Aug 072014
 

Why cameras are important!

By Rudiger Wolf

Steve,

Your site really does provide inspiration. After the A7s review, I decided to try the low light monster. I had hefted the A7 before, and it just did not feel/sound quite right. The A7s arrived just before our annual family pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe. We try to enjoy family time together at Lake Tahoe every summer. This time it would be especially fun, because the grandkids are getting old enough to enjoy the festivities (2 and 5 years old). Many years ago, I read an article wondering why some professional photographers use the best cameras and lenses on their clients, and then use lower quality gear for pictures of their families… pictures that could bless the lives of family members for generations to come, long after the value of client pictures are gone. I took that lesson to heart, and use the best equipment I can on my own family. Here then, are a few pictures of our recent trip to Lake Tahoe, using the A7s and Zeiss 24-70.

Ok, well not quite always that camera and lens combination. In this case, it was the A7s with Leica 21mm f3.4. Shot at ISO 3,200, F3.4, 20 sec.

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This is my 5 year old grand-daughter. She woke up early one morning. I was already working on the images from the previous day. The light streaming through the glass doors looked like it might offer some interesting images. She is an absolute sweetheart, and agreed to model for our photo shoot. I used the A7s and Leica glass, but ultimately, this is one of my favorite shots. Leica M240 with 90mm at f3.4, 1/30 sec at ISO 800. The colors on the A7s just did not match up as well.

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There is no intention of a fake out here. The A7s is an impressive instrument. I did have the chance to use the A7s exactly as I imagined it. Auto ISO, shutter speed fast enough to capture the active grandkids, Zeiss zoom lens for auto focus and flexibility. It all came together with a series of shots in a pretty dark room and my two grandsons…cousins. Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70, 1/125 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800! This one will last a lifetime! Where is the grain? Awesome.

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Obviously, we also watched the fireworks. I had tried to get them from the boat before with my D800e. Don’t get me wrong, I love that camera. Like any camera, it has limitations. Again, the A7s showed it’s capability. This was shot with Zeiss 24-70 at 1/125 sec, f4.0 at ISO 51,200! Just a fantastic camera for low light.

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Did I mention my grand kids? They loved the show! Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70 at 1/40 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800.

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To wrap this up… Thanks for the recommendation on the Sony A7s. It has enabled me to capture images I will treasure for a long time. My kids and their kids will see these, and remember the great times we have had together as a family. I can think of no loftier goal than to invoke those memories and feeling of joy and love together as a family.

Rudy

digitalwolftracks.smugmug.com
Rudiger Wolf

Jul 012014
 

a7sblack

The Sony A7s Review. Wow. Period.

The most creative digital photographic tool ever made for my uses!

You can order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

It has been almost a year since the Sony A7 and A7r have been released (See my review HERE) and in that time many have jumped in and purchased one of the A7 cameras. What they have brought to photographers is a chance to get into full frame sensor performance while keeping the size small and the weight much lighter than a DSLR camera. The A7 series has been fantastic but at the same time, they have had their quirks and problems from time to time.

My video intro and overview of the Sony A7s

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When I shot and tested the A7 and A7r I loved the cameras as they were highly capable devices that were crazy versatile with the ability to use 3rd party lenses like Leica lenses, Canon lenses, Nikon lenses, etc. With the full frame sensors we were able to get that creamy shallow depth of field look and it was pretty cool to have all of these capabilities in a small, nicely made body. The main issues with the A7 and A7r is that they were a bit slow to Auto Focus when compared to other current cameras from companies like Olympus and Pentax. They were also, while very very good, not the best (when compared to other FF offerings like the RX1)  in low light or high ISO and while nice in low light, they were not “WOW” in low light. The AF would slow down a bit and the high ISO noise was worse than it was in the previous RX1.

I was very close to dumping my Leica M 240 for an A7 or A7r at that time but ultimately decided that would not be a good idea. But I was SO CLOSE. The AF speed and file size and loud shutter of the A7 and A7r soon made me realize even more the beauty of the Leica M system, even if the IQ of the Sony was just as good, and in many ways it was and in some ways it was even better.

A7s and 55 1.8

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OOC JPEG – Sony A7s with the Sony 55 1.8 using C-AF

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The Sony A7r also had the file size issue for many and while you could crop to your hearts content, managing those files meant you needed a pretty nice and powerful computer (which many of us DO have). Let us not forget the very loud shutter on the A7r and the less but still loud shutter of the A7 which irritated many who used the cameras.

Well, Sony seemed to listen to what many of the A7 users wanted and now we have yet another new model from them.

Yep, Sony brings us the A7s with ISO capability to over ISO 400,000 (Usable 102k)

So now Sony has released the A7s and it has just started shipping TODAY, July 1st 2014. I have been shooting with one for the past 2-3 weeks as I am lucky to be a camera reviewer, so I get them a little early ;) For me the Sony A7s ticks all of the right boxes on paper..again, FOR ME. Only 12MP resolution which offers us nice details, pretty large print size and SMALL file size (one of my fave cameras of the past is the Nikon D2hs at 4MP). Because of this small megapixel count Sony has managed to give us the best low light performance of any camera made today, and this is a fact. While not a huge massive jump from the Nikon Df for low light, it is for sure definite bump up, especially when you start getting to extremes. ISO on the A7s can go up to over 400,000 and is usable for me in LOW LOW light up to 102,400. This is huge. This is a game changer for me, and will be for many others as well. In this review I will go over what is new and changed or improved over the A7 and A7r instead of doing a whole huge review that rehashes the camera. At its heart it is an A7. Same body, same feel, same LCD and EVF and same controls and menu. All that is new is the Sensor, and because of the sensor we now benefit from massive improvements such as a new silent electronic shutter that can be turned on or off, world class nothing quite like it high ISO and low light capabilities, faster Auto Focus over the A7 and A7s and insane video capabilities in ANY lighting scenario. The A7s is 4K video capable.

So what is new in the A7s from the A7 and A7r?

  • New 12Mp High Performance Sensor with superb color, Dynamic Range and low light Capability. Bionz X processor. 
  • Silent Shooting mode with electronic shutter allowing you to shoot in total silence. 
  • Shoots 4K Video with external recorder. Full pixel read out.
  • 120 FPS video for slow motion.
  • Customizable Color Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma for video.
  • Audio Input & Headphone Jack
  • ISO Capability up to 402,000 ISO. Usable at 102,000!
  • Faster AF speed over A7 and A7r with Sony lenses.
  • Seems like the shutter is quieter as well, more damped. 

Other than that, the A7s is just like the A7 and A7r in body, build, and feel. Controls are the same and LCD and EVF are the same. Basically what you are getting is a supercharged A7 with intense low light capabilities as well as stellar video options. Leica M mount lenses also seem to work much better on this body than the A7 or A7r.

ISO 8,000 with the 15mm Voigtlander.

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So first, let us talk about the #1 main reason to like the A7s. LOW LIGHT capability. 

FACT: With the Sony A7s I am now able to shoot in near darkness without a flash and without even using the annoying red AF light! The A7s simply rocks and is in its element in low light scenarios. I had this camera in almost pitch black conditions. The camera still managed to auto focus without using the AF assist light! AMAZING! Below is one image sample that was shot in a VERY VERY low light room. In the room it was what I would call “dark” with some slight ambient lighting but when looking at the scene, I could not make out anyones faces. I cranked the camera to ISO 80,000 to get 1/10s with the Voigtlander 15 VM at f/4.5 (wide open). I had the silent shutter activated and no one knew that I snapped a picture. In fact, if I told anyone that I did they would never have believed me as most would think it to be impossible without a flash. The image looks like the room was bright but it was in NO WAY bright! It was super dim and near dark. In fact, I also was shooting video with my camcorder in this room and I had to engage night vision with an external IR light.  The image below is the result of the ISO 80,000 at 1/10s with the 15 VM. Click it for larger. 

Sony A7s, Voigtlander 15VM (with M adapter) and 1/10s. OOC JPEG, NR on lowest in cam setting.

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Sure you will see some noise and loss of detail but THIS IS 80,000 ISO! No other camera in this price range could even get close to this. In fact, I am not so sure any other camera at all could get this type of performance at ISO 80,000. If so, I have not seen it. Even MC Hammer would say that the Nikon Df can’t touch this. Others who say that the A7r or A7 or Canon 5D MkIII can do this..well, they are 100% incorrect. From noise to Af in this kind of light, they can not do it, period.

ISO 4000, Sony A7s, 35 2.8 Zeiss

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The A7s in real world near darkness use – Photo.-

When the camera arrived my 1st order of business was to take this A7s and find a place I can shoot it at that has something interesting to shoot, in literally near darkness. A local friend of mine, Bill Goodman, who is also a photographer (shoots with many cameras but loves his Canon 6D) recommended I go shoot some music clubs in town. He recommended a few places and away I went, and I loved it! The people, the music, the beer, the ambience and the experience was rather therapeutic for me and started to bring back some of the fun of photography for me after so many years of doing reviews (yes, six years of shooting for reviews can start to take away some of the fun in photography). The A7s never gave me a problem, even in situations that had me shooting at ISO 102k with AF and the AF assist light turned OFF. The Af of the A7s is amazingly good..and accurate. It is not a blazing speed demon in darkness but it gets the job done. I also tested the Mitakon 50 0.95, serial #00001 and this lens along with the A7s is a match made for the night. Not “Noctilux” quality but at $795 a no brainer for low light work if you have an A7 or A7s camera. It is a full frame 50 0.95 lens and built like a tank.

Some low light samples at high ISO. Keep in mind that this club was near dark. It was tough to see this band, Copper & Congress with my own eyes! The club is the “Lost Leaf” in Phx AZ and there is live music every night. I tested the A7s here so it could be like a torture test “worst of the worst” conditions. I had to crank the ISO and use the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens. Below are some OOC JPEGS in B&W. ISO is listed above each photo.

Katie from Copper & Congress doing a sound check at the Lost Leaf in Phx AZ. ISO – Mitakon 50 0.95 was used for these.

All were shot as JPEG

1st image is at ISO 32,000  - f/0.95 – click for larger!

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 f 0.95

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ISO 1600 for the next two. 1st one was using the 35 2.8 and 2nd the Mitakon wide open

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The A7s is TRULY the new King of the Nighttime World – in Color or B&W!

The more I used the A7s the more I started to appreciate it for what it can do, in any light..and I mean ANY light. It showed me that it excelled in bright light with an amazing Dynamic Range and it showed me it can do any light scenario in between from bright to almost total darkness. Below are three more photos showing ISO 64,000, ISO 12,800, 4000 and ISO 1600. All look fantastic. All are OOC JPEGS!

The A7s with 15 VM..ISO 64,000 in Boiler Room #3 abroad the Queen Mary at around 3 AM all by my lonesome. Color remains rich at this high ISO which is unheard of. **OOC JPEG**

THIS IS A FULL SIZE 12MP FILE so you get to see the nitty gritty of ISO 64,000 – OOC JPEG! Yes, look at the color and DR at ISO 64,000. THIS IS HUGE and I have never seen anything like it. VIVID MODE

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ISO 12,800 hand held in the desert at midnight.

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Below a measly ISO 4000 which does not even make the A7s break a sweat. OOC JPEG here..35 2.8

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Using the Leica 50 APO at ISO 3200 and F/2, the color is sublime even at ISO 3200! This was shot in a very low light location.

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ISO 1600? Looks like base ISO of some cameras :) – 35 2.8 – MUST click for larger! Color is FANTASTIC as is the AWB in this tricky lighting! VIVID MODE

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Ok, so what about using the A7s for other thing such as in normal light, action shooting or video?

Of course many will say “I do not need high ISO capability” – why would I want a Sony A7s? My answer to you is “you probably wouldn’t”!

In all seriousness, the A7s is the best low light camera I have ever used, period. It beats any other digital from Leica, any previous Sony and any Canon, Nikon or other brand of camera as of July of 2014. But what about if you do not need low light use? Well, I used to say all of the time that I never needed more than ISO 3200. I now realize that while true (it is not NEEDED)…after using the A7s I realize that I have no more limitations. After I realized the situations where I could now shoot images, using the Sony A7s, in total silence and in near darkness, it opened up new possibilities that I never even thought of. Total darkness, hand held shooting. AMAZING! ISO 80,000 is similar to ISO 1600 in the film world. This is huge. Believe me, it is. I am flabbergasted at what this A7s can do.

So while I never “needed” more than ISO 3200 in life, I realized that after a couple of weeks with the A7s that I loved having that capability. Photos in the dark or video in the dark. It was and is easy for the A7s. This opens up ALL KINDS of possibilities. But what if you never ever shoot in low light?

Well, the kicker here is that the A7s also does amazingly good in normal light. The Auto White Balance is superb, probably the best I have seen to date and beats the pats off of my Leica M 240 in this area. Color is nice and seemingly changed a bit from previous Sony cameras.

This review will be more on photo’s than words  this time around as I said so much in my A7 and A7r reviews. This time I will let the photos speak for  themselves, and keep in mind, 98% of these are OOC JPEGS so it only gets better. As for action shooting, no, the A7s will not be the end all of sports shooting for a couple of reasons. First, there are not yet any long telephoto lenses out for sports shooting and the Continuous AF is not as blazing as something like a pro Canon 1d or Nikon D4 series camera. (Many new lenses are on the way though in 2014 and 2015). I did shoot some kids at a skate park using C-AF (some samples in this review) and while all I had was the 55 1.8, it seemed to do the job well though some shots were missed as the kids were flying in the sky.

Below are quite a few image samples in good light, ALL JPEGS! Click them to see them correctly!

Low ISO has the pop you would expect from any full frame camera.

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Using C-AF and the 55 1.8 I was able to get some cool action shots with depth and great color and bite. The A7s was responsive and felt great while shooting. 

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The Mitakon at 0.95

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35 2.8

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A mother and daughter on the way to the beach – Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar (using M mount adapter) – Vivid

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The 55 1.8 at f/2, OOC JPEG

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Saw this cute guy on the beach in Summerland, CA. He only had three legs but was having a great time in the water and sand. Used a manual focus Zeiss Planar 45 f/2 that a reader sent in for me to test.

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With the Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar. Great color out of camera! JPEG!

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Another with the Ziess Planar 45

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Look at the reds and the way this one rendered with the 35 2.8 – Gorgeous color and tone!

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The Voigtlander 15 is AWESOME with the A7s. Click it to see the sharpness in the eyes here. 

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35 2.8

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55 1.8 using C-AF

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So my thoughts on the A7s in normal light is just as positive as it is for low light. Great AF speed, responsive overall feel and great color and IQ.

How about video? This camera shoots 4k?

The A7s is 4K capable with an external recorder but I am not a video guy who is serious enough to use that at this time in my life. I can say that shooting normal video is fantastic. Good light or low light, ISO 80,000? Sure. I shot a few video clips at varying ISO ranges but have not delved into the serious video tools such as the gamma color options. But this camera is a serious video tool and full frame to boot. Below is a sample video clip with clips ranging from base ISO to ISO 102,000 just using 1080P at 24 fps.

Only 12MP? Is that enough for larger prints?

I have been getting the megapixel question on this camera at least 5X a day. So, is 12MP enough for todays hobbyist, enthusiast or even pro? OF COURSE IT IS! Many get hung up on viewing images at 100% on screen, a way that NO ONE views your photos. We get “addicted” in a way to looking at the files at 100% and saying “WOW, look! I can see every eyelash on her face in extreme detail”!  But in  reality, none of that makes a good photo! All it does is make for a good WOW moment to YOU when viewing at 100% or sharing crops. In actual photography, 10MP is plenty and 12 is more than enough. My favorite sweet spot is 16MP but the Sony’s 12 MP here is a very very good 12mp.

Back in the day I had a ikon D2hs that was 4 MP and I printed 20X30′s from that camera all the time (was in a print frenzy at the time to prove that yes, a good 4MP cam print large) so the Sony A7s will never leave me wanting for Megapixels unless I am looking for that 100% screen viewing WOW moment, which you will not get with the A7s as you will with an A7r. I also really love the little Nikon V1 which is 10 MP. Never had an issue with images or the few prints I made. I think I have a 16X20 from the V1 that is gorgeous.

The A7s does so much right…”a jack of all trades and master of all” sort of camera…well, except for super crazy blazing Canon 1D style fast C-Af sports or action, but it is still not bad at all in that area. It has taken ANYTHING I have thrown at it, spitted it out and said “Is that all you got”? For me, there are way too many positives to having 12MP here that going back to 16, 24 or 36 would take away most of it. Sony knew what they were doing when they gave this camera a 12MP sensor. I am here to tell you that massive MP counts is not required for normal photography and large prints. Even with prints on a wall, who walks up to them to study details 2″ from the print? No one, except the ones who made the prints if they are obsessed with this sort of thing.

12 MP is a good number for me. May not be for you but for me, I really do not need more than 12 and the A7s is what has showed me this fact. I may not see every super fine detail or hair in a full size image but what I do see is good enough for 99.6% of anything I will ever shoot.

Below is a 100% OOC JPEG..yes, JPEG. So this will not be as sharp as the RAW file, but this is an idea of what you can get out of the camera. You must click it to see the crop correctly! 

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Shooting with the Voigtlander 15 VM Leica Mount Lens

The one lens that is pretty popular due to its small size and price and total lack of wide distortion is the Voigtlander 15mm Vm Lens. It is one of my faves and I have used one since my Leica M 7 days. On the M8, M9 and previous Sony A7′s the lens was virtually unusable due to color shifts and edges but here on the A7s the color shifts are 98% gone. This means that this is the first full frame digital that this lens will work on! The lens is $600 or so and can be bought at Cameraquest HERE. I highly recommend it for Leica Monochrome users or those with a crop sensor. But now, for the A7s, it is a great lens to have. Below are some shots with the 15mm on the A7s. Some are at very high ISO and the EXIF is there.

I have not been able to use any other Leica M mount wide angles yet but had a blast using the 15. I will test more soon and post that at a later date.

Below are all JPEGS from camera.

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Side by side with the Leica M 240

Below is a quick comparison I shot just for fun and due to many requests. It is with the Sony A7s and 55 1.8, then with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar and then one with the Leica M 240 and 50 Summicron APO. The Leica kit comes in at $15,000. The Sony kit at $3600. This is a just for fun test BTW..click them for larger. I posted this as a “Crazy Comparison” here. These were from RAW.

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Below, Sony A7s with Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar at 1.5 – beautiful rendering.

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Issues with the Sony A7s?

The Sony A7s really has no deal breaker issues but there are some things to be aware of.

First, when using the Electronic Silent shutter in extreme situations, such as very high ISO and shooting moving subjects, there can be a rolling shutter effect that will ruin your shot. If you are shooting fast moving subjects in low light, just use the standard shutter. Second, well, there really is no second issue as that is the only one I have found.

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Bottom Line Conclusion on the Sony A7s

The quick answer? The best camera, for my purposes, that I have ever tested, used, or reviewed. Period. Ever. Notice that I said “My Purposes”!

Strong strong words here but for me it comes down to the fact that in 3 weeks of use the Sony A7s never let me down, even when in near pitch blackness. It delivered insanely good results in any light situation. It never failed me in focusing. It adapted the M mount lenses I had on hand without major issues, even the “never worked on a full frame digital Voigtlander 15 M mount lens”. The Sony A7s opens up so many new possibilities that many never even knew existed. Sure, it is only 12MP and you will lose cropping power. Sure, that 12MP will not give pixel peepers the WOW moments and sure, it is yet another Sony camera promising big things.

But this time, the Sony A7s delivers on all promises made.

The shutter seems quieter or more damped. The new silent mode is amazing, drop dead silent. The AWB is fantastic and the focus speed is the fastest of any Sony full frame model E mount to date. It will even AF in darkness without fail. For video, it is exceptional and while I am not video whiz, it is beyond my capabilities in this area. The build, feel, manus and controls are the same on the A7s as the A7 and A7r, so the only thing that has changed is the sensor and electronic modes and video. These things open up this camera to ANYTIME, ANYWHERE use and I was not able to find any situation where I could not use the camera, NONE.

I have never in my life experienced this level of low light use. One that keeps color and DR even at ISO 80,000.

Sony has some new lenses planned for 2014 and 2015, one of then being an ultra wide zoom and a Zeiss 50 1.2. I am already drooling at the possibilities. The A7s has won my heart, much more so than the A7 and A7r. With the A7s I can use Leica glass, I can shoot in the dark, I can take gorgeous video all without worrying about color, mis-focus or other issues. Even when using C-AF I was able to shoot some kids at a skate park with great accuracy. But again, do not expect a blazing C-AF machine. This is still not a DSLR!

The A7s is not perfect though, if it had Olympus Image Stabilisation it would just about be! Yes, that, for me, would be the PERFECT camera. The A7s with the 5 Axis IS from Olympus. The A7s is a wonder. I have never seen anything like it for low light use. In good light it produces wonderful quality JPEGS and even better RAW files. Just do not expect the eye popping details that come with 36 MP cameras. Remember, images here were JPEG besides for the Leica comparison, those were shot RAW.

For me, this is the camera to beat for 2014. So far, my pick for camera of the year. For me, if I add in the Voigtlander 15, Voigtlander 35 1.2 and the Sony 55 1.8 and I have a camera and lens combo that can do just about anything I ask of it, for my needs. 

It is not for long tele users or super fast action shooters. It is also not for those who need and love super resolution, pixel peepers.

Sony just keeps on pushing those limits and just like Olympus, they are pushing past the normal crowd of cameras to create something special and revolutionary, and yes, the A7s is revolutionary. Try one for a week. You will be hooked and it will be tough to go back to having limits to your photography. To those online who are saying the A&s has bad image quality and is only for video guys, well, quite frankly..they must know NOTHING about photography or image quality.

The A7s has fabulous IQ, capabilities and is my #1 these days and after over a month of constant use I still love it.

You can order the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo using the instant links below. IT IS NOW SHIPPING!

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon

Buy the Sony A7s at B&H Photo

Buy the Sony 55 1.8 Lens (great on the A7s, and highly recommended)

Buy the Gariz Sony A7 case at Amazon - beautiful cases for the A7

Buy the Voigtlander 15 VM Lens HERE, and the best M to E mount adapter I have found HERE.

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I will leave you with more images from the Sony A7s. ALL JPEGS! Enjoy! BTW, I will be testing the A7s with wide angle Leica M lenses SOON and will make a new post on it when I do. I have not had access to the wide angles over the past three weeks, but should have some in July. 

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

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Thank you all! – Steve

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Jun 232014
 

Having a blast with the Sony A7s

So I am on day one of an 8 day road trip through various parts of California with the Sony A7s and so far so good! Day and Night one brought us to Landers, CA where we stayed at Kate’s Lazy Desert which was a really fun time. We had the whole place to ourselves, six classic airstream trailers and a wonderful night under the stars. We leave this morning and area heading to see some friends in Crestline, CA and then we will be on our way to Santa Clarita for two nights. After that we will be heading to Santa Cruz, San Francisco and then to Long Beach before heading back home to Phx AZ. Will be shooting the A7s for the entire trip so I can evaluate it fully for my full review which will be up soon.

Yesterday and last night I shot with the A7s along with the Voigtlander 15 and Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. Below are a few of the shots, which are all OOC JPEGS from Lightroom. Just using my tiny Macbook Air for this trip so for me, it is hard to do any editing..so what you see is what you get.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

ISO 12,800, 15mm, 1/10s – Handheld

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Voigtlander 15mm, tripod long exposure. 

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Inside one of the Airstreams with the 15mm – I think I was using the “Clear” color mode…but man, love this 15 on the A7s! Finally usable in color on a FF digital. This lens did not even work good on the cropped Leica M8 but on the A7s it is nice. 

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Zeiss 35 2.8 – It was a bright day and around 105 degrees at the Lazy Desert, but we had a blast regardless. 

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15 VM 

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15 VM – They have a little pool so we had some drinks and went swimming for a while before cooking up some dinner.

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15VM – The Camera m ay have been in Vivid for this one.. I used spot metering here.

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35 2.8 – The little Zeiss 35 is a fantastic lens.

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Jun 182014
 

Two full size high ISO JPEG images from the Sony A7s. ISO 3200 and 64,000.

Hey guys! Been busy all day shooting this Sony A7s and wow, I am impressed with the low ISO (up to 10,000 or so) more so than the high ISO (above 10,000). Shooting at base ISO is beautiful and I will have loads of images in my full review but I have had a few messages asking me for full size images, from raw, in color at higher ISO. Below are two shots, and both are from RAW, in color and shot with the Leica 50 APO on the A7s using the Voigtlander Adapter. 

You can see the ISO 3200 shot is quite nice. The ISO 64,000 is noisy, yes..but better than ANY other camera today at ISO 64000. This was in a dark area in the zoo today and again, they are JPEGs out of camera. The ISO 3200 shot was at 1/60th of a second. NR in camera was set to low.

The 50 APO is gorgeous on the A7s btw..wow.

 

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and a couple with the 50 APO at ISO 100. Click it for larger. 

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Jun 182014
 

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The Sony A7s: 1st Look…Testing the limits.

Hello to all! Just to let you all know I received the Sony A7s just today, just about 9 hours ago. In the past few hours I have taken it out and tested it for the one thing that it is claimed to be so good at which is LOW LIGHT and high ISO. I also shot some normal ISO images as well. Armed with the Sony Zeiss 35 2.8, the Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 and the Mighty Mitakon 50 0.95 I gave the A7s a workout with some intensely low light scenarios..even one that needed iso 102,400 with f/0.95. YES, that dark. How about that for a torture test? I mean, if you need ISO 102,400 with an f/0.95 lens then you KNOW it is DARK.

The A7s is a beauty of a camera for many reasons. One of them is that the sensor is a fat full frame with only 12MP. This means the file sizes are small and the low light capability is better. The pixels are nice and fat and this is how I prefer it. I have always preferred UNDER 20MP for my full frame sensors but it seems that most are trying to push the limits of MP on a sensor. Sony decided to make an A7 series camera that will be amazing for video, photo, low light and good light all while allowing for file sizes that will not require a mega computer to process. The shutter is also more damped it seems (not sure if it is or just my imagination but the shutter seems a bit quieter and gentler than the A7 and A7r). There is also the new SILENT mode which means you can use the A7s in complete silence. No beeps, no shutter sound..nada. Silent. That is the beauty of mirrorless.

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The camera feels great (same as the A7 and A7r) and again, not sure if it was my imagination but the AF seemed quicker as well to me. I was able to shoot in near darkness, using AF (with AF assist OFF) and the camera would AF. I had no issues with speed or accuracy.

So far so good but take this for what it is. My 1st 8 hours with a Sony A7s. I will be shooting it much more over the next week for a full review that will come within 2 weeks. For now, enjoy the 1st snaps from my 1st day with the camera. For me, it is the most desirable A7 already due to the low light capabilities, the silent mode and the lower pixel count. It truly is the KING OF THE NIGHT TIME WORLD.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

Click HERE to see the 1st test with the Voigtlander 15 Heliar and click HERE to see a comparison with the Leica M 240.

The following images are all JPEG. What you see is what you get. ISO ranges from 100-102,400. Click images for larger view. Review within 2 weeks! These are just the 1st snaps I shot in the 8 hours I have had the camera, to wet your appetite. 

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1st shot, ISO 6,400 indoors. Sony 55 1.8 – click for larger

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ISO 320 from this afternoon with the 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8

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55 1.8 at ISO 100 – f/2

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VIVID mode, 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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ISO 100, f/3.5 with the 55 1.8

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55 1.8 – ISO 100

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ISO 8000 – 55 1.8

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ISO 400 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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Mitakon 50 0.95 wide open at ISO 5000

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ISO 32,000 with the 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 at f/0.95 with the Mitakon..insane!

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ISO 125

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ISO 125

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ISO 64,000!

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ISO 1600 – Mitakon 0.95

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ISO 1600 – 35 2.8

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FULL SIZE DIRECT FROM CAMERA – ISO 3200 – 55 1.8

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NEXT THREE – ISO 25,600  - 50 0.95 Mitakon

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and ISO 32,000

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ISO 80,000 – 55 1.8 NR OFF

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Mitakon FLARE – 102.400 ISO, 0.95

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Apr 062014
 

SONY

The new Sony A7s brings amazing high ISO, 4K video and crazy creative possibilities!

The all new Sony A7s is now up for pre-order at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE at $2,498.00. 

So I have been busy all weekend with some travel (so am a couple of hours late with this) but MAN OH MAN did Sony just KILL it with the latest announcement. The new SONY A7s which will be a full frame A7 but with a 12.2 MP BRAND NEW sensor with insane crazy high ISO capabilities up to over 400,000 ISO. Imagine the possibilities…you have a nice fast lens attached, a nice small file size, no noise. Astrophotography anyone? INSANE! Low light interior? INSANE!

This new sensor will, according to Sony, offer the best dynamic range and noise performance of ANY full frame camera. Period. I love the fact that this has a 12.2 MP sensor! SMALL file sizes with RICH gorgeous tonality. I have said for years that 10MP is enough for any use, and 16 is maximum that is needed. 12.2 is sweet and should bring up the performance of this sensor. Wow. Sony did it again. I had no clue about this one, they did not even tell the press about it.

Sony is one of the most forward thinking companies out there and they have just proved it again with the new Sony A7s. Pricing and Availability is yet to be determined. I guess $1800 for the body, but it is just a guess. The A7s seems like it will be the perfect body for those who want HQ video AND images in one. Of course we will have to wait and see but I will keep you all informed as it progresses. I already told Sony I MUST have one for review when they are ready!

B&H Photo already has it listed HERE!

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ISO 50-409600

Amazingly high dynamic range

4K recording 

The “S” means “sensivity

Take a look at the official Sony video showing an example often ISO possibilities.

And the video possibilities:

and the official press release:

Sony’s α7S Full-Frame Camera Realizes a New World of Imaging Expression

Features newly developed, wide dynamic range sensor with awe-inspiring sensitivity

SAN DIEGO, April 6, 2014 – Joining the acclaimed α7 and α7R family of the world’s smallest full-frame interchangeable lens cameras1, Sony’s new α7S model puts extraordinary sensitivity, low noise and spectacular 4K video quality into the hands of professional photographers and videographers.

The innovative α7S camera features a newly developed, 12.2 effective megapixel 35mm Exmor® CMOS sensor paired with a powerful BIONZ X image processor, allowing it to shoot at a sensitivity range of ISO 50 – 4096002 with unprecedented dynamic range and low noise.

The new model is also the world’s first camera to utilize the entire width of a full-frame image sensor in 4K video acquisition, and does this without cropping or line skipping as it can read and process data from every one of the sensor’s pixels. This allows 4K video shooters to utilize all of the artistic and creative benefits provided by the unique sensor.

“The α7S gives Sony the most complete, versatile lineup of full-frame cameras in market today,” said Neal Manowitz, director of the interchangeable lens camera business at Sony Electronics. “Between the α99, VG900, RX1, α7, α7R and now α7S models, we have completely revolutionized what it means to be a ‘full-frame’ camera, bringing a new level of quality and portability to enthusiast photographers and videographers.”

Wide ISO Sensitivity (ISO 50 – 409,6002) and Impressive Dynamic Range

Sony, the world’s largest manufacturer of image sensors, has developed a unique 12.2 MP sensor with extraordinary sensitivity that allows the α7S camera to collect dramatically more light than traditional cameras and to produce beautifully detailed, low-noise images in even the darkest environments.

The camera also features a newly developed on-sensor technology that allows it to optimize the dynamic range throughout the entirety of the ISO50 – 409,600 sensitivity range. This on-sensor technology also broadens the range of tonal gradation in bright environments and minimizes noise in dark scenes, allowing the camera to deliver impressive results in these extreme conditions where other cameras (and image sensors) typically struggle.

World’s First Full-Frame Camera with Full Pixel Read-out3 (without pixel binning) during Movie Shooting

With the new α7S camera, the high-speed read out of the 35mm full-frame image sensor combined with the high-speed processing of the BIONZ X processor enables significant improvements in video quality.

These powerful components allow the camera to process data from all of the sensor’s pixels and output stunning HD and 4K (QFHD 3840 x 2160 pixels) video3 while utilizing the full-width of the sensor. In addition to the benefits for low-light shooting, the read out of all pixels frees the video from aliasing, moiré and false color artifacts (as opposed to pixel binning) to achieve the highest quality video.

Additional Pro-Quality Video Functions

In video mode, the α7S can output 4K video4 at QFHD (3840×2160) to an optional external 3rd party 4K recorder, and can record full HD (1920×1080) at frame rates of 60p, 60i, 30p and 24p directly to a compatible memory card. Video modes can be changed from full-frame to APS-C (super 35mm equivalent) if desired, and in this crop mode, the camera can support high frame rate 120fps shooting at standard HD resolution (1280 x 720p), creating a 5x slow-motion effect.

The α7S camera is also equipped with S-Log2 gamma. Common to Sony’s range of professional video cameras, S-Log2 expands the dynamic range by up to 1300% to minimize clipped highlights and loss of detail in shadows. Additionally, for the first time ever in a Sony α camera, the α7S adopts the workflow-friendly XAVC S recording format in addition to AVCHD and MP4 codecs. XAVC S format allows for full HD recording at a data rate of 50 mbps with lower compression for improved video quality.

Other specialist video functions on the new camera include a picture profile that can adjust settings like gamma, black, level and color adjustment, and can be saved for use in a multi-camera shoot. It also has Full HD and 4K base band HDMI® output, time code/user bit for easier editing, synchronous recording feature with compatible devices, various marker and zebra displays on both the LCD screen and viewfinder and can dual record XAVC S as well as MP4 (1280×720 @30p).

The camera also has a Multi-terminal interface shoe that is compatible with Sony’s XLR Adaptor Microphone Kits (XLR-K1M plus a new model under development), allowing the use of professional microphone systems.

Low-light Shooting Advantages

The high ISO sensitivity range of the α7S camera is extremely effective for still image shooting, especially in low-light conditions, where the camera can shoot at high shutter speeds while keeping noise as low as possible. This is particularly useful for shooting indoor, dimly lit sporting events or other situations where most cameras typically struggle.

The camera is also equipped with the same high-precision Fast Intelligent AF system as the α7R camera, with drastically improved low-light AF sensitivity that can go as low as -4EV.

Expanding α Mount System and New Power Zoom Lens for Movie Shooting

Directly compatible with the growing family of E-mount lenses, the α7S camera can also be used with A-mount and others lens systems with optional adapters. Sony’s complete α lens system now includes 54 total lenses for both A and E mounts, including several premium offerings from Carl Zeiss® and G Series Lenses.

As a whole, Sony’s E-mount lens system is particularly well-suited for video shooting, with a variety of models containing “movie-friendly” features like smooth focusing, powered zoom control, and silent iris/aperture control. Building on this, Sony has announced development of a brand new, full-frame power zoom 28-135mm F4 lens E-mount lens that is an ideal match for the powerful movie capabilities of the α7S model.

Pricing and availability of the α7S full-frame interchangeable lens camera will be announced at a future date. To learn more about the product in the meantime, please visit www.store.sony.com, and follow #SonyAlpha on twitter for the latest α camera news.

Jan 172014
 

Coming next week: Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4 vs Sony A7 and 35 2.8 report

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Hope everyone is having a fantastic Friday! I know I am because in my hand I have the fabulous Sony A7 and 35 2.8 and along side of it a Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4 (35mm equiv). The Fuji arrived a couple of days ago and after some quick use I can say it is the most responsive Fuji X Body to date (interchangeable lens body).  I snapped off maybe 30 pictures at home and while 40% of them had mis-focus I will not judge until I get out and take REAL photos with the camera. With that said Debby and I are headed to Las vegas this weekend for a quick overnighter and I will be shooting the Sony A7 with 35 2.8, the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4 and the E-M1 with 17 1.8. (I also have the SLR Magic 17 1.6).

Which one will I prefer to shoot? Which one will give the best user experience? Which will give me the most consistent results with AF and speed? Which one will deliver my fave shots from the test?

These are all questions I want to know the answer to so I will be testing them all and evaluating the Fuji as well. The Fuji looks good, feels good and is snappy, just as it should be. It is a little larger than the full frame Sony A7 with the 35 attached on the Sony and 23 on the Fuji which I thought was interesting :)

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I could not resist to take a quick higher ISO shot in my man cave/office with the Sony and Fuji just to see detail levels, noise levels and overall performance. Both autofocuses the scene about the same in speed and accuracy here. The room did not have any lights on nor were the blinds open so ISO 1250 was needed to get to 1/80s.

These are from RAW with no Noise Reduction. The Sony delivers a much more detailed image IMO but see for yourself. Keep in mind that the Sony is full frame and the A7 and 35 2.87 will run $2500. The Fuji is APS-C and the set will cost you $2000 for the camera and 23 1.4 lens (35mm equiv).

1st shot of my Home stereo amp – Fuji X-E2 – ISO 1250 – RAW – 23 1.4 at 2.8 – click it for full size (recommend RIGHT click and open in new tab or window)

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and now the same shot with the Sony A7 and 35 2.8 at 2.8 – ISO 1250 – RAW  - right click to open full size in a new tab or window.

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This Sony along with the A7r are pretty amazing little cameras full of tech that delivers some amazing results. The two Zeiss lenses are top notch as well. Makes me wonder what Sony will come up with next. The Fuji, as I already said, is the quickest Fuji to date and feels great to shoot. Can’t wait to get to Vegas Baby! More next week!

Oh..about that SLR Magic 17 T 1.6 for Micro 4/3…

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I have had the new SLR Magic 17 T 1.6 for Micro 4/3 for about 3 weeks and have shot it when I can but I do not like it as much as the Olympus 17 1.8 for photo taking. The SLR Magic is built very well  - solid, substantial and with the clickless aperture ring and T stops it is really designed for video use, where it will excel. For photos it is a little dull, soft corners and off color when compared to the Olympus but it does have more character than the more sterile Olympus. I will have a review of it soon but it is a nice lens for M 4/3 if video is your thing.  Here is a direct link to SLR Magic and the lens.

SLR Magic 17 T 1.6 – high ISO – E-M1

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..and about that amp above for those who are curious..

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Yes my friends..in addition to being a huge Photo geek I have also been an Audio geek my whole life. When I divorced 4 years ago I lost my entire high end audio system that took me 10 years to build up and I can now say I finally have been able to build it back up and have a killer audio system to listen to as I write my reviews, chill out at night or when I want to soak in all I have been blessed with in life. The amp above is the heart of my system and is a Line Magnetic 219ia – a 24 watts per channel SET  tube amp. The best amp I have ever owned or heard. 150lbs of a hand wired all hammer tone metal masterpiece. Who knows, this may kick off stevehuffhifi.com  - lol.

For Audiophiles and audio geeks, this amp is amazing and will deliver the artists into your room with you with delicacy, ease, finesse and eery realness.

So there ya go..now let me get to packing…Vegas is a 4 hour drive from me so I am ready to hit the road!

Steve

Jan 032014
 
Three weeks, four weddings and one dementia sufferer, with the help of the new Nikon Df       
By Mark Seymour
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As a wedding photographer who primarily specialises in Jewish weddings, using a predominately reportage and journalistic style, I use the Nikon flagship camera the D4, with a selection of prime lenses.

But recently I was provided with the Nikon Df and it was great privilege to have the opportunity of trialling this beautiful retro styled camera from Nikon, in real life situations, where the pressure was on for me to deliver.

I initially played with the camera for a week adding some poignant black and white images to my personal project covering my fathers’ decline due to dementia. Once I felt confident with the controls and features I was excited to try out the Df for capturing my professional wedding images. I must admit I did revert to my D4 at the point where the high tempo dancing takes place at both Jewish and Greek weddings had begun because I wanted to feel totally comfortable, as you have less time to think and I needed the higher focus speed of the D4. That’s not to say the Df is a slouch, with the focus system borrowed from the D610.

Overall Impression

It’s a beauty, with overtones harking back to the classic days of film and the great Nikon cameras like the F3 and the Fm3. Nikon have done to this camera what we have seen happen to the beloved design of the mini, in taking the look of a camera with nostalgic memories and installing it with their flagship digital camera’s sensor, to enable photographers to have the best picture making experience.

This is Nikon’s lightest full frame camera at just 710g with beautiful retro dials on the top plate and a 16Mp sensor inside, but also includes a small LCD that gives battery info, shutter speed, aperture selected and number of frames left along with a great LCD and shutter lag to a professional standard. The shutter is also the quietest, which is often a bug bear with the D4 during wedding ceremonies.

ISO is sometimes difficult to know on the dial without confirming what it is in the viewfinder, especially in low light.

Image Quality and Buffer

I’m blown away by the qualities of this sensor, the dynamic range is superb and you can shoot anywhere up to 204,ooo ISO with the buffer not to the standards of the D4 so if you are a photographer who shoots in high bursts, at times you will hit the buffer limit

Below is a selection of images taken with the Retro Nikon Df in real life situations as well as a link to my website.

http://markseymourphotography.co.uk

 Nikon Df , 10,000 ISO, f1.8, 800 sec

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Nikon Df, 10000 ISO, F4, 80 Sec

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Nikon Df, ISO 6400, 200 sec , F4

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Nikon Df, ISO 6400, 200 sec , F4

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Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 500sec , F2.8

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Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 100 sec , F4

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Nikon Df, ISO 4000, 125 sec , F4.5

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Nikon Df, ISO 2000, 400 sec , F1.4 85 mm lens

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Nikon Df, ISO 3200, 200 sec , F4. 85mm Lens

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Nikon Df, 3200 ISO, F3.2, 500 Sec

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Nikon Df, 2500 ISO, F5, 25 Sec

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Nikon Df, 4000 ISO, F3.5, 60 Sec

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Nikon Df, 5000 ISO, F4, 60 Sec

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Nikon Df, 5000 ISO, F4, 125 Sec

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Nikon Df, 1600 ISO, F2.8, 200 Sec 35mm 1.4

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Nikon Df, 1600 ISO, F1.8, 200 Sec. Nikon 50mm 1.4

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Nikon Df, 1600 ISO, F2.5, 320 Sec.. 50mm f1.4

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Nikon Df, 1000 ISO, F2, 100 Sec. Nikkon 85 mm 1.4

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Dec 042013
 

 ISO 12,800 Test – Nikon Df vs Sony A7 – Zero Noise Reduction and Low Light

Just for fun I decided to test the two low light champs in a low light zero noise reduction high ISO 12,800 test!

The Nikon had the $1700 58 1.4 attached and shot at f/1.8 and 1/640s – combo cost $4400

The Sony A7 had the $1000 Sony/Zeiss 50 1.8 attached and shot at f/1.8 and 1/640s – combo cost $2700

Both had Noise Reduction turned OFF to see the true sensor performance at high ISO (NR smears details).

Both focused just fine here.

You can click on each image for the full size from camera JPEG. You can see the Nikon vs Sony color signature here as well. The Nikon is known to be the best current production low light champ and high ISO shooter with that D4 sensor inside and the Sony A7 is the new sensor on the block. How do you think they stacked up?

Many have asked what speakers are shown here..you can read my review HERE. 

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Oct 202013
 

PROST! Oktoberfest with the E-M1 (sort of)…

Just a fun Sunday night post before getting serious on Monday Morning :)

Over the weekend we drove in over to Scottsdale AZ for some Oktoberfest fun :) NOTHING like the real deal of course but I brought along the Olympus E-M1 and when I arrived my 1st thought was “Uh Oh..it is way too dark in here for photos..should have brought the RX1R”.

I had the 17 1.8 with me as the only lens. Even in the dark conditions the camera focused blazing fast and while I only took a few shots in various conditions ranging from ISO 200-3200 it never let me down. I converted these to B&W using VSCO as I felt this would give a good vibe to these dark low light condition photos. The look you see in the images, the washed out grey and whole “look” is due to the VSCO filter I chose. Has nothing to do with the camera and there is no way to get this look without the filter. I chose this look for these “just for fun” images and have used this same filter with the Leica M, Sony RX1, etc. They look  the same :)

To see images without filters, just look at my lengthy E-M1 review. The E-M1 is just as contrasty as the next camera and has image quality as good as any APS-C camera (but with much faster AF).

So once again, the little E-M1 performed very nicely and never once did it even come close to hunting for AF. Press, focus, fire. Every time. Keep in mind, this was indoor, no windows to the outside world so I was dealing with the interior lights only. Some shots had to be taken at 3200 and the lens was shot wide open 95% of the time. The 17 1.8 is probably the best “one lens” solution for the E-M1 due to its sharpness, AF speed and performance. Highly recommend it.

Seeing that it was a local Oktoberfest celebration the beer was good..too good in fact because after an hour I forgot to take photos!  I was too busy enjoying the music, the fun and the friendly atmosphere! Still, when I take a break from this website it seems I am still working on the website, but I love it.

All have a VSCO filter applied which gives it B&W, Noise and a Washed out look

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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and by request, one without the filter below, straight from camera – RAW – must click it to see it larger sized

fromcam

Apr 162013
 

Using a simple prop in your photos can make it fun and interesting

“The Glasses” – A start of a new portrait series

Since I had a couple of days free this past weekend I decided to have some fun and goof around at home by taking some silly portraits using an old pair of vintage eyeglasses I found at a local goodwill for $1.  I bought the glasses with the purpose of using them for goofy portraits. When I saw the glasses and had my son’s friend put them on he looked quite odd..like a lunatic. It seemed to change his personality which I found interesting. I snapped his pic and of course we all laughed. Yep, a simple “prop” could not only make a fun photo but maybe, possibly a new series of photos that can give you something creative to think about and create. It sparked a silly idea in my head and gave me something fun to try.

I told my son to put them on and I saw the same thing so I bought them and brought them home. I mean, where else can you get fun like this for $1? Later that night I snapped a photo of my son wearing them while outside at 10PM. I used the light by the door to illuminate his face and set the camera to ISO 1600. With those huge frames he kind of resembles a young Bill Gates, or a geeky inventor.

I then had my buddy put them on and he took a knife and made a menacing face..almost Serial Killer like, so I said “you look like a serial killer”! Then Katie, my soon to be stepdaughter put them on and she became the “pyromaniac”.

After these three shots I decided to keep going with these glasses for the next year and when I meet someone or find someone willing I am going to tell them to put them on for a portrait while they tell me what they feel the glasses make them look and feel like. Should be fun :)

Could an old pair of glasses bring out a personality we never knew existed? Probably not, but possibly. Either way it should be interesting and I look forward to seeing what I can get over the next year :) The images below were shot with the Leica Monochrom but I am not limiting myself to using that camera. Future images may be taken with the M, Sony RX1 or even a Fuji or Olympus but I will keep them all B&W.

If you ever get bored and have nothing to shoot try using a simple prop and see what you can drum up!

For those who are wondering, the 1st two shots were with the 50 Lux ASPH and the 3rd was with the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 at 1.5 and you can see the differences for sure, at least I can. I am loving both lenses but that Sonnar…well..it is rockin’.

The Inventor

L1003075-3

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The Serial Killer

mikeknife3

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The Pyromaniac

katieflame1

Nov 072012
 

How to tweak your Olympus OM-D E-M5 to shoot sports by Jim Huffman

Dear Steve,

I thought I’d tell you in the first sentence, that i am recommending the E-M5 for sports photography, and providing you a couple of customizations that will help you do so.

I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now, and LOVE it, because of your non technical approach to reviewing and recommending gear. I am technical (electrical engineer / law -am a patent attorney), but technical reviews of photography equipment don’t tell me much – they cover the basics, but rarely inspire me to buy equipment. What does inspire me is when I see someone enthusiastic about taking pictures, and loving the device that lets them do so.

Sorry for being long-winded, but a little background is necessary for this email. I’ve been shooting for 39 years, since my first camera (minolta SRT 101), soon moved to Nikon – and shot Nikon until last week (D3, with an array of lenses). I also shot Leica. Of the 100k photos in my aperture library – the only ones printed and on the walls around the house came from Leica glass….

At your enthusiasm over m43 cameras, I have purchased several, both Panasonic and Olympus. most recently, the E-M5. (and 12, 25, 45, 75, 12-35, 35-100). It has virtually replaced the leica as my travel camera, particularly fond of the 12 (and can’t wait for the 17!!!). But…. I just felt like it could never do justice to shooting sports, much less indoor sports – both because of focusing delay, high iso needs, the live view lcd blanking out in the eyepiece while writing a burst to the memory card, etc…)

On the other hand – I LOVE the size of the Oly, and…. Nikon just won’t update their primes! I paid over $2k for the 85mm f1.4 – in Tokyo, to shoot my daughters volleyball – in the darkest gym in Colorado. what I have wanted is a 135 1.4 or worst case f2. the 85 is a great lens, but a big piece of glass, and even the latest model is not a fast focuser.

So, on saturday, i left the BIG RIG at home, and walked into the gym with my oly setup. Of course, the local press was their with their canon and Nikon gear. I saw them looking at me like – who is the amateur (I’ve shot for AP in my youth – political events, concerts, etc.) with the little toy camera? Well, with the 75 and 25 as my main tools (b/c of both focal length, and wide aperture), i put the camera in 9fps mode, 6400iso, and blasted away. I came home, loaded the pics, and put my entire Nikon rig up for sale on eBay.

Conclusion? is the E-M5 as good at high iso as the D3? not quite – but close enough. Can it focus fast? actually, with the 25, 45 and 75, it was faster than the nikon – and my hit ratio went up! Is it a replacement for a pro staff sports photographer? of course not. But for a dad photographing his kids teams? unbelievable! for years, parents have walked into our gym with their D40, Rebel, etc. and kit lens, and asked me to change the settings on their camera so they could take action pics of their kids. I frown, shake my head, and say, impossible. Those cameras can’t shoot high iso, and the aperture is so dim, that the best they can hope for in shutter is about 1/8/sec… Then they ask about the cost of my D3 with lens… More than most people’s cars! No more! Get an E-M5 with a 25mm Panasonic (or 45 oly), and they will get better results than anything else in the price range! And for me? one system to use rather than 2. and for travel with sports? I don’t have to lug around my 30lb nikon bag!!!

I am attaching a few pics at 6400 iso, shot in jpeg without any WB fix. thought you might like to see.

Keep up the good work, and know I’m out here reading you every day!

Best…Jim

NOTE: The below is a geek tweak to the oly that you can skip, or read if really interested

WRT sports – the E-M5 is a battery drain. i have the pistol grip with 2nd battery – but even the combination can’t shoot an all day tournament. the camera dies after 600+ shots… Plus…. the back lcd screen always comes on unless the camera is at your eye. if you want to use the eyepiece, there is a short latency between putting it to your eye and switching. the latency is not great for sports. plus, when you take the camera away from your eye, the back panel lights for a while, creating battery drain. And, the toggle between the two screens drains the battery. I thought – I’ll call Olympus and see if there is any way to:

1. Turn of the back lcd entirely. This would save on battery life AND eliminate the delay in switching.

2. still allow for back panel adjustment settings, if desired.

Well, 2 days later the Oly support guy called back. Viola! no direct way, but you can accomplish the same thing. Let me know if you want the settings, but essentially, you go to the K gear in options, and then into touch screen settings, and turn them off. then go to D gear, control settings, P/A/S/M, and turn off all live control settings. Then turn ON live scp (super control panel). OK, almost done. Hit the button on the ‘prism’ to the right of the eyepiece, and bring up the super control panel. use the OK button to activate any setting you want to change. When done, hit the info button. The screen goes black!

Now? the camera is essentially an SLR. no rear view at all, UNLESS you hit that button next to the right eyepiece. it becomes the toggle between live view (like before) and a black back screen! I just significantly increased my battery life! if you want to go to settings, just hit the info button. the info button becomes the settings toggle.

I am in heaven with my new longer life sports camera, without the rear lcd getting in the way.

one more geek tweak?

The magnify focus is turned on, and great with the 75mm, but also annoying. when you are moving the focus ring, it magnifies. great. but the SECOND you stop moving the focus ring, magnify turns off. well, my eyes are too slow. My question was, how do I get the magnify to stay on longer.

Answer: go into custom buttons – and assign magnify to any function button (or the record button). now, to enter magnify, hit the control button twice. magnify stays on until you half press the shutter release! and, you will note that the magnify is 10x. rotate the rear control dial and you can change the magnification! You have to do the double punch to activate magnify any time you turn the camera on. after that, one push activates it.

Three cheers to the US Oly support staff for giving me these tidbits of customization! i haven’t seen them anywhere on the web, so thought you might not know about them…

Jim Huffman

UPDATE 11/12/12

Steve,

Thanks again for posting my email to you – i didn’t expect that – just thought you’d like to see what the oly could do. two things:

1. The girls had an amazing come from behind to win the Colorado State Championship saturday night. Whoop!

2. And the oly? wow! after turning OFF the rear LCD, and making the EVF auto, I got >1200 shots per battery! the spec says 340ish. Some guy commented that the EVF is a bigger battery drain than the rear lcd. Well, that may be true if always on, but the EVF turns off almost immediately when your eye is not next to it, and the lcd won’t. I’d say a 4X improvement in battery life is incredible!

Thanks again for the post!

Oct 092012
 

Night Time Street Shooting with the Sony RX1..AMAZING High ISO Samples.

Ok guys, I promised more and more and more on this hot camera so here is MORE! Just returned from a late night walk and am BLOWN AWAY by the high ISO and usability of the RX1 on the street late at night. The camera is fast, responsive, silent and shooting at ISO 25,600 in B&W is IMO..beautiful.

I will keep this post short in text as I have to get some sleep as I have an early and VERY long day tomorrow (when the official shooting begins with the new Sony cameras) which will be jammed packed shooting from 7am to 10PM. (am writing this at 1am).

So with that said I just want to share some photos from the late night walk. Things I like about the RX1 after a day? Size, weight, speed, lens, and build quality. I will admit that shooting in low light at night did result in a few AF misses but it was not any worse than most other cameras when shooting in the dark. On a few occasions the camera hunted when the light got REAL low and a couple of times focused on what was behind my subject. When I put it into MF mode using focus peaking it worked VERY well. Remember this is NOT final firmware so maybe Sony can improve on this. They say they are improving the IQ some as well so we shall see.

EXIF is embedded on all shots below and you must click them for a larger view. Also, when I get home next week I will write more in-depth on the RX1 with crops and processed shots as well. After that Sony should be sending me one soon for an “official review”. The thoughts I am posting now are just my 1st look thoughts and samples.

After tonight’s walk it made me really get excited again about this camera because it does low light/night VERY well. The high ISO is nothing short of astonishing and just think, every image here is an OOC JPEG without noise reduction. ISO 25,600 is VERY usable for gritty B&W street shooting. Pair that with the super sharp and soulful Zeiss 35 f/2 and well…where did I put that spare $2700?

BTW, San Francisco is AWESOME and I hope to come back really soon when I can spend some quality time here.

ISO 6400 direct from camera JPEG – click for larger – Noise Reduction turned OFF!

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With an f/2 lens you really do not need higher ISO when you have light so this was the lowest ISO of the night, 160 – OOC JPEG in Standard Color mode..

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ISO 5000 – OOC JPEG – NR OFF!

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ISO 2500 – NR OFF

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ISO 8000 – YES, 8,000 – NR turned OFF

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Now we get down to business…ISO 25,600 – NR OFF!

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ISO 25,600 – the lens and sensor combo are stunning…ZERO NOISE REDUCTION! and this is a JPEG direct from camera!

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ISO 25,600 – Direct JPEG, NO NR!

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25,600

And a color shot at ISO 25,600 – retains all detail and sharpness – NO NR, direct from camera JPEG!

Pre-Order the RX1 at Amazon

Pre-Order the RX1 at B&H Photo

May 312012
 

Crazy Comparison! The Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs Nikon D800 vs Leica X2 for High ISO

I know, I know..I have been having way too much fun lately with all of these comparisons, new cameras, new lenses and reviews. So much here to do but I still like to do these “just for fun” side by sides. Stuck at home all morning I thought..”wouldn’t it be amazing if the OM-D E-M5 could even come close to the full frame D800 or APS-C Leica X2 for higher ISO performance”? I have been shooting the OM-D when I can and have been marveling at how far Micro 4/3 have come in regards to higher ISO performance. The PEN models are OK up to 1600 but even then it can get a bit mottled and mushy at times.

The Nikon D800 is a full frame marvel with all of the latest tech and of course, gorgeous IQ. I have not had the time to concentrate fully on the D800 but what I have shot so far with it and the Zeiss 35 1.4 has been some of the nicest and richest files I have had through my computer to date. I will have a short write-up and “my thoughts” of the D800 soon and even though I am not a DSLR shooter anymore, I find the D800 to put out beautiful quality. It’s basically like a medium format camera IMO.

But I will save that for another day. Right now I just wanted to post some high ISO samples from the D800, Leica X2 and OM-D E-M5, with the D800 and Olympus using a 50mm lens (or equiv). The little Olympus does not do better than the D800 of course nor does it even do as well BUT it is not too far off! The X2 is of course using its built in 24 2.8 which is a 35 equiv, but this is not a sharpness, detail or bokeh test – it is a noise test. So let us take a look..

First, the simple image of my vacuum cleaner in my living room

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and the crops are below, each one has the text embedded to tell you what it is but first set up is at ISO 3200

The D800 is smoother and cleaner but the OM-D is not doing so bad here at all for being a much smaller sensor. Lens used on the D800 is the Nikon 50 1.4 and the OM-D has the Panasonic 25 1.4 – all shot at f/2

Here is what gets me scratching my head. In my review of the X2 I have found that anytime you shoot at ISO 3200, even if you convert the RAW and use ZERO Noise Reduction you still get details smearing. This does not happen at ISO 6400 or 12,500, only 3200. You can see the X2 crop below is smeared and blurred from in camera NR that is even applied to the RAW file when you do not want it there.

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now let’s take a look at ISO 6400

These are crops from direct RAW files. No editing, no NR, no enhancements. Just opened the RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw and cropped.

and here is the X2 at 6400 and as you can see, no smearing of details. You can also see the way the Leica renders the yellow differently than the others. The Leica will also have more DOF here so just look at the noise, which is what this test is about.

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How about 12,800?

The OM-D starts to get noisier here but this is 12,800. The D800 is also much noisier here but they aren’t as far off as I would have thought.

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OK, dare I even try ISO 25,600 on the OM-D?

First of all I have to say that this was done as a “just for fun” Crazy Comparison, and it is indeed crazy as the D800 is known as a full frame masterpiece with great low light capabilities (though I believe the 5DIII is better in this area). Still, a full frame technological super force against a little micro 4/3 camera, who in the past had a rep for awful low light performance..well..that is pretty crazy. While the OM-D did not meet or beat the D800 here it came damn close, and to me that is impressive. I have to say that the more I shoot the OM-D E-M5 the more I love it. It really is the BEST Micro 4/3 to come along to date. I have not really heard from anyone who has bought one and disliked it.

As for the X2, it also has a larger sensor than the OM-D but it appears it performed about the same noise wise though you can clearly see the Leica color signature coming through. Again, all were RAW files with ZERO NR added. Not sure what is happening with that X2 ISO 3200 noise but it is smearing at that ISO even though I took away any and all NR. I can state that I really am enjoying the Leica X2 AND the OM-D. The D800 is not for me but if you are a DSLR guy, it is the real deal.

BTW, as I stated in my OM-D review..if you buy one I highly recommend the grip and a decent lens (12mm, 14mm, 20, 25, 45) as the glass makes all the difference in the world.

Apr 202012
 

Crazy Comparison HIGH ISO! OM-D E-M5 vs Fuji X-Pro 1 vs Sony NEX-7 – JPEG

I always get those who complain about  these crazy comparisons but hey, I find them fun and useful for my own curiosities so I am sure some of you guys do as well! Since I have all three of the latest and greatest mirrorless cameras here with me right now, the OM-D, the X-Pro 1 and the NEX-7 I decided…why not do a JPEG only test to show OUT OF CAMERA files at high ISO in low indoor light at night, and even outdoor at night (using a tripod).

I was just certain the X-Pro 1 would wipe the floor with the other two but by how much? The results are interesting…and I have to say that out of all three, the one that focused just about instantaneously was the OM-D E-M5. I mean, it was just press and fire. The Sony hunted a but and the Fuji hunted the most.

I shot each camera at ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400. JPEG only. I turned OFF in camera NR on the Olympus to LOW on the Fuji and  Sony  (they can not be disabled). I also included a sample from the Olympus with NR on low, just to be fair. I chose JPEG as there is still not support from Adobe for the Olympus and Fuji.

When I do these comparisons I always show you what the camera puts out. If someone owns one of these, takes it outside, sets it on a tripod and lets the camera choose exposure..this is what you will get. So this is not only a test of each cameras night-time high ISO performance but a test of how well each one will expose the scene.

I DID resize the Sony file to 16MP to be ultra fair as the Sony crowd would yell at me if I did not. Keep in mind, I now OWN the Sony NEX-7 and Olympus. I do not own the Fuji. So which one killed it? Look at the images below and decide. All are straight from camera, how each camera exposed the scene. I also used Auto White Balance. Since different lenses were used they can not be exact, and this is NOT a test of sharpness but each lens was shot at f/2.

For the Olympus I used the 12mm f/2 at f/2. The Fuji has the 18mm at f/2 and the Sony the Zeiss 24 at f/2..are you ready? Let’s get it on!

1st I shot this indoor scene handheld. 9pm at night, just my living room light is on here. ISO 3200 for each camera. 

Click on each image to see a larger version and true 100% crop.

1st the Olympus E-M5 NOT E-P3 (it was late and I mistyped on the image..will fix later today)

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now the Fuji – NR was set to low not OFF as it does not let you set it to off

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and the Sony – NR low

as I stated in my NEX-7 review, the Sony has the tendency to underexpose. But this is not only an ISO test, it is also a test of how each camera will expose the scene on its own.

Now for some outdoor NIGHT TIME shots using a tripod

Keep in mind again that all Sony shots were resized to 16MP before getting the crop. Also, I let each camera choose their white balance and exposure as this is how most will shoot them. Finally, the Fuji told me it locked focus each time but every shot was out of focus somewhat and/or soft. Also, the Fuji tends to overexpose as you can see in the below examples. Again, this is a test showing ISO and exposure of each camera. I just set the lenses to f/2 on each and fired the shot after focus was locked. The Olympus locked it in an instant.

The Olympus at 3200 (IS was turned off as all shots were on a tripod)

click images for larger view and true 100% crop – NR set to OFF

and the Olympus at ISO 6400 – NR set to OFF

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Now the Fuji at ISO 3200, tripod mounted and the camera said focus was locked – NR low not OFF

and the Fuji and 18mm at ISO 6400 – NR is set to LOW not off as it does not let you turn it off.

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and finally the Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 at f/2 at ISO 3200 – NR set to low

and the Sony at 6400

So there you go. The one thing I found by doing this is that Micro 4/3 has come a loooong way since the days of the GF1 and E-P1 in regards to high ISO :) The OM-D is now really good at higher ISO, even at night and these are with all NR turned off! Why did I turn NR off? Well, mainly because the Oly is the only one that lets you disable it totally and also was curious how it would hold up without any at all.

So the OM-D was set to OFF. The Fuji to LOW (-2) and the Sony to LOW. The Fuji and Sony do NOT let you turn it OFF. So.. I knew I would get some of you asking me why I did not take a shot with the Olympus set to LOW. Makes sense right? So below you can see the shots with the Olympus set to LOW. Enjoy and have a GREAT weekend!

The Olympus was the fastest to focus, no contest. The Fuji hunted and never really locked on correctly even though it said it did and the Sony hunted a bit as well, but on the 3rd try I got it to focus. There you go!

UPDATE: With all of the comments from Fuji users who claimed I did not know how to use the AF of the X-Pro 1..really? Of course I know how to use the AF of the X-Pro 1. The question is, does the X-Pro 1 know how to use the AF? I used single point, same spot as with the other two cameras, which had no difficulties locking focus. The Sony was slower than the Olympus but the Fuji wad down SEVERAL times with the same result. I could have went to manual focus but why? This was to show what each camera puts out as is. With AF on all cameras. If the Fuji requires going in to MF mode to shoot in the dark with just street lights when the other two nailed it then that tells me the Fuji AF lags behind. One thing to note is that the Fuji told me it locked focus, so I was surprised at the result.

One more thing. As I stated in this post, I let the cameras choose exposure so I shot in A mode. I was curious to see how each camera would expose the same scene. The X-Pro always overexposes for me and the Sony usually underexposes. The Olympus was the one that exposed just right though the Sony AWB was the best of the lot.

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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