have the below announcements that are somewhat interesting, but nothing ground breaking.

FUJI

As I reported the other day, Fuji has announced the X100T, the new 56 1.2, new X-T1 color/finish and even the X30. The X100T is an ongoing evolution of the X100 series camera and for me, the best Fuji has announced yet (more to come i am sure). Me, call me nuts but I prefer the original X100 even today over the X100s. After using both side by side I feel the sensor in the original is a bit more organic and dare I say..more Leica like? The X100T uses the same sensor as the X100s, which is also a fabulous camera that many swear by (my review is here). The X100 series for me is where it is at for Fuji. While I like the X-T1 a lot, the simplicity and classic lines of the X100 is what gets my blood pumping to shoot. For me, it is about simplicity. Period. Simple, clean, easy to use and shoot, fixed 35 f.2. What more can you ask for besides a full frame sensor? (See Sony RX1 for that). The X100T is available for $1299. Priced right for a super camera system.

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The new X30 is also an evolution of the X10, X20 and appears to be a super little camera as well. New EVF, new told LCD, new Classic Chrome simulation and new Large capacity battery that will give you a powerhouse 470 shots makes it sound like the little X30 may be the bang for the buck in the Fuji lineup. It looks sweet as well, the best X10 type camera to date in the design department I think. The cost is also right at $599. 

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You can pre-order all of the new Fuji from my list of recommended Fuji dealers: B&H Photo, PopFlash.com, or Amazon.

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OLYMPUS

Olympus has some new goodies on the way as well…a few that I can not mention just yet but so far they have announced a minor release or two. For example, one is the all black 12mm f/2. The 12 f/2 has long been one of my fave Olympus lenses but to date they have only released it in Silver and a black limited edition that had some extras but also was extra in the $$ department. Olympus has now released the black for normal production so you can get one for $799. This lens is so good on a Olympus body and has given me some fantastic shots. But the lens is nothing exciting if you are looking for something new and fresh. Let’s wait and see what the official Olympus releases will be as compared to the rumor sites :)

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SONY

Sony has announced a new QX camera, the QX1 which is actually an E-Mount in the size and shape of a lens. Basically it helps to turn your iPhone into a high-end APS-C camera. You can use it as is or with your phone. Me, I was never a fan of these oddball cameras. Many love them but for me, if I am going to have something like this, I think I would just use my phone as it is. I love what Sony is doing with the A and RX series but am not sold on the QX yet. Maybe once I give it a try I will enjoy it :) Coming it at $398 you will also need to add an E-Mount lens to this QX1. It is rumored that Sony will be saving its big WOW announcements for 2-4 months AFTER Photokina. Is there truth to this? NO idea but if so it seems odd as they would miss the Christmas season with those big releases. The last two years were huge for the Sony A7 and RX1 with huge holiday sales at launch. I am anxious to see the rumored new RX2 ;)

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ZEISS

As I posted about last week, Zeiss has announced two new full frame manual lenses for the Sony E-Mount system. The Loxia 35 and 50 f/2 will be superb I think and give Sony A7 users more choices when it comes to a high quality fast prime lens, and Zeiss is a name that means quality. I use Zeiss ZM with my Leica’s and love them. Zeiss also announced the 85mm OTUS which has already been tested by DXO and they claim it is the best portrait lens ever made. Coming in at $4,490 IT IS NOT cheap! But damn, it will venice. The Nikon mount can be converted to use on Leica or Sony cameras.  Zeiss rocks for sure but be prepared to pay for the Otus if you want the best!

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What is to come?

I feel that this Photokina will not be as ground breaking as previous years. I see Fuji bringing out the X-Pro 2, which is just about due for a full on refresh new EVF, sensor, etc. I also see Sony releasing new FE lenses for the A7 series, as that is what is needed for the A7 cameras! More fast primes IMO! Olympus will be releasing new lenses I am sure..maybe some pro zooms that are expected and possibly a new prime or two. Panasonic I feel will not be doing anything huge this year and Leica, well, I think they will be releasing something really cool, really expensive and really limited edition. I also feel some new T lenses will be shown as well. The new 28 Summilux will also be announced but I expect it to come it at around $7k. Also, MAYBE a new X camera and D-Lux? Maybe. I think Sony has some big guns that will be special on the way but not sure when they will make them official. Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Samsung…I have not heard anything major going in with any of them though Samsung may have something really interesting coming in a few days.

I guess we will find out VERY soon, so I am looking forward to seeing what actually is announced!

Sep 102014
 

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Shooting Ephemerisle 2014 with the Sony A7S and a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2

By Judd Weiss – Visit his site HERE

Most places I go lately, I am the best photographer around. But I come to Steve Huff’s site and community specifically because here I am definitely not the best photographer. I’m learning fast, but I’m relatively new to photography, upgrading from a point and shoot to the original Sony NEX 3 only about 4 years ago. Discovering Steve’s site almost 3 years ago was a major turning point in my photography. I started taking it more seriously when I saw what you guys were up to. I’ve been inspired. The daily inspirations that so many of you have contributed has made me rethink what I’m doing with the camera I’m holding. I’ve never taken any photography classes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t received an education. This community around Steve Huff’s blog is one of the greatest influences on my development as a photographer. So thank you to all who have contributed their vision and creations here. I am very grateful. (Thank you Judd!! Steve)

I’d like to also make a contribution, from my favorite work yet. I shot this entire set of photos with the new amazing Sony Alpha A7S full frame mirrorless camera, with a manual Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 lens. That combo allowed me to achieve low light shots never before possible in the history of photography. Ephemerisle was the perfect event to test out what the Sony A7S can handle in extreme low light. And the Sony A7S was the perfect camera to capture the experience of the dark glowy night that made Ephemerisle shine.

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These shots are unapologetically processed, and I admit I went a bit intense with the colors, but I wanted to, to accurately reflect the surreal nature of Ephemerisle. Some of these photos are a little abstract, but believe me when I tell you those are very true to the experience. What a visual experience! Ephemerisle was incredible. I did the best I could to run around and convey what it was like to be there, over stimulated by this new beautiful foreign universe everywhere you looked.

It’s fair to think of Ephemerisle like Burning Man on the water. Imagine a bunch of RVs at Burning Man connected together, but floating. With dance stage platforms between them.

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I think Ephemerisle was the most exciting and fun time I have had, that didn’t involve a girl, since maybe my college days. I loved running around in that crazy dream world meeting the cast of characters you’ll see in the photos below.

I’m not saying Ephemerisle is better than Burning Man. There’s no way an event of a couple hundred people can in any way rival the scope and all the amazingness of the 50,000+ strong Burning Man festival. But I will say that I enjoyed Ephemerisle more. I loved Burning Man, but the desert is a harsh place. No doubt the sea can be unforgiving as well, but I was very happy to trade an over abundance of dust for an over abundance of water.

No way I would bring my beloved new Sony A7S and Voigtlander lens to get ruined by the intense barrage of fine dust on the Burning Man playa.

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Burning Man is incredible as it lights up the middle of the desert nowhere into an epic glorious city; being out in the middle of the water nowhere, lit up only by the most amazing glowy party you’ve ever seen, Ephemerisle too is a bright beacon of a testament to our evolutionary progress, while floating over the type of early ocean microbes of life that began it all. How far we’ve come, to create such a stunning atmosphere. A cool blend of excitement and serenity. Like Burning Man, being at Ephemerisle confronts you to face both our fragility and our promise that can only be truly seen in an intentional community that has left many of the comfortable constraints of modern society.

Stylistically people often compare Ephemerisle with Water World, and you can see where that’s coming from, only this wasn’t dystopian. Whatever was rough around the edges wasn’t post-apocalyptic, it was prototype. This is from the future, clearly. These are experiences our grandchildren will inherit when they are our age. But it’s a beautiful future. When the sun goes down, we light up even brighter. Humans evolved from a state of continual starvation in a struggle to survive among brutal nature, and now we master the harshest environments to throw parties of abundance like this for recreation. Humans have no shortage of serious problems, but it’s things like Ephemerisle that compel me to acknowledge our bright future of possibilities ahead.

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You might think I’m hyperbolizing a little much. And if I hadn’t been there, that’s totally what I would think while reading this. But there’s a reason for these reflections of anthropological grandeur. Ephemerisle is comprised of exactly the group of intellectuals, business leaders, and artists who are focused daily on the topic of our evolutionary potential as a species. These ARE the people consciously working to design a more beautiful future for all of us. What a treat it is to see one of their early prototypes. And I have to say, I’m in love with this particular prototype they call Ephemerisle.

I’ve got to thank everyone involved for coming together to create Ephemerisle. They made these photos. I just captured what I saw as well as I could. Their vision created this reality. Congratulations to all of their beautiful minds. These photos are my humble tribute.

Ok guys, get ready to watch the colors move…………

The full album and original post can be found on my blog here: http://hustlebear.com/2014/09/04/photos-ephemerisle-july-2014/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

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Note: The widely acclaimed Canon 5D MIII could not have achieved many of these shots. For example: The below shot, while not the cleanest photo in history, was shot at 51,200 ISO (!!) at 1/125 second, handheld from a bobbing moving boat in the dark. It was challenging to stand, and hard to see clearly, let alone to take a clean photo. Try to get anything remotely usable in those conditions with another camera setup.

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Again, the below shot is not perfectly clean and crisp, but it was shot at 32,000 ISO from a moving bobbing boat.

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I love how the camera rendered the daytime shots as well.

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Sep 042014
 

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The Sony A7s Experience: Ongoing thoughts on a Fascinating Camera

By Ashwin Rao - Follow Ashwin on Facebook HERE

Hi everyone, here’s an update with my thoughts on the Sony A7s. This is a camera that seems to be gaining interest, particularly for those individuals who enjoy low light photography or who have a set of rangefinder lenses in place and are looking for another body. I posted these thoughts at one of my favorite forums, and wanted to share them with you, along with a few new photos, just in case you were considering buying the camera in light of the 2014 Photokina announcements.

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In summary, I LOVE my Sony A7s. It’s given me a burst of creativity and joy in shooting that I haven’t experienced since my early days with the Leica M Monochrom (and M9 before). Here are my rolling thoughts. In general, it’s the best non Leica full frame digital solution for M mounts to date, though there are compromises (for some).

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Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. The camera does well with Leica M lenses. Only the 28 Summicron ASPH lens has performed “poorly” on the camera, and even it is usable for non-critical work where sharpness at the edges may not be as important. Everything else that I have thrown at it works well or is easily fixed in post processing using the lens vignetting correction tool in LR5.

2. RAW colors are solid. The camera exhibits different palette than Leica’s M9 and M240 (I prefer the look from the M9, personally, but it’s a matter of taste), and the palette seems tweaked compared to the A7R and A7 cameras, though that may just be my own eyes fooling me. Skin tones tend toward orange, but it’s quite easy to fix (unlike the M240, which I struggled to get right for peoples’ skin tones). I find that it’s quite easy to get the look that you want from A7s files with a bit of post processing

3. Dynamic range: To me, solid, better than my M bodies (no banding through most of the ISO range), but maybe not quite as good as the A7R or A7 in recovering shadows and highlights…this seems borne out by DXO testing

4. The silent shutter option is amazing: Absolutely awesome feature, that I believe re-defines this camera for those who employ it. I am surprised that Sony doesn’t allow a programmable custom button to quickly access this feature. A firmware upgrade here would be perfect. I use the silent shutter feature for nearly all of my shooting, as it eliminates any shutter shake effect (the size and design of the bodies does not allow the present A7 bodies to be very well dampened to vibraation), and the silence makes photographed subjects not know when you are shooting, which can be helpful on the street. The silent shutter does not work well in low light scenes where fluorescent lights are at play, due to interference/banding effects due to the frequency of light interacting with the frequency of the electronic shutter.

5. Class leading shutter speeds: The other nice feature not spoken about regarding the shutter, is that it’s possible to shoot up through 1/8000 shutter speed, so in bright light, one can use very fast lenses for creating DOF without the need for a neutral density filter.

6. ISO: yup, it’s great. I have had no issues shooting through ISO 12,800 (though some detail and DR is lost at that ISO), and I have gotten usable shots through ISO 40,000+. I don’t typically push past ISO 40,000. I consider the A7s to be an “ISO-less” camera, in that I don’t consider ISO to be a limiting factor any more for my style of shooting. Paired with fast glass such as f/0.95- f/1.4, one can literally turn night scenes into day. Color fidelity appears to be preserved as ISO’s are pushed up, meaning that colors don’t get too muddy as ISO’s jump up into the stratosphere. That being said, the camera is just as good in normal light. What doesn’t get stressed enough is how good the camera is across its ISO range

7. Using the Voigtlander VM-E mount adapter with close focus opens up now possibilities with close focus and macro work with the M…this is MARVELOUS, for those of you who like to do macro. I am re-discovering macro in this manner. The adapter is pricey, costing around $300, but it’s worth it and allows standard and close focus use in a cleverly designed way. I have found that you have to be a tad careful about infinite focus, as the adapter seems to allow telephoto lenses such as the 90 summicron to focus just a smidge past infinite.

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8. Autofocus: The camera focuses much better in low light, but the change is not really revelatory. I have the 55 FE lens, which I enjoy, but don’t use much ,as I can manually focus faster in low light (or really in all light). The 35 FE is supposedly a lot better, but I don’t own it at this time.

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All in all, I have found the A7s to be a revelatory camera. The combination of camera design (flip up LCD, EVF, M mount capacity, silent shutter, ISO performance, close focus with VM-E adapter) allows me to be creative and to shoot discretely in ways that were not possible before. Is it perfect? By no means…here are some things that could get better.

1. EVF: Solid, but there’s room for improvement (higher resolution, faster refresh rate), particularly when using focus magnification and focus peaking in concert. Now that Zeiss is producing Manual Focus E mount lenses, I am hoping that Sony incorporates more design elements into future E mount bodies to maximize the utility of manual focus lenses

2. Megapixels. For me, the 18 megapixel range (m9, M Monochrom) is a sweet spot, balancing quality of pixels and size of files. I would hope that future A8s or whatever they are called will increase MP counts without compromising ISO performance or M Mount lens compatibility.

3. M mount lenses. As mentioned, they work great on this body…really! But put the 28 Summicron on the body, and you’ll see there’s room for improvement. Hopefully Sony will recognize that these bodies could really stand to use smaller lenses, in which optical elements lie closer to the sensor, and design sensors that accomodate smaller lens design (i.e. rangefinder/retrofocus lenses)

4.Camera haptics. Sony cameras don’t quite have the joy of handling as do other manufacturers (i.e. Fuji, Leica), and simple tweaks to camera button layout, grip, viewfinder placement, and menu structure could go a long way to making the cameras joyful to use for more people. I have many friends who love the quality of Sony files, but don’t really like how the cameras operate.

Okay, hopefully that “mini” review of my present thoughts helps some who are considering taking the plunge. I have zero desire to upgrade or change cameras, because the A7s is an outstanding photographic tool as is and does so much.

All the best,
Ashwin

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Sep 012014
 

Wedding Photography With The Sony RX10 

By Jacob Glauninger

His website is HERE 

This is the first in a series of reviews I’ve been hoping to do. I’m a bit of a gear head amongst my peers, so unfortunately for me I go through a lot of gear. I’m not a big fan of technical reviews, there are plenty of MTF chart type reviews out there. They have their place, but I find they never really show me how my images will look in the field, so I’m going to try to stick to real world reviews. I’m also going to post edited images, because I always find my self curious what a camera is capable of, not what SOOC jpegs of flowers and bookshelves look like. I’m not gonna wow anyone with technical talk or pixel-peeping, I’ll leave that to the other reviewers. The question I am attempting to answer in this review is simply this: is the Sony RX10 a capable for shooting weddings?DSC-RX10_right_bgwh

To give a little background, I have been shooting with a Sony A7 over the past 6 months. I used to shoot weddings with two Canon 5Ds and and several L lenses, but a couple of years ago I briefly gave up the trade and sold all my gear. In turn, I switched over to mirrorless to satisfy my day to day photography wants. First was the Samsung nx100 and the Olympus XZ-1, and then I moved up to the canon EOS M when it went on fire sale. After my wife and I got married in November, I started shooting weddings together with my wife. I decided I should probably move up to something a little more serious than the EOS M. I tried the NEX-6 and hated it. Shortly after I picked up the A7, I loved it. However, the current lens selection does nothing for me, so I have been adapting vintage manual focus glass. Adapting old lenses is fun and all, but I’m getting really tired of manual focusing, especially at weddings.

Between wanting something as a backup camera with autofocus and being interested in cinematography, I landed on the Sony RX10. Whenever I purchase an item I like to test it really hard within the first 30 days. I’ve encountered a few lemons in the past so I always like to make sure everything is functional before the initial warranty expires. Fortunately, my wife and I had two weddings in one weekend, so I really got to push it to its limits.

Image Quality

First, lets cover something important - the RX10 uses a 1-inch sensor. Compared to your iPhone, it’s huge, but this isn’t by any means a full frame sensor. It’s not even an APS-C Sensor, heck it isn’t even a micro four thirds sensor. In the scheme of sensors in professional photography, this thing doesn’t even make it to the feather weights. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you have to understand its limitations and characteristics. Namely, a lack of depth of field, which on the occasion I personally like. It’s really nice not having to stop down my lens to f8 to give my images some clarity. Being a 1 inch sensor, I think the 20mp they cram into it is more of a marketing ploy than anything else. I’d say it’s more realistically a 15mp sensor as far as usability is concerned. You might be able to squeeze 20mp out of this on the wide end at iso 125, but that’s about it. Anything else tends to fall apart really fast when you crop to 100%. I would have preferred that they scaled down the size and gave us smaller files.

Sharpness

On the widest end of the lens it is remarkably sharp except for the extreme corners which fall apart pretty fast. I got my camera used at Amazon Warehouse, so maybe this is just my camera, but I found anywhere else in the zoom range to be disappointing. If you are going to pixel peep, it’s just not sharp. But this is where the beauty of the 1 inch sensor comes into play. There is just so much clarity in the images that it somehow gives the impression it is sharp, when it really isn’t. There is also some noticeable fringing and halo-ing at the long end of some shots – kind of annoying but not terrible. Is the client going to notice any of this? Not likely.

Dynamic Range and ISO

Dynamic Range is pretty darn good for a compact. I was surprised how much detail I could recover from both my highlights and shadows. DXOMark gives it 12.6 stops of dynamic range so that easily puts it in the consumer DSLR range. ISO handling is probably one of this cameras biggest weaknesses. It’s pretty bad coming from a full frame camera, but coming from something like a Rebel or an NEX might not seem so bad. Fortunately the killer image stabilization and image clarity helps offset this by allowing you to shoot at lower ISO levels anyway. Overall I’d say it can manage in low light, but I wouldn’t rely on it unless I had to.

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Bokeh And Depth Of Field

At the wide end you aren’t going to get much more background blur than you would on an iPhone. If you force it, you can find it, but typically you won’t find it unless you only like to take picture 1 inch from your subject. Moving down the range you gradually get more and more separation from your background (due to telephoto compression). At the far end you can definitely get a useful amount of background blur. Off the top of my head, I’d say you are getting about the equivalent of what you would get with a 35mm f2 on a full frame body (minus the telephoto compression and everything else that makes it different). It’s not a huge amount of separation, but you can get it if you need it. Unfortunately, when you do get it, it’s hideous. This is probably the number one killer for me, personally. Onion bokeh galore. It reminds me of all the vintage glass I’m trying to get away from. However, some people like that look. So if that floats your boat, more power to you. The depth of field is adequate for me, but creamy it is not.

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Macro

It does it. Closer on the wide end than you can probably physically get to your subject, and closer on the telephoto end than you are probably used to.

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Build

I won’t talk too much about the build, that’s something you can and should feel for your self at the store. It’s light. Really light. Which is good. Feels a little cheap to me, but I’d rather it be light and feel a little cheap, than have to haul around a luxurious concrete block. Overall I can say it feel nice though. Maybe somewhere between the NEX-6 and the A7. The lens barrel feels really nice.

Controls and Handling

Controls and Handling is where this camera receives its second strike from me. The controls are a little fiddly…on second thought, they’re really fiddly. I don’t really have too many complaints about the layout. The menu is like anything else made by Sony in the last 6 months, and the button layout isn’t all that much different. I’m not crazy about the way Sony designs it’s layouts but I can live with it. My main complaints are little quarks here and there. First, it’s slow. Not so slow that it’s unusable, but slow enough to be annoying. Record times aren’t great, the zoom is really slow compared to anything with interchangeable lenses, and if you try zooming during the shot to review time, it will zoom into the reviewed image and not zoom the actual lens. This sets you back and can keep you from getting the shot. Next, I can’t get it set up like my A7, which is annoying. For those of you who don’t know, Sony allows for highly customizable buttons, but for some reason not completely customizable. For whatever reason, the closest I can get to my A7 is somehow still the opposite, so that continually throws me for a loop. The last notable quark I can think of (but I’m sure not the only one) is found it is really easy for my finger to bump the zoom. Since the zoom is an electronic zoom it’s also really not very accurate if you are trying to do precise focusing. Now, keep in mind these complaints are me nit-picking. Overall, I would say the handling on the RX10 is on par with anything else in its class, so don’t take this as it’s Achilles heel so to speak.

Price

As of writing this, they just dropped the price from a rather pricey $1300 to just below a more reasonable $1000. I picked mine up on amazon warehouse for $850 and since then I’ve seen them go as low as $750. $1300 was a bit of stretch for me, but $750 puts this camera easily in a fair price range.

Conclusion

Can you use this to shoot weddings? In short – a resounding yes. If you know and understand it’s limitations, it really does it all and at a great price too. It certainly won’t be for everybody, but I have to say I’m impressed with what this camera can do. Will I continue using it for weddings? As my main camera, absolutely not. As a second body (and a 4th or 5th to my wife’s cameras) – possibly. However, if I was forced to use this as my only camera, I wouldn’t be in the least bit nervous. In fact, if I was forced to choose one camera, and one lens for the rest of my life, this might just be my choice. Would I recommend it to others? Depends. If they were on a tight budget, just starting out, just want a well-rounded back up, etc., then yes. For someone who has an endless budget and demands only the best image quality, then probably not. The image quality is a compromise. In fact that’s all this camera is – one giant compromise between the best of all worlds (they call it a bridge camera).

The Elephant In The Room

The Panasonic FZ1000. I know. I just gave the RX10 a (mostly) rave review, but the new FZ1000 looks to be a mighty fine contender to the RX10. I can’t really give my recommendation on which one is better as it isn’t available yet, but it looks like the winner to me. From the samples I’ve seen, the image quality looks to be a bit better (and the bokeh, much better), it shoots 4k, extends all the way to 400mm and at a better price too. It has a few other improvements but it also looses somethings such as the built-in ND filter, constant f2.8 aperture, and weather sealing. However, either camera is exciting to me. If this is the start of a new trend in bridge cameras, I could see the bridge camera regaining some notable market share in the not too distant future.

Sample Images

All images below were adjusted in Adobe Lightroom with VSCO packs 01 and 02.

 

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Aug 302014
 

Ten reasons why the Sony A7s is the best A7 body yet..

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I will keep this simple and quick but many ask me “why did you choose the A7s over the A7 or A7r”? For me it was a no brainer, simple and easy after using all three extensively. 

1. It has faster Auto Focus – This helps and is useful when you need it. The A7s will AF faster than the A7 or A7r.

2. It will focus in near pitch blackness, even without focus aids! – I was shooting last week in almost near darkness and the A7s with 35 2.8 was focusing fast and accurately, even when my own eyes could barely see the scene! No AF assist either. Amazing.

3. Has the best color and rendering of the three in my opinion!  – Richer color and more 3D pop is what I see. A bit warmer in the AWB than the A7 and A7r.

4. I can still print gorgeous 20X30’s with the A7s – I have printed two 20X30’s so far and they are gorgeous in-depth, color and yes, even detail. All I need!

5. The files are smaller than the A7 and A7r!  – No need to have a super computer to process the files!

6. High ISO capability is there when you need it! – No need to stop at 3200 or 6400. Nope, go up to 32,000 or even 80,000 in those super low light situations and get a usable image.

7. It’s the best A7 yet for Leica M glass use!  – Wide angle M mount lenses do not do well on the A7r and A7s (though the WATE does) but on the A7s you get the most compatibility with wide-angle M lenses. Lenses such as the Zeiss 21 2.8 or Voigtlander 15 4.5 do much better on the A7s than the A7r and A7.

8. It has a silent mode! – If you want to be super stealth turn on silent mode and no one will ever know or believe you took a picture. 100% silence!

9. Makes for a great ANYTIME, ANYWHERE camera! – This one camera will do what you need in any light. Bright, low or none. Versatile as all get out!

10. Best video yet for an A7 body – Has the most customization of the video to date for an A7 body and can do 4K (though I will not use that feature).

So there you have it. Took me about 7 minutes to come up with 10 reasons and write them down. I have used all three A7 bodies extensively and my favorites are the A7s followed by the A7 and then the A7r. The A7s does everything I need and to date, with almost daily use since launch I have never had an issue, a mis focus or a problem. It has not let me down (unless I made a mistake) and has been reliable, quick, and has provide for a couple of beautiful large prints. To those who trash it for only being 12MP, well, you are missing out. That’s about all I can say. The Sony A7s is still my pick for camera of the year 2014 SO FAR..unless something comes out and gets shipped before 2015 that knocks me off of my feet.

You can buy the Sony A7s at B&H Photo or Amazon.  My review of the A7s is HERE.

Aug 292014
 

Sony A7 and the Nokton 40mm f/1.4

By Andrew Kaiser

I’m going to share a dirty little secret that is hard to admit. My favorite M-mount lens of all time is not made by Leica. It’s not made by Zeiss either. No, it’s not a vintage Canon or Nikon screw mount lens. It’s a lens made by that red headed step child of a manufacturer Voigtlander and it comes in the form of the 40mm Nokton f/1.4.

I purchased this lens along with a Bessa R3A more than a decade ago. To this day I am primarily a film shooter, mostly medium format. However, at the time I wanted something small I could carry around on occasion and the Bessa was an affordable option. I loved that camera and still own it to this day. Even more importantly I loved the lens. The 40mm focal length is as close to the field of view as my actual vision as I’ve ever used. The lens is sharp but not too sharp. The bokeh is smooth but not dreamy. It’s slightly gritty and feels very authentic to me. Best of all, the lens is ultra-fast and yet comes in a very tiny package making it easy to stick in the side pocket of a camera or messenger bag. When paired up against my medium format gear, I need any and all additional equipment to be small and easy to pack away.

These days I rarely shoot with 35mm film. I like the large negative of medium format and when I want something smaller I go with digital. Unfortunately, using the 40mm Nokton wasn’t much of an option in the digital universe without compromise. Digital Leica M cameras don’t have frame lines for 40mm lenses (yes I know I can approximate with 35mm or 50mm, but considering the price of a Leica I want precision). Adapting the lens to an APS-C camera wasn’t much of an option either as the lens becomes closer to 60mm, a focal length that feels very awkward in my creative brain. Even in the world of 35mm film, the 40mm Nokton was a bit of an oddball. To my knowledge, only the Bessa R3 camera line, the Leica CL, and the Minolta CLE had frame lines for a 40mm lens. So sadly, for a few years my 40mm Nokton sat on a shelf untouched and unloved.

All of that changed when Sony released the A7. I am not ashamed to say I bought the A7 with the primary purpose in mind of using my 40mm Nokton in a digital medium at the focal length the lens it was intended to be. That might seem silly considering the Nokton is typically considered more of a budget lens and not the kind of equipment a photographer should obsess over. But hey, to each their own!

The Nokton pairs beautifully with the A7. The overall package is small and compact, and yet I don’t feel like I am holding a toy or compromising on creative control when I use it. After spending a little time setting the camera up to my liking, its operation is completely intuitive. Nearly everything I want is accessible via its own dedicated dial or button on the outside of the camera. Why it took so long for digital camera designers to grasp the importance of this I will never know, but they are certainly getting it right with the A7.

I admit, having the majority of my photographic experience rooted in the film world made me very apprehensive about the EVF on the A7. Thankfully these fears were put to bed after using it for about two days. It takes some getting used to, but as with most things photography related, there are advantages one quickly learns to embrace, and some disadvantages one learns to overlook. I still don’t love the feeling of looking at my subject through a digital screen, but I have learned to appreciate focus peaking and focus assist when using vintage glass as well as being able to gauge depth of field in real-time.

If I have any complaints about the A7 they are relatively minor. The first would be a purely cosmetic one. I very much wish Sony would drop the bright orange color accents on its professional grade cameras. It’s ugly and sticks out painfully against what is an otherwise attractive camera design. The second is more functional. I would have really appreciated if Sony would have made the shutter release button threaded. This is not only nice when one wants to use a cable release, but it also gives photographers the ability to use a soft release. I’ve become completely addicted to soft release adapters in recent years and consider them an essential part of any camera purchase. Luckily I managed to find a mini-soft release that adheres to a flat shutter button via an adhesive method, but I’m still a little annoyed my choices were so limited. Sony got this right with the RX1, I don’t know why they didn’t do the same with the A7 line.

Still, minor nitpicks aside, the A7 paired with a 40mm f/1.4 Nokton has become my go-to travel companion, and a permanent fixture as a back-up camera next to my medium format film gear. Sony has really made something here that I can see myself owning and utilizing for years to come.

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Aug 282014
 

Shooting a model for the first time

By Andrew Paquette

Website: www.paqart.com

For my summer vacation this year I decided that I wanted to shoot at least one fun sporting event and to set up my first ever model shoot. As of about eight hours ago, both are accomplished. The sporting event, a basketball championship in Amsterdam, was a lot of hard work as far as the shooting was concerned, but was a breeze administratively. I was invited (and paid) to be there, so I didn’t have to worry about getting permission for anything, getting press credentials, setting up the location (or finding it) or anything like that. In contrast, shooting a model for the first time meant I had to do everything myself. What was that like? After deciding that I wanted to shoot a model, preferably a professional from an agency, I had to have a concept, a budget, and some idea where I intended to do this and what kind of permits I might need. In the end, almost everything went differently than expected.

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My first goal was a non-goal—if I was going to pay for all the things that went into the shoot, I did not want to get something that looked like, as my wife described it, “somebody’s girlfriend in the forest”. This doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent photos of somebody’s girlfriend in a forest—I saw quite a few while poring over photographer websites—but they all had something extra to make them interesting. As an illustrator, I had made many compositions over the years that could be readily translated into interesting photographs, but most would require the construction of extensive sets—something I did not want to do because of the associated costs. Instead, I wanted something simple, with maybe one or two models at the most, and preferably something that could be shot in an accessible (and free) public location or an inexpensive day rental of a photo studio, probably in Amsterdam.

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To help give me ideas, I looked through my catalogue of street photos in Amsterdam. I found two that looked good enough as ideas, though not as finished photos, to serve as inspiration for a shoot. Both could be shot on the street in Amsterdam in large public spaces. I didn’t think there would be a problem with this because it isn’t much different from the street shots I already took, but just to be sure, I checked the city of Amsterdam’s website (http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/business/Film-office/Filmprotocol) to see if a permit would be needed. The short answer is that no permit would be required. The only caveat was that I would need a permit if I introduced helicopters, hundreds of extras, food carts, or car crashes into the shoot. I wasn’t planning on doing any of those things, so I was in the clear. They do ask that photographers notify them of pending shoots so that area businesses have an opportunity to complain or stipulate things like a fee for use of their washroom, no trash dumped in their bins, etc.

Next, I had to find a couple of models. The first concept required a female model and an athletic male model capable of Rollerblade or skateboard stunts. I wanted to shoot them at the skateboard park in Amsterdam, where the female model reacted to the male model doing stunts (or, if I found a female model who could do them, the reverse). The second concept required two female and two male models, something that I doubted would be affordable, but I thought I might as well check. I should point out here that I have hired models twice before, but not for this purpose. The first was hired from an agency in Portland Maine, to pose as a generic female character to be used as reference for my work as a comic book artist. Hiring her was not difficult. I just called the agency, told the owner what I was looking for, and $500 later, had the shoot wrapped and a couple of books full of excellent reference shots that happened to be not very good photographs.

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The second occasion was in 1999 or so when I hired a female model from an LA-based agency to have her head scanned for use in a video game. Again, this was not a difficult thing to arrange. I called the agency, they sent over some head shots, I picked one, and then she went to the scanning facility and did the job. Not a problem. This time, it would be different. Why? Because this time, I was a photographer working on a portfolio instead of an artist with a client.

I went first to a site that listed about two dozen agencies in the Netherlands: (http://www.kmodels.com/Netherlands-modeling-agencies-links2.htm).

I started calling and emailing to inquire about rates and how a shoot could be organized. None answered my emails. I spoke with one agency rep at A Models Amsterdam (http://www.amodelsamsterdam.com/) who seemed to think I was asking for a free model because it was for a portfolio. I explained that wasn’t the case, but it didn’t matter—without a client (preferably a major company) their models weren’t available, even for paid work. So here I got stuck. No model means no shoot. What could I do? I found a site that sets up photographers with models, hairstylist, and make-up artists (http://www.modelmayhem.com/) but to get in I had to have a portfolio with photos of four different shoots with four different models. I didn’t have that, but did have some decent shots of more than four different people in situations that looked like different shoots, so I decided to upload those and hope that my industry credits as an artist and art director were enough to deal with any problems in their review process. Unfortunately, my holiday was almost over, so their approval had to come fast or I would have missed my window of opportunity. But then, I got lucky.

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While I was shooting the basketball game in Amsterdam, my wife and daughter attended a figure drawing class. My wife thought their model would work for the photo shoot I wanted to do, so she approached her about it. The model was fine with the idea, so now I had a model. However, I only had one model. The concepts I had for the shoot wouldn’t work. I booked her anyway, then sat down to think about what I could do with one model. In the end I took inspiration from a street photo I’d taken in Amsterdam of a girl smoking a cigarette in front of a dark stone wall. Her features and pale skin contrasted against the dark stone reminded me of old Proto-Renaissance portrait paintings. This would be the theme. With that decided, I had to figure out how far I wanted to go with it. I didn’t own any Medieval artifacts to use as props, and doubted any museum would let me use theirs (I also didn’t want to go through asking for permission, a process that would likely take a long time and then be rejected anyway.)

Location was easier to deal with. There are a lot of Gothic cathedrals in the Netherlands and I had photographed quite a few of them so I knew what they looked like. One of the oldest was in the south of Holland and they gave permission to shoot there. Now I had a model and a location, but needed a way to somehow connect the model to the location. This could be done with a medieval costume. People in the Netherlands love costumes, so at first I thought it would be easy to find one. It wasn’t, but after a lot of looking, I found a costume shop in Den Haag with a great selection of good quality medieval costumes for rent (http://www.dewitkostuums.nl)

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I don’t read Nederlands very well, so I missed the part on their website that said they were open for appointment only, so I went without an appointment. Luckily they were very nice about my lack of knowledge about their policies, and invited me up to look at their costumes. While I was there, I decided to get two so that more variety could be eked out of the shoot. This turned out to be a very important decision, so I’m glad I did it. At the time I was worried because the costumes I rented were among the most expensive they had. My wife was looking at me like she was thinking “are you sure about this?”

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So then I had two costumes, a model, and a location. I had the general idea that these Proto-Renaissance portraits were my inspiration, but how to translate that into photos? What ended up happening is I asked the model to do an impromptu extra shoot when she came in for the fitting. We went out to a local community garden where she was photographed in the more brilliantly colored costume of the two. The idea was that this day she is wearing friendly, upbeat colors and would be shot in a pleasant, green, lush, fresh-looking location. On the next day, she wore an outfit that had much less color and was photographed against stone and black iron. The effect created a contrast between a shire-like garden on the first day with the stately aloofness of a stone cathedral on the second. One is playful, the other austere.

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For cameras, I used a Nikon D800 and a Sony A7r. On the “green” day, the A7r was mounted by a Zeiss ZA 135mm 1.8 lens, and the D800 had the Zeiss 55mm Otus mounted on it. On the “white” day, the A7r had a 35mm 1.4/ASPH Summilux. The D800 had either the 55mm Otus or a Zeiss 15mm Distagon. I also used a Nikon NB-910 speedlight on the D800 and a Zacuto viewfinder for both cameras (I love my Zacuto viewfinder!). I won’t compare the quality of the lenses because each is pretty much the best you can find in their focal length and performed as such. All lens choice decisions were dictated by focal length—what was needed to frame a shot or get a certain effect.

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Aug 272014
 

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Wedding photography with a Sony RX100II

By Dennis Low

There are lots of contradictions when it comes to how photographers think about their equipment. Street photographers, for instance, often value small cameras and we all know the reasons why: when cameras are small, they’re unobtrusive, discrete; unlike dSLRs, small cameras look ‘friendly’ and ‘unthreatening’ which puts people at ease, should they even spot them at all. The ever-ready small camera is perfect for shooting the world unawares, capturing the moment as it happens.

All of this makes perfect, logical sense – until, that is, someone asks you to photograph their wedding. Now, you’d think wedding photographers, with everyone wanting candid, documentary, fly-on-the-wall imagery, would have a lot in common with street photographers, and that small cameras would be absolutely central to the wedding photography industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who *isn’t* wielding, say, a couple of Canon 5D MK III bodies, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 zooms, maybe with a couple of fast aperture primes to boot, or an outfit that’s very, very similar. With every guest at the wedding taking photographs already, the official photographer, it seems, needs to have equipment that’s bigger, better, and more expensive than everyone else’s – otherwise, what’s the point of hiring a photographer at all?

But surely it’s the photographer rather than the kit that matters, right? Yet, if that was the case, how come you never hear about wedding photographers using the pocket digicams favoured by many street photographers? and what would wedding photography look like if they did?

I spend most of my time developing my fine art practice and trying to find new ways of photographing animals but, last month, I was asked to photograph two weddings (consecutive weekends!). On both occasions, I was asked for candid, documentary-style shots, and instructed to ‘blend in’ and basically not get in the way.

That in mind, I had a think about how I was going to work: I wanted to be free to weave in and out between groups of guests, unencumbered by a huge, heavy bag; I wanted guests I’d never met to not even flinch when I stood next to them and took their picture. Visually, I wanted images that my clients could pore over in years to come, ones that reveal every detail of their wedding days rather than hide them in a gorgeous, creamy blur of expensive, full-frame bokeh at f1.4. (Those classy-looking, ambient light shots where nothing’s in focus except the bride’s left eye, or the groom’s new wedding ring, are actually pretty easy to do, but they don’t actually tell you a lot about the day, where they were taken, or when.) I wanted my photos to sidestep all those old wedding conventions and, instead, somehow tune into the language of the normal, everyday photography that everyone knows and understands, like the stuff you see all the time on Facebook or Instagram. But supercharged, obviously :-)

It became increasingly apparent that the tiny size and huge depth of field of small sensor cameras were just what I needed. So, I took a deep breath, resisted all things dSLR, left my Leica M9 at home, and packed a little satchel with a Sony RX100II, together with a couple of flashes on remote triggers.

What does a digicam wedding look like? can it ever look professional, and is it something you’d ever try to do? Take a look and decide for yourself!

Dennis Low

www.TakeMeToTheKittens.com

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Aug 252014
 

Sony A7s – A Game Changer for Film Making

By Peter Georges

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Hello Steve Huff Photo readers! I’m Peter Georges: a Sydney Wedding and Portrait Photographer. I entered the wonderful world of filming after picking up a Canon 7D and got serious about it with the 5D Mark III. Initially all was well, I thought the image quality coming from the thing was absolutely fantastic…

Absolution filmed on the 5d Mark III

But dammit we can do better than that!

I’ve gone through quite a few cameras including the Canon C100 and Blackmagic Cinema Camera but never quite found exactly what I needed. It was either image quality that didn’t quite gel with me or a severe lack of usability. I went all the way and kitted out a full rig for the Blackmagic. It worked but I was left with a set up whereby anything I filmed had to be a huge production. I got great image quality but it killed my ability to be creative.

All I wanted to do was go out and film!! *cough* …while maintaining great image quality.

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Reading about this amazing new A7s camera from many reviewers including Steve, I jumped right in and purchased the camera alongside a battery grip and the Zeiss 55mm FE 1.8 lens. The next night I was out filming my friend Rob and I having some ribs. He was tackling the Rib Challenge: 1kg (!!) steak, a full rack of ribs and chips. Crazy guy!

The best movie ever made about ribs filmed on the Sony A7S

By now you all know: the A7s lights up the night. In my opinion having a bright camera doesn’t mean you shouldn’t light your scene. It does mean that come night-time you can use cost-effective, battery-powered and portable lights to do the job. I used an Ice Light in the car and it worked wonders. Coming home I just couldn’t believe how little noise there was in the images even when I hit 80,000 ISO – I didn’t push it any further because the night just was not dark enough. Low light capability means low light budget ;).

The EVF is a killer feature. I can handhold the 55mm non-OSS lens and get video that to me is quite stable. Three points of contact without needing to buy loupes or any other stabilisation device! I’d say 55mm is the absolute limit for handholding. Sony/Zeiss if you’re reading this: release a 24mm or 28mm f1.8 lens next!

Lastly and most importantly: no one was clued in on what I was doing. I simply asked the waitress if she wouldn’t mind being in our little film and she was fine with it. I probably just looked like a tourist creating a home video with an entry level DSLR. This was the selling point to me. All that amazing image quality with the ability to film ANYWHERE is a powerful combination.

This is why I consider the A7s a game changer. It allows me to be creative. It allows me to be much more ambitious with my films while still getting the visual results I want. Now if only this camera had come out three years ago it would’ve saved me a lot of trouble…

Peter Georges
http://petergeorges.com.au

Aug 202014
 

A Sony A3000 Experience

By Bill Spencer

This is about an unintentional photographic journey resulting from a failed GAS adventure. Some time ago I attended a Sony event where the A7 and A7R were available for customers to try out. I went with the intention of buying either one or the other, to sample the ‘full frame’ experience and hopefully use with some of the very good old lenses I have. Disaster – after an hour of messing with the cameras I found I could not counter the shutter slap problem and get a sharp image out of either camera. The A7R was absolutely impossible even using the ‘Hasselblad death grip’ technique learned many years ago. Almost in frustration I came away with an A3000 kit (£220 or just a little more than a RX1 lens hood costs here) as when in GAS mode you have to get something.

Most people who read Steve and Brandon’s blog will know the A3000 is almost universally ridiculed by most photographers who have tried it because of its strange specifications. To summarise it has a superb 20 megapixel sensor married to dreadful viewfinder, screen and electronics. It does have a very good handgrip, all metal E lens mount, a rigidly mounted sensor and is light as a feather. The reason for the purchase was to use it with a collection of older lens with appropriate adapters. Strange as it may seem I quickly bonded with it as a hobby camera (I have other kit for work – I am an Architect and use photography a lot professionally). It is a super simple camera basically usable in Aperture priority or manual mode with older lens and is all the better for that. It is not particularly suited to sports photography and is not much good at ambush photography (sorry – street photography). Focus peaking and the magnified fine focus function are good although the viewfinder and screen give only an idea of the framing of the image to be taken , loads of tech stuff around the screens but very little textural and quality image information. ie a bit limited for pimping. As I have said it has many minuses and a few key pluses.

The 3 photos below give an idea what it can do. The lens for these is a Canon 200mm macro lens. The lens has been renovated by the lens doctor http://www.thelensdoctor.co.uk/ (Steve will know about his previous life as a drummer in the 80s with famous bands including Thin Lizzy, Creed, Pilot and many more). Even before renovation it is almost as sharp as the Canon 180mm EF macro but with far superior colour and out of focus transitions. Now it is fabulous

As with all Sony products I have there seems to be a spoiler built-in. In my A3000s case it will only work with an official Sony branded battery and not any of the 3rd party ‘compatible’ units I have tried so far that do work in my Nex3. The official batteries cost a fortune so unless you have other Sony batteries it is an expensive business to get spares. However with old lenses attached you get about 500 exposures per charge so lack of a spare is not a deal breaker.

It occurred to me whilst writing this that I have never used the kit lens although being so light I usually have it in the bag. Other lens that work really well on this are most fast 50s (F1.2/4 Yashinons, Pentax and Rokkor) in fact any from an SLR background. I don’t know about M39 stuff or short back focus Leica lens as I do not have any.

Please keep up the good work on the site and keep the reviews and user experiences coming and I hope you enjoy the pics

Modified by CombineZP

Coot with Chick 200mm F8

High summer on our local canal 200mm F11

Aug 192014
 

Dogstreets: Mans best friend 

By Brigitte Hauser

Dear Brandon, Steve and Readers

The daily inspiration from all over the world makes me happy and smiling almost every day. Thanks a lot.

I am an amateur photographer and I like street photography. Since our old dog Murphy has died in the beginning of 2014 I see a lot more dogs in the streets than before!

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So I started my dogstreets project.

Taken in Nice (France), with Sony rx 1.

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Near Portofino (Italy) also with Sony rx 1.

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Taken in Zurich, Switzerland with Nikon Df and Leica Monochrom.

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The last pic shows Pablo our new dog by LMono, it is a “street dog” from Spain.

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As you see I use three cams. (I would prefer only one with only one lens) The one I use most is Sony rx1 because of its size. Focusing is sometimes e bit slow. I adore the LMono. But with Leica I need two hands free for focusing. And with a young dog at the doglead – very very difficult:-) That’s why I also use the Df although it’s a bit bulky for streets especially with Nikkor 58, 1,4. But super lens.

Enjoy the pics.

Yours
Brigitte

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