Mar 312015
 

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DUAL Review: Zeiss Loxia 50 F/2

by Bill Danby and Steve Huff

Hey everyone! I have been shooting the Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2 for 2-3 weeks now and LOVE it. I also received a guest report on the Loxia 50 and decided to post both my thoughts and Bill Danby’s thoughts at the same time. First, I will let Bill say what he thinks about the Loxia 50 as he says all that needs to be said! Enjoy!

Bill Danby Loxia Review:

Just about every discussion of the Loxia 50mm also mentions the most likely alternative, the Sony/Zeiss 55mm. (And now, I suppose, I have too.) But this is very rarefied air we’re breathing here. They’re both outstanding lenses designed specifically for the Sony A7 series cameras. Any idea that one will leave the other in the dust is entirely misplaced.

I have used my 55mm extensively; but this will not be a “This vs That” review. Just because there’s an elephant in the room, doesn’t mean you have to pet it.

I don’t do video, so this review won’t be helpful for photographers looking to use the Loxia for that.

I’m not going to be coy. I REALLY like this lens. But I’m not going to recommend it willy-nilly. I’d like to tell you about the lens, and let you decide. But as they say in the small print: The following is provided on an “as is” basis. Your mileage may vary, etc.

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So, why the Loxia 50mm?

The “Ifs:”
If you prefer primes lenses; and
if you prefer a “normal” (50mm) lens; and
if the manual focus is a serious plus for you; and
if you can live without some of the very attractive features of autofocus; and
if only having a manual aperture isn’t a practical negative,
then the Loxia 50mm might be the lens for you.

Image quality

The most important thing to know about the Loxia 50mm is that it’s balanced in terms of its qualities. Zeiss calls it a “flexible all-rounder.” There’s a lot of truth in that; but only for those that got through the “ifs” without having to think too hard about it.

The Loxia’s colour rendering and contrast are both great, and it has its share of Zeiss “pop.” Not OMG “pop;” but it’s a Zeiss Planar and it does what Zeiss Planar lenses do. Apparently the present level of contrast is more the result of the coating than the Planar design. The Planar design has almost 120 years of history and the Zeiss T* coating goes back almost 80 years.

It has extremely low distortion and very little chromatic aberration.

F/2.0 is pretty fast. To get to f/1.4 would have required a bigger lens and that would not have been in keeping with the brief. This is the same speed as its sister, the Loxia 35mm. You have to keep in mind that this is f/2.0 on a full-frame. That means that at f/2.0 on the full frame camera, depth-of-field is slightly more shallow than at f/1.4 with a 32mm (50mm equivalent) lens on an APS-C (crop sensor) camera. So, this affords acceptably narrow depth of field for isolation of a subject, such as for some portraits.

Apparently, the Inuit people have at least 53 words for snow. We seem to be working toward that number of adjectives to describe bokeh. The Loxia’s bokeh isn’t the very creamy style prized by some; but it’s not “nervous” either. I find the bokeh from the Loxia to be both attractive and useful.

This is an outstandingly sharp lens, with a slight softening at the corners, wide open. I had to look for it. It’s not a problem for me.

The lens is an equal partner for the Sony A7II. And from the other reports I’ve read, it also meets the demands of the A7r (which I don’t have).

It’s not a zoom

Prime lenses held pride of place for many years, but times have changed. The quality improvements in zooms have been revolutionary. So now, while there’s a bit of image quality in it, the main difference is lens speed.

Zooms for the A7 series (even the lowly 28-70mm kit lens) usually have their own stabilisation. So if you’re not going to be using an A7II (or, seemingly soon, the A7rII), then using the Loxia over a zoom will cost you the stabilisation as well.

Almost everyone who has had occasion to use my camera, has asked where the zoom ring is. Their reaction on learning there isn’t one, can only be described as pitying. Now, with the Loxia, they’ll be wondering why it isn’t focusing. (I fear that things will be moving from pity to something else.)

Manual focus

Manual focusing seems to have “old school” written all over it. It’s unfortunate that some think that manual focusing is just for “old guys” (apologies for the sexist terminology) trying to recapture their experiences from the day. Feeding such a view is the fact that old guys started in photography without any autofocus. So, they, or those with experience in using legacy lenses, adjust to manual focus more quickly.

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I hate thinking I’ve nailed the focus on a shot, only to find out when I get it into Lightroom that the system has chosen something else to focus on. (That, of course, is the camera rather than the lens.) So, while I still may occasionally miss the exact focus with the Loxia, I don’t get those surprises.

Any movement of the focus ring triggers an immediate magnified view. And a half-press of the shutter button brings you back the full view ahead of whatever timing you’ve set. You can, of course, turn that off and magnify when you want.

It took me a little time to get used to that magnification arrangement because I had been used to giving the shutter a half-press to force an autofocus.

Focusing with the Loxia is fast. It’s not always as fast as some autofocus systems, but it’s more reliable. Manual focus, however, rarely gets lost in the hunt. I usually leave focus peaking on, but I depend on the magnified view.

I’ve also assigned the magnified view to the A7II’s “C1″ soft key. That allows me to get an even higher magnification quickly when I need it.

If you’ve come to depend on Sony’s great, eye-focus feature (or faces, or smiles, or face recognition, or tracking focus), those don’t happen with the Loxia. Except for the loss of the eye focus (which is very accurate, and simple even on a tripod), I’m relieved. There’s no grid of phase detection points, or boxes around people’s faces, or green dots to signal focus.

It’s just point, focus, and shoot.

Zone focusing is not just for street photographers. Once you get used to a hard infinity limit and a hard close focus limit (at about 18 inches), then it’s easy to estimate where a shot is going to be.

I haven’t tried astrophotography, but my lens sets accurately to infinity. So, if you’re trying to focus on the stars, it’ll probably be easier on the Loxia.

It’s ironic for me that after years of watching the developments and discussing the relative merits of phase detection and contrast detection autofocus, I’ve decided to skip both — just when they’re getting really fast.

Handling

The lens is all metal, so it’s relatively heavy, although Zeiss calls it light. Zeiss says it’s 320gm, but with the hood and front lens cap mine was 358gm). My kit (the A7II with the Loxia, but without a strap, ) comes in at 970gm. With the strap, call it a kilogram (2.2lbs).

I find that the on-camera balance is perfect.

I’ve heard the lens called ugly. That, of course, is personal taste; but it doesn’t seem ugly to me.

The focus ring is well placed and wide enough. The ring begins just behind the lens hood when the hood’s attached, so the ring is quick to find. Yes, yes, the focus ring is very smooth. It’s a Zeiss manual lens — it needed to be.

The full, focus rotation for the Loxia is 180 degrees — a manageable spin. But, that’s not the useful information. What you need to know is that the focus rotation to go from 2 meters (6 feet) to infinity is only about 35 degrees (about a tenth of a turn of the focus ring). This means that for most situations I can focus within that range without taking my fingers off the lens.

I wouldn’t have minded a slightly wider aperture ring. No big thing.

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Manual aperture

If you’re not a dedicated aperture-priority shooter, then the Loxia isn’t the lens for you. It’s an absolute manual aperture.

The Loxia’s manual aperture benefit, as with manual focus, is that you not only set it on the lens, you can see what you set; and you can see it even if the camera is “sleeping,” or off.

With an auto lens you can select aperture priority, or not. No such choice with a Loxia. (This means that you can’t put the camera on “auto” to hand to a bystander to take your picture.)

I rarely use the video on my camera, so I don’t need to switch off the aperture clicks. But I was curious to see if the small screwdriver from my Swiss Army Knife (usually used to tighten the screws on eye glasses) would work on the Loxia’s click/declick selector switch, that’s located on the lens mount. It’s not a great fit, but it does.

Exif data reporting

Because the lens reports the exif data to the camera, the f/stop appears in the electronic viewfinder as well. Cool.

The exif data, however, is not just information for idle curiosity. The information feeds the exposure calculations. And when images arrive in Lightroom, you’ll have aperture data with those shots.

The focus data is also used by the A7II’s stabilisation to afford the full, five-axis assistance, rather than the three-axis available to other manual focus lenses. This also means that when you attach a Loxia, the Sony recognises it and sets the system to the lens just as it does for Sony lenses.

The details

The lens shade is metal, but light. It reverses, but the hood is deep. So, when it’s reversed it pretty much covers the focusing ring. There’s only the slightest sliver of ring available in a pinch. You really have to remove the hood to focus the lens. I mentioned that it’s metal, but it has a plastic ring on the inside for the actual connection to the lens. The inside of the barrel of the shade feels as if it has a coating and it’s BLACK. It takes a quarter turn to lock it into place, so if you start with the Zeiss logo at the top, then a quarter-turn will lock it into place and bring the “Loxia 2/50″ to the top.

I shoot almost exclusively in RAW, so most of the “features” of the camera are irrelevant to me. I love the manual focus and I welcome the manual aperture because I used to shoot in aperture priority anyway.

On A7 lens mounts there’s a white dot for aligning the lens when attaching. The corresponding dot on the Loxia 50mm is blue, and almost invisible in poor light. I use the words “E-mount” in (noticeable) white lettering that’s right next to the blue dot as my guide.

The Loxia is a much tighter fit on the A7II than on the A7. That’s a good thing, because the lens mount has been strengthened on the A7II. The only problem is that there’s very little finger purchase on the Loxia 50mm in the space between the aperture ring and the camera for giving it that twist. It’s a bit easier to use the space between the aperture ring and the focus ring.

I haven’t done any testing, but without an autofocus motor, I think I’m getting better battery life.

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Conclusion

I have the Loxia, and I’m keeping it. It’s my everyday, “walking around” lens. And, I’m hoping for Zeiss to release a Loxia 85mm in the future.

I’d like to think that after reading this, you’ll come away with an idea about whether this is a lens for you. But it’s serious money, so if you’re in a big city, you might want to rent one for a couple of days.

Alternatively, when these lenses are more available, head to your local dealer, put one on your Sony, and take it for a spin (focus-ring play-on-words intended).

I have to agree that autofocus has become incredibly good on mirrorless cameras, and you can still manually focus those lenses with fly-by-wire. So, I admit that the Loxia’s manual focus may provide more lens control than actual photographic control. But I’ve used fly-by-wire manual focusing as an adjunct to “auto” on many autofocus lenses, and I don’t miss those experiences.

Good luck with your Loxia, or whatever lens you choose.

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Steve’s thoughts on the Loxia 50:

After my 35 Loxia review I knew I would have fun using the 50 Loxia. For me, this lens is fantastic in size, feel build, and use. I am one who is used to manual focus primes, so this is always my preference. I love Leica M glass and using them, so the Loxia was a natural fit for me and my uses and tastes.

The build is fantastic, feels almost like a Leica lens. At least feels as good as the standard 50 Summicron. Image quality wise it is also fantastic with very little CA, distortion and the lens is razor sharp.

My 1st shot with the 50 Loxia gave me 50 APO detail and rendering, all on my Sony A7S

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I will not repeat what Bill said above as he nailed it when he described the lens qualities. He basically said what I would have said, which is cool as now I do not have to write it all ;) Even so, this lens is priced VERY RIGHT at $949. For under $1,000 you can get a lens that performs almost to the level of  the Leica 50 APO which comes in at $7500 or so. See Brad Husik’s test HERE between this lens and the 50 APO. 

The A7II and the Loxia is a match made in heaven. Color, detail and pop. 

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The build and feel is much nicer than the M mount version from Zeiss. It is a perfect match for the Sony A7 system, and it works well on my A7s and A7II. Beautiful. From the packaging to the all metal lens hood to the silky manual focus feel to the auto magnify when you touch the focus ring, this lens is a winner in every way. If you love manual focus primes with some speed, then this is a lens you will adore. For me, this lens and my A7II is really all I ever need. Sure, I own wide-angle lenses and longer lenses but for me, the 50mm is the true classic prime delivering closest to what our eyes see.

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During my use with the lens I enjoyed every second of it. I never once had frustration nor did I ever wish I had a faster or different lens. I never yearned for auto focus as this lens is as easy to AF as the 35 was, and these rank among the easiest MF lenses I have used. With the auto magnify of the A7 series, it was a breeze to lock in critical focus. It is really quite fun to use the Loxia line.

All images below from the A7II and Zeiss Loxia at f/2 – Various ISO EXIF is embedded.

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Color is delicious, typical of Zeiss glass. It has the sharpness and detail, the build and feel, the great usability and the super pop and color that one would expect. All in a small prime under $950. A must buy for those who love this type of lens. I would take this over a Leica M 50 converted for use on the A7 series. Easy. In fact, this is one of my favorite lenses for the A7 series camera. I enjoy it much more than the Sony 55 1.8 (which I own) as the build is nicer, the lens is smaller yet heavier (better build) and again, I prefer the manual focus. I also feel the images have more character than the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8. Price wise, they are about the same.

Below are more of my photos with the 50 Loxia during my time with it. All on the Sony A7II (my #1 camera of choice today) – my A7II review is HERE.

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Where to Buy the Loxia Lenses:

PopFlash.com is an authorized Zeiss dealer and they carry the Loxia line HERE

B&H Photo also sells the Zeiss Loxia line HERE

Mar 282015
 

A Small Pit Bull with Balloons, an A7II User Report

By Brandon Labbe

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Much like Godzilla in the 2014 movie “Godzilla,” I recently strolled through the streets of downtown San Francisco. Unlike Mr. Zilla, however, instead of being met with giant moth creatures that blew blue fire, I was met with dragons. Yes, you read that right, dragons! Monstrous creatures that breathe fire and eat every person they come across; at least, that is how one would describe wild dragons. Amazingly, unlike their wild counterparts, the dragons of San Francisco are very well-trained, as they simply stood in place waiting their turn to delight the crowds gathered for the Chinese New Year parade that San Francisco hosts every year a full two weeks after the actual lunar new year day passed, which is like seeing New Year fireworks on the 14th or celebrating St Patrick’s Day on Easter, and trust me, you do not want to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Easter.

Heavy drinking and easter egg hunts are not a good combination. Of course, when one comes upon a dragon in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in America, the logical course of action is not to grab your children and run, but instead to take out your A7II and take a picture. I know, we San Franciscans are a strange bunch, but I’d like to think that’s what most people would do if they saw a dragon, as opposed to follow Harry Potter’s lead and jump on its back, but enough dragon jokes, on with the A7II!

If the A7II were an animal, it’d be a lion, because it’s the king of cameras. Unlike a lion, however, it takes amazing pictures and instead of eating zebras it eats batteries. I know what you’re thinking, “please, no more animal jokes!” but this comparison is actually Sony-approved, because I’ve seen ads for the A7 series with a roaring lion behind the cameras, and I must say, an advertisement must be amazing to make someone describe it in detail in a camera review. Sony’s got some geniuses in their ad department. In all seriousness, yes, it eats batteries, in that I used to only need one where as now I need a second one in my pocket if I want the camera to be on all day. You see, I was expecting a horrific battery life based on reviews I’d read of the other A7 models, so the first thing I did with my II, straight out of the box, was put it in airplane mode, and two batteries lasts me an entire day. Battery life aside (and, again, even that isn’t bad), there is absolutely nothing wrong with this camera. Now, it’s not a perfect camera, because, as experts have echoed a thousand times, there is no perfect camera, but I believe you can only get so close to perfection. Can I drop the II out of a plane and expect to recover it without a scratch? Of course not, because whoever was passing by when it fell would snatch it up in an instant because it’s a perfect camera!

I’m not one who is well-versed in camera lingo, I just know a good camera when I see and use it. I could say it’s got a good build, a good sensor, weather sealing, nice grip. Hell, it can probably do your taxes for you. I didn’t really notice these things, though, because they just worked well. When something works well, you don’t really notice. That might seem like an odd statement, but to try to let you see it from my perspective, think of it like this: in movies, you know immediately when someone’s a bad actor because they make certain mistakes or are just all-around unconvincing. However when someone’s a good or even great actor, you almost don’t notice because you’re so subconsciously convinced by their performance that you forget they’re acting. If that was confusing, let me put it this way: you know when a camera is bad because you have a lot of complaints over it. However, if a camera is perfect or near perfect, you don’t really notice. It just works the way you want it to. It complements your style, it doesn’t get in the way when you’re not using it, it doesn’t disturb your or anyone’s experience with a loud shutter at a quiet moment. It doesn’t freeze, crash, miss autofocus, explode in your hand, etc. It really is easier to say what a camera doesn’t do than what it does. That doesn’t just apply to cameras, but anything. If something works well, you don’t really notice. It’s only when something doesn’t work the way it should that you notice. To apply this way of thinking to the II and other cameras and technology in general that I’ve owned, the II is the only thing I’ve never felt the desire to throw against a wall. Though that may seem like a silly thing to say, I assure you that is extremely high praise.

The thing about the body that did stand out, however, was the viewfinder. Though I don’t use the viewfinder to take pictures (see my reason here: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/03/11/what-i-learned-from-trading-a-dslr-for-a-phone-by-brandon-labbe/), I find it incredible. Looking through your pictures with your eye to the viewfinder is like seeing your pictures in 3-d. Have you ever looked through a stereoscope (one of those old-timey 3-d viewers where you have a card with the same image printed twice and you look through the viewer and it looks 3-dimensional)? The viewfinder is like that, but in color and high-quality, and even though I don’t use it to take pictures, I look through pictures with it because it is just a phenomenal viewer. I wish it were detachable so I could plug it into my computer and view all my photos with it because it is just so incredible.

Then there’s the iso. The beautiful, amazing, incredible iso. 10000! Ten-freaking-thousand, and I still got a pic that I could print as large as I’d like. How many cameras can you say that about? And if you can’t tell which one of these I took at 10000, that just proves my point. Okay, I’ll just tell you because it actually looks cleaner than some pictures. It’s the photo of the with the clock tower in the distance.
For a review of the lens, the Zeiss 35/2.8, which may as well be welded to my II, I could sum up my feelings for it by comparing the pictures I take with it to balloons. They’re all colorful and pretty, but when the lens is especially sharp, the pictures pop. Just look at the pictures above to see what I mean.

Also, compared to other cameras I’ve used, pictures I’ve taken with this camera, not all, but some, seem to glow. I think this is a combination of the lens and sensor. I’m sure this sounds like a very amateurish observation, but it’s true. With the right light and shadows, some pictures seem to glow. I like the look so much, I try to find the right conditions to get that glowing effect in as many pictures as I can. I don’t have a very good example of this effect from the parade, but I’ve run into the effect several times in daily shooting around the neighborhood when the sun is just right. I don’t think I’m explaining myself well enough. When I say they glow, I don’t mean some of the pictures look smudged or that blown out highlights somehow look pleasing. What I mean is the way light is reflected and dissipates into shadows is like nothing I’ve ever seen in any camera I’ve used before. Perhaps this is just a full-frame thing – a light sensitivity that smaller sensors couldn’t hope to achieve, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think there’s something really special here, in the II, or maybe even the whole A7 series; something you can’t just be told about, but you have to experience for yourself.

The one flaw that I found was, as good as the auto white balance is in the day, at night it seems to favor a blue tint. This isn’t noticeable a lot of times, because night is rather blue anyway, but, looking back through photos now, and even at the parade itself, I noticed that the live view display and the resulting picture looked noticeably more blue than the scene before me. No great fault if you shoot in raw, but if you shoot in jpeg, I’d recommend going manual on white balance at night, or at least, only if it’s noticeable, because it only happened to me twice.

If you’re curious as to what settings I use, I have it in manual mode, and that includes iso. 95% of pictures are with autofocus, and the autofocus might miss only once in 200 photos, and even when it does, I don’t complain because the photo still looks good. I’ve heard some people have had a bigger problem with autofocus, that it ‘hunts’ sometimes, especially at night. I constantly have the lens in center focus mode so the lens always knows what I want it to focus on  I have the lens at a constant /5.6 because that’s the lens’ sharpest aperture. I only go wider at night or in close-ups.

Another thing I love about the II is how unassuming it is. I was surrounded by guys with fat dslrs and lenses thicker than my arm, and I actually enjoyed the condescending looks they were giving me, as if I brought a chihuahua to a pit bull fight. If only they knew.

To recap: my II is a pit bull the size of a chihuahua, and my pictures are balloons. I think that sums up the A7II/Zeiss 35 combo very well, a small pit bull with balloons.

Also I should note that the parade isn’t this unorganized. Most of the pics were taken before the parade actually started.

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Mar 272015
 

One Camera, One Lens and One Faraway Destination

By Fahad A

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for featuring my previous post I shared earlier this year.

Last summer I decided to go on a quick vacation somewhere far, somewhere I have never been before or even thought about visiting. Looked up the map, found Korea to be distant, far, interesting and not top of mind destination for someone who wants to roam around and take pictures.

Without any preconceptions about South Korea, I took a plane to Seoul, accompanied with a small suitcase that barely carries a couple of shirts, and a backpack that for my laptop and camera.

Few hours before the flight, I had a quick debate with myself about which gear should I take along with my Leica M + Summicron 50mm (V4), should i take the tiny Fuji 100s ? or should I take along the Nokton 35mm 1.2.

I decided to keep both Fuji and Nokton lens at home. went to Seoul with only one camera, and one lens! which means I’m stuck with 50mm focal length for the entire trip.

Did I regret it? I don’t think so. I enjoyed the limitation of only one lens. and how I should adapt with the focal length rather than replacing it or take out another camera with a different lens whenever I need to.

I might have missed few shots that were easier with a wider lens, however I’d sacrifice them anytime for the experience I got from limiting myself to 50mm.

Fahad A

For the full set, please take a look here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/sets/72157648593556971/

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Mar 272015
 

User Report – Skin tones with the Fuji X series

By Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve,

I am back again with another experience with the Fuji since my switch. See my 1st post HERE 

My Website: http://www.hakemphotography.com
Facebook page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography

Camera makers usually speak about skin tones. People always debate whether Canon is the best in rendering skin tones, some say that Nikon is better in ambient lights,some consider Lieca to be the best. The problem here is that all camera makers target their sales for Asia, Europe and the US. This makes life a little bit harder for people in the Middle east, South America, India Africa and all the countries with darker skin tones, so all the reviews and camera makers who are famous with their perfect tones are not for me

DISCLAIMER: I will be using terms like “Dark,Black, Brown skins”: I come from Egypt and we have a mix of all colors who lived in peace since the beginning of time! We in the middle east don’t even know what color racism is. So please don’t get offended in any way!

Having a camera which renders correct skin tones for all skin colors was a dream for me. I usually use natural lights and the results were always fine for pale, white and tanned skins. But as I said in Egypt we have a wide mix of colors, nearly every family have all colors. What I always experienced during my Nikon time was that it was a real challenge to capture the Brown, Dark brown and black skins. Not only you need a camera with a wide dynamic range to capture a dark skin in a highlighted background,  but also you need to capture the correct tone. For me I never found anything better than the Fuji color rendering. Maybe its the X trans sensor or maybe just the algorithm that Fuji uses but believe it or not it was never a pain to get the correct skin tone on most of the exposures, Some time you have lovely glowy white eyes, Shiny Teeth and a near black skin with a very bright background. I never got these kind of shots with my Nikon. I used to do tons of post processing to adjust the white balance AND exposure. Thumbs Up for Fuji and another reason for me to love it. Its the first camera that nails the correct skin tone for all the colors. Below are some pictures captured in Egypt.

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Mar 272015
 

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

by Brad Husick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 262015
 

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

USER REPORT: The New Sony 28 f/2 on the Sony A7S and A7II…BAM!

by Chad Wadsworth – his website is HERE!

Last week the FedEx guy delivered a box on loan from Sony containing a couple of much-anticipated new FE primes. The 35/1.4 is as good as Steve reported – a near perfect balance of center resolution and bokeh – but what about the little FE 28/2?

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I’m a big fan of the 28mm fov and have owned a few highly regarded lenses (C/Y Zeiss 28/2.8, Zeiss 28/2.8 G, M-Rokkor 28/2.8 & Minolta AF 28/2) and film compacts (Minolta TC-1, Ricoh GR1), so there was a personal expectation for Sony to deliver a modern equivalent of the Minolta AF 28/2.

After a few days shooting and editing, a few things are clear: this little guy is shockingly sharp, renders out of focus transitions smoothly and transmits color with pop. With a price tag under $450, compact size and quick AF, there is little fault to find with. You will notice some minor distortion that should easily be handled by a PS or LR profile, but other than that…no complaints. (Pre-Order it Here at Amazon) – (Pre-order it HERE at B&H Photo)

Early web samples had some forum “experts” calling the bokeh nervous, but my results indicate a good amount of “cream” especially in the foreground. A 28mm is never going to draw the bokeh of a portrait lens but what this lens does produce is attractive to my taste. Samples here are from RAW and processed in LR – most are shot wide open. Stopping down quickly improves the corners but even at f/2 the subject sharpness is just amazing. (From Steve: I also have this lens now and it is just as Chad Describes..a MUST OWN for any A7 series shooter)

With this kind of price/performance level, I hope users reward the FE 28mm with big sales and Sony takes note of the demand for compact, high quality f/2 lenses at reasonable price points. Up to now, I’ve held onto my Minolta AF 28/2, waiting to see if this new FE 28/2 could replace it – I think it is time to let it go…

click images for larger and much better and sharper view!

1st FOUR were shot on the A7II, rest were A7s

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Venue

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mar 252015
 

M9 pop on a M240:  The 35mm Zeiss Distagon T 1.4 

By Howard Shooter

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I decided to take the plunge and purchased the new 35mm Zeiss Distagon T 1.4 (how do they come up with such catchy names?). Now this is the first non Leica lens I’ve purchased and I had just got to the stage where I just couldn’t justify spending so much on the Leica 35mm 1.4 lens. The Zeiss has had a few tentative good reviews and at a third of the price of the Leica seemed like excellent value (if not a bargain). What’s interesting about this lens to me is that it produces the pop and contrast of the M9 with the tonal dynamic range of the M240.

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It is now my favourite lens on my Leica and although a little chunky is beautifully built (Better than it looks in the photos of it). These shots were taken at Delphine’s, a wonderful 1950’s diner in the town of Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Caroline and Pete have given up the rat race to produce the best burgers and milkshakes in Suffolk… If you happen to be passing so hi to them from me! Anyway I’ve processed these in Lightroom but only a little and I think the colour pop is fantastic….

Let me know if you agree,

best

Howard Shooter

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Mar 242015
 

paul

LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Voigt21mmf2.8

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

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

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

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

Canon21mmf5.6

Voigt21mmf5.6

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

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

Canon21mmf8

Voigt21mmf8

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

Voigt21mmf1.9

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

Canon28mmf2.8

Zeiss28mmf2.8

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

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

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

Canon28mmf5.6

Zeiss28mmf5.6

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

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

Canon35mmf2.8

Jupiter35mmf2.8

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

Canon35mmf5.6

Jupiter35mmf5.6

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

Canon35mmf8

Jupiter35mmf8

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

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

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

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

Canon85mmf2

leica80mmf2

Jupiter85mmf2

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

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

Canon85mmf2.8

leica80mmf2.8

Jupiter85mmf2.8

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

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

Canon85mmf1.4

leica80mmf1.4

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

Canon85mmf1.2

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

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

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

Canon85mmf1.2Edited

leica80mmf1.4Edited

Jupiter85mmf2Edited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canal1

Canal2

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

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

Cheers

Paul

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

Mar 232015
 

24-240 bh

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens First Look

by Brad Husick

Yesterday I received the new Sony 24-240mm super zoom lens for full frame Sony FE mount cameras. I had a chance to shoot some ultimate frisbee with it and I thought I’d share my first impressions.

I have been a professional sports photographer for the NLL (National Lacrosse League) and for that I generally have used the big gear – Canon EOS and Nikon D3 and D4 cameras and lenses. In the low light of indoor sports I need the speed and precision of these monster camera systems to give me reliable results.

For this first taste I shot outdoors in relatively good late evening light. I was anywhere from 5 yards to 50 yards from my subjects, shooting on a Sony A7II using auto ISO limited to 3200. This was my first chance to try the A7II for sports.

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The incredible reach of this lens at 240mm made the job easier. It’s quite long when extended to the maximum zoom, but not particularly heavy or unbalanced on the camera. I did not feel the need to shoot on a monopod, which is my typical setup for sports. The combined weight of the camera and lens were more than manageable for the 60 minute game. This would not be true of my Nikon D4 and 70-200 lens.

I also found the wide-angle end of the lens useful when the action came close to me on the sidelines. If I had my 70-200 mounted I would have missed some of this action.

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Overall I can say I am pleasantly surprised with the optical quality of the lens. I don’t see any major flaws at either end of the range. I do wish it could be a little faster than f/3.5-6.3 – a constant f/4 would be nice, but I am sure we’d be looking at a much larger lens in that case. It’s a tradeoff I am willing to make here.

Build quality is excellent. The zoom throw is a bit stiff but it doesn’t creep when you hang the camera down at your hip. The hood is plastic but nicely finished and no so large that it gets in the way. I do wish all these lenses had real aperture rings, but leaving the camera on A mode wide open does the trick most of the time.

Image stabilization combined with the in-camera stabilization of the A7II is superb, perhaps the best I have used. I can’t measure the benefit in stops, but I’d say it’s very, very useful especially at the far end of this big zoom.

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Autofocus was an interesting combination of good and fair. The subject tracking capability of the camera was very good, locking on and not letting go despite players running in front of the subject. I was pleasantly surprised by this. On the not-so-good end, the lens wouldn’t always lock on to the intended subject immediately. I am quite spoiled by the performance of the Nikon D4 and its lenses and their ability to almost magically lock on to the subject. I didn’t expect the Sony to knock the Nikon out of first place for this application, but it was a reminder that there are certainly different tools for different jobs. I am not ready to replace the D4 when I am being paid for my sports work.

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In summary, I think the combination of the 24-240 and the A7II is a great setup for parents and family to get the shots of their children they have wanted and missed in the past.

I look forward to getting more shooting time with this combo and learning the subtleties of this system.

You can order  the Sony 24-240 Lens at AMAZON or B&H Photo

Mar 182015
 

P1000509

Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Yashica Makro-Planar in the Punjab

by Ibraar Hussain

I took a two-week trip to the Western Punjab (the real Punjab) in Pakistan and have just returned.  Most of my 14 days were rained off so I couldn’t go to where I had planned and use my Rolleiflex with my Rollienars. What I did do was shoot with my new Panasonic LUMIX GX7. I had initially decided upon the Fuji XE2 but I couldn’t justify the price difference.

IMG_7713

I actually bought it after much research as something to compliment my Rolleiflex and Contax G2. I could also use my Yashica AF lenses with it and could use it to photograph birdlife too. I find the use of adaptors exceedingly useful, and decided to buy one to fit my Yashica AF lenses.

I chose this over the Olympus OMD series as:

a) It’s cheaper
b) Handling was more to my liking – the OMD EM-5 and 10 have a terrible grip and I wasn’t too keen on the overall design.
c) love the tilting EVF and LCD so I sometimes use it like I do my Rolleiflex – with a waist level finder.
d) it’s made in Japan rather than China

Took me a day of playing around at home to get used to it and I managed to set it according to my requirements, I set the Function buttons to what I want, with 1 focus point and Centre Weighted metering.

My weapons of choice were my Yashica AF 60mm Makro Planar f2.8 (this lens, I have been informed by many reliable sources, is a rebranded Contax Zeiss 60mm Makro Planar so Sshh… don’t tell anyone and pick up a bargain – superb lens which doubles as a nice short tele and portrait lens) the Fotodiox adaptor has the aperture control on the barrel which I am so happy with as another niggly hindrance is the jog dial to change the F stop which is cumbersome and slow.

My other weapons were the compact metal, Made in Japan 30mm Sigma AF fit and the Yashica AF 210mm f4 zoom . I left my other Yashica lenses including the 24mm Distagon type at home as I didn’t think I’d need a standard lens as I was aiming to shoot portraits and Birdlife.

Anyway I shoot mostly in the 1:1 square format and I shot some portraits of Punjabi people, young and old, rich and poor, in villages, town bazaars and shrines and enjoyed the experience.  I visited the colonial city of Sargodha, and took a long train ride on the 5’6” Indian wide gauge Railway. Trekked around the villages and fields near Sarai Alamgir near the City of Jhelum by the Jhelum River. And visited the Shrine of the Muslim Saint Pir-e-Shah Ghazi, Dhamrian wall Sarkar, Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.

In a two-week trip I only shot 260 odd exposures with it and most were keepers.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Beggar Kids, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000700

THOUGHTS

This is an excellent camera, and bar some niggles I will explain later, almost perfect in many ways. It looks great, the flip LED and EVF are excellent ideas and so useful. Lovely size and feel, and very quick to start up. Excellent picture quality and very good smooth ISO 800 speed for portraits of people indoors with natural light. Function buttons can be set, so the advanced user can have all at his disposal. 1:1 square ratio mode Takes good video too. Can use other lenses with adaptors. Focus peaking is very effective for MF.

A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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DRAWBACKS

I find the constant computerised settings messing around annoying and it tends to get in the way, and things keep happening if I accidentally touch the screen which is sensitive.
Having too much is a hindrance too – sometimes I’d rather just make do with a certain ISO speed and work around this, rather than spend ages pondering what speed to set it at.
This needed dedicated buttons for most things, the Function buttons were ok though.

I find the lack of a dedicated concise Exposure Compensation dial a hindrance, I was constantly having to press the appropriate F button, push one of the toggle dials in and then change – whereas a dedicated compensation DIAL would’ve been perfect.

Changing aperture using the toggle Dial is very annoying and lacks the precise feel and involvement a lens barrel mounted aperture ring gives.
and I think the EVF is a tad small though it is bright.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt Villager saluting, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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OVERALL

I prefer the use and feel of my Contax G2 for this type of portrait and people photography and the look and feel of 35mm E6 is way beyond what this M43 can achieve, but even so,Great camera with great results and the 1:1 ratio coupled with smooth ISO 800 are great to have.

I cannot see any reason to buy a budget APS sized DSLR or other camera any more, the picture quality is about the same, with the advantages of being compact, well-built and very quick.
All my images were JPEG fine and resized with border added in Photoshop – I don’t shoot Raw.

Some photos are soft, this is because focus is manual with the 60mm and focus peaking though very helpful isn’t flawless and I’m also in my 40ies so half blind!

The Yashica 60mm lens by the way is stellar – wonderful rendering and contrast and pin sharp if focussed correctly.

The 210mm is soft wide open and the 30mm Sigma is a tad long to be a standard lens but wonderfully sharp.

Ultimately though, pictures are as good as the person behind the lens, and I think I would’ve got more or less the same results with any Digital Camera with any sized sensor.

You can see some of the others I shot at my Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/

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Rail passenger. Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000509

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View from the Guards window, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000481

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Mr Shahid, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

P1000465

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Deaf Lad, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

P1000456

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Hijra’s, Eunuchs at Sargodha Station.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000445

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A portrait.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000418

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Kashmiri Village Girl, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000395

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Kashmiri Village Boy, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000377

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A ‘Sain’ boy, respected as divinely gifted, at a Cigarette and Pan stall
Sarai alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

P1000311

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Jatt Village children at play, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

P1000209

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Nain village Child, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000201

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Kashmiri Village girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000190

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Kashmiri near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

P1000060

Mar 172015
 

titlebjarke

2014 in Twelve images

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Hi Steve,

Another year has passed, and at least from my perspective 2014 was extremely busy. I fulfilled a dream of mine and opened a rock bar, Zeppelin (www.zeppelincph.dk), + my very own photographic haven/store, One Of Many Cameras (www.oneofmanycameras.com), here in Copenhagen, where I live. The camera store, which deals with both new and 2nd hand stuff gave me even further possibilities to explore the photographic medium and although it hasn’t exactly cured my GAS, it helps that I can just borrow stuff from the shelves now and then :-)

I only shoot manual lenses as they fit my shooting style the best, and I spend most of my photography time on celluloid, expired chemistry and especially large format portraits, but that ol’ Leica M9-P of mine is still my favourite digital camera (since I can’t afford or justify a Monochrome, hehe), but I also adore the little MicroFourThirds camera which was given to me as a x-mas present by my One Of Many Cameras partner Daniel because of its portability, since the large format cameras are a bit bulky to drag around. My work can be seen here: www.oneofmany.dk and www.polaroid.com

Anyways, here goes — once again — 12 images, 12 cameras, 12 months – this time for the year 2014.

***

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photograhic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

2014_01_8x10_scan_deardorff v2_270mm_boyer saphir paris f63_iso3_after

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photographic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

I’ve been working on a book/exhibition the last couple of years. It’s gonna be called “After” and will feature 130+ portraits of my girlfriend, all shot immediately after we’ve had sex. There will be no pornographic content or nudity but “raw” portraits that try to capture that very special moment just “after”… I went about it in a dogmatic way, so I decided that all had to be shot within a five minute time span and I would max make 3 exposures. It was very challenging as many of the shoots were rather trivial when it comes subject, and location of course, but I managed to use a great variety of cameras and now in the final editing stages of the book, I believe it turned out okay. The book will be published around May/June if everything goes as planned. For this particular shot, Katja laid still for 8 seconds while I captured the light.

***

February · Leica M9 · 50mm Summilux Asph @ f/2.8 · ISO200

2014_02_LeicaM9_50summilux_iso200_Lucer

Still love the Leica, still love rock ’n roll, and I still have a record label, so I actually managed to shoot quite a few album covers in 2014, this being one of them. With vinyl making a serious comeback it’s a joy to shoot band pictures again. The band is called Lucer and they play high-octane rock. Be sure to check them out on Spotify –– or even better, on vinyl.

***

March · Goecker Studio Camera · 270mm Dallmeyer 3B Petzval · Expired Ilford Multigrade photographic paper used as paper negative · ISO3

2014_03_8x10_paper negative scan__Goecker Studio Kamera_Dallmeyer 3B_iso3_Street

I bought an old wooden large format studio camera, dating back to 1913 and it came with a wonderful Dallmeyer Petzval from the 1860s’ so I decided to drag it outside our little camera store (which is also a studio) and test it out. Two teenagers were walking down the street, but I convinced to them to stand still for 1 second while I used my hand as a shutter. Notice the Petzval curve, it’s absolutely wonderful. Oh yeah, the logo of One Of Many Cameras is actually the Petzval lens design from 1840 – both my partner Daniel and I even got it tattooed, so I guess that lens is rather special to me.

***

April · Fuji GX680III · 125mm GX f/3.2 · Ilford Delta 100

Picture 521

Even though I love large format and the creative possibilities it gives regarding perspective and focus, it’s not exactly portable. Enter the Fuji GX680III, a high-end medium format camera from the final days of the professional analog era. It has a small bellow and therefore tilt-shit capabilities and you can cram 8 images on a 120-roll film, so economically speaking, it’s quite okay (compared to large format). You can shoot the camera handheld – and those Fujinon lenses — whauh. This one in particular, it’s perfect. My youngest clone was shot wide open at f/3.2. Love the bokeh.

***

May · Kodak DCS PRO SLR N · 55mm Nikkor f/1.2 · ISO160

2014_05_Kodak DCS PRO SLR N_55mm Nikkor f12_iso160_Mikkel Munch Fals

I don’t want to (re-)start the whole CCD vs. CMOS war, I’ll just conclude that you’ll find on the CCD-side when photographic civil war begins. I haven’t owned a DSLR since I sold my 5D Mark III and I swore I’d never go down that road again… But then I was presented with this Kodak beauty, the first full frame pro digital camera, which cost a fortune back when it was introduced, and having never shot Nikon glass before (!) I couldn’t resent the 55mm Nikkor f/1.2. The 3 included batteries last only 5 minutes each, the camera breaks down constantly, has many quirks and is hardly usable above ISO400… But that Kodak CCD sensor is absolutely wonderful… I get the same feeling as when I look at images from my Leica M9-P and Hasselblad H3D-39. If I’m working digital (and not doing video), I’ll definitely go for a CCD-camera.

***

June · Leica Monochrome · 50mm Apo-Summicron f/2 Asph · ISO320

2014_06_LeicaMonochrome_50apo Summicron_iso320_beach

Had the chance to spend a day with the APO-Summicron. Took it to the beach along with a Monochrome. Nice combo. Stupid price tag, though.

***

July · Leica M9–P · 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE · ISO160

2014_07_LeicaM9P_35mm Summilux_ISO160_Barcelona

Took my two clones to Barcelona for our summer vacation, alongside a couple of Leica’s and the Fuji GX680 monster. I keep coming back to the Leica, it’s “like home” every time I shoot it. The swimming pool was nice, too.

***

August · Sinar P2 · 36cm Voigtländer f/4.5 · Impossible Silver Shade 8×10” Polaroid

2014_08_8x10_Polaroid_sinar_p2_36cm_heliar_iso640_herod

Having a record label is nice because you get to meet some really cool people, in this case the Swiss noise-rockers Herod who performed here in Copenhagen, and stayed at my place for a couple of days. I dragged the boys to my attic alongside my Swiss 8×10” large format Sinar camera, and shot an 8×10” Polaroid polaroid. The lens was stopped down at f/5.6 (which is like f/1.4 in 35mm terms regarding depth of field), but with the help of the movements of the camera, I was able to get all 4 members (relatively) sharp.

***

September · Kodak Master View 8×10” · Rodenstock 210mm Sironar f/5.6 · Ilford Direct Positive Paper · ISO6

2014_09_8x10_directpositivepaper_Kodak master view_210_mm_sironar s_iso5_undergang

Another band photo, this time around it was the death metal act Undergang, who were about to embark on a 5 week US tour and needed a band photo for their upcoming LP, so of course we went to a cemetery. I brought an antique Kodak Master View 8×10” large format camera and some Direct Postive Paper, and I snapped this ghoulish portrait with the Rodenstock lens shot wide open. Again with the gigantic negatives (1 x 8×10″ negative = 1 roll of 35mm film), the depth of field is extremely shallow, only a couple of millimeters but that old Kodak large format camera with its bellowsmovements made it possible to get them all “pretty sharp”. I made the vocalist only show the white in his eyes for the second I exposed the Direct Positive Paper, which indeed is a fantastic medium when working with the large format, since it’s like a Polaroid (positive) and you can handle it under red/safe light which makes it much easier than the negatives.

***

October · Sinar P2 5×7” – 21cm Voigtlander Petzval · Expired Ilford photo paper

2014_10_5x7_Sinarp2_21cm_Voigtlander_iso2_when the silver runs dry

One Of Many portraits of my favourite subject(s) – my clone, Hjalte. Almost 16 years old, he looks nothing like the child I’ve been documenting for many years now, as he’s growing rapidly, physically as well as mentally. Teenagers are hard to shoot since they’re pretty demanding, and pretty pimple ridden, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with expired analog materials and decided to try to drag the absolutely last silver out of some photographic paper which expired the year Hjalte was born (1999). He sat still for around 4 seconds while I underexposed and then the negative laid in the (also expired) chemistry for around half and hour before it was fully developed. I love it, one of my favourite portraits of 2014.

****

November · Sony A7S · Leica 75mm Summilux f/1.4 · ISO1600

2014_11_SonyA7S_75 Summilux_iso1600_Ruth Storm

Yes, I love old cameras (and especially lenses) but of course I also embrace new technological wonders –– like the Sony A7S. Most of my work is shot at extremely low ISOs, but the A7S opened new doors for me with its extreme low light capabilities. I’ve shot portraits for record covers at ISO 100.000 (!) which look fine on print – and my Leica lenses all perform wonderful on that little Sony. And the ones that can be hard to focus on a rangefinder are easy to nail spot on with the focus peaking turned on. Sometimes I wish the A7S had just a few more pixels as 12mp isn’t a lot for print/pro work, but I use it mostly for videos anyway, and there it reigns supreme.

****

December · Panasonic DMC-GF5 · 1″ Taylor-Hobson f/1.9 · ISO1600

2014_12_Panasonic DMC-GF5_1inch Taylor-Hobson f19_iso1600_trine tree

Yeah, I prefer large format and medium format, and full frame digital sensors. But lately, I’ve come to love a small, not-very-special little Panasonic pocket camera (DMC-GF5) – due to one fact: its MicroFourThirds sensor and the c-mount adapter that came along the little x-mas presents. That combo opens totally new doors when it comes to lenses and look. Old 16mm film lenses (c-mount) shine on that little digital sensor (the ones that cover it that is) and since the camera is very cheap (and lenses, too) I bring it everywhere for snapshots that otherwise were reserved for my iPhone. Here you see the newest member of the Ahlstrand-clan, Trine The Cat, climbing unto a x-mas tree. Nothing fancy, just one of those “family shots”, but I really dig the look of that tiny 1960s 16mm film camera lens, which I just had CLA’ed by my friend, Professor Olsen (repair-guy at One Of Many Cameras).

That’s it. Enjoy.

Mar 132015
 

A Sony A7r User Report: A Year of YESSS!!!

By Rob Lieber

Hello Steve, First of all thanks for the opportunity to write in my user report! I am an “enthusiast” photographer and have used entry-level DSLRs and the Sony NEX mirrorless system for the better part of 10 years. I first got interested in bettering my photographic experiences and technique when I visited the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC and got some macro-like images of the cherry blossoms and “magic- hour” shots of the monuments with my Casio Exilim point and shoot camera. I was hooked. These weren’t mind blowingly good images, but the comments from friends and family about my “good eye” were enough to get me going.

I bought the Sony a100 when it first released in the U.S., went back and forth between Nikon (D3000) and NEX (5 and 3N) cameras, but around 2012, I started researching more about sensor size and became just a teeny bit obsessed with getting a full-frame (FF) digital camera. The only thing stopping me was a budget of “nowhere close” to the 5-6K required for a body and lens. So I put the idea out of my head and kept rolling with my NEX 5.

Soon after, as I was still researching FF cameras, I came across Steve’s site and in particular a review about the A7 and A7r from Sony. After using different cameras, I had always liked the a100 and I was intrigued about what Sony was doing to develop a more pro-style offering. The real world perspective from Steve’s review is what helped me make the jump to a FF camera. Even at the time I didn’t fully appreciate the benefits of upgrading to better gear. “It’s the photographer who makes the image, not the camera right?”

While that is a different debate, I thought that a FF would be forever out of reach. I just couldn’t afford one, until Steve puts things in great perspective. This camera as a FF mirrorless was a game changer! And it is affordable for what you get. It is small and light, it is quality equipment and gets you excited to get out and shoot! That’s not a direct quote, but that was the message. The jump is worth it!

So I made the upgrade and got the Sony Zeiss 55/1.8 lens as well. I knew the lens lineup was severely  limited for FF E-mount, so over the next few months I also bought the “A to E-mount” adapter LA-EA4. This adapter allows for full control of AF FF lenses. I also acquired, little by little, a Minolta 100mm f2.8 macro lens, a Minolta 70-210 f4 (beercan) lens, the Sony 85mm f2.8 prime, a Bower 24mm f1.4 manual lens, and finally, recently acquired the Sony 70-300G (OH BABY!) to replace the 70-210. My wallet is now on ebay because I can’t afford money anymore.

I hope the audience can learn from my gear and images and decide for themselves if upgrading to a Sony FF, or if any upgrade in gear, is something they are considering to be worth it.

I have lived in Mexico City, Mexico (it’s not as dangerous as you think) for the last 6 years working for the U.S. Embassy and in the last year have travelled to Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Acapulco, and Miami. That’s where my images come from and that’s enough of the boring stuff! On to the photos 

Bower 24mm f1.4 with LAEA4 adapter

Let me start out with the manual 3rd party lens and Sony branded adapter. The adapter itself is pretty light and is great for AF lenses. If you are shooting manual though, it’s just a fancy adapter that will allow the camera to set white balance and ISO.

The lens is a bit heavy but its quality made with aluminum and plastic construction. I have used it for over six months and the only issues I have are the cheap lens cap and hood which keep falling off in my bag. I think the images I can produce with this 400 dollar lens are great!

Temple in Oaxaca, Mexico-Bower 24mm/1.4 ISO 320 1/1250 (manual lens does not communicate f stop data)

temple

This is one of the better examples of what the wider angle (wide for FF) does for you. I only had about 8 feet to step back from the balcony. I could not have composed this shot with the Zeiss 55. Otherwise, believe me, I would have.

Cloudy stars-Bower 35mm/1.4 ISO 1600 13 sec exposure AWB

stars

One thing I wanted to try was a star trail image or even just a night sky, but in Mexico City there is too much light pollution and it takes about two hours just to get to an area where the city lights don’t corrupt the image. So on a recent trip to Miami I took advantage of Key Biscayne National Park. Not what I was expecting but I thought it was a cool looking result.

As you can see on the above photo there is some barrel distortion in the corners at 24mm but this was from a lens made for A-mount FF cameras like the Sony A99. The bottom line for non-native lenses on any camera body is test before you buy. In this shot the barrel distortion doesn’t bother me, but to someone else it might be entirely off-putting.

Sony 30mm f3.5 e-mount (NEX) macro lens 

Smiley- E 30mm/3.5 Macro ISO 200 1/400th at f3.5 very light skin smoothing layer applied in Aperture

smiley

It’s my daughter in the park on a bench smiling; what could be better? One of the fun things about having a full frame digital camera is the ability to put a “cropped” lens or an apsc sized lens on it and it will be able to crop the image it records so you don’t have to manually adjust and crop your image afterthe fact. It’s a neat trick and opens up your lens options a bit more. Besides, the apsc lenses are usually a bit cheaper.

Sony 85mm f2.8 prime + LAEA4 adapter (one of the best bargains to be had in a full frame lens!)

 Ice Cream Man-Sony 85mm/2.8 ISO 2000 1/6400 at f2.8

ice cream man

I still change shutter speed to affect exposure more than anything and this guy was driving so I didn’t have a chance to check my other settings. I like that even at ISO 2000 there isn’t a ton of noise.

Minolta 70-210mm f4 (beercan lens) + LAEA4 adapter.

Truly one of the advantages of getting the A to E mount adapter is all the legacy glass from the Minolta cameras. There were some pretty decent lenses produced for that system and now you can get them for cheap rather than paying 1k dollars or more for the equivalent native e-mount lens today. I especially like this because it allows me to see if I like the concept of a particular lens, and if I do, I can almost always sell a used lens for about what I paid for it and invest in the more modern version. It really is a win-win.

Waiting to parade-Minolta 70-210/f4 ISO 1000 1/200 at f4 180mm

parade

The above image was taken while waiting for a military parade down Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City’s busiest avenues, on Mexico’s Independence Day last year. The road was shut down so tens of thousands of people lined the streets in anticipation of the parade.

Commemorating Memorial Day in Mexico-Minolta 70-210/f4 ISO 320 1/320 210mm at f5

ambo

In Mexico City there is an American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) cemetery to mark the American soldiers who lost their lives in wars abroad. Most of the names on the walls here were from the Mexican-American war, but each year on Memorial Day there is a small ceremony. This past year Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne spoke and the Marine Security Guard (MSG) detachment, which is assigned to protect the U.S. Embassy, presented the flag and colors. It is an honor to visit each year and remember those in our military who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service.

MSG presents colors- Minolta 70-210/f4 ISO 320 1/320 210mm at f5

marines

Minolta AF 100mm/2.8 macro lens

One of the amazing things about photography is macro. I love seeing details that you don’t normally think about. Disclosure: These images were shot at a butterfly sanctuary and not in the wild.

Hanging out-Minolta 100mm/2.8 ISO6400 1/250 at f4 adjusted for contrast, exposure, saturation, and vibrancy in Aperture.

hanging out

Leggy-Minolta 100mm/2.8 ISO 2000 1/100 at f5 adjusted for exposure, shadows, saturation and vibrancy in Aperture

leggy

Macro photography is fun and I love exploring new ways to look at the world around me.

Sony G 70-300/4.5-5.6 + LAEA4 adapter

This lens is super fun because of the zoom capabilities. You can use the full zoom range just hand-held if there is plenty of light. Unless you are cropping 100% you can just support it with your left hand and shoot away. I have shot a few different sessions for over an hour with this lens and have not yet gotten tired from using it. That said it is ideal if you have a monopod to say, walk around the town.

Angel Monument 1- Sony G 70-300 ISO 1000 1/250 300mm at f5.6 edited for contrast, exposure, highlights, shadows and converted to B&W in Aperture.

lion

There is a famous monument on Paseo de la Reforma called the Angel de Independencia (Angel of Independence)

Angel Monument 2- Sony G 70-300 ISO 1000 1/250 250mm at f/5.6 (no adjustments except for resizing).

sitting

Both of the above images were shot completely hand held at sunset, across the street. To me, it amazing to think we have these types of technology that make it so easy to make great images. It’s all about sharing that moment and this image captures that sunset moment just as I remember it.

Angel of Independence-Sony G 70-300 ISO 1600 1/125 230mm at f9

angel

The top of the monument shows the Angel of Independence. This angle is from almost directly below the 5-story column and shows detail not usually seen with the naked eye or in other photos I have seen of the same monument. That’s the fun of the versatile 70-300 and even though it’s relatively heavy for a lens, I almost always take it with me for more possibilities.

Now for the cream of the crop: Sony Zeiss 55mm/1.8 ZA FE Lens

This was my first lens for the A7r and is definitely still my favorite. I keep coming back to it because it works so well. And after a year of getting tossed around inside my bag and shoots on the beach and in dusty Mexico, you might expect it to have dust or perhaps spots, but it works as well as the first day I got it. The mounting ring is still a tight connection to the body and the images produced in my opinion are worth every penny. And that is what it really comes down to for all our gear. The question is “Are you still excited to shoot with it?” With the A7r and the Sony Zeiss 55, a resounding yes. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

Cathedral section-Zeiss 55/1.8 ISO 200 1/320 at f11 converted to b&w in Aperture

cathedral

The amount of detail drawn out with the 36MP sensor is amazing. To see the detail in a small image, you realize is something special. And then you can zoom in 100 percent and still get a usable image. I love it!

Angel wings- Zeiss 55/1.8 ISO 200 1/1000th at f2.2

angel wings

This photo was taken not far from the crowd parade image, just on a different day. It’s a pair of wings that many people take a photo posing in front of. I got in close and angled up to try and minimize the steel frame which holds up the wings and focus on my daughter. There is too much going on in the background to get a good image and framing the entire thing.

Acapulco Sunset-Zeiss 55/1.8 ISO 800 1/100 at f10 adjusted for white balance, shadows, contrast, definition and saturation in Aperture

Acapulco Sunset

Birthday girl-Zeiss 55/1.8 ISO 500 1/160 at f2.2 (Fill flash w/F43M; sony’s intermediate flash unit) adjusted for saturation, exposure, slight skin smoothing and contrast in Aperture.

dress

This dress is a typical one from Oaxaca. It was hand made and cost around 35 USD. It was my daughter’s birthday. Mom put on makeup, which I usually don’t like, but it makes a nice image.

Overall it has been an incredible journey to look back on the last year and not only have images to show where I’ve been but to have amazing equipment that challenges me to get better. And I know I have a ton to learn still.

As far as the cons go, it is a bit disappointing to not have focus tracking. It makes it difficult to be confident offering photography to families with little kids. The shutter noise makes the camera borderline inappropriate for weddings and taking photos inside cathedrals. Wedding receptions are no problem but anything with an intimate or reverent setting may be distracting (A7s here I come!). On the other hand when taking portraits your subject knows when you have pressed the shutter and can relax between frames. I have yet to have someone say, “Did you take it?”

I could also do with better battery life but it’s usually okay. I have one note on batteries and that is I have used both Sony batteries and aftermarket. The aftermarket batteries only gave me a problem once. The shutter locked up and I had to remove the battery and reset the camera because no-matter what button I pressed, the camera wouldn’t respond. I attribute it to the battery because as soon as I put in a Sony battery the issue no longer continued. That was enough to get me off the aftermarket batteries, though I reiterate that I had used them for a long time without issues and it may have been something else altogether. But I figure why risk it to save 30 bucks? And that is really it for me for the cons.

My FF camera has been a great teaching tool, not just for the FF experience, but also for all the other capabilities that comes with owning a flagship type device.

For example, the customizable buttons, extra dials and overall layout of the A7r are so much better than any of the entry-level cameras I have used before. These dials and buttons are what define and distinguish the experience between an entry-level camera and a FF camera. It allows you the satisfaction of changing settings instead of dreading digging through endless menus. It creates joy because you are using the camera to setup your shot. The camera becomes a tool. And a fun one at that!

Many of you may know this already, but I didn’t before I got my A7r, and I think it’s important to know for those who may still be deciding on upgrading their system.

The bottom line, and what I hope you learn from my experience, is that you can be quite happy making images with whatever gear you have. And that is important! It’s not healthy to keep chasing new gear, unless your name is Steve Huff and you have a website, of course.

You can also learn quite a bit from upgrading to more advanced equipment. I consider myself self-taught insofar as I will read or hear or watch a new technique or see an image and then try to acquire that skill through trial and error. Techniques, lenses, cameras, you name it; you can learn and get more consistent results if you invest a little time and money into your hobby and into better lenses. You can have that eureka moment; a little “YES!” That is what made the upgrade to the A7r worth it. It keeps me excited to get out there and shoot.

I have a camera backpack and take my gear everywhere because I love to capture moments for others and myself. And sharing those moments, either in print or digitally, and spreading the excitement of photography and the wonder of discovering something new…well, isn’t that why we do all this stuff?

I encourage you to find the equipment that will give you that drive to keep discovering and keep learning. Mine was my first full frame digital and a Zeiss branded lens.

Adios from México

For more please check out www.shoeboxfoto.smugmug.com/browse or look for shoeboxfoto on Facebook. Thanks!

Mar 132015
 

The Sony A7s with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm Planar and the Leica 50mm Summicron V5.

By Alan Schaller

Flickr link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127753524@N02/

Picture 0

I am sure everybody reading this will be aware that Zeiss and Leica prime lenses are fantastic. This article is not going to be focused around laboratory grade comparisons of which one delivers the sharpest corners wide open, or the most pleasing bokeh or the nicest rendering. I shall go into my findings regarding these things a little bit later on, but surely it is safe to say that at this level of lens construction everything is more than good enough to help capture great images!

The Sony A7s has replaced my beloved Leica M9, which I sold after trying out the Sony in a camera shop in London. The M9 can deliver outrageously nice images in the right conditions, but I feel my reasons for wanting to keep it after trying the A7s were emotional rather than practical. The A7s has delivered stunning image quality in pretty much every environment in which I’ve used it, and as a bonus is compatible with my Leica lenses (50mm Summicron and 35mm Summicron ASPH). I am keeping my Leica Monochrom however, which to me still has unique qualities, but having said that the A7s does make some worryingly impressive B&W conversions, this one using Silver FX:

Sony A7s -Zeiss Loxia 50mm – ISO 2000 – f2.2 – 1/100 sec.

Picture 1

I have never used a camera that gets out of your way and lets you be creative like this one. Yes the Leicas are purer in operation, which I love, but with the A7s you don’t have to worry about noise at high ISOs (within reason, I have found up to 64000 to be really useable), and consequently you don’t have to worry about setting high shutter speeds or not being able to stop down your lenses in lower light, which is so liberating!! Also, it can be set to be completely silent.

I am one of those people who prefers using a great feeling manual focus lens over anything else. I prefer the experience to using autofocus to the point where I shot a wedding last month entirely using manual focus because I feel I deliver better results that way. I consider myself first and foremost a street photographer, and when in a street environment, being able to pre focus and having a small discreet manual lens suits my needs well, and outweighs the potential benefits of having a machine gun autofocus beast of a lens!

The Loxia series of lenses have been designed specifically for the A7 range, and have been optimised for digital sensors. These two bits of information got me sufficiently interested to check them out. When I first twisted this updated 50mm Planar onto the A7s, I was struck by the high quality feel of the focus ring, which has a considerably longer throw than my 50mm Summicron. I must admit I have never thought to myself “I wish my Summicron was capable of more precise focusing”, so initially I thought it was a bit unnecessary. After using it for a few days however, I got used to it, and it soon blended into the background, letting me get on with snapping.

It feels great mounted on the A7s and is at the same time reassuringly weighty but not overly bulky, reminding you every time you interact with it that it is a quality 50mm lens. Being well accustomed to the tiny retractable hood of my 50mm Summicron, the twist-on metal hood of the Loxia appeared quite large at first, but in reality, the A7s/Loxia combo is still very compact and discreet compared to Canikon offerings capable of comparable image quality.

The colours it produces are natural and at the same time characterful. The files show a touch less contrast than that of the Leica lens, and the colours are not as bold (or are more neutral depending on how you look at it!), but I find this great for editing purposes, where the relative honesty and neutrality of the Loxia means you can have great scope for saturating the colours and boosting contrast without the risk of them looking ugly.

The Sony A7s has inspired me to shoot in colour again. The main reason for this is simply that the colours out of this camera are amazing. They speak to me in a way the colours from my M9 did not, for some unquantifiable reason! Colours as you will see, come out quite differently on each of the two lenses:

 Sony A7s – Leica Summicron 50mm V5 – ISO 250 – f2.0 – 1/100 sec.

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 Sony A7s – Leica Summicron 50mm – ISO 50 – f16 1 – 1/125

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The Loxia to my eyes is a bit more ‘forgiving’ in terms of sharpness wide open than the Summicron, and appears a little softer at f2, which I think is a great thing for portraiture, where the Summicron can be brutally honest! By the time both are stopped down to f4, the sharpness and detail these lenses capture is incredible. I shoot wide, or close to wide open most of the time, so it is great to see the Loxia performing so nicely in this way. I can’t see a particularly modern character in the rendering of my Loxia images, unlike the ones I took on the blisteringly sharp Zeiss/Sony 55mm 1.8. Whilst being an outstanding performer it looks a bit clinical to my eyes compared to the Loxia and Leica glass I have experienced. This is in no way an attack on that lens, for many people it will be a perfect choice. I just like a smoother classic character voicing to my lenses.

Both lenses perform equally well, albeit differently, for B&W duties. The Loxia 50mm is more than capable of the famous ‘3D’ effect, which is more exaggerated than that of the Leica lens. The Loxia’s ability to focus 25cm closer to a subject than the Summicron is a welcome feature. Both lenses draw the OOF areas very nicely, and the Sony’s fantastic full frame sensor helps this along too.

Zeiss POP! Sony A7s – Zeiss Loxia 50mm – ISO 250 – f2.0 – 1/160 sec

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 Sony A7s – Lecia Summicron 50mm – ISO 1250 – f2.0 – 1/200 sec

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 Sony A7s – Leica Summicron 50mm – ISO 2000 – f2.0 – 1/100 sec

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One thing the Loxia lens does on the A7s which the Leica cannot, is automatically magnifying the image onto your subject when you turn the focusing ring. I have found that I am getting close to rangefinder focusing speeds with this feature, after only a week of practice. This should improve over time. Unlike rangefinders however, you can be 100% guaranteed that you have focused accurately using the magnification function, and when looking through the EVF, you get a 100% accurate representation of your framing, unlike the quirky Leica rangefinder system! This is something I have come to appreciate. The Summicron has to be attached to the Sony A7s via an M to E mount adapter. I chose one by Novoflex, as it felt well made. As it is attached by the adapter it cannot transmit the aperture data to the camera body, and it cannot automatically trigger the magnifier. This is not an issue unless you want to use the focus magnifier obviously, and I am sure some people will not.

To summarise, I think the Zeiss Loxia 50mm is a perfect mate for the A7s. The images are just plain great. If you are more into your 35mm lenses, the Loxia 35mm Biogon is equally capable I am sure. If you already have a 50mm M mount lens that you use on a Sony camera, I think it is justifiable to have both, as they present images differently, and offer a different user experience. If you do decide to get one or have one already, you have chosen well and are in for a treat!

Mar 122015
 

How To Shoot Kodak Ektar 100 Film

By Marlon Richardson – HIS WEBSITE IS HERE

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Kodak Ektar 100 is one of my all-time favorite films. It’s a punchy daylight film that can be shot into the sun with grain smoother than your baby’s bottom. Color and detail rendered from Kodak Ektar 100 in landscape photography is second to none.

When I tried Kodak Ektar 100 for portrait work, I was amazed at how beautiful it is. For some reason Kodak Ektar 100 has been tagged as a poor choice for portrait photography. Among other issues, it’s been criticized for rendering skin tones too red, too contrasty, and too saturated.

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 I disagree. Kodak Ektar 100 is an excellent professional film for portrait work. (I’m not the only one! – url: http://www.wendylaurel.com/shoot-kodak-ektar-100-film-tutorial/)

Maybe you haven’t tried Kodak Ektar 100 or perhaps you tried it and didn’t get the results you expected. This “How To” is designed to help portrait photographers interested in this film stock to consistently get great results.

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Why I Shoot Kodak Ektar 100 

Color Rendering: More than any other film, Ektar shows the most accurate rendering of the tropical environment I live in. Kodak Ektar 100 is a bright and contrasty stock that performs extremely well under intense South Florida sunlight.

Ease of Use: Kodak Ektar 100 is very easy to use. Unlike any other fine grain film of this speed or slower Ektar retains remarkable detail, consistent color characteristics, and low grain with 2 additional stops of exposure latitude (-1 to +2).

Fine Grain: Kodak Ektar 100 is grain free. 16×20 prints from 35mm negatives of this film show an almost imperceptible level of grain. In 120, resolution rivals low ISO settings of the latest medium format digital sensors.

Easy To Scan: Shot correctly, this film is super easy to scan. Most of the time, I only need to do very minor adjustments to get the look I want.

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TIPS: Shooting Kodak Ektar 100

Shoot It Box Speed: Some color negative films need to be overexposed several stops to not only look their best but also maintain consistency. Kodak Ektar 100, doesn’t need such trickery. It’s a true IS0 100 speed film that looks it’s best when exposed properly. Ektar handles up to a couple of stops of underexposure without any problems. However, being a naturally contrasty and vivid film, overexposure over a stop will noticeably increase those characteristics and color may not be consistent from shot to shot.

More Light Please: As I’ve mentioned a few times Kodak Ektar 100 is a light loving contrasty and vivid film. It excels in settings that would benefit from those characteristics. As long as the setting is bright, even harsh light, whether from the sun or controlled lighting you’ll be fine.

I See Red People: Kodak Ektar 100 renders red, green, and blue even more vivid than it does with other colors. This characteristic could cause Kodak Ektar 100 to exaggerate the redness in the skin of fair skinned people that have a naturally pinkish complexion or noticeable redness caused by sun exposure. In this case a low saturation and low contrast film like Kodak Portra 160 will be a better option. For any other complexion, including darker skin, Kodak Ektar 100 is great!

Indoor Mixed Lighting = Flash: When shooting indoors in poor light or mixed light use a flash

Thank you!

Marlon

 

 

Mar 112015
 

What I learned from trading a DSLR for a phone.

By Brandon Labbe

NOTE: All images in this post are phone images. 

It is expected that a photographer wouldn’t revert to a lesser camera once they’ve used a professional one, however my experience has proven otherwise, and while I did indeed go back to using a professional camera in the end, I learned a lot along the way.

I could go into painstaking detail on the cameras I’ve owned, how they compared with each other and with other brands, but that would take much too long. I’ll at least name what I was planning on upgrading to, the Canon 6D, because for subconscious psychological reasons I don’t have the time or credentials to delve into, I am one who normally practices a sort of brand loyalty that could be described as borderline religious. That being said, in the year 2014 I had not shied away from photography itself, but from dslrs. In the years before, I’d taken a dslr nearly everywhere with me, but I’d noticed something in 2014 about my camera that I hadn’t noticed before. There was dust on it. Without even being aware of it, so much time passed between the few times I used it that a noticeable amount of dust gathered on it like one would expect to find on a book. An even bigger surprise met me at the end of the year: I had only taken the camera out of the house 4 times, as opposed to 40 times in 2013. When I was trying to think of what could explain the dramatic decline in my photography between the two years, it hit me: at the end of 2013, and I mean quite literally the very end of 2013 (it came in the mail late in the afternoon on December 31st), I had bought my first smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S (not an S5 or S4, just a plain old S).

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I’d owned phones with cameras before, but as anyone who ever used those would know, flip-phone cameras are pathetic. They took pictures that were never really meant to leave the phone, as on a computer they only looked good when viewed at the size of a thumbnail, but I digress. On the night I received the phone, I was heading out to view the New Year fireworks, and even though I hadn’t had the phone for more than 3 hours, and I used the camera on it only once to test the quality, when it came time to leave, I made a last-minute decision to just take my phone and leave my dslr behind. I didn’t know why I did it. I’d never done it before, but it just felt right to leave it. I just knew I wouldn’t miss it. I think you can see where this is going. Throughout the year there were many times I felt comfortable enough with my phone to leave my dslr behind, and after some months there wasn’t even a question about it. I just packed my dslr into its never-used camera bag to keep it from getting dustier, and I practically forgot I even owned it. Sure enough, by the end of the year I’d amassed 1500 photos on my phone. Not nearly as many as I took with my dslr the year before, but still quite a lot.

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Why did I do this? I didn’t think about it at the time, but it was the weight and size of the dslr that I apparently found repulsive compared to the phone. That much was obvious, but the amount of photos was a curious thing. Why did I take much fewer photos with my go-to camera (the phone) in 2014 than with my go-to camera (the dslr) in 2013? Two reasons: first, my phone has a short battery life, limiting the amount of pictures I could take. Second: my phone was pocketable while my dslr was always in my hand. I went rather photo-crazy with my dslr, taking multiple photos a minute, where as with my phone I thought about each picture, sometimes reaching for it, pausing, and putting my hand back down when I realized the image before me wasn’t special enough. I should note that while I can’t pocket the A7II, it’s light enough that it can hang from my neck as opposed to my constantly having to hold the heavier dslr that would give me neck pains if I let go of it. The limited battery of the A7II also keeps me in check, just like the phone. Like countless experts have said, limiting the amount of pictures you can take makes you more selective with taking pictures and that makes you better at thinking about pictures before you take them. This is the argument as to why you should learn photography with film, but a limited battery gives you the same discipline without the anxiety of not knowing if a picture came out well. Also, hanging a camera from your neck as opposed to always holding it in your hand makes you less of a shutter bug. I know these are tips that have been echoed a thousand times before, but what made them so meaningful in this situation is that I learned them without even realizing I was learning them.

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Since it wasn’t till the end of October that I realized it wasn’t photography I was tired of, but dslrs, and the A7II was to be released in just 2 months, I held out on buying a new camera till the A7II came out. It wasn’t until I went lens shopping online that I partially realized another valuable lesson I apparently learned while using my phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year. I was torn between 2 options: the Zeiss 24-70mm 4 and, for reasons I didn’t even know at the time, the 35mm 2.8.

While I luckily never went through a ‘carry everything’ phase that some photographers go through when they’re starting out, from the time I bought my first dslr I always had a zoom lens, an 18-55mm (28-90 full frame) and I’d heard of prime lenses, but I was convinced that I’d die without a zoom lens. With that same mentality, I told myself, when shopping for lenses, “obviously I’m getting the zoom,” but when I saw the size of the lens, I cringed because it would make the A7II as long and nearly as heavy as one of my older, cheaper dslrs, which was still too big, and then I saw the 35mm, and it was like hearing angels singing, because it was a small lens that was rated very well and it hardly added mass to the body. There was just the little problem of “I’d die without a zoom lens,” but when I thought about it, I realized that for the last year with the phone I’d basically been using a prime lens (because I certainly didn’t use the ghastly digital zoom) and I even remembered in the first month wishing I could zoom with it but by the end of the year I never thought that and I was content with the phone’s fixed focal length (and sure enough, when looking up the phone’s specs, the phone’s lens’ focal length was equal to a 35mm full frame lens). I’d wanted to switch to using a prime lens before, because experts say it makes you a better photographer, making you visualize a picture before you take it, but what always held me back was the thought that It would be too limiting for me and I’d miss all sorts of shots, but in using my phone, I made the change I was scared to make without even realizing I made it!

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I was still nervous when I bought the lens that I’d hate it and think it was too limiting, but in the 2 months I’ve owned the A7II I’ve already taken it out of the house more than I took the dslr out in 2014 and not only did I not feel the need for a zoom lens, but I actually felt better without it. With a zoom lens, I’d always find myself stopping and seeing which focal length would make a certain shot perfect, and that took time, perhaps not a lot of time, but seconds add up, and ultimately it just takes you out of the moment more. Well, that and holding the camera in your hand and taking a hundred photos where a dozen or even fewer would suffice, and what’s the point of capturing a moment when you’re detached from it?

If you make all of the mistakes that I made before quitting dslrs (taking too many pictures, using a zoom lens, using gear that’s too big, etc), I wouldn’t tell you to use a phone, but you can skip that step and learn all of the things I did by getting one of the Sony A7 models (with your best bet being the A7II) and a prime lens that suits you’re style of photography. For example, I like 35mm where some people like Henri Cartier Bresson think anything wider than 50mm is blasphemy. To each their own, Mr. Bresson.

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This isn’t really related, but one thing I found myself doing with the A7II from day 1 is using the fully manual mode. I don’t know about Nikon, but manual mode looked so complicated on Canon dslrs that the very sight of the ‘M’ on the mode dial gave me chills. I always had it in automatic, but that wasn’t always a good thing because while I got most of the shots I wanted, I missed some because they were over or underexposed to a degree that I couldn’t do much for them even in photoshop or lightroom.

One final note. Be warned, though, the following isn’t for the faint of heart. Having used a phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year, I grew so used to looking at the screen to compose pictures, as there was no viewfinder, that I find myself only using the lcd screen of the A7II and even find myself wishing it didn’t have the viewfinder, as I feel it’s just unneeded bulk. I know, I’m probably the only person who’s used an A7II and thought that, but it’s true. I’d buy the RX1, but the tech is older and it doesn’t have a grip. If the RX2 is a fixed prime lens (I’ve heard rumors that it might be a zoom; I hope that’s not true) and it has a grip like the A7II, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe I’ll warm up to the viewfinder eventually, but right now the live view on the screen is an appealing reminder of a phone where as the viewfinder is like an ugly reminder of my dslr days.

Brandon Labbe

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