Mar 032015
 

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HANDS ON: The Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA Lens. Samples, and my 1st thoughts!

THIS IS NOT MY FULL REVIEW, JUST A HANDS ON 1st LOOK WITH SAMPLES! – PRE-ORDER at B&H Photo HERE – Amazon HERE

WOW! I have been shooting with the brand spanking new Sony FE 35 1.4 ZEISS lens and let me tell you right now..this lens may just be the best 35mm lens I have ever shot when it comes to IQ, pop, color, detail and overall rendering. It is gorgeous. Really.

Sony sent me the lens for a long term review but I have not had enough time with it just yet for a full review but can and will give you my very 1st thoughts, some image samples and a video telling you just what I think SO FAR about this lens, which you can watch below:

I have been shooting with it for a few days but the 1st thing that popped to mind when it arrived was “DAMN! THIS IS HUGE!”. This lens is NOT small in any way, shape or form but it is indeed BEAUTIFULLY built, made… and man oh man, can it give some sweet Zeiss 3D pop! It is about the same size as the 16-35 F/4 Zeiss.

Click on the image below which was shot with the Sony A7s and this 35 1.4 at 1.4. I have not seen this kind of detail and pop since I shot with the Leica 35 Summiulux FLE on my old M9. You must click the image to see it larger and correctly!

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For me, it actually is meeting or beating the Leica 35 Summilux FLE for overall IQ and color performance (A $5500 Lens). Of course, the Leica is TINY in comparison, as is the new Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 (that I also have on hand), but this lens offers Auto focus, click or clickless aperture and a way of producing images that will make you say “WOW”. For me, this is TRULY the 1st native “WOW” lens for the Sony full frame FE system. It easily surpasses the 55 1.8 for me as well as the 35 2.8 that I have been using since the launch of the A7 system, and those are both beautiful lenses when it comes to image quality. The 35 1.4 has such a beautiful character and rich rendering.

The 1st image is an OOC JPEG, but look at the nice color and rendering. This one was shot with the A7II…

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…and how about the same image with a VSCO film filter applied?

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Again, the A7II and Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 Lens. Click it for better version and to see the 100% crop below it to see the DETAIL even at the bottom of the frame!

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The A7s and this lens are like a match made in heaven. It seems to bring out extra detail in the A7s shots. This is a full size shot, right click and open in a new tab or window to see it. The 12MP of the A7s is fantastic here. The double image part of the text in front of his hands was like this, it is not from the lens ;) 

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This lens is going to be HUGE for Sony A7 shooters and I found that it works just as well on the A7s as the A7II. BOTH cameras will give you incredible detail when using this guy, even at f/1.4 wide open. I was put off by the large size (it is about the same size as the 16-40 f/4) when I first attached it to my A7s but after a few snaps and seeing what it could do, I quickly forgot about the size. The lens is not very heavy, it is just large. Even so, it is large for a reason as they packed some magic pixie dust inside of this lens.

Three of Debby, two B&W and one out of camera Color. All from the A7s again, with B&W conversion from VSCO

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I look forward to spending some quality time with this lens and so far, it has been one of those lenses that make me want to get out and shoot. The color performance and the sharpness make the images just POP much like Leica lenses do on the M9 or M 240. In some cases, even better. This lens is a masterpiece for IQ and rendering with the only weakness..size.

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As for Auto Focus speed it seems semi-quick and VERY accurate. I have shot maybe 50 shots with it so far and none have been mis-focused. In low light it is a bit slower but still very good. By todays 2015 standards it is fantastic, and better than one would expect for a 35 1.4 lens.  I will have much more detail about AF speed and EVERYTHING in my full review in 2-3 weeks. But look at this detail and pop and color that oozes from the lens…

A7s, 35 1.4 at 1.4 and closest focusing distance of .3 meters. No distortion and no issues. 

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It was VERY low light in this restaurant and I asked this guy if I could snap his portrait. He was amazed that no flash went off. I told him “with this lens it is not needed” and when he saw the image on the LCD he was double amazed at the clarity and how it lit up the scene without any real light being there! A7s

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Same restaurant..A7s..

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And some graffiti with the A7s and 35 1.4

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All images below are from the Sony  A7II and Zeiss 35 1.4 – check out the rich color of  the 1st image. A good lens will be sharp, have great bokeh, have minimal distortion, focus close and give you enhanced color performance. From what I see so far, this lens gives all of these things.

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Sony’s Official Word on the 35 1.4  (the cool parts are in bold)

ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA (model SEL35F14Z) Full-frame Wide Angle Lens

This new ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA full-frame wide angle prime showcases legendary ZEISS® optical performance in a compact design. With a minimum focusing distance of approximately 12 inches, the ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 is the first E-mount lens to feature an exceptionally fast aperture of F1.4. The lens has a 9-bladed circular aperture, which makes it a superior choice for creating smooth bokeh (defocus) during portrait shooting. It also performs extremely well in low-light shooting scenarios or for simple everyday photographs.

The new 35mm prime lens produces stunning corner-to-corner sharpness – even at maximum aperture – thanks to its advanced optical design with 3 aspherical elements including one Sony advanced aspherical element and a 9-bladed circular aperture. It also features ZEISS® T* coating that suppresses flare and ghosting for natural color reproduction and excellent contrast. Additionally, the lens has a Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) system that enables whisper-quiet precision focusing, even at the shallowest depth of field. A dedicated aperture ring can be set for smooth, continuous operation – ideal for movie-makers – or with click-stops to provide tactile feedback when shooting still images. The ZEISS® Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 is also dust and moisture resistant design for reliable operation when shooting outdoors.

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A quick detail shot – A7II, f/5, click the image to see it correctly with a 100% crop of the fine detail. Even at 1.4 it is just as sharp. 

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You can pre-order the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 FE lens at Amazon using the link below. The lens will ship in April. My full review will be in 2-3 weeks when I can get out and get some serious use out of it.

PRE-ORDER the ZEISS 35 1.4 FE Lens at B&H Photo HERE.

PRE-ORDER the ZEISS 35 1.4 FE Lens at Amazon HERE

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Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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

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Feb 042015
 

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II! Hands On 1st look & Video!

Man, doing camera reviews is a TOUGH job. Here I am in beautiful Bermuda with other colleagues testing out the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The follow up to the HUGELY successful E-M5 (My review of the original E-M5 is HERE). For the past couple of years I wondered how Olympus could top themselves after the E-M1. I mean, what else can they do? The E-M5 and E-M1 (E-M1 review is HERE) are superb cameras for the Micro 4/3 format, and IMO, the best there is for this system. When I was asked to come do a test of the camera for two solid days in Bermuda, I could not pass it up. ;)

I also learned about the new PRO 8MM F/1.8 Fisheye they are coming out with this year as well as the “Olympus Air” and the new 14-150 “kit” zoom that is now weather sealed. Also, Firmware 3.0 for the E-M1 which should be out in the next 2-3 weeks. Good stuff!

All images in this 1st look report are OOC JPEGs with either the 12-40 Pro or 40-150 Pro Zoom Lenses. Click them for larger. 

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OFFICIAL…

“CENTER VALLEY, Pa., February 5, 2015 — Olympus introduces an exceptional high-resolution still and advanced motion picture hybrid with the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II®. This advanced interchangeable-lens camera features a compact dustproof, splashproof body, with a familiar, premium design. Packed with 5-axis image stabilization, a 40-megapixel high-resolution shot mode, sophisticated, stunning HD video, integrated Wi-Fi® and a variable-angle 3-inch touchscreen, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II makes it easy to get the shot you need, every time. The easy-to-use 2.36 million dot, super-large, high-definition electronic viewfinder has a field of view of 100%, and a viewfinder magnification of 1.48x. The camera is equipped with Adaptive Brightness Technology, which automatically adjusts the backlight brightness in accordance with environmental lighting. The new LV Boost II*1 is convenient for shooting stars, and Creative Control provides complete freedom of control over color, tone, focus, and aspect ratio.”

Today was day one with the camera. That is it. ONE day. I had  the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom and the 40-150 Pro Zoom to shoot with it and of course I only shot JPEG as there is no software to process RAW files as of yet. So remember, all images here are 1st look images, all JPEG and out of camera.

My 1st Look Video on the Olympus E-M5 II with my thoughts and some quick video samples (nothing fancy here)

With that said, here is the real lowdown, the real scoop..the real deal after only one day with the E-M5.

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Well, IT IS GORGEOUS and an AMAZING update to the old E-M5, and here is why:

40 MP High Res Shot

Olympus said  that with this mode you will meet or exceed full frame detail. Yes, you can get a 40MP file from the 16MP sensor using this new exclusive mode on the E-M5 II. You will need a tripod and a good lens to take advantage of it but from what I understand the detail is stunning in this mode and I have sen samples. I will be testing this mode TOMORROW but once again it is Olympus pushing tech and INNOVATING as they have done for years. Remember, they were 1st with 5 Axis..they were 1st with a Swivel LCD (E-330 back in the day) and they were 1st with a mirror less weather proof, freeze proof, shock proof body in the E-M1. They are also the ONLY camera today with the exclusive LIVE TIME and LIVE COMPOSITE MODES, which are FANTASTIC.

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Here is what Olympus says about 40 MP High Res Shot:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II takes high-resolution imaging to a whole new level. In addition to the exceptional 16-megapixel stills you’ve come to expect from OM-D, the E-M5 Mark II captures 40-megapixel images*2 using an innovative pixel-shift technique that is facilitated by the voice-coil motor IS unit. The 40-Megapixel High-Res Shot mode captures eight sequential images, moving the sensor by 0.5-pixel steps between each shot. Then, the E-M5 Mark II compiles those images to produce a super-high resolution shot that rivals those captured with a 40-megapixel full-frame camera.

A tripod and a high-resolution M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL PRO or M.ZUIKO Premium lens are recommended to use the 40-Megapixel High-Res Shot mode, which captures eight shots over a period of one second. Another two seconds are required to compile the final image. Images can be captured at up to f/8 with a shutter speed of up to eight seconds and a sensitivity of up to ISO 1600. When shooting in RAW+JPEG mode, the camera will save a 40M JPEG file, a 64M RAW (ORF) file and a 16M RAW (ORI) file. 64M RAW images may be processed using Photoshop CS4 and later with a required plug-in.”

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The new improved 5-Axis IS. 

This is new and upgraded and works SO AMAZINGLY WELL. It beats the 5 Axis in the Sony A7II, E-P5, E-M5 Mark I and the E-M1. Olympus briefed us and told us it is their best Image Stabilization system to date. This new improved 5 Axis is so amazing with video and photos. One guy here took a handheld shot at 1.2 seconds and it looked damn good on his LCD! Crazy. Olympus claims 5 Stops of performance. I was seeing unreal performance with this E-M5II 5 Axis..can not wait to test it more.

1st image was using “Live Time” where you can see your exposure happening in real-time, perfect for night exposures. The image below was shot at ISO 1600 at night, and I let LiveTime go until the exposure was right where I wanted it. 

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…and “Live Composite” which is quite special and unique to Olympus. Basically the camera takes TWO shots. The 1st one determines the exposure for the shot..the 2nd shot just leaves the shutter open for up to SIX HOURS looking for NEW light. When it sees the new light it adds it to the images, without affecting your original exposure. This would be amazing for night-time shooting but you do need a tripod of course.

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Here is the Lowdown from Olympus on the 5 Axis in the E-M5 II:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s in-body 5-axis VCM image stabilization system offers unprecedented performance. The camera’s 16-megapixel sensor shifts horizontally, vertically and on the X (pitch), Y (yaw) and Z (roll) axes in order to provide 5.0 EV steps of compensation performance. The OM-D E-M5 Mark II can capture sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/4-second without the use of a tripod. Sensor shift on the X and Y axes can also assist when photographing close-up subjects. Image stabilization extends to the 3-inch, 1.04M-dot rear vari-angle touchscreen and the 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder (1.48x magnification), providing a full image stabilization preview when the shutter button is pressed halfway.”

Electronic Silent Shutter capable of 1/16,000 S

The new silent shutter is superb and capable of 1/16,000 of a second shutter speeds and 11 FPS continuous shooting. If you prefer to use the physical shutter you are limited to 1/8000s and 10 FPS shooting, which exceeds the E-M1 and past E-M5 regardless. The silent shutter is just that..silent.

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OM-D Movie – They now are getting much better with video

“The OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s advanced video features enable photographers to capture cinema-quality movies from the palm of their hand. The camera’s 5-axis image stabilization compensates for even the slightest movement, allowing the camera to capture stable footage without the use of a sophisticated and expensive stabilization rig, or even a tripod, letting users shoot in environments where adding heavy equipment may not be practical. The mechanical IS unit can also work in concert with Electronic Stabilization if desired.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II captures 1080p video at up to a 60p frame rate with up to 77 Mbps high bit-rate recording possible at the 30p setting. Additionally, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II supports 50p, 30p (29.97p), 25p and 24p (23.98p) frame rates, making it easy to blend footage captured using other camera systems. An integrated microphone jack supports external audio input, while a headphone jack positioned in the HLD-8G External Grip enables real-time audio monitoring. Focus Peaking with four color choices (red, yellow, black and white) as well as three selectable intensities for optimal manual focus results. Settings can be adjusted while recording using the 3-inch touchscreen, including AF-point selection, exposure, electronic zoom and Movie Tele-converter, microphone sensitivity, headphone volume and art effects. Additionally, OM-D Movie supports time code settings and connection to an external HDMI® monitor during recording. You can also add an Olympus PCM recorder for high-quality audio capture.

Photographers can take advantage of the OM-D’s popular Art Filters while in Movie Capture mode. Users can select from Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line and Watercolor while capturing video. A Movie Tele-converter lets users touch an area on the screen to enlarge it without losing image quality, while the Clips tool enables short clip capture, allowing users to combine footage and effects directly on the camera for instant sharing.”

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I am only one day in with this new camera and I am really enjoying it. From the quick and fast AF (faster than the E-M5 and E-M1 from what I can tell) , the new side swivel LCD which is FANTASTIC in use and the improved 5 Axis IS and Video. I will be testing the new 40MP High Res Shot tomorrow but I can see the possibilities with it for sure. The E-M % Mark II will not ship with a lens as it will be body only for $1099. It will come with a very cool new flash that not only rotates side to side but up and down as well. I was able to handle this little dynamo and it was very cool, not your typical bundled flash (though it is small).

I love Olympus..always have ever since the good old film days, and then again with the original 4/3 E-1. They always have something special and unique about their cameras and they ALWAYS innovate and bring us new features, including superb firmware updates for the E-M1.

So far so good and I have only been shooting OOC JPEG in NEUTRAL color mode…for ONE day.

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This camera easily outclasses the older E-M1 Mark I and IMO even outshines the E-M1 for less money. Next to the E-M1 the E-M5 II is smaller but feels just as good, is a bit faster, can shoot faster FPS, has better 5 Axis IS and video, and so on.

My full review will be up by the end of Feb 2015, so be sure to check back as I am sure I will be posting updates over the next few days and weeks, including a test of the new 40MP High Res Mode. We have a full day of shooting tomorrow as well so I am excited to see what I can squeeze out of the camera.

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So far, so good! GO GO GO Olympus!

PRE ORDER THE E-M5 II

You can PRE ORDER the E-M5 Mark II at B&H Photo using the link below. The camera will be shipping by the end of this month, Feb 2015.

B&H PHOTO: PRE-ORDER THE E-M5 II HERE IN SILVER!

B&H PHOTO: PRE-ORDER IN BLACK!

AMAZON: PRE ORDER IN SILVER

AMAZON: PRE ORDER IN BLACK

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More from Olympus on the new and exciting E-M5 Mark II

Exceptional Performance
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II pairs a redesigned16-megapixel Live-MOS Micro Four Thirds® sensor with the Olympus TruePic™ VII processor, enabling brilliant image quality in bright and low-light conditions alike. The 1/8000 mechanical shutter allows photographers to shoot using a large aperture for maximum bokeh, even in bright, daylight conditions. Users can capture RAW images at up to 10 fps with S-AF, or 5 fps with C-AF tracking enabled. An Anti-shock mode utilizes electronic first-curtain shutter to reduce shutter shock during sequential shooting, and a new Silent mode enables a full-time 1/16000 second electronic shutter, eliminating the mechanical shutter noise entirely for absolutely silent shooting. The 81-point Fast AF provides an expanded focus area, with unparalleled speed, while Small Target AF allows users to focus on small areas across the entire frame.

Ultimate Connectivity
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes integrated Wi-Fi, enabling remote shooting, geotagging and easy image sharing using the Olympus Image Share app on an Android® or iOS® smartphone or tablet. Photographers can use the Olympus Image Share app to apply Art Filters. Users can also start and stop movie recording using a wirelessly connected smartphone, or with the RM-UC1 Remote Cable Release. Studio photographers can take advantage of Olympus Capture support, enabling complete control of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II from a connected Mac® or PC.

Portability and Build
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II features a dustproof, splashproof body, that, when properly sealed and paired with select M.ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses, can even be used in the rain. Olympus’ renowned Supersonic Wave Filter technology uses super high speed frequency movement to “shake” any dust or debris off the sensor, eliminating dust marks that irreparably spoil images. Two body colors are available: a luxurious black with texture casting, and a bright, gorgeous silver. The camera includes machined metal dials, an extended grip and a lowered center of gravity that makes the OM-D E-M5 Mark II comfortable to hold in a variety of positions. The camera (body only) weighs just 417 grams, or 14.7 ounces, making it one of the lightest models in its class.

Accessories
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes a dustproof and splashproof bundled flash, the FL-LM3, with Guide Number 9 (at ISO 100) and tilt and swivel positioning, enabling users to light subjects directly or by bouncing the flash off of a ceiling or wall.

The HLD-8 is a dustproof and splashproof power battery holder for exclusive use with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, which enhances both the camera grip and power supply. The HLD-8G Non-powered Grip pairs a substantial camera grip with a headphone jack for monitoring audio during video capture, and an HLD-6P Power Grip, which can attach directly to the camera or to the HLD-8G, provides additional battery power for extended shoots. Because the grip (HLD-8G) and battery holder (HLD-6P) can be separated, the grip can be used alone when necessary. The HLD-6P battery holder is the same as the HLD-6 which was previously designed for the OM-D E-M5. The ECG-2 Metal External Grip can be attached to and removed from a tripod easily, and includes a battery pass-through for changing batteries without removing the grip.

An EE-1 External Dot Sight, which is compatible with any camera with a hot shoe, makes it easier to frame subjects during super-telephoto shooting An EP-16 Large Eyecup is also available, which blocks sunlight, making the electronic viewfinder easier to use. A redesigned version of the OM-D E-M5’s popular full-cover case, which includes a body cover and removable front cover, is also available as the CS-46 FBC Leather Cover and Body Jacket. The PT-EP13 Dedicated Underwater Case can be used at depths of up to 45 meters, and is designed specifically for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The case is equipped with a pick-up viewfinder and can be used with the cameras bundled FL-LM3 flash, along with a variety of lenses.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II will be available in February 2015.
Estimated Street Price
$1,099.99 Body only in Black or Silver

Nov 142012
 

Want hands on with the Sony RX1? You CAN on November 20th!

So you have been reading all about the new Sony RX-1 full frame fixed lens Zeiss 35 f/2 camera and lusting after it. BUT you have been wondering if there is a way to see it..touch it and shoot with it before you plunk down your hard-earned cash for one. Well there is some good news! B&H Photo is hosting Sony in their Event Space on November 20th! There are limited seats so if you want to stop by and play with the RX1 you have to register at B&H Photo by clicking HERE.

Most of you have seen my early thoughts on the RX1 HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE but go see for yourself on November 20th as there is no better way that to see for yourself. They will be showing a dis-assembled model, prints and video all taken with the camera. Should be a great event. I would be there but that day happens to be my Birthday and besides..I should be shooting with a review unit by then anyway :)

The few days I was able to shoot the RX1 I was blown away by what it could do. Sure there are things missing that I would have loved to see, like a built-in EVF..BUT the EVF for the camera is actually quite amazing. The best EVF I have ever used to date. The camera is so small and the power it packs is quite astounding. When you stop by that event space and see the size many of you will be quite surprised at just how small it is. To think it has a full frame sensor inside that is capable of full frame DSLR results (in some cases, even better due to the lens matching to the sensor) boggles the mind when you see it in person.

The RX1 is quite the camera. No other company has yet dared to do this. Sure you can complain that it does not have interchangeable lenses but when you see the disassembled model you will see one reason why this is. You will also get to ask questions about the camera of course. I feel that the RX1 will be a superb street shooting tool, day or night. My kit would consist of the camera, EVF and ND filter for daytime shots where I wanted to keep the signature look of the lens at f/2.

But as I have been saying here all along, don’t just take my word for it..go register for this event and see for yourself! If anyone from here goes feel free to report back here in the comments when you get back.

Register HERE.

B&H Is still taking pre-orders for the RX1 HERE with an expected delivery date of December 14th. Just in time for Christmas :) Great stocking stuffer because it will indeed fit in one!

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