Dec 062013
 

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USER REPORT: The Sony A7R and Voigtlander 35 1.2 by Gianmaria Veronese

I spent this weekend in Paris in company of the new Sony A7R and the Voigtlander 35mm 1.2. This article will therefore be a summary of the on-field-test of the new Sony A7R.

Before I get into the review I would like to make an introduction about what you will find in this article and what is not. Well, I tell you now that you will not find photos of walls or pencils to see how sharp the lens is or how much resolution the A7R has.  I can assure you that, with 36MPX and without AA filter, the limit on the size of your prints will be your walls and not the sensor. This article is designed to give you an idea of ​​how the camera behaves on the field and whether if it’s possible to leave your DSLR in favor of this Sony A7R.

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First let’s understand the ergonomic feeling and what are the differences from a traditional digital SLR. Well, the first thing that catches the eye and the touch is the size. It is really small (relative to the size of the sensor of course, FX 24 × 36 remember). The fact that it is small, however, has both the pro and cons.

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The pros are definitely weight, size and discretion. When you travel, you just need nothing except body, lenses and battery charger. Dedicated backpacks are just a distant memory. In addition, the smaller distance from sensor to bayonet, allows you to mount any lens in circulation (with an adapter of course)! I used the excellent Novoflex. Impeccably made, it can be combined with an L-shaped bracket for heavier lenses (in my case the Nikon 14-24 that I didn’t bring to Paris).

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The counter is a small body that in your hand is comfortable, but not as much as a DSLR (especially for those who have bigger hands). In short, after a while you feel a little ‘lack of something more comfortable in your hands, but I did survive without major problems.

In terms of dials, you’ll find the same of a classic DSLR, nothing new a part of the exposure compensation dial. Very comfortable to have it available, but a little ‘less practical to use. Looking through the viewfinder and looking for it with your thumb, it is easily confused with the dial on the back (the one for shutter or f-stop), but location aside, it’s a good thing there is.

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Regarding buttons, in my opinion, there’s too many.  I would have preferred a more essential camera (more like a Leica M than a DSLR), but well, since most of these are customizable, I’d say better to have them and ignore them rather than the reverse. The thing that I do not like instead is the shutter release button. It ‘s too backward on the body and, being upright, your finger stays in an unnatural position. Also, the worst thing is that no threaded hole has been designed on it for an eventual soft release in order to get a more comfortable feeling.

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Let’s come to more interesting part of this camera, the electronic viewfinder (EVF). Let me reassure you by telling that it works very well. The vision is quite natural, and the eye does not get tired as I feared would happen. The possibility to customize it is the real gem. We can preview the final exposure and we can also see the final image with picture style such as Black & White, Sepia, etc. Moreover, the presence of the EVF translates into the possibility of using the focus peaking and live magnification of the image. In practice, we have a chance to see highlighted in red (or yellow or white at your choice) areas of the image that are in focus, helping us in the correct focusing, especially with manual focus lenses. Manual focusing with this feature is very handy and works very well, but it will take a bit of practice (especially with fast lenses). For those who care about pixels, the live magnification will allow you to perfect focusing, good for peace of your monitor magnification. In short, focus is not a problem, as all the instrument, you just need the proper period of training. Unfortunately I cannot say anything about autofocus, because I haven’t any AF lens.

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Let’s come to the battery, the real sore point. It discharges very fast and you cannot stay without a second battery. Especially at the beginning, when you go through all the menus looking for the function you need, the battery consumes impressively fast. The thing is exacerbated by a severe lack: the impossibility of leaving the display turned off and only use the EVF. Or rather, you can use ONLY the EVF, but the main screen becomes completely inhibited even by turning to the menu and viewing images. In practice, we can do everything only through the EVF (i.e. going into the menu and reviewing taken pictures). Not really a good thing. The alternatives are to use ONLY the screen with liveview (completely inhibiting the EVF) or leave it in AUTO mode, where the screen turns off only when eye is approached at the viewfinder. But in this case, every time I walk away the eye from the viewfinder, the screen turns on again showing you all the settings. I did found the possibility to customize one button in order to switch off the screen, but it turns only black while remaining backlit! Incredible! I sincerely hope that this management is improved with new firmwares.

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Another thing I do not like much is the shutter sound. Of course it is fantastic, sounds like an old SLR, sounds solid. But it’s definitely too strong! In street photography this is not a good thing at all. In short, from a machine without a mirror I would have expected a lighter “click”.

Nothing to say except notes of praise on the image quality. Optimal dynamic range and very malleable files in post-production. The behavior at high ISO level is very good. We can work safely at 3200IS. Going over it is certainly possible, but you must expose very correctly. By the way, I personally think that over 6400 is completely useless.

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In conclusion I would say that this is an excellent camera, which can easily replace our dear old DSLR. Reactivity to shoot and feeling are identical to an DSLR and I am fully satisfied after just few days of use, then I can only hope well for the future.

All the shots below were made with Sony A7R and Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 freehand.

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Gianmaria Veronese

Blog: www.gianmariaveronese.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/photogmv

Nov 272013
 

Sony a7R with Grip

Week one with the Sony a7R and Zeiss C-Sonnar 50mm By Raymond Hau

By Raymond Hau

A photographer is someone who defines himself by what he does, perhaps for a living or as a life passion. I am not a photographer; I merely enjoy taking photos that document my life travels in as beautiful and satisfying way as possible. This is my take on the new Sony ILC-7R, otherwise known as the a7R.

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A started out with photography in my teenage years with a Contax, B&W film and a dark room losing interest soon after moving to university. No longer with access to a dark room, I got bored pretty quickly until that was the digital revolution had arrived for me with the purchase of a Canon 350D. That was 2005 and it had remained my faithful until this year wherein it was retired for something new; I have always had access to newer and better but I always remained with the Canon because it was such a joy to use. But with the advent of new technology, why carry around a 5D3 when I can get the same thing in something more manageable? I now shoot the X-E1, RX1 and for the past week, the a7R.

I never intended to purchase the a7R, I was happy after retiring my Canon system for the RX1 and X-E1 – both are excellent cameras for my needs (the RX1, exceptional). However come launch day, I could not resist walking past and not testing the new Sony cameras. I walked out with the expensive one.

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I have been shooting the a7R and vertical battery grip with a Novoflex adapter and the Zeiss C-Sonnar 1,5/50 ZM for the past week and it is an absolute joy to use; I do not regret spending money on a new and as yet untested system. I would say I am smitten but interestingly enough, not as smitten as I was when I first handled the RX1. The RX1 is a hero camera and by that I mean a top-of-the-line showcase of technology and awe in the tried and tested ‘because we can’ fashion but it works and it is an amazing thing of beauty. The a7R is amazing but is not without its quirks.

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Let me get the positives out of the way first.

This camera is a beauty, the image quality from the a7R in combination with the C-Sonnar really showcases the Zeiss ‘pop’ and is dangerously good looking for a square block when the vertical grip is attached. Although the C-Sonnar will show heavy purple fringing in high contrast areas wide open but it is controllable; for those that wonder, the C-Sonnar is also sharp in the centre wide open and when stopped down to f/8, is sharp across the frame. I will make no great comments on auto-focus performance much more than to say it is faster than the RX1 in good conditions and about the same in bad; I prefer to manually focus and I maintain a decent hit rate not to need to worry about needing auto-focus.

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Noise and Dynamic Range.

I was rather surprised to find more noise than I expected to see, especially compared to the RX1, there seems to be more noise at lower ISOs. I was not sure what to expect but the overall image quality was surprising me and so I have not thought about it since. Dynamic range however, does not appear to be as clean as the RX1 when pulling out detail; more specifically there appears to be slightly more noise in the shadows and if white balance is not correct, the colours can appear off. The RX1 files are able to handle 100 point movements in the highlights and shadows sliders without an issue, the a7R not quite so.

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The handling is actually quite uncomfortable.

The grip appears to be a great idea but falls short in actual use that I would go as far to say I would prefer the a7R without a grip, similar to the RX1. In comparison, the Olympus E-M1 grip is fantastic. Saying that, once the vertical grip is attached the handling of the a7R changes and becomes rather good to use, so much so that I now have the vertical grip permanently attached. It does increase the weight and size, but not uncomfortably so even if I do shoot it handheld without a neck strap. The option is always available to remove it when size or weight becomes a priority.

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The lens eco-system is appalling.

I love my wide-angles, but there are none for the a7R unless I use adapters. I can deal with that but then there are issues with size versus performance. The size of the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar was perfect; the image quality was not. As others elsewhere have noted, magenta creep and smearing everywhere you looked. The LA-E4 adapter and Sony 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM works well but the monstrosity in size (as well as price) was a turn off.

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At the other end of the spectrum, looking at 85mm options, for me only the Zeiss 85mm F1.4 is my preferred choice. The native 85mm ZA lens with the attached LA-E4 adapter looks comical in proportions but I was not laughing when it came to actually using the thing; two hands are definitely required here. I will be testing at some point soon whether a Novoflex adapter and the Nikon ZF version fares any better. The lack of a lens roadmap is of real concern; I would like to know whether Zeiss will be releasing their famed 85mm f/1.4 to the FE format or whether I should plump or an adapted version.

Battery life is as bad as expected.

Everything should already know this and therefore should hold no surprises that a single battery will not last a day of shooting. I turn the LCD off, preferring to only use the viewfinder and yet the battery dies amazingly quick. The vertical grip obviously helps, as do the four extra batteries I have purchased.

No button to switch between the LCD/EVF. Why this is the case I am not entirely sure as for a camera where battery life is an important consideration, I presume many people like me would prefer to turn the LCD off when shooting. Fuji has implemented this correctly by automatically previewing shots on the LCD when in EVF mode. This is a small issue but extremely annoying one in any case.

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The shutter button is too sensitive. A mere swipe of my index finger and any actions I am performing are cancelled i.e. focus peaking magnification. This was an annoyance at first but now I have adjusted to hover my index finger above the button instead. Even though, it is still annoying.

I see myself keeping the a7R (along with the RX1) for a very long time, perhaps as long as I had the 350D. I have not delved too much into image quality as in my view, with the current state of camera technology as it stands, that conversation is moot. The image quality from cameras such as the a7R, RX1 or X-E1 will be more than enough for the majority of users like me. The minority who really need the finest of details are probably out earning their bread rather than reading a review written by me.

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In closing. After a week of using the a7R, if the only issues worth writing about are the ones above then I am happy. I was looking for a camera that could last me the next 7 years and I think I have found one; it is an enjoyable camera to use, especially with small rangefinder style lenses. All controls are at my fingertips; a little finger acrobatics are required at times but that is to be expected in something built this compact. Also, never having to worry about whether the camera can keep up with the images I want to take is liberating. I am used to ‘working within the limitations’ of cameras to get the shots I want and this was especially true with the old Contax and Canon. Great shots were there, you just had to work harder to get them. With the a7R, I maintain the enjoyment of the photo-taking process without feeling the equipment getting in the way or limiting my options.

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If I could love a camera, I would marry this one (but keep the RX1 as a mistress on the side!).

Many thanks to Steve Huff. All photographs shot in RAW format with the Sony a7R, Zeiss C-Sonnar 1,5/50 ZM and processed through Lightroom 5.3RC.

For more photographs taken with the Sony a7R (as well as RX1, X-E1), please visit my tumblr website at http://jkspepper.tumblr.com (also flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dhermes/ and 500px: http://500px.com/jkspepper)

You can pre-order the Sony A7 or A7r at the links HERE.

 

Nov 222013
 

The Leica C goes to the Holy Land

By Gary Perlmutter

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Readers of Steve’s excellent website will know that I have used and written about a number of cameras including the Fuji X100 and The Nikon V1. These tend to be used mainly for my passion of street photography. At present I am using the Leica M8 which whilst almost an antique in the digital world is still capable of producing stunning results, with the right light and lenses that is. However following the often quoted line’ the best camera is the one you have with you’, there have been times when the M8 gets left at home and guess what I miss some shots. So I set about looking for a truly pocketable camera that could still produce results that wouldn’t leave me wishing I had taken the picture on the M8.

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My short list included the Canon S120 and the amazing Sony RX100. However both lack a viewfinder, which being ‘old school’ I still prefer to hold a camera to my eye, at least as an option. It was at this time that Leica announced the C type 112, which yes I know is a rebranded Panasonic LF1. Although you pay a premium for the red dot, at least it includes a copy of Lightroom 5 and I believe a better warranty? I also prefer the Audi design which comes in two finishes, Champagne or Dark Red. I chose the Dark Red version as being the more subtle for my street photography.

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So why the Leica C? Well its unique I believe for a compact in including a built-in EVF, ok the quality of which is pretty rubbish by todays standards and the view minisucle. However when the sun is too bright for the rear screen at least one has an option. It also boasts built-in Wi-Fi which when used with the free app, Leica Shuttle, available for both Apple and Android devices, allows one not only to transfer your images wirelessly to your phone or iPad (and then share to Facebook etc.) but also operate the camera remotely!

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Other features that I liked include the zoom range which extends from 28mm to 200mm, which beats both the Sony and Canon alternatives hands down. Perfect for travel photography which also happened to be perfect timing for me as I was just about to go on holiday to Israel. At the 28mm end of the zoom range the aperture is a fast f2.0 although this reduces to f5.6 at 200mm.

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I have found noise control to be acceptable to as high as 1600 iso providing one shoots in RAW (or DNG to be precise as this is the native Leica method) and edit subsequently in Lightroom. The autofocus I have found to be really fast and never misses, far better than the Fuji X100 and not far off the NIKON V1.Usually like Steve I use the single focus point method, but I have been trying out the focus tracking which has been superb. It’s by far the easiest I have used and great for tracking people walking towards you . Once locked on where the focus point changes from red to yellow, it works a treat. As for other features, it also sports a lens mounted control ring, like its rivals, but better I find than the Sony in that is has click stops. This ring can be assigned to almost any function that suits you. I tend to use it as an exposure compensation dial. Choice of shutter priority, aperture or full manual as well as the usual auto and program modes.

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So any downsides so far? Well yes I wish it had the larger 1″ sensor that some rivals have for better dynamic range and noise control and that the EVF could have been better. However apart from this, I feel I have now found a camera that truly is always with me when I leave home. No more excuses from me for missing that once in a lifetime photo!

Links: http://stephenbartelsgalleryprints.com/index.php?photographer=89

flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gp_photography/

twitter: @gazonthestreet

You can buy the Leica C from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), The Pro Shop, PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami, Amazon or B&H Photo!

Nov 082013
 

The Three Amigos in the Streets of New York:

Ricoh GR, Sony Rx1, Nikon V1 and 32mm Lens

By Joe Marquez – His website can be seen HERE

On a recent trip to New York, I took the Ricoh GR, Sony Rx1 and Nikon V1 (and 32mm lens) to do a little street photography on the side. The Ricoh GR is the smallest aps-c camera, the Sony RX1 is the smallest full frame camera and the Nikon V1 is most likely the fastest focusing mirrorless camera in the world. Walked around New York in my spare time carrying these three little cameras in a very nice ONA Bowery bag.

Here are my brief thoughts working with each of the cameras and I’ve included a plethora of images for your review.

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Ricoh GR

The diminutive Ricoh GR has the full frame equivalent of a 28mm f/2.8 lens and is widely touted as one of the best street cameras available. I consider its 16.2 MP aps-c sensor a sweet spot for street work. I’ve owned this camera for about a month and it took a few days to get comfortable with the menu system and features. I still have much to learn yet I was able to use the Ricoh effectively on the street.

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For the most part, I set the camera on TAv mode (manual setting of aperture and shutter speed and auto iso) and adjusted aperture and shutter speed as necessary. Very easy, intuitive and important because light in New York City changes often and significantly due to buildings, open avenues, cloud cover and more. I did blow out a couple of shots when I forgot to adjust shutter speed. However, other than my miscues, the camera seemed to consistently nail exposure.

Another feature I enjoyed was every time the camera turned on it would display the function buttons and the assigned customization. Such a small feature but so nice for a Ricoh novice such as myself. And of course the exposure compensation toggle was easily adjustable with my thumb and I used it with no problem.

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I really enjoyed the focusing options on the Ricoh – perhaps its strength. Primarily, I used snap focus between one to two meters but would often override by using the autofocus button. In general I stopped down as much as possible to maximize the DOF however there were situations when I had to shoot wide open at f/2.8.

Image quality from the Ricoh was outstanding. Colors looked accurate, black and white conversions were excellent and there’s plenty of detail in the 16.2 MP aps-c sensor.

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Oh and I really liked the small size of the Ricoh. One day while shooting the New York Halloween Parade (with a Nikon DSLR – my El Guapo) I carried the Ricoh in my pant pocket and used it for a few wide angle shots. Worked like a charm. Also, the camera is so small and discrete people pretty much ignored my picture taking. Thanks Ricoh for keeping the camera so nondescript. Well done.

Overall, the Ricoh was the smallest and most discrete of the three, but simply worked great – the Martin Short of the Three Amigos.

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Sony Rx1

The Sony Rx1 with the 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens is a superb camera and produces amazing images with its 24.3 MP full frame sensor. However, the Sony would be such a great street camera if it simply added a snap focus feature or would not revert to infinity every time the camera slept or was turned off. Of course shooting at f/8 or f/11 alleviates much of the focusing issues, but my intent was to shoot the Sony wide open to get that shallow DOF for a completely different street look than the Ricoh.

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To give me the focusing flexibility I assigned the C button to AF/MF Control Toggle and the AEL button to AF/MF Control Hold. This allowed me to alternate between autofocus and zone focusing. More often than not I would focus to a particular point by holding down the customized AEL button, then release to lock in the distance. This required some extra effort but worked reasonably well. I probably looked silly randomly aiming the camera at different things in different directions to get the zone focusing distance I wanted. And of course every time the RX1 went to sleep the distance would revert to infinity. Ugh.

Overall I was willing to sacrifice the percentage of keepers to get that shallow DOF and lovely out-of-focus rendering from the Sony – so most of my shots were taken at f/2. Occasionally a scene required a greater DOF and it was a treat to hear and feel those 1/3 incremental soft clicks when I turned the aperture ring. Sweet camera this RX1.

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I shot in manual mode (mostly f/2) and auto iso and adjusted shutter speed depending on light. The exposure compensation dial is readily accessible and allowed me to quickly tweak if needed.

Image quality was superb as one would expect from this camera and the shallow DOF shots were just what I wanted.

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If the Ricoh GR is Martin Short, the Sony Rx1 is Steve Martin – the most successful of the Three Amigos.

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Nikon V1 and 32mm Lens

That leaves Chevy Chase. I only took one lens with the Nikon V1 and that is the 32mm f/1.2. This gave me the equivalent of an 86mm super fast lens on a fast focusing camera – all in a package similar in size and weight to the RX1.

As you may be aware I am a fan of Nikon’s 1 System, primarily because it is the fastest focusing mirrorless system available. And despite the small CX sensor, the camera delivers more than adequate image quality for my street photography. Add the 32mm lens to the V1 and now I had a crazy quick rig and an entirely different look than the Ricoh and Sony.

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In many ways the Nikon is the easiest to shoot because it has the fewest bells and whistles. I set the camera to manual or aperture priority and auto iso. I love shooting at f/1.2 and the greater DOF with the small sensor hides many focusing errors. Focus is set to auto-area, face-priority AF is activated and I simply let the camera rip with its silent electronic shutter that reaches speeds of 1/16,000 sec. So different than the Ricoh and Sony.

Autofocusing is fast, accurate and tracks very well – although not perfectly. If someone walked toward me I raised the Nikon and pressed the shutter. Most of the time the camera found a focus point quickly, but occasionally it hunted before finding a subject or face. Sometimes it missed focus entirely, then latched on in the second or third shot of a continuous sequence.

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The Nikon was so fast I was able to get a considerable number of in-focus shots out the window of a fast moving New York taxi. It could see it trying to lock onto people’s faces standing or walking near an intersection. Incredible little camera and the 32 is just plain special IMHO.

Image quality may be the worse of the three cameras but is perfectly adequate. The metering system is top notch and the small 10 MP files convert beautifully to black and white. The out-of-focus rendering of the 32mm lens is a pleasant surprise and of the three cameras it produced subject isolation the best.

The Nikon with the 32 is larger than the Ricoh, but because of the longer focal length I was able to get some nice close-ups without being intrusive. People in the street generally ignored my shooting with the Nikon and 32 and I believe I was able to get the most natural looking candids of the three.

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Overall the Nikon did a great job on the street and I probably ended up with more keepers than with the Ricoh or Sony. I suspect this may change over time as I become more familiar with the Ricoh GR.

So the Nikon 1 system may not have the image quality of the Ricoh or Sony, but the one strength it has – incredible autofocusing – when coupled with the fast 32mm prime lens makes for a beautifully efficient street rig.

Final Thoughts

You may wonder why I took three cameras and didn’t just use the Nikon V1 and an all-in-one zoom lens (10-30mm) or a couple of primes (10/2.8 and 18.5/1.8). Well, the zoom lens is too slow and even with the 1 System primes, I really wanted a variety of looks and the image quality of the Ricoh GR and Sony Rx1.

I’m not a pixel peeper when it comes to image quality. In particular, street photography is less about image quality and much more about the moment and composition – and of course getting the subject in focus. But all else being equal it’s nice to have that little extra image quality or slightly different look if possible – and he Ricoh and Sony delivered.

Overall, the Ricoh GR is small, discrete and simply made for street photography. The Sony Rx1 is a bit temperamental as a street camera, but the images are so lovely and worth the extra effort. The Nikon V1 and 32mm lens kept producing surprisingly strong street images with the least amount of work.

Why else take all three? Kind of cool being on the streets of New York with the smallest aps-c, smallest full frame and fastest focusing mirrorless cameras in the world – and shooting like the wind. Cough.

 

Nov 022013
 

Three quick shots from the Sony RX10

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Ahhh, the Sony RX10! I am now back home from Nashville TN after a week of testing the Sony A7 and A7r..it was a great time. Because I was so into testing the A7 series and had such little time to do much of anything besides shoot them I did not get to use the RX10 while there. Luckily, Sony handed me one to take home with me so I could get to know it better and review this little beast. I will have a first look next week with video and 1st thoughts but for now, on this Saturday night, I want to post three quick samples that I shot a couple of hours ago at the AZ State Fair. It was dark so the camera was at high ISO but the AF was fast, no hunting at all. The 24-200 f/2.8 Zeiss lens is actually a knockout. The constant f/2.8 REALLY helps when shooting at 200mm.

Anyway, I did not want to leave this new guy out in the cold so wanted you all to know I am now shooting with it and will be reviewing it soon.

Have a great weekend!

PS – I had Noise Reduction set to OFF. Click images for larger. These are JPEGs.

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

f/2.8 – ISO 1250 – 1/30th – 24mm

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f/2.8 – 50mm – ISO 1250 – 1/60th

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200mm – f/2.8 – ISO 200 – 1/250

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Sony RX10 Specs:

20.2MP 1″ Exmor R CMOS Sensor

The large, 20.2 megapixel, 1″ Exmor R, CMOS sensor features backside-illuminated technology to enhance its low-light capabilities to an expanded ISO 12800 while still retaining vivid clarity. Using Sony’s Column A/D Conversion, images are rendered with impressive image quality and smooth gradations between tones and colors due to the marked reduction in apparent noise.

New BIONZ X Image Processor

Also benefitting the image quality, as well as overall camera performance, is the new BIONZ X image processor. It faithfully reproduces details and rich tones with lower image noise than was previously possible. Performance speed is also impressive including full-resolution continuous shooting up to 10 fps, high-speed auto focusing and Full HD 1080i/p video recording. Still images can be recorded in JPEG or RAW file formats or both simultaneously.

Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 8.3x Optical Zoom Lens

The built-in Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-200mm, covering wide-angle to full telephoto perspectives to suit working in a wide variety of situations. The fast constant f/2.8 maximum aperture enables enhanced low-light capabilities as well as greater control over focus placement for selective focus imagery. The lens also features 7 aspheric elements for reduced aberrations and a Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating to help minimize lens flare and ghosting in order to produce imagery with rich contrast and clarity.

Built-In Wireless and NFC Connectivity

Built-in wireless connectivity enables the RX10 to instantly transfer imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing with social networking sites, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible Android mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. This technology when used with the free Sony PlayMemories Mobile app also provides the ability to use Smart Remote Control, which provides for remote shutter release that is controlled by a smart device.

Full HD 1080p Video Recording with Stereo Sound

Full HD 1920 x 1080 video recording is supported in multiple frames rates, including 60p, 60i, and 24p. When recording in Full HD, the AVCHD Ver. 2.0 codec is used for highly detailed image quality that translates well to editing and sharing on HDTVs. Recording in the Internet-friendly MP4 format is also supported in 1440 x 1080 and 640 x 480 sizes at 30 fps. Manual exposure control is available in video mode. Sound is recorded during filming using the built-in stereo microphone, or additionally, an external microphone can be used in conjunction with the multi interface shoe. A headphone jack allows you to monitor sound directly from the camera and a built-in HDMI output terminal provides direct connection to your HDTV, computer, or external recorder for real-time uncompressed video recording.

High-Resolution LCD Monitor

For live view monitoring, image playback and review, and menu navigation, a 3.0″ 1228K-dot LCD monitor is integrated into the camera body and features a tilting design to promote easier use from high and low angles. The screen can tilt approximately 84° up and 45° down, giving a wide range of viewing angles. The LCD also employs WhiteMagic technology, which enhances the brightness of the display for easier use in bright conditions. Real-time image adjustment can be seen on the monitor and Grid Display and Peaking can be customized for better image control.

XGA OLED Viewfinder

See spectacular clarity, contrast, and detail in every scene, regardless of conditions, on the built-in, bright, high-resolution OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder. Four dual-sided aspherical lenses provide a big, 33º view angle and maintain excellent edge-to-edge visibility of the electronic viewfinder. An eye-sensor on the viewfinder senses when your eye is at the finder and illuminates it while simultaneously turning off the LCD monitor.

Smooth High Speed Autofocus

Aided by the rapid throughput of the BIONZ X image processor, auto focusing on the RX10 is fast and accurate. The Direct Drive SSM (Super Sonic Wave AF Motor) provides fast and smooth autofocus action, and Flexible Spot frames enable versatility and precision when choosing your focus spots.

Precise Autofocus Tracking and New Eye EF Function

Lock-on Autofocus precisely focuses on moving subjects by continuously adjusting target frame size based on its recognition of subject characteristics. Even when a subject goes out of frame temporarily, tracking resumes at the moment that it is recaptured after re-entering the frame. Advanced Eye Detection technology creates Eye AF Function which detects and focuses on the subject’s eye even if the head is turned slightly.

Close-up Focusing

Close-up shooting is seamless and no switching to macro mode is needed. The minimum focus distance for the RX10 is a constant 11″.

Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization

Optical SteadyShot image stabilization works to minimize the appearance of camera shake when working in low-light conditions or with greater zoom magnifications. The system can counter the effects of both vertical and horizontal movements, and, furthermore, Active 3-Way stabilization adds digital rolling control that balances both clockwise and counter-clockwise movements while recording videos.

Diffraction-Reducing Technology

This maintains outstanding clarity by applying aperture-appropriate filter processing to suppress and compensate for diffraction – a phenomenon that can otherwise limit photographic resolution and cause points of light to appear blurred, especially in images that have been shot using a small aperture (large f-number) setting.

Detail Reproduction Technology

By minimizing digital artifacts that tend to overemphasize hard outlines and rough edges when pictures are reproduced, detail reproduction technology makes images noticeably more natural-looking in detail, texture, and dimension.

Area-specific Noise Reduction

Noise reduction, even in images shot in low light, is individually adjusted based on imaging pattern variations for superior clarity and finer details.

Built-In Flash and Multi-Interface Shoe

A convenient pop-up flash with several flash modes is provided but the RX10 features the advanced Multi-Interface Shoe that dramatically expands compatibility with Sony digital imaging accessories such as flash units and microphones, thus increasing the potential of your photo and movie shooting.

Selectable Click/Click-Less Manual Control Ring

The manual ring gives you direct control of certain settings, zooming, and focusing, according to the focus mode in use. In addition, before turning the aperture ring to set f-stop, you can turn Aperture Click Switch on for clicked aperture adjustment or off for a quiet, smooth feel when setting the aperture. A display panel on top lets you see key settings without moving the camera as you look through the viewfinder.

Multi-Compatibility Memory Slot

The one memory card slot on the RX10 is compatible with Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, Memory Stick Micro, Memory Stick Micro Mark 2, SD, SDHC, SDXC, microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC memory cards.

Rugged Design

Magnesium alloy top and front casings make the RX10 light, solid, and robust enough for long, rigorous use by advanced photographers and videographers. The camera’s dust and moisture resistant design even allows shooting in rugged outdoor environments.

Advanced Interface and Customizable Buttons

A new, improved graphical user interface makes access to frequently used functions easier, just press the Fn button to display a list of them. In addition, seven control buttons can be customized to adjust up to 40 function types for faster, personalized access to camera controls

TRILUMINOS and 4K Compatibility

The RX10 supports Sony TRILUMINOS Color for exceptionally rich, natural colors when viewing images on a TRILUMINOS display. Also, photos can be viewed on a 4K television via HDMI or wireless output.

Oct 312013
 

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My 1st look wrap up of the Sony A7 and A7r cameras!

NOTE: All images posted here are JPEGS from the cameras, NOT RAW. 

Hello to all and good morning on this spooky Halloween day. I decided to take the morning off from this Sony event (off-road driving) because I am so backed up on work as well as tired and in need of a refresh. So I have a few hours free this morning to catch up on work, doing some tests that have been requested and charging my internal battery.

An OOC Jpeg with the A7r – 55 1.4 Otus

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Over the past few days I have been writing and showing samples from the new Sony A7 cameras. This will be my final wrap up on my 1st look of them from using these bad boys all week. To catch up you can see parts 1-3 below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I have also stated that this is basically a first hands on look, and NOT a full review. When I get a review sample at home I will do a full review of the cameras. (As for all of the requests..there is simply no way to get them all done during this week as every minute of every day is jammed packed but I will be posting my first look wrap up and opinion on my experience with the new camera so far).

Sony A7r and Zeiss Otus

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Auto Focus, Lenses and more…

So are these the dream cameras many of us have waited years  for? Is it the “RX1 with IC lenses” that many of us wanted? Is it a Leica M replacement for a fraction of the cost? Well, that remains to be seen but the camera is not perfect (no camera really is) and its biggest issue right now is native lens availability. At launch we have the Kit Zoom 24-70, a 35 2.8 and a 55 1.8 (a couple of weeks later). The 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 are superb lenses. Lightweight and sharp as can be. BUT in low light, with either of these cameras, these lenses can hunt for AF which has always been a Sony thing it seems. It’s not “bad” and you CAN get the cameras to AF in really low light, it is just there me be a time when the camera hunts and misses if shooting in low light conditions.

The Sony 55 1.8 at 1.8 on the A7 – OOC JPEG

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Sony 55 1.8 on the A7 – ISO 6400

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55 1.8 on the A7

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If you have at least SOME light then you are good to go but I can state right now that these Sony’s will not win AF speed awards with either of these cameras. Keep in mind, my reference is the Olympus E-M1 as I have found this camera to be the fastest to AF of any I have ever used, period. The Sony’s in comparison to that reference are nearly as fast in daylight but in low light they drop to about 50% as fast. I noticed this last night when shooting Ben Folds at the historic Ryman Theater using the 55 1.8 and A mount 70-400. There were a couple of occasions where it would hunt for AF due to the lights being so low.

In other words..FAST AF in daylight. Slower AF in low light. This goes for both the A7 and A7r. 

Ben Folds with the 55 1.8 and A7

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Using the 70-400 A mount lens with Adapter at 400mm, ISO 6400 and I accidentally had my camera set for -2 EV comp!

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The 55 once again..during soundcheck

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Before you read any further, take a look at the video I made for the A7 cameras comparing them side by side, taking a listen to the shutter sound of each and sharing my verbal thoughts about using the cameras.

The 1st Look Video on the A7 and A7r

The Build

The build of the A7 and A7r are fantastic. I have had no issues with this and while to me, the OM-D E-M1 feels slightly better made, I am not sure this is really the case. Both are built nice though the E-M1 may feel better in my hand. I am comparing it to the E-M1 as I have that camera with me on this trip and just held both side by side.

Same size, both feel great but the Oly is a little more “slick” in its design.

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The A7 and A7r are weather sealed as well so should not be an issue in the rain if you need to grab some shots while it is coming down.

As for the differences in build, the A7r has better made dials but in use you really do not notice this. Both feel the same to me in the hand as well as look the same. To me the build feels like a beefed up NEX-7.

No issues there.

The 55 1.8 on the A7 at 1.8 – Country Music legend Porter Wagner’s old suit and guitar displayed at the Ryman Theater in Nashville, TN

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General Use

In use the A7 and A7r are just fine. Menus are easy to navigate as they use the Alpha menu system and NOT the NEX menu system. To those who were saying it has the NEX Menu system available, it DOES NOT. End of story.

After setting up the camera to your own preferences it is simple as pie to use.

Exposure:

Some who are with me that have been using the camera have been saying they were having overexposure issues. Well, I have not had any when using most lenses..until I was shooting with the 55 1.8. Then I noticed the camera was over exposing just a little and I had to dial it down with some negative exposure compensation. When using the manual lenses I had no issues so not sure if this is a firmware thing or a lens thing but do know that overall I had no issues with exposure. I am sure that if any bugs are found that Sony will address these before the camera ships in the form of firmware updates.

Other than that, the exposure metering seems solid to me. I know there have been some reports about exposure issues but I have been posting loads of JPEGS..do they look overexposed? :)

Manual Focus:

When shooting any lens in manual focus, even a Sony FE lens, for me it was easy to nail focus without a problem. Some have been saying the focus peaking is not accurate..well..focus peaking is more of an aid, not a sure-fire way for critically manually focusing. I think that many testing the camera now have never really used peaking much, but using it requires some practice as well as making sure to not just rely on the peaking but on the subject in the EVF as well. I kind of mesh both..when the peaking is telling me something is in focus, and shooting wide open at 1.4 or close to it, any slight movement of the focus barrel can knock it out of whack. You have to be precise and peaking is not really precise (nor is it on any camera). Just remember it is an aid to manual focus and does not replace your own eyeball. It can also be turned off if you do not want it. You can also press a button and have instant magnification if you want to critically focus.

For every photo I posted here over the past few days using a manual lens I used peaking without magnification. I had no issues and 98% of my images were in focus. But I have used peaking quite a bit over the past few years so I am used to it and know what to expect from it and what not to.

For those who are not used to it, practice makes perfect and after 2-3 days of shooting using peaking it should not be an issue.

As for manual focusing the Sony FE lenses, I had to switch on MF last night while taking photos in a bar where Sony had us gather for some really low light shooting. Now, the place was DARK and while I could AF on some things I had to MF for others. Manually focusing a Sony lens will automatically bring up magnification when you turn the focus barrel. This makes it foolproof to nail the AF.

So for me, I had no issues with manually focusing any lens and nailing focus. At all. In fact, I found it quite easy..just as easy as manually focusing on the E-M1.

Using Leica M Mount Lenses

The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4 – Sharp just how I remember it from the M9 days…through a store window at 12AM..Hmmm, I used focus peaking here :) Wide open…and it worked!

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After using these cameras extensively with a variety of Leica M mount glass I can say that if you shoot 35mm and up, there will be no issues on the A7 or A7r with color fringing or magenta edges or focusing. If shooting lenses such as the crazy 12mm Voigtlander or the 15mm or a Zeiss 21 2.8 or Voigtlander 28 f/2 you will see different degrees of either Vignetting or Color issues on the edges.

This also happens on the worlds only other full frame mirrorless camera, the Leica M 240 (and previous M9)

The next few are from the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH, wide open at 1.4 on the A7. I am happy to see that it keeps its signature look. It works just as well on the A7r, was a breeze to manually focus and the color is great, even in these plain old JPEGS from the A7.

EXIF is embedded so be sure to check out the ISO on these :) AND click them for larger versions! THESE ARE ALL JPEGS, NO RAWS YET.

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I am happy to see the 50 Lux retain its quality and look on the new A7 and A7r. For some, an A7r and 50 Lux would be all they would ever need. Throw in a 35 f/1.2 or 35 f2 and then 75 or 90 and you would have a nice little tiny lens kit with a powerhouse camera. Truth be told, I loved  shooting the A7 and A7r with these tiny RF lenses. Not only did it feel good in the hand, they were easy to work with and focus as well as putting out amazing results. Anyone who is saying this lens will not do good on the A7 or A7r do not know how to use them correctly on such a camera (or are trying to knock it down for Leica’s sake).

But back to the wide-angle thing…some of these ultra wides lenses are just not meant to work well with full frame digital bodies. The good news is that if you like B&W you can use the 12, 15 or any ultra wide you like. Just convert to B&W and you will not have problems. :) Lol. But seriously, if you are primarily an ultra wide Leica M lens shooter, you may want to skip these bodies. If you shoot 35mm and up, to me, these two cameras put out better IQ than the Leica M. Quite the fear for Sony so I applaud them for that.

Many of you have asked for a slew of samples on each body with different lenses. First of all, I am not a Leica lens storage cabinet, I only have certain lenses I was able to borrow for this trip (from cameraquest.com) and they are mostly Voigtlander and some Zeiss (which came from lensrentals.com). I have also had zero time until today (only because I skipped the morning trip) to do ANY sort of testing. I can tell you this though…

What I have found is that my favorite lenses on the A7 or A7r have been the Voigtlander 35 1.2 II, the Zeiss 35 Biogon f/2 and  the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH as well as the little tiny Zeiss 50 ZM Planar (amazing colors). All amazingly beautiful in color, sharpness and overall look. I am a huge fan of rangefinder lenses so I am happy to see that the Sony A7 and A7r can use most of them to their full potential without issue. (besides ultra wides).

A friend of mine, Ashwin Rao has a slew of Leica M mount lenses..something like 30 of them or so. If I can get an A7 and A7r to review and take home I will fly to Seattle to test these lenses with Ashwin, one by one, spending a full day or two to do it right. He has lenses ranging from 16mm to 135mm and also ranging from vintage to modern.

THAT would be a cool test. I will let you guys know who have interest in that soon if it will be a reality.

For now though, seeing that I am in a hotel room in Nashville, all I could do is what you see below:

Lens Testing – M Mount from 15 to 50mm

1st set on the A7R

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2nd set on the A7

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So there you go. What you see is what you get with each lens on each camera. These are direct from camera JPEG using AWB. Exactly as I expected from shooting them over the last few days. The A7 will give you slightly better performance with ultra wides though none will give you clean files with the 15mm Voigtlander. No full frame camera in digital can. The A7 with all of the lenses besides the 15 look pretty damn good though. As I said, my faves are the Voigtlander 35 1.2, the Zeiss 35 f/2 and  the Zeiss 50 f/2 (as well as the 50 lux).

Wrap it up!

There you have it! My 1st look wrap up after using these cameras for the past 4 days. Sony has  created a unique camera with a nice build and feel, a full frame sensor and the ability to not only use their new lenses, but adapted lenses as well (with some exceptions in wide angle M mount) as their older E Mount lenses (which will crop on these cameras, killing the full frame look they are bought for).

I saw a guy yesterday shooting the Nikon 14-24 on the A7R without issues and man oh man was it sharp. So the camera is very versatile when you think about the possibilities of what lenses can be attached to this little guy. There are hundreds of classic RF lenses to try and loads of Canon glass as well. Pretty limitless.

I have not yet been able to test things such as continuous AF speed or full on ISO comparisons but I can say that by using both, I really did see the resolution increase in the 7… but do I need it? Not really. Do I want it? Probably.

Many have been asking me…”Which one do I get”?

To answer that ask yourself if you want powerhouse resolution or huge resolution. Either one delivers plenty of detail and resolution but the A7r takes it up a notch. For Leica users who want to use M glass, I recommend the A7 if you want to shoot with some wide angles (some work fine) and the A7r if you are 35mm and up. It’s that simple. Both excel at low light and high ISO, both feel the same and work the same.

What about the 35 2.8 Zeiss Lens? 

For those wanting more from the new Sony 35 2.8 FE, I have posted samples and thoughts in previous posts but will do more in my  upcoming full review. The 35 is a SUPERB lens and if you want AF it will be tough to find a sharper 35mm for this system. In fact, that would be impossible. It focuses fast, is sharp as you could ever need and it is small.

Below is a full size JPEG from the 35 2.8 at 5.6 on the A7R, Handheld out of my hotel window..click it for full size (saved as a level 8 JPEG)

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A7 or E-M1?

For those asking me if they should buy an A7 or Olympus E-M1, that is not for me  to decide. Best thing to do is read reviews and go from there. As I said a few weeks ago, I will own both and will explain why in a future detailed article because it may cause some commotion :) The E-M1 will focus faster, feels even better in the hand, is more repsonsive and has many more lenses available. BUT it is not full frame, which is what the A7 and A7r are all about.

Also, many have asked about the new RX10 as well, and I have not even touched one yet but will be doing so today for the halloween costume contest Sony is putting on later. Again, it will just be my 1st thoughts, not  a full review.

So with all of that I must leave now to go get ready for the rest of the day ahead of me, this took me a few hours to put together so time to join back up with the group. Will be back home tomorrow evening so looking forward to getting back and resuming my normal schedule!

Happy Halloween!

OH and if you want to order one of the Sony cameras, doing so at my list of links will greatly help me out here on this site. Those tiny commissions I get help to keep this site up and running everytime one of you use my links to buy ANYTHING. CLICK HERE FOR THE SONY a7 PRE ORDER PAGE!

Also, big thanks to Stephen Gandy from Camera Quest once again for letting me use these lenses! His site is HERE. 

Steve

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Oct 262013
 

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The Phoenix AZ Zombie Walk with the Olympus E-P5 and E-M1!

Just arrived back home from the Zombie Walk here in Phoenix, AZ and it was a blast as usual. This year I brought along the Olympus E-M1 and E-P5 with a 17 1.8, 25 0.95 and 45 1.8. Oh, and also a Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. I was curious to see if I would prefer using one camera over the other and while I thouroghly  enjoyed them both, i enjoyed the E-M1 a little more and most of my faves came from the E-M1 as well. Not sure why that is..because the IQ is VERY close with the E-M1 being a little different in color and sharpness. Just slight.

Some of my faves from the day are below, but what is really cool is that today we have so many lenses in the Micro 4/3 world that can give us whatever we want..from ultra fisheye wide to wide to standard to shallow DOF tools such as the 25 0.95. It’s an all around fantastic system and the REALLY cool thing is I did not have one out of focus image. Not a one. Also, using the 25 0.95 on either camera was a joy. No need for magnification or peaking due to the EVF being so large and clear.

At the end of the day I would purchase an E-M1 if buying into the Micro 4/3 system just because it offers so much and does it all so right. The E-P5 is also awesome, with looks that kill but the large EVF on top sort of kills the Mojo when in use or trying to put in a bag.

I have spoken quite a bit about these two cameras and it seems I can not say enough. I love them but most of all I love these lenses! They are so so good.

The E-M1 or E-P5 along with a Sony A7 or A7r would make for one killer “Do It All” system. One built for speed and versatility and one built for flat-out IQ. G.A.S. sucks.

Check out the images below and click on them for the details!

See ya Monday with the new Sony’s IN HAND!

Steve

The E-P5 and 17 1.8 at 1.8 – click it for larger

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The E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95

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The E-P5 and 45 1.8 at 1.8. This lens at $399 is a must for any M 4/3 user. Trust me. 

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E-M1 and 17 1.8 at f/2.2

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E-M1 and 17 1.8 – Wide open at 1.8. Click it for large and detailed. Who said this lens was soft? This was also in some bright sunlight and the E-M1 handled it nicely. 

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The E-M1 and 17 1.8

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Again, the 17 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95 and up close – amazingly sharp for wide open. The E-M1 works magic on these lenses

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Again, E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95. DOF is thin but I focused on the girl..

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E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95

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E-M1 and 25 0.95

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E-M1 and 17 1.8 – This was in SUPER harsh light but the highlights were easily recovered here in RAW processing. 

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E-P5 and 8mm Fisheye

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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17 1.8

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45 1.8

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Me and Debby! WITHOUT Makeup :)

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ORDER LINKS:

You can order the E-M1 Here

You can order the E-P5 Here

You can order the 25 0.95 Lens HERE

You can order the 17 1.8 HERE

You can order the 45 1.8 Here

Oct 092013
 

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A Vintage Year with the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1

by Neil Buchan-Grant – His website is HERE

From Steve: Hello to all today and happy Wednesday! What you are about to see is an incredible collection of images all shot with Micro 4/3 using the OM-D E-M5 and new E-M1 by Neil Buchan-Grant. As it is all about who is behind the camera, I feel that Neil really shows what these cameras are capable of. My full E-M1 review will be here SOON and I am having a blast shooting with it. Enjoy!

 

Hi Steve and readers!

Its been quite a good year so far photography-wise. Unlike many people who take their camera out every day, I tend to concentrate my photographic efforts into short projects based around travel or events. This year I have been very fortunate to attend a number of amazing ‘vintage’ events and as my relationship with Olympus UK has flourished, they have let me try out their new gear in sunnier parts of Europe

My last submission back in January announced how little I was using the Leica M9 since buying my Olympus OMD-EM5. Well now that the EM1 has been launched, the time has come to say goodbye to the M9 (but I’m keeping the lenses!).

The year started with a long weekend in the Canary Islands where I had always wanted to shoot the dramatic sand dunes of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria.

Shot with the Olympus 12mm f/2 – E-M5

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12mm – E-M5

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On rare occasions I wake early and venture out into Winchester for a dawn shoot, this shot was from the last time this happened.

12mm – E-M5

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Next, a one-day workshop I was asked to host in the historic city of Cambridge produced these two shots

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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I was commissioned to shoot Wayne Hemingway’s vintage festival which this year took place in Glasgow, it was good to be back in Scotland for a weekend. These two pros attend many of the Vintage events across the globe, they own the dance floor!

 Olympus 17 1.8 – E-M5

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Then I was sent out to Budapest with Jay McLaughlin, a very experienced fashion photographer (and Olympus user) to create some marketing images. Here are two of my favourites from the shoot.

Olympus 75mm 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Goodwood Revival is heritage motor sport race meeting held in the Sussex downs and always attracts a vast number of impeccably dressed vintage enthusiasts from around the world.

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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And lastly I just came back from Portugal after a week of testing the new OMD-EM1. As a result I am quite smitten with this camera! It was a joy to use on an extended shoot where I took over 5,500 frames. The Swiss/French model who came along for the job had broken her foot 2 weeks before but fortunately didn’t have to wear a cast. She did extremely well, considering she needed crutches to go anywhere. Here are a few of my favourites from the week.

E-M1 and 75 1.8

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E-M1 and 45 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and new 12-40 Pro Zoom

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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 Hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these as much as I have making them, much more to see up on my blog as usual.

Oct 022013
 

“Down The Drain” 

Down the drain

The Future Is In The Past – The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure

Max Marinucci Photography

Fine Art Photography

Silver Gelatin and Photogravure

South Salem, NY

www.maxmarinucci.com

As a photographer and printer, I’ve always seen the advent of digital photography as a mixed blessing. The gain in speed, convenience, immediacy, offered by digital photography, also meant the gradual loss of film and everything related to it (photographic paper, chemicals) and, more importantly, the loss of learned skills and knowledge that are needed to produce truly hand-made prints. I have, of course, continued to use film for most of my work and honed my skills producing quality silver gelatin prints, in a world when a photographer feels like he is constantly swimming against the digital current. Kodak is no longer a driving force and so many manufacturers have disappeared or stopped making photographic product, with Ilford being the only reliable and consistent source as of today. Over the past year, while still dedicated to film photography and silver gelatin, I’ve rediscovered what is the most venerable, and in my opinion most beautiful of photographic processes: photogravure. A venerable process, and a 19th century invention, it was indeed how photography came to life, on paper, at the dawn of it all. On the camera front, as a devoted Leica user, I’ve continued with my trusty M3 and later film incarnations as the M4, M6, M7 and MP, until finally breaking down and acquiring a Monochrom upon release. There was no denying that the allure of a no fuss, great Leica camera that captures images in black and white only was too much to bear but, as my personality dictates, everything has to have a clear purpose. I am not an inkjet printer and I see no purpose in spending a good chunk of hard-earned cash on a camera to simply post digital snapshots on social networks or photography related websites, in a vacuum, with a purely digital workflow. As a photographer, artist and a printer, how do I justify the investment and, better yet, how do I bring the amazingly detailed images that the Monochrom is able to record, to life, on paper? Marrying our historic photographic past to the latest in technology, in a seamless way, and one that offers the viewer, collector, buyer, a tangible product that is not mass-produced but it is a handmade work of art, seemed the one and only way for me.

The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure: the future is in the past.

“The Old Man By The Window”

Old Man By The Window

Because of technological advances within the printing industry, and pioneers such as Jon Cone of Piezography, Roy Harrington of QTR, and Mark Nelson of Precision Digital Negatives (and few others) today it is possible to print absolutely flawless digital positives to use for the photogravure process. Of course, that doesn’t make this amazing process any easier, as it still involves the same numerous (and full of pitfalls) steps as it did one hundred years ago, but one only needs to admire in person the incredible prints born from Leica Monochrom images and onto fine art papers, hand-made with beautiful inks, to realize how special this is. I firmly believe that for a fine art photographer and printer, who is willing to let go of the constant film versus digital battles and discussions, these can be exciting times, if only one is willing to learn and push the boundaries a bit. For my own work it has now come to a point when shooting film with the ultimate goal of making photogravure plates and prints is almost not worth it. Of course, medium and large format film still offer many possibilities but, at the end of the day, film still has to be scanned and that will always be the weakest link (and probably weaker as we go on, as film scanners are barely in production). While results can be more than acceptable with 35mm, and I will still continue on this path on occasion, the amount of detail and the possibilities available with the Leica Monochrom and photogravure are truly exciting and special.

“Porte, Cassis” 

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For the novice who may be wondering why go through the trouble of using such a cumbersome and antiquated process to produce a print, I’d like to again outline a few important points: obviously, for as beautiful as the best inkjet prints may be, there are no particular skills required and no “hands on” aspect. If one enjoys actually “making” something, an inkjet print gives no satisfaction. Then there is the aspect of the print itself. With inkjet, we have ink (and a crappy one in most cases), sitting on top of the paper. With photogravure etchings, the image is IN the paper. What does that mean? Well, an etching on copper is basically peaks and valleys. The valleys are the deep crevices, which hold more ink and create the deep shadows and blacks, and the peaks will hold much less and create the highlights in print. Of course, we have everything in between, for a true full range of tones. What this does is actually creating a relief on paper. The images have a structure and depth that one cannot replicate with an inkjet printer, or with any other process.

“Strength and Grace”

Strength and Grace

The Prints:

All prints are in editions of 20, with image size 12×8 for standard 35mm format and 8×8 for square crops. Printed on Magnani Revere or Somerset papers, using Graphic Chemicals, Charbonnelle, and Izote etching inks. Of course archival qualities far exceed those of inkjet prints and even silver gelatin. Every print is hand made by me, and hand pulled using a manual etching press. Aside from the original digital file and the production of a “positive” on clear film, the process is fully analog.

A word about the Photogravure process:

Please do note that when I say photogravure, I mean, “copper-plate photogravure”. There is another printing process that uses pre-sensitized “polymer” plates and a few “artists” have gotten into the habit of calling it simply “photogravure”. It is NOT the same thing! Copper plate photogravure, is an etching process. A gelatin resist that is first sensitized in potassium dichromate is exposed (using first an aquatint screen or rosin dust), then applied to a sheet of mirror finish copper, developed and finally “etched” in a series of ferric chloride acid baths. The Photo-Polymer process is NOT an etching process and it does not require chemicals in any of its steps. It is much easier to master and prints can be absolutely beautiful but…IT IS NOT “PHOTOGRAVURE”.

Sep 262013
 

Head hunting on the Bonneville Salt Flats with the Sony RX100

By Terry Bell

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Hi Steve;

Hoping life is being kind to you. Your site has become my go to photo blog each morning.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the great joy of accompanying a dear friend to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where,he would attempt to gain membership in the 200 mph club, aboard his BMW motorcycle.

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I decided to take two cameras with me on this adventure… My Fujifilm X Pro1 with 18-55 zoom and 14 mm wide-angle, and as back up , my Sony RX100.

After watching the first few timed runs, ( from a considerable distance ) it became clear that i was not going to come close to capturing the speed and excitement that some of these motorcycles generate, with the equipment I had.

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I decided that rather than focus on the motion, I would instead, turn my attention to the community of racers and staff that show up each year to make this event so special.

My go to camera for this project was my Sony RX100. It’s big advantage beyond it’s ability to render incredibly crisp images, is that it is, by and large, totally un-intimidating. I always like to work close when shooting people and I have found that the more serious the equipment, the greater the anxiety of the subject.

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Here on the Salt Flats, I was shooting total strangers and rarely was afforded more than two or three trips of the shutter. The little Sony performed flawlessly and took any hint of seriousness off my picture-taking.

As you can see by a couple of other pics, it did an equally fine job at capturing the beauty of the some of the machines, as well.

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Hope this proves of interest.

Terry Bell

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Canada

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Sep 182013
 

Around the world with the Fuji X-Pro 1 by Nate Robert

Hey Steve!

In December last year, I sent you a bunch of photos from the streets
of Iran
, all taken using the Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 18mm lens. I
thought your readers may like an update, as my journey around the
world with one camera and one lens has now passed the 400 day mark –
I’m still going strong and not slowing down – I’ve done 17 countries
in the last month.

I recently spent some time in an unrecognised breakaway territory deep
in Eastern Europe, known as “Transnistria”. After a brutal war of
independence in the early 90’s, the region is now doing its own thing
– due in large part to the Russian military that maintains a presence
on the ground. It was an incredibly interesting place to visit,
especially on Independence Day – held annually on the 2nd September.

Apart from an extremely Soviet-esque military parade, other highlights
included a parade of available brides, plenty of BBQ, and Vodka
flowing freely. It’s a hard place to explain, and I’m not sure my
photos do anything more than seed further confusion about
Transnistria.

In any case, despite being tempted by full frame in the Leica range, I
have stuck with the Fuji and the 18mm for quite some time now. It’s
something I recommend everyone doing at least once in their
photographic life. As time passes, I get to know the capabilities of
the camera, and the lens, in great detail. I’ve used this combo for
street photography, landscapes, and architectural shots. Of course,
the Fuji does have it’s “quirks”, but let’s face it – all camera’s do.
Is any camera really perfect?

Keep up the great work, and I will check in again next time I have
something interesting to share. Iran, Transistria, who knows where I
will end up next. If any of your readers would like to follow my
indefinite  journey, I think they would find it interesting – one
lens, one camera, one world. I’m blogging as I go.

Keep on doing your thing Steve, we all appreciate it.

Nate Robert

http://www.yomadic.com/transnistria/

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Sep 132013
 

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The Ricoh GR in Brazil

by Colin Steel – See his BLOG Here

Hey friends, sorry its been a while since I posted anything but I thought some of you may be interested in some thoughts I have on the newish Ricoh GR which I used in a pretty limited way on a recent trip to Brazil. Regular readers will know that I have been shooting 1:1 black and white for a while now and this trip was no different, I used my trusty Fuji X20 and to a lesser extent the X100s for most of the work I did (working on a post on that to follow). However, I also had along with me a newly purchased Ricoh GR and I decided to see how that worked for me as a camera and just for a change, to show the results in a normal format and in colour. As most of you will know, I kind of take image quality as for-granted with modern cameras and of more importance to me personally is how the camera fits the way I work and its overall usability factor. Here are some links to reviews that you might want to look at if the camera interests you at Steve Huff, and, although I much prefer Steve’s real world user style, here is the more thorough and technical DP Review version. I think as you can see here, you will have no problems with IQ and so on and almost all of the reviews I looked at were very positive on the camera overall.

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Just in case anyone is wondering, I stopped shooting colour and 3:2 because firstly, I am very colour blind and had a lot of problems in Lightroom when editing and secondly, I really find that I can fill the frame more interestingly with a square format. These are only personal preferences of mine and I will try to explain the thinking behind them a bit better in my next post on the main body of work from Brazil. Anyway, these colours look ok to me but please bear with me if they are a bit off in any way. All of the shots here have had very minimal adjustments with a mild saturation boost and a little clarity added and that’s more or less it. Enough of the background stuff, what about the camera as a travel partner and photo tool?

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GR, Friend or Foe?

Quite often camera reviews often end with a ‘who is this camera for?’ statement or an extensive list of pro’s and con’s that can often be somewhat amusing. For example I read a review of the GR that had the fixed 28mm equivalent lens as a con, you have to be kidding !!!!!! Surely no one in their right mind would buy a camera like this if they didn’t see that as a distinct advantage for their needs.

The longer I am involved in photography and the more passionate I become about the creative possibilities of its art, the more and more I gravitate towards simplicity and compactness in the cameras that I use and this little wonder ticks all of the right boxes in that respect with a couple of major operational upsides that I will come to shortly. The reason I mentioned the lens comment is that I have tried to show with the photos that I have chosen to show here that this is an extremely versatile camera and much of that is down to its maturity as a product (the GR range has a strong film heritage) the focal length chosen and its overall ease of use.

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From a handling perspective I really love this camera, I attached one of the marvellous Peak Design cuff wrist straps on it and it becomes a highly manoeuvrable and flexible, one hand if I want it, shooting marvel. Let me explain why and also point out where you have to be a bit careful with this as well. The GR is very easily configured to your preferred set up and very easy to control with one hand if you need to – here is what I find works best for me and you might want to try yourself. First up, I set the camera in the Pentax/Ricoh unique TAv mode which allows you to set both shutter and aperture via the front and back control dials and the camera then gets the correct exposure by choosing the ISO value. This is extremely liberating for me as I tend to value a lot of depth of field but at the same time want to make sure that I can maintain a suitable shutter speed for my situation. I also found that ISO up to 6400 was a breeze for this camera although you need to be very careful in colour if you go beyond that. So, all I do is tweak the setting as I move into a new environment. In other words in daylight I would normally walk around with the GR set at F8 and 1/125th as I know this will get me almost any shot I want as long as there is no great movement going on. Indoors in poorer light I simply open up the aperture F3.5 or something and if things are static drop to 1/40 s shutter speed or thereabouts. This is a very simple process that quickly becomes second nature and gives good predictable results. Then the icing on the cake is that I have configured the ‘effect’ function button which is handily placed on the left hand side to control the snap focus distance and I use this as a kind of insurance policy by normally setting it on 1.5 metres so that I know that if I press he shutter straight down it will focus there and my additional DoF via the aperture will get me the shot. I realise as I read what I have written here that this sounds a little complicated but trust me its not, simply try it for yourself and you will see how it frees you up to think about the shot and what you want to say with it. The only catch I have found with this is that you have to be respectful of not shooting one handed unless it suits what you are doing and this is because of the obvious risk of the inherent lack of stability that goes with this style of shooting. Its fine to control the camera with one hand for the settings and so on but better to get as much grip on it as you can when actually shooting. I believe some of the previous GR models had image stabilising in them and its a shame it wasn’t possible to engineer it in here, just be sensible and you wont find it a big deal. Thats it for menus and settings for me, I simply don’t touch the menus again after that initial set up and only apply small variations to the aperture and shutter speeds as I described. Incidentally, I mentioned that the GR is a mature product and it feels just great in the hand, the grip and tactile feel is superb.

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Here is a good example of the one handed approach giving me an interesting angle and there is a strange story to this shot as well. Two of my companions were Brazilian and unbeknown to me this guy that I was photographing outside the tiny Bar Dos Amigos cantina had told them that he had killed a guy with a machete the day before !!! Not sure if this was true or not but he did look a bit sinister and I am glad I was blissfully unaware. As usual with smaller cams though, they are generally much less intrusive and discrete and I think that, as many of you will have experienced, they lend themselves to a more intimate style of shooting.

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As other reviewers have pointed out, I did find that the camera has a slight tendency to underexpose but personally I tend to like a slightly darker tone and the exposure compensation is a breeze being handily located near the thumb grip. You may want to consider setting the AEL/AFL button on the other side of the thumb grip to exposure lock and using that to control metering off of neutral tones if required or to lock on a sky as in this shot above.

I had intended to keep this brief as in all honesty I didn’t use the GR very much on the trip so I want to finish by returning to the lens and its benefits and then looking at what happens when you push the ISO on the camera.

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At 28mm equivalent focal length this is about as wide as I am prepared to go nowadays as I have come to really dislike the distortions that come in with wider lenses. The distortion is here too in the GR but I chose this shot as an example of how decently controlled it is for such a wide lens. You can see the ‘pull’ on the boys eye and face but for me it doesn’t ruin the shot or overly distract me and I think that is a fine achievement by Ricoh and this is a pretty extreme example. Sharpness is something else that I usually take fore-granted in modern kit as I don’t think its that critical for my style but even with my dodgy eyesight this looks sharp all of the way to the edges. Again, this is born out in the techy reviews.

By the way, all of the shots here were taken using the superb rear screen on the GR and I never once felt that I couldn’t see properly to frame my shots. I have mentioned it in previous posts but I rather like the giant rangefinder effect of being able to see the complete environment while framing. Since returning from Brazil however I did have a bit of luck and found a a Lumix 24mm optical viewfinder used for S$70 and its proving great for when I feel a viewfinder framing is needed. Absurdly the stated 24mm frame lines seem to fit perfectly the 3:2 size of the GR images. I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience but if if you are looking for a cheap viewfinder option I can highly recommend this one.

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I want to draw towards a close with a couple of shots that were taken in near impossible light at what I think was the cameras highest ISO setting. I had to apply quite a lot of NR in Lightroom to these and the they became a bit mushy but I rather think they still just about make it. I am not a purist at all in these matters and prefer the fact that the images have some degree of visual and emotional impact on me that overrides the lack of clarity in the final image. The following shot was taken with flash and unfortunately this one is a bit more mushy but I still like the overall effect and I could probably have gotten away with more in a B&W conversion.

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By the way, I think the marvellous Roger Ballen would have loved this place which was a riverside abandoned sugar cane factory which had been occupied by itinerant fishermen and their families. I would dearly love to go back and try to shoot in a more controlled way, it was an astounding setting.

Which leads me to the end here by mentioning that I have been studying with the very wonderful Ernesto Bazan for a while now and the trip to Salvador de Bahia and Cachoeira was as part of one of his incredible workshops. Ernesto is a dear friend, very fine human being and wonderful maestro so if you enjoy learning and want to develop your style while having a great time, have a look at his amazing schedule.

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Well that’s it folks for this short piece, I sincerely hope that there was something of interest in it and hopefully it will have at least given some ideas to anyone thinking of buying the Ricoh GR. I will round out by saying that I have been carrying it in my bag every day and while I don’t see it unseating the X20 for my personal way of shooting, its definitely a very fine creative tool.

safe travels and happy shooting,

Colin

See his Blog HERE

Sep 112013
 

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REVIEW: The Canon 6D with Sigma 35 1.4 and Canon 85 1.2L

A Canon DSLR with POW, WHAM, BANG and two lenses with a little bit of Magic Dust Included.

Yes I know this Canon 6D camera and  the mentioned lenses have been reviewed by many others and is old news, but I had an opportunity to try these out for a week and decided to give it a whirl. So what you will read here is my experience using and shooting a DSLR after not really seriously shooting with one for a long time. The Canon 6D has intrigued me and I am happy that I was able to test it out with these two stellar lenses. Below is my experience.

DSLR’s are STILL hot

It has been said by more than one photographer in this ever growing mirror less world that “DSLR’s are still hot”. Yep, even with the rise in smaller and powerful mirrorless camera creation and sales, the DSLR still outsells the little mighty ones by a good margin. I saw it first hand while visiting New York City for a 2 day trip to a special Olympus event. I would say that 85% of those I saw on the street were using a DSLR of some sort, mainly Canon Rebels. Why is that? Well, there are many reasons, one being is that many newbies to Photography and those upgrading from little P&S cameras want to look “pro” and to do so requires they get a new Canon Rebel or starter Nikon DSLR..or so they think. 

The Canon 6D and incredible Sigma 35 1.4 ART series lens

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Yep, that is the mindset of many who are delving into photography and 95% of them know nothing about the smaller and sleeker mirrorless offerings that brings with them a similar image quality in a fraction of the size. Why is that? Because they want a large DSLR so they look pro or look cool.  This is a fact. I speak with many newbies every day who email me for advice and they want to know if they should get a Rebel or a Nikon D whatever to start out with. I ask why they want a DSLR and they usually say “my freind has one and I love it” or “it is professional and I want to be a pro” or “The Best Buy guy said the Canon Rebel is the best for quality”. Etc, Etc. I now tell them to check out this steal of a deal which is a starter DSLR style camera with an APS-C sensor called the Sony Alpha 3000. $399 with lens. But even that won’t do it for some because they want a Canon or a Nikon.

So yes, many people out there are getting into serious photography and they feel that to be serious they need a DSLR, the camera that their neighbor or friend has or the one that Best Buy told them was the best, which is usually a Canon Rebel.

But this is only the beginning of why DSLR sales remain strong.

The Canon 6D and the 85 L 1.2 II at 1.2 in a low dimly lit restaurant. One color, one B&W (both from RAW) Low light is NO problem at all for this combo. Click it to see the clarity at 1.2 and its ability to suck in the light. 

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Others buy DSLR’s for pro work, which I agree with. If I was shooting pro work day in and day out every single day (depending on what the work was) a DSLR would make its way into my kit for those times when the Leica M or RX1 just would not work or when an OM-D body would not work (macro or long tele). At that time I would then have to decide if I wanted a Canon, a Nikon or a Sony DSLR. Yes, Sony is an option as they make some cutting edge cameras, including some pretty nice DSLR’s. In the past I have owned a Canon 5D and a Nikon D700. I loved both but to be honest, I enjoyed the D700 more because at the time I preffered the Nikon color and rendering but I always went back and forth on that.

DSLR’s are a hot item even today and there are benefits to using them (as well as the cons of weight and huge size) depending on what it is you shoot. They are well established with a plethora of lenses available from macro to tilt shift to extreme fast telephoto primes to exotic superfast primes. Long story short, they offer everything anyone could ever need for creative photography. The new Mirrorless cameras of today that are so hot can also offer this in a much smaller package but even years after their inception, the lens choices, while great, are not as plentiful as they are with a Canon or Nikon or even Sony DSLR and DSLRS can be had from $300 and up to $8000 or more. So there are choices.

Canon 6D and Canon 85 L 1.2 II wide open

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But to be honest, these days I know that it is ALL ABOUT THE LENSES! Nikon and Canon have some amazing stellar glass in their DSLR lineup but Canon has one or two (expensive) jewels that Nikon can not compete with (in MY opinion) due to the unique looks these Canon lenses give. In fact, there are insane amounts of lenses available for the Canon and Nikon systems including some damn good Zeiss options and now Sigma. But in the Canon lineup there are a few jewels for sure..well, MANY jewels but one has always had a spot in my heart and another lens in the L lineup is close behind and it does not come cheap.

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The main lens I speak of is the Canon 85L 1.2 (version 1 or 2) and the Canon 50 L 1.2.

Being full frame lenses with HUGE front elements and a light sucking 1.2 aperture, these lenses are HUGE, FAT, HEAVY and loaded with abilities that can make almost anyone with an ounce of skill into an abstract artist. NOTHING renders like an 85L 1.2 lens and it is more like a big fat paintbrush than a camera lens. Many have nicknamed it “THE KEG” because it looks like a mini keg of beer. It is large but it sure can pull off a special and one of a kind look.

The way it can “paint” your subjects is quite remarkable and while not everyone enjoys this look, when used sparingly or in certain portrait conditions it can be jaw dropping and sometimes even haunting. Not even a Leica Noctilux can render like a Canon 85L and when I say that I am not discounting the Noctilux, as I prefer the Noctilux look by a slight margin (as it is quite different) but when we put things into perspective, the Canon 85L is a $2000 lens. The Canon 50 L 1.2 is under $2000. The Leica Noctilux is $10,995 just for the lens alone.

Canon 6D and 85 L 1.2 II at 1.2 – Beautiful.

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Late night in Times Square – Canon 85L II and 6D at 1.2 – I love the bokeh this lens creates but Bokeh is a personal thing..some may love it, some may hate it. I like the 3D pop this lens gives and it is sharp wide open at 1.2. 

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and the same, wide open but I did crop this one a bit

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So for $4000 today one can buy a Canon 6D full frame sensor DSLR which is equal in IMAGE quality to a Leica M 240 (just larger, bulkier and heavier especially when these lenses are attached) and an 85L 1.2 lens. For $18,000 one can buy a Leica M 240 (if you can find one) and a Leica Noctilux 0.95 lens. A difference of $14,000. Take another $3500 for the Canon setup and add in a Canon 24L and a Canon 50 L 1.2 and you are at $7500, still less than HALF of the Leica M and Nocti combo. Of course if Leica is in your blood and brain, as well as in your heart and soul, none of that matters. Just putting into perspective. Also, never underestimate the power of a smaller, lighter, more discreet camera as it will make you want to shoot more and take it with you everywhere. Something a DSLR does not do for me.

But keeping it 100% real, while Leica is a true beautiful work of art in itself, and performs amazingly well, the Canon 6D with a lens like the 85L 1.2 is just as capable if you do not mind lugging around a DSLR and HUGE lens attached, and let me tell you..it is HUGE and slow to AF. But HEAR THIS:

from 2005 with a 5D Mk I and 85 1.2 (original V1)

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The 85 L 1.2 II is one reason alone to jump into Canon if you are eyeballing a full frame DSLR and if you have the cash to spare at $2000 for the lens alone, I highly doubt you would be dissapointed. The lens has a perfect 5 star average review rating at B&H Photo with over 500 reviews written. Pretty damn impressive, and I agree with those reviews, it is a 5 star lens without question. Remember, I owned one for a long while years ago. If I owned a Canon 6D or 5D today I would own this lens without hesitation. It’s one of my top two fave lenses ever made, by anyone. A Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is the other :)

The Canon 85 1.8 is MUCH cheaper, why would I buy the 85 1.2 II?

Do not let those who say the Canon 85 1.8 is just as good as the 85 1.2 II L fool you, as it is not. PERIOD, END OF STORY. IN fact, it is not in the same ballpark in the ability to render a “UNIQUE” image in the style of the L.  As I said, no lens on the market for 35mm renders like a Canon 85L. There is a reason it has achieved legendary status. The only problem is the cost, weight, size and slow focus. But to those who own and love the lens, these things do not matter as it is the output that counts and if you want that “look”, the 85 1.8 will NOT give it to you. I should know, I owned both back in 2005 and struggled when I clearly saw the differences in each shot as I wanted the 1.8 to be just as good so I could save some cash.

I kept the 85L back then, owned it for a year or more and sold it because it did not get enough use. Even though it was amazing, it was too large and heavy for me so it was only brought out for certain occasions. Never was it a daily shooter.  That is the one drawback of the lens. It is a BEAST but what a beautiful beast it is. If I could afford just to buy one and hang on to one for those moments where it would come in handy, I would.

Wide Open this lens renders like nothing else. These two images were shot at night and the 6D with the 85L never failed to AF, it just was a bit slow to AF. Still, worked every time.

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Yes, the 85 1.8 will be smaller, lighter, faster and much less expensive but it will not match the 85 1.2 in sharpness wide open, color rendition, build quality or light sucking ability. Take a Camera like the 6D and 85L 1.2 into a dimly lit room and you can still shoot. Your images will look like they were shot during the day, even without a flash and the Bokeh will be mind numbing in some situations, but in a good way. It’s an amazing hunk of glass and there is a reason many buy it even when already owning the much cheaper 85 1.8.

It may be a surprise to many of you to hear me praise a huge and heavy DSLR lens, but I have always loved the 85L when used on a full frame Canon. While I have not owned a DSLR in many years, I still know that they are amazing tools and with the right set of lenses, hard to beat.

That 85L has some serious MOJO at 1.2 and can suck in the light to make it appear there is much more light than there really is on the scene. It’s one of the few magical pieces of glass that does this very well, with nice Bokeh and sharpness even wide open.

Remember to click each image to see the larger and better version! Another three shot at 1.2 from a distance, at night!

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DSLR’s. Don’t you HATE DSLR’s Steve?

No, I do not hate DSLR’s but for me they are a no go in my personal life just due to the size, weight and yes, even high cost involved if you want “the best of the best”, which I always do (Certain cameras have spoiled me over all of these years). But mainly, the SIZE is the killer for me. Carrying around a bag with just a Canon 6D, Sigma 35 1.4 and Canon 85 1.2L is NOT pleasant for a casual stroll or day out with the family but at the same time, a DLR such as the Canon 6D can make incredible photos while being smaller than the larger 5D series, so for many the weight and size may be worth it. Yep, the 6D is a almost mini 5D in my opinion with excellent ergonomics, easy controls, simple menus and fast operation (though I find the normal AF no faster than my old OM-D E-M5) but it is still large as it is indeed a DSLR. This problem could really be solved with smaller and much less expensive lenses but me, if I go for a full frame DSLR, I would want the 85L and 35 1.4. End of story.

The 85L 1.2 has some very intense Bokeh. The shallow DOF possibilities are intense with this lens. 

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Yes Indeed! The Canon 6D is a Jewel in the DSLR World

It takes a lot for a DSLR to grab my attention and the 6D has done just that due to many reasons. It’s smaller size, it’s amazing sensor, it’s ergonomics and controls, and of course, the amazing glass possibilities.

The Canon 6D is feature packed with a 20.2 MP full frame sensor, Digic 5+, ISO from 100-25,600 and 12,800 video ISO, 97% optical VF, 4.5 FPS shooting, 11 Point AF, Dual layer metering and even WiFi built in. Canon included it all in this one and the good news it that the camera is easy to use, set up and even hold. No manual needed as it was easy to navigate the menus, easy to change settings, and overall a joy in the usability department.

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The Canon 6D comes in a slightly smaller package than the 5D MkIII while retaining the same image quality with some improvements in low light. It looks nice, feels nice and has everything I would ever want if I were to go for a DSLR. Nikon has its comepeting camera, the D600, which I have yet to try, but I know the differences between Canon and Nikon and for me, it comes down to COLOR. Canon has always had a unique way of rendering colors and their L prime lenses have a “Canon Look”, which believe it or not, is indeed there. I can always spot an image taken with a Canon DSLR. I used to have a thing for Nikon color but today I like them equal 50/50.

Liberty Text – 85L II wide open 

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Many of you who have followed me for years know that I have only reviewed a small handful of DSLR’s. The Nikon D90, Canon 5D MkII, and Nikon D700 with a quick look at the D800. I also took a look at the Sony full frame A99 offering and the older Canon 7D and the Sony A57. That is about it but I may be forgetting one or two.

BUT, I am one who will tell you right now that you can achieve the same or similar IQ as what this 6D gives you (with say a 50 1.4 lens) from a Sony RX1 or Leica M 240 (using a 35 1.4 lens) which are MUCH smaller, MUCH lighter and just as easy to use. You can achieve what a Canon 7D gives you with a Sony NEX or Olympus E-M5 with the right lenses. All in much smaller packages that are just as well made, with amazing lens choices. You can even use the 85L on a Leica M 240 or Sony NEX with the right adapters so if you want an amazing lens but shoot Leica, it could be worth trying out the 85 on a Leica :) For some special fun, if you own a Canon DSLR try THIS lens out.

The Sigma 35 1.4 ART series lens on the Canon 6D. Under $1000 and IMO beats the Canon 35L in just about every area.

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A DSLR such as the Canon 6D is hard to ignore for what it offers the enthusiast or pro photographer. Smaller than 5D Size, Speed, Full Frame Performance, Low Light Abilities, and choice of glass. Cheap to Expensive. If you love your lenses then choosing a Canon DSLR can be exciting due to all of the choices out there. My 1st Canon was the very first Canon D30 with an old 24-85 Standard Zoom. Back then it was the only game in town beating all others to the punch. I loved that camera but it was my only real choice. The Canon 6D kind of gave me that nostalgic feeling again but what comes out of the 6D destroys what came out of that very 1st Canon D30 many years ago.

I am not going to do a long detailed techie in depth review on the 6D as there are probably hundreds of them online, mostly all will give you a better DSLR review than me as A: I only have the 6D setup for 7 days and B: I have been out of the DSLR loop for years. What this post is mostly about is the glass, the two lenses I used with the 6D as well as my real world thoughts on using a DSLR after shooting smaller cameras for the past 4-5 years. I can tell you this though: I much prefer this 6D to the old 5D and 5DII as well as ANY of the APS-C sensor DSLR’s. I also prefer it to my old Nikon D700. It’s a special DSLR that gets just about everything right, but I was only able to just scratch the surface in my 7 days with it, and to be honest, on two occasions I had the 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 along with the 85L in my Amazon cart just to own for the 85L alone. I know a good thing when I see it and the Canon 6D, if you do not mind the DSLR size and weight, is amazing. I was thrilled with the IQ, responsiveness and resulting files.

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The Sigma 35 1.4 Art Series

The Sigma 35 1.4 Art Series is SUPERB and under $1000 is well worth it especially since when I compare real world images, it is right up there in quality with a 35 Summilux ASPH, just MUCH MUCH larger. 

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This was shot from the hip at night with the 35 1.4 at ISO 4000 without NR – click it to see the real world noise result

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Sigma has come a long way since the last time I shot with some of their DSLR lenses. Many years ago I owned a 15mm lens from Sigma and it was large, looked kind of ugly and performed well though was loud when focusing. Today with the new Art series Sigma has stepped it up 10 notches and now competes head to head (and in some cases surpasses) with Nikon and Canon at their own game.

This 35 1.4 ART lens is superb on the full frame 6D. Corners are sharp, color is rich and saturated and right, bokeh is very nice and beautiful, the lens is built VERY well and looks sweet. In fact, if the Sigma and Canon L 35 were the same price, I would still buy this Sigma. It is that good. In fact, it delivers images just as nice as the $5000 Leica 35 Summilux (though 5X the size) when I look at them and compare qualities side by side. THAT is impressive.

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When reviewing images for this quick review I was blown away by the rich files, the sharpness and micro contrast coming from this combo of 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 (be sure you click on them for larger, and those with large high res displays you will see what I mean). It really did remind me of shooting a Leica M9 or M with a 35 Lux ASPH (the image quality). While the setup was on the heavy side and hurting my back after 7 hours of carrying it, I could not fault the image quality or performance of this setup.

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Below is a FULL size from camera image with the 35 1.4 at 1.4 – click it for full size

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Size Comparison: SIgma 35 1.4 next to a Nikon V1 with 18.5 1.8 Attached

Just for fun I put my V1 next to the Sigma. They are about the same size with a lens on the V1. :)

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My final word on the Canon 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 and Canon 85L 1.2 II

You guys know me..I love my small but high quality mirrorless cameras. The Sony’s, The Leica’s, The Fuji X100’s, the Olympus, The Panasonics, and even the Nikon 1. I love them because they are small at a fraction of the size of a DSLR, a fraction of the weight and they offer sensors from Micro 4/3 to APS-C to full frame. In most cases, these new high powered and good looking mirrorless cameras compete head to head with DSLR’s even though DSLR owners will say otherwise (they refuse to believe it).

DSLR’s have their place as they are polished and refined. They have been around for much longer and manufacturers have been able to tweak, improve and build DSLR’s that are quite amazing when you think about it. For under $2,000 the Canon 6D is now the DSLR I would own if I decided to purchase a DSLR. It is not as large as the NIkon D800 or Canon 5D series and it feels great in my hand. In fact, if I plopped on a slower non L lens that was thin and semi fast, I would not have any issue with the weight or size. It is these nice premium lenses that really jack it up.

The camera is a winner, but most of you already knew that. But it is the 1st DSLR in a while  that got my attention enough to want to review it, and I am glad I did. I loved shooting it around NYC and came away with some cool shots. So if you are looking for a DSLR that performs just as good as the big guys (5D, etc) then take a long serious look at the Canon 6D. I think it offers the most for the money in the full frame DSLR Canon world.

As for the lenses, both of these are AMAZING. The jaw droppingly beautiful 85 L 1.2 II is expensive but a fraction of what a modern day new Leica lens costs and it has a 92% MOJO rate. By that I mean, it has character galore and there is no other lens like it and no other lens will do what it does. There are some that are close and some that are similar but nothing renders like an 85L 1.2 II. Ask any of the tens of thousands of owners of this lens and they will tell  you the same.

The Sigma 35 1.4 has given me a new respect and outlook on Sigma. They mean business and this is evident in this new Art series of lenses. Just like their tiny 30 2.8 lens for the NEX system that I reviewed, the 35 1.4 ART lens is a killer 35mm option that offers speed, design, and IQ that is mouth watering good. I’d buy this lens in a nano second if I splurged for a DSLR like the 6D because I enjoy the 35mm focal length.

So all in all I had fun with this setup and while it did kill my shoulder after a few hours and I did hesitate to pull it out of my bag a few times due to the intimidating size and I did get looks when shooting on the street with that 85L, the results were fantastic. If I had more time with it, or  took it on a portrait session in a nice wooded area with some nice misty lighting the results would be breathtaking. :)

If I did not have so many cameras now I would seriously consider this set. I was tempted quite a few times over the past week as it was. Great stuff. My question to you is, would you like  to see more DSLR reviews like this on the site? If so, let me know. :) I have a trip to Dublin Ireland in 3 weeks, maybe I can review the next in line.

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WHERE TO BUY

You can buy a 6D almost anywhere but as always, my preferred shop is going to be B&H Photo or Amazon. I have shopped with both of these establishments for YEARS and they never let me down.

Buy the Canon 6D Body:

B&H Photo

Amazon

Buy the Canon 85L 1.2 II:

B&H Photo

Amazon

Buy the Sigma 35 1.4 ART Series Lens:

B&H Photo

Amazon

A few more shots from the Sigma 35 1.4, most direct from camera. Enjoy!

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

PLEASE 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 (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), 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 :) More info is here on how you can help! 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, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

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Aug 212013
 

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India with the Leica Monochrom and 50 APO Summicron

by Lee Sungsoo

Hi , Steve

My name is Sung Soo Lee from South Korea.(Just moved in California 3weeks ago) I am a big fan of SteveHuffPhoto.com. Unlike any other site, I can read real field reviews about gears- especially Leica , so I love to visit this site. I started using Leica M6 about 13 years ago. For many years I used Leica and other SLR , DSLR cameras together but now I use only Leica M9P and Monochrom with 50mm Apo summicron and 90mm Apo summicron and X2.As an amateur photographer , handy gear is more helpful for concentrating work.

For me , 50mm lens is the main angle in my works.

When I bought my first Leica , I couldn’t afford other lenses so I had to keep using 50mm summilux 4th for over 10 years. That’s how I’ve gotten familiar with this angle. I also love the dramatic effect of the lens and color. Then I had used the 50mm asph and summicron. Like other users , I agree that all the Leica lenses have different characteristics, which yields excellent results. Fortunately , I got a chance to own 50mm Apo Summicron – the very first one in South Korea- so much exciting things happened to me on February this year!

Some people were asking about the 50mm Apo lens. In my opinion, this lens is super sharp and has a much deeper color compared with other 50mm M-lenses in Leica.

Today, I ‘d like to share some pictures that were taken April, 2013 at Delhi and Jodhpur , India using 50mm Apo summicron lens.

One of my favorite photographers is Steve Mccurry.

Since the day I saw the pictures of Steve Mccury at Jodhpur , one of my dreams was going to Jodhpur for photographing.

Finally, a dream came true!! I spent incredible days in Jodhpur and India. I ‘d like to say thank you to all the people who I met during the trip- they welcomed me to their city with open arms and warm smiles. It was all very touching and I won’t forget the days I’ve spent there.

I hope you enjoy my pictures of India.

Have a wonderful day !

Best Regards,

Sung Soo Lee

www.flickr.com/tjoy7

www.mydaystravel.tumblr.com

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Aug 202013
 

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championship 2013

by Andrew Tobin – His blog is HERE

As part of my coverage of “unconventional” world championships, I took myself off to Lausanne in Switzerland for the Cycle Messenger World Championships of 2013. I had spotted this event a while ago and put it firmly into the calendar as a “must attend”.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Packing for the trip proved more complicated than I thought. Having figured out that Lausanne was a pretty hilly place and I would be walking A LOT, and it was going to be hot, the last thing I wanted to be doing was carting a couple of 1D bodies and big lenses all over the place, as well as various bits of remote flash kit and other gubbins. So instead I decided to shoot the whole event with lightweight compact gear, taking 3 cameras – an Olympus OM-D with 45, 9-18 and 8mm fisheye lenses, a Sony RX1 and a newly acquired Sony RX100 Mark II. This combination would give me a good choice of focal lengths and apertures so I could deal with pretty much anything that came my way. With the RX100 in my pocket, the RX1 around my neck and the Olympus and lenses in a belt pack, I was as mobile as I could wish for. In a small backpack went a laptop, flash, pocket wizards, light stand and mini-octabox.

I also wanted to travel hand-luggage only and the big gear would have surely triggered some weight limit or other. Happily the airline (Swiss) didn’t bat an eyelid and the lightstand and electronic trickery went through airport security without any problems as I tried hard to pretend my bag weighed nothing at all.

Gear for the trip. Manfrotto lightstand, Sony RX1 with viewfinder, Olympus OM-D, Yongnuo YN560-II flash, 2x Pocket Wizard Plus II, Sony RX100 mark II, Panasonic 8mm fisheye, Olympus 9-18 zoom, spare batteries for the Sonys (not needed), cards, clip thing (unused), lightstand attachment thing. Forgot to incude the mini softbox in this pic.

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So, an early flight put me in Geneva at 9am on Saturday, and the efficient Swiss train system whisked me into Lausanne in about 45 minutes for me to begin my 2-day walking marathon, with some cycling photography thrown in.

After familiarizing myself with the course, chatting to the organisers and riders, and climbing lots of hills, I needed to make my key decision of the weekend. How to cover the event? I already had some ideas in mind before I arrived, but it quickly became pretty obvious to me that it was all about the people and the “vibe”, and the racing was almost secondary. More than anything this is a gathering of like-minded people who might normally be bracketed as “alternative”. It takes a certain something to be a cycle courier, out in all weathers, always under time pressure, not earning much, very physically fit, and never using any fossil fuels. The camaraderie amongst everyone at the event was obvious from the start. Some competitors had ridden from England down to Paris where they met still others for the 3-day ride from Paris to Lausanne, several on fixed wheel bikes with no brakes (making the mountains on the roads into Lausanne quite challenging!). Lots of them referred to the other couriers as their “family”, so it’s clearly a close-knit group of like-minded people who like nothing better than to get together for a good laugh.

James from Glasgow, who rode down from Canterbury to Paris to Lausanne. Top guy.

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And that was the decision made for me. I would shoot the event more like a documentary, trying to capture the people and atmosphere with the race action as a secondary part of the weekend. This also suited my choice of kit as the small cameras are generally useless at catching anything moving fast (or even slow in the case of the RX1) when compared with a pro body like a Canon 1D. It didn’t stop me trying to get a bit of action though. And I also decided to make most of the pictures monochrome because a) I like it a lot and b) it suited a more documentary style look at the event.

A rider toils up the hill as others dry off in the sun after a dip in the “jacuzzi” up by the cathedral.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Started in 1993 by Achim Beier from Berlin, the championships comprise a number of challenges including a sprint, a track stand (longest time stationary on the bike), a cargo race where heavy loads are carried on special bikes, and the main race. The course winds through central Lausanne and includes bridges, stairs, cobbles, narrow alleyways and challenging hills.

The main race simulates the job of a bike courier making numerous drops and pickups across the city by following a manifest or delivery/pickup list. Riders need to check in at specific checkpoints, hand over their delivery and get a new one. It involves a number of manifests to be run in sequence, each involving multiple deliveries. As well as being a test of sheer physical fitness lasting 3-4 hours, the race is a huge mental challenge as the riders need to plot their own route from one checkpoint to the next. Ensuring that they take the shortest or most efficient route is a work of the black arts as far as I could see. It wasn’t unusual to see riders pick up a new manifest and then sit somewhere quiet while they worked out their route and sequencing. To make matters worse, at some checkpoints you may need to deliver one item and pick up three, so knowing what you need to do where is vital to avoid repeat visits. Obviously you couldn’t drop something off if you hadn’t already picked it up somewhere else! This aspect makes the whole thing very different to a normal challenge against the clock and the winner is the person that combines the physical with the mental.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

It was hot as well. Did I mention that? I had enough trouble climbing up all the steps and hills on foot – the riders were getting a real beating. It didn’t take long for some of the riders to take advantage of the ancient water troughs that are scattered around the city.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Saturday was practice and qualifying, plus the cargo race which involved carrying large or strange loads. The cargo bikes are bonkers – long things with a load carrying space up front and a linkage from the handlebars to the front wheel. These poor guys had to carry everything from 12 foot long oars to a TV cameraman who wanted a rider’s eye view of the course.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Having learned the course through walking a lot and getting blisters, taking a bunch of pictures and figuring out what was going on, I was ready for the evening party. These guys party well. The event had been going on all week with a party every night, so they were well-practiced by the time I turned up. Hosted at the Casino Montbenon overlooking Lake Geneva, I had a horrible thought that it would be a dress-up suit and tie job, but then realised that there was no way on this earth that the majority of the riders would get anywhere near a suit other than to deliver one. And so it turned out that it was a very cool event in a club under the casino, with most people out in the open air as the temperature dropped and the sun set over the alps.

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The party game me a chance to break out my little octabox. After some fiddling with Pocket Wizards and the RX1, I got everything working fine and went off in search of interesting suspects, of which there were plenty. I’ll say this – these guys are just so friendly and open – lovely people. Here’s two of them…

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

So the RX1 turned out some beautifully detailed pictures, but occasionally had brain fade and wouldn’t focus properly even though the focus assist light was on. You’ve just got to be quite patient with it when shooting at night, and give it time to get focus and the square to go green before you hit the button. It’s worth noting that after turning on face detection my results improved significantly.

Cleverly, the organisers hadn’t scheduled any early morning starts, with riders needing to be at race HQ by 11am (though quite a few dragged in after that). This allowed ample time for at least 4 hours sleep to let the beer work its way through the system. Free carrots were available to all competitors.

The start itself was mad. The 100 riders (men and women) all started at the same time. The high qualifiers from Saturday got to be at the front of the “grid”. Well, they weren’t at the front, their bikes were. All the bikes were laid down in the road, the first package and manifest was put next to each bike, and the riders were ushered 50 yards back down the hill. At the appointed time after some general un-Swiss fanning about, they were off! The riders had to run up the hill, get to their bike, read the manifest to plot a route, and then head off. With different manifests the riders headed in all sorts of directions, so a few wisely took their time to figure out the best route as there’s nothing slower than riding in completely the wrong direction, especially as the course was one way and if you got it wrong you’d need to go round again.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

There followed all sorts of madness as riders hurtled about. I walked some of the course before stopping and sending a set of pictures to the UK newspapers. Once that was done I walked the course a bit more and took some more pictures. Here’s a few of them…

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

I had in mind some key shots to get at the end of the race. Obviously the winners, but also I wanted pictures of riders immediately they finished. I rigged up the RX1 again and used my flash held off camera with a simple diffuser on it, triggered by pocket wizards again. The high flash sync speed of the RX1 came in handy here as well as I wanted to drop the ambient light a bit so was up at 1/500th or more.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Obviously I’m not as practiced with the RX1 interface as, when people moved from shade to sun I was often too slow to adjust settings (I was shooting in manual) and had to resort to just switching to aperture priority and letting the camera sort it out. In frenzied situations when people are moving about all over the place it’s vital to be 100% practiced with your camera of choice, which I wasn’t.

And that was it. Race over. Party time (again) followed by a very early flight out on Monday morning.

What can we glean from the gear selection for the event? The cameras did their job, but are no way as good when you absolutely must get the shot as a pro-spec body and lens. There were times when I wished I had a 1DIV and L lenses with me. The speed of focus is the main thing. I could have nailed far more portrait shots after the race with a 1D, even with the relatively slow focusing 24 1.4 lens. However I’d have been stuck with a slow off-camera flash sync speed. I’d also have been knackered hefting all that gear. I watched the 2 or 3 agency guys that were there as they lugged their gear about and felt delighted that I was running such a light setup. Also, people didn’t seem to mind when I got in really quite close with the little RX1 either. Sometimes it’s good to have big cameras to shout that you know what you’re doing (sort of!), but at other times it’s good to be a bit more under the radar.

Looking at my stats for the weekend, I shot most pictures using the RX1 with 242, then the Olympus OM-D with 197 (though there were a lot of 9 frames per second disastrous panning shots), then 41 with the RX100 mark II. Out of that lot, 140 made the final edit. Each camera played its own part, as I used the RX1 when I wanted really high quality and shallow depth of field, the OM-D when I wanted a bit of lens choice and high frame rate, and the RX100 when I lost the plot and just wanted to get a picture, or when I had the wrong lens on the OM-D. The different menu systems and buttons and dials is enough to drive me crazy though as I’d get aperture & shutter mixed up, ISO would be all over the place and so on. What I really want is something the size of the RX1 with pro-spec speed of focus and camera responsiveness. The OM-D is fast, but not fast enough when tracking focus. In any event though, I tried to shoot within the limitations of the cameras and make the best of what I had available.

Just to finish off this unusually long post I have to say what a superb event it was. If you ever get the chance to go in 2014, then do it. Support these guys and girls – they are simply an excellent bunch of people. And should you come across them in some big city somewhere, just be aware that they know exactly what they are doing, are fit as anything, and don’t earn much.

Andrew Tobin

See Andrew’s Blog HERE

 

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