Jul 062015
 

From full frame to Micro 4/3

By Joshua Young

Hi Steve!

After spending a few years taking pictures with a full frame, it is a strange new world finding myself in the Micro 4/3 camp. I bought the A7R the first day it was available, wow what a camera. At the time my wife and I just had a baby, and I loved watching him grow, capturing timeless moments with that amazing 36mp sensor. Every milestone he hit, I was there with my FE 55 1.8, and every place we went, the 35 2.8 was right there with me. We took him to a few countries, and got some amazing captures in front of some of the most beautiful landscapes.

Sony A7R in Paris

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Sony  A7R in Bruges

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I am not a professional by any means, I just have a love for photography. As we vacation, I try to plan itineraries that will get me close to beautiful photo spots, and try to make the most of it with as little time as possible. Whatever camera I choose to carry has to have the best of all world: 1. Good for travel photography, and 2. Good for family photos.  As my son got older, he started to move faster and faster. I found the A7R AF could no longer keep up with the bottle of pure energy that is a toddler. Time and time again I found myself missing moments due to AF issues (toddlers never repeat what they were doing when asked). To try to improve AF speed, I ended up buying the A7II last February. As nice as a camera as it was, it did not feel right in my hands. It had amazing IQ, but I never enjoyed shooting with it. In May we took a trip to Miami/Disney, and I found myself leaving it in the hotel.

 A7II in South Beach

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 A7II at Disney

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Then came the Olympus E-M1. This camera single-handedly restored my love for travel photography. Simply put, this camera is FUN to use. With blazing fast AF, high quality lenses, and loads of features, I fell in love right away. Yes there was a tradeoff in noise, and DR, however IQ is not less than that of the A7II, I would use the word “different”. I have found there are pros and cons to both systems, it all comes down to the look you are happy with. I am learning more and more about the m43 sensor, and I like what I see.

Olympus E-M1 in Chicago

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

See more of my work at https://www.flickr.com/photos/111565956@N05/

Josh

Jul 032015
 
Pentacon Six TL 6x6

Film Friday 6×6 images

By Dierk Topp

Pentacon Six TL 6x6

Hi Steve,

This is a small collection of analog images made with the Pentacon Six medium format camera, made in the GDR, German Democratic Republic, long time ago.
I used the Zeiss Flektogon 4/50mm  and the  Zeiss Sonnar 180mm/2.8 with the Kodak T-MAX 100 and Agfa Ultra 100 color negative. Scanned the negatives with Epson Photo 2450 scanner and digital processing with Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex.

You may find more of my analog and digital images here on flickr

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/180mm, Kodak T-MAX 100

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/180mm, Kodak T-MAX 100

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/180mm, Kodak T-MAX 100

I could not resist to make a  triptych from these images

Pentacon Six

Pentacon Six

this series is in memoriam of Ansel Adams

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

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6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

analog 1992

analog 1992

 

analog 1992

analog 1992

The next images are from La Palma, Canary Islands

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

 

6x6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

6×6 analog, Petacon Six, Zeiss 50mm

…and last but not least stitched panorama shots, that I made in 1995 in Hamburg
I planed to mount the prints but never did, now with stitching software it is easy and perfect

stitch of 3 images

stitch of 3 images

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Flektogon 4/50mm, Agfa Ultra 100 color n

…and again, as it is at the top of this post, this is the camera (with the 80mm Biometar)
it is blurred, but I have only this one. I sold it to Hong Kong long time ago.

Pentacon Six TL 6x6

thanks very much for your time and attention

regards
Dierk

Jul 022015
 
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A Tribute to the Leica X

by Oliver Angus

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I’m a 35 years old French man (so, I beg your pardon for my far from perfect English), and I’m fond of photography.

In January 2015, I went to my Leica Dealer, In Paris, Bd Beaumarchais, and I bought a Leica X, Typ 113 (who invented such a stupid name ? Hey, man, this is not a car, this is a camera !).

It’s a gorgeous camera, and I will show you, at the end of this post, my first pictures with it, but now, I would like to talk about my previous camera : the leica X1, and to pay tribute to it, in order to say « au revoir ».

I bought this tittle gem in september 2010, a week before the birth of my daughter (another gem, much more precious). Previously, I spend hours on the internet to choose the perfect camera for me.

At this prehistoric times, the choice was much more simple than today : I was looking for a light and silent camera, with a IQ as good as DSLR’s. And the X was the one. Quite expensive, that’s a fact, but similar to a DSLR, IQ speaking, with a good prime lens and much more desirable. 10 days after this purchase, my daughter joined us, and I started to take stills of all this precious moments which flew away so fast.

I took my X1 with me all the time, during holiday, of course, but also, during the week ends, when we went to a park or a playground, or even ay work. I’m not a materialist person, but each time it was a pleasure to open the leather bag of the camera, to turn the aperture ring and to shoot.

Steve recently talk about the X files « that no other camera has » and I can’t be agree more.

During all these years, I’ve read religiously Steve’s posts and reviews, but also Ming Thein’s ones, every day, and I’ve seen all these fantastic new cameras arrived on the market : the fuji X100, the Sony RX1R, the Nikon Df, the Sony A7s, and each time, I asked to myself, Isn’t it the moment to buy a new camera, faster and with a faster lens ? And each time, I answer to myself : yes, this is a nice camera, but I do prefer the ergonomic of the X, I do prefer the leica color rendition (than the fuji, for instance), I don’t need anything else than my 35mm, and even if it’s not able to shoot in the dark, this is not a real issue.

A lot of people talked about the lack of an OVF, but, to be honest, I don’t need one. I’ve learned to focus thanks to the screen, and for portraits, a lot of people are intimidated if they are shot through a VF whereas they are not if they see the eyes of the photographer.

In fact, it was not about reason, but about connection with the camera.

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So I kept my X1, month after month.

But, with the time, the lens took more and more time to protract when I turned the camera on, and, honestly, my G.A.S was stronger and stronger.

I was considering buying a Fuji, and suddenly, the X arrived.

I’ve red Steve Review and I’am agree with the marketing flaw about the 1.7 aperture, but, the truth is : I don’t care.

Post scriptum : after 6 months of use, I’m as fan of the X, than I used to be of the X1. Maybe more, if possible. It’s one million times faster, and this is a huge improvement. The manual focus is easier to make. It’s even more gorgeous thank the X1. Any cons ? It’s a little bigger than the X1 and the color rendition, ooc in raw, was perhaps better in the X1. But as you can see, I rarely use color because, when I take my camera, I see the world in black and white (and greys).

Few weeks ago, Leica announced it’s Leica Q, which is basically an X, with a full frame sensor. It must be a wonderful camera; i have no doubt on this. But, for now, I’ve cured may Gear Acquisition syndrome. Can’t promise I won’t have a relapse in the future, but, before that I will enjoy my damn good X.
So long life to the X’s !

Best regards

Olivier
Here are some pictures with my Leica X.

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A lot more in my Flickr : //www.flickr.com/photos/23366047@N07/

The Leica X is available at B&H Photo, Amazon, Ken Hansen or PopFlash!

Jul 012015
 
phaseonebball

phaseonebball

Phase One basketball

By Andrew Paquette – See his website HERE!

Three years ago I bumped into an outdoor basketball competition in Rotterdam while testing my new Zeiss 15mm Distagon lens. After getting a lucky shot of the winning basket at the end of the day, one of the organizers invited me to shoot more games the following week in Den Haag. Since then, I’ve been shooting the Netherlands Streetball Masters tour every year. This year I attended games in Amsterdam, Breda, and Weert.

In previous years I had used a Nikon D800 and a Sony A7r for the shoots. The two cameras had a variety of lenses mounted on them, each of which produced at least one decent shot. The most consistent performer was the Zeiss Otus 55mm, used on the majority of keeper shots. The least consistent was the Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, possibly because the Streetball games take place on small half courts, making the 85mm usable only for shots of players at the farthest end of the play area or torso shots. This year, I planned to bring the D800 + 55mm Otus and an A7r with the Zeiss 135mm mounted on them. However, I had some new gear and wanted to give it a stress test. This year I used a Phase One DF+ with an IQ250 back. I had already used it to take some action photos of parkour athletes in Rotterdam, and thought it might work out for outdoor basketball, though I wouldn’t have any control of the players and there would be no do-overs, unlike the Parkour shoot.

One of the reasons I decided to invest in the Phase One system was the high flash sync speeds (up to 1/1600th of a second). To test that, I brought two ProFoto flash heads to the parkour park, hid them from the camera, then tried to get as much frozen mid-air action as possible. It took a couple of hours to coordinate the athletes so that they all were in the right part of the frame at the right time, but it did work. Other shots that did not require the coordination of all four athletes were much easier to manage.

Figure 1 Parkour at Ahoy! Rotterdam, Phase One DF+ IQ250 and SK 28mm LS lens. ISO 200, F/7.1, 1/1600s and 2x ProFoto B1 500w/s flash heads

Parkour

I was a bit worried about using the Phase One kit to shoot the Streetball event because the camera has a much lower framerate than the 35mm cameras (1.2 f/s compared to 4 f/s on D800 and A7r), but I wanted to know what the extra dynamic range of the medium format back would capture. This was related to something that bothered me on previous shoots in Holland where the sky is almost always white or grey due to cloud cover. This has a tendency to result in a lot of clipped highlights unless the camera is pointing below the horizon. In some landscape photos taken with the Phase One, this wasn’t an issue, thus presenting the possibility that the camera could deal with an irritating problem experienced on previous shoots.

Figure 2 Windmills, Phase One DF+ IQ250 and SK 80mm LS lens. ISO 100, F/22, 1/320s

Windmills

I was tempted to take the D800 and a Zeiss Otus 55mm with me as a backup but went without to keep the weight of the kit down. The lens I used the most was the Schneider Kreuznach 80mm leaf shutter lens, but I took a few images with the SK 28mm LS as well. All of the photos were processed in Capture One Pro. I brought one ProFoto B1 flash and a 2’ softbox. The flash was only sometimes useful because I couldn’t guarantee it was always pointing in the right direction as the players ran all over the court. This was expected, but it was still disappointing that the light was only useful if the players were within about two meters of it and on the right side of the court.

I prefer shooting the DF+ to the Nikon or Sony. There are several reasons for this. In no particular order, they are: the extra-large viewfinder, simple menu layout on the IQ250 back, iPad connectivity (the A7r can also do this), and ergonomic design. It is heavier and larger than the other two cameras, but easier to hold and use than the Nikon, even when both have heavy lenses mounted (the 2.2 pound Zeiss Otus on the Nikon and the 2.4 pound SK 28mm LS on the P1). With the D800 + Otus combination, my wrist would consistently start hurting after about three hours of carrying it. I have never experienced any wrist or hand pain when using the DF+, even during an eight-hour shoot day for one of the Streetball games.

Figure 3 Weert 1, SK LS 80mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1600

Weert 1

Figure 4 Weert 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1600

Weert 2

Figure 5 Breda 1, SK LS 28mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/1600

Breda 1

Figure 6 Breda 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/1600

Breda 2

Figure 7 Amsterdam 1, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/5, 1/1600

Amsterdam 1

Figure 8 Amsterdam 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1600

Amsterdam 2

Figure 9 Amsterdam 3, SK LS 80mm, ISO 100, f/5, 1/1600

Amsterdam 3

Figure 10 Amsterdam 4, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1600

Amsterdam 4

Figure 11 Amsterdam 5, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/1600

Amsterdam 5

See more at Andrew’s Website HERE!

Jun 302015
 
vct

Visiting CHERNOBYL. A Photo Diary

by Gary Mather

 

Here is some brief history –

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. The accident occurred when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase. This led to the core of the reactor exploding. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released into the atmosphere. This lit the combustable graphite moderator on fire. This fire greatened the release of radioactive material, which was carried by the smoke of the fire, into the environment and atmosphere.

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Radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 350,000 people needed to be evacuated and moved to other places where they could live after the accident.

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Once the seriousness of the situation was known, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the USSR at the time, quickly gathered the top physicists and nuclear experts at his disposal to assess the situation. Thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, these experts decided the residents of Pripyat must evacuate. Residents were given two hours to gather their belongings. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. Residents remember that everyone was in a hurry, but nobody was panicking.

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The residents of Pripyat were initially told they would be evacuated only for three days. However, to this day, the town is uninhabitable. Pripyat city was founded in the 1970s, when the nuclear power plant opened. The site today is practically a museum showing the late Soviet era. With entirely abandoned buildings, including abandoned apartment buildings (four of which were yet to be used), swimming pools and hospitals, everything inside remains, from records to papers to children’s toys and clothing. Prypiat and the surrounding area will not be safe for people to live there for several centuries. Scientists think that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to nine hundred years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe.
We were there for a total of 2 days and I can feel we only scratched the surface of what happened on that fateful day.

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I was 13 when this disaster accoured and my only fleeting memory was seeing clips on the news as a child. To me it was something that happened a long way away in a place I could not even pronounce. I have wanted to visit this site for quite some time now, and I was, for want of a better word, lucky to have had that privilage just a few months ago.

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It is only when you are actually there can you understand the impact of such a huge global disaster, the heroism of the firefighters and the people first on the scene. It will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time, It’s just a shame our time here was so fleeting.

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We explored hospitals, schools and the fairground where stands the almost iconic ferris wheel still waiting to be ridden to this very day. The piano still standing in the music hall and the 3 empty seats left in the burn out lecture room. In the hospital maternity dept room full of empty cots sit silent. Of the whole trip the most poignant moment was seeing the childrens gas masks littered all over the floor of the elementry school in the town of Pripyat.

Gary Mather

Jun 292015
 

Sony A7II with FE 35 1.4 and A7R with 55 1.8

by Kenneth Wang

Hi Steve,

I’m a old school amateur photographer who waited until 2009 to change from film to digital cameras. Prior to making the switch, I searched the internet for information about digital photography, when I found your site, your reviews and user reports provided a good guide for me to make the leap.

I now take pictures with Sony equipment, and in my recent trip to Japan and Alaska, I used a Sony A7II with the new FE 35mm 1.4 lens, along with a Sony A7r with the FE 55mm 1.8 lens.

Both the A7II and A7r systems take great pictures, but the character of the pictures are different as you compare them in the following pictures. The A7II has a natural rendering, while the A7r has a 3D pop.

Both the FE 35mm 1.4 lens and the FE 55mm 1.8 lens are sharp, precise and colorful.

Pictures 1 – 4 were taken with the A7r system, pictures 5 -8 were taken with the A7II system

A7ii 35mm ISO 100 125th sec f 1.4 pic 5

A7ii 35mm ISO 200 640th sec f 4 pic 6

A7ii 35mm ISO 200 640th sec f 4 pic 7

A7r 55mm ISO 100 80th sec f 10 pic 1

A7r 55mm ISO 100 200th sec f 4 pic 4

A7r 55mm ISO 100 250th sec f 7.1.jpg pic 2

A7r 55mm ISO 100 500th sec f 4 pic 3

Jun 292015
 
camera

Instax fun, fun, fun!

In memory of my father, Andre Lietaert.

By Ivan Lietaert

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On the 28th of February, my father, Andre Lietaert died. As my family and I were coming terms with this loss, we were going through old shoe boxes filled with pictures and old photographic albums, sifting through the pictures covering a whole life of 78 years. Then I suddenly came across a picture I had totally forgotten it even existed: a polaroid picture of me and my dad, shaky and awkward in color, between 35 and 40 years old. It must be the oldest picture I have of the two of us. In the days and weeks that followed, I was on an emotional ride, and my attention shifted to organising the funeral and more mundane tasks that needed to be done.

But that polaroid had nested deep inside my brain and soon after, I started doing research about instant pictures anno 2015. I quickly came across Fujifilm’s take on the instant picture: the Instax cameras. Until some weeks ago, I was so preoccupied with digital photography (and video), I didn’t even know that instant film is still around, or put to words even better: instant film is coming back. Polaroid stopped producing their instant film, but enthusiasts recreated the original film, and now have a huge following with their “Impossible Project”, I learned. And then there is Fujifilm’s Instax, quite popular in Asia, but less known here in Europe.

After quite extensive research, I decided to jump the wagon and I bought the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, Fujifilm’s most advanced camera, targeted towards the creative enthusiast.

camerawo

Now, the thing is that using this camera requires a whole different approach and technique compared to digital photography. There is no chimping, no snapping, no shooting tens or hundreds of pictures and then simply deleting the bad ones. No! Taking an Instax picture is an event, it produces a unique print, that will cost you about 1 euro or 1 dollar. So immediately it makes you much more considerate and careful about the framing and the lighting, and even then, you will from time feel guilty when a shot failed. Basically, as when shooting film, it slows down the whole photographic process, and then, of course, there is the exciting waiting game as the picture is developing right there in your hands. As the picture leaves the camera after exposure, a rolling mechanism spreads the developing chemicals across the photographic paper and the development starts. After a minute or so – speed depends on the ambient temperature – the first details appear, and the picture is fully developed after approximately 10 minutes, when the chemical process comes to a halt.

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So I took my little daughter to the park and shot my first packet of 10 instax pictures there. I soon found out that this kind of photography is definitely lo-fi, with quite unsharp results, and the lighting/metering is tricky as well, with various degrees of success. But I found the whole thing so intriguing, I was hooked, I guess, and by the end of the week, I had ordered an Instax 210 online, which takes Instax Wide pictures, double the size of the Instax Mini. Both Instax cameras have been around for several years now, and I find them to be both quite well built, though plastic, of course.

Instax has been marketed in various ways. First, there is the ‘fun approach’. Young children love instant pictures; they are fascinated by the pictures as they slowly, as if by magic, appear. Kids (and their parents!) will love it when you give them the pictures to take home, much more than staring at your phone, or the back of your camera. It is great fun at parties – for the young and the old – and the people take home a lasting memory of the event.

Second, Instax is also targeted towards the hipster crowd, male and female; the younger generation of creative people, fashionable, who appreciate the things that really matter. Especially the Mini 90, with its sleek, retro-modern Fujifilm design, seems targeted at young fashionistas and cool, macho hipsters.
There is yet another, more relevant argument to consider: Print It Or Loose It! As this campaign article explains, up to 70 per cent of the youth between 16 and 24 already have lost pictures of important events in their life (due to drive crashes, faulty memory cards, stolen phones etc). Not convinced? Read more about the phenomenon called data rot here. With the Instax camera, you get instantly printed pictures and they will last a lifetime, and beyond. So even in the scenario a global, cataclysmic event, in let’s say 50 years time, your Instax pictures will survive and be a testament to posterity! So here are a couple of my pictures that illustrate how families are likely to take advantage of the Instax cameras.

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None of the Instax cameras have a true manual mode; in fact, I tend to get good results in auto mode, but still the outcome of each shot is quite unpredictable. My Instax Mini 90 has a tendency to slightly overexpose, which can be a nuisance. Also, the flash seems to have a mind of its own, ignoring my input. Both cameras have a fixed aperture (F12), there is no zoom and there is little tweaking possible as far as exposure is concerned: one can darken or lighten a picture, and that is it. The Mini 90 has a built in macro mode which allows the closest distance to be 30 cm. The Instax Wide comes with a macro/selfie clip-on lens. The macro mode is interesting for detailed close ups, and it also allows to create a background blur… sort of.

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I have used both cameras for some weeks now, and I have still not made up my mind which camera I like best: they both have their positive sides, and their drawbacks. The Mini 90 is small and has lots of creative modes (macro mode, party, kids, double exposure, bulb, darken/lighten). The mini pictures are slightly smaller than a credit card. The Instax Wide is much bulkier, ridiculous really, but renders a picture double the resolution and size of the Mini; also, the great Robert Frank, yes the one of the legendary, groundbreaking photographic book ‘The Americans’, owns one and was quoted saying it takes pictures of “very high quality”. Mind you, this Instax 210 costs only about 70 euros… If you can’t seem to choose between the mini and the wide, like me, buy both because they are dirt cheap anyhow!

The Mini 90 has the most creative modes and my favourite is the ‘double exposure’; here are two results. Again, the outcome of the technique is quite unpredictable, which is actually a good thing, because it is all very exciting.

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Really, these Instax cameras stimulate creativity a lot, and soon I was laying out the pictures on my scanner, with various fabrics, cloths and shirts on top them giving this as a result, like a scrapbook. It is great fun, and if you don’t have a scanner, just organise the instants on a nice surface, take out your mobile phone, and take a digital picture of them. Remember: it is likely that the original instant picture will outlive yourself and the digital scan/picture you made of them!

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Admittedly, these two fun, dumbed down, plastic toy cameras had rekindled my photographic enthusiasm! I have even dreamed about them, really! But then I started wondering about how useful they would be in a more serious context. What about the unimpressive latitude/dynamic range of the Instax? And, when you start pixel peeping, these instax pictures are awfully unsharp, aren’t they? So my next step was to look at what could be done with them in post, creating a digitally remastered instant picture! I soon discovered that these Instax prints get even better when you add a bit of sharpness and detail. Then I discovered that they can be easily successfully worked upon in post, with various, very unique results. I prefer using the official Google+ app, these days, for my post work, and usually, adding just a few tweaks and effects, will give quite a spectacular, atmospheric result. Below is a picture I took at Polygon Wood, a World War One cemetery nearby where I live – the Ypres/Passchendaele region in Flanders, Belgium. The first is a scan of the original Instax. Those under that one are various tweaked images I got in Google+. Now, I’m not saying these are masterpieces, but they clearly illustrate my point.

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Finally, I must warn you, dear reader, on at least two points. First, shooting Instax is highly addictive, and it is not a cheap addiction. So before you go out with one of these, make sure you are in a serene, meditative, controlled mood; if not, Instax costs will eat your wallet empty soon enough.
Second, using Instax may open the gate to analogue photography. I may introduce you, like it did with me, to a whole different photographic universe of laid back, slow paced photography… which, of course, is not a bad thing, is it?

Ivan Lietaert,
Belgium

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

BUY THE INSTANX AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Jun 232015
 
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ssonya7iiexp

My Sony A7II and 55 1.8 Experience

by Simi Tometi

Hello Steve, Brandon, and fellow site readers. My name is Simi Tometi, and I am a biochemistry student from Dallas, Texas. School usually keeps me busy(and broke) for the most part but whenever I do have some spare time I indulge in photography.

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I recently sold my RX1(with the external EVF), to fund the purchase of a refurbished Sony A7II with a FE 55mm f/1.8 lens. Due to the simple fact that I’ve only shot with the 55mm a handful of times, I must admit don’t I feel qualified enough to provide a full comprehensive review. With that being said my initial thoughts regarding this lens are primarily positive.

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From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Sony ZA lenses are by far my favorite with their remarkable matte black finish, metal focus rings, and conspicuous zen blue Zeiss badges. As expected the 55mm continues the holistic tradition with its gorgeous utilitarian build, whilst being only a few millimeters longer than the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.

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In regards to image quality there isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said by countless more reputable sources. This lens is just flat out outstanding. DxOMark(the industry leader in comprehensive image quality evaluation) has it rated as the sharpest lens in current production, besting both the OTUS 55mm($4000) & 85mm($4500).

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As for focus speed and accuracy, I generally shoot this lens wide open yet it always hits its mark, but admittedly it isn’t the fastest.

My sole grievance with this lens has to be its price. Though it yields industry-leading performance, I often find myself asking if it was worth its initial price tag of $1000. This is likely due to the fact that it’s my least utilized lens. Having said that I don’t mean to deter anyone from purchasing this phenomenal piece of glass, it’s just that for my style of shooting I sometimes feel as that my money would have been better spent on the FE 35mm f/2.8 or FE 16-35mm f/4. Anyway, thank you for reading this and I hope you enjoy the photos✌.

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*All photos were shot in RAW and proceeded using Adobe Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film

*All photos were shot in RAW and processed using Adobe Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film 06*

Tumblr: http://justsimiphoto.tumblr.com/

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My Sony RX1 review: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/01/23/6-months-with-the-sony-rx1-by-simi-tometi/

 

Jun 222015
 
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The Leica Q…in Review

By Ashwin Rao

Buy/Order the Q from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, or B&H Photo. 
Let me just start by saying that the Leica Q is one of the most engaging, inspiring cameras that I have owned to date. I would also suggest that it is this decade’s version of the legendary Digilux-2…read more below to understand why….

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If that’s all that you take away from the review, that’s great. An educator once told me that you should say what you are about to say, then say it, and finish by saying what you jyst said. With this article, I intend to proceed as such. The Leica Q is a great camera… Even at it’s price. Even though it’s not a rangefinder. Even though it’s unlikely to be a Leica through and through. It’s capable of harnessing one’s spirit, capturing the decisive moment, and challenging the photographer all at once, all in the most facile of ways. See there you go, I have gone and said it again, in a slightly different way. Okay, now getting that out of the way, let’s dig deeper.

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Hello, my friends and photographers. By now, many of you have read the glowing reviews that came alongside the announcement of the Leica Q. Such luminaries as Steve himself, Jono Slack, Ming Thien, Sean Ried, Michael Reichmann, and others deconstruct, reconstruct, and then deconstruct the camera again. I am not here to re-hash this territory, other than to say that I agree with much, if not all, of what these reviews have said in their uniform praise of the Q. I am here to give you my own impressions and take on the camera, it’s build, its DNA, it’s capacities as a tool for photography, and it’s operation, and I have now had the chance to spend a bit more time with the camera, having been one of the first lucky few to have received my camera from the Leica Store Bellevue.

For those of you who have not read the reviews, here’s the low down. The Leica Q is a fixed-lens autofocus, Leica M-styled camera that’s not an M camera at all. It’s built to an incredibly high standard and sports a 24 MP full frame sensor and a fast 28 mm f/1.7 Aspherical Summilux Lens. It sports an industry leading 3.7 megapixel non-OLED EVF with a solid refresh rate (read not many shuddering images while moving the camera through the scene) and a design that allows for easy use even with glasses on (thanks for thinking of us old folks wearing glasses, Leica). It’s not weather sealed. It has a mechanical leaf shutter that moves from 1+ sec through 1/2000 sec, after which an electronic shutter kicks in, capable of achieving shutter speeds as high as 1/16,000 sec (thus, there is zero issue with shooting wide open in the brightest of daylight settings). The leaf shutter is nearly silent in and of itself, and the camera is thus very operationally discrete, while obviating issues such as shutter shake. There’s no built in flash, but this can be added via hot shoe. It records video, for those who care about video (I don’t). It’s layout is very simple. 5 buttons to the left of the screen, and a click wheel to the right. There are only 2 other dials up top, one for shutter speed and one to adjust exposure compensation, which is not marked. There’s the On-off toggle switch, which houses the shutter release. Oh yes, that video button (I don’t use it, unless I inadvertently push it). The awesome 28 mm f/1.7 Summilux lens has a very “M-lens” like feel, with a hood that echoes the most recent Summarit line. The hood screws on, once you remove the included protective retainer ring. The focusing tab on the ring allows you to easily focus manual, as the lens has a nice, shot focus throw, but also readily clicks into full AF mode by turning the barrel fully counter clockwise until it clicks into place. There’s a macro ring, that can be turned to enable a lovely macro option, that allows focus between 0.17 and 0.13 meters, while the standard non-macro setting focuses between 0.3 meters and infinity. The menu system is very clean and simply laid out, more so than even the current generation of M digital cameras. The screen is a touch screen, and one can use finger touch to set focus if desired. In image review mode, images can be swiped or pinched to allow for zooming or image review. Finally, there’s a small unmarked button on the back of the camera just below the shutter speed dial, that allows you to enable 35 mm of 50 mm “frame lines”, basically a digital crop for those who wish to use the camera at “other focal lengths”.

These are details that most of you already know, but I wanted to summarize it all in one place. With that summary out of the way, let’s dig deeper.

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Colors

The Leica Q offers a moderately different color palette than either the Leica M240 or the M9 before it. Leica has not announced from whom the sensor comes from. I have my theories, and will get to that later in the article, but suffice it to say that colors are punchy even for out-of-camera DNG files. Unlike the muted palette of the M9 and M8, there’s a lot more color pop up front from the Q, which can take some adjustment. However, once you get adjusted, what you are left with is a camera that produces some of the best colors seen in Leica land.

I struggled mightily with skin tones and colors when attempting to use the M240 during my brief sojourn with that camera. Suffice to say, I was quite concerned about a “repeat performance” with the Q, but thankfully, this is not the case. For those of you who enjoy the M240’s color palette, prepare for a different experience. Same goes for you who preferred the M9 color palette. However, I must say that many of us M shooters who enjoyed the M9’s color palette may be quite pleased by what the Q offers.

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At times, skin tones can drift towards an “orange” bias, but this is easy to fix in Lightroom or other similar applications when encountered. Fact of the matter is that most of the time, colors coming out of the camera properly represent the color palette of the scene. The camera is nicely transparent in this ways. Auto white balance does great outdoors, slightly less so indoors, but this too is easily correctible during editing, and truth be told, most of the time, colors under incandescent or fluorescent light are appropriate.

All in all, the camera performs very well in this department.

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ISO performance

Let’s get this out of the way. This camera is middle-of-the-road for full frame ISO performance. It’s totally adequate and appropriate in the ISO department through ISO 6400, but once ISO 12,500 is reached, things can get a bit iffy, particularly if processing heavily. If properly exposed, you get a very useable file through 12,500, but in general, I would hesitate going any higher, due to noticeable horizontal banding that is encountered within shadows. But with a fast lens attached at f/1.7, I rarely felt challenged by any low light limitation. While the Q is no Sony A7s, it stands up quite well to the Sony A7 and other cameras considered to be low-light stars or keepers of the night.

 

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Image quality

The image quality coming from the Leica Q is astounding. The 28 mm Summilux is capable of achieving incredible detail, while producing a pleasant, non-distracting, painterly out of focus. If I were rating bokeh, as I have in the past, the Q’s 28 mm Summilux rates as a 9/10. Images are nicely sharp, particularly in the center, at f/1.7, and by f/4, the images sharpen up from corner to corner. I suspect that the lens produces a slight curvature of field that contributes to softer edges on plane when shooting brick walls, but in real world application, this slight curvature of field may actually enhance subject isolation (for aspects of the image that are in focus) while creating a 3 dimensional effect, which can be very pleasing even for a lens this wide. Coupled with a fast open aperture, the whole image is rendered beautifully. While I will leave it to others to do ISO test and aperture comparisons, I will say that the Leica Q has simply never let me down in the image quality department. Coupled with the color performance of the sensor, the lack of an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, the Leica Q becomes a powerhouse, if judged only by the retina-searing quality of image that it produces.

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The 28 mm lens

did Leica use a 28 mm lens? For many, 28 mm is too wide. It is nearly impossible to get a portrait shot, and if you do, you’ll get a ton of distortion, and your subjects will be mad at you, unless you step back a few feet.

Leica states that the 28 mm lens was designed in-house with a goal of allowing those who chose to use the camera a great option for street and reportage photography. While I think some of this is marketing know-how, I do feel that the 28 mm lens may well have been chosen for a few other reasons. First, the camera’s implementation and design makes it clear to me that Leica’s positioning itself for both its base (aging shooters with progressive vision deterioration), alongside a younger customer base with money to spend), bringing the camera’s operational capacities into the 21st century, with amenities such as wifi, NFC, phone apps for teathering, and a touch screen. 28 mm is exciting to the Leica base, as a lens that offers great opportunities for street and reportage photography. 28 mm is a popular focal length particularly popular with many shooters who don’t even know it: cell phone shooters. The iPhone, for example, has historically employed a 28 mm equivalent lens. It’s a great option not only for street photos, but for selfies, for family outings, for gatherings with friends. It’s the focal length that’s social-media savvy, and Leica knows it.

Second, Leica is trying to establish a branding identity and a sense of novelty in the market. Never has a fixed full frame digital camera been released with a fast-wide lens such as the incredible 28 mm Summilux. Most people who have shot the Q or thought about the purchase wonder: why not 35 mm or 50 mm for the lens? Leica saw the success of the Sony RX1/R with it’s 35 mm f/2 Sonnar lens, and saw an opportunity to make something similar, yet slightly different, to separate it from Sony’s past offering to which the camera is most often compared, as well as to any future RX2, which is likely to come sporting some of Sony’s latest and greatest tech.

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The lens does include a separate ring for macro photography mode. One turn of the inner most ring into “MACRO” allows the camera to focus (manual or AF) between 0.17 m and 0.3 M. In fact, turning the ring procures a separate focusing scale, which is hidden from view when the camera is used in standard operation. This feature is incredibly handily when shooting near-field objects (think food photography). The implementation of the MACRO ring itself is one of the camera’s few weaknesses, as it’s a bit hard to turn the ring when desired. Maybe that’s by intention, but it feels that the ring could have been designed for smoother operational execution.

I also suspect that Leica introduced the 28 mm lens, as it may have been particularly adept at working with the sensor that they are using in the camera. I find it incredibly fascinating that Leica is choosing not to disclose the manufacturer of the sensor, but here again, I have my theory, so read on to find this out . Ultimately, I suspect that to some degree, lens and sensor were designed with one another in mind, and the performance of the lens-sensor combination in the Leica Q is astounding.

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In hand

I find that Leica Q’s haptics to be fantastic. I have been using the camera since day one with the accessory handgrip and attached loop. The grip and loop make the camera very easy to hold steadily, with confidence and no fear that it may slip out of hand. The Q itself is a slightly airy camera, clearly lighter than the M line, but with the added grip, there’s an addition of slight heft that gives the camera more confident feel. Without the grip, the camera is truly a bit slippery, and the thumb indent that Leica added is positioned to far to the far edge of the camera to permit comfortable hand holding. The grip fixes this issue. ‘’

The camera’s edges are nicely rounded, and unlike the Leica T, with it’s more angular build, the Q does not seem to cut into skin as much. The Q is substantially heftier than the T series and it’s girth and bulk will feel quite familiar to users of the M system. Some may raise concerns that it’s not nearly as compact as Sony’s RX1/R, but then again, I think Leica made the proper choice in proportioning the camera as a Leica M to attract its base of M camera users. To the Leica M shooter, the camera will feel “familiar” in hand.

I do wish Leica would use traditional vulcanite leatherette, as the pebbled texture of Vulcanite used for older M cameras truly enhances the photographer’s hold on the camera. The Q comes equipped with a grip that may be familiar to X camera owners. It’s not as tactile, and looks decidedly more modern. It’s a decent look, but one that could use refinement.

With the accessory grip added, the camera’s haptics feel more complete. It’s heft is pleasant. The grip firms up the hold on the camera.

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In operation

It’s at this point that I will begin to GUSH about the Leica Q. Leica (and Panasonic) did their homework on this camera, and it shows. The camera is truly a dream to operate. The menu system is well laid out, complementing the camera’s operational simplicity. In fact, this is a camera that one can pick up, figure out within a few minutes, and begin shooting happily. It produces RAW files in the DNG format, thus immediately portable into most photo editing applications (in my case, Adobe Lightroom)

Autofocus is fast and accurate. This has not been talked about in glowing detail, but deserves to be highlighted. In my experience, the Leica Q has the most responsive autofocus of any mirrorless camera that I have tried. Not only is AF responsive, but also focusing is accurate. The Q gives the photographer the brilliant option of setting the focus point anywhere on the screen, and this system works well when the photographer is permitted the time to set the focus point (be it center or off to the side). Once focus zone is set, the camera nails focus every time. For many of us whose eyesight wanes with each year, having a camera with accurate and responsive AF in the design/build of a M camera (yes, not an M, but it sure feels like one, doesn’t it?) is a marvelous thing.

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While most of us will use the camera in single-shot focus mode (AF-S), the camera is quite adept at tracking focus if using the AF-C mode. Whole it’s not a sports shooter, it can easily track faster moving children and nail focus. The camera can be set to single- or multi-shot modes, and can acquire up to 9 frames in a second using the high speed burst rate. I was suitably impressed while employing AF-C with a high burst rate, while capturing fast moving children on a slip-n-slide, for example, to feel that the continuous AF mode coupled with burst shooting would allow me to capture a “mobile” decisive moment opportunity .
Using the lens in the field is also great. One can easily click into autofocus mode if one chooses, but one can also use the manual focusing option by rotating the focus wheel out of the AF position, at which point the camera uses focus magnification and peaking to aid the photographer in achieving focus. Coupled with the camera’s magnificent 3.7 megapixel EVF, focusing is not challenging. Added to the mix is diopter control, allowing the operator of the camera to adjust the diopter to his/her liking.
Menu layout is clear, clean, and intuitive, and the LCD screen can be used in broad daylight without much difficulty. Some may sight that the camera does not possess an articulating LCD, but this stands against Leica’s simplicity-is-utility design ethos, and I am fine with it. The less fiddly the camera, the better, in my opinion. With a clean user layout, and clean menu structure, operational simplicity, and very fast autofocus, what we are left with is a camera that is incredibly inspiring in operation. The Leica Q is a camera that simply does not get in the way of the photographer’s experience. I would say that the Leica Q’s operations enhance photographer’s user experience and motivates and inspires those who shoot it…to shoot it more. It’s that good. Really!

Crop Mode

I wanted to discuss crop mode briefly, as most simply cast this “feature” aside when discussing the camera. I belive that Leica considers the crop mode to be important, or else they would not have included a dedicated button to enable digital cropping. Implementation of the crop mode is fantastic. By clicking the button once, the EVF is “enhanced” by frame lines, thus producing a very rangefinder like experience. Shooting in 35 mm produces a 15 MP image, which is plenty sufficient to adjust in processing. Given that 28 mm and 35 mm are not that far apart, the camera can be used quite comfortably in 35 mm crop mode without much loss of feel.

Once cropped again, into 50 mm mode, things get a bit murkier. Now, the file produced is digitally cropped down to 7 MP. Editing becomes more of a chore, since less of the image is present to work with. Further, distortions present due to the 28 mm effective field of view are introduced, making portraiture in the 50 mm crop less than ideal.

I suspect that Leica envisions a certain group of photographers using the digital crop button to permit the camera to be used as a “Tri-Elmar” , but the compromises at play, while seeming acceptable at 35 mm, are less so at 50 mm.

All of that said, it’s nice to have a digital crop when operating the camera. Further, it’s nice to know that the camera has saved the full 28 mm field of view in the RAW file, so it’s easy to reclaim “lost data” in post processing if needed.

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Compared to the RX1

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Herein lies another question that comes up often, since the Leica Q was introduced. What’s Leica doing that Sony was not doing 2 years ago, when the RX1 was introduced and made its splash? Should I get the RX1 for it’s more desired 35 mm lens?

The choice of lens is a very personal. I would say that for those who don’t enjoy wide-angle photography and prefer 35 mm to 28, the Leica Q may not be an ideal companion. Further, the Q feels and is truly a bigger camera than the RX1, so if compactness is the ultimate goal, the RX1 achieves this better than the Q. Finally, image quality. The RX1/R produced and still produces brilliant files. This is no different today, and in fact, many, myself included, consider the Sony RX1 to be a modern legend in digital photography. Is the Q better? In a word: YES.

The fact of the matter is that the Q does so many things better than the RX1/R that the comparison is somewhat silly. The Q sports a built in EVF, which allows the camera to be used more like a traditional camera. Autofocus and operational implementation is far superior. The Q features a far more intuitive layout, with a less-is-more approach. While the RX1 is more compact, the Q feels fantastic in hand and retains enough compactness that it will fit in many of the same outfits for which the RX1 was purposed. Certainly, Sony’s RX2 (you know it’s coming) will feature a new degree of compactness, but Sony have never been known to design a camera for those who value simplicity and intention of use. Some complain that Sony cameras feel like computers. I don’t feel strongly, in this regard, but I will say that the Leica Q feels convincingly like a camera designed by and for photographers who appreciate simplicity of design. With the Leica Q, all of the key controls are readily accessible, while the rest are found easily in the camera’s sub menus.

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Compared to the Ricoh GR

Ricoh produced the pocket dynamite Ricoh GR 2 years ago, and it’s truly held up to the test of time as a camera that many street and documentary photographers carry in the pocket. Like the Q, the Ricoh GR sports a 28 mm equivalent lens, albeit on a APS-C size sensor.

The Ricoh GR has been one of my favorite cameras, and it’s a camera that I have had by my side for 2 years. It’s a dramatically different camera than the Q, as it is much smaller and is truly pocketable. Thus, the Leica Q will not replace or supplant the GR for my purposes. It’s form factor is just too different.

I would say that the GR’s file quality is more clinical, with better edge-to-edge sharpness wide open than the Leica Q demonstrates even when stopped to f/2.8. However, the Q offers a full frame sensor, Leica’s operational simplicity and haptics, and a fast/remarkable lens.

Both cameras are great. Choose the one that fits your needs the best. I chose both.

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Panasonic collaboration

Here’s the topic that no one’s really gotten into, and I wanted to shake a few trees and see what leaves fall down…Bottom line.: think it’s too much to say that Leica designed and implemented this most of this camera on their own. While the camera proudly reads “Leica Camera Wetzlar Germany” above the rear LCD, it does not clearly state “Made in Germany by Leica”, now does it? Nor does it say Leica Camera AG Germany. I say all this while laughing a bit, because none of it matters, other than in branding efforts. If you are reading this article, would you rather be buying a Leica or a Panasonic camera? I know where I’d fall in this regard
If one looks closely, the Leica Q has Panasonic’s fingerprints all over it. From implementation of the touch screen, to the wifi implementation, to the use of a Panasonic battery (DMW-BLC12) that’s been used extensively for Panasonic’s FZ1000 and Leica’s V-Lux line, this camera “reeks” of Panasonic influence. Heck, it’s clear to me that Panasonic had a strong hand in designing the Leica Q’s autofocus system. It’s too good to be a Leica design of its own. Some have gone as far as to say that it maybe Panasonic through and through, including the Summilux lens with an interesting f/1.7 maximum aperture, which is rare for Leica lenses but a common choice for Panasonic-designed lenses. Oh yeah, then there’s that sensor, which Leica refuses to disclose it’s source of manufacture, other than to say that the sensor is not manufactured by CMOSIS or Sony…Well, Panasonic is another company who sits ideally positioned, through its relationship with Leica, to offer up a chip of this high regard. Might not the sensor be of Panasonic manufacture? These are all of my theories, but ultimately, I suspect that Panasonic had a strong hand in designing the camera’s innards. From the outside, the Leica Q is truly, thoroughly a Leica, just like the Pana-Leica Digilux 2 before it….

Thus for me, the Leica Q is this generation’s Digilux!

 

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I find the Leica Q to be a fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable camera, one that’s inspired new levels of creativity in me. I am truly fascinated by the camera and would easily say that it’s one of my favorite digital cameras of all time. It’s really a perfect, take everywhere companion. It’s incredibly well thought out, laid out, and implemented in a way to appeal to photographers who want their camera out of the way and photographers who want to grow into their photographer ever more. The Leica Q forces you to grow, and for that growth, you will be rewarded by fantastic images.

I hope that you have enjoyed the photos, all taken during my first week with the camera. For those of you who want to see more, follow this link to my flickr site:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157654470404392
Enjoy the ride, and I will see you soon enough, just down the road, around the corner, Q in hand.

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Jun 192015
 

Love my Sony A7II…it inspires me!

by Jens Niedzielski

Hello Steve!

I’ve been reading your website / blog quite a bit lately, as I have become an avid user – and fan – of the Sony A7 (Mark II). After following your experiences with the A7 and A7s, and trying the A7s myself during a shoot in the Maldives in March, I decided to get the A7ii, and I am using it extensively ever since (darn, they just announced the A7R Mark II…).

I’d say the Sony really makes me want to take photos so much more than any other camera before – one reason being the fact that I can throw an endless array of vintage MF lenses on it. Lately I shoot almost exclusively manually, even fast-moving objects (kids (haha), horses etc). And I got hold of really nice vintage glass, from Canon FD lenses, to old Nikkor lenses, Rokkor, Takumar, Zeiss Jena, Jupiter, Industar, MIR, to name a few.

Anyway – thanks for pointing me in the right direction :) Attached please find 3 recent photos taken, and I hope they are somewhat inspiring… All taken with the A7II.

1. GO.RIDE – I am currently residing in Thailand, and some of my friends are some of the very few people in the country who are into horse trail riding. Outdoor, no strings attached. Most people who ride are staying in the safe and sound environment of horse riding clubs and rings – but these guys and girls are going out rinding in forests, farmland and so forth. The real deal, so to say. They often abuse me to take their pictures LOL, but I also feels it’s quite a privilege as this is a really rewarding subject to photograph.

The photo was taken with the A7II x Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens (Silver). That day I decided to challenge myself by shooting horse riding with a portrait lens, while keeping it under control otherwise thanks to AF (as the other day I shot arena / ring horse riding with an MF portrait lens, which despite the fact that they were waaaaay slower in there still was really difficult). The setting should be ISO100, f/2.8 which I chose as a sweet spot of shallow depth of field combined with ‘getting something in focus’.

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2. LAST LIGHT – this is an ‘after sunset’ / blue hour shot across Bangkok’s high rises. This is one of the very few unobstructed views into sunset direction in Bangkok, and literally was shot during the last seconds of having noticeable light that day; it went dark after that even for the A7II (I guess the A7s would have had a fun time after that).

For this one, I had paired the A7II with a Tokina 17mm f/3.5 RMC. Taken at 50 ISO, f16, about 30sec exposure I believe.

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3. THE TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION – this shot was taken inside Bangkok’s iconic Hua Lamphong train station. That day I went inside late at night to avoid people ruining my photos :) It turned out that the station is very heavily and brightly lit inside making it difficult to show the vintage look and feel of the station due to cold, bright and clinical light.

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Apart from taking some great shots in b/w and of the old trains that night, I decided to try some creative shot around the empty tracks that would give me the feeling of an empty old train station, or a station late at night, without resorting to more common techniques like b/w.

This was once again shot with the A7II x Tokina 17mm f/3.5 RMC.

P.S. I am aware / really quite a bit into post-production of images, but I am not using ‘filters’. All post processing is done only in LR and PS. Whenever I shoot, photos or VDOs, apart from trying to capture a really nice shot, fun for me starts when working the RAW files or VDO clips in post to see into what direction I can tweak them. Any photo, given the circumstance, inspires me to give them a certain treatment based on my perceived mood and tone of the moment. It may not be everyone’s taste, but it’s mine :)

Thanks a lot and best wishes,

Jens

INFO:

J (Jens Niedzielski)

Bangkok, Thailand

http://www.krop.com/jphotography

Jun 172015
 

Simone & My X-Pro 1

By Jermore Santos

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Hi Brandon & Steve,

Great site you have going on, this is just a little write up on my shoot with Simone and my X-Pro 1. I decided to leave my Canon 5D Mk III with my L Series zooms and strip back my photography, my awesome talent, Simone had complete trust in that the images that come out of the Fuji with the 35mm prime would be comparable and so we embarked on a little photographic endeavour. As I adjust the aperture ring around my 35mm f1.4 Fujinon the image darkens anticipating the coming break in the clouds, revealing a beautiful golden autumn sun. My ‘guestimation’ is spot on, thanks to the camera providing real time exposure in live view.

The most amazing realisation as a photographer is how the photons bounce off objects, be it landscape, lifestyle or product. To create contours by bending the light around your subjects while framing the image to reveal only what you want around your subject. Shooting with primes forces your creativity to go into overdrive as the forced perspective creates limited options for composition onto your frame, with the Fujinon 35mm f1.4, I get a similar angle of view to a full frame format 50mm, an angle that is so similar to our eyes that this is probably why the nifty fifty is the world’s most popular prime focal length. Speaking of the 50mm, last year in I went to Japan, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to snag myself a beautiful little vintage Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens in one of those awesome used photographic stores in Japan at a fraction of the cost of what I would have paid here in Sydney. I managed to score the more expensive f1.4 at the price of one would pay for an f1.8 here in Australia. The beautiful vintage FD lenses aren’t as sterile or tack sharp as today’s lenses and they bring a warmth and some organic nostalgia back to photography, I use a cheap FD to X Mount adapter to piece it all together from eBay and the results can make any photographer giggle with delight.

We ended up getting rained out but not before catching some beautiful sun shower shots, images that you hope to get when ideas get thrown around in pre-production.

Simone

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Jun 152015
 
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Shoot what you love!

By Price Wooldridge

Hi Steve and Brandon,

More and more I stop by your blog for a little daily inspiration. Today, I thought I’d add mine, shoot what you love!
I recently found a working trolley line in Dallas, Texas, utilizing old trolley cars on original tracks in the downtown area. Today, I just dropped by and asked if they’d mind me shooting in their trolley barn, and explained my love and fascination with trolleys and trains. Don’t ever be too bashful to step up and ask, “do you mind if I take a few pictures?”.
Hope the group will enjoy these, shot with a Nikon D5500, Tamron 17-50 f2.8 zoom, and posted in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. As a side note, thought I always enjoy the challenge of shooting with a prime, I find when you step into a new, unfamiliar situation, a good walk around zoom really is most useful.

Hope you enjoy.

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Jun 152015
 

Leica M 240 P

By Danny Bar

Hi
Just got back from Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria. I took my Leica MM and my 240 P along and as usual the 2 lenses, the LUX 35 & 50.

What can I say? Both cameras are great although i\I had some issues with my MM which I might write about in another article. The 240 P is simply a joy to shoot, everything is so smooth. so Leica-ish, once you start with this camera it is sooo hard to move to a different brand good as it is.

Here are some of my photos shot with the Leica M 240P.

Danny

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Jun 152015
 
Girl with percings

Test Driving the Leica Q… the first shots from a potentially long and happy relationship.

By Howard Shooter

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So I have been waiting for a Sony RX1 replacement for about 2 years now, sold my Fuji X100s (which I really enjoyed), and waited quietly for the rumor mill of the RX whatever to start gaining momentum. As a proper user of the Leica M240 rangefinder with various lenses, I wanted a point and shoot version to complement the system. There have been occasions when I might have missed shots or, quite frankly wanted a more instant snapper instead of the M240, which is a commitment. As a full time food photographer I want to state now that I use my Leica, I don’t put it in a glass cabinet, I don’t look at the beautiful brass German engineering before I go to bed lovingly (maybe once or twice!), but I drag the M240 around with me and really appreciate the quality and user experience, which for me is second to none. Sometimes I just want to pick up a camera and snap away. I am in a position where, as a professional I can afford and justify (at least to my wife), the extraordinary cost, but I haven’t found anything that suits my style or work flow better out of the studio than the Leica M240.

And then came the Q.

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I saw the various rumors and was initially tuned off by the 28mm fixed lens, but then I thought, what better compliment to my wonderful 35mm and 50mm primes than a 28mm fixed lens camera. The initial reviews were excellent and last week I phone up the Leica Store in Mayfair and put myself on the waiting list. I was told I was one of the first and two days later; I received the Leica Q, which without question has the potential to be one of the best cameras I have owned.

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My advice if you buy a new camera is to test drive it…. don’t wait for the special trip, the holiday, the wedding or whatever… go out and shoot the camera in a variety of conditions because there is always a steep initial learning curve. Understanding lens characteristics, sensor anomalies, the feel of the camera in the digital age is something which is organically learnt through enjoyed practice and repetitive use. It’s easy to get a correct exposure nowadays but less straightforward to get the best out of a camera until you understand it’s signature. For example the move from the Leica M9 to the M240 was a steep learning curve as the colour signature was completely different but, once understood it was a camera, which is more adaptable than it’s predecessor.

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I decided to forgo breakfast this morning, waved goodbye to my children and wife and jumped into the car. My studio is in Camden, London… so I know the market and local pretty well. I wanted to get there before the lovely tourists got in the way of a good chat with the traders and an intimate shot. I arrived at 9.00am on a Saturday morning….

It was unnervingly quiet which is perfect shooting conditions for what I wanted, but the light was directionless, muggy, cloudy, flat and miserable so I started shooting indoors to test the ISO performance. I shoot in Aperture Priority mode using exposure compensation and this time kept the ISO on auto. The autofocus is exceptionally quick, the EVF viewfinder is as good as I’ve seen (still not as good as a rangefinder), and the camera is built and responded beautifully. After shooting for a couple of hours I’ve processed them in Adobe Lightroom and added a little here and there but not much. I always shoot and use RAW and they’ve been a pleasure to convert. That’s as much technical detail as I want to go into.

Man in jewelery shop

Man in hat shop

The Leica Q is a wonderful camera and will change the direction and perception of Leica as a business as it surpasses or equals most Japanese rivals. Here is the future of Leica. I must say that it isn’t an M240 replacement, it still doesn’t have the same simplistic user experience but the image quality is exceptional. The camera isn’t perfect and the EVF viewfinder has a quirky way of hiding the top and bottom parts of the image, which may be a setting I have failed to see as nobody else, seems to have picked up on this. But it’s such an enjoyable camera to use and displays pop and the Leica signature, which is filmic and creamy and old school loveliness in a modern camera which works for me. What more could you ask for…… As incredible coincidences go I saw a Japanese man using a Fuji X100T eyeing up my camera and so I said hello and asked him what he did and if he was enjoying photographing Camden. It turned out to be the Global Marketing manager of Fuji cameras, just having a break after a European conference on the future of Fuji. He was obviously very pleased to see the Leica Q and seemed very impressed with the EVF.

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Thanks you to the traders in Camden for being so accommodating. I’ve shot both colour and black and white to demonstrate how they render and also because some of the artificial tungsten was so dreadful that converting them to black and white seemed like the only option. These are Jpegs from the Tiffs, converted from the Raw files…. the originals look even better. You can see more examples at my blog.

http://www.howardshooter.com/journal/2015/06/the-leica-q-in-camden-london-2015-the-first-test-drive

as always, thanks for reading

Howard Shooter

You can buy the Leica Q at B&H Photo,, Ken Hansen, Leica Store Miami or PopFlash.com

Jun 092015
 
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rx1-marfa-bunny-1

The Sony RX1 maintaining its relevance

By Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Two years can feel like a lifetime in the digital camera market, with fresh faced models seemingly delivered on a frantic six month schedule. But that’s roughly how long my RX1 has been in service – two full years. It was the golden child back then, always with me, consistently impressing with the sweet render of its Zeiss Sonnar 35/2 and the jaw dropping dynamic range from the 24-megapixel sensor. But new interchangeable lens models were released by Sony and the RX1 would often be relegated to the drawer. The newer Alphas boast faster AF, built-it EVFs, higher resolution or better low light performance, and the ability to mount nearly every lens ever made for the format.

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Funny thing though, the RX1 still deserves a place in the current stable and an argument can be made that it represents something wholly unique and special that can’t be duplicated by its siblings. It is the camera that I grab when I want to travel, go out with friends or just don’t want to think about lens options. There is a power in simplicity and limiting yourself to a single, classic 35mm lens. I rarely feel restricted with the fixed field of view and find that it is well suited for intimate scenes, landscapes and even portraits.

Given this ongoing admiration for the RX1 I decided to break down what makes the camera relevant today:

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The Lens

Like the legendary Hexar AF film compact and its Summicron killer 35/2, the heart of the RX1 is its fixed prime lens with silent leaf shutter. When the RX1 was released, the review sites gushed over the Sonnar that Sony had literally shoehorned into the frame to achieve the compact stature of the camera. With no less than three physical rings – aperture, focus and macro – the all metal Zeiss looks and feels the part of a classic rangefinder optic. Today, that lens is no less sharp, tactile or well built. You won’t find any test charts here but I’ve never been disappointed with the Sonnar’s resolving capability and its lovely rendering of out of focus areas. At times I’ve flirted with switching to the R model with no AA filter for improved resolution but photography isn’t solely about sharpness or resolution and there is a coherence inherent in this lens sensor combo that consistently satisfies.

With a leaf shutter, the lens is nearly silent and allows discrete shooting that lends itself to street, movie stills, sound recording environments or any other application where a silent shutter is a necessity. I often forget about the importance of having this ability until it is required.

The Sonnar does have its minor faults, but unless you are using an Otus, what lens doesn’t? Most notably, there is some CA that will need to be cleaned up on occasion, as well as distortion and vignetting that is magically erased in-camera. I never worry for a second that the lens is somehow hobbled or deficient. I would rate it as one of the finest 35/2 lenses made, equal to the Leica Summicron (king of bokeh), and Hexanon, better than the Minolta AF.

Relevancy today (10/10)

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The Body

When released, the RX1 was a clear shot across Leica’s bow. It is considerably smaller than the digital M bodies with a similar level of build quality, yet houses a modern full frame sensor with exceptional capabilities. It truly was the first of its kind and has yet to be eclipsed. You often read words such as “exquisite”, “finest”, “teutonic”, “brick” or “tank” to describe its build and design. Nothing has changed over those two years, in-fact time has proven the validity of those early claims. The detents on all of the metal control dials and rings remain as firm as the day I unboxed the camera. Some mild brassing on the focus ring is the extent of visible wear, although I have encased the camera in a leather half case made by Ulysses in Japan. The camera comes from the factory with a small patch of griptec type material on the front right hand side and a modest thumb grip on the rear. These two features provide just enough surface tension to make single hand holding possible but there are many first or third-party options to improve the ergonomics if desired. The case I purchased provides a nice little leather grip integrated into the design and retains access to the battery and SD card.

Controls are decidedly manual, with the aforementioned aperture ring plus an exposure compensation dial with 3 stops of adjustment +/-. When shooting full manual or shutter priority, shutter speed is assigned to the rear thumb dial. Personally, I prefer this setup to a shutter speed dial on top of the body and find that the combination of physical dials and rings to be ideal for controlling aperture, shutter speed and exposure comp.

The display is perhaps the most contentious component of the design. In an apparent attempt to keep the body as compact as possible, the RX1 was delivered without an OVF, EVF or tilt-screen. You get a nice LCD with good visibility in bright light (on the Sunny Weather setting) but that’s it. Many refused to purchase a camera where you are required to use the stinky diaper technique of composition. Sony does offer an optional OVF or EVF solution but both are pricey and alter the compact form factor of the camera. Personally, I chose to purchase the EVF and find it to be an effective add-on that not only allows for eye-level viewing, but with its articulating eyepiece, you get a right-angle finder, rendering you less intrusive to subjects on the street.

It is remarkable to think that in many ways this CyberShot branded camera remains Sony’s finest design. I know I’m not alone in hoping that a new model will eventually be introduced that retains the same level of build quality along with the retro rangefinder aesthetic and maybe a few improvements. If not for the lack of a built-in viewfinder I would rate the body a 10/10 today.

Relevancy today (9/10)

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

Latasha Lee and the Black Ties - Portrait

Latasha Lee and the Black Ties – Portrait

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

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The Sensor

As of the the date of this article, the RX1 sensor is the second highest rated in a Sony body, higher than any Canon camera and higher than any Medium Format system sensor – per DXO ratings. Pretty impressive for a two year old model. With 14.3 stops of dynamic range (widest range of all the Sony cameras), the ability of the sensor to hold highlights and recover shadows is truly astounding. I routinely overexpose when shooting in daylight at f/2, 1/2000 and have no trouble pulling back the highlights. High ISO performance is excellent and as a concert shooter, I have no qualms about using 3200 or even 6400 in a pinch. I rarely rely on software noise reduction as I find the noise pattern to be acceptable and even attractive in a film grain sense. Compared to the sensor in my newish a7II, I feel the RX1 sensor to be absolutely equal if not slightly advanced.

Relevancy today (10/10)

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User Interface

All new alpha cameras use an updated version of the RX1’s interface. Comparing those new menus to the RX1 can be a bit of a letdown. The RX1 menus are spartan and lack many helpful features found in the more recent models. One example is the inability to assign a function to the rear control ring – on the a7 models I keep ISO programmed to the ring for immediate control. On the RX1 you must program a custom button to first access ISO and then select the desired setting from the menu. There is potential for significant interface improvement so it is disappointing that firmware has not been upgraded to better synch the interface design with the current models.

Relevancy today (6/10)

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Processor

Along with Interface, this section is where the RX1 most shows its age. Autofocus performance has been greatly improved in the newer alpha cameras so living with the older contrast detection system in the RX1 can at times be frustrating. On the upside, AF is generally very accurate, more so than my DSLRs ever were, it just takes the camera a bit longer to get there. Things are generally fine in good light but the hunting begins when the light goes down or in strong backlight conditions. Switching over to manual focus is always an option but the fly-by-wire mechanism requires its own form of patience and skill. Still, to put things in perspective, I have used the RX1 in extreme concert lighting conditions with solid success, just don’t expect it to provide the speed of today’s advanced systems.

Relevancy today (6/10)

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The band Tobacco performing at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

The band Tobacco performing at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

A True Classic?

Given the frequency of product advancement in the mirrorless space, a photographer needs to be at peace with their purchase decision. Many agonize over the right time to buy or upgrade, scanning the rumor sites for hints at what is coming next. This cycle of advancement and obsolescence can paralyze or infuriate. With a camera like the RX1 I knew when I purchased it that there would be improvements in later models, specifically to the AF speed and interface. The question I had to ask myself was whether the things that made the camera unique were enough to warrant the considerable cost of the RX1. I did not buy the camera back in 2013 for the AF performance or the interface/menu controls, I bought it for the lens, sensor and body design/build and of course for its compact form. On its introduction the RX1 was the smallest full frame camera you could buy and two years later, continues to hold that title. Sony didn’t just make the smallest full frame camera in the world, they blessed it with arguably one of the finest sensor and lens combinations available and they wrapped it in a beautiful metal retro shell with manual aperture and exposure compensation controls. Due to its compact size and its handsome design – I’ll admit a bit of vanity here, I want to carry the camera with me all the time, confident that I am not compromising anything when it comes to the images it will help me produce.

Tomorrow Sony may announce a replacement with a faster lens, better AF and interface, maybe even an integrated EVF, but when it comes to the quality of the images, we are reaching a point of diminishing returns. What the RX1 produces today is without doubt at the top end of the spectrum, so good that I seriously worry whether a new model would “mess with success”.

Sony achieved a rarity when they designed the RX1 – they produced a camera that many will claim has already reached cult status, which in the throwaway and upgrade world of digital cameras, ensures its relevancy for many years.

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Leave a comment below if you still own an RX1 or would like to.

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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