Apr 282016
 

Hi Steve!

I’ve been looking at your site and thinking about replacing my Canon gear with a mirrorless setup. Great info and resource you have put together.

I took the enclosed picture in the Bahamas on Harbour Island. I just love the peaceful feeling that I think the image portrays, hope you do too. I showed the image to a friend that also follows your site, and he suggested I submit it to you. Thanks for looking.

Bob Kirschke

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Feb 182016
 
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The Pursuit of Perfection featuring the Leica M

by Joey Zheng

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Before I start, I wanted to give Steve my deepest thanks for allowing me to write this article for his website and community. I also wanted to let you, the reader, know that this isn’t really too much of a “gear review” as it is a summary of the experiences I had when I first forayed into photography as a child years ago.

It was December 23, otherwise known as Christmas Eve eve. My feet slap against the rain-soaked steps as I slowly follow a throng of people trying to get home after a hard day’s work. A huge raindrop somehow dodges my glasses and hits me square in the eyeball. As I climb out of the packed subway station, the sounds of thousands of tons of echoing, grinding steel gives way to the clamorous battle between the roar of vehicles and the staccato of raindrops hitting the hard, weathered concrete. I pull my hood over my head as I push through on my way home. It’s a miserable day and the fact that water began soaking through my supposedly weather-proof jacket wasn’t helping; yet I couldn’t help but feel happy. And when I finally reached the steps that led to my home, I broke into a massive smile. There, sitting in front of my front door, was a medium-sized brown box (to my slight chagrin, it was slightly wet. Curses, UPS). I took it upstairs, set it on the table, and stared at it for what seemed like an hour before gingerly revealing the contents within.

Okay, that didn’t actually happen. Or rather, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic. I briskly walked home through light drizzle, bolted up the stairs haphazardly after grabbing the box and tore into it with as much energy as someone who’d been on a six-week juice cleanse giving into their desires.

Finally; after almost seven long years of dreaming, I held a pristine Leica M-P typ240 in my hands. Before you could say “Noctilux” I slapped on a lens, threw in the battery, and flicked the switch. The battery had almost no charge and the camera shut itself off to protect it. Rats.

So, after unpacking the rest of the sublime Leica packaging, I began the excruciating wait for the charger to juice up my battery so I can experience my first very own Leica system. While I waited, I spent quite a while thinking about the past seven years and all the experiences and adventures I photographed.

Leica MP typ240, Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 FLE

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Leica MP typ240, Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 FLE

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I can still remember the days in my childhood when I took the family camera (an Olympus C740 Ultra Zoom) out to my backyard and spent hours shooting pictures of flowers in all its 3 megapixel glory (my phone has a higher resolution than that!). Of course, since I was only 10, I didn’t think about resolution, MTF charts, chromatic aberration, or anything like that. All I cared about was if the picture looked cool on that tiny 1.5” screen.

As I grew up and got accepted to take part of my high school’s yearbook team (using that old Olympus, somehow), I decided to graduate to my first dSLR, a Canon Rebel XSi with a kit lens. It was like entering a whole new world of photographic potential; I didn’t have to rely on slow, imprecise, and loud zoom and focus motors, had more resolution (or so I thought at first) to play with, and the lightning-fast operation that dSLRs are known for. I was indeed excited, as my first photo proves:

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Ouch. I didn’t know what an AF switch was. I had a long ways to go (still do).

As the honeymoon period started to wane, I began to…ahem…pixel peep. Through yearbook, I was exposed to quite a wide variety of equipment; particularly lenses. There was one lens in particular that I was particularly obsessed about (as well as all the other yearbook photographers on the team), and thus began my gear lust. I started devouring every article across the world wide web about the best lenses, camera bodies, and equipment available. I became inundated with MTF charts, resolution graphs, and all this technical jargon. I couldn’t afford 99% of the gear I saw, but yet I dreamed. Oh yes I dreamed. Don’t even get me started about how shocked I was when I first discovered Leica and the uber-expensive Leica M9 at the time. Oh how naïve I must have been.

Images from Abu Dhabi – Canon AE-1 Program, Canon 50mm f/1.4, Ilford HP5

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Canon AE-1 Program, Canon 50mm f/1.4, Ilford HP5

Canon AE 2

Canon AE-1 Program, Canon 50mm f/1.4, Ilford HP5

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Canon AE-1 Program, Canon 50mm f/1.4, Ilford HP5

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The next few years I kept trading around my kit, at least when my financial situation allowed me to do so. I always kept searching for the perfect system and became disheartened when my expectations weren’t met when things were blown to 100%. I spent hours watching DigitalRev and their wacky (and sometimes informative) adventures throughout Hong Kong with a variety of gear I dreamed about. But the problem was I was never really satisfied with what I was getting. And the thing is, no matter how I shuffled around my gear, my photography didn’t really improve all that much.

Fashion Week – Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 85mm f/1.4

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But it wasn’t just self-criticism that I faced during those early stages of my photographic history. Other people weren’t exactly the most supportive either. As I became even more interested in photography, I started taking official classes in school and looked at going to New York to study photography as a major in college. I asked around for advice and comments from my teachers and peers about my work. Let’s just say the two remarks vying for most comment feedback received were “Ew. I look gross. Please delete.” And “Why?”. When I showed my teacher my portfolio for my application to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the only comment she could muster was “These aren’t strong enough. You have to work harder.” Basically, I was on my own.

Images from China – Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 85mm f/1.4

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Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 85mm f/1.4

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Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 85mm f/1.4

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Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 85mm f/1.4

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Fast forward a few years and I find myself living it up in the Big Apple. Yes, despite all the negative feedback about my work, I somehow got accepted in the Photography and Imaging department at Tisch. I still consider it 85% luck that I got in, or because I’m Asian and they wanted diversity, or something. Either way, I found myself with a plethora of interesting subjects to photograph. I was finally out of the sleepy, vanilla suburb I grew up in and thrown headfirst into the chaos that is New York. But I didn’t photograph much. I lost my passion for it, and my camera sat on my shelf, gathering dust.
I glance at the charger. Still halfway to go.

I thought about why I stopped taking photos. Quite simply, I realized that I hated ‘studying’ photography. I wasn’t particularly inspired by my classes, or fit in with my peers too much. I didn’t like being sent on assignments with a particular goal in mind. My classes simply weren’t fulfilling my creative side; in fact, it only served to dull the spark.

I was obviously at a crossroads; my choice of becoming a professional photographer for a ‘career’ became my only hurdle. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life creating images for other people. I wanted to take photographs for myself. I wanted to experience photography. I wanted take photos of whatever I thought was fascinating. And if people liked my work, great. If they didn’t; great. The point is, it didn’t matter to me anymore.

Nagasaki, Japan – Fuji X100T

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Two kids playing just meters from the nuclear bomb epicenter, Nagasaki, Japan – Fuji X-E2, Fuji 35mm f/1.4R

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Osaka, japan – Fuji X-E2, Fuji 35mm f/1.4R

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On the train in NYC — Fuji X-E2, Fuji 35mm f/1.4R

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Long story short (even though I’m probably already boring you with my blathering; kudos and cookies for those who have made it this far), I dropped out of school, found film, and I’ve somehow been sustaining myself for the past few years. And the best part is, I’ve rediscovered my passion for photography; except this time, I feel it’s purer. I’m no longer plagued by thoughts of “Oh, this isn’t sharp enough. Trash bin.” Or “If I had this lens, my photographs would be so much better.”
Though the gear lust is still kicking around my noggin somewhere (Noctilux or APO Summicron anyone?), I barely think about it. You can say that yes; I have a Leica…I spent mucho dinero for quality. And in a sense, you are right. But the Leica didn’t become the object of my desires because of its prestige or technical quality. After all, there are cameras out there that have even sharper sensors and a bevy of incredible technologies. I chose Leica because of its simplicity. It’s the most ideal camera for me. I don’t seek to capture the moment perfectly; I simply seek to capture the perfect moment. Like many others have said, the Leica experience is just…so pure. Nothing gets between me and my subject, save for my own skills.

Leica MP typ-240, Voigtlander 50mm Nokton f/1.5

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Leica MP typ-240, Voigtlander 50mm Nokton f/1.5

Express permission from Joey Wang required to use.

But that could be said about any camera, really. The old adage of “it’s not the camera but the person behind it” stands true. Before the Leica, I’ve shot with a variety of digital and film cameras, and some of my favorite images come from cameras that can be purchased from eBay for less than a few hundred dollars. All that matters is the image; just like the time I spent in my backyard fiddling around with the flowers.

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Although it has been less than a couple of weeks with my Leica, I am no less impressed with this machine. Shooting is an absolute joy, although I don’t have the chance to really put the camera through its paces, at least just yet. Almost all the photos from the Leica you see in this post are pictures that I took to and from work that have been zone focused with manual everything. In the future, who knows. All I know right now is that I want to continue to learn and grow as an (amateur) photographer. It’s an endless pursuit, but I plan to enjoy every moment of it, and I hope that everyone reading this does as well; no matter what camera you have, just go out and shoot. Photography is a beautiful thing.

The rest of the images.. all shot with Leica and Voigtlander 50mm

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Once again, I thank you so much for this opportunity.

Best,
Joey

Feb 092016
 

Pro’s moving to Mirrorless? Yes they are!

By Craig Roberts

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Are pro’s moving to mirrorless cameras as well as amateurs and enthusiasts? Yes, they are. Is the quality good enough? Yes, it is. Can you still sell the images easily? Yes, you can. Are the images accepted by photo libraries? Yes, they are.

I made the move to mirrorless cameras a couple of years ago and use them for travel and landscape photography. I had intended to invest in the Fuji system with the XE-1, but trying both this and the Olympus E-M5 MK1 at a trade show, in my hands there was no question which felt best and I bought an E-M5 the next day.

The E-M5 has since made way for the E-M1, whilst a faulty E-PL5 was replaced with an E-P5. It’s a great combination of cameras and I have a great set of primes and zooms in the OMD system to cover all eventualities. I don’t like talking gear that much. To me it’s all about the image. The camera is just a tool and whether you choose Olympus, Fuji, Sony or Canon or Nikon for that matter, makes no difference to the end result. It’s the picture that’s important in the end, not what was used to create it.

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That said, mirrorless cameras have some great advantages over their digital SLR cousins and whilst they aren’t perfect, each of the Fuji, Sony and Olympus models have their plus and minus points.
The OMD system works for me as a landscape photographer. It suits me, the cameras feel good in my hands and the system matches my way of shooting and produces fantastic results. If I had chosen the Fuji or Sony instead, I’m sure I would have written the same sentence about them for this feature.

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I started off buying the selection of primes for the cameras, because I felt the small and compact size of the lenses, especially the Olympus ones, suited the smaller and more compact camera bodies. I love working with prime lenses and I like the discipline they force upon you. They make you consider your viewpoints more. They force you to see the world through their focal length and encourage you to put more thought into whether you should stick with that focal length or swop to another, much more than there would be with a zoom lens. Of course, they are smaller, generally faster and sharper than zoom lenses and everyone should have at least one fixed prime lens in their arsenal to appreciate the limited vision that they offer, which is a bonus, rather than a hindrance.

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I do have some zooms and they are useful for certain situations and subjects. There are times when changing lenses all the time is not convenient and so this is where zooms come into their own. Having spent the last 20 years shooting landscapes, I now, like many others, pass on my knowledge though workshops etc. In this changing world of photography, it has often become the way for landscape photographers to earn money from their profession. There’s not many photographers shooting and selling landscape images without using teaching as a way to top up their income.

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I use many was of teaching. Through location-based workshops, online courses, text-based articles and more recently through video. This last medium is an exciting one and a way of teaching that the others can’t match. I have a YouTube channel and I also a subscription service run from my website called e6, which offers even more videos and content. I teach about landscape photography and to a certain extent, the advantages of shooting with mirrorless cameras. I will rave about the Olympus system, but appreciate the choices others have made too. They all have their place and as I said at the beginning, the camera is merely a tool for an artist to use (we photographers are artists aren’t we?!)

I love photography and I love shooting with mirrorless cameras, just as I did with my Canon SLR and my Mamiya medium format camera before that come to think of it. I need a camera that suits my needs as a professional photographer. The Olympus does that in bucket loads and I’m happy to use these new breed of cameras as a workhorse for my work.

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So, the images in this feature were all captured with Olympus cameras. They make fantastic landscape cameras, yet are equally perfect for street photography too. I’m capturing images that I probably never would have with my Canon SLR and they have made me a more creative photographer. They are part of my evolution as a photographer. Why? Because of their size, their design and their flexibility. Yes, they are just a tool, but if you have great tools to work with, your progress isn’t hindered.

My YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/channel/UCqRkV8eRVvxwVStV5May0rQ

My website:
www.craigrobertsphotography.co.uk

Feb 022016
 
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A Professional Wedding Photographer’s Perspective on Switching to Sony Mirrorless


by Peter Georges

Excluding short interludes with cameras from Nikon, Fuji and Leica most of my photography life has been centered on Canon DSLRs.

Although it functioned as my workhorse system, I was never completely satisfied with what was on offer from Canon. Issues of sensor technology aside, DSLRs have issues pertaining to focus accuracy once higher megapixels are involved. Issues relating to mirror slap and the lack of image stabilization on prime lenses also become difficult to deal with as the megapixel count rises. As I would later learn, there are other advantages mirrorless systems offer that make it difficult to go back to a DSLR camera.

Read on to find out why I made the switch to Sony Mirrorless, why DSLRs are history for my style of photography and what I think remains to be done to completely seal the deal.

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The Early Steps

Initially it was the Sony A7s that drew me in. Sony became professionally acceptable for video use well before photography. It makes sense doesn’t it? Autofocus does not factor into the equation very much allowing an easy jump into a new camera body while adapting your existing Canon EF lenses with ease.

It stoked my curiosity with regard to the viability of the A7 system for professional photography. I picked up a Sony A7II and the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Lens and after some heavy testing went in to my next wedding with that combo. A Canon 5d Mark III kit was available as backup and tele reach. It worked! Almost…

A7II + 5d Mark III wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/jonathan-monica

Although I delivered some of my best images, the Canon had to come out more often than I’d have liked. Unfortunately the A7II wasn’t completely ready. Poor tracking, no continuous autofocus when using eye detect and poor low light autofocus meant the 5d Mark III had to be used for the bridal entrances and for almost the entirety of the reception. Although the A7s was better at picking up focus in low light conditions, the lack of phase detection meant it was simply too slow to capture people in motion.

A7RII

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The Camera That Changed Everything

Then – almost as if to immediately curb my disappointment in the autofocus performance – the Sony A7rII was announced and I picked up mine on the day of release.

All of a sudden I could use continuous eye detect focus (a revolution in itself), focus in low light and track subjects coming toward me with ease.

A problem with mirrorless cameras is the lack of support for firing IR flash beams to achieve low light autofocus. I believe it’s to do with the autofocus points being on sensor which is behind an IR filter. They need to be many stops better in low light conditions compared to a DSLR to compete. The advantage they do have however – unlike DSLRs – is that the autofocus operates based on the aperture of your lens rather than a fraction of the light being passed by the mirror to a separate autofocus sensor. In all my experiences so far the A7rII with a 35mm f1.4 can achieve focus even in extremely dark club environments.

As high megapixel DSLRs make the job of producing sharp images more and more difficult, the A7rII has the perfect storm of technologies that make it easier than ever:

Image Stabilization which is applied to all lenses including f1.4 primes
• The traditional mirrorless strength of accurate focusing, without the need for per-lens focus tuning
• The lack of mirror slap
• The lack of shutter vibration thanks to an electronic first curtain shutter
• Continuous eye detect autofocus, since getting critical focus on the eye is always key

Add that with a WYSIWYG view on your exposure and it means a staggeringly high hit rate. Allowing you to focus on making great artwork rather than managing the technical aspects of photography.

I happily said good bye to chimping.



Full Sony mirrorless wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/ryan-georgie

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I can’t say enough about the joys of having a tilt screen with the same focus capability as the EVF. It has been a mini-revolution. I rarely hold the camera up to my eye and thanks to IBIS I don’t receive a penalty for the slight loss of stabilization. This has allowed me to experiment with creative angles so much quicker than having to move my whole body into position. Once again it is a culmination of features which makes it impossible to go back to a DSLR.

Current Limitations and the Future

It will only take one or two more generations at the rate Sony is going to completely close the gap on the remaining DSLR advantages: speed, durability and native lens selection. There is no technological reason at all why it won’t happen – and quicker than many expect. Mirrorless cameras have the potential to do everything a DSLR can do. The reverse is not true.

Speed is the key. With faster and faster sensor read outs and more advanced onboard image processing the disadvantages of mirrorless melt away.

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I do have some issues with the current implementation however, so to Sony I say:

• Give us dual SD slots throughout your A7 model range! This is absolutely critical especially if you want to capture the wedding market. Don’t leave this to the mythical A9, put it in the A7iii. This should be a standard and not a way to get people to buy a camera with features they don’t need. At the moment I’m forced to back up my images multiple times throughout the day because SD cards can and will fail.
• Work out a nice solution for moving the focus point. There are situations where there are no eyes to detect and a simple joystick would do wonders. The current system is an ergonomic nightmare.
• Consider releasing larger and more durable models with better battery life.

As for Canon and Nikon? I predict they will eventually strip the mirror box from future generation 5d’s and D810’s while retaining fast autofocus with EF and F mount lenses. They would be absolutely crazy to get rid of their lens advantage. They won’t have the smallest or lightest cameras, but they will be smaller and lighter than they currently are. More importantly, not a single one of my reasons for moving to mirrorless was size or weight.

I’d like to thank Steve for letting me contribute to the site.

Peter Georges

http://www.petergeorges.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/petergeorgesphotography

Nov 242015
 
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From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

by Ben Jacobsen – See more: http://www.benjacobsenphoto.com/ and his flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/benjacobsen

 

The Sony switch… As most of you know I’m a long time canon shooter that made the mirrorless switch to fuji last year. The majority of my photography business is based around shooting architecture with a UWA zoom. My switch to fuji happened as soon as their 10-24mm was available (as well as their XT1 promising fast AF). I shot with a complete fuji setup last year for weddings, architecture and landscape work as well as for my personal images. While I was happy with my switch away from canon (I wasn’t using my DSLR for anything but paid work because of it’s size) I wasn’t quite happy with the AF speed and files quality I was getting. They were good enough but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Then last year at photo expo in NYC I stumbled into the Sony booth and saw their brand new 16-35mm f/4. This lens paired with an a7r was practically the same size as my XT1 and 10-24mm but it had a full frame 36mp sensor… Then I walked over to their dark room focus torture test and saw how well the a7s could focus in ridiculously low light and I was sold…

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I got home and ordered an a7 thinking it’d be the best all around camera for me. I’d been more than happy with my 5DIII’s 24mp so it seemed like the best compromise with better AF over the a7r and more resolution than the a7s. When it arrived I noticed a flaw in the sensor and AA filter design that caused it to have what I call “green ghost flares” where the flare from a light source gets this very weird green flare. This is NOT lens flare and it is a huge issue for me with architectural images. So I tried the a7r next… and LOVED it’s sensor (and w/o an AA filter the green flare was gone) but it’s AF was far too slow to shoot people with for me. Next was the a7s which was great, crazy high ISOs, good enough AF and no ghost flares. But before a week was up with it the a7II was announced and I was hoping they’d fixed the green/ghost flare issue so I preordered it and waited… It came and is/was a GREAT camera. Middle of the road MP, great DR, good enough ISOs, and the best AF to date (the a7rii beats it but came out later). The reworked sensor and AA filter fixed the ghost flare issue. I was happy. Then the a7rII was announced and I knew that the combination of the best AF in the series in combination with the best sensor would be the best fit for me. Not only does the a7rII have the most MP but somehow it’s ISOs are cleaner up high -vs- the a7II. I’ve had it since August 6th (3 months, 7,517 shots taken) and I’m here to share my thoughts!

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That Sensor!

Let me start off by saying that I’m thrilled with the sensor in the a7rII and it’s AF has done nothing but impress me so far! While I’ve always said I don’t need more resolution -vs- what my canon or fuji have provided in the past, it does make for some GORGEOUS prints! I have a 32″x48″ canvas from the a7rII in my house and the added detail is noticeable if you look for it. You also get dynamic range that the canon couldn’t dream of touching and it’s ahead of the fuji as well. I’ve had some architectural shoots where I’ve bracketed a shot thinking I’d need to HDR it and in post I can +99 the shadows and blacks of the shot with the best detail in the highlights and get basically the same look! Sure there’s some noise in the shadows when you do this but it’s just insane as a former canon shooter that you can do this without seeing crazy patterned noise. Now the ISOs are also very good. I shoot up to 12,800 without a concern. There’s luminance noise at that point and you lose some of the pop from the colors but there’s zero chroma noise at all! On top of all that without an AA filter there’s no green or ghost flare issues with the a7rII.

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Now this can’t be a proper a7rII review without at least mentioning compression of the raw files! Personally I haven’t had a problem with the 14-bit compressed files we’ve had since the beginning. I know you have to shoot with the camera in single shot mode, no bulb, no long exposure noise reduction and no high ISO noise reduction to get true 14-bit files. This is how I shoot my landscapes. Sony has now released an uncompressed option that’s basically putting the 14-bits into a 16-bit file which means the files go from ~45mb to ~90mb… It’s up to you if you need it. I’m using 14-bit compressed for landscape and architectural work and then 12-bit for weddings. I don’t need the extra depth there and the files are smaller and faster to process in 12. I use either silent shooting mode or either L or H FPS modes to “force” the camera into 12-bit mode as needed.

Auto Focus

The auto focus on the a7rII is amazing. I know a lot of guys will say that it can’t keep up with a pro series DSLR but at this point it really makes me wonder. I’m not saying it’ll track a subject that’s moving quickly at 11fps because the body can only shoot 5fps. What I am saying is that in just about any light I’ve had very little problems with the AF with this camera and I’m coming home with much fewer out of focus shots. Even -vs- my old 5DIII! I remember shooting wedding receptions with my 5DIII (once we’d given up on ambient light and gone all flash) where I’d switch to my 16-35mm 2.8 only because it focused a lot quicker in low light -vs- my primes. With the sony I can shoot with my 25mm f/2, 55mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 and they all lock on and stay locked on during low light reception shots with little to no lag at all. I’ve been VERY impressed! I’m coming home from weddings with hardly any shots that are out of focus. I’m talking less than 5% (and some of that can be blamed on me pressing the shutter before it locked).

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That’s not to say it’s perfect though. Sony has added so many bells and whistles to it’s AF system it can be very confusing at first. Face detect, eye AF, center lock on AF, expandable flexible spot, the list goes on and on! While it’s taken a little getting used to and some manual reading (yes, I admit it) and I STILL don’t know all the functions of this AF system, I will say it works really well. The other odd thing I’ve noticed is out of focus shots when shooting architecture. With my canon and fuji setups I would manually focus the first image and basically leave the lens alone for the rest of the shoot and I’d be all set (focused about ~6′ into a scene stopped down to f/16 on full frame). With the sony I’ll AF the first shot and I’ve noticed every once in a while when I go to the next shot the focus will be way off (nothing in focus at all, even at f/16). This happens in both MF modes and AF modes. I’m not sure if I’m bumping the focus ring or if it’s refocusing on something at a bad distance or what. I’ve learned to just ALWAYS use the AF after each new shot to be sure and I’ve been fine since, but it’s worth mentioning…

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Manual Focus

Some of you need to just skip right past this section as you won’t all use manual focus. I manually focus a lot of my landscape and architecture shots. EVFs and LCDs have made this easier in some ways but the “focus by wire” design of the lenses make it much harder at times. If you’re coming from a canikon DSLR your lenses are not drive by wire. You physically move a ring that moves the elements inside the lens to make it focus. This works with the lens on or off a body (without power). With mirrorless cameras they use the camera’s power to move the parts inside the lens. The ring you move is just telling the computer in the camera to move the elements in the lens in a certain direction. It’s a bit slower and harder to get “perfect” vs the old way… I find myself getting really close to just right pretty quickly but then I go back and forth from too far to too close a few times before settling in on “good enough”. Peaking can help in a lot of situations but it can also hurt in others (it won’t work at all for stars). The camera also has a function called “bright monitoring” that basically uses a very slow frame rate so it can gather more light and show you a very dark scene better but it’s very laggy (due to the slow frame rate) which means it’s hard to see your focusing changes because there’s a much longer delay. This function is also only available on the full view (ie you can’t zoom in). I’ve since learned to focus stars accurately you need to turn peaking OFF (yes off), then zoom in on the brightest star in the frame and manually focus until it becomes the smallest point it can. Peaking needs to be off because it works by showing you points with good contrast because those tend to be in focus. Even with peaking set to the minimum it’ll tell you a star is in focus well before it is as well as long after it’s no longer sharp. Simply turning it off and zooming in will get you great results.

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My other complaint with manually focusing on the sony cameras is the information they show on the rear LCD is terrible. You get a gray bar on the back of the screen with head on the left end (for the close end) and a mountain on the right end (for far). There’s then a white bar that moves back and forth as you focus the lens and it tells you the distance you’re focused at. This bar is always the same thickness at all times. It should get wider if you stop down and it should also get wider as you focus further away! They also only tell you the distance you’ve got your lens focused at but they do not tell you the near or far limits of the DOF (and it’s in meters only with no way to change to feet that I’ve found?). If you’re focusing for a landscape image you want the most DOF possible. To get this you want the far end of your DOF at infinity. With sony’s display it’s impossible to know where this is without using a DOF calculator of some sort (app or website) which is a PITA. Colby Brown shared with me that setting the focus distance to the first number displayed that’s less than infinity seems to work pretty well for him (and I agree). If the lenses had a scale on them physically it would help a lot. Zeiss has OLED screens on their lenses that do this. Their display also shows you the near and far limits as well as the distance you’re set to. It’s as simple as focusing until infinity is on the long end and you’re done with one of the batis (I’d kill for them to remake the 16-35mm with sony and remove the OSS and add in the OLED!).

The body

The sony full frame cameras are built “good enough”. They’re strong and solid and great but not quiiiite as solid as my old 5Diii. They’re sealed though as are all their lenses and I’ve certainly had no issues with them. The II version have a much nicer grip on them as well as IBIS or in body stabilization. For a lot of you IBIS is probably a huge deal and crucial. Personally I’m either shooting people where I’m using a shutter speed well over 1/focal length or I’m using a tripod. That’s not to say I’m not a fan, I’ve just been happy with it in my lenses in the past. What really confuses me here is if all three of the current bodies have IBIS why’d they build OSS into a lot of their lenses (my 16-35mm, 24-240mm, and 85mm all have it)? It’s extra optics and cost and weight… I will say however that the fact that the sensor moves makes it a LOT harder or maybe just weirder to clean your sensor. It moves now! The SD door on the a7rii is also nice and firm now. I mention that because they changed it’s orientation on the II versions. The a7/a7s/a7r were rock solid, but the a7ii had a tendency to open on me. The a7rii’s door is a bit more solid now and I’ve yet to have an issue with it.

The viewfinder is bigger and better but it’s still not as nice as fuji’s. I’m a fan of EVFs but sony’s doesn’t have the tricks and display modes that fuji has baked into theirs. Remembering AF points for vertical -vs- horizontal compositions would be great! The eye cup on the a7rII also seems to be better built -vs- the a7II where the rubber liked to pull away from the frame. The tilt out screen is WONDERFUL for architectural and landscape shooters. I’ve gone from preferring the simple slide up/down style sony’s used on the a7 series to wanting one that flips out with a side hinge so it can work for vertical shots as well… One complaint with the EVF/rear LCD is the sensor for the automatic switch is far too sensitive on these cameras. When I’m backed into a corner of a room it’ll see my chest with the sensor and switch to EVF mode even though I’m ~6″+ away from it. I’ve assigned the viewfinder switch to C2 so I can cycle it back to the rear LCD but if the sensitivity was just turned down a bit (to fuji levels) it’d be great.

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The Customization options on this camera are almost perfect. There’s two custom buttons up top near the shutter (I have mine set to the brightness monitor and switching between the EVF, LCD and auto display modes). Then on the back there’s C3 (set to focus magnification), AF/MF (set to switch between AF and MF for me), AEL (hold to AF, release to stop AFing) and the C4 button (eye focus). I’ve got the 4 way buttons set as labeled but down is set to face detect for me. The center button is set to “default” which means pushing it allows me to then move the AF point with the 4-way which is great (and hitting delete short cuts to the center AF point). The reason this setup is NOT perfect is because the list of things you can assign to buttons is limited. You can not for example set the aps-c option to any button in the camera (it can’t even go on the Fn menu). This is something I use quite a bit and would LOVE to have on a button! You also have to OK the options once you hit the button. You should have an option to have them be quick changes where one button press changes the setting if it’s only got 2 options.

Menus

A lot of people like to say that the sony menus are a hot mess. While they’re certainly not as good as they could be I don’t really see them as a mess. I’ll add to this though that I’ve been a sony/NEX user since the very first NEX5… The old NEX menus were terrible… The new tabbed layout is very similar to canon and works quite well. I will say it’s missing a “my menu” option where I can pick a page worth of options for myself and to have that always be the first menu page that comes up when I hit menu. Sony will argue that the Fn menu handles this task but it only allows about half the options from the full menu to be put as options in it (and it’s crucially missing the option for APS-C/super 35 crop to be on or off!!!). I’ll add that I prefer sony’s menus over fujis. You can learn where everything is in either over time but I prefer sony’s. The Fn menu itself should allow you to set ANY function to it’s 12 spots (and I’d personally like an option for 1 2 or 3 rows, you’re locked into 2). Some of the options need some help as well. I have steady shot set to my top left spot so I can turn it off when needed. The next spot over is then the setting for automatic or manual focal length detection (if you’re using non E or FE or adapter A mount lenses you need manual), then the THIRD spot over is for the focal length if using the manual option…. Why all three of these functions couldn’t be part of the same steady shot menu I don’t know (steady shot options: off, on-auto FL, on-manual FL with a list).

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Necessary Accessories

There are always a few accessories that you need to complete your system but there are a few with mirrorless cameras in general and specifically the Sony system that I’d say are must haves. The first on the list would be a great battery charger and plenty of spares. I’ve had a watson dual desk charger since my fuji days and it’s a life saver. Charge a battery that’s close to full in the provided wall charger and it’ll be blinking full almost immediately. Toss it in the watson and it’ll tell you the % it’s at an actually top it off to full power. Before the watson I’d use 6~8 batteries at a wedding with my X-T1. With the watson this has gone down to 4. The sony now uses the same 4 batteries as I’d use with the fuji. The great thing with the watson is that it takes ~$2 plates to change it from a sony to fuji to ricoh to canon charger! Of course put extra batteries in this section as well. I have ~7 sony batteries at last count. I keep 1 in each camera (I also have an a6000) and 4 in my think tank photo battery holder. The dual battery wallet is also nice for family outings.

Second up for me would be grips and plates. When I shoot a wedding I use the neewer (mine says meike on it?) battery grip. I’ve never really been a grip user with DSLRs (I have always preferred smaller lighter cameras). With these mirrorless cameras getting as small as they are and shooting with it all day at a wedding the added grip is great but the fact it doubles the battery capacity is awesome. I have noticed though that my grip will change the aperture setting when in Av w/o me touching it… For this reason I generally leave it’s buttons switched off and I’m considering the $300 sony version… Switching the buttons off isn’t a deal breaker for me though as I’ve never really used a grip much so I’m not used to the second shutter button but the other very strange thing is once you get used to using the EV dial on the body it’s very odd not having it near the second shutter on the grip. Whenever I’m not shooting a wedding specifically I’ve got my neewer L-bracket on the camera. L-brackets have been on all my cameras for years now as it makes switching from a vertical to horizontal composition a snap with my tripod head. I’m using the neewer l-bracket that came in a kit with the grip for $85. It’s $63 for just the battery grip, and $22 for just the l-bracket.

The third accessory I’d call a “must have” if you use flash would be any flash with a “Multi-Interface Shoe”. This is what sony calls their hot shoe with the data connection at the front. The reason this is important is it tells the camera there’s a flash involved. You can use “dumb”/manual flashes without this shoe without an issue (I do with my neewers) but because they don’t have the data connection the camera doesn’t put itself into two crucial modes: Flash WB and “setting effects off” for the live view. The first should be pretty obvious. Without knowing you’re using a flash the camera will be in AWB mode and the flash results won’t be consistent. Yes it’s an easy fix in lightroom by syncing the images and telling LR they all need flash WB but it’s much easier when the camera does this for you. The second and much more important option is that the “setting effect off” means the camera will artificially boost the ISO so you can see through the EVF to compose the shot. If this is left on, when you dial in your flash exposure you’ll be looking at a very dark (black!) viewfinder. With a normal/dumb flash you have to switch this mode on/off every time you mount/remove your flash. But with a “smart” flash with the correct shoe it’s automatic. For me this makes the nissin i40 the obvious choice as it’s TINY! It’s slightly less powerful -vs- the big speedlights but I’ve found with 1/8th power (and 1/4 when needed) it keeps up recycle time wise and I don’t need to boost the ISOs too high.

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If you’re a landscape shooter or the thought of a flash just seems silly to you, then I’ve got a different option for you… Filters! I’ve got a full set of Lee filters I carry in my mindshift filter hive. I’m also using some great new filter adapters from “the filter dude” on amazon. They’re $20 and the same as the wide version of the lee adapters (that cost ~$68) with the exception that the filter dude rings also have a set of threads on the outside of the ring so you can mount a traditional filter to them once they’re on your lens. Let me explain it this way: you’re shooting a waterfall and your panel or 105mm CP gets spray on it as does the front element of your lens. If you’ve got a 77mm CP in your filter hive you can thread it onto the filter guy ring with the ring still on your lens and there won’t be any way from spray to get onto anything but the outside of the round filter! I use this trick all the time shooting waterfalls! Once you’ve got the ring on your lens, don’t bother ever taking it off. Get some of these Lens Coat medium lens caps and use them over your rings. Makes it much easier than dealing with lens caps and threading on a filter ring in the cold dark morning before your coffee has kicked in. For any of you who’ve made it this far into a section about filters, grab some gaffers tape and tape over the logos on the front of your lenses… Those obnoxious white logos will reflect back at your filters and you’ll be able to see the text in the images (bottom right corner in the rocks there’s an orangish semi circle that’s the reflection of the words on the lens)!!!

sensor cleaning supplies… If you’ve ever made the jump from an APS-C body to full frame before you know full frame sensors collect dust at a much faster rate. If you’ve ever made the jump from a DSLR to a mirrorless/EVIL body before you know that EVIL’s have their sensor hanging out in the open when you change lenses… Combine the two and it’s a recipe for dust! I’ve got three things I use to work on the dust issue: 1) Sensor pen and loupe, 2) rocket blower, 3)gel stick. The gel stick is new to me and so far it’s been amazing. Make sure you get the orange sony version. The rocket blower gets off the easy stuff but I’ve found if the camera’s sensor cleaning function can’t get it off the rocket air usually can’t either.

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Big and fast SD cards… 42mp files can chew through a lot of space in a hurry. With the new uncompressed option they’re now twice as big (~90mb now -vs- 45mb uncompressed). Make sure you get cards with a ~90mb/s read AND write time! A lot of the cards offer that as a read speed but not write which is what matters most to the camera. I wish sony had used the faster tech fuji has in the XT1’s SD slot (250mb/s). I’ve got three 64mb 90mb/s SD cards that I’m happy with so far. I keep them in a “lenscoat memory card wallet SD9” that can hold 9 SD cards. I used to be a big think tank pixel pocket rocket user in my CF card days but the lenscoat SD card option is much smaller so I prefer it. Whichever wallet you go with MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A FEW BUSINESS CARDS IN IT!!! If you ever lose it you’ll at least have a chance at getting it back. The think tank option does have a nice strap on it so you can secure it to your bag but it’s a velcro closure which I don’t like at weddings. The lenscoat wallet uses an elastic that just loops over the end so it’s dead silent.

While we’re on the subject of memory let me talk about importing these massive files into your computer! Having a fast card does you no good if you don’t have a fast card reader to go with it. I’m a mac guy and I’m using an older iMac with the original thunderbolt port and USB 2.0 ports (or maybe even originals). Thunderbolt is my fastest option. I have a drobo 5D running on a thunderbolt connection. I then have this awesome lexar workflow hub withthree SD card readers (which can be used on their own with their supplied USB cord when you’re away from your desk). I have three readers because there’s a lot of times when I end up with three cards to import from between the drone, the a7rii and the a6000.

I also use the trick Dan Carr taught me about importing from more than one card at a time in LR which is a LIFESAVER!!! The one problem I have is that the lexar hub is USB3.0 so in order to take advantage of it’s speed I need to adapter it to thunderbolt so I’m using this belkin dock. I know these parts aren’t cheap (it’s about $500 for the hub and reader before you get to my external storage) but even since I upgraded to this setup last year my import times have become comically fast. Even with three filled cards. Of course it still takes lightroom forever to build previews but that’s another story. LR is slow to work with these monster files so be ready to throw some money at your computer if it’s not up to the task… I’ll be getting a new machine in a few months (retina iMac) and can’t wait.

The last accessory I’ll talk about is how moving to a mirrorless system can change your whole system in terms of tripods and bags. I’ve added a small travel carbon fiber tripod to my kit since going mirrorless. The camera is enough lighter I get enough support from a much smaller tripod and it can now fit inside my camera bag! This has also meant (for me) that I’ve moved to larger camera bags. Not for the camera, but because it means I can use one bag to carry all my gear for non photography purposes as well as my photo kit in a single bag. So rethink your bags and support, going to a bigger bag with a smaller tripod might mean everything can now fit inside one stealth bag!

Some notes:

  • 42mp is OMG WHOA! resolution… Even if you use the 18mp aps-c mode it’s still an amazing file with plenty of detail.
  • The DR of this sensor is crazy. The a7ii I’d been using was good, better than canon and fuji (no pattern noise like canon) but the a7rii is a level above that easily.
  • ISOs are ALSO really good and easily beat my a7ii, 5Diii and the fujis.
  • For a full frame body this thing is amazing small. I switch to fuji because I never used my 5Diii unless I was on a paid shoot due to size. This body brings the best full frame sensor in the market (all around, MP, DR, ISOs) to a tiny body. It’s the same size with the 16-35mm as my old X-T1 was with fuji’s 10-24mm.
  • AF is very good even in low light at wedding receptions… Canon has the “red ring of fire”, well sony has the “green boxes of focus”. It just works.
  • AWB feels like it’s maybe not quite as good as the a7ii? I’ve never shot them side by side though but it’s a gut feeling I get…
  • My AF buttons setup has the AF turned off on the shutter button. AEL is my focus but only when held down. It’s the basic rear button AF from my DSLR.
    all custom buttons
  • Fn Menu row 1: SS on/off, SS Adjust (manual/Auto for non sony lenses), OSS FL (for non sony lenses), Focus Mode, Focus Area, Center Lock-on AF
  • Fn Menu row 2: Silent Shooting, Peaking Level, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Quality, Smile/Face Detect
  • Custom Keys: Shutter AF off, C1 = bright monitoring, C2 = Finder/Monitor Sel., C3 = focus magnifier, C4 = eye AF, Center button = standard (lets me choose AF point), left = drive, right = ISO, down = smile/face detect, AEL button = AF on, AF/MF Button = AF/MF control Hold
  • Battery grip is great for weddings, but the neewer version adjusts the aperture w/o touching buttons on me….
  • AEL button is hard to feel on the neewer grip. Awkward with EV dial only usable in horizontal mode…
  • you “need” to use a sony shoe capable flash. With a “dumb”/manual flash the flash doesn’t sit right in the shoe (too far back) but it also doesn’t auto switch the camera to flash WB and it also doesn’t change the viewfinder setting from
  • “live view display: setting effect on” to off for flash (setting is in the gear -> page 3, option 1). Using the nissin i40 does both automatically!
  • get a watson charger NOW!
  • get a nissin i40 for any on camera flash NOW! It’s tiny and light and perfect. Just don’t turn it up above 1/4 or the recycle time gets slow (but we have plenty of ISO on the a7rii). 1/8th is great.
  • magnification during replay is painfully slow!
  • buy a 90mb/s write speed SD card…
  • battery life is what it is but with a watson charger it’s 4 batteries for a wedding even at 2.5k+ images… You can also charge via the USB port WHILE SHOOTING for timelapse guys or if you’re hurting and out of normal sony batteries…
  • SD card door tighter -vs- a7ii where it opened on me quite a bit (but never on the a7/a7r/a7s because it opened the other direction).
  • eye cup rubber/shape is better than a7ii.
  • silent shutter is DEAD silent… subjects will actually keep posing after a shot because they’re waiting for the noise.
  • sigma and tamron need to start making their lenses in FE and E versions. They offer a mount conversion process for existing lenses which suggests the lenses are all the same and the mounts are the only difference. This makes me wonder if sony/minolta has some weird difference in their mount that makes it so making just the mount for the existing lenses doesn’t work? I’d prefer mirrorless specific versions anyway though (so they can be smaller/lighter).
  • Sony needs to make either the 70-300 or 70-400 in an FE mount. The longest FE lens right now is the 24-240mm (which has terrible sun stars but is a great travel all in one otherwise).
  • I’ve seen some very weird hunting with my zeiss batis 85mm in vertical/portrait mode that goes away instantly once the camera is horizontal but comes right back again when back to vertical. I’ve spoken with zeiss and sony about it and zeiss has been able to replicate the issue (only happens in super low light).

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Things to fix via a firmware:

  • APS-C mode (setting -> gear -> tab 6 -> option 4) should be allowed on the Fn menu or as a custom key. I use APS-C for weddings a lot as I don’t need more than 18mp there (I used mRAW on the 5Diii for 10mp).
  • mRAW options? You can force 18mp via the APS-C mode but there should also be smaller RAW options that use the full frame.
  • Add the option for a third row in the Fn menu (and also the option to drop to 1 for those who’d want that). There’s a LOT of menu options I use a lot and I need more space than the 2 rows provided for what I use regularly.
  • Add a “my menu” option similar to canon’s that gives me a traditional menu page where I choose everything on it but I get to choose from ANYTHING in the menus… Also, don’t limit it to a page (let it scroll if I want more than 6 options) and let me set it up so pressing menu always brings up this screen first.
  • EVF auto switch sensitivity is too high. I’ll be in a corner doing architecture work and it’ll see my body and switch to the EVF from the rear screen. EVF switch should NEVER activate when the rear LCD is opened either way (because if it’s open you’re using that and not the EVF).
  • The added 14-bit uncompressed option is great for those screaming for it (I never felt the compression caused any issues?). I’d love to see true 14-bit with lossless compression as well. Personally I’d also love to see an option for force 12-bit when you want it as well. For weddings I shoot RAW but don’t need 14 bit so I use the slow FPS mode to force 12 bits most of the day, then silent shutter mode during the ceremony (turning on long exposure noise reduction, high ISO noise reduction, bulb, any burst mode over single shot or silent shutter all force 12-bit mode).
  • During a long exposure the rear LCD is still powered on but black. This wastes power from a camera that uses a lot and uses small batteries already. Please turn OFF the screen during an exposure! -or- give the option to have it show a counter for the shutter length so I know when a 30s exposure is almost over. During bulb count up with that counter!
  • The manual focus distance scale display is terrible! It’s always a white line of a set width that doesn’t get thicker (showing more DOF) as you go wider with focal length, farther with focus or stop the lens down. It’s always the same size!
  • The zeiss batis lenses have GREAT OLED displays with GREAT info shown, copy that on the rear screen! Also make the white bar/line get thicker as you change settings accordingly (like fuji does).
  • allow the use of the manual focus assist view (magnified live view) to be used with “bright monitoring” (where it drags the shutter is super low light so you can focus) so you can use both and really nail MF in pitch black settings.
  • allow users to turn off the non whole stop ISOs for faster ISO selection… going from auto ISO (how I shoot wedding w/o flash) to ISO 800 (how I typically shoot reception shots) is 13 button presses when it would be 4 if the non whole ISOs were out of that list. Canon and fuji both allow this.
  • option for a quick delete w/o needing to “ok” anything…
  • Option to turn off some of the AF points. I always “watered down” my 5Diii to just the more sensitive points and the ones in the corners. Something like 25 (5×5 grid) would be perfect with the a7rii. But 399, especially when you use the small box makes it slow to move your selected AF point from one side to the other.
  • To go with the above, allow the user to “wrap” the AF point selection from one side of the frame to the other. IE if I’m using a point on the left side of the frame and I press left again it should “wrap” around to the point on the far right.
    allow customization of the dial directions. The shutter speeds on the rear dial in M are backwards for me… I’m re-learning but it’s taking a while!!!
    faster read and write speed. Feels like I’m waiting for the red light quite a bit. And the A7rii takes longer to write it’s 18mp aps-c files than the a6000 does to write it’s 24mp aps-c files… Use the UHS-I U3 cards that fuji put into it’s X-T1.
  • create a hyperfocal AF mode where the camera looks at the focal length and aperture and keeps the focus dialed into whatever distance puts infinity right at the far edge of the DOF. This would be a huge advantage for landscape shooters.
  • Allow the viewfinder to store which AF point is used for vertical and horizontal shots separately (canon and fuji do this).

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

I’m currently shooting with an a7rii with both the Meike/neewer battery grip (for weddings/events) and the Neewer L-Bracket for everything else. Lens wise the Sony (by Zeiss) 16-35mm is my go to wide angle zoom and what I shoot my architecture and landscape work with. I have the sony 24-240 as my light weight long reach lens and the tamron 150-600 as a no compromise I need reach lens with a Sony LAEA3 adapter. For wedding work I have the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, Sony (by Zeiss) 55mm 1.8 and the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8. I shoot weddings using the aps-c crop mode 95% of the time so this trio works out to be 35mm/85mm/135mm effective. I’ve basically added the Zeiss 85mm as a longer option -vs- what I shot with both canon (35/85) and fuji (23/56).

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The other great thing with this setup is I can shoot the 25mm in full frame mode for those few shots where I “need” a wide prime and the 16-35mm becomes a pretty versatile mid range zoom for those reception flash shots at the end of the night. For flashes I still have my Neewer TT850s with their awesome Lion battery packs (that last for ~600 shots!) with their wireless transmitters but I only use those off camera now (they’re massive on this smaller platform). I picked up the nissin i40 for on camera (bounced) which is great because it automagically switches the camera’s WB setting to flash as well as setting the viewfinder mode to NOT reflect your settings (since the flash isn’t flashing as you compose you end up with a black view if settings are reflected). It’s also pint sized and light which is great, but also just powerful enough I can use 1/8 or 1/4 when needed to keep recycle rates fast enough and it’ll survive and entire reception with one set of AAs for me. I’ve also kept two aps-c wide angle lenses that play nice on full frame. The first is the sony 10-18mm f/4. It’s meant to be an effective 15-27mm f/4 lens but it also covers full frame from 12mm to 16mm and is nice and small! It’s a great lens for shooting milky way shots for me as I need the added width there. I’ve been toying with it on arch shoots where 16mm on full frame isn’t quite wide enough as well. The other aps-c wide lens I’m using is the rokinon 8mm fisheye. You’ll notice shots of the 12mm fisheye in the gallery below as well. I tried both and while the 12mm is slightly nicer optically (perfect sun stars) it’s just so much bigger and bulkier that it won’t get brought along as much and you can’t use a lens you don’t have! The 8mm is tiny and lives tucked away in a corner of my bag.

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Wrap Up…

Sony has a long way to go in terms of dialing in this camera to the extent that I have zero issues with it. BUT! The vast majority of these items are very minor details (which way dials turn etc). The camera is a great tool and the more I use it the more I learn and adapt to how it’s different and the less these issues matter. That’s not to say I don’t want them fixed (and please, via firmware so I don’t need to buy my sixth a7 body in a two year span!). It’s that I can work with what I have. The sensor and the AF are fantastic and will keep me in this system for the long haul. Sony is catching up with lenses (70-300 next please?!) and each new firmware update brings new features. It’s an exciting time to be photographer!

This camera finally delivers better image quality than what I had with my DSLR (5Diii) in terms of dynamic range, clean ISOs AND more resolution. It also gives me auto focus I can trust in pretty much any situation. I have more issues manually focusing thanks to the focus by wire design and the uninformative display. All in all I’m the happiest I’ve been with a camera since the 5Diii (my only complaint there was size/weight).

You can buy a Sony A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo 

Oct 152015
 

The Race of Gentlemen (with Fuji X and Canon 70D)

By James Conley

Every October, tattooed and heavily bearded men (and a few women) gather in Wildwood, New Jersey, and take over a section of the beach. With beer on tap, loud music, and louder motorcycles and cars, this motley crew waits for the tide to recede and then grinds up the sand racing antique vehicles down a quarter-mile. Known as The Race of Gentlemen, the event at first seems to be one of the most wrongly named.

Since the event was a spectacle, and I didn’t have to worry about being discrete, I set out to observe the event with three cameras: a Fuji X100s, XE-1, and a Canon 70D. Although “motorsports” often brings to mind long lenses and monopods, my interest in the event was more about the people than the racing. Thus, my lenses were almost all wide. I relied heavily on an older Canon L Series 17-35mm on a 70D, with the X100s outfitted with the 50mm Teleconverter. The XE-1 had a support role with the 55-200mm. I find the Fujis easier to work with in bright light, because exposure compensation is obvious. But the speed of the Canon can’t be beat.

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Wandering through the crowd, what at first appears to be a lawless takeover by various biker gangs is anything but. The dress code is the first clue. High, laced boots, paired with jodhpurs. Pilot and horseback riding helmets. Knit jerseys lettered with race events seven decades past. The women sport short bangs with long hair, beehives, and Rosie the Riveter styles, paired with high-waisted, pinstriped shorts.

Then there are the bikes. These aren’t the Harley-Davidson’s you’ve seen on television. They are long. And old. Very old. Mixed in is the occasional Henderson and a smattering of Indians, all with huge engines. The cars are likewise all American: Mercury, Buick, Pontiac, Dodge, Plymouth, Ford, and Chrysler. Model A’s, coupes, and roadsters. Each one a piece of moving history, and each one with a driver or rider whose knuckles show the years of effort it took to rebuild these machines to working order.

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Then there are the smiles. Broad and warm, the smiles are constant. Every face is marked with joy, even when the car won’t start, even when the bike doesn’t turn over.

Then it becomes obvious that this isn’t a random gathering of ne’er do wells. This is an effort to capture a specific time in history, and to relive the best parts of it. The cars are all American made, 1953 or older. The bikes are all American made, 1947 or older. The clothes, helmets, and goggles are also antique. And so is the definition of “Gentlemen.”

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This gathering is, in fact, about being a gentleman. Those who build, enter, and race their machines exhibit the good, courteous, and polite conduct befitting the title. Despite the sand, the grease, the noise, the competition, and even the alcohol, each racer stays true to gentlemanly form: quick to lend a hand, always with a charming smile, undisturbed by adversity, and always stylish. It is a set of values not of the present time, and the strict rules for entering the race make perfect sense: The Race of Gentlemen is not about racing cars and motorcycles down a beach; The Race of Gentlemen is about recapturing the American can-do spirit, the generosity, the love of life, and the camaraderie that come from choosing to be part of the human race, as a gentleman.

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I’m happy to share with you this brief photo-essay of a day of vintage racing.

More images can be seen on my website: http://f-eleven.com, and on Instagram: @philatawgrapher

Oct 052015
 

Canon EOS M Review (Or Why I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Camera)

By Jonathan Acierto

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Hello Steve and Brandon,

The Canon EOS M got a lot of bad reviews when it first came out. It was basically dead on arrival due to all of its shortcomings and perceived lack of effort on Canon’s part to design a camera that could rival the other mature mirrorless system cameras from Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji. So when it came time to choose a mirrorless camera to carry around to replace my Sony RX100 compact, I chose the Canon EOS M. Why on earth would I choose the apparently worse mirrorless offering? I’ve been using it for a little while now and, even with all its shortcomings, let me explain why I’m happy with the EOS M.

Price

When the EOS M was first released, it was originally priced for retail at about $800 for the kit with the 22mm f/2 pancake lens. Ever since the camera flopped, the price has been dramatically reduced to about $379 for the same kit on Amazon, and even less for the body only. You know what that means: really low used prices. Heading over to the fantastic KEH, I was able to get an EOS M with the 18-55mm kit lens for under $300, less than I paid for the RX100. Even compared to the entry level m43 cameras, the EOS M is a steal. Kudos to all of you who have enough disposable income to buy top of the line mirrorless cameras and glass from Leica, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, etc. Reading headlines of people who have multiple mirrorless cameras and can buy f/-1.0 lenses for all of them makes me jealous. But for the rest of us folks who have a limited amount of disposable income, price is and always will be a major factor.

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Video

While the photographic community has shunned the EOS M, the video community has embraced it and it has become somewhat of a cult video camera. I was originally looking to get a camcorder, but entry level enthusiast camcorders with relatively larger sensors start around $1,000. I simply wasn’t interested in getting a consumer grade camcorder due to the small sensors, hence the lack of DOF control. Entry level HDDSLR’s and high end superzooms (like the Sony RX10) have become a great value for getting professional looking video, but they are still relatively bulky and the ergonomics aren’t the best for video. Action cameras are tiny and can withstand all kinds of abuse, but they are just not designed for shooting everyday videos of your kids (unless your kids are surfing or riding a dirt bike and you want to get footage from their point of view).

The EOS M has became a popular camera to use for video because it has a large sensor which enables it to get the same DOF control as HDDSLR’s, it has a mic input so you can get better audio by connecting a much higher quality mic, and it is very compact and light weight, perfect for run and gun video shooting. Years ago I had a Canon Rebel T1i and I loved using it for video, but it didn’t have autofocus or tracking focus in video mode, so I had to manually focus. After a while, manual focus became a real chore. If I was a DP or first AC, I’d probably do a better job with manual focus, but I’m just not that good. The EOS M has auto and tracking focus in video mode. It’s not perfect by any means, and other mirrorless system cameras have better auto and tracking focus in video, but the EOS M is still better in most situations compared to my crappy mannual focusing. Keeping the aperture closed down a bit to get a deeper depth of field helps too. While having a razor thin DOF in a still photo is all the rage nowadays, having a razor thin depth of field for long lengths of time in video footage is now cliche and tends to get really monotonous and hard to watch. Video is a whole different art compared to photography, all you have to do is pay attention to what you see in movies and on TV. In the video world, shallow DOF is used very sparingly.

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Operational Speed

Trying to use the EOS M like a DSLR or enthusiast camera sucks, and sometimes it can be painful (sounds like the complaints about the original Fuji X100, doesn’t it?). I’m used to just pointing the camera towards the subject, half pressing the shutter button to acquire focus, and pressing the shutter button all the way down once the camera gets focus. With the Sony RX100, I’m able to get focus and snap a photo or 2 of people on a sidewalk while I’m in a moving car. Letting the EOS M decide what to focus on is a crap shoot, it could focus on the correct subject fairly quickly, or it could take a while to hunt for focus. The slow focus is the main reason why the camera has been criticized so heavily.

Then I had a revelation: the EOS M was designed for regular consumers who are used to a smartphone touch interface. This may be obvious at first, and many reviewers mentioned this, but it’s easy to forget if you’re an enthusiast or professional who normally uses a DSLR, mirrorless system camera, or other more advanced camera. Once I started using the touchscreen to focus, the camera felt much quicker to use. Using the touch screen to focus, then pressing the shutter button to take the photo, works much like my iPhone. The EOS M also does a fairly decent job tracking the subject once you acquire focus via the touch UI. It’s also much quicker to change settings (white balance, ISO, etc.) using the touchscreen compared to using the physical buttons and wheel to dive into menus. People always complain that camera interfaces are stone age, but Canon designed a pretty good touch interface for the EOS M, and reviewers complained it’s too touch oriented for more serious photographers. Go figure.

The biggest slow down after getting over the touch UI focusing seems to be after pressing the shutter button all the way down. The camera takes almost a full second to write to the memory card. I’m not entirely sure why this process is so slow, as the camera can write 1080P video at 30fps to the card without any slowdowns. Is it annoying? It can be, especially when I’m trying to fire off 2 or 3 shots quickly as I do with the Sony RX100 or Canon 6D. Does the slow write speed stop me from shooting the moments I’m trying to capture? No. I actually think the slow write time helps slow me down and be more selective of my shots. With my Canonet QL17 GIII 35mm film rangefiner, I have to wind the film after every shot, so I’m used to not being able to take shots in quick succession. With the EOS M, I’m shooting more in the Cartier-Bresson, wait for the decisive moment style, rather than spraying and praying.

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Image Quality

It’s good, what more do you need to know? Just look at the photos. We’re at a point where any camera with a sensor 1″ or larger can take fantastic photos, the only limitation is the quality of the lenses. While the native EF-M mount lenses aren’t professional L glass quality, they’re good. I’d even say they’re better than the older, pre-STM Canon DSLR EF-S mount crop sensor lenses I’ve used. The EF-M 22mm f/2 STM (35mm full frame equivalent) is certainly as good as any of the mid level Canon EF USM prime lenses, it’s about 1/4 of the price, and it’s tiny. Putting this lens on the M makes it almost as compact at the Sony RX100. I don’t plan on using the EF-M 18-55mm IS zoom lens much for stills, but it’s more than good enough for shooting 1080p video. The image stabilization really helps to eliminate vomit-inducing camera shake.

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Closing Thoughts

For all the talk of the convergence of stills and motion in one camera, it still hasn’t quite happened yet in the enthusiast/professional space. In the consumer world, I think the iPhone and smartphones have become the only camera normal people need for stills and videos, making smartphones true convergence devices. That leaves pros and enthusiasts as the only people left who are willing to spend money on a separate camera and/or camcorder.

Mirrorless system cameras have changed the stills world and HDDSLR’s have changed the motion camera world, so it makes sense that the newest convergence cameras will be a combination of those two devices. Mirrorless system cameras are gaining better video capabilities all the time, but Canon started the HDDSLR revolution, so they are coming at the mirrorless world from the opposite direction of taking the HDDSLR video capabilities and cramming them into the EOS M. They did a good job, all they need to do now is match the stills photography performance of their entry level DSLR’s. I think they’re getting there; the reviews for the third generation EOS M3 have been very good. Canon has had plenty of time to improve the M since the original was released 3 years ago. The reviews of the M3 have been so good that Canon decided to release the M3 in the US after initially announcing they wouldn’t. A couple more iterations of the EOS M and they’ll not only catch up to the other mirrorless cameras, but they may even surpass them. In the meantime, I’ll have my EOS M in hand, capturing fantastic videos and photos and having a blast.

All the photos included with this review were shot with the 22mm f/2 EF-M STM lens. For more of my photos, please visit my Flckr page:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/samuraislice/album/

Jonathan V. Acierto

Mar 302015
 

Leica M-P 240 Lenny Kravitz Edition “Correspondent” Special Edition – Let’s get dead serious here!

By Dirk Dom

When I saw that camera, I thought it was pretty cool. Until I discovered the price. This was the first camera that made me feel sick to my stomach.

I happen to own the most brassed Canon F-1 in existence:

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This is just so totally different from this Leica. It belonged to a pro sports photographer who shot 400,000 images of soccer through it, with a motor drive attached. I bought it for 200 Euro’s, and it didn’t even need a CLA! It just worked and light metering was spot on. He had changed lenses so often and so brutally fast that the bayonet connecting groove had worn a millimeter.

After a year or so I got the idea of sanding off the black paint from the viewfinder and polishing it:

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For a while I was tempted to give the entire camera this treatment, but then I would take all the character away.

I also have a completely mint F1:

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Not even the tiniest scratch. I decided to shoot it. After two years, shock!!! – I found a trace of brassing at the strap connection. I must say I felt real bad about it, but I got over it and continued using it, after all, that’s what a camera is for.

Now, this craziness of producing a pre brassed Leica for $ 24,500.

I’d sell my Canon for that price. But not for $ 10,000; my Canon is unique. It’s more a work of art than a utensil. No one has a camera that went through 400,000 shots and I have it. Maybe I’ll put another 50,000 shots through it.

The Leica craziness to get to the purest photographic experience plus their limited series thing made me think. I’m an experienced machinist having 3D design programs, computer controlled machines, CAM and fast prototyping to my hands. I work together with the Product Design department of the University of Antwerp. Maybe I could design the unique, ultimate camera for the Leica man.

It proved both very tough and simple: A Leica Man discovers images, recording them is already below him, that’s for other people. He doesn’t need film or silicon to convey his vision.

So I came up with this design:

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Most importantly: the red dot.

No lens. The Leica man’s eyes are sufficient.

No film or sensor.

No settings

One hole to look through, superfluous, because the leica man needs no aids for composition. The hole is carefully crafted round because roundness is perfection, like the round red dot.

No rangefinder.

One hole for the strap.

316 stainless steel for thousands and thousands of years of non destructibility. Carefully partially deburred by hand by a dedicated, experienced craftsman while still showing the roughness of the initial machining. The 45 degrees angled edge is a very personal artistic statement and the only give to brutal functionality. The ultimate limited series of only one!

Price: if you want to know it, you can’t afford it, of course.

Sorry, I just had to get it out, this is what the Lenny Kravitz Leica does to me.

Dirk.

Sep 152014
 

Photokina! New mirrorless releases from Canon, Panasonic, Olympus, and more!

Photokina is upon us and today there were loads of cameras and lenses announced today from many of the usual suspects. It seems that Canon and Panasonic are jumping on the Sony RX100 bandwagon but Panasonic did it right by making an RX100 style camera but with a full on 4/3 sensor inside which means this guy will deliver the best quality in a compact camera! So far it is my favorite Photokina release (but that silver E-M1 is gorgeous, making it my #2 fave) but there is more to come. Let’s take a look at the cool stuff being announced today!

PANASONIC

The LX100 Compact powerhouse!

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The LX100 that has been rumored forever is now official. The 1st of the so called RX100 clones (even keeping the 100 name) this one is quite nice and will present a challenge to the Sony pocket cam. Basically this little guy has a Leica/Panasonic 24-70 equivalent f 1.7-2.8 lens, 4K video, solid build, great looks, a built-in EVF and wonderful ergonomics and control. It is easy to see that this one will be popular without question.

Coming in at $899 you can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE.  

I see this as a direct hit to the RX100III but with a larger sensor and LARGER body as well of course.  Wi-Fi, NFC and manual control rings round off this polished looking offering from Panasonic.

Amazon is also taking pre-orders for the LX100.

Even though the LX100 is priced at $899, which may be a little bit high, it is priced appropriately to the RX100III due to the larger sensor. As you can see in the image below of the camera, it is larger than a Sony RX100 but it is still rather compact. This will deliver 4/3 quality in a solid, modern, stylish and usable lens range camera. It has it most of what everyone needs and I see it as a perfect take anywhere, vacation, kids and everyday life camera. With 4K video there is not much this guy can not do (besides long telephoto of course).  An instant winner here IMO and even has ISO up to 25k!

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The Panasonic GM5

Panasonic also released the GM5, a super compact micro 4/3 camera much like the old GM1. From B&H Photo: It features a similar magnesium-alloy body as the GM1, but replaces the pop-up flash with a 1,166k-dot electronic viewfinder, as well as a hot-shoe mount, creating a more full-featured camera system. The GM5 also features a 16-megapixel Digital Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine image processor to produce detailed still images and a heighted sensitivity up to ISO 25600. It is also capable of recording Full HD video at 60 fps.

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The GM5 is a TINY, attractive and useful powerhouse as it is pocketable but also will take any micro 4/3 lens available. If you want SMALL and a TRUE “Micro” 4/3 then be on the lookout for the GM5.

You can pre-order it at B&H Photo for $899 with a 12-32 (24-68) kit lens.

This guy with the 20 1.7 II would make for a great compact camera that would provide beautiful IQ and video.

Amazon also is taking pre-orders for the GM5.

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CANON

The 7D MARK II AND G7X has arrived.

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Canon has released a new 7D Mark II which for me is a YAWN. The 7D is fantastic but as you guys know I am not a DSLR guy. I could fake it and act like I am just to make affiliate sales but hey, I have to be honest. After using cameras such as all of the mirrorless option these days, DSLR’s have become un-necessary. I have done pro work with my Leica’s, with my Sony A7s and with my E-M1 and never did I wish for a DSLR. So yes, Canon released the 7DII but I am going to talk about the G7X which is yet ANOTHER camera from Canon that is 3 years behind the times. It seems that Canon just can not be innovative in the small pocket cam or mirrorless area. They want to keep their DSLR sales strong so they are afraid to release anything revolutionary (like Sony is doing many times per year). Instead they copy others and release little flops like the EOS M. This time it is an RX100 copy in the form of a G7X.

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The G7X comes in at $699 but has a 1″ sensor like the Sony RX100 and Nikon 1 series cameras. Already the Panasonic above beats the Canon for sensor size. The lens has more reach at 24-100 but does not have the “Leica” name attached to it. No 4K video but it does have 1080 video on board. No EVF. BASICALLY IT IS a Sony RX100 in disguise as a Canon. Not really, but for me, nothing exciting. I would pay the $200 more and buy the Panasonic in a NANO second over the Canon.

You can pre-order the Canon G7X here at B&H Photo if you just love Canon :) 

Amazon is also taking pre-orders for the G7X HERE.

OLYMPUS

The new Silver E-M1

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Olympus did not create a new E-M2 powerhouse (and frankly, I am glad they didn’t as the E-M1 is still a massive powerhouse of a camera that is capable of APS-C quality) but they did upgrade the E-M1 firmware with new features as well as release a pimped out version in Silver and black. Many have been asking why they did not originally create the E-M1 in silver like they did with the E-M5 and now Olympus has created it! I have to say, it looks mighty sharp in silver! I am a huge fan of the E-m1 and if for some reason you missed my old review of it you can see it here. 

The new firmware is pre-loaded onto the Silver E-M1 so right out of the box you get all of the new benefits and features. For those who already own an E-M1 there will be a firmware download so you too can benefit from the new features. So what are the new features?

“Features for improved performance include improved EVF display time lag. The display time lag has been reduced to 16 msec when the frame rate has been set to high-speed. New Photo Story themes “Zoom In/Out” and “Layout” have been added. The addition of a hold function has also made it possible to temporarily save a photo story while shooting, and complete it, later. Live Guide makes it possible to layer on multiple effects simultaneously*. Remote shooting features in the OI.Share™ App have been further advanced, with the addition of a self-timer sequential and interval shooting, allowing for rich variations in movement and expression. A new Scene Mode “Panning” allows you to set the optimal shutter speed automatically to match the movements of an object. “Shade” Art Effect inserts bands of shading on the left and right side of the image (or top and bottom) for a sense of wideness. A new Movie Effect “Old Film” turns your videos into flickering images with noise, scratches and dust, for the vintage look of old movies shot on film.”

em1silver2Firmware Upgrade Availability
Firmware Version 2.0 is pre-installed on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 silver model. Existing OM-D E-M1 camera owners can also enjoy the features of this new firmware by upgrading their camera using Olympus Viewer software.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The OM-D E-M1 in Silver will be available in September 2014.
Estimated Street Price: $1,399.99

You can pre-order the Silver E-M1 at B&H Photo HERE

Also at Amazon HERE. This one ships THIS month! PopFlash.com also will have the new silver E-M1! 

The new 40-150 Pro f/2.8 Lens

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Olympus has also finally released the new 40-150 Pro Zoom! This long-awaited zoom lens has been in the works for a long time now and will round out the systems pro zoom category which also includes the new 7-14 f/2.8. The 12-40 is already known to be an amazing zoom lens and now the 40-150 will give you some reach, at the expense of size and $$$. IT IS NOT CHEAP AT $1,499.00 but those who know the quality of Olympus pro glass will know that this is well worth it. For those telephoto shooters out there who own a Micro 4/3 camera, it will not get any better than this. YES this is a 40-150 f/2.8 zoom, bringing you a 80-300 equivalent! NOW THIS is an amazing lens!

You can pre-order the 40-150 f/2.8 pro zoom lens at B&H Photo HERE 

PopFlash.com is also an Olympus dealer, and a site sponsor!

SONY

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Sony has announced today the new wide angle FE mount (full frame E mount) 16-35 f/4 OSS lens, something many have been waiting for. This one will fill your wide angle needs for the A7 system and comes in at $1349.

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

Amazon is also taking pre-orders HERE!

Wide-range zoom lens designed for full-frame FE-mount cameras

Constant f/4 maximum aperture enables greater consistency throughout the zoom range and benefits working in dim conditions

Features a circular that, through the use of curved blades, keeps the aperture almost perfectly circular from its wide-open setting to when it is closed for smoother, more natural defocusing highlights

Optical SteadyShot image stabilization works to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed steps to benefit shooting handheld in dim lighting

Five aspherical elements, including one AA (advanced aspherical) element, and three ED elements helps to reduce chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range while also maintaining a compact form-factor

Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating enhances contrast, clarity, and color reproduction by countering the effects of lens flare and ghosting

Only the middle groups of the optical system move to achieve focus, so the overall length of the lens does not change when focusing. Also, the filter thread at the front of the lens does not rotate, which is convenient when using a polarizing filter

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So there are my fave releases today. For me Canon was the biggest disappointment. They have the funds and ability to create something extraordinary but they never ever seem to do it. They are happy sticking to their DSLR model. Same with Nikon. Nothing exciting at all from them besides the D750 DSLR. No real innovation from the two “Big Guns”. Sony has been constantly releasing new exciting products, Olympus has been keeping the momentum going with amazing lenses and Leica, well, they have yet to make their full announcements but I think we will hear from them by tomorrow.

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SAMSUNG

oops, I almost forgot the NX1

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Samsung has announced the NX1, their flagship mirrorless coming in at A WHOPPING $2799 with kit lens but that one leaves me scratching my head. The price is out there IMO. I will say that the ‘kit” lens seems more like a pro lens with a 16-50 range and a variable aperture starting out at f/2 and going to f/2.8. Still, $2799 for the set is a bit much I think. It looks like a DSLR, the lens is huge and for the money I would take the fantastic Canon 6D with a 24-105 for the full frame performance. I reviewed the 6D and loved the IQ and usability, just hated the weight with those big L lenses, but the quality is stunning. I am finding it hard to see how Samsung can sell this for $2799 with lens. Seems overpriced to me. It may be a stellar camera but not sure how many will plunk down that kind of cash to SWITCH systems. I think only some the current Samsung base will go for it.

Amazon is also taking pre-orders HERE.

May 082014
 

10 Days in Israel with the Sony a7 and vintage Canon FD Lenses

By Thomas Neumayer

Due to the reviews about the Sony A7 on this nice site I recently upgraded from my NEX-5 to an A7, and I am happy with the choice.

I am just an enthusiast photographer. Coming from analog times, when I first used my fathers two-eyed 6×6 Rolleiflex as a teenager (darkroom and all), then a Canon F1, I am now still using vintage Canon FD Lenses on my A7, with, to my eye, very decent results.

I just spent 10 days in Israel, together with my wife and my one year old little Ella, and I’d like to share this journey here photography wise. Please, have compassion for the fact that my little daughter darling appears quite frequently on the pics, I cant’ help it.

We first spent some days in Haifa, then went to Jerusalem for a couple of days, and then, after having spent an intense afternoon at the shores of the Dead Sea, went by car to a resort some miles north of Tel Aviv to spend two more days at the sea.

I brought my a7 and my nex5, and the following lenses: (All Canon FD) 15mm 1:2.8 s.s.c., 17mm 1:4 (new), 24mm 1:1.4 L, 24mm 1:2.8 s.s.c., 35mm 1:2 s.s.c., 50mm 1:1.4 s.s.c., 85mm 1:1.8 s.s.c., 135mm 1:2.5 s.s.c. and a Canon 75-200mm 1:4.5 (new).

Anyway, I found myself using predominantly the 35mm 1:2, the 24mm 1:2.8, the 85mm 1:1.8 and the 75-200mm Zoom lens, since my wife favores it.
All of them produce a nice bokeh, in my opinion, especially the 35mm and the 85mm.

Due to the manual operation of the lenses the exif data lack the aperture value, but for most of the pictures I remember it, more or less.

Some words about the shooting experience with the a7:

Mostly I used the camera in time automatic or, especially in low light environments, in auto iso mode. Even if I agree with the critics who condemn the A7s preselection of 1/60th of a second in auto iso in contrast to an adjustable value, I still found this function very usable. A bit eery, when you come from analog school.
Being also used to spot light metering (Canon F1) I nonetheless found the integral measure mode more practical on the A7, for a number of reasons: first, the process of manual focusing can be quite demanding here! Depending on focal length, f-stop and distance from the object the DOF is only an inch or even less, so, it becomes very tricky, if you have an unpredictably and fast-moving object, like a toddler…
Then, unfortunately, memorizing a given value cannot be done with the half press of the shutter release button, like with the NEX-5, for example. That slows me down considerably when using spot measurement. (Hello Sony, fix this in a firmware update!). So I use the integral measurement, and due to the ample contrast capacity of the A7 of more than 10 f-stops there is a reassuring margin of exposure adjustment in post processing available.

Otherwise, taking pictures with the a7 is as easy as green tea, it is quite close to the shooting experience from analog times, thus made me feel at home immediately. And, I love the decided shutter sound!

The EVF is a marvel and didn’t make me want for the optical one, exept… one or two times, when extreme sunlight came in from the back, like on some occasions at the dead sea; but here a more ample eyecup would certainly help.

Some words about the post-processing:

I use Lightroom 5.4. I love the possibility to play around with colour, contrast, exposure etc.
Often I find myself using some Fuji-colour presets (sorry, Steve!) found on the internet which I then modify to my needs.
As for lens correction I underwent the tedious task to calibrate all my lenses using Adobe Lens Calibrator, only to find out that I cannot integrate the resulting files into Lightroom 5.4 in a way that they are available for lens correction there – in LR 3 this had worked! (If anybody has a useful tip here, please don’t hesitate to let me know!)
So I used the correspondent Canon EF presets instead, and they seem to fit nicely (not done much work since FD times, eh, Canon?). Anyway, I found CA, vignetting and lens distortion not to be a problem anyway, using these old lenses with the A7. Even with the 15$ adapter that I use.

Now, the pictures in chronological order of our journey:

 

Haifa, Carmel beach.
Canon FD 35mm 1:2 s.s.c. @ 11, ISO 200, 1/250s

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 Acco near Haifa.

Canon FD 75-200mm @200mm 1:4,5 (new) @ 8, ISO 800, 1/750s

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 Acco near Haifa

Canon FD 17mm 1:4 @5.6, ISO 800, 1/200s

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 Acco near Haifa.

Canon FD 75-200 @75mm 1:4,5 @ 8, ISO 1600, 1/160s

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 Bazaar in Acco near Haifa.

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 4, ISO 1600, 1/500s

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 Jerusalem Bus Terminal.

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 5.6, ISO 1600, 1/200s

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Jerusalem Breakfast, tomato sauce!
Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 5.6, ISO 1600, 1/500s

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Jerusalem, Old City
Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 5.6, ISO 250, 1/60s

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 Jerusalem, Old City

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 8, ISO 400, 1/60s

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 Jerusalem, at the wall of Old City

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 2, ISO 250, 1/60s

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 Jerusalem, Dinner

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 3.5, ISO 4000, 1/60s

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 Jerusalem, after dinner.

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 3.5, ISO 4000, 1/60s

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 Jerusalem, breakfast situation

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 8, ISO 160, 1/60s

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 Jerusalem, Old City

Canon FD 35mm 1:2, s.s.c. @ 4, ISO 400, 1/60s

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 Dead Sea, Mineral Beach

Canon FD 24mm 1:2.8, s.s.c. @ 8, ISO 100, 1/125s, polarization filter

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 Dead Sea, Mineral Beach

Canon FD 24mm 1:2.8, s.s.c. @ 11, ISO 100, 1/200s, polarization filter

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 Dead Sea, Mineral Beach

Canon FD 24mm 1:2.8, s.s.c. @ 16, ISO 100, 1/45s, polarization filter

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 Dead Sea, Mineral Beach, Ella in arabian tea tent

Canon FD 24mm 1:2.8, s.s.c. @ 4, ISO 100, 1/250s, polarization filter

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Dead Sea, Mineral Beach
Canon FD 135mm 1:2.5, s.s.c. @ 8, ISO 100, 1/200s

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 Tel Aviv

Canon FD 85mm 1:1.8, s.s.c. @ 4, ISO 200, 1/1000s

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 Tel Aviv

Canon FD 85mm 1:1.8, s.s.c. @ 5.6, ISO 200, 1/4000s

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 Tel Aviv

Canon FD 85mm 1:1.8, s.s.c. @ 4, ISO 200, 1/6000s

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 Tel Aviv

Canon FD 85mm 1:1.8, s.s.c. @ 5.6, ISO 800, 1/60s

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Final word:

So, I hope you enjoyed the reading. I enjoyed the writing!

As a last word on this trip: I liked very much the warmness and friendliness I met in many people in Israel. The people coming from all parts of the world, I found the predominant international spirit very refreshing. Just religious fanaticism gives me the creeps.
If you feel like, I’d be delighted to have some feedback on these pictures!

My professional website (non-photographic): http://www.loesungsseite.de

Apr 072014
 

Seven years with one camera

By Amirali Joorabchi

Hi steve , hi everybody!

I’m AmirAli , a reader of this awesome blog for about two years. I’m 23 , live in Tehran. I do painting and photography as an enthusiast. I started photography when I was 14-15. As a gift my family bought me a Canon 400D and a 50 f1.8 and if I’m right I have this set and been using it for about 7 years ! Well it’s 10mps , ISO800 isn’t clean , ISO1600is only usability in monochrome , the LCD is 2.5″(240k). The camera and two lenses weighs in at about 850g…and yes I’m still using it !

This lest seven years that has passed by..well, photography has changed a lot (which you all know better than me). The wave in digital photography started with Canon 350D (affordable DSLR for everyone) then led to this following seven years. Companies got competitive with each other , introducing new models like a mad man ( canon 40D/50D… Nikon D80/D90… Canon 5D/5DmarkII Nikon D700/D800/D610 Sony A900/A800/A99 , then mirrorless Olympus , Panasonic , Sony , Fuji…).

The more technology went further , the more prices came down , which now you have so many affordable options (heck you can buy a full frame for 1600$ which weighs less than 500g). In theory this should help people but , instead , it turned out to be a huge problem for us!

For example it became like an idea that “because a pro photographer has that camera/lens then he can take pictures that I can’t”. So I started to blame the gear and I thought if I had better camera I would have made a better photographs. This is the point when your endless loop starts (even if you are aware of the fact that getting new gear won’t make you any better), where you buy new cameras when the one you have is already very qualified. Jumping from one system to another or jump from one brand to other. You fall into this endless loop where you waste time and sources on the wrong side of the photography.

I was about to fall , but a wise photographer told me this: “Changing your gear won’t change your view , it only replaces the last window with a new window to the same view , you’re the one who should change the view “ It hit me really hard. I still didn’t know about composition , lightening , color management… My VISION was weak yet I blamed the camera that I still have. He showed me that how much VISION is more important than gear , that your vision can create beauty , you have to train it to get the most out of it. Although the truth was clear but still resisting the new gears was hard. I get another advise : “loan and play with the new ones , the hype will come off of your mind”. I took the advice and it worked most of the time.

I tested Canon 40D , Nikon D90 , Canon 1DsII , Canon 5DII , Sony A900 with zeiss 85F1.4 (this lens didn’t came off ever) , Canon 17-55F2.8 , 24-70F2.8 , 14F2.8 , Nikon 80-200F2.8 , 18-135… . All of them are far better than my set , but using them I realized that my results weren’t that different… if not worse ! The brand was different , the format was different , the lens different , but my vision was the same. Yes , new gear makes it easier to take photos like more pixels , better ISO , better OVF/EVF… . These things are not necessary to capture a master piece. These are tools to help us create. But the features has spoiled lots of photographers’ minds. A slight change in light/composition can make a mediocre photo into a master piece , yet we waste our time wondering about gear…

Well , the question is , which is worth to you more ?

1.Having G.A.S and taking mediocre images , or

2.Mastering your vision and taking eternal images

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Mar 052014
 

Vibrant Bangladesh !!!

By Siddhartha Kundu

Hi Brandon & Steve,

I am from New Delhi, India and a fan of your blog. I visit the your site every day whether on my phone or my computer. The photos posted in your site are truly amazing and have inspired me into the challenging world of street photography. Well .. to me street photography is pretty difficult and I am still learning. I have attached some photographs during my stay in Bangladesh in 2011-12. Bangladesh is a small country (144,000 sq. km) neighbouring east of India. With a population of over 163 millions it is one of the most densely populated countries. While 30% of Bangladeshi’s live below poverty line, it is one of the largest producers of ready-made garments. Most of the big fashion labels source their products from Bangladesh,

I was based in the capital city Dhaka, which is a photographer’s paradise. Streets with rickshaws, hand carts, dented buses and obviously masses of people. While it is very difficult to walk around with a DSLR (& lenses like 70-200) without drawing attention but people are quite friendly to expats. The attached photographs were taken with my old 5Dm2 & lenses like 70-200 & 24-70 L. My dream set up is obviously a Leica M + 50 Lux which I cannot afford as of now.

Some of my photographs can also be found at : http://www.siddharth-kundu.com

Thanking you

Regards

Siddharth

Photo 1: Alms

Canon 5Dm2 / 70-200 1.8L IS 1 F: 3.5 1/250s 

Converted to BW with VSCO Slide (Agfa

Photo1

Photo 2: A Rickshaw Man

Canon 5Dm2 / 70-200 1.8L IS 1 F: 4.5 1/160s

Converted using VSCO Slide (Kodak E200)

Photo2

Photo 3: Welcome to my shop

Canon 5Dm2 / 24-70 2.8L1 F: 2.8 / 1/30s

Converted using VSCO Slide (Kodak E200)

Photo3

Feb 202014
 

Greetings from West Africa

By Devesh Uba

Dear Brandon and Steve,

Let me begin by congratulating you guys for the wonderful website and the always inspiring resources/articles you have there. My favourite sections are ‘daily inspiration’ and off course the reviews. Keep up the great work!

I am Devesh Uba, an Indian national currently living and working in Lagos (Nigeria), from past eight months or so. I have been doing photography over a decade now and I love people and street photography. I happen to do more colour than Black and White, but I do enjoy Black and White a lot and there are phases when I only do Black and White.

Here in Nigeria I am fascinated with the colours, smiles and the culture of this country. I am trying to capture it and share it with the world through my blog and Flickr, and I will be really happy if they are selected in the ‘daily inspiration’ section of your website. I use a basic DSLR Canon 550 D with a Canon 35mm F2 (prime) mostly for streets. Here in Nigeria it isn’t safe to walk on streets with your camera (especially for an expat), so sometimes I take pictures from my car when in hostile areas.

Links to my work are:

Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/deveshuba

Nigerian Photoblog : snapitoga.tumblr.com

Thank you.

Regards from West Africa,

Devesh Uba

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Jan 092014
 

maintitlefathers

A year with my father’s camera

by Antoine Ringeard-Tordjeman

Hi Steve, and fellow stevehuffphoto.com readers ! This site has been a great inspiration to me for a long time, especially the user-submitted pieces, so I thought I might share my own story. There was a Swiss watchmaker that had an ad saying you can never really own their timepieces, as you are merely borrowing them from your grandchildren. Some cameras are like that too!

My name is Antoine, I am 22 and I got really into photography about 2 years ago when I moved from France to China. I bought a $200 superzoom and I loved it dearly, it has given me great shots (great in my own eyes, admittedly). Still, it had its limitations and I moved on to a Fuji X100, that I still use today, as it is an amazing camera.

And then, on a holiday back home, I pointed at a box in a closet and my mom said “oh that’s your father’s camera, I don’t think I’ve seen him use it in 25 years !”. I opened it like it was a treasure chest, and I was not disappointed. Inside was a pristine 1975 Canon EF film SLR.

The camera was actually bought by my uncle for a small fortune in 1975 (adjusting for inflation, the kit with a 50mm 1.4 cost him close to €2400), when my father was still a teenager, and he must have gotten it from his brother a few years later.

It was Canon’s first try at a pro-level electro-mechanical camera: it has batteries that power the TTL metering, the shutter priority mode and the two slowest shutter speeds. The body is black enamel paint on brass, just gorgeous. Even though the batteries still had power left after 25 years in storage (!!!), I took them out and I use the EF as a fully mechanical camera, metering with the X100 or an iPhone app. It has never been serviced and runs like clockwork.

Moscow, Russia – Ilford Delta 400

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Beijing, China – Kodak TMax 400

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In the box were a 35-70mm 3.5 plastic zoom and a 135mm 3.5 tele, in FD mount. Upon returning to Beijing I quickly bought a mint 50mm 1.4 for a whopping $60 and haven’t taken it off the camera since. All the pictures in this article were taken with that lens.

Bokeh! in Beijing, China – Ilford HP5+

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Fenghuang, China – Kodak Portra 400

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I have been doing my own B&W processing since the first roll, it seemed like a fun thing to do (it is) and it’s cheaper. I also have a small darkroom now and I do wet prints. Most of the scans here were done by the Lomography store in Beijing. I’m not really into their aesthetic but as a lab they’re affordable, sell good B&W film (repackaged TMax 400 and Fomapan 100), do an OK job with the processing and the store assistant was really really knowledgeable and a genuine film lover.

Beijing, China – Ilford HP5+

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Beijing, China – Kodak TMax 400

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After I caught the film photography bug my GAS syndrome mutated. I was perfectly happy with my X100 and used it alongside the Canon, or by itself when I needed the high ISO and the possibility to miss half the shots without financial repercussion. While I completely stopped lusting after newer, better digital cameras, I became obsessed with film cameras, especially Soviet ones. I have since bought a Zorki rangefinder and a Flexaret TLR. Oh and a DIY plastic 35mm TLR, because of course I did, it was $12.

If the Sony A7R sold for $100, and I had $100, I’d buy a Moskva 5 :).

Moscow, Russia – Kodak Portra 400

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Moscow, Russia – Kodak Portra 400

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As for the photography itself, it’s still mostly snapshots. I try to go everywhere with a camera and shoot whatever looks good. I seem to always come back to night scenes of neon lights and dimly-lit bars. I have never been to NYC, so for me Beijing is the cuty that never sleeps.

Beijing, China – Kodak Portra 400

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Beijing, China – Kodak Portra 400

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This camera is now one of my most prized possessions, even though I’m not sure it’s technically mine.

The point of this rather lengthy article is not to say film has made me a better photographer – it probably hasn’t. I won’t argue that film photography is better in essence or in quality – it’s just different.

I get why people who started photography when film was the only option don’t miss it, it can be a hassle, especially if you’re shooting on a professional scale. And I can understand why people who are getting back into film are dismissed as hipsters. For me, at a time when every disposable gadget takes pictures, film retains that little bit of magic that keeps me excited about photography.

Unlike digital cameras, film cameras are not getting any more obsolete than they are now, most of them will still be perfectly capable of taking pictures 40 years from now. Hold on to yours, a well-loved film camera might go from garage sale junk to priceless heirloom just by being passed on to the next generation !

Beijing, China – Kodak TMax 400

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Fenghuang, China – Kodak Portra 400

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Beijing, China – Ilford HP5+

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Beijing, China – Kodak Portra 400

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Jan 042014
 

dragan

USER REPORT: 9 Photos, 9 Places, 9 Cameras

By Dragan Arrigler

Recently posted Paris photo by Gianmaria Veronese here reminded me of my own photograph I made from almost the same spot in March 1985. It was my 35 mm b&w film era and 16 years later, in 2001 I started to work with digital cameras. I would like to present a short user report and briefly describe the 9 cameras I used to make 9 very different photos of 9 different places from 1985 to 2013.

1. In 1985 I was a photojournalist and I always carried around a lot of cameras, lenses, etc. Still, my favorite combination was Canon F, 24 mm lens, and Kodak TRI X, while the vast array of other lenses and accessories in my bag waited there “just in case”. In those days I used 24 mm lens for almost everything – landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, etc. It gave me such a broad and dynamic view at the world around me. I preferred contrasty, grainy photos and as a rule my b&w films were slightly underexposed and slightly overdeveloped. I still have one Canon F from 1980. In has been regularly serviced (three times in 33 years) and it works like new.

eiffel_tower

2. I made the picture of Pontevecchio in Florence in 2001 with Olympus Mju (Stylus) Zoom Wide 80 (I have always loved Olympus cameras for their size and weight). It was automatic 35 mm compact camera with 28-80 mm lens, considered very wide for late ’90, when it was designed. It had autofocus, small LCD frame counter and was waterproof. A perfect travel companion. The camera even displayed some sort of metadata, as can be seen on the lower right side of the photo. The kids on the picture didn’t seem to be interested in the magnificent renaissance architecture around them, and neither was I.

kiss_pontevecchio

3. My first digital camera was Olympus E-20P, purchased in autumn 2001. Soon after that, in February 2002 I had to do a job on Bonaire, a amall island in the Dutch Caribbean. Digital photography being sort of unexplored territory at the time, I didn’t risk and packed my trusted analog cameras as well. Most of the work was indeed done on 35 mm color slides, but with my new toy I made some charming pictures, too. One of them was a photo of windsurfers in beautiful Jibe City on the eastern coast of the island, where constant trade winds and shallow turquoise Caribbean sea waters make ideal windsurfing spot. I sold E-20P the next year after purchasing my first Canon DSLR, but I still remember its perfect zoom lens 35-140mm f 2,0-2,4 with certain nostalgia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. Canon PowerShot S30 was a terrible camera by today’s standards, but was a precious pocket compact in 2003. I took it along on my trip to Provence that summer. It is fun and more or less safe to make photos with such a small and unobtrusive camera – without using flash, nobody takes you seriously, especially when you work in relatively dark interiors or at night. Café de Nuit in Arles, once beloved Vincent Van Gogh’s motif, was a perfect place to prove this. In postproduction, inspired by master’s paintings, I slightly exaggerated the colors, just like he did in 1888.

Café_de_Nuit

Café_by_Vincent

5. I was presented Holga for my birthday in 2006. Yes, it is a rickety, cheap plastic Chinese camera. It leaks light, the lens is terrible (60 mm f 8,0 – somewhere between normal and wide-angle lens for 120 film) and it incorporates only one shutter speed which is not defined precisely – it’s probably around 1/60. And B, of course. Exposure demands a lot of guesswork. But it gives you the basic thrill of photography: you can never really tell what you will get. If the predictability of digital photography has begun to bore you, get a Holga. For best results use very old films, expired long ago. And there is more: you will never again feel the urge to invest in digital filters which imitate corny emulsions, cross processing, picture frames, over saturated or washed-out colors, vignetting, as well as dust & scratches. Nothing of this was applied to the photo of the romantic old house in Vrhnika, Slovenia.

house_Vrhnika

6. Another Canon PowerShot, the A640 was used to photograph silhouettes in a small beach bar on Caribbean island Antigua in 2008. This camera had almost limitless autonomy, because it was powered by four AA batteries and I purchased it prior to a sailing trip where I didn’t expect to have any AC outlets at hand. AA are the most common batteries – you can buy them anywhere in the world. You just have to buy a large (and heavy) stock. Being so dependent on energy is digital cameras’ big disadvantage in comparison to analog ones. For instance, I replaced the battery of my 1980 Canon F maybe three or four times in more than 30 years.

bar_Antigua

7. Yet, it’s a digital era and small cameras are so expendable. I only had the A640 two years and then I replaced it with the third Canon PowerShot, S90. It is even smaller than A640 and claimed to be better, a great third camera for professionals, with a lot of manual controls. But in terms of picture quality I never really saw a big difference – except that it has very usable wide aperture of f 2,0 at 28 mm (equivalent) zoom setting. The other side of zoom, 105 mm (equivalent) f 4,9 is much sadder story, though. Anyway, this camera was used to make the picture of the biker (luckily dressed in red) sweating uphill on endless winding road in literally and metaphorically breathtaking, exotic, hot, humid, Avatar-like island Reunion in Indian ocean. One final remark on this tiny device: it incorporates optical stabilizer, but being so small and light (just 175 g), it just can not match the stability of big and heavy DSLR cameras with big and heavy lenses.

biker_Reunion

8. If you like red color, Denmark is one of the countries to travel to. Red is a dominant color in their flag and elsewhere. With a bit of luck and good weather you can make nice geometric pictures like I did in the small port of Struer in north-west part of the country. I used Canon EOS 5D, bought in 2005 (can you imagine that it has already been called “vintage”?) and good old zoom 24-85 mm f 3,5-4,5, designed in 1996. In spite of being almost ancient by today’s standards, it is still one of the best and most durable combinations if you want to travel light.

struer_denmark

9. Finally, I would like to share some observations regarding Voigtländer Nokton 25 mm f 0,95. Read some tests of this product, e. g. here or here and let me just add this: it’s a fantastic toy, a sheer pleasure, but not in the least easy to use. And more than just a toy, of course. It’s solidly built, it’s big and heavy, heavier than my Olympus E-P3, including EVF and strap. Now just think: a heavy lens plus f 0,95 plus in-camera image stabilisation – a photographer with steady arm and some experience can work in almost total darkness without even having to use high ASA setting. The twilight picture of exotic Lisbon funicular was made handheld with 1/25 s at f 1,4 and ASA 320. And there is even more: it can focus down to approximately 8 centimetres or 3,15 inches which almost makes it a macro lens, too. Unfortunately, it has two drawbacks: manual focus and manual aperture ring. It is difficult to focus it in darkness owing to its extremely shallow depth of field (probably this problem will be solved with the newer cameras incorporating focus peaking). In bright daylight, where circumstances call for smaller f-stop, it’s even more complicated; remember, the aperture is manual and you have to focus at working f-stop. This is not easy even at f 4, and nearly impossible at f 8 or f 11. Of course, it’s 25 mm lens and everything in finder appears to be sharp. Not so later, when you critically observe your masterpiece at 100% magnification on the computer monitor. In short, this lens needs some patience and a lot of practice. If you have no patience or not enough time to practice, go and buy Panasonic’s 20 mm f 1,7 lens. It’s a very good solution, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Conclusion: the point of this user report (and hopefully the pictures) is to inspire the readers to grab whatever camera they have, go out and do with it the best they can. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will make good photos with the best camera and the sharpest lens in the world. But there is a fair chance that their pictures will be widely admired even if they were made with cheap, plastic, outdated three megapixel devices. Just consider: would the photo of Café de Nuit be better, had it been photographed with a good, 36 megapixel camera, like Nikon D800E or even 60 megapixel Hasselblad H5D? Perhaps tehnically; it would be sharper, with more details, the resolution would be substantially bigger. But would it match the atmosphere of Van Gogh’s painting? I don’t think so. Sometimes the photos are about mood, not tehnical quality. Buy any camera, get used to it, then just forget it and focus on the pictures. To quote Don McCullin, the famous war photographer of the 1960s and 1970s: “I only use the camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”

Dragan Arrigler

www.arrigler.com

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