Apr 102015
 

Medium format goes medieval: comparing a Nikon DSLR with the latest from PhaseOne

By Andrew Paquette – His Website is HERE

A couple weeks ago I started making plans to do a photo shoot at the ruins of a local castle. I intended to bring my D800 and a Zeiss 55mm Otus as the primary rig, along with an A7r with a Zeiss ZA 135mm for action and close-up shots. However, a few days before the shoot, my wife and I were talking about medium format systems, the photographer Jason Bell, and then PhaseOne medium format cameras. To find out more about PhaseOne, I performed a few searches on the Internet, but didn’t get very far with pricing information because every page led me to a form that I could use to get a free test drive of a PhaseOne system. I was primarily interested in knowing what a refurbished system cost, but since I had to fill out the form to find out, I filled it out. A few days passed, and then on the day before the shoot, I got a call from PhaseOne. Would I like to borrow a camera for a test drive? The rig suggested by the salesman was the 645DF+, the IQ250 50MP digital back (their first CMOS sensor), and a Schneider Kreuznach 80MM f/2.8 leaf shutter lens. This is the exact same rig Bell mentioned when talking about one of his shoots. Curious to see how it would work out, and with a little trepidation that GAS syndrome may have just had a peek in the room, I decided to try it out.

Dungeon corridor, shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8

Settings: f/2.8, 1/5 ISO 400
Considering the slow shutter speed here, I really should have shot this at a higher ISO

Dungeon corridor

—-

Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/3.2, 1/60 ISO 400

Robin in red

The primary reason I was curious about medium format in the first place had to do with my discovery that almost all of the photos I like the most were shot on medium format systems. In one case, a photographer had one shoot of many on her site that I liked a lot, while the rest were good but not as creatively inspiring. That one shoot was done with a PhaseOne. The more I looked, the more references to medium format and PhaseOne I saw. What finally decided me to look into it was a photographer who wrote how he had tried and tried to make images that had qualities he associated with his favourite photographers, like Annie Liebowitz, but couldn’t do it until he switched to medium format. Until then, he thought there was some problem with the way he was taking the photos, setting up the lights, or editing them in software. It wasn’t any of those things—it was the type of camera he used. After switching, he was able to get the look he wanted.

The D800 and the Zeiss 55mm Otus is a very nice combination for DSLR shooting. Short of the D800E or D810, it is about as good as it gets. The lens is the second-highest ranking lens rated by DxO labs (after the 85mm Otus), and the camera is one of the highest rated among DSLRs. The Phase One is similarly one of the best offerings from a brand that is popular among professional photographers. From my perspective, I wanted to know if the image quality difference would be noticeable, and if it would be worth the huge price difference between the two systems. Lately I have been gravitating toward portraits and fashion, both of which genres seem to benefit from medium format cameras.

Disclaimer:

This purpose of this article is to provide some information about how a high end DSLR system compares to a well-regarded medium format system, for those who are considering a switch. This is not meant to be a definitive scientific test. There are plenty of examples of beautiful work by professional photographers on the PhaseOne website, as well as on Nikon’s and Zeiss’s websites. These are great for showing the best possible results from the most highly regarded photographers, but it is hard to know from these gallery images what went into the shoots. What I found difficult to find were articles that compared DSLRs and medium format cameras by shooting something outside the range of normal technical tests, which are usually just a couple of distant buildings, a girl in the forest, and head shots of the camera salesmen at Photokina.

Expectations:

When I rode the train up to the PhaseOne dealer, I was fantasizing about getting some pretty amazing shots simply because I was using a PhaseOne. That said, I knew the possibility of that happening was remote. The D800 and Otus are an excellent combination and I had been using them for a year. Comparing that to an unfamiliar system automatically puts the PhaseOne at a disadvantage. Another problem is that the DSLR is much more useable in low light than the PhaseOne—or at least most medium format cameras, which operate best at 100 to 200 ISO (with 400 ISO the maximum). The IQ250 back I was using was different because it could go up to 6400 ISO. Despite this, I was thinking of the PhaseOne as a system that required studio lights, as opposed to the D800, which worked fine without them. I was planning on using a reflector and sunlight for the shoot, and had no room in my transportation for lighting gear. I hoped this wouldn’t compromise the PhaseOne too much, but that was what I had to work with so I’d just have to see how it turned out.

At the store, the salesman gave me a quick tour of the camera. During this short tutorial I shot a couple images of objects in the store. What I saw really surprised me: there were prominent green and magenta bands running along the edges of many white objects in the scene. Most of the Zeiss lens line have very little fringing problems, and the Otus has none. I literally hadn’t seen fringing for months because I have been using the Otus as my go-to lens. Even when I use other Zeiss lenses, like the ZA 135mm f/1.8, I rarely have fringing issues. Seeing fringing on the first couple of shots taken with the PhaseOne was disheartening, but on the other hand, the system I had in my hands was the same one used by the royal family’s photographer. There had to be a way around it.

Because of my concerns about the lighting and the lens, I was prepared for the test to go either way, but was rooting for the PhaseOne, if for no other reason but that it is always fun to discover a way to improve the quality of one’s images. It was a fairly dark day, so most of the shots were made with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Conclusions:

Ergonomics… The 645DF+ felt great in my hands, the menus on the touchscreen were easy to understand and big buttons were easy to press without accidentally pushing something else (as I do more often than I like with the D800 and A7r). The optical viewfinder was like looking into the detachable Zacuto viewfinder I use on my Nikon, but integrated with the camera and brighter. The live view screen was very nice, slightly higher resolution than the LV on the D800, and most importantly, the IQ250 has the built-in ability to transmit the live view and preview photos to an iDevice. I tested this on my iPad and it worked very well, using the free app provided by PhaseOne, Capture Pilot. This app can also be used as a remote trigger for the camera. This functionality makes focus checking trivially easy compared to the D800 (and probably the D810 as well) because of the much larger iPad screen. Overall, I felt that the camera was easier to hold, to carry, and to use in some ways than the D800. The only exception to this are the aperture and shutter control dials, which are smaller and thinner than their Nikon counterparts. This isn’t a big deal, but I found them more difficult to find and use than on the D800, probably because I’m not used to them.
The case this camera came in was much bigger and heavier than it needed to be for a camera that felt to be about the same weight as the D800 + Otus. As for overall dimensions, they weren’t much different there either. If I were to get one of these, I’d probably opt for a backpack instead of the gorilla-proof case I was handed for the tryout.

Image quality… Overall, I liked several of the shots from both cameras. In all but one of the examples where I shot exactly the same subject with both cameras, I preferred the PhaseOne result. I shot the PhaseOne in aperture priority mode because I wanted to avoid an excessively shallow depth of field in shots with multiple actors. This worked against the PhaseOne because I was able to use much faster shutter speeds with the Nikon. I initially had the impression that the Schneider-Kreuznach lens was softer than the Otus because the images themselves were softer overall, but the slower shutter speeds almost certainly allowed enough motion to lose some sharpness compared to the Nikon.
Despite the slight softness to images shot with the PhaseOne, in all but one example where I shot the same scene with both cameras, I preferred the PhaseOne because of the superior colours and tonal range. Both camera/lens combinations produced nice images, but the colours that came out of the PhaseOne were noticeably stronger.

I’m not totally convinced that the PhaseOne is hands-down better than the Nikon/Otus combination, but am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt until I have the opportunity to test it again*. I do know that the colour from the PhaseOne system and richer tones are very appealing compared to the more limited range available in the Nikon system.

*Update: I have retested the Phase One system and answered some of the questions left with the previous shoot.

1) The colour differences between the two systems are partly attributable to having used Capture One to process the Phase One shots but Lightroom for the Nikon shots. Despite this, the greater dynamic range of the IQ250 over the D800 is obvious.

2) The CA problem with the SK lens is very real but goes away at higher f-stops. I did some shots of dark tree branches against the sun at f/2.8 (heavy fringing) and f/5 (no fringing) as a test. If shooting at less contrasty subjects, the bigger apertures can be used. The Otus remains the winner in this category.

3) The SK lens is very sharp when setup properly. It really doesn’t like low light situations, and ‘low light’ for the Phase One is a lot brighter than for the D800. I had been setting the Phase One to match the Nikon settings—a big mistake because medium format requires more light than a 35mm.

4) The Capture Pilot utility is really awesome to use. It helps get steadier shots, and allows high resolution exposure and focus checks in the field.

Below are some more of the images from the shoot (and at the end, a couple of bonus shots from the more recent test):

Brigands. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/6.3, 1/15 ISO 200

Brigands

Dejeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the grass). Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/2.8, 1/223 ISO 200

Renaissance battle_4

Thom. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/3.5, 1/111 ISO 200

Thom

Merlyn. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/9, 1/7 ISO 100

Merlyn 1

Merlyn. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/7.1, 1/125 ISO 125

Merlyn 2

Unruffled. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/5.6, 1/100 ISO 1200

Unruffled

Sparring. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/7.1, 1/30 ISO 125

Sparring

Triple portrait. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/4, 1/200 ISO 125

Triple portrait

Robin. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/3.5, 1/100 ISO 200

Robin at the window

_______________________
The new test shots were made primarily to check CA and sharpness of the SK lens. All were shot with the 645 DF+, IQ250, and SK 80mm LS lens. Here they are:

Sunset fence 014

mirrored wetlands

RiverBend

Mar 112015
 

What I learned from trading a DSLR for a phone.

By Brandon Labbe

NOTE: All images in this post are phone images. 

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

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

2014-05-30 15.28.45 1500

 

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

2014-05-30 15.34.53 1500

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

2014-11-08 14.04.58 1500

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

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

2014-11-12 07.16.30 1500

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

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

2014-06-03 08.26.07 1500

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

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

Brandon Labbe

Jan 082015
 

Me and my Fuji X100 (original)

by Jonas Luis

Hi, Steve!

I have followed your website for several years, now. I always look forward to new entries especially new reviews and daily inspirations submitted by photographers all over the world.

I started photography 8 years ago and was primarily a Nikon user. Then, came the Fujifilm X100. I just fell in love with the design of that camera. It reminded me of my Dad’s Kodak Retinette. So, I pre-ordered it and read all the online previews and rumors. I kept on waiting, even after production halted in the Fujifilm factory in Sendai, Japan due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami. After almost a year of waiting, I finally received my order. I wanted to use the X100 as my travel camera, not just as my primary travel camera, but my only travel camera. Of course, I had to contend with the built-in lens. I thought having a single lens would be liberating (if you have a DSLR with multiple lenses, you know the mental anguish of choosing which lenses to bring, packing, etc.) I sold all my other Nikon DSLRs but one, and traveled with my little X100. I also put-up a group pool in Flickr called X100rumors for users of the X100 camera and its future variants. Yes, coming from DSLRs, the X100 was frustrating initially: back-focusing issues, useless manual focus, camera freezing up, etc. (all of which were vastly improved and solved by firmware updates). Still, instead of traveling with an entire system, I now travel with “a camera”. In the beginning, the limitation of having a single lens bothered me. Soon after, it became a personal challenge to obtain the best image I can with that single focal length.

Before I took photography as a hobby, I usually buy souvenirs from my travels. Now, traveling with a camera, I am more inspired to bring home photographs of a place – photographs that I could truly call my own. Before traveling to a particular place for the first time, I would Google images of that specific place – trying to see note-worthy attractions, what tourists usually photograph. Then, I would choose which attractions to photograph, and imagine how I would shoot it in a way that probably nobody has ever done before (or at least not shown in Google images, Flickr or 500px). I usually take note of the predicted sunrise, sunset and weather on each day during my travel. As you all know, aside from the Golden Hour, a lot of exquisite images can also be taken in the rain. The following images were taken by my little X100 throughout the years. They were all re-sized for this website in Lightroom.

This first image was taken when I first saw the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I noticed that the other tourists had their cameras with zoom lenses and camera phones aimed only at the bridge. I soon spotted these array of coin-operated binoculars just in a corner, seemingly neglected – seating there while time and technology just whizzed by. They were probably fascinating and a novelty during their time, but now, just a relic. Yes, I was more enchanted by these shiny binoculars than the enormous man-made achievement that everybody flocked here for. I took a photograph of the binoculars, edited the image with Fujifilm’s free SilkyPix software and a free open-source software, Gimp. I ended up calling this piece, “The Old Robot”.

JonasLuis_1

Image number two: my girlfriend and I traveled to Chicago. I wanted to have a souvenir photograph of the “Cloud Gate” like everyone else who has been there. If you Google it, you would know that this piece of art has been photographed a million times. So, I decided to have our souvenirs by putting my X100 in a Tamrac Zip-shot tripod, attached an infrared filter and with a couple of Cokin neutral-density filters to the lens. I then set the camera on long-exposure. My girlfriend and I took turns photographing each other. The shots were very long exposures, so we would take a comfortable pose while the one photographing would continually wave his or her hand like a conductor in an orchestra – letting the other know that the shutter is still open and for not to move. The image was converted to black and white and edited in Lightroom.

JonasLuis_2

The third image is a photograph of the Smithsonian garden in Washington, DC using the same tripod and infrared filter. I was carefully composing my shot one afternoon, when a gentleman just sat down on the bench at middle of my frame and unmindfuly read the day’s newspaper. Irritation turned to inspiration when I started seeing the results on my X100’s LCD screen. To me, the resulting image just exuded leisure and relaxation. My office and I ended up gifting a framed print of it to a co-worker who recently retired.

JonasLuis_3

This photograph of the beach, was taken in Cancun, Mexico. I was initially drawn by the red color of the floaters. Up close, I was amused to see a beer bottle under the lifeguards’ tall chair. Looks like they had a little “refreshment” while at work. To me, the image says, “Chill out! You’re on vacation! You are not in the USA!”. This was edited in Lightroom.

JonasLuis_4

The fourth image was taken in Richmond, Virginia. While gazing up the monuments and buildings, it reminded me of the architecture in the Eastern Bloc during the cold-war era. So, I edited this image to have a utopian look in Lightroom.

JonasLuis_5

My foray into street photography is pretty limited. Unlike other photographers, it is hard for me to find something to photograph on the street, that to me, seems worth-while. Maybe, I don’t have an eye for real street photography, or maybe, because of my little experience with a film camera as a child, that I try not to waste a photograph unless I see a potential story in the picture. In my mind, I keep on judging a potential photograph as just a regular snapshot, or a potential story that is worth telling. In this case, my girlfriend and I were crossing the street in Chicago, after a late dinner. I saw this cyclist coming towards us. It was close to midnight, it was cold, it was raining and I thought, “Why is this guy out here on such a miserable night? Is he going home? Going to see his lady, perhaps?” Granted, he could just be a regular commuter but I can’t sometimes help making up crazy stories like these. So, without thinking, I just stopped in the middle of the street and took a photograph while the cyclist and all the cars are rushing towards me. All the while, my girlfriend is shouting at me to cross the street. Until this day, whenever I look at this image, I still wonder where this night cyclist was heading to. This image was edited in Gimp.

JonasLuis_6

Image seven is a photograph of the outdoor public market in my hometown in the Philippines. During some days of the week, there is a public outdoor market, and vendors are there as early as two in morning, preparing their wares and produce. I took this photograph around sunrise. Now, I don’t know any of these people. I was only walking around taking photographs. I like this particular photograph because when I took it, I was in the middle of the crowd. But as you can see, I was nothing but invisible to everybody. Everyone had their own stance, their own gaze – as if actors on a stage and only I, could notice the play unfolding. Almost like a Renaissance painting. Edited in Lightroom.

JonasLuis_7

This colorful image of lights was taken at Disney World. I took this hand-held with the X100. I was surprised when I opened this image on my computer because it already looked perfect, straight out of the camera. The X100 has a great low-light capability. I converted it in-camera from RAW to Velvia. I only increased contrast a very tiny bit in Gimp. But you are hard-pressed to tell the difference between the edited from the original.

JonasLuis_8

This next image of a crashing wave is when my X100 nearly got nearly got killed. I was in Pebble Beach in California. I was trying to take photographs of incoming waves with a small tripod. Because the X100 doesn’t have a zoom lens, you really have to keep the camera a little close to the water, the tripod was set low and and I was almost seating on the rocks. Anyway, while composing my shot, I noticed a rather large wave coming in. I was quickly debating if I should go back and save my camera, or hold my ground and maybe, will have a helluva of a shot. I decided to hold my ground. So, as soon as the wave came crashing in, I took a single frame then immediately, raised my camera with the tripod over my head. My shorts got wet, but that little gamble paid off. Image edited in SilkyPix.

JonasLuis_9

The last image was taken in Baltimore, Maryland during one summer. There were a bunch of kids playing and running around the fountain. Like in a playground, all these kids were all chasing each other and playing despite being practically strangers to each other, all but these two boys. I saw that they were in their own little world, brothers – probably twins. Somehow, it reminded me of my brother and I, during my own childhood. So, I edited this image in Lightroom in a way that invokes a sense of nostalgia.

JonasLuis_10

All these images were taken by my beloved Fujifilm X100. It was only more than a year ago, that I upgraded my computer that I was able to embrace Lightroom and Photoshop. For more than five years, I was using a free program called Gimp and also the SilkyPix software that came with my X100. To me, having the X100, limitation became inspiration. Could I have made these shots with a DSLR, given the chance? Most definitely. But I selected a particular tool and made full use of it. Even my choice of editing software is of no importance. Coming home from a travel, I usually personally judge my photographs if they are worth the ink and paper they will be printed on, if not, I usually not bother sharing them. Years ago, I would spend more on gadgets and lenses. Now, I’d rather spend on printing and framing and decorating the house.

Finally, I continually strive for the elusive “6-second photograph”. If a stranger is able to look at a photograph for six seconds or more the first time, then I would consider that as a very successful photograph. Have I tested that silly theory? No. But it’s a lifelong goal that keeps me on clicking.

I hope I can inspire all of you, especially to those who are just starting photography, that regardless of the camera that you have, regardless of the latest editing software, the most important thing is your own vision and the stories you can tell. Only after extensive use of your camera that you will develop your own style and personal inspiration in photography. Even in music, the student plays somebody else’s music in the beginning. Only when they feel comfortable and proficient with their own instrument, when they usually feel inspired making their own tunes. Gadgets, extra lenses and accessories are fun, but most of the time, they just distract you from your own imagination.

Now, with my X100, would I be upgrading? Maybe not anytime, soon. Now unless… Fuji comes up with a X100T in graphite silver? :)
Keep on clicking!

Jonas Luis

JonasLuis.com

Jan 032015
 

Hi Brandon,

I have been a frequent reader of your father’s reviews on this website. and this would be my 1st submission, and hopefully 1st of many.

Over a year ago I gave up on DSLRs, and got myself a Fuji X100s when it was 1st introduced. that camera changed the way I take pictures, I am no longer cautious and concerned about being caught taking pictures in public (this is a grey area in my country, no specific rules, but many got into trouble shooting large dslr in public)

I quickly adopted street photography, loved how the Fuji was small, silent, and no one would take it seriously anyways. it made a lot of sense at that time.

However, I always wanted a Leica and last January I got my hands on my 1st ever Leica, I decided on a black M240 along with 50mm Summicron (V4 I believe), and that set was just perfect, small and discreet, slowly I even forgot about my trusty Fuji, and the Leica became my primary camera.

Attached are some photographs taken with the leica M along with the Summicron 50mm.

L1000864S

L1000803SS

L1001090bwS

L1001945SSS

L1001950SS

L1002170SS

L1002250BWS

L1002215SS

L1002106S

L1000504SSSSS

Regards,

Fahad A

Saudi Arabia

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

Jul 032014
 

From DSLR to Micro 4/3

By Paul Liu

In 2013, when my trusty (and luckily insured) Canon 7D and associated lenses were stolen in Rome, I was fairly devastated. However, taking the positive approach, I saw great opportunity to finally ditch the SLR and replace it with something more to my liking. While the 7D was always reliable and took great photos, it was a hulking, heavy beast of a camera that used hulking, heavy lenses that I simply no longer wanted to carry.

After much deliberation and a lot of help from this website, I picked up an Olympus OMD EM10. For lenses, I chose the Olympus 17mm f1.8 and 45mm f1.8 and a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye as a budget wide-angle. With these, I returned to Europe with new determination, firstly to not get robbed and secondly to learn this new camera system and get some great shots.

My trip was an overland train journey along the old Orient Express, starting in Munich and ending in Istanbul. With so many towns, train stations and exchanges along the way, travelling light was crucial to everything going smoothly and enjoyably and I was always thankful that the whole system was light and fit in a small shoulder pouch rather than taking up half a backpack.

While out shooting, the small size of the camera was a huge liberating. I found that compared to carrying the SLR around, I took far more photos. There were far less instances where I would photo with my smart phone while the big camera sat in the backpack, too large and cumbersome to take out. Instead, I could forget about the smartphone and pull out the OMD, often stashed in a jacket pocket with the compact 17mm attached, and shoot away.

But what surprised me the most was how little of the SLR experience I actually missed. A few small points of anxiety regarding speed and control that I had disappeared as soon as I came to grips with the OMD. When compared to the Canon 7D, the OMD was equally responsive, there was no real discernible difference in focus speed and the EVF was so good that I never missed the optical viewfinder. Finally, any potential pitfalls of have a smaller sensor size were safely negated by the faster lenses I used with the Olympus.

For the first time whilst travelling, my camera was a no longer hindrance that I had to endure to get the shot. Instead, it was something that I truly enjoyed carrying around and shooting with. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that having my camera stolen was the best thing to ever happen for my photography, but as a blessing in disguise, it was certainly a big one. For those still contemplating a switch, my message would be to do it as soon as possible and never look back.

Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your fantastic website. More photos from this and other trips can be found on my Tumblr and website at www.sevenyearsinadvertising.com.

Photo 1 – Parliament in Budapest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo 2 – Carpathian Mountains in Romania

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo 3 – Small town pub in Austria

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo 4 – Pumakkale calcium deposits in Turkey

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo 5 – Fisherman in Istanbul

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo 6 – Dancing in the street in Istanbul

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dec 202013
 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Nikon Df Camera Review by Steve Huff

Wow, what a whirlwind year this has been! There have been so many cameras released..and I mean GOOD, SOLID and AMAZING digital cameras here in 2013 (Olympus E-M1, Sony RX1R, Sony A7/A7r, Leica M, and others) and as this jam packed year comes to a close, my last camera review of the year is the new Nikon Df DSLR, and man oh man, what a beauty it is, in more ways than one.

selfie

Disclaimer: My Review Style!

Most of you reading this probably have read reviews written by me in the past. If so, thank you for coming back! If not, then know that when I review cameras I review them in a “real world” way..in fact, this website was the  very 1st “real world” camera review site on the internet and over the past 5 years many more have blossomed (which I think is very welcomed and pretty cool) because many people want to read about a camera from someone who has really used it, put it through its paces and exposed its many strengths and weaknesses. Is it fast? Is it easy to use? Is it comfortable to hold? Does it produce nice results? How is the battery life? The Viewfinder? The High ISO and low ISO? Are there lenses available? To me this is better than shots taken in a lit studio to test high ISO or shots of a newspaper clipping to test ultimate resolution. None of this means diddly squat when you are out using the camera as it was meant to be used. So you will not see all of those fancy charts and graphs here, just my real opinions from real use.

The next two shots..The Nikon Df with a Zeiss 35 f/2 Zf lens. Wide open you get that signature Zeiss look. My fiancee Debby was tortured for this review with MANY photos taken, so I thank her for being a good sport :) 

debbygflendalezeiss35

debbyglendale1

Yes, these are the things most of us want to see, more so than how many lines of resolution a camera can pump out on some boring test chart.  I also feel like most of us want to read reviews from someone who has used the camera for more than a couple of hours as then and only then can one really get an idea of how it will perform on a day to day basis.

We do buy cameras for the images it is capable of shooting, do we not? But if it sucks in its handling or AF speed then I toss it to the side like I have a few cameras in 2013 (Canon EOS-M was one of them). It is rare that a camera captures my attention so strong that I end up buying one for my own personal use or collection and keep it long term. It has happened with the Leica M cameras, the Olympus E-M5/E-M1 and even the Sony RX1. But what about this Nikon Df? Did it give me the emotional bond that is required for me to pull the trigger on this $3,000 set? Something that no DSLR has done since the original Nikon D700 (long before good mirror less options were around)…

Keep reading to find out…

Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 50 1.8 Kit lens

baby

What is the Nikon Df?

The Nikon Df is a new kind of DSLR for Nikon, but it is indeed still a normal DSLR with a new/old fancy design. While it performs much like a D800 or D610 or D4 it is the style and design that separates it from the crowd. In the past 2-3 weeks that I have been shooting the Df I have had no less than 5 compliments and inquiries on it. People see it and are immediately struck by the beauty of the camera. It looks retro yet modern though two people thought this was  film camera. So that right there tells me that Nikon designed it just as they intended.

A Look at the Nikon Df 

Yes, this has been happening often and proves that the majority think this camera looks amazingly good. This camera also gives 35mm shooters the absolute best low light high ISO performance available today in a production camera. Even just edging out the legendary Nikon D3s in high ISO,  according to the DXO tests. Basically this camera gives you Nikon D4 image quality (and again, even better in low light from what DXO says) in a much smaller and lighter body along with that sexy retro style. Smaller, lighter, equal or better performance to the flagship AND good looks = A CAMERA I WOULD USE EVERY DAY.

So the bottom line is that the Nikon Df is a throwback to the SLR’s of the 70’s and 80’s but in digital form, using the Nikon D4 flagship sensor, which they have somehow improved upon in some areas. It’s a mighty image quality marvel in an old school shell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To those saying this camera is ugly…well, all I can say is that I 100% disagree with you.

In fact, in my opinion, this camera is the 2nd most beautiful LOOKING digital camera in production today (Next to the Leica M). It is “sexy-retro” instead of “ugly-retro” and I much preferred the silver over the black even though both are really nice looking. The silver will get more attention so if you want to be low key, the black would be the way to go. But make no mistake, this is a beautiful camera and both the black and silver feel 100% exactly the same in the hand. In fact, give a blind man each camera and he would not know which was which. I say this because there has been nonsense online talking about how the silver is made to a cheaper standard. Absolute MYTH.

NOTE: They are both 100% the same in regards to build and materials. I have shot with and handled BOTH extensively.

I know SOOOO many of you just LOVE Cat pictures ;) So here ya go..three with the Df. Top one with the 50 1.8 kit lens!

rcat1

rcat2

rcat3

So again, the Nikon Df is basically a smaller, retro F series styled/inspired Nikon DSLR. It is the smallest DSLR they make, and when it arrived I was shocked at how small it was because I was expecting a big heavy beast. I was thrilled when I took it from the box and felt the lightness but at the same time, the robustness of it. While it did not feel tank like in the build, after a week or two I came to appreciate that it did NOT feel like that. If it was a tank, it would feel like a tank and then it would be too heavy for all day walk around use. It strikes a great balance that is actually quite hard to get just right.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Df is not nearly as small as a Sony NEX or A7 or Olympus E-M1 but in my hand , with lens, it feels about the same weight as a Leica M with a small classic 35 Summaron attached.

So the Df, for me, is the only the 2nd DSLR I would consider for my own personal use (at the time of this writing) as it is light enough and small enough – just at the limits of what I would consider the difference between an everyday shooter and a “stay at home” camera. This is my opinion as I adore small high quality cameras and am not a fan of large, bulky and fat. Your opinion may vary. The only other DSLR I would consider is the Pentax K3, but I would prefer the Df as it is full frame.

Three portrait grabs below in low light..the 1st one with the 50 1.8 at 1.8, the 2nd with the 50 1.8 at ISO 4000 and the last one with the 50 1.2 at 1.2

I have never experienced such amazing low light performance..well..since the Nikon D3s.

brandon

iso4000nonrkatie

DSC_0177

What really blew me away…

What really blew me away was the fact that this small DSLR with its sexy looks gave me the absolute best low light performance I have ever seen (even seeming to beat the older and larger Nikon D3s). In almost any light situation I could snap a shot, even using AF with the simple 50 1.8 kit lens and it would lock, fire and give me usable results, even at ISO 16,000 or even 25,600. Shooting with a Leica M limits me  to 6400 tops and with the E-M1 I really do not go over 6400 ..ever. The Df literally laughed at the low light scenarios and spit out rich colorful images at high ISO. Yes, it is the King Of the Nighttime World.

Below..ISO 16,000 at night without any noise reduction! 

iso16000

So when I started seeing these kind of results I was growing more and more fond of the Nikon Df for what it is and what it could do so easily. It looked good, it felt good, it had amazing and simplistic manual control, it was lightweight and had the best low light performance from any camera available today. It comes in at less than half the cost of a Leica M and the Nikon also has a slew of classic and modern lenses available. What is NOT to like?

I have shot with and owned the legendary Nikon D700. I have shot with and did a small review of the D800. I have reviewed the Canon 6D with the best primes lenses. While I liked these cameras and the IQ they could pump out, they would never find their way to my camera stable as they are just too large, too heavy and they do nothing to inspire me to take them out. The Df is the opposite and in fact, it is one of the few cameras that have been able to get me excited to take it out and shoot lately. This surprised me as I expected to like it but not really “love” it.

The incredible low light performance means it can go with me anywhere and anytime as now I can shoot in any light and get usable results with good color and detail, up to ISO 16,000. Past that you can also get usable results but it will start to get noisy.

ISO 25,600 at f/1.2 with the 50 1.2 in low and really bad light

iso25600

High ISO comparisons to the Sony A7, A7r and Olympus E-M1

iso12800

The Nikon Df is astounding in low light and high ISO. But how does it compare to the latest and greatest from Sony, or even the smaller Micro 4/3 Olympus E-M1? Above is the shot (which is shown from the Df at ISO 12,800) that was taken by all cameras with the same focal length, same settings and same ISO’s. Below are the 100% crops. The Df is the cleanest without question but that little E-M1 is hanging in there!

isocrops

The Df is indeed class leading when it comes to high ISO and even though the sensor is 16MP, it offers plenty of detail and the ability to print as large as 98% of us will ever need.

The Nikon Df Haters – Why the hate? 

Upon launch of the Nikon Df many bashers and haters came out to trash the camera well before anyone even touched it. I am even guilty of accusing it of being fat, heavy and large well before I even held one (I was wrong on the weight). Complaints many had were about the look (which some thought was ugly), the price (which many thought was high) and the sensor (which many feel is dated). I even wrote a “what the Df is and is not” article to explain to those who were comparing it to a D610 or D800 that this was a different camera for a different audience and those who were wanting a Df would probably not want a D800 for various reasons. Believe it or not, there is something in us that emotionally ties us to our cameras and camera gear. If there is no connection to a camera for me then it is useless and a waste of money.

mike

A camera that feels good, is fast, is versatile AND can be easily controlled as well as look amazingly good can do that for me and many others. The Df, so far, is on the right track. Cameras like the D610, D800, D4..they do not appeal to me in the slightest due to size, ugly design, weight and the fact that they are just like 70% of other cameras on the market. Dare to be different because different is GOOD ;)

Let me state my thoughts after using the Df for a while and remember..I have also used the D700, D800, D3s, D4 and many other DSLR’s from Nikon including the D100, D200, D300, D7000, D5100, etc. I have experience with mostly all of them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If Nikon came knocking on my door and said “Pick one camera and one lens for free..anything in our lineup” I would immediately, without hesitating, give a clear and concise answer… “The silver Df and 50 1.2 Ais lens”. 

Yes my friends, I would take the Df over the D700, D800, D4 or any other Nikon DSLR made. I feel it offers the best of the other DSLR’s wrapped into one body that I enjoy MUCH more. For example:

  • The Sensor is the “dated” D4 sensor but guess what? It is still considered the flagship sensor in the flagship camera for a reason. Because it offers the best of everything. It is 16Mp and that is PLENTY for 98% of users wether they want to admit it or not. I remember shooting the Nikon D2h and D2hs (still own one) and printing many 20X30’s with those small 4 MP files. People would see the images and say “wow, what detail in that picture”. These were 4Mp 20X30 prints! So the 16MP in the Df sensor is more than enough to print large. Those who feel it is not are more concerned about pixel peeping or the specs than the actually photo process or printing. 
  • The Body is light. Yes, this is the main reason that I enjoy the Df! It is much lighter feeling than any of the full frame DSLR’s, and it feels good in my hand. Not cheap, not plasticky and damn, it looks fantastic. Never did I get compliments on my D700 or D2hs. I get a few on the Leica from time to time but have gotten the most with this Df. It has actually been a conversation starter on a few occasions and no, I do NOT want some large bulky grip attached.
  • The battery life is amazing. 1400 shots or more on one battery charge, and the battery is slim and light. What more can I say?
  • NO VIDEO! Thank goodness for this one. This camera is about photography, pure and simple. If I want video I have many other cameras that can do it for me and shooting video with a Df would be awkward anyway. 

DSC_0326

  • The controls. No other Nikon DSLR offers the controls of the Df. It is simple, it is classic and it makes sense. All right there on top of the camera where we want them via DIALS instead of menus and buttons. 
  • The shutter is actually not that loud. It is not silent but it is quieter than the Sony A7 and A7r and on par with my Leica M.
  • Af is quick and fast in good light and pretty fast in low light as well. No misfocus and no quirks. 
  • The kit 50 1.8 lens is rather nice. The 1st copy I had was giving me focus issues and I realized this when the silver body kit came in and focused perfectly. So if you get a good one, the 50 1.8 is a bargain. 
  • $2900 for a camera body that is light, attractive, full frame, fast, problem free, manual controls, best low light performance of any current camera and a cool kit 50 1.8 lens as well is a good price. Yes, it is expensive but to some it is well worth it. How much is the D800? D4? Leica M? Canon 5DIII? The Df makes me want to use it just as my Leica does, so $2900 with lens is a good buy IMO for those who want something serious, sexy and slick ;) I’d much rather own this that a D800, 5DIII, D4, etc. So to me, that says a lot. 

The 50 1.8 at 1.8

DSC_0231

The next two with the manual focus 50 1.2 Ais lens at f/1.2

DSC_0131

DSC_0148

Manually focusing on the Df. Is it easy?

You have heard me talk about using manual focusing lenses on this camera such as the Nikon 50 1.2 and the Zeiss 35 f/2. This camera uses a typical DSLR optical viewfinder and does have a mirror so it is no different than shooting a Nikon D700, D600, etc. You are not looking through an EVF but a real optical VF (I now prefer a good EVF over optical) that can be a challenge to manually focus.

For example, if you are trying to eyeball focus through the VF, and shooting a lens like the Nikon 50 1.2 at 1.2, you will probably be off more than half of the time. I ended up getting frustrated trying  to manually focus just by looking and seeing when the subject is in focus. It did not work half of the time. Was it my eyes or was it just the camera? Not sure but when I started to use the focus confirmation I started getting 100% hit rates, even using a Zeiss 100 f/2 macro.

When you turn your focus ring you will see arrows in the Viewfinder that point to the left or to the right. What you want to do is turn the focus ring until you see the green dot in between these arrows. When this happens, you WILL be in focus. It is much more time consuming than shooting with an AF lens but if you have some older lenses laying around that are maul focus only, you CAN use them, so all it will take is some practice. After a couple of weeks I got the hang of it no problem.

Below is a 100% full size file from the camera using a Zeiss 35 f/2 manual focus lens, shot at f/2. Focus was on the glasses.

fullsanta

So manually focusing the Df with certain lenses can be done, but IMO, takes some practice. Much different than shooting with a good EVF (which I feel is much easier for MF) or a rangefinder. But once you get the hang of it, it presents no problems and for some, may be preferred.

The 1st shot was taken with the Zeiss 100 f/2 Macro. Manually focused. 

DSC_0412

The 2nd shot is wide open at f/2 with the Zeiss 35 f/2

DSC_0390

Using older Nikon Lenses..

The cool thing about the Nikon Df is that you can use older Nikon manual lenses with this camera. Ai, Ais, whatever you desire, they will work. Nikon made sure that their :retro” digital would work with real retro lenses, so this is a very cool feature. There are lenses you can use on the Df that you can not use on the D800 or D4. If using Ai lenses you can manually enter in the lens data and pull up any selection of them later. For example, if you have 4-5 Ai lenses you can enter their focal length and aperture into the camera, then program a button to bring up the lenses. So if you mount a 28, you can pull up the lens selection and choose the 28. Mount a 50 and pull up the menu to load the 50. This way, your exif data will remain intact. You do not have to do this, but is there for those who want the correct EXIF data when using older Ai lenses. So the Df is ready to rock and roll and it even uses the older style mechanical cable releases.

The Df works great with a mechanical shutter release such as the one in the photo below, which I bought at Amazon HERE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what is wrong with the Nikon Df?

So what are the things I would have changed with the Df if I had the power f a Nikon God?

For one, the battery and SD card door. It feels a but flimsy and since Nikon decided to house the SD card in next to the battery, I feel that over time this door may become loose or fall off. It just feels flimsy in comparison to those on the D700, D800, etc. The SD card should have had its own door on the side of the camera. The battery lasts so long that we would rarely even have to open the battery door if it were not for the SD card being there.

Second, I wish Nikon would have used a better screen in the Vf for manually focusing. Maybe a split image? Yea, that would have been much better. They went out of their way  to market the Df as a camera that can use all of the old Nikon manual focus lenses but why make it harder to actually focus those lenses when you could have made it much easier by using a split image screen? That one has me wondering what they were thinking.

Third…I wish the shutter had 1/8000th second capability. When using fast lenses wide open during the day, and like it or not, many of us out there do indeed shoot like this, 1/4000th second does not always cut it. Most cameras at this price level have a 1/8000th second shutter.

Finally..the cost. While I have no complaints of the price I do feel it would have been a better deal at $2499 with the 50 1.8 lens. This would differentiate it from the D800E and even the D610, both full frame offerings from Nikon. While I would never buy a D800 for myself, the Df seems like a $2499 price point type of camera and I feel even more would be biting at that price point. But it does house the mighty flagship D4 sensor, and has improved upon the abilities of it as well. It is the smallest DSLR Nikon makes and the most attractive in my opinion. So deepening on the shooter, this may or may not be for you.  It is not for everyone, that I know. You will either love it or hate it.  Me, I love it, even at $2995 with 50 1.8 lens.

1st image – 50 1.8 kit lens bokeh balls – 2nd image with the 50 1.2 Ais at 1.2 and the third with the 50 1.8 again, at 1.8

DSC_0144

DSC_0167

DSC_0216

Pros and Cons of the Nikon Df

Pros

  1. The design is beautiful to these eyes!
  2. The lightest and smallest DSLR Nikon makes
  3. Old school controls and dials are a nice change from menu diving
  4. Battery life is jaw droopingly good, 1400 shots or more
  5. Fast AF, even in low light
  6. Best high ISO performance of any camera available, even better than the D4 and D3s
  7. No shortage of lenses available!
  8. Can shoot just about any Nikon lens, new or old.
  9. Uses the flagship Nikon D4 sensor, with improvements
  10. No video (to some, this is a pro)

The Df with cable release and strap by Cub and Co.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cons

  1. Viewfinder should have used a split image screen
  2. Battery door feels flimsy, should have moved the SD card to the side
  3. Some will consider this to be too expensive
  4. Some modern lenses are just too large to use comfortably on the Df
  5. No video (to some, this is a con)
  6. Only 1/4000th second max shutter speed

DSC_0256

DSC_0233

Zeiss Zf Lenses – A great match for the Df

818446

When I owned the Nikon D700 years ago I also owned a Zeiss Zf 50 1.4, 100 f/2 and the 85 f/1.4. I also had the Nikon 14-24 which is a killer lens for wide angle lovers, but huge.

The Zeiss Zf lenses are fantastic. high quality, smooth bokeh, Zeiss color and pop. They are not HUGE but they are well made. Check out the kit above or RIGHT HERE – that would be a dream kit for any Nikon Df owner who wants a full manual lens set. It can be yours for the low price of $6063, which is about half the cost of one Leica 50 Noctilux f/0.95 lens. Not bad at all when you look at it in this way :)

The kit includes a 21 f/2.8, 28 f/2, 35 f/2, 50 1.4 and 85 1.4 – five HQ lenses from wide to mild telephoto with a Zeiss hard shell case to store them all in. 

If I only owned the Df I would consider this exact kit. Yes, really.

DSC_0254

My final conclusion on the Nikon Df

The Nikon Df is a camera that has been welcomed by some and pushed away by others. It has been a polarizing release for Nikon with some hating on it before even holding one and others lusting after it as soon as images of the design were released. Me, I originally thought it would be a good camera but one that would NOT be for me due to the size, weight, and the fact that it would be a “DSLR in disguise”.

After receiving one in black and silver and using them for 2-3 weeks I realized that this camera is the only DSLR I would own today. It is much lighter than I thought, a little smaller than I thought and is a joy  to shoot with the right (light) lenses. It has gone with me everywhere for the past couple of weeks and has shot in bright light, low light and NO light without issues or any kind of glitch or fault. This truly is the “King of the Nighttime World” and if high ISO and low light is your thing, the Df is the champion at this point in time (end of 2013).

Besides the low light performance, the Df bring sin a handsome classic design, beautiful manual control dials that allows you to control any setting you desire quickly and easily. It offers a bright optical viewfinder that is easy to frame and shoot with even though it can be a challenge to manually focus with when using fast prime lenses. The build is good but not tank like or over built. I think Nikon struck the right balance here as they wanted to keep it light while keeping it solid. They succeeded on this front.

Shot with the Nikon 58 1.4 which is expensive at $1600+ and larger than the kit or Ais 50mm choices. It is a bokeh machine…

DSC_0043raw

The image quality performance from this camera is just what you would expect from a Nikon D4, which is the flagship in the pro DSLR line for Nikon, and MUCH more expensive, much heavier and much larger. The Df is a little powerhouse indeed. While shooting with this camera I was approached several times asking me what kind of camera it was. Some thought it was an old film camera, others just wanted one. One guy said he was going to travel the world in 2014 and wanted a “good” camera to take with him. He said all he owned was a $200 point and shoot and wanted a “real” camera. He fell in love with the silver Df I had with me and when he asked how much and I answered “$3000 with kit 50mm lens” he almost fell back. But then he said “you get what you pay for, and it is better to buy something good than bad and then regret it or sell it and lose money”. He then said he will indeed own this camera :)

It turned out to be a great conversation starter as it is quite the looker.

As for speed, usability, IQ and overall joy of use I give this one high marks and is up there with the best I have shot with. No complaints in any of those areas.

The Nikon Df is a superb little DSLR, and the only DSLR I would own and use on a daily basis. My preference after shooting with both is for the silver but the black is also quite nice. All depends on your preference.

As for the kit 50mm 1.8 lens, one of them was focusing incorrectly (the black kit) and one was spot on perfect and quite sharp. So if you get the kit and the 50 1.7 is overly soft, it could be that the lens is off. The Nikon Df allows you to compensate for that in the menu where you can adjust the focus for these kinds of situations.

Overall, this is a stellar DSLR and I can not imagine anyone not liking it unless you are really stuck on the traditional DSLR size, shape and looks. If that is the case, a D800 or D4 would suit you better. If you like the retro style and looks, it doesn’t get much better than this in a 2013 digital (besides the Leica M). With Christmas right around the corner, this could make the perfect Christmas gift for yourself or your photo geek loved one ;)

As for me..did I buy one? Well, I was constantly going back and forth only because I simply have too many cameras as it is. At the end of the day, I do NOT have a DSLR nor a way to shoot some of those cool old Nikon lenses. I ended up picking up the silver kit for those times I want to kick it retro style with an AF fast 50. No matter what the naysayers tell you, this camera does feel great to take out and shoot, and one that inspires is one that will be used. There is nothing from Canon that excites me..Sony DSLRS are not to my liking to where I would buy one…Pentax kicks some bootie but I love the design, feel, speed and look of the Df. I can have any DSLR or camera that I want and for me, the Df wins it. If I designed a DSLR for my own use it would be 75% Df and 0% Canon 5D. Enough said.

PS – To those who are saying it is too thick..remember, it is a DSLR. The thickness can not be changed with a Nikon or Canon DSLR that accepts the Nikon or Canon DSLR lenses. This thickness HAS to be maintained in order for the lenses to work. So you will never see a Nikon or Canon DSLR that is thin unless they invent a new lens mount. But for size, this is about as good as it gets for full frame DSLR. 

Enjoy!

DSC_0437

DSC_0116

DSC_0143

iso9000

Where to Buy the Nikon Df??

The Nikon Df is available almost everywhere but when I shop for camera gear I buy from those I know well, and those who have never given me issues. For Nikon I buy from B&H Photo or Amazon. Both of these shops are huge, reputable, well known and have the best and easiest return policies.

You can buy the Nikon Df in many configurations at B&H Photo HERE

You can buy the Nikon Df in many configurations at AMAZON HERE.

When using those links above it helps this website tremendously as that is the main way this website is funded each and every month, with YOUR help and this is the best way to help. So if you buy a Df or ANYTHING after clicking on those links I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

 

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Dec 082013
 

The Nikon Df review will be up within 2 weeks!

Happy Monday!

Many of you have been asking me for my Nikon Df review but I actually have just gotten the camera less than a week ago. It usually takes me 2-4 weeks of use to get to know a camera and test it so my review has not even been started yet.

With that said, check out how gorgeous this camera looks in chrome with that 50 1.2 Lens that I spoke about a few weeks ago…stunning! After having the black and silver here, I prefer the silver and when paired with some of these manual Nikon lenses it looks and shoots amazingly well. The camera is fat but light and manually focusing is hit or miss. Use your eyes and the VF and you may miss..use the green dot focus verification in the VF and you will nail it.

In any case enjoy the images of the Chrome Df I have here and expect the full review in about 2 weeks. You can see a 1st look review I posted on AMAZON Here!

The Nikon Df is currently in stock at B&H Photo and Amazon.

1st up a few images of the camera:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a couple of images from that exact combo that I snapped last night all manually focused at f/1.2. This lens will give you a classic rendering when wide open, as it is a “classic” lens that is still being made by Nikon. While all images below were shot at 1.2, this lens gets VERY sharp by f/2 and it feels fantastic on the camera. Much nicer than those hollow plastic 50 1.8’s…

DSC_0116

DSC_0148

DSC_0143

Full review probably around Christmas Eve. ;)

Feb 252013
 

From DSLR to Leica by James Maier

Hi Steve,

I’ve been shooting mainly DSLR for the last few years but, finally, I was compelled to check out the Leica digital rangefinder cameras because of the great time I’d been having (and the excellent photos I’ve been taking) with their little X2 point-and-shoot. (Thanks for the introduction to the X2 BTW!)

The rangefinder paradigm is admittedly not for everybody but I first fell in love with photography by shooting 35mm film in my father’s Contax IIIa when I was a teenager so, in some ways, the M9 was kind of like “coming home” again – only with the convenience of digital files and processing that I’ve grown accustomed to!

I shot Canon gear for years and finally, after some considerable time hands-on with the Leica M9, I’ve completely liquidated my 5DmkII and collection of “L” lenses. The M9, a spare battery and a couple of lenses all fit in a *tiny* Domke F-5XA bag, the whole kit weighing just a few pounds. Compared to the bag I used to lug my DSLR and lenses around in, this is practically effortless, plus it’s much more discrete to carry as well as shoot! The compactness of the M9 is wonderful not only for portability but I find people just don’t *react* in the same way to the M9 as they did to my huge DLSR – they’re more relaxed and comfortable. The have often mistaken it for a vintage film camera. This thing just doesn’t look that imposing. ;)

The Leica M lenses are simply phenomenal – extremely sharp, even in the extreme corners (where my Canon L glass didn’t always fare so well). The lenses are sharp and contrasty even when shot at wide open apertures…and that even applies to the wide-angle lenses! The 50mm Summicron and 35mm Summilux have been excellent partners for this camera, though my favorite is the 21mm ultra-wide Elmarit as it’s helped me to capture stunning landscapes and seascapes in contrast and clarity I could only dream of before.

The CCD sensor in the M9 certainly bucks the CMOS trend of most modern digital cameras but affords the Leica a unique image signature that is absolutely lovely and very film-like to my eyes. From my own experience, I’ve noticed that the M9’s files require much less post-processing than any of my other cameras.

Thanks to you and a few others, I finally found my way to a camera that is a perfect fit that will be a great companion for years to come.

I’ve attached a handful of my M9 shots.

Very Best Regards, James Maier

1

3

4

5

6

7

8

Aug 012012
 

Leica Rangefinder Philosophy for the Real World by Jean-Pierre Vazquez

I’ve been hanging around this website for a while now. Mr. Huff has brought some incredible content to the masses and I’m very proud to be writing this article for him. I’ve read most of the reviews and essays multiple times. I have visually digested high ISO comparisons, lens samples, the pros and cons of multiple camera bags, and the philosophy of photography from many amazing photographers. The Leica rangefinder philosophy is, in many respects, my mantra. It is how I composed my best/favorite photos, how my fingers and thumbs move to create an exposure triangle, and how I attempt to blend the surreal and daily into a simple composition (with a pinch of juxtaposition). Finally, I yearn to become both a part of the scene while being invisible at the same time. In a word: discrete.

I may go off on a couple of tangents, so please bear with me

It has taken time and effort to get to this point. As a purist in many respects, I started off wanting to set my film camera manually and not edit at all. I learned to pre-visualize, scale focus, and meter light with grey matter alone. One learns to feel a moment just before it happens. My camera, 35 and 50 are my closest friends, and bitter enemies. I’ve had to get over my fears of getting close to people. These lenses taught me more than all the articles and forums I’ve read.

As I developed (pun intended), I tried to get closer to people. And I also made the move to digital. Ah yes… The move into the fray. I could still use my vintage lenses, but there was a clarity and smoothness that I hadn’t experienced with film. I could take more than sets of 24 and 36 frames, but still was thoughtful about my exposures. Slow, but precise. Mechanical, but with an exquisite manual focus smoothness that must be felt to truly understand.

Many photographers are gear addicts. Daily, I search for gorgeous lenses, look up the camera pr0n groups on Flickr, and sample the tastiest films from Portra to Tri-X. In essence, I live vicariously through others to tame my gear appetites.

I seek samples of crons, luxes, elmars, etc. Leica has marketed their masterpieces in such a way that if it is not their tools being used, you’re just a hobbyist. If you’re passionate about photography, nothing is like a Leica. They have lenses with the most beautiful in and out of focus areas. So I laid down the coin to at least make the move to cropped-sensor digital, clocked in hundreds of research hours on technique and applying that knowledge. I’m still scratching the surface of finding my ‘voice’ through photography, let alone honing and applying my Rangefinder philosophy.

And here I am, almost three years into my photography obsession, and I’ve realized that the finger/eye/brain balance of Leica rangefinder philosophy can be applied to an entry-level DSLR with a couple of lenses. That, and a keen eye. The rangefinder, physically/economically, is out of my reach. But I can at least attempt to document and interpret my life photographically, philosophically, with the Rangefinder spirit in mind. I’ll get closer, understand faster, and be more considerate of each moment in my life. A different medium, but a tool for expression nonetheless.

Jun 302012
 

A question I get several times a week: Can a small mirrorless camera replace a DSLR? 

With the trend in digital photography today heading to the small powerhouse bodies with larger sensors many have dumped their DSLR’s for the likes of  a Sony NEX camera, an Olympus OM-D, a Leica X2, Nikon V1 or one of the many other small mirrorless cameras that are now flooding the market.

It seems that ever since digital cameras started being produced, photography has taken a turn of some sorts. Today, for many, it is just as much about the device being used as it is the images themselves. Many shooters today get more enjoyment out of the GEAR than they do the PHOTOS. This is a true fact, and I try to keep a balance myself as I love the gear but I also love and am passionate about photography. But what is the most important is that people are gaining joy from all of this and if buying a Leica X or Sony NEX makes you happy, then why not?

I feel it is important to use a tool that you can bond with..learn with and thoroughly enjoy. I have had a love affair with smaller cameras over the past few years because I was so tired of lugging a huge backpack around whenever I wanted to go out and shoot.

Back in the earlier digital days DSLR’s were everywhere as we did not even have a choice if we wanted small AND high quality. I remember going to disneyland about 6-7 years ago and seeing everyone with a large DSLR. I remember thinking ‘how could you lug that around Disneyland AND still enjoy your day”? Made my back and arms hurt looking at some of those rigs.

When I was there at DL I waltzed around with a Leica M7 and a few rolls of film and it was no problem though I do remember worrying that the rides would jar the rangefinder out of alignment but even after 3 days there and many rides the RF was fine and even with water splashing on the old M7 I had zero issues. I would not try this with an M9 though as it somehow seems more delicate due  to all of the electronics inside that can have water leak onto them since there is no weather sealing in an M camera. Yet.

Yea, those days with the old M7 were fine indeed. No worries. Compose, snap, shutter and wind. But before I go on a rant about remembering my easy days with the M7 I have to stop myself because that is not what this article is supposed to be about!

Many readers e-mail me and ask me if a small mirrorless can replace a large DSLR. That is a very common question I get these days but you have to remember that these small cameras are usually not as versatile as a DSLR. For example, if you want to shoot sports action, a DSLR will usually be the best bet, though someone like me and a few others would use an M9 without worry, lol.

For sports the only mirrorless choices are really the Olympus OM-D as it has the speed, the lenses, and the high quality and ISO performance that almost matches a nice DSLR. Something like an X2 would not be good for sports with its limited 35mm lens and slow operation. A Nikon V1 could do sports but with the slow zooms available you would need REALLY good light. The AF is good enough as is the IQ if you keep the ISO lower. The Sony NEX series is great for sports as well as you can use some kick ass manual glass to do so.

While the cameras mentioned can do great, a DSLR will still be the sports shooting king so if you are a sports pro a mirrorless would/could not replace a DSLR just yet.

But what about Street? Portraits?

For street I feel a Leica M is king. That is MY opinion as I can shoot a Leica M faster than I can AF with most when on the street. I do not consider myself a street photographer though I do enjoy it and find it to be a great exercise to get your confidence up. Street Photography is nothing more than recording and capturing moments of real life as they happen. This is easier said than done but some people out there are very good at it while others are awful at it. It seems that in the past 2-3 years “Street” has become popular and it has brought out some great photographers but it also seems that there is a lack of REAL street shots with impact, even from old pros who call themselves street shooters because they shoot every week. I think I see maybe 1-2 really fantastic street shots a month from the slew of guys on flickr and Facebook who shoot street every day.

Like I said, I do not call or consider myself “street shooter” though I do shoot with an M and have shot street. I have tried my hand at it with MANY cameras and the Leica M just works. I had a hard time with the original Leica X1 but with that camera and the new X2 you can set the camera to manual focus and use Zone Focusing to shoot quick and easy so they also can work well. The Fuji X100 is also a great street camera as is the Nikon V1 (I have an upcoming Guest article with samples and they have def have impact). The NEX series can also do great with street and I had fun with the NEX-5 and 16mm a year or so ago so just about any mirrorless made today can do street well if you learn the camera and features and best way to shoot with it while out in the urban jungle.

Bottom line? For street I would say a mirrorless is MUCH better than a DSLR as DSLR’s are too large and scare people away. 

How about portraits?

Today I was sitting in my office reading e-mails and noticed I had a slew of cameras around me. A Leica X2, a Sony A57 DSLR with 16-50 lens and a Nikon V1. I also have a Fuji X100, Sony NEX-7 and NEX-F3 here as well (the F3 and A57 are here for  testing right now). I have heard and seen great things from the Sony A57 and 16-50 lens as this lens is super sharp even at 2.8 wide open. It also will keep the 2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range, so this is one of the premo Sony lenses.

My nephew is here visiting so I called him in the room and asked if I could snap 2-3 shots of him with a couple of cameras. I was not even going to post these but after viewing them I was impressed by what the Sony did with that 16-50 Zoom lens at 2.8. The camera seemed to put out a nice file. When viewing the file from the Leica X2 I was also pleased with what I saw. There was that Leica sharpness and detail but it also had a different color signature. The Nikon V1 could not match the richness of the two larger sensor cameras but it can do a good job, but the color is not as good or rich due to the smaller sensor.

First the A57 file with the 16-50 Zoom at 2.8

The Sony A57 puts out a beautiful rich file but with the camera and zoom lens attached it is MUCH larger than a Leica X2 (but much more versatile, faster, and with gorgeous video) The Sony combo will cost you $1650. $650 for the body and $750 for the lens (and this lens is superb but don’t take my word for it, read the reviews at B&H). The 16-50 lens is a quality lens, easily used for pro work.

The Leica X2 is a small little powerhouse. A little slow when compared to the competition but it is indeed a powerful imaging device put into a small body, that is the one thing that is certain. If you can live with the 35mm focal length and only the 35mm focal length then it is a viable but expensive option. Below you can see the shot from the X2..

Both of those images were shot as RAW files and converted using ACR.

The A57 seems like it has a richer and smoother rendering while the Leica retains that Leica signature. For in studio portraits, as in..if I were a portrait pro, I would choose a nice medium format camera for the absolute best quality. Either that or a Nikon D800 DSLR because in the studio you need all of the quality you can get and even shallow depth of field, which is the weakness of cameras like the Nikon V1 and in some cases Micro 4/3.

1st image is from the Leica X2 and the 2nd is from the Nikon V1

So while a mirrorless like the X2, Nikon V1 and X100 or OM-D can do studio, for more versatility and overall quality cameras like a Nikon D800 or Canon 5D III would be better.

A Sony NEX-7 also works well in studio especially when you mount Leica glass.

The new mirrorless cameras that are available today ALL make for amazing every day cameras. You can take them anywhere, capture anything you want and do it without looking like a big dork with your DSLR, 70-200 and sun visor and fanny pack on. A Leica X2 or Nikon V1 or Fuji X100 can be taken with you where a camera like a Nikon D800 would most likely be left at home. So for capturing life’s little moments smaller is always better. For pro work like weddings, sports, action or even studio a DSLR would give you more versatility and quality.

With all of that said, I would take a Leica M9 anywhere and shoot anything with it :)

Mar 122012
 

Sony Brings Pro-level Performance to Mainstream SLR Users with New High-Speed α57 Camera Featuring Translucent Mirror Technology

Advanced Feature Set Includes 12 fps Shooting, Full HD (60p) Video Capture, New Auto Portrait Framing and more

SAN DIEGO, March 12, 2012 — A wider palette of creative options is now accessible to more shooters with the α57 camera, the newest addition to Sony’s popular line of A-mount cameras employing Translucent Mirror Technology.

The innovative Translucent Mirror design directs incoming light to the CMOS image sensor and the AF sensor at the same time, allowing full-time continuous AF during both still and video shooting.  Users can also frame, focus and preview shots in real-time on the high-resolution Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder, which offers a wide viewing angle and 100% field of view. This allows photographers to capture exactly what they see on the screen.

A natural successor to Sony’s acclaimed α55 camera, the α57 is positioned for a wide audience of DSLR users. It can shoot still images at up to 12 frames per second, full HD video at 60p, 60i or 24p frame rates and has a variety of creative modes including Auto Portrait Framing, a world’s first technology

“Today’s DSLR consumer is looking for a higher level of control and flexibility in their camera,” said Mike Kahn, director of the Alpha camera business group for Sony Electronics. “With the introduction of the new α57, we’re bringing blazing fast response rates, enhanced artistic capabilities and other advanced features to the mainstream DSLR marketplace, offering professional-grade performance at affordable prices.”

 

With the α57 camera, shooting speeds of up to 12 frames per second are achieved in new Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE mode, maintaining continuous auto focus and auto exposure with fixed aperture. Magnifying the central portion of the sensor’s image by 1.4x, it’s perfect for capturing split-second action close-ups with a burst of sharply focused images, even when the subject is moving. In this shooting mode, aperture is fixed at either f/3.5 or the maximum aperture of lens in use (whichever is smaller) and image size of photos is about 8.4 megapixels.

Additionally, the α57 camera lets people create powerfully expressive Full HD movies. Responsive full-time continuous phase detection AF ensures that moving subjects stay sharply focused, just like with still shooting. Support for the AVCHD™ Ver. 2.0 (Progressive) format means that Full HD resolution movies can be captured with 60p frame rate: ideal for capturing smooth, blur-free action. Shooting in 24p is also available to give footage a rich, cinematic look. Movie-making options are enhanced further with full control over P/A/S/M shooting modes for virtually limitless creative expression.

The α57 model shares the α65’s 15-point AF system with three cross sensors delivering fast, accurate TTL phase detection autofocus. Newly enhanced Object Tracking AF keeps faces or other selected objects in sharp focus – even if a target is obscured momentarily by another passing object.

Even the novice photographers can now easily create pro-style portraits with the α57 thanks to new Auto Portrait Framing, a world’s first technology. Using face detection and the compositional ‘rule of thirds,’ the camera identifies a subject’s position, trimming the scene to create tightly framed, professional-looking pictures in portrait or landscape orientation while maintaining a copy of the original image. Saving both the original photo plus the adjusted version allows for easy comparison between the two images, offering photographers inspiration to refine their portrait skills.

To get closer to the subject, 2x Clear Image Zoom digital zoom technology doubles the effective magnification of your lens and is a highly practical alternative to travelling with a bigger, bulkier telephoto lens. The camera uses Sony’s “By Pixel Super Resolution Technology” to ensure that cropped and zoomed images retain full pixel resolution.

Additionally, the model’s range of popular in-camera Picture Effect modes includes 11 different effects and 15 total variations – offering a generous palette of ‘PC-free’ artistic treatments, including Pop Color, HDR Painting, Miniature Mode and much more. Results can be previewed directly in live view mode on the LCD screen or in the new Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder while shooting either Full HD video or stills.

Still and video shooting, framing, focusing and real-time preview of exposure adjustments are a pleasure with the new Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder. With ultra-detailed 1440k dot resolution and a 100% field of view, it rivals quality optical viewfinders. There’s a choice of selectable high-resolution information displays with a wide viewing-angle to help consumers shoot with confidence, including a digital level gauge and framing grid. Information can be displayed either directly in the viewfinder or on the angle-adjustable 7.5 cm (3.0-type) Xtra Fine LCD™ display.

Ensuring detail-packed images, the 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor® APS HD CMOS sensor is teamed with a latest-generation BIONZ® engine. Refined by Sony during the development of its flagship α77 and high-end α65 cameras, this powerful processor effortlessly handles large amounts of image data for flawless, low-noise images and Full HD video.

Thanks to the BIONZ processor, creative shooting opportunities are boosted by an outstanding sensitivity range of ISO 100-16,000. Users will experience consistently natural, low-noise images – whether shooting at fast shutter speeds to freeze dynamic action or handheld without flash in low light.

Pricing and Availability

The new α57 interchangeable lens camera will be available this April with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens for $800 (model SLT-A57K).  It will also be offered as body-only for about $700 (model SLT-A57).

Sony will also be introducing a new battery-powered LED video light, model HVL-LE1, which broadens options for recording video indoors or in low light. This new accessory will be available this month for about $250.

The camera, camera kit and a wide variety of Alpha accessories are sold at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.

 

Notes to editors:

***For a full video preview of the new α57 camera, please visit http://blog.sony.com/alphavideo

***The SLT-A57 is manufactured using recycled plastics. The camera chassis contains 10% recycled material.

Mar 092012
 

Goodbye DSLR’s, traveling light with the Leica M9, Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-P3

by Neil Buchan-Grant – Visit his site HERE

Last year I was commissioned to shoot a travel guide covering the island of Sicily. I had, only the previous year, sold all of my heavy DSLR equipment. Although it weighed a ton, that equipment included AF lenses which covered a wide range of focal lengths from 16mm to 560mm. My M9 kit spanned from only 28mm to 75mm.

Having done a few of these travel commissions before, I knew that the extra range would be greatly missed. So to produce the bulk of the photos, I used an Olympus EP3 and a Panasonic G3 which I used with not only the Leica lenses, but also Olympus mft lenses ranging from 12mm to 600mm. The M9 handled most of the travel portraits, each shot with the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens.

Before, when I used the Canon equipment, my travel work was mostly concerned with the places, the landscapes and the light. Now with the M9/50 lux combination in particular, I feel that portraits of the people I meet in a country will become the heart of any future commissions. I know of course there are fast primes available in other systems and I’ve used most of the Canon ones, but none have offered me the opportunity to record people in such a visually beautiful way as the Leica equipment has. So its safe to say that using this equipment has changed the way I take photographs.

I traded a big heavy rucksack for a small shoulder bag and a belt pack. These are some of the pictures, I came back with.

 

Oct 202010
 

Going to town….. a journey from a DSLR to a Leica M

By Steven Foon

More warm thanks to Steve Huff for giving us a site to go to learn and share our experiences with this love affair with photography and especially Leica’s. I wanted to share with everyone and especially with those looking to migrate from a DSLR to a Rangefinder my journey.

To start….

Like most of us, this love affair began when we were all very young. Seeing our parents using this tool called a camera to capture a moment in time. My love affair stopped right after high school (too many years ago), just because of the expense of film and processing. I stayed away for many years with intermittent ventures back to cameras.

Here’s the list of all the cameras in my life:

Keystone Everflash 20

Polaroid Super Colorpack

Kodak Pocket Instamatic 20 ( I thought 110 was great – what did I know )

Canon EOS Rebel

Casio (too many to remember)

Nikon N60

Nikon Coolpix 900 & 950

Canon Powershot 100

Nikon D100

Nikon D300S

Nikon D3S

Leica X1

Sony NEX3

Leica M8 ( a real “M” in my hands )

Leica M9 ( the pride and joy )

As you can see…. A lot of equipment. Not to mention a lot of money. Part of my goal here is to share my story and hope that those looking to do this will learn from my trial and errors.

TIP 1 – Make sure you really love this – this can get very expensive very quickly.

You don’t need a great camera to take great pictures. This is a line that you will hear very often and it is true. However, if you love this form of expression and really want to get serious, the better equipment will make a difference – mainly to you.

Think of it this way.

A kid just learning to drive. You pop ‘em into an average car and then put them into something special like a BMW M series (trying to keep that “M” theme here ). At first the kid is going to think the M is better – but really honestly don’t know why. It takes skill and knowledge to fully understand, use and appreciate any tool.

Put that BMW in the hands of someone who knows…… magic. The same holds true for fine photographic equipment. Don’t buy a Leica M just because it’s a Leica. You’ll be wasting your money and the tool.

TIP 2 – Find out what type of photography you want to do.

This is hard and will take some time.

I tired everything. Landscape, Wildlife, Sports, Studio, Street / Journalism, Events, etc…

This is important because knowing what you want to shoot will determine what gear to focus on. A DSLR is a great versatile tool in my opinion. You can use it for everything but there are some compromises. Size, weight, format, shooting experience, are just some of the compromises.

I discovered Street / Journalism photography was my thing and has become my passion.

The Nikon D3S is a great camera but for shooting Street / Journalism…. It’s not the best. More on this later in the article. Also search out the other great postings on this site.

TIP 3 – Research, Research, Research

Learn all you can….. it’ll be a life long learning thing anyway (if you intend to be better). I was fortunate to meet some great people during this journey.

Find a camera dealer with knowledgeable people. For me, Camera West in Walnut Creek, CA has been a haven and wonderful place for the pros and the serious hobbyists. The more you know, the more you’ll know what to buy.

I thought I knew what I was doing…. but this learning journey has cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars in equipment bought and sold and traded. Since you are reading this on Steve Huff’s site, you are doing your homework. This site helped me a great deal.

TIP 4 – An open mind

Along the same lines as tip 3, you need to absorb all you can. Make up your own mind of course but listen to others.

My journey….

Thanks to our lovely economy and the fear that any day now I may lose my job, I decided to see if there’s something that I love can perhaps become something of an occupation. Being realistic, it’s a long shot at best at making money at this and if anything…. Life is short and following your passion isn’t a bad thing either. I decided to jump back in the photography world.

The D300S fit my budget and is great.

Like most people with “cameraholism”, we end up getting gear.

Lens lust is the word.

I bought lenses of every imaginable focal length and speed.

One day, the lusting for a full frame sensor and not having to deal with the crop factor with my lenses got me moving in another direction. The D700 was in view but I was only really getting the D300S with a full frame sensor. The D3S on the other hand provided me the ultimate DSLR.

This came at a cost. A D3S is well over $5,000.

I did it – and still have it.

I was shooting away but soon discovered that shooting street with a huge lens and a big camera may do wonders for your ego ( that “I’m a photographer syndrome” ), but it just doesn’t’ cut it with street / journalism where the spontaneous is the name of the game.

What finally did it was when Apple launched the iPhone 4. I went out and shot images of the massive crowds. At one location, I was stopped by security 5 times. No kidding. I had a Press ID and identified myself. It was the gear I was handling that caused all this attention.

That’s when learning about rangefinders, Leica’s and this web site sparked my interest.

My camera store probably saw me coming.

I told them what I loved about camera gear that I missed – silky smooth focus rings, aperture setting on the lens and shutter speed with a knob. A Zeiss 50mm f/2 was put on my D3S and I thought I found the missing link. The thrill was back for the most part except for the format of a DSLR and the type of photography I wanted to do.

Over a short period of time, I was handed a Leica S2 to see and experience Leica. The build quality and feeling was second to none.

I had always thought Leica was this German company who is still trying to make a living with old technology and catered only to those who wanted a status symbol.

Boy was I wrong. Sure, a Leica isn’t cheap but there is more here.

The best way I can explain it is this way….

If you loved the feel of a vintage SLR. All the sensory inputs you experienced, the Leica will bring all this back.

I first bought the X1. To get that Leica experience and image quality.

It’s a great camera but for me, I longed for more. Focus ring, viewfinder, more control.

An M8 came in to Camera West.

I traded the X1 to pay for the M8

I loved every minute of it. The tool is perfect for what I wanted to do. There really is something about shooting with a rangefinder and especially a Leica with those outstanding lenses.

Everything was great until my camera haven told me the LEICA M9’s are coming in. I decided…. I wanted a full frame and the ultimate rangefinder.

I traded almost my entire Nikon kit – except for the Zeiss, a 50mm Nikkor and the 70-200mm VRII.

The day came…. See the big smile?


This is just like finding religion once again.

Oct 022010
 

Photographing Sporting Events- by Ashwin Rao

Hello, fellow Steve Huff readers. It’s Ashwin, here again with something completely different than my typical M9 posts. While I have spent the past 4 years developing my love of the “rangefinder way”, I have been quietly enjoying the SLR experience from the sideline…literally. As some of you know, I came to rangefinders from the land of SLR’s and have gradually made the switch to shooting primarily with rangefinders.

However, there are certain genres of photography to which rangefinders are not suited. In particular, Rangefinders are not great when the subject one is trying to capture is moving fast in and out of a potential plane of focus. Further, rangefinders can’t really effectively reach to focal lengths beyond 135 mm (yeah, there is the Visioflex, but that’s a tool of some compromise on the M9 and best used by those very skilled with its eccentricities). It also may be argued that rangefinders are not the best tools to shoot at very high ISO’s. The Leica M9 maxes out at ISO 2,500, while most modern pro SLR’s reach beyond ISO 100,000! In genres of photography where such issues matter (reach, fast focus/autofocus, compressing a far away image, ISO’s high enough to allow one to freeze images in darker, artificially lit conditions), SLR’s reign supreme. In many ways, SLR’s (single lens reflex cameras) do very well at many tasks, and do those tasks easily. Because of these qualities and outstanding image quality, SLR’s are BY FAR the most popular cameras out there.

All of this has no bearing, really, on how I feel about rangefinders. For me, rangefinders are a perfect tool for capturing moments in the street, moments of daily life, and for travel. For me, I can use rangefinders to capture 80-90% of the circumstances I wish to photograph. Once one learns the rangefinder way, one becomes more in tune with one’s own photography. I far prefer this measured style of image capture to the “machine-gun” approach of SLR photography. That being said, I keep my SLR set up for one of a few purposes. Shooting sports is one of those reasons. So, let’s talk about that.

In my career as a l physician in sports medicine, I have had the unique privilege of being around sporting events all of the time. Heck, it’s my job, and over the years, friends close to me have come to realize that I could snag some pretty decent photos. It wasn’t long before I was toting my cameras to the occasional game, and now, I am regularly afforded the opportunity to shoot games along with the Seattle press core. It’s an exciting way to be part of the game, and I get to share my images with fellow staff, players, friends, and family. I only mention this, because it’s pretty easy to find opportunities to shoot sports. Simply get out to your local sporting event (think, high school football), and with the proper access (say, discussing matters with the school’s coach or athletic director), you can start shooting sporting events as well.

That being said, I have had the great opportunity to shoot sports over the past 4 years at an elite NCAA Division I school, the University of Washington. In fact, our current quarterback, Jake Locker, may well be the top pick in this year’s NFL draft. We have been national champions in Crew, Cross Country, Softball, and women’s volleyball in the past 5 years, and our basketball team also routinely gets into the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. I have had the opportunity to shoot all of these sports. And while I am known to many of you as a rangefinder enthusiasts, many of my colleagues have come to know me as the dude with the big cameras and big white lenses.

Speaking of white lenses, I have owned and continue to own a Canon SLR outfit. I have owned the 5D, 5DII, digital Rebel XT, and a 1D Mark III. I have owned many (? Most) Canon lenses, but currently only own my 1D Mark III a 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS lens, 50 mm f/1.2 L lens (the most Leica-like rendering that I have come across for a lens in the Canon lineup), and a 135 mm f/2 L lens. I do own a 1.4 x tele-extender as well, to gain me some reach. I have sold off much of my Canon gear to fund the purchase Leica lenses and cameras, but keep my skeleton crew of Canon gear to shoot weddings and sports.

The images that you see here would be very difficult, if not impossible, to capture with rangefinders, but are really easily captured with the 1D Mark III and it’s 10 FPS frame rate and its strong high ISO capacity. When shooting SLR’s, I tend to use center point AF (not all of the 45-50 point focus that Canon and Nikon’s come with these days), because the center point is by far the most sensitive to rapid vertical and lateral movements. I also tend to shoot sports using the AI Servo mode, which adjusts to movements and tracks focus better in these circumstances. I tend to dial up ISO’s (1600 is typically my comfort level for the upper end of the ISO that I shoot), to allow for fast shutter speeds of 1/400 s – 1/1600 s, so that I can freeze action.

As you can tell, we are far out of rangefinder land. The rangefinder experience is far more careful and measured, while using SLR’s can have its own exhileration, particularly when viewing how one can freeze action with these cameras.

So will I keep my SLR set up? Yup. Even when I shoot SLR’s so rarely? Yup….Why? Because rangefinders have their limits. And that’s okay…they are not perfect for everything, and SLR’s are a very nice stop gap. Add to the fact that the 1D Mark III and my lenses are weather-sealed, and I have a kit that I can use for areas where I may not effectively obtain images with the rangefinder….

Hopefully, the images here will prove my point. You may notice that the style that I shoot with SLR’s is quite different than how I obtain images with rangefinders. I believe that this is in part due to my varying level of comfort with these 2 very different tools for photographic capture. Maybe even, the Canons entrust me with a bit of their soul, while Leica’s do the same as I shoot them. I don’t know, but whatever the case is, I will keep both kits to capture moments which rangefinders would otherwise struggle at.

Caveat….Shooting sports with the Leica M9

Okay, okay, so I have spent the past several paragraphs suggesting that SLR’s are far better suited to capturing sports than rangefinders. However, when pressed into service, rangefinders can be up to the task. One has to be careful, and up to the challenge. One cannot rely on 10 FPS, Image stabilization, weather sealing, and 300 mm focal lengths. One might have to pre-focus, and rely on rapid self-focus to achieve the effect. To this end, here are a few pics, taken by the M9 and 135 mm f/4 Tele-elmar (a 40 year old lens that I reviewed here earlier), at a football game this past spring.

Don’t forget to visit my blog HERE!

HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HEREand read these posts in your browser or news reader!  Also, interested in becoming a guest writer? Contact me! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Dec 112009
 

Some Leica Q&A – Switching from a DSLR to Leica Rangefinder – Your e-mails answered!

5DTOM9

My inbox has been getting jammed lately with many questions from those who have never shot with a rangefinder and are thinking of switching from their DSLR to a Leica M rangefinder camera. I am also getting questions about lenses for the Leica M9 but I will do a post in the morning about that. For now, I would like to share an E-Mail I received from a reader who had quite a few questions about the “big switch”. Since his questions were the same type that I have been getting lately I asked him if I could use his actual e-mail to me for this post where I will answer his questions the best that I can, with my own opinions. Here is the e-mail from Mr. George Lanae: Continue reading »

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

Skip to toolbar