Apr 132016
 

Photo trip to Peru

by Alec Fedorov

Hi Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alec

Thanks,
Alec

Apr 092016
 

5

Five Reasons why I prefer Mirrorless to a DSLR, ANY DSLR…

By Steve Huff

You know, ever since the humble beginnings of this website I have been drawn to smaller, sexier and cameras that have fun factor and mojo to them. I started this site with a Leica M8 review due to my love for what was at the time, IMO, the sexiest digital camera available. It was so different from the standard DSLR’s that flooded the digital camera market for so long. It was small, but had a serious heft, feeling like it was made out of a block of stone. The viewfinder on a Leica M has always been a tried and true old school rangefinder, which offered a much more challenging experience, at first. Soon, it became my favorite way of “seeing” with a camera viewfinder.

The Leica M8 had a good run, but when the full frame M9 hit, all hell broke loose. At the time, the only full frame digital cameras were things like the Canon 5D and Nikon D700. The M9 hit and there it was, a full frame camera that was much smaller than any DSLR. The M lenses were and are tiny in comparison to DSLR lenses (due to being manual focus) and the M9 made an amazing small, but very well made (better made than any DSLR) full frame powerhouse, with image quality that could no be matched, at the time, by any camera. Even today no camera can recreate the look of the old M9, not even the M 240 which is Leica’s latest M camera.

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But this article is not about Leica, I only mention the M8 and M9 as I feel, for me, these are the cameras that were very important at the time they were released, as there was simply no other full frame offerings that could come close to the build, size and performance (as long as we had decent light of course, those early Leica’s were not so hot in low light). The M9 was huge for Leica, they sold a ton of them and it was the M9 that had Leica selling out their entire stock of M glass for months at at time. Wait lists were long, and Leica was riding the new mirrorless wave. There was a reason for this, and it is called TIMING.

LEICA T AND NEW 35 SUMMILUX 1.4 T Click it for larger.

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Soon after the M8 and M9, other companies started releasing convincing mirrorless cameras that lived up to the promise of smaller size, and more fun factor but many of them were flawed with lack of lenses, slow AF or quirky performance. Many looked gorgeous, like the Olympus EP1, but it was so dog slow, had no EVF 0r OVF and it had only a couple good lenses to choose from. Panasonic made waves with the GF1 and soon, many were on the mirrorless train, but it was a slow road. Over the years these companies were releasing body after body but the lenses were taking time. This caused the DSLR crowd to predict the demise of mirrorless … “What good is a small body if you do not have good lenses”..

Then Olympus and Panasonic started kicking ass  by releasing amazing lenses that were small and performed incredibly well. Fast primes with attractive jewel like design and stunning performance. Lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8, 45 1.8 and the Panasonic 20 1.7 and the drool worthy Nocticron..today we have LOADS of lenses for the Micro 4/3 system, all we could ever want or need from ultra wide 7-14 or 8mm fisheye to 300mm fast pro primes and consumer zooms.

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Fuji was going full steam ahead as well, let us not forget about them! Fuji created TONS of excitement for mirrorless with the original Fuji X100. Many were saying “Now I can have my affordable Leica M style camera”..some were calling it a rangefinder, of which is most certainly was and is not, but it gave us the same kind of feeling as using one. Image quality was up there with the M9 even though the X100 was an APS-C camera and not full frame. Low light slaughtered the M9 and many feel the X100 was the start of Leica’s sales decline. See, Leica attracted the MASSES with the M9, unlike what they have done before (and after). The masses came out for the worlds first full frame mirrorless camera, which was the M9, there was nOTHING like it. I was getting THOUSANDS of emails over 6 months about the Leica M9 from normal joe’s who heard about it and was intrigued, even at the high price tag. When the X100 came out, that halted Leica’s mystique a bit as many saw the X100 as being like an M. While it was not, in any way – not in build, feel, shooting experience, or output, an M, it resembled one with its shape, and put out fantastic performance, so that was plenty good enough for the masses, at 1/6th the price.

Sony 24-70 G Master and Sony A7RII. Click for larger!

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When Sony hit the market with the original A7 series, I was excited by the possibilities. Attaching Leica M glass to it, shooting great full frame video, and having this full frame powerhouse taking up less space in my bag than a DSLR. While the A7 was larger than anything from Olympus, Panasonic or the other guys, it was indeed full frame. Much like the Leica M9, the Sony had the same benefits, but more of them. While the Sony was nowhere near as beautiful in design, build or feel as the Leica M9, the sensor inside the Sony was much more versatile. Able to capture scenes with massive Dynamic Range (the M9 did not have a huge DR) and even at night with low light high ISO performance that was cutting edge (unlike the Leica which suffered even at ISO 1250). Add swivel LCD’s and the EVF and video performance and you had an all in one powerhouse that was smaller than an APS-C DSLR yet full frame. Again, the weakness was LENSES. Sony had a 28-70 kit zoom that was average, and a couple of primes, the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss.

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I jumped in but over time realized the A7 series would need a lot of polishing to get up to speed and be better than most of what was out there. Soon we had more lenses, and more bodies. The A7 and A7R were replaced with the A7II, A7RII and A7S and A7SII. NOW we are talking! The MK II bodies improved the shape, build, and feel of the old A7 series. Also, the AF speed was improved quite a bit and we had a better EVF and better specs all the way around. Lenses I love for my A7RII are the Sony/Zeiss 16-35, Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, Loxia 50 and the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master which is just gorgeous. The new 70-300 looked very promising as well.

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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Today there are tons of lenses for Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony and always have been for Leica. The choice of high quality Mirrorless systems out there today is head spinning. Most looking to dive into mirrorless TODAY have a tough choice, and again, I get so many emails asking me “which one should I get” and I do not really answer those questions as a camera choice is personal, and should be made by the buyer, not me! With that said, I love them all but my faves, today are still Leica, Sony, Olympus and a couple Fuji models. After using them all, shooting with them all, for me, these brands make cameras that just fit “me”.

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Leica’s M 240 is a beautiful camera in every way but with so many other full frame offerings today (from Sony) the Leica M 240 did not sell as well as the M9. The Olympus E-M1 and PEN-F are fantastic as well, mature cameras that perform to a high standard, look and feel amazing and just “work”. Sony is on a roll with the RX1RII which I have not even mentioned yet! The RX1R for me, was a huge step forward for Sony as they created a SMALLER than Leica M full frame mirrorless with a Zeiss 35 f/2 that beat Leica’s own 35 Summicron (and the Leica lens cost more than the entire CAMERA and LENS from Sony). To me, one of the most magical cameras ever made was the RX1RII, for IQ. The new Mark II has slightly different image rendering and color but has improved the AF speed and performance. I own the RX1RII and adore it and use it for personal shots all the time.

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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With an RX1RII I could not even imagine wanting to replace it with a large bulky full frame DSLR and 35mm lens that would be 3X the size, 4X the weight and not even perform as well. The RX1RII is an amazing tool, if  you can handle 35mm. The Leica Q also rocks but is $1000 more, much larger and has a 28mm. I prefer the Sony in every way but many prefer the Leica. Personal pref, and both are two of the best most practical mirrorless cameras released in recent times with IQ that is tough to beat.

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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OH! I totally forgot this article was titled “Five reasons why I prefer mirrorless to DSLRs”..so before I start on another long ramble, lets get to that:

  • THEY ARE SMALLER, PERIOD. Even the larger mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 Mark II series, are smaller than even APS-C DSLR’s while providing performance that trounces them in many areas. Low light, Dynamic Range, Sharpness, EVF over small OVF, and very good AF performance. Add something like a Voigtlander 40 2.8 to an A7 series body and you have a small powerhouse (and you can not use this lens on a DSLR). Add a HUGE 24-70 G Master lens and the fight gets closer for size but even so, still smaller in the body, which is the part you HOLD. The part that must be comfy in your hands. The Sony wins in size over ANY FULL FRAME DSLR, to which it must be compared. Take a 5DII and 24-70 and it will be larger and heavier than the Sony yet we lose the EVF, swivel LCD, and that nice Sony sensor DR and ISO performance. There is a reason Sony leads in the sensor department, they make the best. So I will choose the Sony over any DSLR due to size, features (did I say 5 Axis IS inside)? Make no mistake, the Sony A7 Mark II series may have some large pro lenses but as a whole, it is still smaller and more enjoyable for me to use over a full frame DSLR and  those large pro lenses? For me they beat the Canon and Nikon equivalents in IQ and build, so why not use them on a smaller body? Hmmmm. Take on a Olympus PEN-F or Panasonic GX-8 or Fuji X100 and you are at a whole new level of small, light and with amazing IQ. Mirrorless wins the size game every time.

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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  • LENSES! There are now plenty of lenses to choose from! No excuses now! Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Leica all have great lenses available for their mirrorless systems. Some are tiny like the Sony full frame 28 f/2 and 50 1.8, some are large and some are small and incredible (almost any prime from Olympus).
  • FUNCTION! EVF, Tilt LCD and something like 5 AXIS IS inside are things you will not see in a mirrored DSLR. While I appreciate that MANY prefer a good OVF to a good EVF I think many OVF die hards have not shot through an incredible EVF yet. Something like the Leica SL offers an EVF experience that beats ANY OVF, hands down. It’s incredible. Using a Sony A7 or Olympus E-M1 or even a Fuji X-T1 offers more function and is more versatile than any DSLR I have ever shot with. Things with Olympus like Live Bulb, Live Time and Live composite is changing the way we shoot astro. Things like this we do not see in DSLR’s.
  • ABILITY TO USE 3rd PARTY LENSES: These new mirrorless cameras work very well with Leica M lenses these days, any M mount lens in fact. I can buy a used M lens for $300 and get amazing shots with character when mounted on a Sony, Fuji or even Olympus camera. Can’t do that on ANY DSLR (mount a Leica M mount lens to it). I love shooting my Sony with a 50 Jupiter or even 50 Noctilux. We can now use these incredible lenses on something other than a $7k Leica.
  • PROGRESSION: Never have I seen technology in digital imaging move so fast. Mirrorless is moving ahead with new innovations, new designs, and new tech. EVery year we have some kind of new progression in mirrorless while DSLR’s remain pretty much the same in looks, style, function and everything else. In my eyes, DSLR’s today are getting stale. Mirrorless today is energizing so many with the size, tech inside and the things we can do with them in a much easier way than ANY DSLR. (something like shooting the night and seeing your exposure develop in real time using Olympus’s LIVE TIME)

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There are more reasons like being able to pick up something like a Fuji X100 or Sony RX1 and just be UBER light. No lenses, no bag needed. But you will come back with impressive high quality shots. The mirrorless world is growing, and sales are strong for some, stronger than DSLR’s in some cases. I remember 10 years ago (or so) going to disneyland and seeing so many with big DSLR’s around their neck (I had a Leica M7 and 35 Lux) and thought “WHY would they do that”! Today if I go to Disneyland I see MANY with small mirrorless cameras, but mostly all use their phones or even iPads for their photo and video. THIS is why DSLR’s are also losing steam with the average Joe’s of the world. While Fuji and Sony helped slow Leica’s M sales, I see the phones slowing DSLR sales. See, the mass public used to walk into Best Buy and say “I want to look like a pro”, and they would buy a DSLR and then realize that simply buying one will not make them a pro! They end up using it for a few weeks and then sitting it on a shelf due to size and disappointment. These days, the masses use their smart phones so while a few still go to Best Buy and buy those DSLR’s they have on display, as they know their phone can not compete, that number is MUCH lower today than 10 or even 5 years ago.

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Today many have been trained by their phones (for small size and ease of use) and when they go to buy a real camera, they want something SMALLER, something FUN, not a huge DSLR. They see cameras from Sony and Fuji and think “WOW, this is smaller and looks great”, this is why the original Sony A6000 did SO WELL and sold in huge numbers. So for most of the public, the smart phone is the way to go. For most Enthusiasts and Hobbyists, Mirrorless is the choice. For most PROS who shoot weddings, Sports or wildlife, DSLR’s are still king but that is starting to also go the way of mirrorless. While many predicted the doom of Mirrorless years ago, I will say here now that I predict a continuing downward slide for the DSLR over the next few years. Eventually, Canon and Nikon are going to have to give in and create a kick ass mirrorless system. Otherwise they face the reality of even more shrinking sales over the long term. I guess time will tell but the way I see it is that mirrorless gives us smaller size, more function and features, an experience which is more fun that using a DSLR.. and today, IQ is no longer a compromise as it was a few years ago. We can have it all and then some with mirrorless today, and that is a good thing.

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

As I sit here in a Sony “Rountable” meting with all of Soy’s top people telling me about the past, present and future of their digital imaging business, things are looking very good for Sony. Sales are up, profits are solid and they are dedicated to releasing high quality premium digital imaging products to those like me and you, who love quality cameras, lenses and also camera that are fun to use, functional and provide us with the capability to create our own visions using a tool we enjoy and love.

Ever since Sony released the original NEX series, the 3 and 5 (my review here) I have been smitten with their unique out of the box thinking and while I have not loved or even liked every camera they have released (as I feel many have been a rehash of the same designs), I have adored a few of them and feel that Sony is now, without question, the one camera company that I feel is innovating and doing the most to push imaging tech forward. During  those early NEX 3 and 5 days, many dismissed mirrorless and for good reason. They were slow, sluggish and not very “user-friendly”  – but man how things have changed in a few short years.

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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While Sony IMO is the one doing the most innovating, this does not take away a thing from others who are also innovating. Companies like Olympus are doing great things with every camera release, and trust me, they have something really amazing planned for this year. I feel it in my gut!

Then we have companies like Leica who are trying very hard to release unique cameras that are different from anything else out there. Think the T, the SL and even the super popular Q (all have been reviewed here in detail). Sure, Fuji, Sigma and even Canon and Nikon who are also releasing amazing cameras but to be honest, what I see from them is more of the same..less innovation in every release and while something like a Fuji X Pro 2 is a beautiful camera (that I actually do indeed really like) it is Sony who just keeps pushing and creating cameras that can do more.

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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While I feel Sony could have a redesign of some of their bodies, and even be more aggressive in what they are doing, I think they are on the right path and honestly, I can see them leapfrogging over Nikon in the near future. Sony is on a roll, sales wise and their popularity in the camera business is growing quickly and steadily for them.

Look at the brand new just announced RX10 III. I did not even review the Mark II version as I felt it was pretty much just like the Mark I (though it did have upgrades). I did not feel it was worth an upgrade to the II from the I and did not even want to do a review as I like to spend my time on cameras that I feel are really great and worth a purchase. It has to excite me these days to get a full long review and as I look back at my recent reviews over the past two years, the largest ones have been from Sony, Leica and Olympus.

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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I will state right here, that these three camera companies above are my faves . Each of these are doing things that most others are not. Technology is getting quite amazing, even with something like the new Sony 4K HDR video, which looks so amazing. Yes, video in HDR 4K…think MASSIVE Dynamic Range instead of the cheesy HDR look of some images when they are overdone. But back to the new RX10 III. With its all new high quality 24-600mm f/2.4 – f/4 lens. Yes, f/2.4 at the wide end and f/4 at the long end, of 600MM. With this comes incredible opportunities for shooting. Macro, video, telephoto… it’s something that has never been done, which is what I am talking about here. I mean, who has made an all in one camera with a 24-600mm lens, a HIGH QUALITY lens no less, with a starting aperture of f/2.4? No one. Add to that the impressive video capabilities of this new offering. It will be a great solution for so many.

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While I was not a HUGE MASSIVE RX10 fan, I did enjoy the 1st one (see my review here) but this one changes the game of this series of camera. It could be an all in one for almost any personal, family or every day situation. So Sony is innovating constantly and this is what I love to see.

Some call me a “Sony Fan Boy”, Some call me an “Olympus Fanboy” and some even still call me a “Leica Fanboy”. I find these terms amusing as I am not a fanboy of anything, I just love quality. I love good build, consistent focus, smaller size, great lens choices, even is using a third party lens with adapter to get my vision out there.. and each of these brands offer all of that and more.

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With that, I am thrilled to see what is happening in digital imaging these days. It seems we are getting more and more QUALITY offerings for those of us who enjoy these things (ME AND YOU) and while most of the world already own a camera in their smart phones, there are some of us who want more..a real experience and you just can not get that from a phone. At least I can’t. The feeling of holding something like a Leica M or Olympus PEN-F or Sony RX1 and using them is so much more satisfying to me than using a phone, or any DSLR.

Today, in 2016 we have choices. We can go DSLR and get great results. We can go tiny and get great results (Sony RX100) and we can go enthusiast and get amazing results with something like a Leica M, SL or Sony A7RII or A7SII.

While the death of the point and shoot is upon us, or past..the mirrorless revolution has just begun, and it’s getting so so good. Stay tuned my friends, there is so much to come this year.

Steve

Mar 182016
 

The handcrafted JB Camera Designs Grip for Fuji X Pro 2

by Jason Boucher – His website is HERE

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Last week I was in Stillwater, Oklahoma to ride the Landrun 100 gravel road race & ride, pics can be found here. While there I got to see one of my closest friends’ businesses, JB Camera Designs. JB Camera Designs makes hand crafted wood camera grips and accessories that are aimed to improve ergonomics and add protection to cameras.

They are hand crafted right here in the good ol’ USA out of beautiful hard wood, bambo, plastic and/or machined alloy. On top of that, all three employees are photographers and the two primary craftsmen are also engineering students. What a cool college job.

While I was there, JB and crew (Ean and Eli) were putting the finishing touches on their new grip for the Fuji X Pro 2. In fact, the grip being produced in the photographs below is now mounted to my very own Fuji X Pro 2. I shot all these images with the X Pro 2 with either the 16mm f1.4 or 35mm f2 in RAW + JPEG with the JPEG setting to Acros with medium grain. I thought it fit the handcrafted nature of the grips. All these images shared are from JPEG as I have not processed any RAW files yet from the X Pro 2 but I find the JPEGS more than pleasing so it hasn’t been a big deal for me.

Below are some shots from my time at JB Camera Designs while they were making their new Fuji X Pro 2 grip, recently launched and available for pre-order at Amazon. I grouped the images into some of the steps. These grips are a labor of love. All the details of the how and what happens at each step are not really mine to share so I’ll just share pics. I can tell you that the grips I am using on my Leica M and my Fuji X Pro 2 are really beautiful, fit perfectly and in my opinion have improved the overall shooting experience. I especially like the new grip with my larger Fuji lenses and especially with the 90 f2. It has really helped me improve my grip to stabalize my shooting with this longer and heavier prime.

A couple of notes before moving to pictures…

My friend JB did give me this grip. I just want to be up front and honest here. He’s a close friend and this was a gift. I am thankful. I make no money from this nor any affiliated link. I just enjoyed the experience and wanted to support my good friend. I like the pics too!

So with that out of the way, let’s get to pics of the new Fuji X Pro 2 grip.

Wood selection and initial preparation

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Cutting, shaping, smoothing, sanding and prepping

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Branding, finishing and adding alloy barrel grip

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The finished product! I love it.

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I wish I had a studio to shoot images of the final product installed on my X Pro 2 but I don’t. But…Here is a shot taken with my little Fuji X70 for you to get an idea of what it looks like on the camera. I took this on the way home from Oklahoma. I had 12 hours of driving that day and needed a nice espresso! I snapped a few pics and then hit the road. Sorry for the poor picture quality on this one, but it’s all I’ve got.

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Thanks again JB. Great seeing you and meeting your crew!

You can purchase the X-Pro 2 JB Grip at Amazon HERE

See ALL of the JB Designs GRIPS HERE

(FROM STEVE: I loved my JB Designs grip so much I invited them to be a sponsor for this site over a year ago, and they now are. These are high quality grips priced right. Love all of my JB grips ;) HIGHLY recommended for those who like a grip for added..well..GRIP!)

Mar 162016
 

amytitlepro2

A Fuji X-Pro 2 Real World Review from a Fuji Fan

by Amy Medina

Since the purchase of my first Fuji back in 2012, I’ve been an enthusiastic user of their cameras. Having owned several of their bodies and being such a fan, there were a few new features the X-Pro2 promised that convinced me to jump in as an early adopter, and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

First, let me start off by saying that this isn’t going to be an overly technical review, since those aren’t the type I like to write. These will just be some examples and practical thoughts about a camera I was excited to buy because of the specifications promised in their January announcement. There were three main things that excited me about the prospect of buying the X-Pro2 when Fuji announced it to the world: The new sensor, the weather-sealing and overall improved performance.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Should I start with my complaints? Let’s get those out of the way first…

Let me just say that in today’s day and age, there’s absolutely no reason to make a camera that doesn’t have an articulating LCD. In my travels around the internet, I’ve heard it said that Fuji insinuated that “professionals” don’t need an LCD that rotates or pivots. If true, that’s a ridiculous assertion. Anyone who puts their camera on a tripod or needs to get their camera up high or down low benefits from an articulating LCD. Here’s one example of professional use that the X-Pro2 will not able to do for me: Quick, high-vantage point photography. I’m often on job sites where I need to take photos using an elevation pole, where the camera is a good 10-20 feet above me. I have to work quickly and can’t fumble around with the phone app in one hand and the elevation pole in another… I need to set the camera on intervals of 8 second shots and walk around and take the photographs with the camera way out of reach… and the only way to frame the shot is with an LCD that can be pointed down at me. With the X-Pro2 I can’t do that. Isn’t it ridiculous that the inferior, inexpensive XA1 can accomplish something the more professional X-Pro2 cannot?

Like it or not, it’s a poor decision Fuji made to not include an LCD that rotates in some fashion… and it really really irks me. I think it’s my biggest complaint.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Rokinon 12mm f/2 (and PS… being older and having joint issues, this shot would have been so much easier with a rotating LCD!)

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The EVF.

This isn’t a big complaint, but it’s one I seem to remember being an issue when the XE1 was released… that it had a better electronic viewfinder than the pro-level X-Pro1. That seems to be the case, at least in some regard, with the X-Pro2 vs. other Fujis. I haven’t studied the spec sheet on all their bodies, but the EVF is smaller than some of the other Fuji cameras (like the XT1), though there are improvements like a much better frame rate and less blackout time after each photo. I’ve personally had a problem with the EVF’s brightness, which was never an issue I remember with any of my previous Fuji bodies, at least that I noticed. I did end up turning off the auto brightness feature in the settings and that has helped, but I’ve still run into issues where I was straining more to see the image and I can’t exactly explain why. Coming from the XT10 where I never thought the EVF was an issue, I don’t understand why the X-Pro2 is giving me a harder time in this regard… but it is. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Fuji’s top-of-the-line, pro body, well it should have the very best-of-the-best and biggest EVF shouldn’t it?

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Another complaint I have is in regards to specific ergonomic choices. Fuji’s placement of dials and buttons and the fact they are highly customizable is one of the reasons I think many of us enjoy using Fuji bodies more than others. I don’t understand how buttons or dials can become “worse” in a new body.

The thing I noticed immediately as compared to my much smaller XT10 was that the thumb dial/button is way more recessed on the X-Pro2 — FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. I don’t know why Fuji made a choice to do this, but it’s much more flush with the body, making it much harder to use. This is the dial/button that also controls magnification when manually focusing, which I do a great deal of the time, so I noticed it immediately. I’m getting used to it, but honestly there was absolutely no reason to make this dial/button so much more recessed. I’ve heard similar complaints from other X-Pro2 users with regards to this and other buttons, like the AFL and Q buttons. I don’t use the Q button a lot, but it is quite flush with the body and hard to detect by feel alone. I’ve noticed that there seems to be less customization options as well, and there are certainly a few that would be welcome, like the new joystick they added (which in general I love). It would be amazing to be able to customize the joystick’s center click to activate magnification for us manual-focusers, or to let us customize the front-dial to ISO settings (like I had it on my XT10).

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon — Acros Film Simulation — No Grain

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The old-style ISO dial as I mentioned above leaves a lot to be desired, partially because there’s no other way to select a specific ISO. In theory, it seems like a neat idea and such a cool throwback to cameras of yesteryear. Look, I’m a big fan of the antique camera bodies Fuji uses as its inspiration, but sometimes there’s a reason certain design details get replaced. The pull-and-turn ISO dial is one of them… it’s not easy to change without taking your eye off the viewfinder and it feels a bit fiddly even when you’re staring right at it making changes.

However, as I also mentioned above, this is much less of an issue in practice because of the three customizable auto ISO settings that can be assigned to a funtion button for easy changing. I’ve set up three distinct choices for myself from very wide to very narrow settings, and assigned one of the various function buttons to get to those settings quickly. It helps. It would, however, be a welcome change to have an ISO override setting so you don’t need the dial at all. Not all Fuji bodies include an ISO dial and I know some love it on the XT1, but that’s a dedicated ISO dial, not one combined with the shutter speed dial. I feel Fuji was trying to cram this feature in and I would have welcomed it being either more like the XT1 or XT10.

It Only Gets Better from Here! On with the gushing…

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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The Hybrid OVF/EVF viewfinder is one of the things Fuji fans will gush over because it’s so unique. There’s nothing quite like it out there in the digital camera world, and it’s probably about as close to a true electronic rangefinder you’re going to find that isn’t actually a rangefinder.

With its bright frame-lines and electronic details overlay, plus the “ERF” (electronic rangefinder) mode, you’re going to get a really cool modern-retro experience, and that wonderful optical viewfinder, outside-the-frame view. Your focusing patch can use two levels of magnification and can focus either by standard, peaking or split image assistance, and it’s easy enough to toggle between them (though would be easier if that darn thumb dial wasn’t so recessed). This Hybrid Viewfinder is something so completely unique to a handful of Fuji bodies, it’s one of the reasons many will choose the X-Pro2 over others.

The body itself is physically the largest in the Fuji arsenal. It’s weather-sealed, which was one of the items on my own personal checklist of necessities. Compared to my previous XT10 though, it feels massive… but of course it’s all relative. I was in love with shooting with my Leica M8 for a long time, and I’d compare it in size to that body, so it certainly isn’t what I would call “too big”. If you put it side-by-side with something like the new Olympus Pen, the Fuji will look downright giant, but compared to a Nikon D500 it seems quite small. Having used it now for almost two weeks and generally being a big fan of small mirrorless bodies, I don’t feel like the X-Pro2’s size will be something that bothers me, either in weight or physical dimensions.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

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The X-Pro2 certainly seems to have a spotless build. It feels absolutely solid to hold and like it was machined in an impeccable manner. It claims 61 points of weather sealing against water, dust and cold. The two SD card slots are a welcome addition, and I’m glad they are separated from the battery compartment (a pet-peeve of mine with other bodies). However, we’re still using the same Fuji batteries as with all other Fuji bodies, which is a plus and minus. It’s great I didn’t have to go out and replace all my extra batteries… however, I think this body could have seriously used a bigger, more powerful energy source. Not exclusively Fuji’s issue… it’s always a problem with the more compact mirrorless bodies: the batteries are smaller, the cameras use more power and ultimately don’t last as long.

The new focal plane shutter with maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 is also part of what drew me to the X-Pro 2. That and the electronic shutter option allows for more flexibility in a variety of shooting situations, including shooting wider apertures in brighter weather conditions. The electronic shutter option is also great as someone who does timelapse as part of my job — I feel more at ease with using the camera for extended timelapse shoots without fear of putting tons of mileage on the shutter.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Overall performance is so much better with the X-Pro2 than with any other Fuji camera I’ve used to date. One of my gripes with my XT10 (and the XE2, XA1, XE1) was the “wake up” time when it was sleeping… I often found it a little frustrating. With the X-Pro2 it’s not an issue. Everything is just faster… startup time is fast, there is virtually no shutter lag, autofocus is much quicker, continuous shooting speeds are improved, even the speed in which the camera writes to the SD card is faster. With previous Fuji bodies I sometimes felt like operational speed occasionally got in the way of getting the shot I wanted, but I haven’t run into that feeling with the X-Pro2. The camera performs so fast that I’ve been shooting a bit in film-simulation bracketing mode because there’s almost no lag in the camera taking/processing the three shots at once.

Ergonomics are a mixed bag. It’s still a Fuji, and there’s no doubt that Fuji knows how to make a camera suited to a photographer’s needs when it comes to style and function, but like mentioned the push-pull ISO dial is a bit wonky, and that recessed rear dial annoying. Of course the Q “quick” menu is great for a fast settings change, and I like that it’s customizable. The dedicated photometry/metering button is a nice addition, and it’s great to have all the customization options Fuji offers for the others buttons, but they need to expand some of this to include the front and rear dials, and the Joystick center button.

And lets talk about the new Focus-Point Joystick.

This is an absolute pleasure to use and such a welcome addition! I use manual focus lenses a great deal of the time and I like to move the focus point around to the appropriate spot, but lets face it, sometimes that can be a hassle and we end up doing the focus-recompose thing. Well not anymore! The joystick makes it so incredibly easy to move that point around that there’s no reason not to use it. I cannot go on enough about how cool this feature is other than to say all cameras should have it… it’s genius, whether for autofocusing or manual focusing. My only gripe with it is what I said above… I wish I could customize the center click to be magnification (and then a different button to be the “re-center” option, or maybe click and hold to re-center).

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

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Now, getting down to it, the real reason I jumped on buying the X-Pro2 for it’s fairly substantial price-tag is the new sensor, and I suspect this will be the reason for many. Fuji seems to have been “stuck” at 16mp for a long time, so finally jumping up to 24.3mp with their new X-Trans CMOS III sensor was very welcomed, especially for someone like me who shoots a lot of landscapes, seascapes and architectural stuff. I never was, nor am I a megapixel chaser, but the increased detail is absolutely welcome.

Now, mind you, I’m a huge fan of the Fuji’s X-Trans way of doing things. I find I prefer their color and sharpness over other bodies, and I’m a big fan of their film simulations as a starting point for my own creativity. For the short time I gave up my Fuji gear in favor of Sony, I ended up missing it and going back, and though Sony makes some very nice cameras, I just prefer what Fuji is doing so much more — from their bodies and lenses to the image file quality. I wish it was something I could easily quantify and put into words, but it just isn’t. To me, in additional to just having really high quality files with great tone, Fuji also has a little bit of magic going on that others are missing. Of course, some of that is just personal taste and quite subjective.

The Fuji X-Pro2 produces more of what Fuji fans have come to love… excellent files, and now with a little more resolution. I suspect if you weren’t a fan of the X-Trans files before, you might not be a fan now, though some of the “waxy” skin features people complained about (that I never ran into) seems to have been resolved. I can’t answer your questions about RAW files since on my Fuji cameras I shoot JPG exclusively. I love what I’m getting out of the XPro 2 so far.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + 18mm f/2

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Noise performance seems on par with what the XT10 and other Fuji bodies was doing, maybe slightly better, so if you like shooting things in low light, you won’t be disappointed.

With expanded sensitivity turned on, you have the option to shoot from ISO 100 to 51,200. I’ve had absolutely no issues with shooting up to ISO 6400 and keep my primary auto ISO settings with that set as my maximum, and even ISO 12,800 is usable. I’ve always found that I liked the way Fuji balances its handling of noise with less detail smearing that other cameras, and the noise it does produce is a very fine “grain-type” of noise. You’ll hear similar proclamations from other Fuji users, the general consensus being that Fuji does a great job when it comes to reducing noise in low-light-high-iso situations, and doing it in a pleasing way. It’s really more of the same with the X-Pro2. I don’t think there’s any big jump in low-light performance from previous bodies, but there’s no step backwards because of the increased resolution either.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — ISO 5000 (starring my granddaughter!)

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I’ve also had a lot of fun shooting with the new Acros film simulation Fuji has included in the X-Pro2. You can shoot it straight or choose a Red, Yellow or Green filter and you can use no grain or add weak or strong grain. I enjoy sometimes shooting B&W right in the camera and this new film mode is done really well. It has really nice contrast without being overdone (and you can always add more in post processing to taste), and the tones are just so good. It’s probably one of the nicest black and white film modes I’ve seen in a digital camera.

The grain itself has an interesting, artistic quality to it. As someone who actually still shoots film, I’m not sure I’m convinced it really mimics that look … though when combined with high ISOs the noise and grain mix really well and give a VERY good film-like grainy look. At lower ISOs, it reminds me more of a pen-and-ink drawing in it’s perfection, but I find the overall texture really pleasing.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation — No Grain

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon — Acros Film Simulation — Grain: Weak and ISO 6400

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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100% Crops of Acros with Grain

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In Conclusion…

In reality, in today’s day and age most modern cameras are capable of excellent results. We aren’t going to be limited by equipment, at least not in 2016. A lot of what we decide to buy when we pick our camera-of-choice comes down to a subjective opinion on the photo-files, the way we will use the camera day-to-day, the style and ergonomics of the camera itself, and what we feel inspires us most to pick it up and take it with us. At least those are the things that matter to me. I picked Fuji because of the rich and smooth colors with outstanding detail sharpness and because I can customize the settings in-camera to exactly what I want… like picking the film I’m going to use. I enjoy the way the camera feels in my hand and hanging on my shoulder. I love the ability to use that fantastic Fuji glass and also my Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss and even Minolta lenses. For me, Fuji strikes the right balance of flexibility, fun, form and function.

The X-Pro2 continues to give me all these things with some new added advantages. I’ve been incredibly happy with the results I’m getting, and the improved performance overall is a pleasure. As someone who takes photos every single day without fail, I’m glad the X-Pro 2 is quickly becoming my go-to camera.

You can purchase the Fuji X-Pro 2 at: AmazonB&H PhotoPopFlash.com 

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More from Amy

Website: www.DangRabbit.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DangRabbit
Instagram: www.instagram.com/DangRabbit.Photography

More Fuji X-Pro 2 Samples:

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon — Acros Film Simulation

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + 18mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Rokinon 12mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

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Mar 142016
 

From Fuji to Sony and back again

By Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

I have had the pleasure to be on your site a couple of times with my Fuji x100 and x100s.

2 Months ago I decided to jump over and buy the Sony Rx1rII. To make this possible I had to sell my camera’s and so I did. The specifications were great and I could not wait. Something I had to do because the delivery was postponed with 3 weeks in Holland. When it finally arrived I started making pictures. Almost right away I felt insecure about my skills.Not that I am a professional but I have experience.

I could not get a sharp image out of the camera.Not as sharp as I was used to with the Fuji’s .

After one month I returned the camera to Sony because I was sure the camera had a failure. 5 Weeks later the returned it and said it was completely ok and I could get pictures of the testing. I  was not interested.I wanted a camera that I was happy with for the 3500 euro. To make a story short.. I went to a store..returned the camera and exchanged it for the Fuji Xpro2. Financially a bad trade but happiness is all I have now.Beautifull images and the sharpness I really love.

Almost no need for raw shooting because the jpegs are so nice. Also the acros and monochrome settings are nice. I promised to my Fuji camera I will never try to fall in love with a different brand again ;)

Here are some images of the xpro 2

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Feb 212016
 
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Vancouver Moments with the Fuji X-Pro 2 and ACROS film simulation

By Olaf Sztaba

The mission was simple: take the Fuji X-Pro2 with the XF 35mm F1.4 and head downtown to capture some Vancouver moments using the latest ACROS film simulation from Fuji.

We have already had a chance to experiment with this new film simulation w and we really liked the new ‘weak’ grain effect (there is also the ‘strong’ grain option).

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For those of you who would like to read more about the ACROS film simulation and its inner-workings, you can find more information here

www.olafphotoblog.com
www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

 

Feb 192016
 

Friday Film – Leica M6, Summarit 35, Lincoln memorial

By Vikas

Hello Steve & Brandon,

This is the first time I am submitting pictures to your awesome website. I have been shooting casually digital format with Fuji and before that Nikon DX formats. Recently I took plunge towards film (to reminisce my father’s old Agfa). From your site I get to know Mr Ken Hansen and had extremely pleasant experience. I received nearly mint Leica M6 classic and 35 Summarit 2.5 expeditiously from him before my trip to DC this past summer.

The experience of rangefinder camera is awesome and am still getting used to it. I am submitting few pictures of Lincoln memorial shots taken around dusk, wide open. The film used is TriX 400 and was developed commercially (planning soon to start developing myself).

Thanks and love your blogs and reviews.

Best,

Vikas

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Feb 172016
 
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A Tale of Two Lenses: The Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1.5 ZM and the FujiXF 56mm f/1.2 – Fuji X-T1

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Hi Brandon & Steve!

You’ve kindly featured some of my photos here before, I thought it about time I shared something new with you.

Last year I sold my well used Olympus OM-D E-M5 to buy a Fuji X-T1, and I wanted to test out the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM (Leica Mount) alongside Fuji’s highly regarded XF 56mm f/1.2. Whilst the two offer a similar price point and focal length they deliver very different images and user experience. Both are superbly made, solid lenses with the manual focus Zeiss being far more compact even with an adapter.

The huge viewfinder in the X-T1 and innovative focusing aids make using manual focus lenses enjoyable, easy and accurate. With its 1.5x crop factor APS-C sensor, both lenses become short-telephoto portrait lenses (around 75mm and 84mm equivalent on a full-frame camera). I won’t get into technicalities, This is really a ‘just for fun’ comparison.

As for my own conclusions, I tend to like lenses that exhibit distinctive, interesting bokeh and falloff. To my eyes the Zeiss has the more unique patterned bokeh with the Fuji being smoother. The Zeiss just nicks it for me, but it’s subjective and everyone’s opinion will differ.

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Zeiss 50 Sonnar ZM

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Fuji 56mm

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Fuji 56mm

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Incidentally, the switch from Oly to Fuji was purely to try something new after several years. I loved the Micro 4/3 gear and feel it offers unrivaled quality at such a compact size. I was won over by the design of the X-T1 though and have not been disappointed at all… but that could fill another article! I’ll sign off here and leave you with some images, have a great day!

http://www.jpstevenson.co.uk/photography/

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

Thanks – have a great weekend.

James Stevenson

Feb 082016
 

Editing Fujifilm RAW files with Iridient Developer for more WOW

By Axel Friberg

Dear Brandon and Steve,

It’s been a while since I wrote you last. As of today, I still shoot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and edit my pictures in Lightroom CC. I might upgrade to the X-T2 when it comes, this summer. The Fuji RAW files are still not fully supported by Adobe, which is a drawback. As I’m sure you are aware, some details like foliage for example, will looked smeared. Inspired by the amazing photographer Olaf Sztaba, I decided to download the trail version of the photo editor Iridient Developer and gave the Fuji RAW files a run for its money. Let me tell you, the difference is real. Like going from 480p to 1080p on Youtube. I used Olaf’s settings in Iridient Developer, choosing the unique sharpening method ‘R-L deconvolusion’ and setting the radius slider to 0.5 and the Iterations slider to 30.

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Then I exported the RAW file edited in Iridient Developer to Lightroom and compared it with the same Raw file edited in Lightroom only, where I had set the sharpness to 33, radius to 0,8 and detail. to 100. Additionally, I also set both pictures’ contrast to +15 and clarity to +10 in Lightroom and exported the same cropped part of the picture to emphasis the difference in sharpness of the pine tree’s needles. To me there is a massive difference. The pine-needles in the RAW file edited in Iridient Developer are crisp whereas the same pine-needles in the RAW file edited in Lighroom almost look like they have been painted. Hopefully, you will be able to see what I mean in the pictures I’ve sent you!

The photo was taken with the Fuji X-Pro1 and a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 (via a Metabones adapter) @1/250 s, f/5.6, ISO400.

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Now both crops..

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Jan 192016
 
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A trip to the top of the mountain with the Fuji XT-1

by Mohamed Hakem (NOW THESE ARE GORGEOUS FUJI IMAGES! BRAVO to Mohamed’s beautiful eye and skill – Steve)

Hi Steve! I am back again with another adventure! I decided to climb the highest mountain in Egypt with my Fuji XT-1

First please visit my website http://www.hakemphotography.com
Follow my FB page on http://facebook.com/hakemphotography
Instagram: http://instagram.com/moh_hakem

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People who go Hiking knows what it means to have a heavy backpack on a rough mountain climb. The Hike here was up to the top of Mount Moses in Saint Catherine Mountain in Sinai, Egypt. Saint Catherine Mountain is not the toughest hike in the world, it is 2422 meters up, you have to walk 8 KM ion extremely rough grounds. The place is magical and full of culture and history that dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. They first built a city in the shape of a fortress at around 1000m high it as part of the road from Egypt to Jerusalem. This area was then converted to the famous Saint Catherine Monastery which has tons of religiously important heritage for Christians, Muslims and jews. There is also a place during the climb where it is believed that this was the place God talked to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).
To prepare for such climb, the first thing you think of is weight you hold as a burden on your back. you take minimal things, energy bars and water, you should not take anything else. but what about us photographers!? the answer is simple, it was impossible for me , a man with moderate health and stamina to lug around a DSLR body, tripod and two lenses that would be around 4-5 kilos minimum, My D800 was 945g+ (14-24)950g +70-300 (700g) + a big tripod = a break in your back!
to solve this problem I took with me the XT-1, the 10-24, 8mm fish eye and the 55-200 lens + plus the 3leggedthing punk tripod. all of these combined did not cross 2.5 kilos.

The path is rocky and extremely rough but its not dangerous. We took 3 hours to finish the main stage then 1 hour to climb what the bedouins call the stairs, vertical rock formations that forms natural stairs. Its not easy at all but its doable. Your second enemy other than the gravity is the Cold! it really was cold. We were all wearing heavy coats but the thing is during the climb your body becomes sweaty, so whenever you stop you instantly feel the cold to your bones!. reaching the top! after finally reaching the top,we had two hours till sunrise so we took the most uncomfortable nap in the world. Your sweat is freezing inside and you really can’t wear anything more. After waking up extremely tired and cold I packed my equipment and went for the sunrise. Sometimes I couldn’t feel the camera in my hands, I wanted to press the shutter button but I can’t feel my fingers! somehow after managing and warming up you begin to see the magic! a sunrise that you will never forget! Stunning sky colors, stunning rock formations, the place really touches your soul! every minute the colors change and the scenery changes magically until you see the sun and all your problems are gone! you instantly become warm and energetic.

The experience was never to be done without a mirrorless camera. I sometimes held it on my neck to capture on the go, it was never doable with a DSLR. as for the quality I will leave the judging to you.

That is me on the top of the mountain (shot by a fuji X100)

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Note the Bedouins below…click images for better versions!

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Saint Catherine Monastery

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Jan 152016
 

Fuji X-Pro 2 Unveiled. Finally. Here is the lowdown.

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Pre-Order the X-Pro 2 at my fave and most trusted dealers: B&H Photo or PopFlash.com. Amazon is clearing out the X-Pro 1 at $499

FINALLY! The all new long awaited Fuji X-Pro 2 has now been announced with full specs, images and details. What has Fuji delivered this time as an upgrade to their 1st huge mirrorless, the X-Pro 1? Well, I will predict that this will be the coolest, hippest and most desirable APS-C camera available today. With its sleek rangefinder-esque appearance to the hybrid viewfinder giving a unique experience, to the much much faster AF and low light capabilities, the new X-Pro 2 will be huge for Fuji as Fuji fans have been waiting for this one. I was a fan of the X-T1 more so than any other Fuji camera but the X-Pro 2 looks  to be even better with the new sensor and speed and capabilities. I look forward to reviewing it with some of the latest Fuji lenses. Now, let’s take a look…

Well, here is what it looks like. To me, it looks like a more refined X-Pro 1. It keeps the same design but the new 2 has a more polished look about it. 

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The Specs:

24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor
X-Processor Pro Engine
Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder
3.0″ 1.62m-Dot LCD Monitor
Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
Built-In Wi-Fi, SHARE Printer Compatible
273-Point AF with 77 Phase-Detect Points
Up to 8 fps Shooting and ISO 51200
Weather-Sealed Design, 2x SD Card Slots
Film Simulation and Grain Effect Modes

My Thoughts?

I am happy to see a new Fuji, and I have been waiting for the Pro 2 to see how far Fuji would go. Would they make it full frame? I already knew this was a NO but what they did do was up the Megapixels to 24 with an all new X-Trans III sensor, up from the 16 of the X-Pro 1. They have improved everything from the 1 and the new 2 has everything any Fuji fan would want. The AF will be blazing compared to the X-Pro 1, which is good as I remember my review of that one and having some focus issues…not only speed but accuracy. Fuji has really stepped up their AF capabilities over the years since the original X100 and Pro 1. So AF will be great here. I expect Fuji fans to jump on this body as it will be the best Fuji digital yet. I will be reviewing the X-Pro 2 as I enjoyed the X-T1 quite a bit and while I have moved on to Full Frame with Sony and Leica for my personal use, there are THOUSANDS out there who love their Fuji’s, so stay tuned for a full review soon!

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MORE DETAILS ON THE NEW FUJI X-PRO 2

The long-awaited successor to Fujifilm’s first X-series mirrorless digital camera, the X-Pro2 sports a high-resolution X-Trans CMOS III sensor and redeveloped X-Processor Pro, along with the tested rangefinder-inspired design now synonymous with the X-Pro system. Now weighing in at 24.3MP, the APS-C CMOS sensor incorporates the proprietary X-Trans technology and its randomized pixel array to afford a high degree of sharpness and accurate color reproduction, along with high expanded sensitivity to ISO 51200. When paired with the X-Processor Pro, the camera is capable of recording stills at up to 8 fps and Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps, along with quick focusing and overall performance speeds. Unique among camera designs, the X-Pro2 is also heavily characterized by its Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder that blends both optical and electronic viewing methods into a single, switchable finder, giving you the best of both worlds in regard to clear viewing and the ability to preview exposure settings prior to shooting. Cementing its place as a professional tool, the X-Pro2 also features a robust, weather-sealed body design accented by a range of physical controls for intuitive handling in any condition.

Besides image quality, the sensor and processor combination also avails a highly precise, versatile autofocus system that is comprised of 273 points and uses both phase- and contrast-detection methods.

The phase-detection system covers nearly 40% of the entire image frame with 77 points, which is beneficial to subject tracking and fast overall AF performance, while the majority of the frame is then covered by contrast-detection areas for accurate focusing from edge-to-edge. The imaging attributes also contribute to creative control over the look and feel of photos, such as through the use of Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes that replicate the look of specific film types, as well as a Grain Effect mode to mimic the textured appearance of film photos. Rounding out the feature-set of the X-Pro2, its design also incorporates a range of customizable function buttons along with a 3.0″ 1.62m-dot rear LCD for image playback, live view shooting, and menu navigation, and built-in Wi-Fi lets you wirelessly share images to mobile devices, remotely control the camera from a smartphone or tablet, or wirelessly send images to the optional instax SHARE Smartphone Printer for on-the-go printing.

24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor

Utilizing Fujifilm’s unique, randomized pixel array, the 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor affords a high degree of image quality and sharpness due to the omission of an optical low-pass filter. Versus conventional pixel patterns, the X-Trans design more closely mimics the organic nature of film in order to produce nuanced colors and smooth tonal transitions, while also reducing moiré and aliasing.

When paired with the X-Processor Pro, the sensor is also capable of producing clean image quality with reduced noise values, along with a native sensitivity range up to ISO 12800 that can be expanded to ISO 51200.

X-Processor Pro

Aside from benefitting the low-light performance, the X-Processor Pro also contributes to fast performance throughout the camera system, including a start-up time of 0.4 seconds, shutter lag time of 0.05 seconds, shooting interval time of 0.25 seconds, and AF speeds of up to 0.06 seconds. Coupled with the on-sensor phase-detection AF, up to 8 fps continuous shooting is also possible with full-time motion predictive AF for tracking fast-moving subjects while shooting. The ability to record compressed raw files also helps to expedite file transferring for longer continuous burst shooting, and both a fast top focal plane shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. and a flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. further contribute to shooting versatility.

Beyond stills shooting, the X-Pro2 also supports recording Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps with a 36 Mbps bit rate, along with the ability to work with 50, 30, 25, and 24 fps frame rates for greater recording flexibility.

Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder

Both optical and electronic viewfinder types are incorporated into the unique Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, which lets you select from the simplicity and familiarity of an OVF as well as the versatility of an EVF. Changing between viewing types is quickly performed via the dedicated finder switching lever on the front of the camera body.

The optical viewfinder provides a clear, lifelike view of the scene for easier composition and subject tracking. Its enhanced design incorporates an Electronic Rangefinder function, which mimics the functionality of a mechanical rangefinder, and simultaneously overlays information from the electronic viewfinder on top of the optical viewfinder for comparative manual focus control. The OVF is also benefitted by a Multi-Magnification function that automatically switches the viewfinder magnification according to the mounted lens’ focal length and a Bright Frame Simulation function, which simulates the varying angles of view from different lenses to confirm which focal length is needed, prior to switching lenses, for the composition in mind.

In regard to the electronic viewfinder, this sports a high 2.36m-dot resolution along with a fast 85 fps playback speed to reduce lag for smoother panning and tracking movements. The EVF lets you preview exposure settings prior to shooting and has a customizable display, for configuring the amount and type of information shown in the viewfinder.

Intelligent Hybrid 273-Point Autofocus System

Blending both phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods, the X-Pro2 is capable of acquiring focus both quickly and accurately. The entire system is comprised of 273 points, of which 77 are phase-detection points for faster performance that is beneficial to photographing moving subjects. Approximately 40% of the imaging area is covered by phase-detection points, too, to offer greater compositional freedom without sacrificing fast autofocus performance. The majority of the frame is then also covered by an apt contrast-detection focusing system that has been quickened by the camera’s refined processing power for more versatile control. For refined manual focusing control, a Digital Split Image function is available, that simulates traditional rangefinder focusing, as well as Focus Peaking to highlight lines of contrast in the scene to more objectively determine sharp focus.

Body and Interface Design

In addition to the Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, the X-Pro2 also features a 3.0″ 1.62m-dot rear LCD screen for clear live view shooting, menu navigation, and image playback.
Supporting its use in harsh climates, the durable weather-resistant body design is constructed from four pieces of magnesium alloy and sealed in more than 61 places to protect against dust, moisture, and cold temperatures down to 14°F.
Dual SD card slots allow for a more flexible and reliable means of storing imagery, and the first card slot is compatible with UHS-II standards for fast transfer speeds.

The top plate incorporates a series of milled aluminum alloy dials and levers for fast, intuitive adjustment over exposure settings, including a shutter speed dial that offers a mechanical shutter speed range from 1 to 1/8000 sec., as well as bulb and time settings. An ISO dial is also incorporated into the shutter speed dial, for confirming the sensitivity setting without having to turn the camera on. The exposure compensation dial lets you choose +/- 3 EV in 1/3 steps, and a command dial position expands the range to +/- 5 EV for further control.

Front and rear command dials integrate a push function for easier use and settings selection and six different function buttons can be assigned to control a range of settings.
A dedicated Focus Lever provides faster, more intuitive control over selecting specific focus points while shooting.
An updated graphical user interface features a My Menu section, where you can register up to 16 items to quickly access. This pairs with the Q Menu, which also provides shortcuts to 16 oft-used settings, bringing the total up to 32 distinct functions, settings, or other controls than can be accessed in a quick manner without having to delve into a more intricate menu system.

Film Simulation and Grain Effect Modes

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the XPro2 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. For monochrome shooting, the Acros mode offers smooth tones, deep blacks, and fine detail reminiscent of the Neopan 100 Acros film type. A refined Classic Chrome mode is designed to deliver muted tones and a deep color reproduction, similar to that of a dated slide film. Pulling from their more contemporary line of transparency films, Provia offers natural-looking tones for everyday shooting, Velvia produces a more dramatic and rich tonality with deeper color saturation, and Astia gives less contrast for a softer depiction of skin tones. Mimicking their negative films, Pro Neg. Std. gives smooth image tones that are suitable for accurate color renditions, while Pro Neg. Hi produces a more dramatic feel with the ability to draw color out of a variety of lighting conditions.

In addition to simulating specific film types, a Grain Effect mode is also available to replicate the look of old film photos with an organic textured appearance, which is especially noticeable when printing.

Other Camera Features

An electronic shutter function permits using shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec. for working with wide aperture settings in bright lighting conditions.
Built-in Wi-Fi enables wireless transferring of imagery to linked mobile devices as well as remote control over camera settings and the shutter via the free Fujifilm Camera Remote app. Additionally, this connectivity enables the use of the optional instax SHARE Smartphone Printer for wireless instant printing via the instax Share app.

An interval timer permits recording time-lapse sequences and can be configured to record up to 999 frames in time spans ranging from one second to 24 hours.

Multiple exposure mode gives you the ability to overlay imagery in-camera. When working in this mode, subsequent exposures can be paired and the final appearance can be previewed on the LCD or in the EVF before making the final exposure.
Additional Advanced Filters can also be used to creatively enhance the look of imagery in-camera, and include Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High Key, Low Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, and Partial Color (Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Purple).

Dec 032015
 

TWO STRANGERS, ONE CRY
Paris, Friday 13 November 2015

By Olaf Sztaba

First, there was shock, disbelief and numbness. Then there was a fierce anger and the urge to talk, but no words came out.

I did what I usually do in such moments of deep sadness. I decided to act in the best way I know. I grabbed my camera.

It was a miserable day in Vancouver – pouring rain, cold and windy, the kind of day when you want to stay at home, safe and warm. But not today! When we arrived at the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, a large crowd was already assembled.

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A sea of people stood shoulder to shoulder in soaking rain, in silence. Hundreds of umbrellas opened in harmony as if they were all somehow synchronized – how strange, I thought.

At first I didn’t notice but then I realized almost everyone was holding a candle, their hands protecting the flame from the rain. They knew these candles needed to burn. Someone started playing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Then I started climbing the stairs of the Art Gallery. Normally this would be almost impossible in such a crowd but somehow people were letting me in and in doing so, they smiled.

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At the top I raised my camera and looked through the viewfinder as people one by one started climbing the stairs, leaving their candles, cards and flowers at the top. I saw older people, I saw a young child leaving her drawings, I could see people’s faces, crumpled with grief.

Then I saw her. Her face was unlike any other. Her hands were wrapped tightly around a candle protecting the flame. She was climbing the stairs more slowly than others as if this climb was a ceremony itself. She approached the top of the stairs and the glow of hundreds of candles lit her face. The emotions on her face were overwhelming. She didn’t make a sound but you could sense the grief. Then I noticed a tear in her eye…

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I couldn’t hold it any more. My heart started beating faster, my hands were shaking and my tears fogged the viewfinder. Through this fog I saw this stoic Muslim woman praying and placing the candle gently among hundreds of others.

We both stood there for what seemed to be an eternity. We never met, we never spoke but we had so much in common. A Christian man and a Muslim woman crying together.

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“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.”

Lyrics by John Lennon
All images were taken with the Fuji X-T1, XF 35mm F1.4 & XF 56mm F1.2, processed in LR6. The Classic Chrome film simulation.
Olaf Sztaba
www.olafphotoblog.com
www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

Dec 032015
 

Why do I still shoot digital?

By Aivaras Sidla

Despite fact that film photography is slowly killing digital imaging, despite fact, that digital cameras produce poor results in good and moderate light, there is still fair amount of people shooting digital.

I was always intrigued about this issue and found out there is belief that digital could still produce better results in poor light and darkness. At least some people say so. I suppose this is temporary, until fast evolving film technology will close this gap. Or, on the other hand this could be only illusion, a want-believe of folk, who want to be different from the crowd. Those damn techno hipsters… Btw. I have a beard, but I shoot film, so I’m not one of them.

Being curious person, I found one of those dwindling and dusty new digital camera shops and bought camera. I tried it, I hocked. You know, maybe folks are right; maybe digital still has a slight edge in low light… For now at least.

See it for your self.

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All shots (not to much? J) are made with Fuji-X cameras (X100, X-E1, X-T1). Some with native XF35 F1.4 lens, some with Mitakon lens turbo adapter and Pentax lenses.

Readers, hope you have a sense of humor. J

Thanks,
Aivaras

More here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aiwalit/

Nov 242015
 
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sony

From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

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

 

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

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

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That Sensor!

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

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

Auto Focus

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

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

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Manual Focus

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

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

The body

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

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

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

Menus

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

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Necessary Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some notes:

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

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Things to fix via a firmware:

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

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

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

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

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Wrap Up…

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

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

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

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