Aug 292014
 

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A night with the Monochrom at ISO 10,000

So yesterday you saw where I wrote about the new Leica M-P and the silver Monochrom. Last night Debby and I decided to take a drive down to a cool hangout here in Phoenix called “The Lost Leaf’. We have been there a few times now and it always offers a great atmosphere, a huge selection of beers and drinks and every single night, live music. The last time I was there I brought along the Sony A7s and tested it in the torturous low light conditions of the Lost Leaf, which at times borders on near darkness. The A7s did well, even when pushed to over 80,000 ISO and seeing that I was going that high in ISO with the A7s, I did not think the Monochrom would be able to handle it, especially with the 50 f/2 lens I had on the camera. But I gave it a shot. I cranked the Monochrom to ISO 10,000, which is the max ISO for this camera, and I snapped a few frames.

Before heading in I set the MM to ISO 6400 and snapped a shot of this mural on the wall across the street. Click on it to see  the tones, graduations and sharpness. It was shot at 50mm and f/2, wide open.

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At ISO 10,000 the Monochrom puts out files that look like Tri-X 400 film.  All images below were shot at ISO 10,000

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People hanging out on the patio waiting for the nights musical act, Copper & Congress. 

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As the band started to play I took a test shot from my table to test the lighting and to see if ISO 10k and f/2 was enough. I managed to get 1/60th second.

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I feel the Monochrom puts out convincing B&W that does remind me of my M6 ad M7 film days..

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I moved in closer to get some shots of the band..

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By far my fave shot of the night, and this one is a JPEG from camera. ISO 10,000, f/2 – click it for much better viewing experience.

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The Sony A7s was also with me…

I also brought the Sony A7s with me along with the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss. It focused so accurate and fast for me using auto focus, even in these dim conditions..it was amazing. With that said, I had to crank the ISO higher on the Sony as I was using an f/2.8 lens so I used ISO 16,000 and 32,000. Only problem was I had the camera (by accident) set to JPEG only, and was shooting in the gimmicky “high contrast B&W mode” which killed the tonality of the image. None of them looked good, but it was my mistake for using the HC B&W option. Here is one example below of what that setting will do when used at high ISO and low light:

The next two shots were taken with the Sony A7s at ISO 16,000 and 32,000 using the 55 1.8 and 35 2.8. Problem is I had the camera set to JPEG only and used the High Contrast B&W mode which destroyed the tones. Lesson learned.

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As you can see, using high contrast B&W on the A7s destroyed the details, the tones and the overall look of the image (IMO). From now on, no more gimmick modes for me! If it were set to standard B&W it would have looked great. I can also see the NR at work from the camera even though it was set to low. Still, the A7s performed like a beast. Fast AF, quick and easy shooting, no issues. If I had it set to RAW and JPEG I could have saved my photos so user error on that one.

At the end of the day though I soooo loved shooting the Monochrom last night. It has been a while since I shot anything like this with a Leica and with the insanely low light here (It’s literally lit up by one red light bulb) I did not think the Leica would cut it, especially with a 50 f/2. While the Noct would have been amazing here, the little Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 did well. For me the Mono images have a teeny something about them that is beautiful and now I know that I can go up to ISO 10k in the dark without issue. It’s all about the exposure and if you nail it then you will have minimal noise.

I will be back to the Lost Leaf soon I am sure because it is great fun to see and shoot these live acts in such a cool inmate environment.

You can check out the Lost Leaf here and if you are ever in Phoenix I highly recommend stopping in. You can check out Copper & Congress at their website HERE. 

Jul 012014
 

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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.

The Sony A7s and the 15mm Voigtlander in action for a quick selfie while out shooting in the Domes of Casa Grande

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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.

The A7s with an old $30 Jupiter Russian Leica screw mount lens. Gorgeous rendering on the cheap.

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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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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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The Petzval Lens and A7s

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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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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!

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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
 

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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!

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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Sep 012011
 

Low Light and High ISO Sony NEX-5n Video Samples

Took the 5n out to shoot some low light video at higher ISO. I went to an aquarium and set the ISO to 3200 and 6400 using the kit zoom. My full review of the 5n will be up by Monday but here is the HD video samples and what the stock 5n and kit zoom can do in near darkness. Enjoy!

Aug 152011
 

ISO WARS: The Olympus E-P3 vs The Sony NEX-5!

When Olympus released the E-P1, the camera suffered from slow AF, poor high ISO performance and it always lost out to the Panasonic M4/3 camera (slightly) and other larger sensor cameras. The E-P2 did nothing to improve upon the high ISO but the AF did get a speed boost and the video control improved. With the new E-P3, Olympus claims better high ISO performance, and if you read my review you would have seen that I loved the AF speed boost, and just about everything else about the camera. But I did not really get into high ISO performance so much and I recieved a few e-mails asking me  to pit it against the Sony NEX-5 at 3200, 6400 and 12,800.

It was just over a year ago when I reviewed the Sony NEX-3 and 5 cameras. At that time, their high ISO capability was unheard of! 12,800 ISO in a small camera like that was a first, and everyone raved about the quality of low light shots, even me!

With its APS-C sized sensor (not quite full frame, but larger than the Micro 4/3 sensor) the Sony was able to do better at high ISO and low light than other small cameras and it competed with larger DSLR’s. The E-P3 is here and still has the 4/3 size sensor of course, so I wanted to see how it would stand  up to the NEX, not only in noise, but in detail. I used the 12mm f/2 lens on the Olympus at f/3.5. On the Sony I shot with the higher end 18-200 at 18mm, f3.5.

I did a quick and dirty test, using the STEADYSHOT  of the 18-200 and the built in IS of the E-P3. I turned OFF the Noise Reduction on the E-P3 as you can. The Sony does not allow you to turn it off but it does let you switch it to “WEAK”, so this is what I did. I wanted to let each camera give the most detail without letting Noise Reduction get in the way and smear it all up. I shot JPEGS as there is still no Lightroom or Photoshop support for the E-P3 RAW files.

The first comparison shot of a couple of books was taken in my living room, at night, with a very dim lamp shining in from my office. Here we go!

FIrst I will show you a couple of resized images from each camera – ISO 3200 and then ISO 12,800. After that I will show you the crops from each at 3200, 6400 and 12,800. You can click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions.

The E-P3 at ISO 3200 – 12mm – f/3.5 – 12mm (24mm)

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Sony NEX-5 – ISO 3200 – f/3.5 – 18mm (28mm)

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Ok, let’s go to ISO 12,800

BELOW: E-P3 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger version – scroll down for 100% crops

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NEX-5 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger version – scroll down for 100% crops

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CROPS

E-P3 1st, NEX-5 2nd

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ISO 6400

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ISO 12,800

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What happens if you convert the JPEGS to black and white?

First the E-P3 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger 

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NEX-5 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger

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How about another subject with a little more light. I my Kitchen area…

The E-P3  – ISO 3200 – This time I had it set to F/2 though. MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL 100% CROP VIEW!

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and the NEX – ISO 3200 – MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL 100% CROP VIEW

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and one more…

Oranges

BELOW: E-P3 CROP

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BELOW: NEX-5 CROP

What I see in all of the images is that the Noise Reduction in the NEX is hindering the detail. Also, the Olympus 12mm lens is a sharper lens than the $799 Sony 18-200. I actually prefer the grit and grime of the E-P3 versions over the somewhat dull and mushy NEX versions. Olympus did a good job with the E-P3 and when NR is turned off there is still plenty of detail in the files, even at high ISO. Next test should be against the X100 :)

Also, if you have been on the fence about the 12mm Olympus Lens. I HIGHLY recommend it. It is simply SUPERB. B&H sells it HERE.

HOW ABOUT MORE VIDEO SAMPLES WITH THE E-P3? Even a low light video that is pretty free of grain!

I’m still waiting for the “PRO PEN” with a built in EVF. Also, the rumored Sony NEX-7 with built in EVF should up the stakes yet again. Below are a couple of high ISO shots taken with the E-P3 this evening just to test it out. Enjoy!

ISO 6400 – spot metered on the can – in camera B&W JPEG (not the art filter grainy B&W, but MONOTONE color selection. Click for larger.

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ISO 3200 – NIGHT – OOC JPEG, NO NR, NO PP

ISO 3200, night..f/2 – 12mm


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E-P3 – 12mm,  f/2 – ISO 6400, in camera B&W, NR OFF, evening, no lights on.

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Dec 302009
 

Since I have a Nikon D3s low light monster here I decided to do a silly experiment. As you all know I shoot with a Leica M9 and a 50 Noctilux F1 lens. The M9 only goes up to ISO 2500. Thats it! The D3s goes past 100,000 ISO but it is pretty bad that high so I have been shooting it in low light at ISO 12,800-16,000. At these crazy high ISO settings it is pretty damn good. Pretty amazing really.

But I wanted to see if the M9 at ISO 2500 with the Noctilux at F1 could perform as well as the Nikon D3s at ISO 16,000 with a Nikon 50 1.8 at F2.2 (the 50 1.8 is not really sharp until 2.2).When I say “perform as well” I mean, can the M9 get the shot in super low light with its limited ISO compared to the D3s? In other words, will you lose a low light shot by having an M9 and super fast lens over something like a D3s?

So to cut to the chase, the house was dark and I had a small light in the room where this was shot. I had both cameras at my side ready to go.

Keep in mind that these are OOC (out of camera) JPEGS. Both the M9 and D3s were set up to shoot B&W in camera. No RAW here, just a quick JPEG test using out of camera files.

First, here is the D3s at F2.2 and ISO 16,000. This looks FABULOUS to me, and below it is a 100% crop.

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