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Mar 072017
 

The Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF GM FE Lens – IN HAND FIRST LOOK!

I’m back! This time with a quick look (my 1st look) at the brand spanking new Sony 100mm f/2.8 GM “Smooth Trans Focus” lens, you know, the one with the “super bokeh”. Well, the lens arrived to me from Sony to evaluate and when I took it out of the box I was a bit confused. I did not do my full homework in this lens before it arrived and I assumed it was a normal 100mm f/2.8 lens. I was wrong! In fact, on the lens the fastest aperture we can set the lens to is T 5.6. Yep, T stops. So why on earth is Sony labeling this lens as an f/2.8 lens? That is what I had to find out.

What I do know is that Sony is marketing this pro line GM lens as one that will deliver Bokeh like nothing else out there for 35mm. Buttery smooth, no onion ring bokeh and no busy bokeh. But with the widest aperture being T5.6 how can this be? When I was taking test shots I knew from the get go that this is no lens for indoor use. I had to crank my ISO to 12,800 to snap a shot off in my home last night…BUT…this lens is not made for low light shooting in any way, shape or form.

In fact I believe this lens will be for portrait pros, wedding shooters and those who want the sharpest image with the most smoothest beautiful bokeh they can achieve. This is no every day street lens, nope. This is a specialized lens and what it is made to do, well, it seems to do it like nothing I have ever seen before.

In fact, check out these 1st few shots I took for fun. The detail is mind boggling and the bokeh, is indeed smooth as silk. You must click them to see full size crops embedded.

Click them for details, all wide open which shows 5.6 in the EXIF and that is where the lens was set…but why is this lens marketed as an f/2.8? Read on and find out…

So tell me about this lens Steve…

So according to Sony this lens, is as I said, made for wedding and portrait pros. While I am neither, I can appreciate a good pro lens built to a high standard and made to do a job and do it well. If I had a portrait studio or a wedding business this lens would be in my bag on day one of its release. Here are some details…

“Delivering both smooth bokeh and fine sharpness, the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens from Sony is a short-telephoto prime featuring a unique, yet sophisticated optical design. Separating itself from other portrait-length lenses, this 100mm f/2.8 features Smooth Trans Focus technology, which uses an apodization filter to realize notably smooth bokeh with rounded out-of-focus highlights in both the foreground and background.

Contributing to a high degree of sharpness and clarity, the lens also incorporates one aspherical element and one extra-low dispersion element to suppress both spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, a Nano AR coating has also been applied to reduce lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions.

Complementing the optics, this lens also sports a robust physical construction that is dust- and moisture-sealed for use in trying conditions. It is also an apt performer, and utilizes a Direct Drive SSM to afford quick, quiet, and smooth autofocus performance. A ring-switch permits selecting between two focusing ranges, including a dedicated close-up range for working with subjects as close as 1.9′ away with a 0.25x maximum magnification. Additionally, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization further contributes to producing sharp images when shooting handheld by minimizing the appearance of camera shake.

Short telephoto prime designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however it can also be used on APS-C models where it will provide a 150mm equivalent focal length.

Optical design incorporates an apodization element that helps to improve the quality of bokeh. This element, which resembles a radially graduated ND filter that tapers from clear in the center to more dense around the edges, produces more circular out-of-focus highlights for more pleasing selective focus and shallow depth of field effects.

An aperture range of f/2.8 to f/20 is available, however the implementation of the apodization filter renders this range as T5.6 to T22.

One extra-low dispersion element reduces color fringing and chromatic aberrations while one aspherical element controls spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness. Optical layout has also been designed to reduce peripheral highlight distortion due to vignetting in order to achieve rounder out-of-focus highlights in both the foreground and background. A rounded 11-blade diaphragm further contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing shallow depth of field techniques.

A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.

A Direct Drive SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
Ring-switch allows you to choose between two focusing ranges: 2.8′ to infinity or a closer range of 1.9-3.3′, which also offers a 0.25x magnification at minimum focus for working with close-up details. Customizable focus hold button on lens barrel can be used to hold the focusing position, or can be set in-camera to control a variety of additional lens functions.

Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper imagery when shooting handheld with slower shutter speeds. This stabilization system can also be combined with select camera’s sensor-shift type image stabilization for more effective control of camera blur.

Manual aperture ring can be de-clicked for smooth, silent aperture switching to benefit video applications. A dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures.”

So after shooting this lens for only a day and a half I have found no way to access any kind of f/2.8 aperture. In fact, for light gathering it kind of shoots like a f/5.6 lens, and my guess is that since this lens has a apodization filter which generally acts as sort of a ND filter that it is indeed an f/2.8 lens but is behaving like an f/5.6 for light gathering (Due to the filter in the lens)  yet giving us the DOF of an f/2.8. Correct me if I am wrong, as I have never tested a lens like this in my life. So it all makes sense when looking at it like this. The Apodization filter in this lens cuts the light gathering but delivers amazingly smooth bokeh.

I can say that so far just from my everyday shots that the Bokeh is indeed smooth as silk, and I have seen no issues with CA or flaws within the image, anywhere. It’s sharp as can be, reminding me of the sharpness of good APO lenses and the Bokeh is incredible. Just know that in low light the lens will be a non starter unless you crank that ISO up high, and the good news is that Sony cameras can do very high ISO very well. Even so, if you want light gathering this will not be the lens for you. If you want the best IQ and Bokeh and do not need low light abilities, this lens is looking like a monster for IQ.

A few more BOKEH and detail tests…click them to see the crop on the 1st one below..crazy detail!

I need to test this more in ways that benefit the lens strengths more, so will be using it over the next two weeks or so.

This is a Sony G Master lens, so it’s in the pro line and priced at $1498. IT IS SCHEDULED TO SHIP AT THE END OF MARCH!

You can pre order it at B&H Photo HERE. 

More to come soon..

Feb 232017
 

A few thoughts about the Fujifilm X100F

By Olaf Sztaba

This is not a review per se. I have been shooting with the X-series cameras for the last six years (starting with the original X100) and I have enjoyed shooting with them tremendously. I have never been paid by Fujifilm, its subsidiaries or other camera manufacturers. The only bias in this short piece is my uncontrolled joy of shooting with the X100/S/T/F cameras but this state of mind is only of my own making. – Olaf

I had the opportunity to shoot with a pre-production X100F for a few weeks and for those interested I would like to share a few selective thoughts, which are important to me as a street and road photographer.

UNIFICATION

If there is one trend common to all recent releases from Fujifilm is an attempt for unification between the X-series cameras. Many professional and amateur photographers shoot with two or more cameras and switching between them should be easy and effortless. A different battery, menu setups or button placement makes it difficult. Therefore, the latest X100F gets an exactly the same battery the X-Pro2 and X-T2 uses. The placement of the buttons and knobs have been moved to the right thus allowing one-handed operations and it is now in unison to other X-series cameras. The focus point selector has been added and it is placed in almost exactly same spot as on the X-Pro2 and the X-T2. The top plate is an exact copy of the X-Pro2. A new ISO shifter has been added. Although I read some complaints about its operations I personally like this solution a lot. One glance at the top place, a simple operation and my ISO is set and confirmed with no fuss.

LENS

Even before the camera came out many people were calling for a new lens. Perhaps some would like to see F1.8 or faster, others are looking for “sharper” glass. Although I understand and fully support the first argument, I have to admit that the whole sharp and sharper debate makes me yawn. (I believe the next frontier for Fujifilm and other lens manufacturers should be to achieve a unique rendering/look/depiction.)

Going back to the X100F and its 23mm F2 lens, yes it appears to be the same lens used in previous versions.

All four X100’s from the original to the newest F

IMAGE QUALITY

I have been shooting with the X-Pro2 and the X-T2, which have the same sensor as the X100F. Although the X-Pro2 and X-T2 were granted a higher megapixel count, the X100T was the only X-series high-end camera that was left at 16. Now, a brand-new 100F has joined its siblings with a 24.3-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor. As of writing, there is no LR support for RAW files so it is difficult to evaluate the sensor’s dynamic range but I fully anticipate it to be at least as good as it is in the X-Pro2. Let’s remember that since the X100F is not an interchangeable camera, placement of the sensor in relation to the lens could be optimized for image quality.

I am not going to go deep into a discussion about the X-Trans vs. Bayer sensor as this issue has been debated to death. I like the look of the files and I respect if you don’t.

Looking at JPEGs (all images in this review), the image quality is excellent and well above what most of us need. Of course, as with the X-Pro2 and the X-T2 there is a range of Fujifilm film simulations to choose from. My personal favourites are ACROS + R + weak grain (street, travel), Classic Chrome (street, travel or even some portraits), Velvia (landscapes) and Provia (family, portrait).

WISH LIST

I really believe that the X100F should have been weather-sealed. For a camera that you always have with you, some rain and snow protection is a must.

Although the X-T2 is clearly aimed at a high-tech crowd who wants to have it all, in my view the X100-line should remain a photographer’s camera. What I mean by that is limiting non-photography-related functions to a minimum or eliminating them altogether. For example, I don’t see the point of video in the X100F or panoramas and filters…you name it. A plain, well-made, easy to use camera is all that’s needed.

I also envision a X100F sibling with a 56mm lens. Then I would own just two small, portable cameras and forget about everything else.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Since the introduction of the X100, each successor has brought changes and improvements that photographers asked for. The 100F is not revolutionary but rather an evolutionary camera and that’s a good thing. With a new sensor, large EVF/OVF, improved and unified (with the rest of the X-series) operations (and battery) and the same, excellent 23mm F2 lens, the X100F is in my view a flagship X-series camera.

ORDER THE X100FAMAZONB&H PHOTOPOPFLASHCAMERAQUEST

 

Nov 252016
 

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Just arrived! The Leica 28 Summaron Lens. A classic brought back to life.

Look what just arrived! The new Leica 28 Summaron Lens. While Leica sent this over as a review unit, they sent a brand new production lens in box and all, so we get to see how it is packaged, presented and delivered to those who order one. Before I write any further, you can read the details on this lens on the Leica Blog HERE.  It is the smallest Leica lens in production, and being a semi wide angle 28mm and with an aperture of f/5.6, it is perfect for street shooters who like to zone focus.

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This Leica 28 Summaron is not a new lens, but actually it is. Don’t be confused though. This lens was originally produced between 1955-1963 and believe me when I say that this lens has many who love and own the original. But with this new lens, it is basically Leica bringing back a classic into production, and it will, according to Leica, give us the same qualities as the classic version while not being an exact copy of the original. Yep, this is a SLIGHTLY new design MECHANICALLY  but using the same optical formula as the original. So we get the same rendering and IQ.

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I have tried the original a long while ago but do not remember details as I personally am not usually drawn to f/5.6 primes. But I have to admit, that when I took out the lens and attached it to my M-D, it was charming. So small, so compact, such a perfect jewel like build quality. I have tested almost every Leica lens in current production and a chunk of classics as well, but there is always that smile that pops on my face as I open up a new piece of Leica gear for the 1st time.

This lens is TINY with a jewel like build. 

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On the MD. The hood is larger than the lens! But so nice in feel. 

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Next to the Leica 28 Summilux f/1.4. Much larger than the f/5.6 Summaron. 

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Features of  the 28 Summaron (From LeicaStoreMiami.Com)

  • Optical design similar to the original Summaron 28mm f/5.6 lens
  • Most compact M-Lens, with an overall length of about 3/4” (less than 2cm) is unobtrusive and ideal for street photography
  • Provides unmistakable imaging signature which otherwise cannot be reproduced by digital means
  • Through its combination of large depth of field, natural contrast, excellent rendition of details, and visible vignetting, the Summaron-M gives images a unique character, reminiscent of analog photography
  • Combination of a clearly laid out depth of field scale and long focus throw allows precise and easy zone focusing
  • Depth of field scale is colored in red
  • Assembled by hand from top quality materials and finished in Silver Chrome
  • Made in Germany and delivery scope includes metal lens hood and cap.
  • The design and manufacturing process of the metal lens hood has been recreated to match the original Summaron lens . It is first machined from solid brass and then given its ultimate form by a turning and bending process.

I literally just received this moments ago, and only took ONE image with it. A snapshot throwaway but you know when you get a new lens, and you just HAVE to take a shot? Even if you are just sitting around the house? Lol, thats what I did. BUT I will be reviewing this lens in full, soon. On the MD and SL. 

My one and only shot so far with this lens, on the MD. A snapshot throwaway but I had to snap at least ONE!

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If you are interested in this lens, it comes in at a healthy $2495 and can be pre ordered from the highly recommended Leica dealers below! REVIEW SOON AS I CAN!

Ken Hansen – Email him at [email protected]

PopFlash.com

Leica Store Miami

B&H Photo

Nov 012016
 

emaimkiirev1

The Olympus E-M1 MKII Review Part 1: Iceland

By Steve Huff

*NOTE: All images here in this review are JPEG, some out of camera, some with slight contrast edits. At the time of writing this there were no tools available to convert the RAW files. Part 2 will have RAW conversions and comparisons. Click on the images in this review to see them larger and how they were meant to be seen. Also, conditions in Iceland were grey, dull, wet and well, grey. So keep that in mind when evaluating images here and from others who were on this photo trip*

As I sit here on my flight from Iceland back to the USA I have been reflecting on the past eight years of running this review website/blog. Bottom line, I am one lucky guy. I get to take my passion and turn it in to my job, my work, and to top it off I get to sometimes travel the world to do what I love doing…using and reviewing cameras, lenses, and gear. I am truly blessed and before I start with this review I want to thank each and every one of you who have come here in the past, present and in the future to read what I have to say. YOU are appreciated, so thank you for these past eight years!

Since I have quite a while on this flight (yes, I am starting to write this on my flight) before I reach my connection flight, I decided to write down my thoughts, likes and dislikes of the new E-M1 MKII after using it all week in the frigid cold but gorgeous Iceland, while my memory is still fresh. Over these last few days I have shot images for this review using the new camera and at the same time, *BIG SURPRISE*….I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it not only for it’s image quality which is quite nice, but for everything else as a package. This camera has a lot put into it, and it shows.

Some of you may not realize this but Olympus started developing this camera FOUR years ago. Who knows, maybe the EM1 MKIII is being developed as I write this and will be out in 3-4 years but for now we have this one and boy is it a remarkable photographic tool that lives up to the hype. I suspect that Micro 4/3 fans are going to flock to this one in droves, maybe. But what about those who are not fans of the format? Can this camera sway them?

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As I said at the top of the page all of the images here are JPEGS (No RAW support at the time of this writing), and for JPEGS I am highly impressed. Just look at this first shot below and the detail, color, and overall vibe…you must click it though to see the larger version! Needless to say, I was not disappointed in the slightest, and again, this is from a camera JPEG.

Massive Waves in Iceland…feel the cool frigid air as you view this image in a large size. 12-100 f/4, EM1II The Sky was grey blue, it was cold and the waves were huge. 

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Keep in mind this is Olympus’s new Professional Flagship Micro 4/3 camera. It is going to be larger and more feature packed than a PEN or EP series, and it is meant to be the all out best camera they know how to make today in 2016. So it is not going to be $1000, and couldn’t be. As for design, It is very similar in design to the old EM1, though a little bit taller. It is serious, it is tough, it is for the pro or anyone who enjoys a solid highly usable camera.

But it’s still Micro 4/3, and comes with some of the same limitations as it always has but for me, the body is so advanced, and it is so enjoyable to use, and so inspiring to use that as a package it is one of the most incredible cameras I have ever had the pleasure to use.

Some of the E-M1 MKII improvements over the MKI by the numbers

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With a new 20MP Live MOS sensor Olympus has  upped  the ante with image quality and improved image noise by 1 stop and they also claim a dynamic range improvement (and I believe that). Not a huge performance increase in high ISO noise but I will take any improvement we can get when it comes to Micro 4/3.

At the healthy price point of $1999 it will be the most expensive Micro 4/3 camera ever offered (I think), but even so I feel it will be a hit for Olympus as there are many Micro 4/3 fans out there who love to shoot with this system, pros and enthusiasts and amateurs alike, and many have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this one to be announced.

In my world and my eyes, this may be the biggest and coolest camera release of 2016. I simply cannot think of another that matches the specs and performance of everything it does at this price point or size. Specs wise, it packs a big fat knock out uppercut to most competitors.

12-100 f/4

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But yep… the price point will be $1999 body only with the camera shipping before Christmas. That is the real price and expected ship date. I can hear it now! $2000?!?! I can buy a Fuji and lens for that! A Sony 6500 and lens for that!? A used A7 series! Well, this is no Fuji or Sony APS-C! For me it is superior in some ways (like build, speed, fps, video specs, dual SD slots, weather sealed, etc) and Olympus seems to be aiming for the big guns here. I will say this…if you are in the market for a camera that can be used as an emergency weapon, or a camera that can survive a trip on Noah’s Ark then keep reading.

Think of it almost like a mini Canon 1dx series camera but half the size all the way around, even the sensor, and way less than half the price ;) That is what this new EM1 MKII is all about. Powerful and Tough.

This camera can take snow, sleet, hail, rain and freezing temps. I put it through all of that during my week in Iceland and it never flinched. Though at one point the eye sensor for the EVF was covered by so much water it would not switch to the LCD. A quick dry with a cloth restored it back. But the camera was getting pelted with rain for most of the days we used them. 

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This is only the Beginning

This is Part 1 of my review, and it will be jam-packed full of thoughts (10k words) and images as well as a few tests and crops. In part 2 that will come a little later, I will do more testing and comparisons and use the other lenses I own with it. Part two will have comparisons, testing the AF tracking, RAW files, more video testing, long exposure tests, and all of the things we did not get to while in Iceland.

In Reykjavík Iceland at the best Hot Dog stand in town (they were delicious). Though this guy gave me a snarl when I aimed and fired. Shot with the E-M1 II and 25 1.2, wide open.

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Ahhh memories! I remember back a few years ago when I was on an international flight to Ireland to test the then new Flagship pro Olympus camera, the original E-M1. The hype and excitement was huge as that was the 1st “PRO” Micro 4/3 body to be announced and launched, ever. I really enjoyed that trip and getting to test the camera in various scenarios, and I was so impressed by that camera that I made it my Camera of the year for 2013.

The Original E-M1 ticked all the right boxes back then, and I knew it would be at least 3 years before the successor was announced as that is just how Olympus rolls. They take their time and do not release a new camera every 6-12 months. The IQ was and is still beautiful with the original E-M1 (those who have issues are usually the pixel peeping crowd as Micro 4/3 does have a tendency to show some slight noise at base ISO when viewed at 100%…pixel peeping) and anyone who says otherwise (that IQ is not good with M 4/3) are usually those who just like to talk trash about the format, or those who have the “bigger is always better” mentality.

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Unless you need 100MP of detail for a huge mural sized print, today, the new breed of Micro 4/3 can do the job 99% of the time and what really helps is the speed and response of the camera, assuring you get the shot.

NEW KEY FEATURES OF THE E-M1 II

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But how is this new camera? Does it live up to and surpass the original? You know, there are indeed times when the successor doesn’t seem as good as the original but in the case of the E-M1 MKII, it is truly a big upgrade over the original for all that it offers, the speed and response increases and the overall quality and vibe of the camera. This is an easy 5 year or longer camera just as the original is still a good choice today for those on a budget.

In fact The old E-M1 can be found these days for a GREAT price, and it is still a wonderful camera. If you are on a budget, now is the time to jump on that because the original is still fantastic.

At the Blue Lagoon in Iceland with the E-M1 and 25 1.2, wide open. Click it to see how sharp this JPEG is.

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I have wondered for years what on earth Olympus could improve or add to make the E-M1 better. The original was so so good. Sure, high ISO needed improvement for 2016 standards, the speed needed improvement for 2016 standards, and hey, even if they could up the game with image quality, then all the better. But with M 4/3 I think we have kind of *almost*  hit a ceiling with IQ as we are limited to that sensor size, and with the smaller sensor we will always have more noise, less DR and less Shallow DOF than when shooting on a larger or even full frame sensor. BUT with that said, I strongly feel that the EM1 MKII is capable of 99% of the shots one may need to take and the best part about the camera is, the way it works and the features we have available. It’s truly like no other camera out there.

The lenses. They are some of the most beautiful and best made today by any manufacturer and Olympus has even stepped it up in that area. They were always good, but the pro line is as good as it gets for Micro 4/3 and these latest two just blew my mind. It seems they are getting better still and it is my position today that Olympus and even Panasonic are making some of the best lenses today, for any format.

But as I have said over and over through the years, Olympus are the ones who usually innovate rather than just doing a small refresh when it comes to major new camera releases. In fact, that is one thing I love about Olympus. Instead of releasing a new camera every 9-12 months like some do, they create a very powerful camera and update it when it needs updating. In the case of the E-M1 that time frame has been just over 3 years. As I mentioned earlier, instead of playing the “update game” all of the time, Olympus chooses to give massive firmware upgrades instead. Which is amazing. I wish more camera companies would do this as the original E-M1 is like an all new camera from when it was launched thanks to the new firmware updates over the years.

I have seen more rainbows in Iceland in four days than I have in Arizona in 10 years! 12-100 f/4. We had dull and grey light for 90% of this trip, but even with that the camera did very well. 

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So what on earth could Olympus bring us in an E-M1 MKII that would make it worth an upgrade over the already great E-M1 MKI? Well, after a week of use I can say that they have hit it out of the park with the new MKII in almost every way. While I did find a weakness or two I will mention below (pretty minor and firmware fixable), and did hope for a thing or two to be better (was hoping for a Leica SL style EVF), this camera absolutely rocked me with its speed, build, handling, response, performance, IQ and feature set. EVERYTHING. My regular readers know that when I get to this level of excitement about a camera, it means I REALLY REALLY liked it, and this one is no exception, and I can’t help it. When something this good comes along it stands above the usual fare and gets me going!

You must click this image to see it in all its glory. The waves at the black sand beach we visited were INSANE. The guide told us a very sad story of how recently a woman was there with her husband and child. She stepped up to the water to take a photo and the waves sucked her in and she died. These are nothing to plat around with. This shot looks like a man is rising from the waves to show his power. The camera was in Dramatic Tone II to give extra drama to the scene. 

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Yes sir, this camera is a serious pro tool, and anyone who says today that this format can not be used for pro work, well..they are truly missing out on an incredible camera and system with some of the best lenses right next to Leica in the quality dept. After just a week of use I did not want to give this kit back to Olympus before heading home, but sadly all 10-15 reviewers there had to turn in the gear on the last night as usual… of course ;)

Yes, many of your fave reviewers were all there testing right along side with me and what a great group they are. I just wish we were allowed to take the kit home for more tests as the days in Iceland  were just not long enough to test all we needed to test (AF tracking, Long exposures, etc) due to all of the driving we had to do. Olympus only had a limited number of bodies though and they needed them all for an event they are having today in NYC. So I understand completely ;)

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So with that out of the way, let me get into my thoughts and use of the new MKII E-M1 during my week in Iceland.

First let’s talk about what is new and why someone may want to upgrade. Then I will get into actual use, and my experience with the camera.

With the external battery grip added. Not for me due to size, but some love grips. This will give you double the battery power!

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The Build Quality

Yep, this camera is a beast, but not in a “size” kind of way (unless you add the external battery grip, then we are almost in DSLR territory as you can see in the image above, but still much thinner than a DSLR)…more in a performance kind of way. Back in the early days of the original Olympus Pen I would have never imagined how far this format and system could come, and come far it has. Many were writing off Micro 4/3 when it started, and some still are to this day but truth be told, with this camera they will never know what they are missing. I am a fan of the USABILITY of a camera just as much as anything else, and the EM1 had it, and now the II has even more of it. It’s a joy and pleasure to use and hold.

For starters, the new MKII version of the E-M1 has a fantastic build quality. It feels solid, sturdy and much different from cameras like a Sony A7RII, A6500, Fuji or any consumer DSLR. It’s PRO which means it is built to a standard that will allow PROS to use it and not have to worry about it failing or worry about it not locking focus or any issues that a pro may worry about with a lesser camera, like extreme weather for example. I almost want to make a torture test video with it…pouring water over it, using it as a hammer, storing it in my freezer overnight, etc. I think it would hold up. The grip seems deep on this guy so those with smaller hands may find it a tad too deep. For me, I thought it fit just about perfectly into my grip. It’s easy to hold on to.

From Olympus:

“Weatherproof construction and Super-Sonic Wave Filter dust reduction system. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II features high-performance weather sealing for excellent dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof (down to 14°F/-10°C) performance so that users can shoot in the harshest of conditions. This weatherproofing is not limited to the camera body alone: it is extended across the entire OM-D system, including the dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof M.ZUIKO PRO lens lineup5. In addition, a Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) dust reduction system vibrates the image sensor more than 30,000 times a second to virtually eliminate any dust that may land on the sensor while changing lenses.”

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But just because this body is built for pros does not mean that only pros should use this camera. In fact, any enthusiast or hobbyist or someone who just loves quality would adore this camera. Anyone who shoots an E-M1 and wondering if it is worth the upgrade? I will save you some reading, To me, it 100% is. 

There are so many improvements here with the MKII it will take me a while to talk about them, which is one reason this is a part 1 review. I will go over more in part 2 when I get my review unit in a week or so.

Horses with the 12-100 f/4 – see how sharp it is when you click it

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The new Live MOS sensor and TruePIc VIII Image Processor

This camera now uses a new 20MP Live MOS sensor using the new Tru Pic VIII engine. We gain a stop for high ISO noise even with 4 more MP over the Mark I, we get a new color noise reduction algorithm and we seem to get some improvements to dynamic range and overall color and IQ, but then again, the EM1 had fantastic IQ and color as well. To me, the IQ difference is not huge or massive nor is it night and day but everything else about the camera certainly is, and the new lenses…OMG they are SO SO GOOD. With that said, I am seeing imagery and quality that is an improvement so I feel IQ has improved, and it should as it’s using a much newer and advanced sensor and processing.

From Olympus: 
“The newly developed high-speed TruePic VIII Image Processor and a new 20.4 megapixel Live MOS Sensor works in concert with the camera’s electronic shutter to provide full-resolution images at a maximum 60 frames per second in AF and AE lock, and up to 18 frames per second with continuous AF and AE tracking.

Higher resolution and improved dynamic range: The new 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor offers 25% higher resolution than the previous model, and the absence of a low-pass filter further enhances image quality. A higher dynamic range  improves the reproduction of highlight and shadow detail, and an anti-reflective coating on both sides of the sensor’s sealing glass further enhances contrast performance.”

With the 12-100 f/4, click it to see a much nicer version. Dramatic tone so you will see some noise, that is part of the look. What this mode does for skies is pretty cool. 

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Dual Card Slots

So yes, the build is fantastic. When you hold it in the hand it makes you feel confident. It is solid, it is full on weather proof, it is freeze proof, it is dust proof and it has two SD card slots that allow you to use one for Video and one for Photos or you can use them with one backing up the 1st or even as a set so when one fills up, it starts to the next card.

I was testing video with a super high speed card in slot 1, and for photos I had a 90MBPS card in slot 2.

It worked out so well and these dual slots are nice to have in a Micro 4/3 body. I would probably end up using them as a way to copy card one to card two for a backup in the case of a card corruption.

From Olympus:

“The OM-D E-M1 Mark II features dual memory card slots to allow simultaneous use of two SD cards for more versatile shooting. The slots are positioned in a staggered layout, making cards easier to insert and remove. Users can select from four settings: Standard Mode records to the specified card; Automatic Switching Mode automatically switches to the second card when the first card becomes full; Dual Independent Mode records to both cards according to the specified image quality setting assigned to each; and Dual Same Mode records identical files to both cards simultaneously. Slot 1 supports UHS-II and UHS-I cards, while Slot 2 supports UHS-I cards.”

DRAMATIC TONE JPEG: Using the new Pro Capture mode you will never miss a shot due to bad timing, ever again!

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The new Battery System and New Charger

The new EM1 MKII has an all new battery system, and it is beefed up for longer shooting times providing 37% more power than the old system. I was out all day with the camera from 9am util 8pm and I used 65% of the battery. Others were using it quicker but we found that shooting more video will use the battery up faster, and extreme chimping or use of the PRO CAPTURE mode will also use it up more quickly. But for those of you like me, who do not use machine gun modes with a million frames per second, well the battery will last much longer.

The new charger is also nice as it is a quick charger and will charge the battery from empty to full in about 2 hours. The only niggle I had with the new charger, and it is a small one, is that the light on it is large and bright. So if you have it in a bedroom while sleeping for example, and charging, it may keep you up ; ) It’s bright. I had to throw a pillow over it while in my hotel and charging the battery at night.

Also, if you throw your battery on and it starts flashing rapidly with a yellow light, it is not an error! I thought I had a bad battery as the light flash sequence makes you think it is defective, but all it means is that your battery is at 80%.

Overall I love the new battery system and size wise, it is similar to the Leica SL battery. Chunky, thick and square.

From Olympus:

“High-capacity battery and rapid charger: The new BLH-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery has a capacity that’s approximately 37% higher than that of the BLN-1 used in the previous model, providing approximately 440 shots on a single charge (CIPA standards-compliant). The OM-D E-M1 Mark II displays the remaining battery life percentage on the rear monitor so users are not surprised by a depleted battery. Also, the new BCH-1 charger is 50% faster than the previous version.”

Window Shopping. EM1 II and the 25 f/1.2 – click for better version!

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The new EVF

The new EVF is nice but not the “ultimate” upgrade I had hoped for. Yes it is lovely, and large and clear but I was hoping for a picture window Leica SL style of EVF which to me is the gold standard of EVF. I am spoiled by the SL EVF so when I go to my Sony’s or Olympus or others I feel like I downgraded. To those who never shot an SL, you will think the E-M1 MKII EVF is amazing ;) It is great, truly is…but I wish it was to the specs of the SL. It look very similar to my eye as the Sony A7RII EVF. If this camera had that SL EVF I may have retired from doing camera reviews, lol. Joke.

From Olympus:

“High-magnification, high-speed electronic viewfinder. The performance of the 1.48x (35mm equivalent) high-magnification, high-resolution electronic viewfinder rivals those of professional full-frame interchangeable lens cameras. With high-speed operation that includes a maximum refresh rate of 120 fps and a minimum response time of five milliseconds, users never lose track of fast-moving subjects.”

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The EVF works well and has 120fps with a 6ms reaction time. Its quick, lag free and will not leave you squinting. 

One thing I also had hoped for was a better eyecup as mine fell off once in use. It is the square type and it slides down on to the EVF. If you are carrying the camera and it starts rubbing up and down on you side it may pop off. But it is in no way a deal breaker ;) It’s just a quirk. Mine fell off once and I asked a few others who were shooting if they had this problem and none of them did. I would have liked to have seen a nice large round eyecup for the EVF, but either way it is still fantastic in use and you get a nice big view with no lag, and what you see is what you get, which is always nice. I much prefer todays EVF’s over any optical VF in a DSLR. So much more versatile and usable.

Phil in the Blue Lagoon. 25 f1/2 at 1.2 Click for more details!

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Dual Quad Core Processors

The heart of the system! Yes this camera is more powerful than many laptops or desktop computers. With two quad core processors inside this thing is UBER RESPONSIVE!!! I mean, when you use this camera you feel speed, you feel response and you feel like it is a real pro camera. So when you have the response and speed, and this level of build you just get inspired by the entire package. I remember shooting with Nikon and Canon pro cameras, the response and speed were amazing. This is where the EM1 II is now. Very polished, very mature and Olympus made sure to speed everything up.

With the 12-100 f/4

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The new focus modes Olympus has put in the new camera assure you very fast AF, and a continuous mode that seems to beat the Sony A6300 with ease. We saw a demo video of it against a 6300 and it just creamed it in regards to continuous tracking AF. I have not seen it against the exciting new Sony 6500, so that may be another test for another day but the focus is solid here and much improved over the original E-M1. Unfortunately while in Iceland we did not get ant opportunity to use the tracking as our whale watch boat tour was canceled due to bad weather. But I will test this in part 2 of my review that will be coming soon.

These dual processors also come into play for playback of images and this camera has no lag in playback, at all. The touch screen allows you to swipe through images as fast as 10FPS and zooming in never gives a delay or lag. Super nice, and as I said, uber responsive.

BTW, this new MKII has 3X the communication speed of the original and twice the memory. Olympus wanted to make sure the camera competed not only with other mirrorless but also high speed pro DSLRS.

Fellow reviewer and friend who loved the Dramatic Tone so much, I had to shoot him with Dramatic tone! Yes, were were fully in the water with our E-M1 MKII’s! SALTWATER! The water was 110 degrees and it was 37 degrees outside of the water ;) Great times. 

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Speaking of Speed…AF, Response…

This camera can do 60 FPS full RAW with SF and AE lock. It can do 18 FPS with Single Point AF without AE lock. I mean, that is fast. Almost too fast for my tastes but hey, it is there if you want or need it! 18 FPS is like shooting a machine gun off. While we did not have opportunities in Iceland for shooting fast frame rates, I did put it in these modes to see what it sounded like and if it could hold focus and it sure did. Again, AF on this camera is simply fantastic and will not leave you wanting for more especially if coming from a lesser camera. I mean, it shouldn’t! I have never used a DSLR with focus this fast or accurate, and in a camera the size of the E-M1, to have this is astounding.

From Olympus:

“The advanced Dual FAST AF automatically chooses between on-chip phase detection AF and contrast detection AF, or utilizes both phase and contrast detection simultaneously. This system boasts 121 cross-type on-chip phase detection focus points in order to dramatically improve accuracy. The simultaneous use of contrast detection and on-chip phase detection AF enables accurate focus in difficult lighting conditions, while a new moving subject tracking algorithm rapidly and continuously measures the subject-to-camera distance to precisely maintain focus. Finally, the in-camera AF Limiter function is included to achieve faster focusing by limiting the focus range of the lens, thus preventing time-consuming focus hunting.

Autofocus functions such as AF Target Mode4, AF target position and face/eye priority AF are easily set with a single button press. AF operations are enhanced with a new subject-tracking Cluster Display, which illuminates active sensors to assure the user of focus-subject accuracy. The AF Targeting Pad feature allows users to select the AF point by sliding their finger on the rear touch LCD monitor while looking through the viewfinder.”

VIDEO: Meet the new Olympus E-M1 II

 

High ISO and Low Light

When some think of Micro 4/3 they immediately think “Oh, you can’t shoot this thing at night using higher ISO and get clean results”, and with this I tend to agree.

With the new E-M1 MKII, the noise levels have been improved by a stop though they will not get to full frame Sony A7s levels of course. The new noise algorithm that Olympus created for noise reduction is interesting as they created something that really works well at getting rid of color noise, and keeping detail. A side by side between it and the old E-M1 showed much more detail at high ISO.  So while this camera will not offer high ISO low light performance of a full frame Sony, it will offer better high ISO than the MKI and give the best low light and high ISO of any Micro 4/3 out there. I am happy to see them working on improving this aspect as it truly is the one main weakness of the system for some professionals. Even so, with a lens like the 25 f/1.2 and shooting up to 6400 you should be covered for any situation.

QUICK HIGH ISO TESTS

THE SHOT – ISO 6400 – NR OFF

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100% CROP ISO 6400 WITH IN CAMERA NOISE REDUCTION ON

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25,600 maxed out

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The MKII goes up to ISO 25,600 which is a far cry from other pro cameras that can go up to and beyond 200,000 ISO, but who here uses 25,600 or higher on any kind of regular basis? I tested the higher levels and saw a nice little improvement in image noise over any past Micro 4/3 camera. But remember this is not going to be your 1st choice for a no or low light camera, for that specialty go for a Sony A7SII or other full framer. But how many actually ever go past 6400 these days? Not many, and at 6400 this camera puts out pretty nice images though with some noise, as we expected.

From Olympus:

“The newly-developed TruePic VIII Image Processor dramatically improves image quality when shooting at high ISO settings, making it possible to capture images with minimal noise. The normal sensitivity ISO (ISO AUTO) range has been expanded to ISO 6400 for greater flexibility in a variety of shooting scenarios, and Fine Detail Processing II ensures that no detail is lost due to over sharpening. The ISO LOW setting is equivalent to ISO 64, providing greater flexibility to shoot at wider apertures even in brightly lit situations, making it possible to achieve beautiful, shallow depths of field.”

The Complete Package

Micro 4/3, and especially this new E-M1 MKII to me is about the complete package. The Build, feel, usability, speed, versatility, size, features that no other camera has and yes, even the image quality…which happens to be amazing with the new camera. There are no cameras out there today that can do all of what the E-M1 II can do. NONE. As a package it wins the award for most versatile camera ever, taking the title away from the original EM1. If there were a camera like this with a larger sensor it would put all other camera makers out of business. It would be an end game. So to me the ONLY weakness, and it truly is not even a weakness as we know going it what we are getting into, is the smaller sensor size.

Then again, it is also a plus. How many times have you shot a lens wide open only to have some of your subject out of focus due to the razor thin DOF? I have, many times. It can be frustrating. I have never had this issue with Micro 4/3, so in some ways, this is a better choice for some. Again, image quality is professional and can be very beautiful. Good enough for my eyes, that’s for sure. Again, with the new 25 f.1.2 the amount of shallow DOF is about perfect. Creamy enough for beautiful subject separation but also wide enough to get your subject in focus. Also, there is no softness at f.1.2, so shooting at that aperture is where I would be shooting 90% of the time ;)

The way the 12-100 and Em1II sensor captures light can be quite beautiful

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Another with the 25 f/1.2

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Beautiful 5 Axis IS. Improved again?

The Olympus 5 Axis inside their cameras perform to a much higher level than those in Sony cameras, and that is partly due to sensor size. With the new E-M1 II the 5 Axis is as good as ever but when you use a lens like the new incredible must own (yes, it is incredible and I will own it) 12-100 f/4 that has an IS mode built in, it works in tandem with the 5 Axis in the body of the E-M1 II you gain 6.5 stops of compensation! Some were hand holding shots for 2 SECONDS with this combo!! TWO SECONDS!!!

When you put the 12-100 f/4 on the body and shoot video it is like having a $$$ steady cam rig as the video is smooth as silk and shake free. That 12-100 will be a SUPER VERSATILE lens for photo or video. A must own lens for anyone who is serious about their Micro 4/3 shooting. Olympus says its one of those lenses that is the best they know how to make and it’s much smaller than any 24-200 full frame lens I have ever seen ;) Yep, for anyone who has been living under a rock for the past 7-8 years, Micro 4/3 lenses will give you 2X equivalent focal length so the 12-100 becomes like a 24-200 (on full frame) even though it is mechanically a 12-100 lens, which is why it is marked as such. Marking it a 24-200 would be a lie, as it is a 12-100 but in use, it is like using a 24-200 due to the crop.

Just know that at 100 you will get double the reach of a normal 100mm. That is a good thing. But with that 12-100 on the E-M1 II the Image Stabilization is scary good.

From Olympus:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is equipped with the latest in-body 5-Axis Image Stabilization to compensate for all types of camera shake. An optimized correction algorithm boasts outstanding compensation performance with approximately 5.5 shutter-speed steps of compensation3. Also, when combined with Olympus lenses equipped with in-lens image stabilization, 5-Axis Sync IS provides the world’s most effective 6.5 shutter-speed steps of compensation2 for blur-free handheld shooting of stills and video.”

CLICK IT TO SEE THE QUALITY. I suggest a large screen! The 25 f1.2 is Olympus most beautiful rendering lens to date. To me, it is up there with Leica glass, like the Summarit line. Yep, I said it.

I will call this 25 f/1.2 the new “Bokeh Master” as it’s bokeh is simply beautiful. 

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PRO CAPTURE MODE

One new mode on the E-M1 is pretty cool and while I would rarely use it, just knowing it is there is comforting as you never know when an opportunity would arise where you can benefit form it.

So Pro Capture mode has a LOW and a HIGH setting. In Pro Capture Mode you can compose your shot and then half press the shutter. For expample, a situation where I used it was when we went to see GEYSERS blow and we never knew when they would blow and spout out their huge explosive shot. By standing there in front of it, with shot composed and a half press of the shutter button you will be guaranteed to NOT miss any shot.

Pro Capture Mode: There she blows! Dramatic Tone, 12-100, EM1II. 

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What happens is that when you press down half way the camera starts to physically store 14 shots in its buffer..when the 14th shot hits and you are still half way down it starts the process again. So yo will always have 14 shots recorded when you finally press the fire button. This is compensating for YOUR HUMAN Lag. When I tested this mode my reaction was too slow to catch the moment I wanted but with PRO CAPTURE on I was able to endure I never missed one.

Imagine trying this mode when trying to get a batter hitting a ball, or a horse crossing the finish line in a race, or any moment where capturing THAT moment is crucial. This mode will assure that you get it, and that is crazy cool. No other camera that I know of does this and it is yet another example of Olympus innovating.

From Olympus:

“The new Pro Capture Mode provides lag-free shooting so users can capture high-quality full-resolution images at precise moments with no compromises. Using the silent electronic shutter, Pro Capture buffers a running series of JPEG / RAW images when users press the shutter release halfway. Then, by fully pressing the shutter button, users can capture that moment’s image plus up to 14 previous frames all at once.”

Just as they did with the very 1st pull out LCD, and the first dust shaker sensor cleaner, Live Time, 5 Axis IS and more,  they continue to innovate and thank God for innovation!

Beautiful way of rendering the light…12-100 with nice detail to boot! Click it for larger!

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The new 25 f/1.2 Lens

Well, what can I say. Those who have used this lens have all sung its praises. I know of two photographers who are selling a Leica lens or two over this lens. WHY? Well, the rendering is indeed special. The bokeh is beautiful, the color is so good. It has smooth transitions from in focus to out and creates, at times, an ethereal type of look. I see no CA or distortion or issues at all from my OOC JPEGS (though in camera correction could be happening). It’s one of the most beautiful lenses I have used no matter the system or format. Here are a few more shots from it on the EM1II. Yes, I already placed my pre order for this and the new 12-100 f/4 (and it has arrived). They are two of the best lenses Oly makes IMO (and according to Olympus). The rendering reminds me a little bit of Leica and the new Sony 50 1.4 but at 1/2 the size and weight of the Sony ;)

Three from the 25 at f/1.2. Man, this lens is so impressive and takes Micro 4/3 to the next level up. 

Fun in Iceland..

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The Bokeh is legendary. Lens was fogging up!

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My lens was fogged up here from the mist but it just gave the image an even cooler look.

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One more…click it!

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This lens..some are saying it is huge and heavy, yet in the hand, and in use it does not in any way feel heavy or large. Some said it is close to the size of the Canon full frame 50 f/1.2, yet when I use the Canon, I am well aware I am holding onto a fat chunky lens, that is heavy. With the Olympus and lens hood OFF it felt great. Sure, it will be larger than the much less expensive 25 f/1.8 but this lens really does easily beat the 25 f/1.8 in IQ, Bokeh, Rendering, Color and speed. This is an f/1.2 lens folks, so size is very small for what we are getting here.  The AF of this lens when used with the new EM1 II is very quick.

Also, this is a PREMIUM Pro lens! Do not expect a $300 lens here, as this performs to a much higher standard than any “nifty fifty”. This is more in line with some $2000-$8000 lenses, so it is made for those who want the ultimate performance from their camera system.

Many are already asking me “how does this compare to XXX”. I will say this…this lens is in a class of its own for this focal length on Micro 4/3. No Panasonic or other Olympus 25mm matches it. This lens has a level of micro contrast, depth, color performance, and silky smooth bokeh. While expensive it comes in much cheaper than other 50mm lenses that it actually compares to like the $8k Leica 50 APO, and others. $1200 for a lens of this caliber is not expensive, but for those who feel it is there is always the 25 1.8 from Olympus that comes in at much less.

TWO WITH The 25 at f/1.2 on a PEN-F, so it does amazing on the PEN as well

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What you have heard about this lens is true, and I am not the only one singing its praises.

I ordered this lens for myself and shelled out the big bucks for it from Amazon as I feel this lens will be one of those years from now that people refer to as having something special about it. Usually reserved for the big dogs from Leica, Canon, etc. As cameras come and go, this lens will always be around improving with the tech and bodies.

Add the 42.5 f/1.2 Nocticron to this and the 12-100 f/4 and you have one hell of a kit that will deliver plenty of shallow DOF, plenty of beauty and reach from 24-200. You will have the best IS with the 12-100 and video performance that will knock your socks off. To me, this would be the perfect EM1 II kit. If you want to be real adventurous add the 8mm fisheye and 300mm pro for a kit that would be drool worthy.

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THE LCD

The LCD is nice as it will swivel out to the side this time around much like the PEN-F. It is a touch screen as well and reviewing images or even firing an image using the back LCD is simple and easy as pie. Some prefer this way of shooting. Nothing groundbreaking but continues with the tradition of using nice, clear large touch capable swivel LCD’s.

JPEG out of the camera with the 12-100 f/4 – OOC JPEG

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ELECTRONIC SHUTTER or MECHANICAL

The E-M1 II has a mechanical shutter option that is glorious. The sound it makes is probably the most pleasing shutter sound I have ever heard, even preferring it to any Leica I have shot with. It has a soft seductive and smooth subdued sound that is super quiet. If you do not want that you can always switch over to the electronic shutter and Olympus says they have almost eliminated Rolling Shutter effects. Their words were “Best treatment of Rolling Shutter out of any camera made as of 11/2016″. Nice. So with the EM1II we have a choice like most modern cameras today. Mechanical or Electronic for when you want 100% stealth and quiet.

From Olympus:

“A newly developed shutter is rated for 200,000 actuations6 to withstand consistent daily use in professional environments. Floating shutter construction is employed so that shutter shock is not easily transmitted to the camera body.”

“Silent Mode utilizes the silent electronic shutter to eliminate all mechanical noises while shooting. Silent Mode is especially useful for shooting in situations where noise of any kind is not appropriate, including stage performances, concerts and even sleeping children. Also, it is possible to deactivate the AF Illuminator, AF confirmation beep and flash for virtually silent operation.”

The 12-100

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Grainy B&W Mode with the 12-100

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4K VIDEO at 237MBPS

Olympus has stepped up the game with video and in my very short video tests I found the quality of their cinema 4K mode to be outstanding. Sharp, smooth footage with the new 5AXIS and with Cinema 4K at 24FPS you will get around 237 MBPS. The camera has a mic input of course and an Audio monitor. When I get my review unit I plan on testing video more with my 7-14 Pro. When I do, I will update this page with video info and samples.

From Olympus:

“Digital Cinema Standard 4K videos: The OM-D E-M1 Mark II supports Digital Cinema Standard 4K (4096×2060 pixels) video capture at a 24P frame rate and a bit rate of up to 237 Mbps for authentic movie production. The 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor provides a read speed three times faster than that of the previous model for effective suppression of movement distortion, resulting in sharp, clear image quality. The video-specific picture mode “Flat” is ideal for color grading and finishing the footage exactly as envisioned by the videographer.”

“With four times the resolution of Full HD, 4K videos are easily affected by camera movement and typically require a tripod, mini jib, crane and other specialized accessories for movie recording. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II pairs its advanced 5-Axis Image Stabilization with electronic stabilization specialized for video (M-IS)10 to effectively reduce camera shake, making handheld 4K video capture possible. This outstanding image stabilization system allows videographers to easily shoot movies with virtually no visible camera shake. The camera’s rear vari-angle LCD monitor can be adjustable to the user’s preferred angle for shooting convenience.”

Cinema 4K Quick Video Samples….I shot MINIMAL video as I was concentrating on stills, but this will give you an idea of what it can do. All shot with the 12-100

 

Detail with Out of Camera JPEG

When writing this review and going over images I snapped, I have no way to examine the RAW files yet as there is no RAW support yet, even with Olympus’s viewer software. So for now I am looking at the OOC JPEG detail. Here are a couple of shots, one full size 20MP file and two with crops. Click them to see the larger size and full crops. BTW, there is no AA filter with the E-M1 MKII!

Just pointing down at the grass to see the detail. JPEG looks great, the RAW will be much better still. 

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Sleet that fell, with the 12-100 – Click to see 100% crop. 

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When I am able to see the RAW files I will do an update with RAW crops. Usually the RAW files show very nice detail as there are no JPEG artifacts.

EVERYTHING ELSE

All of the old faves are still here like the Art Modes, Live Time and Live Bulb, and the menus are now better looking with a nice smooth easy to read look and a different layout. They are still crazy extenisve and deep but you just need to do set up once, and you would really never need to go into the menus again. I would just set it up and use the Super Control Panel which now loads up by default. You can change nearly any setting with the SCP, and it is easy as 1-2-3.

The 25 1.2…sharp as can be wide open with great color performance. OOC JPEG

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Available Accessories:

HLD-9 Power Battery Holder

This dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof power battery holder is specifically designed for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. With the HLD-9, users have the power of one BLH-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery in the camera body and a second one in the HLD-9. The rear of the HLD-9 power battery holder is equipped with the same directional pad, two control dials, two function buttons and shutter release, as on the camera body, for identical controls whether the camera is held in a vertical or horizontal position. An optional AC-5 AC adapter can be used for studio photography or other situations when using the camera for long periods of time.

FL-900R Weatherproof High-Intensity Flash

This is a high-intensity flash boasting a maximum guide number of 58m. This accessory on-camera flash has the highest sequential shooting tracking performance in its class at 10 fps12. It features a lightweight weatherproof design with a wireless RC mode for simultaneous control of multiple flash units, and supports Multi Flash, High Res Shot, Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing Modes. The FL-900R is also equipped with a built-in LED light for recording videos. For additional details, please see the FL-900R press release.

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STF-8 Weatherproof Macro Flash

The STF-8 is the world’s first macro flash built with dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof construction13. The flash heads and controller features a lightweight compact design. When combined with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing modes are supported for flash photography, useful for capturing flowers, insects and commercial photos in the studio. The bundled adapter ring is compatible with the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 30mm f3.5 Macro, M.ZUIKO Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro and M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12–40mm f2.8 PRO. When using both flash heads the GN is 8.5m. In addition to a TTL Auto Sync Mode for precision control, users can set the flash in 1/3-step increments on the camera when in Manual Mode and in one-step increments with the flash dial. The main flash can also be used as a commander to control multiple flash units. The flash head angle is adjustable within a range of -60 to 40 degrees.

RM-CB2 Release Cable

This release cable with a pin jack terminal (2.5mm diameter) features a bulb lock function convenient for long exposures. The connector terminal features an L-shaped design ensuring a compact form when connected to the camera.

PT-EP14 Underwater Case

This compact underwater housing provides water depth resistance up to 60 meters. It provides a clear field of view to each corner of the screen, designed to be easy to hold to frame and zoom your shot easily. In addition, the PPO-EP03 Macro Lens Port provides compatibility with the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro and M.ZUIKO Digital ED 30mm f3.5 Macro14.

Dramatic Tone II

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So what are my thoughts after this first use in Iceland? 

Well, I know the old Mark I EM1 very well, I used it and owned it for 2 years and it was one of my most well loved and enjoyed cameras. But when side by side with the Mark II it is starting to show its age, as we could expect it to. I mean, it’s been a few years right? This new camera from Olympus is, as I said, a powerhouse pro tool for the Micro 4/3 format. It beats any Panasonic that has been made to date IMO (there is no true “pro” built Panasonic) and the features are exclusive to Olympus and this format. As for the improved 5 Axis IS with the new 12-200 f/4… nothing else like it out there at this level and even though Sony uses this tech, it is not nearly as effective in their Full frame bodies as it is here. Six and half stops of compensation when used with the 12-100 Pro? Two second hand held exposures? Four second hand hold exposures? That is crazy folks!

I was worried about this camera over this past year as I had no idea how much improvement could be done, but they did it. This is more than I had hoped for and I have not even started to scratch the surface of the capabilities. I mean, I really haven’t. Just did not have the time or locations to test the AF tracking or the Long Exposures but I expect they will be awesome as we did see demos, and they were impressive.

I said it before but I have never tested a more advanced camera than the EM1 Mark II. Myself and many other reviewers who were there were enjoying the hell out of this camera and the new lenses. Olympus is for those who love photography and with a camera like this, there really is not much you can not do.

As for the price of $1999, well, it is what it is. Olympus has put SO MUCH into this body for it to perform as it does. The dual quad core processors that give it the oh so enjoyable speed and response, and all premo materials here folks. This camera does not feel cheap in any way, yet every time I shoot a Fuji, and even some Sony’s..they feel cheap, even though they may not be. This camera feels amazing. The dials, buttons and all materials are premium here, inside and out. The 5 Axis, the Touch LCD, the nice EVF, the fantastic speed. Features that no one else offers like Live Time, Pro Capture, and let’s not forget the sensor cleaning dust shaker (that Olympus invented long ago) that keeps the sensor dust free.

Is it worth $2000? ABSOLUTELY, if you want a camera that offers all that it does. If you do not want all of this, and what it offers, then go for something else that is less expensive. Just as I said with the original, even more so now…there is no APS C camera I would personally choose over the EM1 II. There are full framers I would take (that are much more money) but no APS-C would win me over compared to this. But that’s me, and I have shot with them all and I know what I like. What you like, is your own personal thing. But this camera gets a HUGE HELL YEA from me, even at $1999. It’s nice to have a choice down the line as well from beginner Micro 4/3 models to the pro model. The system has never been more complete.

Grainy B&W Mode, from inside a bus, taken through the window!

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Weaknesses? Sure, there are some. There always are!

  1. You will not get low light high ISO performance of a full frame or some recent APS-C cams once past ISO 3200/6400. But you will get decent performance up to 6400 and even usable at 10k if you nail exposure. That’s pretty good for Micro 4/3 and enough for most shooters. 
  2. Depth of Field will be more wide than full frame so do not expect to blow out the background like you can with a Leica Noctilux on an M or Sony A7. But with the 25 f1.2, I am seeing some of the most gorgeous rendering, bokeh, color and depth as I have ever seen for this format, so we are getting closer and in some ways, it may be better to have a little less shallow DOF or more DOF.
  3. One weakness a couple of us found is there should be a dial lock, like a software lock. Press a button and it locks the dials so we do not accidentally change them while we walk and the camera rubs against us. A few of us had the dials change while we walked so we would go take a shot and the exposure comp would be at +2. It only happened twice with me, but if we had a lock button we could lock the dials while traveling.
  4. This is still Micro 4/3 so we will still see some slight image noise at base ISO when pixel peeping at 100%. Doesn’t matter to me as I am not a pixel peeper, it has nothing to do with real photography. At all. Go pixel peep some good old fashioned film and get back to me. ;)

Other than that this camera is one of the best I have ever shot with. It is addictive due to its ease of use and speed/response. The AF is blazing fast and even in low light it locks on quickly. I have yet to see a RAW file from the camera as there is no way at all to open a RAW file at the time of this review but the JPEGS are amazing, and with RAW it only gets better. I can not wait to see these files from RAW (I shot JPEG and RAW).

From the bulletproof build to the extreme weather sealing to the extreme speed, buffer and dual quad core processors inside this is one serious machine and it all comes in MUCH smaller than any pro DSLR. Much lighter, thinner and with lenses that are IMO better than most PRO systems lenses. Olympus has been on a roll for years and with this, they really gave us enthusiasts and pros something to drool over.

I will be writing more in part 2 as soon as my review unit arrives and I can test more in low light, AF tracking, long exposure and much more Cinema 4K video. I can not wait. My order is in, and will be my one and only Micro 4/3 camera when it arrives. With the 25 1.2, and 12-100 added to my other lenses, the 8mm pro, 7-14 pro and 300 pro it will be one hell of a kit. Look for much much more soon!

BTW, remember that all images here are JPEGS. No RAW yet!

Click it for Larger – 25 f/1.2

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WHERE TO ORDER/PRE ORDER?

You can order the lenses now, as they are shipping. I already received my 25 1.2 from Amazon this week. The 12-100 is shipping this week, and the big one, the E-M1 MKII will be shipping in December, before the holidays. Links are below from 100% trusted dealers I recommend 100%:

PRE ORDER THE EM1 MKII – $1999

B&H PHOTO

AMAZON 

ORDER THE 25 f/1.2 LENS – $1199

AMAZON

B&H PHOTO

ORDER THE 12-100 f/4 LENS

B&H PHOTO 

AMAZON

Using my links helps to support this website and keep it going. It works the same for you, and you pay not a penny more for using my links, but when you do I get a few cents on the dollar and that is the only way this site stays in business, so if you find this review helpful, feel free to use my links above to order as I would truly appreciate it! IT HELPS SO SO MUCH!

CHECK THIS OUT

See some GORGEOUS images from Wedding Photographer Tracie Jean. Yes, you can use this for pro wedding work. 

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and one more taken of me by Michael Palmer from Steve’s Digicams

Dramatic Tone and me by the waterfall that soaked me and the EM1 MKII to the bone! I think Michael shot this with the lovely 7-14 2.8 Pro. 

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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Nov 012016
 

The Olympus 25 f/1.2 Pro Arrives! 1st Shots out of the box!

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HOLY MOLY! THE OLY 25 F/1.2 HAS ARRIVED!

Last time I tested a lens like this, that performs like this..was when I reviewed the Leica 50 APO. Yep, that lens that cost around $8000 for a 50mm f/2 and this lens reminds me a lot of that lens. This lens is $1199 and offers Micro 4/3 users a lens with the most beautiful Bokeh and rendering I may have ever seen for this format. The lens JUST arrived, so let’s take a look at what I am talking about in a few snaps. I took these 10 min ago, so these are the very 1st snaps on my PEN-F out of the box. I will have much more with this lens tomorrow!!

Shot at f/1.2, wide open on the PEN-F. This lens, wide open is stunning. Look at the detail in the crop. Look at the Bokeh quality, and look at that color. 

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Debby at f/1.2. Click for larger. I did some PP here with color tone.

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Wide Open at f/1.2 – soft window light

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I am proclaiming this lens to be a true BOKEH KING

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Click for full 100% crop. Detailed even wide open. 

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Color is fantastic

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This lens and the new 12-100 f/4 are two lenses that will take your Micro 4/3 body to the next level. Check back tomorrow when I will have much more from this lens!!

I bought mine from Amazon. HERE. 

Sep 302016
 

At Photokina: the Zeiss Loxia 2,4/85
(a quick comparison with 4 other 85’s)

by Dirk De Paepe

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A short tele was still missing in the Loxia lineup. Until now. I was sure it was coming. That one empty hole in my Zeiss Loxia case told me so. And I guessed it was gonna be an 85 (90 at most), since the length of the hole fits some of my other 85’s (adapter included). This means that for the first time, Zeiss comes up with an overlapping offering for FE-mount: both Loxia and Batis lines have their own 85mm now. The Loxia, although being less wide (2,4 vs. 1,8 for the Batis), is more heavy and … more expensive.

So is there any place for a Loxia 2,4/85?

Of course there is! But it’s for a specific kind of photographer. One like me.

I have always shot MF. When the Batis 85 was launched though, I was pretty impressed by its IQ and decided to give autofocus a try. I bought one of the first that were imported in Belgium, because I thought that AF could make sense on a short tele. Well … it didn’t. Not to me, that is. I find it very frustrating not to have total control and always wondered where the lens would place the exact focus point thìs time. It also felt as if I didn’t really gain much time in focusing speed and I surely didn’t end up with more keepers that when focusing manually. After changing my Batis to manual mode, in an attempt to get rid of this annoying AF feeling, I got even more frustrated. The focusing-by-wire mechanism isn’t giving me the feedback that I expect and that I get from a good MF lens. So, despite the exceptional IQ, more and more I went back to my old 85’s and I finally ended up putting the Batis completely aside. You can imagine that I have been anxiously awaiting this Loxia ever since. I guess you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ll trade in my Batis, when buying the Loxia. No more autofocus for me. It’s just not in my genes.

Last week Wednesday (Sept 21), I drove to Cologne because I absolutely wanted to try the Loxia, just to get confirmation of what I was already sure of: this 2,4/85 would be a phenomenal lens, totally according the Loxia philosophy and perfectly completing the Loxia line.

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Just a 2.4

It’s only a 2,4 indeed, because Zeiss wanted all Loxia’s to have the same diameter and a 2,4 aperture was in fact the widest that they could squeeze in. The choice for a 52mm filter diameter throughout simplifies things concerning accessories and makes for a pretty compact set – a very “travelable” one BTW. That’s exactly what I want. When I will have completed my set, I’m sure that I will use Loxia for more than 95% of my work. I’m a Loxia guy. I don’t like Batis, but I adore Loxia.
Moreover, Zeiss claims that this Loxia is pretty perfect right away and that it performs better at 2,4 than most 85’s do at 2,8. Of course this caught my attention.
In fact, I had hoped for a 2,0 (same aperture as my Jupiter 9 and the discontinued ZM Sonnar 85), but really, 2,4 is thàt close to 2,0 that I don’t find this a deal breaker, since I’m anything but a “bokeh hunter”. If Zeiss would have chosen to come with a Loxia version of the 4,0/85 ZM Tele-Tessar, then I would have thanked for the effort.
I’m 100% sure that this Loxia will perform better over all, even wide open, than the former ZM Sonnar 2,0/85 (a pretty legendary lens that costed over $3000€) and the vast majority of the 85’s on the market for that matter.

Features

This 85 Loxia is also a Sonnar design, with f/2,4 to f/22 aperture (10 blades) in 1/3 increments and declick feature (like all Loxia’s). The electronic communication with the body generates full exif data and triggers automatic EVF zooming, when selected, for faster critical focusing as from 0,8m (31.49”). The lens weighs 594gr (1.31 lb.) and has 7 elements in 7 groups. That’s less than the Batis (11 elements in 8 groups), but I guess the smaller aperture needs less correction (I’m not that technical, though, so this is not a statement). Anyhow, less lenses normally stand for more detail and you’re not gonna hear me complain about that. I read the Loxia is going to cost around 1400€ in Europe and the same amount of $ in the States, which is totally in line of my expectations. (Sorry that I don’t know about the price in other parts of the world.) It costs a bit more than the Batis indeed, but that’s justified by the more rugged, all metal built. This is a lens that will last a lifetime for most of us. I guess it will be more “the professional’s choice”, so to speak. The fact that Zeiss is offering a dedicated soft and hard case for the set, as it does for Otus and Milvus, is underlining this.

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Ergonomics

In the Loxia line, both the focus and aperture rings are placed in the same smooth and even cylindrical surface of the whole lens. Therefore some find them a bit hard to find, especially the one for the aperture. And I had the same experience in the beginning, after buying my first Loxia, the Planar 2/50. But then I reconsidered the way how to hold my camera. I realized that in fact the classic way of placing the left hand under the lens with thumb to the left finds its origin in the RF days, because a thumb down, fingers up position would block the view through the finder. Also, with very heavy lenses, this classic position is mandatory to support the lens weight. But I can’t think of any good reason to keep this up with an EVF body, when using the compact Loxia’s. On the contrary, with the Loxia’s the thumb down position offers nothing but advantages, IMO. One can put exactly the same pressure left and right on the body sides, just by relaxing the arms, because of the close to symmetrical position of both hands. This considerably improves stability. And the ultra smooth (but not too loosely moving) rings, with fine ribbing, allow the fastest control in this position. With some practice you can even simultaneously control both rings: middle finger for focus, thumb for aperture. Both the index finger’s knuckles transfer the arm weight to the body. Very relaxed and stable, I find this to be the most convenient way of shooting I have ever experienced. This is of course also thanks to the limited size of the Loxia’s, which prevents any unbalance towards the front.
The long throw of the aperture ring allows for very precise focusing, which is needed with hi-res sensors. IMO, the ZM line falls short in this department and is therefore a lot more difficult to fine focus.

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3.5 times Zeiss plus an encore

One of the main reasons of my trip to Photokina was exactly to try this new Loxia. When thinking of the appropriateness of writing a post about it, knowing that tons of pictures would come on the internet, I considered: why not make a quick comparison with my other 85’s. So I put four lenses in my bag, to involve 5 in this comparison.

1) The new Loxia of course.

2) You already know the Batis. Besides that I personally don’t like its concept, this lens is still offering top IQ. So I wonder how the Loxia will compare to it in this department.

3) The Zeiss ZM 4/85 Tele-Tessar. It’s still included in today’s Zeiss ZM range and in fact the only ZM85 option at this moment. Maybe Zeiss will now work the other way round, making a ZM version of the Loxia 2,4/85? ( … as it made improved Loxia versions of the ZM Planar 2/50 and Biogon 2/35 … )

4) Jupiter-9 2/85. This pre-WW2 Zeiss design was handed over to Russia as a post-WW2 indemnification, (engineers included, as I read…) and stayed in production for decades. It comes in Leica pre-M 39mm screw mount (referred to as LTM or M39) and can easily be adapted to M-mount as well as to E-mount. Although not manufactured by Zeiss, I count it as a “half Zeiss” because of it’s design. :-)

5) And finally the Canon FD 1,2/85 SSC Aspherical which I add as an encore. Clearly an outsider in this company, this was a flagship lens for Canon up till 1987, when the FD line was replaced by the EOS autofocus line. It was long considered by many as the most advanced MF 85mm lens, in its days offering stunning IQ, with great sharpness even wide-open at f/1,2. If I’m rightly informed, the present Canon EF 1,2/85 is build with basically the same optics as this FD. It did a great job for me (and still does from time to time) with indeed great IQ, although, I must say, that it’s surpassed in IQ by the new Zeiss lenses that I tried (Batis and Otus) and indeed also by the new Loxia. The MF FD line had outstanding built though. Many of them still perform exemplary today and find a second life with mirrorless camera’s. My 1,2/85 is still in excellent condition (as are a whole series of FD’s that I still own).

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This comparison was done in the Zeiss booth at Photokina. It’s a quick comparison indeed, since I got only a time frame of 4 hours to see the whole show. So this had to be done in a bit of a hurry. It is what it is though, by far not a lens review, but just a few shots that I took handheld in more or less the same position, with more or less the same settings. If I would be a pro-journalist, I would have taken a lot more time and would have stayed multiple days at Photokina. I would have carefully written everything down, making sure that the settings were exactly the same for each lens. I would think it over carefully what and how to shoot, use a tripod, etc. But this was not possible for me. Sorry for that guys. I could have spent all the time that I could spare at the Zeiss stand to perform more shots with the Loxia though. But I’m sure this is not the only website that you visit, and there will be more and more Loxia 2,4/85 shots of all kinds all over the internet. So I decided to do something else, that, in its own simplicity, could be of a particular interest: placing 5 lenses next to one another, with the new Loxia amongst them.

So here come the shots. These days, I mostly take my pictures in full manual mode, but because I had to act fast, these were taken in auto-ISO mode. Those are mostly un-altered or very slightly altered RAW pictures, converted to JPG for this publication. In the cases that I performed some processing, I’ll tell you what I did.

I’m not going to comment too much in detail on these pictures. I’d mainly want you to look and draw your own conclusions.

Quick Comparison of 85’s

Picture 1: Bottle in the sand.

The lenses have all different apertures wide open. Of course this gives different possibilities regarding shallow dof. But since also the focus distance is a factor, I took this shot with all lenses at minimal focus distance, which obviously results in different framings. Here are the wide open apertures, with their minimal focus distance: Loxia 2,4 0,8m, Batis 1,8 – 0,8m, ZM 4,0 – 0,9m, Jupiter 2,0 – 1,15m, and Canon FD 1,2 – 0,95m. I focused them all on the bottle cap, and framed to assure an out of focus area behind as well as in front of the focus point. Strangely, some of the pictures were underexposed. I don’t know if that was due to the auto-ISO mode, since I’m normally not using that mode. Anyway, I corrected the exposure a bit in PS RAW converter to make them match to one other. Furthermore I lowered the black with 10% and raised the micro contrast with 10% with the five alike. For the rest, all settings remained untouched.

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The goal of this shot is just to show the different ways in which maximal possible shallow DOF compares between those lenses and to compare the closest focus distance.
What strikes me in this first picture is how the Loxia and Batis clearly have a different color signature. I can’t tell if it’s more faithful to reality, or less faithful. It’s just an observation.

Picture 2: Fluffy Grass.

Also wide open, those were shot with a different goal: to show how much details and fine color nuances the lenses render. So I’m showing the whole frame first, shot by the Loxia, and then I’ll give you comparing fragments at 100%. All those fragments were shot wide open, straight conversions from RAW.
I took this one with different apertures, to see how the lenses compare wide open as well as when stopped down. Instead of giving you so many versions of the same picture, I chose to add inserts with fragments from the stopped down pictures, at f/2,8 , f/4 and f/5,6. From the ZM I added f/5,6 and f/8, because f/4 is its wide open aperture. All shots were taken with -1 compensation on the camera, because of the large dark background.

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The only lens that really doesn’t keep up with modern times clearly is the Jupiter. Wide open it’s pretty dramatic, with a lot of improvement at 2,8 and a pretty good result by 5,6 (it’s hot spot regarding contrast and detail). But let me tell you that this is not the kind of shots to use a Jupiter for. I really love this lens for its unique dreamy rendering and “vintage” look. I recently used it at a meeting with collie owners and took most shots at 2,8. I personally find this a very favorable aperture, still producing quite some bokeh and already a lot more detail. Special about this lens is also its 15 aperture blades (the Loxia’s have 10, the Canon has 6), that prevent those hexagonal blur structures, but keeps them pretty circular. When I long for a feel that reminds my of my fathers pictures, I take this Jupiter for its very pleasing character. I won’t ever sell it. This lovely lens can be bought second hand today for around $100€. But not every sold example is of good quality.
Another lens from the past is the Canon (some 40 years old), but it still keeps up very well, IMO. Its shallow DOF possibilities at equal focus distances are tremendous. And imagine using a Voigtländer close focus adapter (M to E-mount) together with a second one in Canon FD to M mount … this would for sure offer great possibilities for all those shallow DOF lovers. This great lens is about the most expensive FD lens today. A good example will set you back around $1000€.
Also the ZM is keeping up pretty well, although the maximal aperture of f/4 is, even for me, a bit too narrow.
I leave the Loxia and Batis to your judgement.

Picture 3: Lantern with poles and net.

Being a Quick Comparison, I couldn’t give you as much shots as I would have wanted. Especially the bokeh possibilities were pretty limited on the Zeiss booth at the time that I was there. Of course, I couldn’t leave the booth with the test sample of the Loxia on my A7RII, so I had to choose spots with not too many people standing in the way. But still, in this picture, there is some front and hind bokeh, that gives you a first idea. And I’m sure, soon enough you will be able to find many bokeh examples of the Loxia 2,4/85 online. As I said, I found it especially interesting to put those 5 lenses next to one another. Because I know that many of you care for the out of camera jpg IQ, I wanted to show this to you as well. So those are all unaltered out of camera jpg’s.
The “Lantern” pictures were equally shot wide open and are uncropped. The right insert is a 100% crop of the wide open shot. The left is a 100% crop at the aperture that gave me the best IQ.

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My personal conclusion

In a quick comparison, I’d like everybody to look, see and judge for himself.

But still I have to tell you that I am absolutely thrilled about the Loxia 2,4/85 Sonnar. Its built, feel and size is indeed perfectly matching the other Loxia’s. To me it perfectly completes the line and will fill up this remaining empty whole in my Loxia case … And regarding its IQ, well, for what I’m looking for in my pictures, the Loxia clearly stands out. It surpasses the Batis even more than I expected. The way the colors pop in picture 2 and 3 for instance impressed me. Even so for the way how it performs virtually perfect as from wide open. I know nothing will keep me from shooting it wide open, whenever I want shallow DOF. The f/2,4 aperture is sufficient for me in this regard on an 85. And I find the IQ wide open simply stunning. I know others will always want to go for the fastest possible aperture and reject anything less, but for me the blur amount is never a goal in itself. I rather prefer that there’s still some information in the background. Next to IQ and creative possibilities, I also find its ergonomics, with the compact built, the perfect balance and the incredibly smooth functioning rings, to overclass the others. Of course, this only counts when you’re really into MF like I am.

This was merely a quick comparison. To really compare, a lot more test work is needed. But to me it’s sufficient to decide about ordering. My experience with Zeiss in general, since my childhood, and with the other Loxia’s in particular makes me totally confident.

So, yes guys, I’m a Loxia guy at heart!

ORDER THE 85 LOXIA AT B&H PHOTO

Sep 192016
 

Sony A99 Mark II Announced. The A Mount Lives!

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TODAY’S 1ST ANNOUNCEMENT!

Hey guys! Just a day before Photokina starts Sony has announced the A99 Mark II. Yes, their DSLR A Line continues on with an all new body, feature set and vision for the future. I was expecting an A mount replacement months ago but with the E mount taking off for Sony so big these last couple of years, I understand why they waited.

As for me, I was supposed to be in Cologne Germany as of yesterday but I had an emergency change of plans. Something came up that I could absolutely not miss, one of those life moments that you would regret forever if you did not jump on it..so I decided to NOT head to Photokina this year, though I will be testing some of the hottest new releases VERY soon..VERY. Also I will be covering it as I always have for the past 8 years, by showing off my fave announcements and releases right here, and I may even have something VERY special to share for you ASAP. ;)

You can read more on the A99 MKII or Pre Order it at B&H Photo HERE. 

But this is the 1st post of the day, and it’s about the A99 from Sony. Not my personal cup of tea (DSLR) but many reading this may have been waiting for it and the specs look awesome. I love that it is a full frame pro level DSLR with a swivel LCD as well ;) 

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Positioned as the flagship A-mount camera from Sony, the Alpha a99 II DSLR Camera combines the power of a full-frame 42.4MP Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor and a BIONZ X image processor with front-end LSI to create outstanding images at expanded sensitivities up to ISO 102400 and record UHD 4K video.

The a99 II is designed for speed, with an ergonomic body design and redeveloped shutter able to hit 12 fps, with full AF and AE capabilities. It also uses a Hybrid Phase Detection AF System that combines a 79-point dedicated AF sensor with a 399-point on-chip focus system for fast, accurate focusing in all conditions. And, for video, a new S&Q Motion setting permits the capture of Full HD video at a variety of frame rates ranging from 1-120 fps.

Another huge advantage of the a99 II is a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE stabilization system which is able to compensate for about 4.5 stops of shutter speed for sharper images. The camera also offers both a 0.5″ 2.36m-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF and a 3.0″ 1,228.8k-dot rear LCD that can tilt upwards 134° and downwards 180° as well as rotate 270° for working in a variety of positions. On top of all of these features, the camera offers built-in Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth which expands the cameras operability and it can output 14-bit raw files.

42.4 MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor & BIONZ X Processor

Leveraging the power of a full-frame Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor, the a99 II is able to create spectacular high-resolution images in a wide variety of shooting conditions. The back-illuminated structure is boosted through the use of an anti-reflective coating and gapless on-chip lens design that maximizes the light gathering abilities, ensuring excellent performance in low-light conditions due to a sensitivity range of up to ISO 102400. Also, it forgoes the use of an optical low-pass filter in order to guarantee the sharpest images.

This outstanding sensor is paired with the BIONZ X image processor and a newly developed front-end LSI dramatically improves the speed and throughput of the entire imaging system, enabling continuous shooting with AF/AE at up to 12 fps. Also, 8 fps shooting is possible with full live view support, meaning no blackout time while shooting. Another advantage of this setup is 16-bit image processing and 14-bit raw output which provides outstanding color fidelity and image quality.

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5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization

Packed into the a99 II is a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system. This compensates for five types of camera shake encountered during handheld shooting of still images and video. This allows users to confidently use any lens, even adapted lenses, for critical imaging without encountering blur from camera shake. This system will compensate for approximately 4.5 stops of shutter speed for working with a huge variety of subjects.

For long focal lengths, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments. Macro and high magnification imagery on the other hand will benefit from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation. Additionally, all shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

When using lenses that do not transmit imaging data to the camera, manual settings can be used to input the correct focal length and ensure proper stabilization. Also, the viewfinder can be used to preview the amount of compensation by pressing the shutter release button halfway or magnifying the image.

Hybrid Phase Detection AF System

Taking advantage of Sony’s proprietary Translucent Mirror Technology, the a99 II is able to utilize both a dedicated 79-point AF sensor and the 399-point focal-plane AF system located on the image sensor at the same time. This provides lightning fast autofocus as well as wide coverage. The 79 Hybrid Cross AF points enhanced your focusing precision by utilizing both the standard AF sensor and its 15 cross-type point with the focal-plane points. This uses the AF sensor for horizontal detection while the focal-plan points handle vertical detection. Additionally, the central AF point is sensitive to f/2.8 and the system can function in lighting as dim as -4 EV. Users can even benefit from AF capabilities while shooting at up to 12 fps or when using live view at up to 8 fps.

UHD 4K Video Recording in XAVC S Format

The a99 II is the first A-mount DSLR to offer internal UHD 4K video recording at 30 or 24 fps. This is possible using either the full-frame sensor or the Super 35 format which uses oversampling with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. This limits moire and aliasing common with high-resolution sensors. Video recording also benefits from live tracking thanks to the Hybrid Phase Detection AF system and Translucent Mirror Technology. The XAVC S format further improves image capture by providing high bit rates of 100 Mbps in 4K and 50 Mbps with Full HD recordings. An additional benefit of this camera is the ability to switch back and forth between NTSC and PAL operation for worldwide use. When recording internally, users will record video with a 4:2:0 sampling at 8-bit, however, to even further improve image quality the a99 II has clean HDMI output for use with an external recorder. This allows users to capture 4:2:2 uncompressed video and save in an edit-ready format.

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The a99 II features a 3.5mm microphone input jack for compatibility with external microphones. For users needing more, the a99 II is also compatible with the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter for recording professional balanced XLR audio signals with phantom power and adjustable mic/line inputs. For monitoring audio, the a99 II features a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as real time audio levels for a visual reference.

Custom Color Profiles and S-Log3 Gamma

Support is available for the S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log-3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3 profiles that enable up to a 1300% wider dynamic range for smoother tonal and color gradations, along with enhanced sensitivity and clarity in shadows and mid-tones. These profiles also lend themselves to greater compatibility within a professional workflow and are well-paired to the Cineon Log gamma curve for versatile post-production grading and color control. The S-Log3 gamma setting also offers an impressive 14-stop wide dynamic range for greater control over the highlights and shadows, while the S-Gamut3.Cine profile can be used to mimic the qualities of scanned negative film with a wide gamut comparable to the DCI-P3 color space. In addition to the S-Log3 gamma, the popular S-Log2 settings are also available.

Slow & Quick Motion

Take more control over your video capture capabilities with a variety of new frame rates available in an S&Q mode. This will allow shooters to capture Full HD video at one of either steps between 1-120 fps. These settings will allow you to slow down action as well as speed up a slow moving scene. This setting is also NTSC/PAL switchable.

3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

With a high 1,228.8k-dot resolution, the LCD screen will provide shooters with an excellent screen for composing images, adjusting settings, and reviewing video and photos. It also tilts upward 134° and downward 180° and rotates 180° clockwise and 90° counterclockwise for working with multiple shooting angles. Use in sunlight is improved with the implementation of WhiteMagic technology which doubles the brightness of the display through a RGBW pixel structure.

0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder Electronic Viewfinder

With its 4-lens optical system using double-sided aspherical elements the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a 0.78x magnification enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.

Redesigned Body

Magnesium alloy was used for the top cover, rear cover, and internal frame for outstanding durability while also maintaining a light weight.

The body has been reduced in size by 8% compared to its predecessor.

A newly developed shutter unit has been rated to withstand over 300,000 shutter actuations, useful for handling the faster 12 fps continuous shooting rate.

A new coating on the image sensor prevents dust from settling on the sensor and makes it easier to clean.

Dust- and moisture-resistant construction uses sealing around the buttons, dials, media jack cover, and enclosure edges.

An assignable front multi controller provides a method to rapidly change commonly used settings.

Updated font design and size improve menu legibility while a new organization system make it easier to find items.

Multiple customizable buttons around the camera body.

Dual SD/Memory Stick and SD card slots provide for added flexibility when saving files.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC and Bluetooth

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables the a99 II to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera’s shutter. Also, a Bluetooth connection provides for location data acquisition.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

SEE MORE AT B&H PHOTO HERE

 

Sep 062016
 

TTGHTY

USER REPORT: The Hasselblad X1D – Mirrorless Medium Format in Studio

(UPDATE: Simon King informed me that Hasselblad contacted him and wanted the images removed (as beautiful as they are) as they do not want images from a non final production camera body out there. Odd, as this post just showed a little bit of what the camera was capable of, in a good way.)

by Simon King

The images in this article were taken with a prototype unit. The image quality may not reflect the character of images taken with a production unit. These images are JPEGS converted from 3FR in Lightroom. I have not made any adjustments. They are best viewed full size.

The Hasselblad X1D is very different to any camera I have used. What clearly sets it apart is the sensor. I have used everything from miniscule sensored pocket devices, to my workhorse Leica M240 full frame.

IT’S A SHAME BUT THE IMAGES THAT WERE HERE LOOKED FANTASTIC..BUT HASSELBLAD ASKED SIMON TO REMOVE THEM UNTIL A FINAL PRODUCTION CAMERA WAS AVAILABLE. I WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION THEY WERE CLEARED BY SIMON. 

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The 50MP sensor is commercially matched only by Canon, with their 5DSR. Ergonomically, the Canon and the Hasselblad are fairly comparable, although the hard rubber and metal of the Hasselblad scream premium, where the Canon’s plastic shouts consumer. What I was interested in, during my time with the Hasselblad, was the potential for adapters, and extending that premium function across the Hasselblad range. I know that there will be the availability of official Hasselblad adapters for their H range, but as yet no third-party options have been announced.

Still, I would one day love to experiment with the X1D and my Noctilux. I am certain the results would be stellar.

The controls are very useable, and mostly intuitive. The mode dial clicks up, and the buttons are assigned to useful functions. To start with, because there is no tactile difference between the buttons, I found it tricky to remember exactly what button did what, but a simple glance was enough reminder that by the end of the shoot I had more or less memorized them. Three of these buttons are customizable and the front and rear dials are logical enough to use, as any DSLR shooter should be used to.

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EVF feels like the viewfinder on the Sony – at 2.36MP it is sharp, but I’ve been spoiled with the SL, and I feel that if it had had an EVF of equivalent value to the SL it would be a definite shot across the Leica bow.

I have absolutely no complaints about image quality. The X1D features the same sensor as their V series back, and paired and tuned with the new lenses the quality is fantastic. Even for those who prefer to view an image as a whole, without pixel peeping, it is clear on any Retina or 4K monitor that the photos taken from this camera are different. They shine.

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Of course, there are the same pros for medium format images as there have ever bee, – good for large scale printing, or cropping. But in such a small box, it is truly unique. The dynamic range is very competent, and I had no trouble recovering highlights in some of the images where the flash failed to sync.

The sensor resolves every freckle and line of detail from the lenses, which I hope to cover in a separate review. Suffice it to say, they are paired phenomenally with the body, and make the entire package an unreasonably enticing investment.

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Weighing in at around 725g with the batteries I cant see it leaving much of an impact on the bags of photographers used to carrying DSLR weights of 800/900g plus. The lenses are solid. They feel the way Hasselblad lenses should – sturdy, solid with no give whatsoever in the moving parts. Precise, although a little stiffness I’m sure would become smoother through use.

The grips on camera are a solid and friction-y rubber. I wasn’t worried about it slipping as I sometimes am with, say, the SL. The weather and dust sealing are a reassuring touch, and the seals are not obstructing of the functionality.

The smartphone inspired touchscreen interface is simple, although my prototype version did not have the finished elements in place, so I cant comment too much on that. It worked well for me, and should be very clear when out on the streets.

Gesture control should be intuitive, as it is the same pinch/swipe/hold combination as most people have on their phones.

The RAW files take a long time to edit, but that is to be expected with such vast amounts of data compressed into each photograph. However, given the price point on this camera, I can assume that the audience for this camera owns at the very least one high-powered iMac for editing.

The X1D does for medium format what the RX1 did for full frame – to the power of ten. It emerges as what very few MK1 versions manage to achieve – a fully-fledged system camera with a system of lenses and support.

It is also Hasselblad’s least expensive camera release so far, which opens up both the brand, and medium format shooting to the masses; a good sign for the photography industry, as well as for photographers themselves.

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I didn’t test much for video, but I don’t assume most people who buy this camera will want to be using the video function.

It is not a mainstream camera, but hopefully opens up the market to Fujifilm and Sony for even more Mirrorless medium format (almost) compact cameras.

The Hasselblad X1D and lenses are available to order from our London store, as well as our online shopfront at http://www.theclassiccamera.com 

Kindly,

Simon King

For USA buyers, check out the XD at B&H Photo

May 132016
 

Reviews Next Week: Leica SL with 90-280 and more!

Next week I will be posting two new reviews and one of them is giving me the best IQ from a non medium format camera that I have ever seen.

Yep, the Leica SL with the new 90-280mm f/2.8-f/4 lens was sent to me by Leica to check out and while it is the largest lens I have ever worked with, personally, I feel it is also one of the best quality lenses from a color and IQ standpoint that I have ever used, next to the Leica 50 APO! We can argue all day about its size, and believe me, it is MASSIVE. Like a Cannon (NOT the Camera company, but rather a real CANNON)…take a look.

BBL (BIG BEAUTIFUL LENS)

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This lens is heavy, large and makes the 24-90 look like a baby, but if QUALITY is #1 on your list above all, this lens will NEVER EVER disappoint anyone. It’s quite amazing, and even during my day one silly test snaps, it just has that Leica feel, that quality and smoothness, the bokeh quality and the way the subject just pops a bit. This is why many love Leica. The SL is a camera I LOVE and while many do not care for it due to size, it is a true “pride of onwership” kind of camera for me. Feels amazing, the design is very cool (IMO) and the battery life is superb, dual SD cards is nice to have and the EVF…the EVF makes it for me. Nothing else like it in 35mm format digital today…yet.

I am heading out today to shoot, and will be using all of what Leica sent so I can review this lens next week for you guys. Below are a couple of test snaps.. CLICK THEM for larger versions and to see that 100% crop of the bird.

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I also just started working on getting the Sony A6300 reviewed where I will use the 28 f/2, 50 1.8 and 70-300 along with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. for E mount.

I also have the Sony RX10III to shoot more with, the Olympus PEN-F and 7-14 and 300mm pro, and quite a few other goodies here to put to use! Soon!

So check back next week for  these and much more!

Steve

PS- If you are interested in the Leica 90-280, give Ken Hansen an email at [email protected]

Can also be found at PopFlash.com and B&H Photo

Apr 252016
 

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FIRST LOOK! Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 III for Sony E-Mount! Awesome!

Lets face it, 15mm is WIDE. Ultra wide in my book, but sometimes it is just what you may need in tight quarters. Ever since the very 1st version of the Voigtlander 15mm, which was TINY, I have bene smitten with this lens. In the early days, the first two versions were not perfect when used on digital cameras. Even though the version 1 and 2 were Leica M mount, there was vignetting and color shifts when used on a Leica M9 or M 240. Same thing when adapted to be used on the Sony full frame A7 system.

It was not until Version III that things started looking very good for this lens as it did away with the color shifts and gave us a super wide with barely any distortion, no color shifts and great sharpness. The ONLY issue with Version III was using it on a Sony, the extreme corners were not as sharp as they should have been. This is an ongoing issue with some Leica M glass and the Sony A7 series of cameras. But overall, the M version III worked great on the Sony. EVen so, they made it even better now..

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HAVE NO FEAR, VOIGTLANDER IS HERE! They have now released the 15mm in Sony E Mount, which means they are optimized for E mount which should mean NO ISSUES AT ALL. I am happy to say after having the lens in hand for a day, it is one hell of a lens for the Sony system. Coming in at $799, this lens which was sent to me from CameraQuest to review is just about the same size as the M version. It is small, light and focusing it is a breeze. When you turn the focus barrel it instantly goes into magnify mode so you can get a good view of what you are focusing on. With its huge depth of field, focusing is quick and easy and even zone focus is usable if you so desire to venture into that area.

Now, I have only had it for a day and have not been out too much to use it but the 1st snaps I shot with it are just what I had expected and hoped for. The IQ is fantastic. Sharp and WIDE! I will be using it over the next 2-3 weeks and will eventually have a full review up, but for now, a few casual test snaps.

In my review I will compare it side by side with the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 at 16mm which I own. 

As always, click on them for better view! Full review soon!

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…and some detail..click it!

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Apr 012016
 

HANDS ON! First look and samples from the Sony 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 OSS FE Lens!

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Hey guys! It’s Friday and today I have more from the new Sony gear announcements this week. Yesterday I posted samples and thoughts from Sony’s new 50 1.8, the day before I posted thoughts and samples from the RX10 III. Today I have the third and final “first look” from the trip of new Sony products. Today I am showing just a few samples from the new 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 G OSS Lens. This lens is built much like the Sony 90 Macro and looks similar, feels similar and is balanced nicely on the camera.

Only four from the 70-300 but click them for better versions!

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I have memories of 70-300mm lenses from my old DSLR Days back when I shot a Canon 5D (Mark I) and my memories of the 70-300 I used back then were just “OK”. I think I owned the Canon 70-300 DO lens which was at the time, sort of a hot seller due to the size of the lens. It was small and compact for a 70-300 zoom, and performed pretty well but had many IQ issues as well. Many hated the lens, I liked it but sold it off after two years of using it when I realized there were much better solutions in that focal range. I ended up moving to mostly all primes and gave up on most zooms, but lately there have been some astonishing zoom lenses being produced.

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Leicas 24-90 for their new SL system is probably the highest quality zoom I have ever used as every focal length on that lens performs like a high quality prime. The Olympus 40-150 Pro is also one of the best Zooms I have ever used in IQ, build, feel and features. Both of the lenses I just mentioned are pretty expensive, coming in at $5k (Leica) and $1500 (Olympus) respectively. When I saw the Sony 70-300 I thought, at first, it would be a mediocre cheap kit style zoom. I soon realized it was more serious than this. The Sony comes in at $1200, and is a high quality telephoto zoom. While the aperture range is slower at 4.5-5.6, the IQ and color and AF speed was fantastic. The Bokeh is also very creamy and beautiful in most cases, from my limited time with it so far.

The IQ from the 70-300 is better than the 50 1.8 from what I can see (as it should be) and this is a lens for those who want the *reach* of 300mm for their full frame A7 series body (though this will work great with the APS-C A6000 and 6300 as well and give even more reach).

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While not giving you the 600mm reach of the new RX10 III, this is a lens not a camera and it is less expensive than the RX10 III by $300 (though you do not get a camera with the 70-300). Some would ask “why would I pay $1200 for a 70-300 when I can pay $1500 and get a full featured camera with a 24-600 zoom?”

Well, as I said in my 1st look of the RX10 III, the A7 series, which this lens was made for, is a full frame body. Full frame image quality will always beat image quality, noise, dynamic range, smoothness, depth and color of any 1″ sensor. So while the RX10 III will offer way more bang for the buck with its big range zoom the 70-300 on an A7 series body will always yield much nicer image quality results.

This is a great lens to add to the Sony E mount collection and Sony now has 20 lenses available for the A7 series (though I think Sony is counting the two teleconverters), all native (that is not including lenses like the Zeiss Batis range or Loxia range or other third-party options) so the Sony glass collection for these cameras has grown massively in just 2-3 years. I remember when everyone would complain about the lack of Sony lenses, which was warranted as in the beginning we only had 2-3 lenses. Now we have a ton to choose from, so life is good for Sony A7 and 600 series shooters and getting better every few months it seems.

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From my limited use of the new 70-300 G lens (maybe about 30 minutes) I found it to offer great build, feel, nice balance on an A7RII and the IQ was and is beautiful. No softness or focus issues from what I have seen. I feel this will be a very attractive lens to those looking for something in this focal length range, and it sure beats the hell out of my old Canon 70-300 DO (which now sells for $1400 these days).

YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THE NEW SONY 70-300 AT B&H PHOTO HERE. It will start shipping early May. 

Mar 302016
 

FIRSTLOOK

HANDS ON: Sony RX10 III. Some Samples & Thoughts

YOU CAN PURCHASE THE RX10III AT AMAZON OR B&H PHOTO

So yesterday myself and 20 other members of the digital imaging media world (DP Review, Imaging Resource, Popular Photography and others) met up with Sony in San Francisco for a very cool meeting where we learned of some of Sony’s future plans in the world of cameras, televisions,  and even some other innovations. We were able to check out the new Sony camera gear as well and we all had a chance to use the new camera and lenses for a few hours. Yep, the all new RX10 III and the $249 50 1.8 as well as the new 70-300 G lens. Both lenses for full frame FE mount.

I also posted a live stream video to my Facebook showing off the new gear (you can see that here) but that was before I gave the RX10 III and the new 70-300 G and 50 1.8 a try. I’ve never been a HUGE HUGE fan of the RX10 series but now that the Mark III has this new amazingly versatile Zeiss lens – yep a 24-600mm (but the kicker is you can shoot at f/4 at 600mm, and f/2.4 at the wider end) and at 600mm you can easily handhold if you have decent light due to the optical steady shot inside which offers up to 4.5 stops.

The RX10III is full of all kinds of tech. From the standard expected things like the 1″ imaging sensor from the RX100 MKIV to the swivel LCD screen to the manual controls. It’s quick and responsive and quiet as well thanks to its electronic shutter capable of 1/32,000 S. In addition to this the RX10 III has killer 4K video capabilities, in fact, Sony is saying it will put out the best 4K video of any camera as it captures in 6K and then down samples to 4 for less moire and sharper details. The RX10III has this very impressive zoom lens that is the most versatile I have ever seen. A 24-600mm equivalent, and yes, at 600mm it is sharp and looks simply amazing.

An OOC JPEG at 600mm…handheld..click it for larger

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The RX10 III opens up so many possibilities and it can do all of this wonderful stuff, like offer a 600mm equivalent lens thanks to the 1″ sensor. These days, 1″ sensors are VERY good. They have snap, pop, and the only weakness is for those who love shallow DOF, or massive Bokeh. This will never give you the DOF options of a full frame camera, but other than that, this camera ROCKS.

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CLICK ON ALL IMAGES FOR BETTER VERSIONS

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The RX10 Mark III also has some snazzy video features such as super slow motion capabilities that offer up to a 960 FPS capture. Of course, super slow motion is not available in 4K. But this slow motion is fantastic and used to only be seen in uber expensive video cameras. The RX10 MKIII has many strengths. In fact, some would say this could be the perfect all around one camera solution for serious amateurs, enthusiasts and pros.

Out of camera JPEGS from the RX1R III, click them for larger!

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While it offers a ton of great things, it’s not perfect. I found that cameras using these 1″ sensors will never have the Dynamic Range of the larger sensor cameras. Makes sense right? If shooting in harsh sun, it can be tricky to avoid blowing highlights and they are not recoverable if blown too much. This portrait below looks a tad harsh in the highlights to me…on her face and chest. I should have dialed back the EV comp to avoid this, and I could have, but I thought I was exposed correctly. So while this is not an issue, you do need to take a little caution with these 1″ sensor cameras in these kinds of bright direct lighting.

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Dynamic Range is not up to par with larger sensor cameras but still excellent for a 1″ sensor. Below is a shot with the RX10III in direct sunlight, the RX10III burned some highlights..but it could have been avoided if I dialed in some EV comp.

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In comparison, the A7RII with the new $249 50 1.8 had no DR issues, as is to be expected from a $3000+ camera.. The new 50 1.8 at $249 is a fantastic buy..and the A7RII is a DR monster.. (my full review here) No tweaks here, just the OOC rendering. 

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The power of the zoom. 

Take a look at what 24mm looks like, and then 600mm. This is the range of the f/2.4-f/4 Zeiss Zoom on the RX10 III..

1st, 24mm

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Same position at 600mm..

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With 600mm, you have a TON of reach.

So while I enjoyed the new Sony RX10III quite a bit, I also really enjoy the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 lenses. I will have a 1st look report on those later today or tomorrow morning. I can say for now though that the RX10III is the best of the RX10 series to date. No question. With the new stunning lens capabilities, the slightly refreshed body (better grip), the impressive 4K video options, the optical steady shot inside, the super slow motion, EVF and loads of other goodies in this camera it will be well with the $1500 cost to many who are itching for a superzoom of super quality. It comes in at a couple hundred more than the Mark II (which is staying in the Sony lineup) and well worth it IMO.

Even I am considering buying this one as I could use it for video (of which I do a ton of outside of this page), and all kinds of amazing things. Having a 600mm reach on hand, in this size, is pretty incredible and this would be the main reason I would consider it myself. It’s a powerful camera, no question.

Look for more on the RX10III soon. You can pre-order the RX10III at  B&H using the link below STARTING TOMORROW. It will be shipping in May, next month!

Pre Order the RX10 III at B&H HERE AT B&H PHOTO

A few more from the RX10 III. Enjoy! ALL are out of camera JPEGS

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Feb 152016
 

A Quick 1st look at the Lomography Jupiter 3+ Re-Issue Lens!

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So yesterday I received a package from CameraQuest.com that had the new Lomography Jupiter 3+ Lens inside. THIS EXCITED ME as I have a thing for the old Russian Jupiter lenses. The big let down with them though has been finding a good one. They are all old, many 60+ years old, many have been abused, dropped, mistreated and these days, when you find an original Jupiter 3 50mm f/1.5 it is not in very good shape. I went through several and found one a while ago that did quite well on a Leica M or on my Sony A7 cameras. It was beat up, dented and felt VERY light, almost plastic like..but it worked. It gave me LOW washed out contrast, softness and crazy Bokeh. But at times it gave me nice looking classic results.

The Jupiter 3+ wide open at f/1.5 on the Sony A7RII. Soft corners are a character of this lens, the sharpness is more towards the center. This is not a lens for landscape bit is more preferred for portraits and objects IMO. Notice though that the color and contrast is much better than the old original. 

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Wide open again…

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The crazy Bokeh of the Jupiter…

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Many want to try these lenses and many have, and been turned off by the bad samples. Many have amazing samples that they acquired for $50 and love the lens. But now Lomo is here with their new current production Jupiter 3+, made in Russia with great QC and the finished product is gorgeous to look at. It has a heft to it my previous old Jupiter did not have. It’s also sharper, gives bolder color results and has the same crazy bokeh that many hate.

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Lomography has packaged this lens in an amazing way. The box is lovely showing off an image taken with the Jupiter 3+, and they include a nice thick booklet inside with information and history on the original Jupiter 3 as well as talking about their new production version. Loaded with photos taken with the lens, it is a lovely little book to read and go through. They also include a Leica Screw Mount to M adapter inside (which is super thin and adds NO size to the lens at all) as the lens is made like the original, in the old Screw Mount. Why make it screw mount? Well, it is a replica of the original, so why not? The adapter is MEGA THIN, and is not noticeable when on the lens. When on, it appears like a standard M lens mount. I am just happy they threw it in!

Below is my 1st look video on the Jupiter 3+ from Lomography, take a look:

Now of course, with this new version we can never expect it to cost $50 or $100. Nope, this is a NEW current run of this lens, made in Russia just like the old originals. QC is in place and there have been some improvements which is why it has a + next to the name. Lomography has launched this lens at $649, which is quite lofty for a Jupiter but I look at it this way…buying a NEW lens will get you the NEW Lens. No worries about focus, no worries about construction quality or haze or fog or fungus. This new version is heftier, made better, feels awesome in my hand and the results are just what one would expect..creamy, dreamy but with better color and contrast (and sharpness at the focus point) than the original.

Sure, one can go find an old one for $80-$120 but you are indeed taking a gamble. With new, there is no gamble. This new version is $649, so not cheap, but worth it to anyone who love the Jupiters for their rendering (instead of cheap price). This is not your grandfathers Jupiter! It is indeed slightly better all the way around, comes with a nice metal lens cap, the M adapter and is ready to roll on your RF or EVF camera. Yes, $649 is steep for this lens, but it’s sort of a classic and well liked by many, hated by some and many just avoided it due to the issues of the old lenses circulating.

All Wide Open at f/1.5 on the new Production Jupiter 3+

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So enjoy this 1st look. I will have a longer review coming soon. I’m digging it so far, but it’s a jupiter..an art lens more so than an everyday lens. So expect some crazy rendering, much like the Lomo 85 Petzval Art Lens, reviewed HERE. 

For those with the itch already…This lens is available NOW at CameraQuest.com

Feb 032016
 

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Samples from the new Sony 85 1.4 GM and 24-70 2.8 GM lenses!

As posted earlier, Sony held an event today to announce and show off their new uber high-end lenses for the Sony FE (A7)  cameras. These are all no compromise lenses that are the best Sony has ever created, and the price reflect this. They are not cheap, but I think the 85 1.4 will be an amazing lens and huge seller. That is a perfect portrait lens for the A7 series, even though it is larger, it has a no compromise quality according to Sony. I had Amy Medina in NY today to check out the lenses and the new A6300 but for now I wanted to share a few images she shot with the new 85 1.4 GM and the 24-70 f/2.8 GM lens:

All are shot with the Sony A7RII and the new 85 1.4 GM, all images by Amy Medina

CLICK THEM TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY! JPEGS…

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And one from the new 24-70 f/2.8 GM…

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So far these two lenses are looking mighty nice. I will of course be reviewing them IN FULL VERY SOON.

To pre-order these new lenses, see the links below:

Sony 24-70 2.8 GM – B&H Photo

Sony 85 1.4 GM – B&H Photo 

Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM – B&H Photo

Nov 182015
 

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The Sony RX1RII 1st Look. Beautiful.

NOTE: This is not my review, just a 1st look. My full review will be in 2-3 weeks and no, the title shot above is not banding. It is window blinds :)

Wow. So I have had this new Sony RX1RII for only three full days and it is just as magical as the Mark I but with faster AF, a unique beautiful pop up EVF (that bests the A7RII’s EVF) and the new A7RII Sensor giving us 42MP of full frame power that will fit in a coat pocket. The RX1RII is SMALL, just as the original was and this is good as it is discreet, and thin and so easy to take anywhere. It’s about the size of an Olympus E-M10 but packs a 35mm f/2 lens inside with that full frame sensor (perfectly matched btw), powerful EVF and even an adjustable low pass filter. Yep, with the MKII you can turn on your low pass filter or turn it off and even set sensitivity so it defeats the purpose for the non R version as both are now in one! Pretty cool. Having a Moire issue? Turn it on. Want maximum detail? Turn it off. Easy and Brilliant.

See my old RX1 Mark 1 review – My Camera of the year for 2012!

The new MkII has the same body and lens as the original but now with Sony’s current best sensor that now resides in their top of the line full frame A7RII. Superb high ISO, superb dynamic range, a beautiful EVF that slides up so nicely when needed (and we do not have to pull it out as we do with the RX100 IV) and one of the best 35mm lenses ever made (that bests the Leica summicron yet the RX1RII camera costs the same as just a Leica 35 summicron), the RX1RII is here to take on the Leica Q for king of the fixed lens full framers. It has been three years since the original RX1, so I am happy to see the new model arrive.

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I love the original RX1 and RX1R. I love the Leica Q. For me, the Q surpassed the Sony RX1R (1st version) due to the EVF and speedy AF as well as the gorgeous IQ of the Q. So how will the new Sony RX1RII stack up to the Q? In my full review that will come within 3 weeks, I hope to find out as I will shoot them side by side. My early gut feeling tells me the Sony may edge out the Leica Q, and at around $1000 less. The Sony is smaller, feels heftier, has a gorgeous 35mm Zeiss lens, a swivel LCD, very nice EVF, superior low light capability, and that massive sensor from the A7RII inside. It also shoots video but Sony says the RX1RII is more of a Photographers Camera than a video camera, so do not expect A7RII or SII video quality here, it will not beat them. But for photos, it can indeed surpass the quality of even the A7RII.

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The RX1R II is meant for the streets, everyday life, portraits, still life, and even some close-ups with the macro mode of the lens. It’s for the photographer on the move who doest want to worry “what lenses shall I bring”. The RX1RII says “Get in close” and “Zoom with your feet” and using it is quite the joyful experience.

In my early shooting tests I am LOVING the image quality, ease of use, joy of use and the faster AF which I would say is about 30-35% faster (Sony says 30%) than the original RX1 and RX1R. It’s a noticeable improvement for sure. But the files from the RX1RII can and will beat an A7RII with 35mm lens attached (so says Sony and ME) as the lens of the RX1RII is matched perfectly with the sensor, so it was tweaked for amazing output. The files are sharp corner to corner, and it is quite amazing how well this lens and sensor work together. Sony showed me some large prints with perfect sharpness across the entire frame.

I am shooting this camera daily right now and will have the review up in December (which is soon). For now, enjoy some snapshots I took during my 1st 24 hours with the RX1RII…nothing serious just yet but this camera builds on the now cult status original and improves it in all the areas we wanted it to be improved. AF, EVF, and even Sensor. Oh, it also now has continuous tracking AF (will test this in my full review) and it is accessible from the front dial with the other focus modes.

The RX1R II next to the Leica M (Top) and OM-D E-M10 II (Bottom) – Smaller than both.

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With all of these amazing new cameras hitting (Leica SL, Leica Q, Sony A7RII, SII and RX1RII, Olympus E-M10 II)..not sure which one is going to make my “Camera of the Year” for 2015 just yet!

You must click the image for a larger and MIUCH better view and rendering! All are OOC JPEGS! This camera is incredible as nothing out there can touch it for size..hard to believe this packs a 42MP full frame punch in the size of an E-M10 II with a nice solid build. Wow. 

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY! IF YOU DO NOT, YOU ARE NOT SEEING THEM AS THEY SHOULD BE SEEN.

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You can order the new Sony RX1R Mark II At B&H Photo or Amazon at the direct links below. Starts shipping November 25th! It’s not cheap but quality never is. 

B&H Photo

Amazon

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