May 032016
 

My opinion of the Wotancraft Ryker, Scout and the new Leica 28 Cron

by Dan Bar

Hello Steve and Brandon!

About a week ago I received my new 28 cron. It is the first time I use a 28 as I am a 35\50 guy. I was really curious to see how I felt about it. I also read Steve’s articles about the Wotancraft 2 bags + read all articles related, so I bought a new Scout a few months ago, and when I heard a friend of mine ( Tomer Vaknin) wanted to change his Ryker ( his was brown and he bought a new Ona Berlin Black) I immediately gave him one of my BLACK bags and took his BROWN Ryker.

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There are a lot of article\reviews about those bags and i am no expert, so I will just emphasize my opinion and thoughts. Both bags are beautiful , the Ryker is is made of the finest smooth leather and looks beautiful, as a matter of fact to my eyes it is the most beautiful bag on the market. It is not big and it can hold two Leica M cameras with lenses and no more ( in the main department of course). The front department has no zipper which is not safe, so I will never keep batteries of memory cards there. Next is a zipped pocket which can hold the cards + batteries but it is not separated into 2 pockets and that makes it uncomfortable to carry a few things together.

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Nobody mentions it is a heavy bag. You could go to the articles and see it is 1.675 grams but I don’t intend to write a review. I simply mention my feelings. It is a heavy bag, even with one camera ( no BATTERY and charger). It is heavier than the scout wich is bigger. That of course is a leather side effect.

So I will use this bag for only one camera + charger, some batteries , memory cards etc. All being said i love the look of this bag, the leather quality. Everything here shouts top-notch. Oh, unlike my friend Tomer I love the brown color which will age nicer than the black version ( in my opinion). You can see more at WOTANCRAFT.com

THE LEICA 28 CRON

As said I received my 28 Cron a week ago, so I did not have much time with it, As with the bags I shall only write about my feelings. The lens is a beauty. It is small beautifully built like all Leica lenses , very comfortable to use, it is not a heavy and the best thing is the metal hood which is compact and this time screwed to the body so no more accidents with it. I think it is a very sharp lens with a nice bokeh. It is very light and I know LEICA people love the Cron version.

Here are some of the photos of the 28 shot with the Leica 246 of my family..

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Thank you and take care!

Danny

May 022016
 

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The Mighty Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm Lens Review

By Bob Towery

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I recently acquired the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens to go along with my Olympus OMD-M5 Mk II kit. I didn’t start off with the idea of writing a review but as I began getting to know this lens I thought it might be a nice addition to Steve’s excellent collection of resources for us enthusiasts. (From Steve: Thank you Bob)!

As background, I have been shooting digitally since 2001, with Canon bodies and a wide array of L lenses. I have had a number of 70-200’s, as well as 300mm and 400mm L primes.

About five years ago I wanted to get into a smaller kit for travel work. Partly with the excellent information I got here on Steve’s site, I got a Leica M9 setup and used this for quite a few trips. But I do enjoy telephoto work as well, and certainly that’s not the M9’s forte. And although I became pretty proficient at both manual focusing, there are still those instances where you have one second to get a shot and it’s lucky indeed to have pre-focused accurately. I found I was only using my M9 when going street shooting.

Fast forwarding, when the Fuji XT series came out I dove in. Somehow I just never warmed up to this system. It’s AF was exceedingly poor (since improved I’m told). The camera also failed on a trip, the first time that had ever happened to me. Although Fuji did a stellar job of repairing it quickly on their dime, this unnerved me and I sold that kit off.

Knowing Steve had always been an Olympus fan, I followed those reviews, and when the OMD M5 II was released I jumped into the Oly pool. Using the Olympus kit has been very rewarding. It’s a high performing camera, with the only limit (for my use) being the noise at higher ISO’s.

THE SCENE

Living where I do on an island near Seattle, I have a lot of opportunities to shoot interesting birds like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. The Fuji would nearly always miss. So the first paces I put the Oly through were to shoot these birds, and its AF performance was excellent. This was with the 40-150mm, so fully zoomed in we are at 300mm effective. But even these large specimens of the bird world are pretty small subjects. BTW, below I’ll do a few comparison shots with both the 100-400mm and the 40-150mm.

It’s spring time right now and there are a lot of beautiful flowers to shoot here. This will be a “real world” review. Some of the images are those subjects I enjoy shooting, and some are just for the review factor.

THE MIGHTY PANASONIC-LEICA 100-400mm

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Enter the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm! Image stabilized, effective focal length (long end) of 800mm. Before we get into the pictures, I want to state that I’m not a professional reviewer, or even photographer, just an enthusiast. I know many of you would do your own tests differently than mine. My testing was around the kinds of things I like to shoot, which don’t involve test patterns. And all of these are real world, no tripods involved (well, one exception). Also, to be practical when I give a focal length, it will be what LR reports and is on the lens body, i.e. in-between 100 and 400. If you want to double the focal lengths you see given the body’s crop factor that is fine by me.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW OLYMPUS 300mm?

We all know Olympus was building and releasing their 300mm prime at about the same time. I considered this for a short time, as I prefer Olympus products and given the price of this glass, it’s going to be a fine prime performer. I’d bet my 401k that the Oly 300mm will outperform the Panasonic 100-400mm handily at the same focal length. But for me, these primes are impractical. “Zoom with your feet” really doesn’t work when say you are standing on a beach looking out, or trying to catch a flying bird. There have been times where I approached a sitting bald eagle with my full frame body and 400mm, and by the time I got close enough to make them fly away for a glorious picture, I can’t get the whole bird in the frame – too close! At an effective 600mm, I just can’t count on being the right distance from my subject. So the Oly 300mm prime is out for me.

HOW’S YOUR STABILITY?

I’m sure most readers know the camera has IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) and the lens has its own IS. Unlike a Panasonic body mated to the lens, sadly the Oly IBIS and the lens IS do not speak the same language. From my reading, and brief testing on my own, the best option is to turn IBIS off and use the lens IS, so that is what I did.

IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW

Also, Steve told me to process as I normally would. In general, this means a few tweaks in Lightroom, 90% of the time less than one minute’s work. I’ll point out below when I did no post. All images were made with the Olympus OMD M5 Mk II and the Panasonic/Leica 100-400 unless otherwise indicated. Only one shot was with a tripod. Others are hand held, sometimes with me leaning against a post. Apologies in advance if I didn’t test something as you would have. I really wanted to include some people shots, seeing how it rendered faces, even if that isn’t a practical use for the lens, but I didn’t have an opportunity to work that out.

Also, all images were exported from Lightroom using Screen/Normal sharpening. I decided to number the images, as readers often comment by number.

All right, let’s hit the road.

THE SAPSUCKER STUDY

Shortly after the lens arrived, I had a lunch planned with a friend who happens to be a great and dedicated wildlife photographer. Our lunch date was to discuss an upcoming joint trip. I had thrown the Oly and the lens in the bag, basically just to show him. He’s a Canon shooter too, no M4/3 experience.

When we got back to his home I opened the trunk and zipped open the bag. I handed it to him and we were chatting, but noticed a loud woodpecker nearby. I said, “let’s go check this out” and he said “they usually fly away once you start staring at them.”

#1 – 264mm, f/5.5, 1/2000, iso 640

Before we get to the “good shots,” I want to share this one, to show you what we were up against. (And it turned out to be a red breasted sapsucker, not a woodpecker, but they still bang away on the tree.) The sapsucker is in constant motion, including jumping from one branch to another. The tree is filled with branches both in front of and behind the bird. But notice that even in this tangled mess, with center dot focus selected, the lens focused perfectly.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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So as I began shooting, I had to move both left and right around the tree, while waiting for him to get clear.

#2 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, iso 640

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It was a pleasure to have the reach to fill the viewfinder with a bird that is just say six inches high. Here at 400mm and a distance of perhaps 20 feet, the bird and the branch are magnificently sharp.

Crop of #2

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Here is a 1:1 crop from this frame. How long is that talon, 3/8”s of an inch?

#3 – 300mm, f/8.0, 1/500, iso 640

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Moving along to bokeh, this certainly isn’t the finest I have ever seen. And I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the massive range of this lens, the f/6.3 aperture when fully zoomed, and the sub $2,000 price tag.

#3 with background smoothed in Lightroom

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However here’s what I got in about a minute in Lightroom. I used the Adjustment Brush, with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders all the way to the left. Then I went around the birdie numerous times which did a nice job of softening up the background area. I then lightened up the bird’s back just a tad. Given the fact that I’d have no shot at all with most of my other lenses, I can live with this.

As I’m getting these shots and my friend and I are viewing them on the LCD, he begins getting jumpy and then dashes into the house. He returns with his amazing Canon 200-400mm, mounted on an older 1D Mk IV. I have serious lens envy, but that kind of size just isn’t practical for me.

#4 – Iphone

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My wife got this shot of us with her iphone. Guess who can handhold longer?

#5 – Samsung S6

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Here we have King Kong on top and Cheetah below. Interestingly, my rig is both wider and longer than his, focal length speaking. His is a 1.3 crop body, thus the “widest” is 260mm. The lens has a 1.4 teleconverter built in, so with that engaged, he’s at 728mm by my calculation.

Of course I would never expect the Panasonic to compete with this Canon in IQ. However it does cost six times as much and weighs eight pounds. (My apologies, my friend didn’t get any shots that he felt like sharing, so we could compare.)

IMAGE WITHIN AN IMAGE

Over the years I have found finding new compositions within my images to be very rewarding. View your image full size, set a crop, then drag the crop around in the Navigator window. It’s surprising how often you can get an additional image or two from one of your shots. Sometimes even more compelling than your in-camera composition. But of course there is a penalty in terms of resulting image size, due to the crop. Not a big deal for blog/facebook posting, but would come into play say if you intend to print.

#6 – 100mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 400

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When I saw the scene above, my thought was that the child on the bike could be interesting. Looks like a beginner, the setting is quite nice, and so on.

#7 – 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500, iso 400

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Look what happens zooming way into the scene. The rider is nicely isolated. Bonus points for my timing of an otter jumping into the scene, what do you say? Normally I’d crop that out but it’s so unusual I left it in just for the fun factor. If I cropped that deep into the original image, there just wouldn’t be enough pixels left for much use. I believe at the time I planned to wait for the rider to get into that sunny area, but the otter surprised me so much I lost track. (I scrambled down on to the beach to try to get him too, but he was long gone.)

#8 – 141mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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When I saw this sailboat going by, I wanted to get a couple shots just to see how clearly the lens would render the lettering and sailboat details. But thinking about this “image within an image” idea I zoomed all the way in and moved the lens around the boat.

#9 – 400mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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I found this colorful and pleasing composition and grabbed a couple frames.

#10 – 400mm, f/8, 1/1250, iso 400

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This kayak was WAY far away. I would estimate 300-400 yards. The piling and bird are about half way to the kayak. Thought it would be interesting to see how the foreground would be rendered when I focused on the kayak. This is about a one quarter frame crop!

MT. RAINIER STUDY

So I’m very fortunate to have a view of Mt. Rainier from my backyard. She’s only out one out of every three to four days. There are often clouds that completely obscure her.

#11 – 70mm on a Canon FF body

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Google Earth says the summit is 60 miles from my house. I wanted to get a full frame shot at 50 mm to show you what that looks like in person. But the weather hasn’t cooperated, so here is an older image I shot at 70mm on full frame. What can we do with the Panasonic 100-400mm on a nice day?

#12 – 400mm f/9, 1/800, iso 200

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Here we are at 400mm. Handheld! Note that between our positions are Seattle’s southern suburbs, as well as the Sea-Tac airport. The sky is continually filled with jets. It takes a rare day to have completely clear air, and I didn’t have any while preparing this piece. So I believe some lack of sharpness here is because we are looking through 60 miles of air as opposed to lens performance.

#13 – 300mm f/8, 1/200, iso 200 – tripod mounted – 12 sec timer

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I took this one at 300mm as it includes an island that provides a little context. Used a polarizer to cut through the haze.

GOING BOATING

#14 – 100mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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There is a continual parade of boats in front of my place. Including ferries, commercial, military and pleasure craft. Here is one that isn’t real attractive but serves our purpose of seeing what this lens can do. This is a small boat, 30 feet at most. Above is what it looked like at 100mm.

#15 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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Full zoomed in. Keep in mind the boat is moving, I’m having to pan to keep up with it. Pretty acceptable detail.

#16 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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Google Earth tells me this buoy is 735 yards from my location (that’s more than four-thirds of a mile).

Sea lions often jump up onto the buoy and boats and other passersby stop in for a look. In this case some kayakers. Previously I have only been able to see this kind of detail with my high powered binoculars.

#17 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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As I’m shooting this, a speedboat comes along. While I can’t make out the license numbers on the bow, I can clearly read the model letters on the side. See the faded “4” on the top right of the buoy? Not bad from this distance.

#17 – crop detail

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FYI this shows the crop in the boat/buoy image.

#18 – 300mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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This boat was much closer. This is the uncropped shot at 300mm. Boat is going perhaps 20 mph; I’m panning. Everything looks good to me.

#18 – crop detail

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Take a look at this crop. Look straight down from the second zero in “2000.” There are two openings there. The one to the right is most likely a drain from an ice chest compartment. We are talking two inches wide, at the max. I’d say that’s pretty amazing detail. One can see that the dye from the canvas is leaching out and staining the hull, and this is in a shaded spot!

#19 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/640, iso 640

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Lots of small details to look at in this ferry shot. Note that these ferries really move – about 23mph. This is a bit of a crop. Full size, it is very sharp.

#20, 100mm, f/4, 1/80, iso 1600

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This shot amazes me. There had to be some luck involved with my panning here, given that I’m at 1/80th and the shot is very sharp. But look at that perfect focus, in the dark.

BUILDING STUDY

#21 – Panasonic 100-400 – 146mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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Let’s get into comparing the 100-400 vs the Olympus 40-150 PRO. I really didn’t expect the Panny to hold up well against this lens, but once again I am surprised, in a good way. These shots are about a minute apart. I’m standing in the exact same location, attempting to have the Panny at 150 but missing by a couple mm’s. I turned IBIS on for the Olympus lens. The shot is cropped just a bit to be identical.

#22 – 40-150mm Olympus Pro – 150mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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There isn’t really much between these two, is there? When I look at them full screen in Lightroom’s compare mode, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Even the tonality is remarkably similar – the building, the sky and the grass. No post on these images by the way.

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Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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What happens if we examine crops to show us more detail? Here are crops of the same two images for closer comparison.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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I can see the wording on the sign is a bit sharper with the 40-150 shot. The focus was on the center rectangle, so the building was the focus spot. Perhaps the result here would have been different had I focused on the sign? It’s a slight difference in any case.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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And here is the upper right corner, which I chose because of the tree branch.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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Once again, the 40-150 shows more definition, at least to my eye. But I don’t think there is much to complain about with the 100-400 version.

(This setting by the way is http://www.bloedelreserve.org )

FLOWER STUDIES

#23 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The wind was blowing these plants around, so the shots don’t look as identical as they could.

I focused on the center flower in both cases. I think both images are perfectly reasonable. Kind of like the bokeh on the 100-400 shot a bit better actually.

#24 – Olympus 40-150 Pro – 150mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 200

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But there is definitely more detail in the lightest part of the flower with the Oly 40-150 version.

#25 – 264mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The post for this image was +38 on Vibrance, +12 on Saturation and a touch of vignette. I didn’t mess with the background area at all. Gorgeous bokeh, I’m sure due to my distance to the blossoms, and then the distance to the background.

#26 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/1250, iso 1600

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Just a touch of Vibrance.

#27 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250, iso 640

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I came across this tuilip in someone’s yard and thought it would be interesting to see what the lens did with the very busy background. I added Vibrance as well as a graduated filter at the bottom in post, but left the background alone. Using the adjustment brush with de-Clarity would fix that right up.

#28 – 100mm / f/5.6, 1/250, iso 500

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Here is the scene, from the exact same spot, minimum focal length.

#29 – 100mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 1600

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Another shot from someone’s yard.

#30 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/1250, iso 200

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One more, just to show that a background doesn’t have to be completely blurred to add to the image.

BIRD STUDIES

#31 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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We have some spectacular birds in our area. On the larger side, we have Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. Wasn’t fortunate enough to get any Bald Eagles but Ms. Heron decided to join in the fun.

Herons are very aware. They are able to get airborne with one leap of those long legs. So they don’t fly off unless you get too close. Given their great size, in the past I have gotten some nice images with my full frame Canon and 400mm fixed, approaching very slowly.

#32 – 318mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 200

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These birds are a joy to see in flight. They are gorgeous and graceful. Unfortunately they will show their tails in nearly all shots. That is because if you approach from the side, they fly the opposite way. If you approach from the back, as I did here, no matter which way they go, you only see the back. I really need to try this from a kayak or boat.

They are also smart and often wait to fly off until you look down at your footing, back of your camera, etc. So you have a very small reaction time. To me the important thing about this shot was that I sensed the takeoff, raised the camera, framed, autofocus was instant, and I got a crystal clear shot.

There’s just no griping about autofocus with this lens.

#33 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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Here is an even better test. I was out on my deck, which is about 75’ above the water. I believe I was shooting the Harlequin ducks when all of a sudden I see movement in the sky. I instinctively raise the camera, get focus and shoot. No time to play with any settings. And we have a crystal clear shot in glorious focus.

#34 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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I was very close to this tiny bird, about 15-20 feet. This bird is perhaps 6 or 7 inches beak to tail. There was a concrete half wall between the bird and I, perhaps that is why it didn’t fly off. At 200mm on a full frame, this wouldn’t be much of a shot as the bird would be too tiny for any usage. Very impressed with the lens in this situation. The definition in the feathers seems just about perfect to my eye.

#35 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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Mallards are relatively large, but at this distance, only this sort of focal length will create any type of reasonable image. This is a crop – about one-third of the frame.

#36 – 300mm, f/8, 1/500, iso 800

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These harlequin ducks are regulars in my back yard every Winter/Spring. They are extremely shy and fly off basically as soon as they see you. I have never gotten a decent shot of them until now. This shot was taken from about 100 feet away. I’m far enough back that they don’t panic.

#37 – 318mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 500

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Having this range leads to some compositions I have never been able to consider before.

TELEPHOTO-MACRO?

#38 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/800, iso 320

While shooting the ducks, walking back to my house, I ran into this lizard. Pretty good size, probably 9″ long. Why not give it a try? Minimum focusing distance is 1.3 meters, which is where I was (moved a bit back and forth until I got focus lock.)

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CONCLUSION

I like this lens a great deal. I have never had this kind of reach before, and for some of the subjects I like to shoot I feel it will be invaluable. I’m very impressed that the IQ compares “quite well” to the Olympus 40-150mm. If I was going on a trip where I wanted this extra reach, I’d have no problem leaving that Oly lens at home, maybe throwing in a couple of Olympus primes for the intermediate range.

All things considered, this is an effective 800mm lens that is 6.5” long (collapsed) – a modern marvel, in my book anyway.

Would really have been nice to compare my images with my friend’s, with his Canon bazooka. Especially since his older body is also a 16mp like the OMD M5 II. But I’m not trying to get into NatGeo with my images. I especially appreciate the size/weight/value proposition of this Panasonic lens. His outings with that lens are few and far between, whereas I can bring this lens along anytime I want.

Although I didn’t show these images, for a while it appeared to me that images at 300mm were superior to those at 400mm. I did some test shots and cropped the 300mm ones to see an equivalent. Upon review, my thoughts just didn’t seem to hold up. I didn’t see any significant degradation at 400mm vs 300mm.

#39 – 400mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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If you want to be able to shoot anything moving, quick AF is a must. This lens has it. I was down by the beach having a cocktail with my wife this evening. I noticed this heron feeding. I took some shots of her wading, but really she was just too far away, even at 800mm, to make an interesting composition. Somewhere between 100 and 150 yards. I didn’t even have the camera to my eye when I sensed the movement. Quickly raised, got focus, fired. I love this artistic rendering, with the sun more or less directly behind the heron.

Of course I wish Olympus and Panasonic would cooperate such that the body-lens combo would use both IS systems. But these results are plenty good IMHO. Every single body/lens combo is a compromise in one way or another. Even a brand new Leica SL with the 90-280 zoom could not get many of the shots on this page, not being able to reach out to an effective 800mm.

#40 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 1250

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I’m closing with this one last image. First, it is my favorite image in the review. The camera and lens performed perfectly, the lighting was favorable, and Mr. Heron contorted himself into this wild position. This is a crop, it’s about 60% of the frame. Imagine the FF Body/800mm lens it would take to get a shot like this? I could own one, but it is doubtful I would be all set up with it to capture this moment.

Which brings me to my very last thought (finally! You are thinking). Had it not been for needing to go shooting for this review, I wouldn’t have a lot of these shots. As I’m quite pleased with many of them, this is a reminder to us all to get off the computer and get shooting. It’s a beautiful world, and at least for me, this lens is going to help me capture that much more of it.

Thanks Steve once again for your site. Thank you to my fellow photographers for reading and I hope this is helpful.

Apr 282016
 

My Pentax 6×7 Experience

By Fahad A.

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Hi Brandon,

I would like to share my limited experience with film. Sometime in 2010 I decided to try medium format, after a quick research I bought myself a Pentax 6×7 along with the 105mm lens. that one the heaviest camera I have ever held!

After purchasing the Pentax and exposing the films I bought (Ektar & Pro H 400), I needed to develop the film and scan it. i could easily find places that would develop the film, but couldn’t find someone to scan it. so I had to buy a scanner, ended up buying the canoscan 8080.

I like the outcome, however if you asked me today about developing and scanning, I would have preferred sending the film to a pro lab to do it. It’s obvious my negatives were dirty and my scanning skills are not the best.

Pentax 6×7, 105mm 2.4 lens

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Apr 272016
 

Flower shots on 800 ASA film with a canon FD 85mm f/1.2 and a Petzval lens.

By Dirk Dom

Disclaimer.

I have somewhat mixed feelings sending this write up about shots, taken with 40 and 100-year-old gear, and which aren’t even remotely sharp. This is not at all for pixel peepers and gearheads. I hope you enjoy the shots as much as I do, and, who knows! Maybe you’ll get a roll of film out of the fridge and try it too!

The Story.

About ten years ago, I tried to do macro shots of flowers with the 85mm f/1.2 and a 50mm extension tube, to see if ultra-shallow DOF shots of flowers looked like anything. I used 400 ASA Fuji Superia film which I overexposed some four stops. (Had no choice). I discovered that compositions had to be extremely simple which made for very intense searching and the least bit of wind made the flower wiggle and made focusing very difficult. Over the course of two weeks I managed three nice shots.

About a year and a half ago I looked at the scans of these shots and I discovered something I had ignored before: grain! While digital grain (“noise”) is random in color and ugly, film grain comes in the same color as the subject and is, to me at least, gorgeous. I bought a three stop grey filter and Easter of 2015 I made macro shots on Fuji Superia 800, with the 85mm wide open, overexposing 4 stops.

For some reason I had no more trouble finding compositions and the shots came out extremely nice. I’ve put them on this website, you can find them back.

This Easter I went to the Costa Blanca, Spain, where I did more of the same. I introduced a 100 or 150 year old Petzval lens.

The Gear.

Canon F1 new, FD New 85mm f/2 L, Speedfinder, 50mm and 25mm extension tube, 3 stop ND filter.

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The Speedfinder allows shooting up to ground level because it revolves from horizontal to vertical. It allows to see your entire viewfinder image up to 2 ½ inch distant. I used manual metering all the time. The three stop ND filter allowed me to shoot, four stops overexposed, at 1/2000 to 1/250 second.

Canon F1 with Petzval.

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I got this lens for free with a large format camera, it covers about four inches image circle. It’s focal length is about 150mm, f/4 to f/5.6, uncoated of course and it’s very soft focus. I made an bronze adapter for it which connects to Canon FD, with a further adapter I can use it on any mirrorless camera. I’ll tell you later about this unique and very difficult to master lens.

The shots:

Pixel peepers should stop reading now.

Over the course of two weeks, during five walks, I shot eight films, 360 images. 59 of those were good. This is a selection, from sort of normal to sort of crazy. First the Canon lens, everything at f/1.2, the Petzval I keep for a bit later.

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The images, scanned and post processed, were a complete surprise. In Spain I saw my images through the viewfinder, with shallow DOF etc etc, and I knew it was technically possible, but that was only ten percent of the bargain. Only now I see what the images really are. They have to be thoroughly post processed because they exit the scan with the colors out of whack and rather flat. Fuji Superia 800 clearly isn’t made to be overexposed four stops and still be perfectly balanced. It’s also possible the scanner software (Silverfast) plays tricks. Every shot I need to search how to make it work. But when it opens up, it’s a revelation. I have to be very subtle with color saturation and contrast and levels, because otherwise the delicate grain and image structure gets destroyed. The grain only can take so much tweaking. So, the results you see here aren’t far off from what got on film originally.

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My Eizo screen is absolutely essential; it’s the best buy I ever made. The photo’s light up on it. If I had done the processing on my laptop, it wouldn’t have worked: Colors are flat compared to the Eizo and I’d either have given up or way oversaturated and the prints would have been money down the drain. Because, just as with black and white: The print is the only thing that counts. On a screen you can get anything. Everyone sees something different and most of the time, unless you have a really good one, it’s a serious disappointment. Imagine seeing this on a smartphone!

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I don’t know if you can see the grain structure on your screen, but it’s I think the most beautiful thing in these shots. Not only are they to be appreciated from a distance, but you can also look at the structure from very close by. They are in fact identical to film black and white, with color as an extra dimension. This is a shot, totally underexposed for a change. Contrast is just about nil, I couldn’t up it more without destroying the grain structure.

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Not knowing what will emerge feels very weird to me. Black and white, with its grain and color filters, is partially like that, but there I ‘m confident the outcome will be beautiful.

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The Petzval: something different.

This lens is so difficult I almost sold it twice already. It’s a hate/love affair.

It’s a very soft focus lens which has a mind of its own. Sometimes it’s sharp and sometimes it isn’t, and I still don’t know why. A second thing is, that because it’s not sharp, I keep on hunting for focus and don’t know when to press the shutter. This is extremely tiring especially at close focus.

The images it gets are often wildly unlike what I remember was in the viewfinder.

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Because of the difficulties, I got fed up with the lens, once again decided to sell it and only shot one film, which yielded these three images.

They exhibit sort of an impressionist look, I think. Will I sell it? Certainly not! I have to learn to control it.

A good ten years ago I went to the nature photo club with a disgustingly high self-esteem. I thought my flower shots were very, very good, while they were lousy, I can show them to prove it. God, I’m still embarrassed about that. The shots I make now make me feel very humble and grateful. I’ve hit photography which needs more searching and control than ever, and yet every shot here is a surprise. I only take images in nature, it’s amazing there is so much beauty there.

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What am I going to do with these shots when I’ve reached 200 images or such? Evolve further? Stop it? I can’t just stop this. I have to find a positive way out. Making money on flower shots is almost impossible. Maybe I should offer prints to hospitals. It took me 40 years to get this far. I’m 58 and I got my first camera, a canon Ftb, from my parents when I was 18. I bought a few diopter lenses, two years later I had a macro lens and it started: Shooting flowers has always been my passion.

Bye,

Dirk.

Apr 262016
 

Twenty Four Hours with the Leica Q

by Andrew Gemmell

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I’ve been thinking of buying a digital camera suitable for street photography recently. I’ve been using film for the past 2 years and it does grow a bit tiresome after a while and sometimes it’s just nice to be able to shoot, adjust on the run and keep going knowing you won’t be up for film processing costs!

I was fortunate enough to be offered a Leica Q to borrow for a day. The owner had a window open so I grabbed the opportunity to see what the hype was about. The first thing I noticed, even though it’s not a rangefinder it was very Leica like with intuitive and simple controls. This camera really does make the process simple. Limited menu’s and certainly less controls than most other options in this class.

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Control – ideally as photographers if we can control our shutter, aperture, ISO and focusing it’s really all we need. The Q lets you do this very easily for the first three of those and as for focus the AF was fast and hit the spot 9 out of 10 times. Granted I didn’t use this camera during the evening so couldn’t comment on performance in very low light. Having used the Monochrom in the past it was like using a rangefinder, minus the rangefinder!

Features – the macro I tried a couple of times and I could see it being a feature you could call on from time to time. The frame selector down to 35mm and then 50mm was easy to apply on the run and personally I could see myself using the 35mm though rarely the 50mm.

Lens – Can’t complain here. This lens is superb and at 28mm is ideal for street photography and to an extent broader documentary photography. I usually prefer 50mm as a focal length. I did find this lens does force you to move closer to your subject and with that think about that challenge more as you walk through the streets. In that respect I genuinely think it could really help people, like me, to bring yourself into the moment more than I have in the past. If I’m learning then that’s a good thing.

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Conclusion

All in all it’s a very nice camera. I’ve used the Leica Monochrom, the original Fuji x100, the original Olympus EM5 and on pure specs, simplicity and suitability for street this would be no.2 for me behind the original Monochrom (Though even I admit that is an apples vs oranges comparison)! It’s now “getting on” in this fast paced world, so will be very interesting to see what Leica do next with the Q. I can’t comment on the x100T (improved alot from the x100 from all reports), Ricoh GR or RX1R as direct competitors and no doubt they’d all have there own strengths and weaknesses.

All images in this post were shot with the Leica Q.

Thanks Steve and Brandon for continuing to run a great photographic reference site.

Regards

Andy

Buy the Leica Q at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash, B&H Photo or Amazon

Apr 252016
 

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Never Ending Love with Ricoh GR

by Lorenzo Moscia

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When I first purchase the Ricoh GR I never thought a camara of that size will catch me for so long time. It is almost two years now since I start to bring the Ricoh basically everywhere on my assignment trip. At first it was Cuba where I brought a Canon as well wich it was staying most of the time at home, just because that was more than a family trip than a real assignment. But right there I discover the beauty of walking all day around a city without look like a photographer and my back and knees were so happy by the end of the day.

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To begin with I was a little scared of sending Ricoh files to my agency. Would some editor buy and publish files made with a pocket camera? When I got on assignment I normally use two canon bodies (5d MkIII with a 16-352.8II and 6D with 50 1.2) sometimes I bring the little 28mm II and the 35f2.

If I m on assignment for a travel Magazine in Europe I will carry the Ricoh in a Hama pocket on my belt and I could barely take it out. But if I m doing something else like in Easter Ukraine,Thailand, Sri Lanka or Africa with ONG well I find out just using more and more the Ricoh, especially when I have some free hours in wich I m left to walk around a place with no fixer or driver. Canon stays home and I m free as a bird with Ricoh in my pocket.
After the Cuba experience I order one more battery and a wall charger.

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When I m editing even magnifying the image I cannot spot if is the Ricoh or a Canon with the 28. Colors are so great and dynamic range is even better than Canon!. Ricoh is just a bit more noisy.Of course I wont get the bokeh of the 50.1.2 or the 135 f2! When I was in Brazil for the World Cup back in 2014 my assignment was to follow the Colombian supporters for the Colombian football FEderation. My gear at that time it was two Canon bodies with 28 and 50 in a little Domke F5 XC. I was supposed to be all time on the road, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiabá and Rio. But when I get int o Rio and went back in to a Favela I regret so much to not have brought the Ricoh with me. Even if that Canon was a very light, effective combo I missed so many shots especially in some complicated streets were I dind have the balls to bring out any Canon at all.

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Bangkok, Thailand, feb 2014. Scenes durign the Chinese Lunar New Year.The political crisis in Thailand is afecting tourims as well.Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports Somsak Phurisisak recently predicted that february arrivals would fall by half to 1 million, with some hotels in the capital, Pattaya and elsewhere experiencing occupancy rates of just 30 percent. Much of that decline is thought to have come from the Chinese market after the nation warned its citizens to avoid protest sites and reconsider nonessential travel to Thailand over the popular Lunar New Year travel period.

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Kieve, Ukraine, March,11,2015. Vita diaria por las calles de Kiev.

It was the new GR, same sensor, same face,but the body-material more Anti Scratch and few improvements all around.I was happy man again. In Ukraine on the fire line of course I would use the Canon but as I walk around Mariupol with the Ricoh I felt like invisible and could catch so many shot without people even notice me. No sound it also very important. In Sri Lanka, Colombo during a assignment for a Canadian ONG I brought tow Canon, 28, 35.1.4 and 50 1.8 (the 70 dollars lens) and the Ricoh.

Ukraine, march 2015.

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Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

My task there was to photographs students in school and in their homes. 35 1.4 I bought used in Rome it was performing just great and the combination with the canon 6d body was just going to be my best assignment lens. But too good to be true after a couple of days I notice that at 1.4 lots of shots were out of focus. they look all right when I took them but once open the file in lightroom I just find out that the focus was some cm over the front. It didn’t happen once with the 50 1.2 so what was that??! 35 was back int the hotel room. And once I was in Rome send it back to canon service but the problem didn’t go away. End of love with the canon 35. But back in Sri Lanka when I was not working for the ONG I just left the Canon at the hotel and went around with the Ricoh, inside a Hama belt case and two batteries. That was haven! So my bottom line here is that I would love to find another little body with a 50 2.0 or less, something like Ricoh that could give me a bit of bokeh. And going out there and shoot some assignment with just that combination!

Take care everyone!

Lorenzo Moscia

Apr 222016
 

Into darkness with Ilford film

cover photo – Pentax MZ-S, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited

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Another day, another film and another report. And yes, I stole name of article from Star Trek.

Even in shrinking film world there are choices, possibilities and a lot of things to learn. Last spring I played with slow ISO50 film, and now I went opposite way – picked Ilford Delta 3200 film with incredible ISO3200 sensitivity and went to test it into darkness.

After three rolls I feel that I just scratched the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities with this film. Why do I think so? Well, documentation of this film and internet if full of information about possibility to expose it from ISO400 to ISO12800, to make it less/more grainy or less/more contrasty with different development materials and techniques. As for me I don’t develop myself (oh I feel this will change soon, might be very soon, I’m so tempted), and I shoot it at box speed, or to be more precise DX code speed on 3200 ISO. But this film is already in my list of my favorites together with: Portra400 – go anywhere film, Cinestill 800T – low light film, Ektar 100 – film for sun. Ilford Delta 3200 in this list will be film for night.

To sum up my personal evaluation of this film I can say, that it was a first time for me when I had a totally analogue trip, I had a confidence to go for short vacation only with film cameras, one was loaded with portra for day and other with delta for night. Not saying that digital is bad, only saying that its not amount of light decides which medium to use, Its me who makes decision.

And now to list of observations and remarks:

– Its fast film. All shots here were metered at 3200 ISO, some of them were adjusted in PP, with minus half stop EV. I saw quite good or at least acceptable examples of this film shot at 6400, or even 12800.
– Its grainy. I like this type of grain. Read that it could be make less or more grainy depending on developing materials and techniques.
– Contrast is low. I like more contrasty view, so I took advantage from hybrid process and increased contrast in LR. Together with grain it gives me pleasant film noir look.
– Its possible to use this film in daylight as well. Two shots here I made with 3x ND filter. Then its like shooting 400 ISO film.

Thats it. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to share some tips regarding this film in comments.

Aivaras
https://www.flickr.com/photos/aiwalit/

Picture 1 – Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Marumi ND filter

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Picture 2 – Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4

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Picture 3 – Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Marumi ND filter

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Picture 4 – Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4

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Apr 152016
 

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Fine Art Portraiture with the Leica Monochrom

by Jan Hartmann

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What is FineArt Photography for me?

Beside my work on commercial projects I am still someone who needs a kind of artistic photography. In Short, Fine Art is only another word for artistic photography. Doing Fine Art Photography allows me to express myself and to get into a creative process. Within in this process i can realize my visions and ideas. What I like most about it that I can slow down and have more time to put the focus on composition, expression of the model and the overall impact of the emerging image. And one important element for this kind of work is the Leica Monochrom. The concept of the camera does not have big menus as other digital cameras and reduces everything to the basic parameters of photography – shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. That’s all you need. So you can concentrate on the main part of your work. The Model, The Moment and the Composition. That is where you have to be and not lost in menus.

 

Working with Models

I am not that type of photographer that is frequently looking for new models to work with. A decisive aspect is that I can establish an identical human level and good communication to the people I work with on a free basis. Consequently I prefer working in longterm corporations with a fine selection of models that share my philosophy of teamwork.

One of them is Amelie Lezcano Mendoza“ with who I have just worked 2 times before this project. We both love the timeless character of black and white photography and prefer a natural and authentic look.

The Location In the tradition of working in a Team Amelie was responsible for scouting locations and selecting one. She had chosen a very nice mansion in the architectural style of 19th century. The rooms had a really esthetic interior and big windows that are perfect for the work with natural light.

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The Monochrom in Action

So the Day came and we were drove to the mansion and went into it. While Amelie started to dress herself and have a final look on her makeup, I checked my to M Monochrom Cameras. Both of them are in silver-chrome.

On the first Monochrom a 50mm Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 is mounted and on the other I use the 50mm APO-Summicron ASPH f/2. You will wonder why the hell I use two 50mm lenses and indeed the most expensive in the whole leica lineup. I am 50mm junkie. The first I owned was the Noctilux, a dream of a lens, of which I had a lot of sleepless nights until I got it. The APO is truly another beast and renders totally different. I use them for different shots and situations.

But there is not THE SITUATION for each of these lenses.

My favorite lens is still the Noctilux. No other lens I used has this special rendering. It turns every scenery into a dreamy and aesthetic look. It is amazing to see these soft and natural skins of the models when using the Noctilux. The 50mm APO Summicron ASPH f/2 is more for the “real world“ shots. It renders like there is no lens. And in combination with the Monochrom the results have a look that tends to medium-format-quality. This is visible in the high amount of details and the areas from sharp and unsharp in the final image.

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When Amelie finished her preparations we just started on one of the windows. The first thing I always check is the right exposure. In this case the histogram is very helpful, because if you overexpose than the whites are blown out with no information. That is the Achilles heel of the Monochrom Camera. You just have always to expose and take care for the highlights. If you do so, the rest is just easy.

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To work with Amelie is a joy. She doesn’t need detailed instructions, only smart corrections. Her posing and facial expression happens very intuitive and natural. What always impresses me is here authentic expression.

This is something not many models have. That is a big advantage and influences the final results in a positive way. The big and bright optical viewfinder is something I like the most about the Leica Monochrom. I just see the whole scenery and so it is a lot easier to frame and make the composition.

The 1.4 viewfinder magnification enlarges everything and this help a lot to set the focus plane where you want it – especially with the extremely thin DOF of the Noctilux 0.95. That is much more precise than working with Manual Focus on DSLRs I used before I went to Leica. One general aspect that makes the Leica Monochrom outstanding is the richness of tones. Especially the middle grey tones are unbelievable. I am a fan of the CCD Generation. For my eye the rendering of the CCD is very much like film and does not look so digital.

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The Relation between the Leica Brand and Passion for Photography

Now it is nearly a year that I started to work with Leica. My initial reason to change was the fascination for the Noctilux. What i noticed when i had been working with Canon DSLRs before that there was no real relation to the equipment. You just used it for its function.

But with Leica it is another game. I really love the work with rangefinders and manual focus lenses. With the Leica Monochrom you just get the essential feeling of photography with the basic elements. And what makes Leica unique in this times is the mix of technical perfection, lifetime-built-quality and the simplicity. I am getting nervous when I can not work with my Leica cameras for some days. This is truly very subjective. But for me it is important to have the equipment that makes you passioned and inspired and this is definitely the case with Leica.

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Aspects in my Fine Art Portraiture Work

The most important thing in my work is the emotional aspect. That means the final images should transport a certain feeling. When I work with models I don’t want to see a program of studied poses performed like a machine. My pictures should get an authentic and natural character. In the interaction with the model I try to bring them to be as they are. So when I look at the image I want to get an idea of the person and the character.

Communication is the base of a successful portraiture project. If I have not the right communication, I don’t get the results I want. And these are important requirements that I can go into a creative process, looking for light, the right framing and composition.

At the end I just want to show you some pictures from the Fine Art Portraiture Project with Amelie.

Web: www.janhartmann.photo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/janhartmann.fotografie
Email: [email protected]

Apr 132016
 

Photo trip to Peru

by Alec Fedorov

Hi Steve,

I am an amateur photographer who has been an avid reader of your website for three years. Thanks for the great service you provide to the community of photographers.

Recently, my wife and I returned from an REI trip to Peru where we hiked the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and I would like to share our experiences with the readers of your site.

I brought two cameras on the trip: Fuji X100s and Sony RX100III, both of which are great for travel photography. My go-to camera was the Fuji because of excellent image quality and ease of use. The Sony was kept in my pants pocket and came in handy a few times.

We arrived in Cusco, where we spent three days acclimatizing to the altitude, since the Salkantay Pass is at 15,200 feet. Cusco has the population of about 450,000 and it was the historic capital of the Incan Empire until it was conquered by the Spanish in 1532. Nowadays, Cusco is a growing city, and it is a tourist hub for trips to Machu Picchu.

We arrived in Cusco a few days before the New Year and the city was full of tourists and holiday lights. The streets in the center of Cusco are cobblestone. Some intersections are so narrow that the cars have to back up half way through the turn in order to complete it!

One of the most noticeable aspects of Cusco are the stray dogs which are ubiquitous. Some of the dogs have owners but the majority of them live on the streets. This is often due to people purchasing the dogs as puppies and then losing interest as the dog gets older and the novelty wears off. In Peru, it is considered inhumane to neuter dogs, so the population of street dogs just grows exponentially.

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Cusco is a blend of ancient and modern. The food was excellent and some of the restaurants were very eccentric, the kind you would expect to find in Manhattan.

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One day, we hired a local driver to take us to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which encompasses the heartland of the Incan empire. The scenery was spectacular, with very few tourists. At the end of the day, we ran into many shepherds, bringing the sheep in. They live in primitive clay houses without electricity.

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After spending three days in Cusco, we hooked up with the REI group to begin the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. This trek is named among the 25 Best Treks in the World by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine. It is an ancient and remote footpath located in the same region as the Inca Trail. The first few days of the 6-day hike traverses through a landscape of scenic views of the snowcapped 20,574 ft Mt. Salkantay.

We spent the first two nights at Salkantay Lodge at 12,600, and hiked to the Glacier Lake at 14,500 feet to further acclimatize.

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The hike over the Salkantay Pass began on a beautiful sunny morning. As we ascended, the green valley and blue sky was replaced by the grey lifeless rock and a dense fog. Shortly after reaching the top of the pass, a lone white horse emerged out of the fog. It was a very surreal experience.

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Over the next few days, we continued our descent into the high jungle, where we took our repose at three more lodges. The only traffic on the trek consisted of occasional packs of mules and horses carrying the luggage and the food supplies. In six days, we only ran across two other hikers. Photos below are of the local man who followed behind our group with the water and medical supplies.

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On the last day, before reaching Machu Picchu, we hiked through coffee plantations, and we visited a local family business. Many of these families rely on selling coffee to the tourists as their only source of income.

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Machu Picchu, in itself, was spectacular, and the experience of getting there by foot was unforgettable!

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Alec

Thanks,
Alec

Apr 112016
 

Postcard From New Zealand with a Fuji X-Pro 2

By Axel Friberg

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Hi Steve,

This Easter some friends and I went to New Zealand for the first time which was an amazing experience! Camera wise, I brought the new Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera and Fujinon 23mm f/1.4 lens. We were a group of eight students on exchange in Melbourne, Australia, who flew to Queenstown where we stayed a couple of nights before renting two campervans and went off exploring the South Island. I knew on beforehand that New Zealand’s famous for it’s Lord of the Rings landscapes, but seeing it with my own eyes was actually an overwhelming experience! I have never seen a more beautiful country! The places we visited were Queenstown, Fox Glacier, Wanaka, Te Anau and Milford sound + some scenic stops on the road between the camping sites. The Landscape and the weather are ever-changing, so as a photographer, it was definitely a dream come true to visit New Zealand!

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The majority of my pictures are JPEG with the Classic Chrome film simulation (including the B&W one which was converted in post processing) except the one of the shed (picture 5) which is a RAW-file and the picture of the group by the lake (picture 6) which is a JPEG with the (new) Velvia film simulation. All images were processed with Lightroom CC and exported to have a base length of 1500 pixels.

My thoughts about the Fujifilm X-Pro2:

As a photographer coming from the X-Pro1 which I had since 2012, the difference in AF speed is probably where I feel the biggest difference is! I love the Eye-focus capability and the Tracking AF that actually works! The Joystick and the dual sim card slots are the features that made me decide on buying the camera. Now all my RAW files go on one SD-card and all my JPEGs on the other. Very convenient!

All the buttons are moved to the right enabling one-handed operation and the front grip feels better. I love the customizability on the camera! There’s basically a button that I can assign to every command I have a need for. The interface is improved too, bringing the new ‘My menu’ to the table which also falls under the line of user customizability.

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When it comes the film simulations, I absolutely adore Classic Chrome, both for color and for converting the JPEGs to B&W in Lightroom! (I know that the film simulation has been around since 2014, but for me it’s new!) At low ISO’s I add the Weak grain effect, which looks great in my opinion! The B&W Acros film simulation with the Green filter added is pretty nice for gentle ‘Damien Lovegrove-style portraits’, but in most cases I prefer converting the color image of the Classic Chrome file to B&W. The biggest surprise for me was to learn that Fuji tweaked and improved the old Velvia film simulation, thanks to the processing power of the new X-processor. I never used it on my X-Pro1 because the files’ were often too degraded in terms of shadow/highlight detail, but now I find that Velvia works quite well in some situations!

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When it comes to ISO, the X-Pro2 might be a little bit better than the X-Pro1 in terms of noise, despite having 50% more megapixels, but the difference isn’t enormous as the X-trans sensor of the X-Pro1 was already very good in this regard. Mostly, the files that come out of the new camera look more punchy and contrasty compared to the older model. The biggest difference is in dynamic range I’d say. It might not be as big of a difference for those coming from the X-T1, but for me, it is quite noticeable that the files of the X-Pro2 retain more highlight detail of a bright sky for example.

Overall, I’m very happy with the X-Pro2! Was it the right camera to buy with today’s competition? It’s subjective. For me, the overall product having great IQ, film simulations, customizability and by a company with a Kaizen philosophy offering nice sharp lenses, the answer is yes!

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‘OK, so you like Fuji, but why not wait until the X-T2 comes out?’ you might ask. Good question! It will probably be a bit cheaper than the X-Pro2 and come with a larger EVF (maybe the same as in the Leica SL) and with a tilt-screen. I think the 85 FPS EVF in the X-Pro2 is good enough and also, I simply prefer the thumb real estate of the X-Pro series. My guess is that the X-T2 won’t get the joystick because of the limited form factor, which is the deal breaker for me. Instead, it will most likely get a touch-screen like the one on the X70 (speculation). I might be wrong, and that’s OK with me. My friends will start to get married within a few years and I could use a second camera ;)

Best regards!
Axel Friber

Apr 092016
 

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A Sony A7II long term review

By David Lintern

I work as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor sector in the UK, mostly contributing words and pictures to magazines in print and online. I also work as an editor on 2 outdoor magazines, so a lot of pictures cross my desk – from terrible to exceptional and a lot in between. I’m a fan of everything from Instagram to fine art and documentary, but that doesn’t mean I like everything I see. I started my own photographic journey on a Zenit 35mm camera, and have used Pentax, Box Brownies, Polaroid, and more recently Canon, Panasonic and Fuji digital cameras. I’m not beholden to a particular brand, and I’m not sponsored.

I’ve been using the Sony A7II for about a year now, not long after it came out. I wasn’t convinced about the first generation, but the second seemed to tick a few more boxes – on paper at least – so I took the plunge. I recently read an article which damned the whole idea of the Alpha system, an article which I thought was unbalanced, so felt inspired to try and give a more accurate overview of the camera in real life use. I’ll try to keep it brief and to the point.

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The practicalities – size and weight

The smaller weight and size of the body is useful for someone who takes photos outdoors. I’m often in the mountains carrying food and camping equipment, so any saving is appreciated. Compared to my previous system, a Canon 5d3 running an f4 24-105mm lens, with a Sony AII with a f4 28-70mm, I get to carry around 600g less. Obviously, I also lose some reach in that equation (the 70-105mm range) which is annoying, but the reduced bulk and weight make the compromise worth it for me personally… most of the time. With a full frame sensor, I know I have plenty of crop-ability to call upon in post.

A small note about my choices here. Primes may provide the best image quality, but on the mountain a single medium zoom is often the most practical – both in terms of weight, and lens changes in inclement weather. I’m also on a budget!

Glen Etive – Sony 28-70 Kit Zoom

Glen Etive, Sony 28-70mm

Lenses

In my experience, it really is a mixed bag on the lens front. That stock 28-70mm kit lens is not a stellar performer by any means. Viewed at 100% images are blurred, and colour and contrast are (to me) a little flat and uninspiring. A little more work in Lightroom is needed to restore what I saw at the time, to the file. However, I’ve still managed to produce high quality shots for mags and won some merits in competition, so whilst I’m not impressed with my pixel peeper’s hat on, it works well enough – particularly at f5.6 and f13 – and is lightweight.

I was concerned my technique had gone out of the window without a heavy body to steady my hand, and wanted to try the camera with some other lenses. With Canon lenses on the front and an adaptor, the colour and contrast were great, and the blur vanished. The L glass seemed to really compliment the Sony sensor. It’s the stock kit lens that is at issue here. However, the AF using Canon lenses with current adaptor technology is incredibly slow – so slow, it’s far faster to manual focus. This is just fact, as much as I’d prefer it to be otherwise. The Voigtländer 40mm F2.8 performs just as well if not better on the colour and sharpness front – as a manual focus lens it’s certainly not quick to use, but produces lovely, three-dimensional results with the A7II at it’s back.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 

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This proved to me once again that any camera really is only as good as the glass you put in front of it. Who knew?

The FE mount has its critics and it’s true that some of the higher-grade, faster lenses that are entering the market now are as large or larger than DSLR competitors. I also have the Sony FE 16-35mm F4, which is a wonderful lens with colour and sharpness to rival the Canon equivalent, and AF as fast as I need. But on the front of the small A7II chassis it does feel like a big, heavy lens, even though it’s barely heavier than my old L16-35mm.

Maybe the critics have it right – we can’t (yet) cheat physics. What we take away from the body, we often see back in the lens. These new native lenses are also expensive for those of us who are paying… but then that’s true of a whole number of brands, not just Sony.

Since I’m focusing on…focus, C-AF on the A7II is still pretty horrible. I generally shoot landscape, walking, mountaineering, a little cycling and boating, but if I were shooting faster action sports, I’d still own or rent a DSLR. Regular AF with native lenses on the A7II is now (after firmware updates) every bit as good as my Canon 5d3 (which admittedly wasn’t the fastest). Low contrast is occasionally an issue, but it’s acceptable for my needs and any issues can be worked around with a little manual focussing. Focus peaking is obviously a huge boon here (although of course, that’s not Sony specific).

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Overall, the picture for me is a lot more positive here. The dynamic range on the Sony sensor is like night and day compared to my old Canon – in practise, an increase of about 3-4 stops. This is useful for landscape photography as it means I use grads a little less in the field, and as a result can react faster to changing light. This extra DR is quite a shock at first – images can feel less ‘solid’ because the shadows are more complex. Once again, in that regard it helps to have a good lens up front.

Shelter on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

shelter on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

I have a FujiX100T, which I like very much indeed, but no matter how much it’s advocates protest, an APS-C sensor is not a full frame sensor. The dynamic range of the X100T sensor is impressive, but is not comparable in any way to the A7II. Sorry… as I said, I love the Fuji, it produces wonderfully usable images very easily, and for me it’s a great machine for street, family and crag photography, but – the same as the lens issue above – physics is physics, and sensor size is sensor size. No more, no less.

Incidentally, don’t even try to continuous auto focus with the X100T – it hunts harder than Donald Trump for his conscience. Relax! We can all still take great pictures with either system, if we work with each machine, not against it.

Relating to DR in the field, the A7II p/review screen is not accurate as far as clipping is concerned, and live view is best checked with the histogram. Shots I thought blown to smithereens have been recoverable in post, which just goes to show how powerful the sensor is – even when used badly.

ISO performance is stellar, and I now rarely carry a remote timer into the mountains for night shots. I can shoot using the inbuilt timer under 30secs and get stars crisper, with less noise, than I could ever manage with the Canon.

Much has been made of poor battery performance in mirrorless cameras, but to be honest this is a non-issue. Performance in the A7II is probably a half to a third of a Canon DSLR battery, and has improved with firmware updates. At any rate, batteries are small and lightweight. I just carry a few more.

More of an annoyance is the poor performance of the internal battery in ‘extreme’ cold. Several times, I’ve been forced to reformat the entire camera with date and time whilst hanging from the side of a snowy mountain. This can lead to temporary memory card/file confusion. Images have always been recoverable in back at base, however – Lightroom finds them after you replug the camera. Sony need to look at this in a firmware update – it’s not good enough at the moment for professional use.

Personally, a lot of how well I use a camera depends on the ergonomics, and I very much appreciate the level of customisation available on the A7II. I always shoot fully manual, so having the ability to access aperture, shutter speed and ISO, as well as back button focus, feels like the best of both the analog machines I grew up with, and the convenience and speed of modern digital.

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

Silver birch on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

silver birch on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

The one camera to rule them all?

It’s the dream, but like most things… it’s a dream for a reason. We are losing some of the weight and size advantage with fast lenses up front, but it doesn’t stop this camera being incredibly powerful… and it’s still a little smaller and lighter than a trad DSLR. My older DSLR felt like a chunky, clunky toy after I’d used the A7II for a month. I sold my Canon body and, much more reluctantly, gave up the glass a few months later. I still kind of resent that, because they make excellent lenses that are field-practical. But anyway, don’t believe the hype, either way. Look more closely at whose writing good and bad things about different brands, and more often than not you’ll find they have a vested interest. I’ve tried to be objective here, because as an editor and sometime gear reviewer for magazines, that’s my job. The Sony Alpha system isn’t perfect, but at the moment the A7II is a great camera for my needs.

http://www.davidlintern.com

Apr 072016
 

Camera love from Ricoh GR to Leica Q: confessions of a philanderer

By Denis Sauve

my-first-wife

This is the confession of a 28mm aficionado who loves cameras, mostly pocketable ones, and who has been cheating on his Ricoh GR since 2006.

Like many of us, I suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I’ve had more than 25 digital cameras, including gems like the Nikon D700, D800 and DF, a (so primitive) Leica Monochrom, and in my favorite style of compact, no less than 6 Ricoh digital GR cameras. In my relationship with the GR series, I have been like an unfaithful married man, cheating over and over again on his beloved wife.

The GR was my soul mate and true partner. She was the most ergonomic camera I had above all others, including professional DSLRs. I had the GRD1, the GRD2, the GRD3 and the GRD4. Since the Ricoh team succeeded in inserting a APS-C sensor in such a small body with the rebranded 5th “GR”, I bought two of them — love abuse killed the first one.

The GR is not an electronic device that happens to make pictures, like most modern digital cameras, but a real photographic tool, visibly made by photo lovers for photo lovers. Even the Nikon D800 has inferior ergonomics and handling. The extraordinary level of customization, and the prodigious level of fast adjustment we can make with the GR without even entering the menu system, all with one hand, is absolutely insane. I took thousands and thousands of pictures, travelled many times only with one GR, for over 10 years.

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In the long Canadian winter (which lasts 25 months per year!), this camera is always comfortable in any coat pocket. It is a fantastic B&W shooter, either in JPEG out of camera or from raw files. The raws are in the standard DNG format, not like all the proprietary raw format out there. The GR family is a legend in Japan. Look in Flickr, and you will find Japanese GR street shooters who’ve been making B&W pictures since the GRD1, and I suspect this unrecognized camera (in the Western world) had been very important in the digital B&W trend, and in street photography popularity, since 2005.

But I was tempted and strayed! Forgive me, dear GR.

I cheated on her with the Panasonic LX3, the Sigma DP1, the Nikon J1, the Sony-RX100-III, and others. I had one of the extremely rare early Fujifilm X100 units made before the Japan earthquake. Later, I succumbed to the sexy Sony RX1…before the APS-C Ricoh GR was announced: then I returned to the beloved GR!

Later, I had the Leica Monochrom disease, which is an other kind of GAS syndrome, another level of madness, soooo hard on the bank account!

Like a sex addict, I had to try them all. The desire was stronger than my willpower. Yet over and over again, I came back to my GR.

This was before the Leica Q.

When this model was announced, within a few hours, I knew once again I could not resist. I knew I would try it, have fun, lose a ton of money, and come crawling back to my faithful GR after a few months. It was my destiny.

But this time the story changed: the Q became my new wife. The level of shooting pleasure I have with it, and the proportion of “keepers” I found among the pictures taken with this device, are unequaled in my whole life. I lost my Q (really: I LOST IT !!) three months ago, and even as I wait for my second Q, the GR sits on the shelf. Sorry, GR, my heart has gone away. I decided to sell all my equipment, including a collection of professional Nikon lenses, to be able to afford another Q. It is such a marvel.

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I hope some of my pictures show the magic “glow” of the Q Summilux lens and the pleasure I have taking them.

Notes about the Leica Q vs Sony RX1 debate

About focusing
The Q is for real 28mm shooters, for real wide angle composition. The 35mm point of view offered by the Sony RX1 (and now the RX1R mark II) is kind of midway between wide angle and standard. I consider genuine wide angle shooters see the world in 28mm or below.

If your subject is almost in the center of the image, the RX1 may be great as well. But if your composition includes often plural subjects, or a subject in a context, like in a lot of successful wide angle pictures, it is another story. If you want the focus to be on a element in a corner or somewhere else in the rule of thirds, the RX1 is very frustrating. You cannot focus and recompose in order to change the framing, since the field curvature is too important. For instance, the element focused in the center becomes out of focus if you move it a little bit on the left. For this purpose, the use of the tracking function is too slow. Off-centered composition is a pain with the RX1 especially when using open aperture. I don’t see how this may have changed with the mark II.

In this department, the touch screen focus feature of the Q is so a marvelous function. I compose the frame, touch the focus point desired, et voilà: I have my perfect shot with a perfect focus, even wide open. I don’t have problems with focus and recompose either, since the curvature field of the Q lens seems to be less a concern than with the RX1.

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About the Leica “glow”
The RX1 lens is great. I understand some people may prefer it to the Q’s 28mm Summilux. I remember one or two pictures I really love from the RX1’s Zeiss. But when I see pictures from the Q, its “glow” is so strong! But it can have an undesirable side effect: even bad composition and bad subjects make almost good pictures. This “glow”, with the pure pleasure of taking pictures with the Q, makes me shoot uninteresting things like walls or hydrants, and like the result, which is a bad thing somehow. I have to prevent myself becoming a bad photographer because of this too great camera.

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About pocketability
The Ricoh GR is a real pocket camera. It can even fit in a jeans front or rear pocket. I tried to carry the RX1, like the Fujifilm X100 before, in one of my big canadian parka made for minus 100 degrees, and I always felt like I was carrying a dictionary inside my coat. You cannot be comfortable and look normal with such a big camera in your pocket. Same thing with the Leica Q.

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For more than 10 years, I’ve been hoping for a real pocketable (read GR) full frame camera. In the film era, we had the Contaxt T, the Nikon 35 Ti, the Ricoh GR, the Leica Minilux, the Rollei 35, the Yashika T4, the Minox 35 and so on. In digital era, now, the RG is the only one of this kind with a APS-C sensor. I even wrote to Ricoh about my dream of a full frame GR, but I don’t think it will happen, since modern lenses are so big

About pleasure
This is more of a personal preference: I prefer 28mm to 35mm, I enjoy wide angle composition and I love the Q more than great 35mm lenses cameras like the X100 or the RX1.

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When I read that the Sony RX1 is “better” than the Leica Q, it’s like an insult to my wife. No, I reply, no way: my wife is the best woman on earth. She is so marvelous, I even stopped playing around with other cameras! The RX1 is another big electronic gadget which makes photos; the Leica Q is a delight, helping me to see the light and the magic of this world.

But don’t buy the Leica Q. She is all mine. I want to keep her for myself!

Flickr

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Buy a Q: Ken Hansen (Email him: [email protected]), PopFlash.com, B&H Photo or Amazon 

Apr 072016
 

New York through the Olympus 7-14 Pro Lens

by Mohamed El Barkani

Hi Steve!

I hope you are doing great and had an amazing weekend. I’m a reader of your blog since I discovered it last year and helped me moving to the Olympus OM-D system. Based on your reviews and experiences I bought the E-M10 which I really love. A few days I saw that you do offer the possibility to publish guest reports on your website. I would love to publish one article on your website and help other people.

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Some background information to my person: I’m Mohamed El Barkani, born and raised in 1988 in Nador (Morocco), but I live in Germany (Rhine-Main area). I have always loved photography, but I have started to learn about photography since I bought my first DLSR during my semester abroad at the San Diego State University in California. The type of photography that I enjoy revolves around the urban and city environment and its stunning, often unnoticed architecture. I find myself photographing a lot of skylines, stations, building interiors and spiral staircases in cities around the world. In the field of architectural, night, cityscapes and long exposure photography I feel most comfortable, but I’m always keen to learn and try new photography techniques and always look forward to exploring new architecture and cities!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New York City, the city that never sleeps is one of the most beautiful places on Earth is the center of much activity. From arts to business and science, a lot goes on in NYC. Many photographers have tried to capture the gorgeousness of the city. The city that never sleeps has me immediately excited! Special buildings like the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, the impressive view from the Rockefeller Center, the peace in the Central Park, the lights of Times Square, the fantastic buildings such as the Grand Central Terminal or the Public Library on 5th Avenue. You can hardly find enough time for all the photo opportunities in the Big Apple and who likes skyscrapers will love New York!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will send you the images in the next e-mail. Let me know if you are ok with the text, otherwise I will make some changes to fit better for your blog.

Best regards,
Mohamed

www.moelbar.com
www.facebook.com/moelbar
www.instagram.com/moelbar

Apr 042016
 

The Leica SL. A studio session

By Massimiliano Tiberi

Dear Steve and Brandon happy to share with you my recent work with the Leica SL

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Last week I was involved in a portrait session with a young and talented model and I was so lucky to use for the first time the Leica SL. What a surprise. I was wondering about this camera and working with it (and for the moment its only lens) is really a pleasure. Is a simple to use camera and to be the first of its kind for Leica, I think the achievement are really impressive.  Recently I was shooting with Medium Format camera so a bit afraid to be back to 35mm, but I am honestly happy with the SL’s files and the IQ is one of the best I ever seen recently.

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http://blog.massimilianotiberi.com/veronica-rossetti/

Massimiliano Tiberi
Journalist & Photographer

Mar 282016
 

My Fascination with Astrophotography

By Yuri Schmid

I’m Yuri from Switzerland. I am 17 years old. Last summer I discovered my fascination for Astrophotography. For four months, I captured the beauty of night sky in Switzerland with the Sony A7S. The result of my journey is a six-minute long time-lapse movie.

The movie is part of my maturity paper at school. It took me many, many cold nights to get the footage. In total I took 16,000 photos. I had aSony A7s from my father and one sponsored by Sony Switzerland so I could take shots from different perspectives simultaneously. I used a Voigtlaender Heliar 15mm and the Sony FE 28mm plus fisheye converter and for one shot the Mitakon Speedmaster 0.95/50mm.

I was lucky, because Zermatt celebrated 150 years of Matterhorn’s first climb. They lit up the whole mountain from Italy’s side and the climbing route from the Swiss side and I was able to get unique and rare pictures.

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I loved being in the mountains and did not only get nice pictures, I also learned to love a new life-style in nature.

Hope you enjoy it!

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PS – FROM STEVE: Do not forget to enter the STEVEHUFFPHOTO/OLYMPUS Astrophotography contest, which is HERE! Deadline to enter your photo is in 2 days!

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