Jun 092015
 
rx1-marfa-bunny-1

rx1-marfa-bunny-1

The Sony RX1 maintaining its relevance

By Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Two years can feel like a lifetime in the digital camera market, with fresh faced models seemingly delivered on a frantic six month schedule. But that’s roughly how long my RX1 has been in service – two full years. It was the golden child back then, always with me, consistently impressing with the sweet render of its Zeiss Sonnar 35/2 and the jaw dropping dynamic range from the 24-megapixel sensor. But new interchangeable lens models were released by Sony and the RX1 would often be relegated to the drawer. The newer Alphas boast faster AF, built-it EVFs, higher resolution or better low light performance, and the ability to mount nearly every lens ever made for the format.

2013-ca-summer-vacation-49

2013-ca-summer-vacation-50

shelving-rock-falls-18

Funny thing though, the RX1 still deserves a place in the current stable and an argument can be made that it represents something wholly unique and special that can’t be duplicated by its siblings. It is the camera that I grab when I want to travel, go out with friends or just don’t want to think about lens options. There is a power in simplicity and limiting yourself to a single, classic 35mm lens. I rarely feel restricted with the fixed field of view and find that it is well suited for intimate scenes, landscapes and even portraits.

Given this ongoing admiration for the RX1 I decided to break down what makes the camera relevant today:

denver-tourney-sun-31

vail-shootout-mon-and-zip-52

vail-shootout-mon-and-zip-89

The Lens

Like the legendary Hexar AF film compact and its Summicron killer 35/2, the heart of the RX1 is its fixed prime lens with silent leaf shutter. When the RX1 was released, the review sites gushed over the Sonnar that Sony had literally shoehorned into the frame to achieve the compact stature of the camera. With no less than three physical rings – aperture, focus and macro – the all metal Zeiss looks and feels the part of a classic rangefinder optic. Today, that lens is no less sharp, tactile or well built. You won’t find any test charts here but I’ve never been disappointed with the Sonnar’s resolving capability and its lovely rendering of out of focus areas. At times I’ve flirted with switching to the R model with no AA filter for improved resolution but photography isn’t solely about sharpness or resolution and there is a coherence inherent in this lens sensor combo that consistently satisfies.

With a leaf shutter, the lens is nearly silent and allows discrete shooting that lends itself to street, movie stills, sound recording environments or any other application where a silent shutter is a necessity. I often forget about the importance of having this ability until it is required.

The Sonnar does have its minor faults, but unless you are using an Otus, what lens doesn’t? Most notably, there is some CA that will need to be cleaned up on occasion, as well as distortion and vignetting that is magically erased in-camera. I never worry for a second that the lens is somehow hobbled or deficient. I would rate it as one of the finest 35/2 lenses made, equal to the Leica Summicron (king of bokeh), and Hexanon, better than the Minolta AF.

Relevancy today (10/10)

sam-13th-16

2013-ca-summer-vacation-306

The Body

When released, the RX1 was a clear shot across Leica’s bow. It is considerably smaller than the digital M bodies with a similar level of build quality, yet houses a modern full frame sensor with exceptional capabilities. It truly was the first of its kind and has yet to be eclipsed. You often read words such as “exquisite”, “finest”, “teutonic”, “brick” or “tank” to describe its build and design. Nothing has changed over those two years, in-fact time has proven the validity of those early claims. The detents on all of the metal control dials and rings remain as firm as the day I unboxed the camera. Some mild brassing on the focus ring is the extent of visible wear, although I have encased the camera in a leather half case made by Ulysses in Japan. The camera comes from the factory with a small patch of griptec type material on the front right hand side and a modest thumb grip on the rear. These two features provide just enough surface tension to make single hand holding possible but there are many first or third-party options to improve the ergonomics if desired. The case I purchased provides a nice little leather grip integrated into the design and retains access to the battery and SD card.

Controls are decidedly manual, with the aforementioned aperture ring plus an exposure compensation dial with 3 stops of adjustment +/-. When shooting full manual or shutter priority, shutter speed is assigned to the rear thumb dial. Personally, I prefer this setup to a shutter speed dial on top of the body and find that the combination of physical dials and rings to be ideal for controlling aperture, shutter speed and exposure comp.

The display is perhaps the most contentious component of the design. In an apparent attempt to keep the body as compact as possible, the RX1 was delivered without an OVF, EVF or tilt-screen. You get a nice LCD with good visibility in bright light (on the Sunny Weather setting) but that’s it. Many refused to purchase a camera where you are required to use the stinky diaper technique of composition. Sony does offer an optional OVF or EVF solution but both are pricey and alter the compact form factor of the camera. Personally, I chose to purchase the EVF and find it to be an effective add-on that not only allows for eye-level viewing, but with its articulating eyepiece, you get a right-angle finder, rendering you less intrusive to subjects on the street.

It is remarkable to think that in many ways this CyberShot branded camera remains Sony’s finest design. I know I’m not alone in hoping that a new model will eventually be introduced that retains the same level of build quality along with the retro rangefinder aesthetic and maybe a few improvements. If not for the lack of a built-in viewfinder I would rate the body a 10/10 today.

Relevancy today (9/10)

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

Latasha Lee and the Black Ties - Portrait

Latasha Lee and the Black Ties – Portrait

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

Backstage at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

caputo-reunion-dinner-2013-15 2013-ca-summer-vacation-311

caputo-reunion-dinner-2013-13

The Sensor

As of the the date of this article, the RX1 sensor is the second highest rated in a Sony body, higher than any Canon camera and higher than any Medium Format system sensor – per DXO ratings. Pretty impressive for a two year old model. With 14.3 stops of dynamic range (widest range of all the Sony cameras), the ability of the sensor to hold highlights and recover shadows is truly astounding. I routinely overexpose when shooting in daylight at f/2, 1/2000 and have no trouble pulling back the highlights. High ISO performance is excellent and as a concert shooter, I have no qualms about using 3200 or even 6400 in a pinch. I rarely rely on software noise reduction as I find the noise pattern to be acceptable and even attractive in a film grain sense. Compared to the sensor in my newish a7II, I feel the RX1 sensor to be absolutely equal if not slightly advanced.

Relevancy today (10/10)

wilco-1

wilco-stubbs-6

wilco-stubbs-23

User Interface

All new alpha cameras use an updated version of the RX1’s interface. Comparing those new menus to the RX1 can be a bit of a letdown. The RX1 menus are spartan and lack many helpful features found in the more recent models. One example is the inability to assign a function to the rear control ring – on the a7 models I keep ISO programmed to the ring for immediate control. On the RX1 you must program a custom button to first access ISO and then select the desired setting from the menu. There is potential for significant interface improvement so it is disappointing that firmware has not been upgraded to better synch the interface design with the current models.

Relevancy today (6/10)

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Memorial Day Weekend 2015 Middle Creek Ranch

Processor

Along with Interface, this section is where the RX1 most shows its age. Autofocus performance has been greatly improved in the newer alpha cameras so living with the older contrast detection system in the RX1 can at times be frustrating. On the upside, AF is generally very accurate, more so than my DSLRs ever were, it just takes the camera a bit longer to get there. Things are generally fine in good light but the hunting begins when the light goes down or in strong backlight conditions. Switching over to manual focus is always an option but the fly-by-wire mechanism requires its own form of patience and skill. Still, to put things in perspective, I have used the RX1 in extreme concert lighting conditions with solid success, just don’t expect it to provide the speed of today’s advanced systems.

Relevancy today (6/10)

acl-rx1-5

acl-rx1-6

acl-rx1-4

acl-rx1-2

acl-rx1-1

acl-rx1-3

The band Tobacco performing at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

The band Tobacco performing at The Mohawk as part of the Red Bull Sound Select in Austin, TX, USA 13 August 2013.

A True Classic?

Given the frequency of product advancement in the mirrorless space, a photographer needs to be at peace with their purchase decision. Many agonize over the right time to buy or upgrade, scanning the rumor sites for hints at what is coming next. This cycle of advancement and obsolescence can paralyze or infuriate. With a camera like the RX1 I knew when I purchased it that there would be improvements in later models, specifically to the AF speed and interface. The question I had to ask myself was whether the things that made the camera unique were enough to warrant the considerable cost of the RX1. I did not buy the camera back in 2013 for the AF performance or the interface/menu controls, I bought it for the lens, sensor and body design/build and of course for its compact form. On its introduction the RX1 was the smallest full frame camera you could buy and two years later, continues to hold that title. Sony didn’t just make the smallest full frame camera in the world, they blessed it with arguably one of the finest sensor and lens combinations available and they wrapped it in a beautiful metal retro shell with manual aperture and exposure compensation controls. Due to its compact size and its handsome design – I’ll admit a bit of vanity here, I want to carry the camera with me all the time, confident that I am not compromising anything when it comes to the images it will help me produce.

Tomorrow Sony may announce a replacement with a faster lens, better AF and interface, maybe even an integrated EVF, but when it comes to the quality of the images, we are reaching a point of diminishing returns. What the RX1 produces today is without doubt at the top end of the spectrum, so good that I seriously worry whether a new model would “mess with success”.

Sony achieved a rarity when they designed the RX1 – they produced a camera that many will claim has already reached cult status, which in the throwaway and upgrade world of digital cameras, ensures its relevancy for many years.

2013-ca-summer-vacation-31

2013-ca-summer-vacation-34

2013-ca-summer-vacation-248

2013-ca-summer-vacation-10

2013-ca-summer-vacation-293

Leave a comment below if you still own an RX1 or would like to.

Jun 032015
 

NEWS: Sony kicking booty! The #1 Mirrorless brand..DSLR sales decline

a7iiv

Today Sony sent me over a new blurb that validated and verified what I have been saying for the past few months..that Sony is now leading the camera market..and for good reason, they are one of the only TWO pushing the envelope and forging ahead with new and exciting things. Olympus would be the other company I feel is really pushing the Envelope. (Though I am using the Samsung NX1 that is also quite special). DSLR sales are down, mirrorless is up and Sony is leading the way.

Take a look at their blurb and charts they sent over…

————–

The Mirrorless Movement: Sony Boasts Record Growth in Expanding Mirrorless Digital Camera Market

SAN DIEGO, Jun. 3, 2015 – Sony Electronics – an overall leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer – is experiencing record growth in sales of mirrorless cameras, a rapidly expanding segment of the interchangeable lens camera (ILC) business.

According to The NPD Group, overall mirrorless camera revenue has grown 16.5% over the past 12 months, with DSLR sales declining approximately 15% over the same period. During this time, Sony has experienced a robust 66% boost in their company’s mirrorless camera sales, strengthening their dominant position as the #1 overall mirrorless brand, a position they have held for 4 consecutive years. 

“Growth in the mirrorless segment shows this new technology and form factor are resonating with consumers,” said Ben Arnold, executive director, The NPD group. “Going forward, mirrorless will continue to command a greater share of the interchangeable lens camera category.”

On top of the sales momentum, InfoTrends’ customer surveysdemonstrate how strong innovation in the mirrorless space is continuing to attract a younger and more photo active ILC customer. The latest data shows that over 61% of first time ILC buyers are under the age of 35, up from 54% approximately two years ago. Key motivating factors for their photography include travel and family..

“First time buyers in today’s ILC market will play an integral part in future growth of the segment, especially considering the increasingly younger customers that are buying into new systems,” said Ed Lee, group director of the Consumer and Professional Imaging group at InfoTrends.

This news comes on the heels of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) decision to recognize “Mirrorless” as the official term for interchangeable lens cameras that do not include a mirror mechanism.

“This information shines a spotlight on where the mirrorless market has been, where it is today, and the bright future it presents,” said Neal Manowitz, director of the still image business at Sony Electronics. “Our business continues to thrive based on strong innovation and the unique value propositions we are delivering with products like the α7 series and the α6000. Their impressive imaging credentials allow photo enthusiasts, hobbyist and professionals to capture content in ways they never before thought possible.”

Supporting charts / data:

image001

image002

image003

image004

Please follow #SonyAlpha on twitter for the latest α camera news.

May 182015
 

NEWS OF THE DAY, Part 1: New Panasonic G7 Announced!

Happy Monday to all! I love Mondays, and yes, I am aware that most people HATE Mondays! But me? No, I love them. I rest up all weekend and then I am ready to rock and roll by Monday. I get anxious, I get energized and I tell myself every day just how lucky I am to do what I love each and every day. Over 7 years now I have been running this blog/website and each year that goes on I become more and more proud of what this site has accomplished. Over 12 million views per year, hundreds of thousands of comments, thousands of articles, reviews and posts…all housed here forever. So thank YOU all for coming here, making this one of your daily or weekly stops. I know there are thousands of web sites out there, and I know I do not post every little bit of news like many do but I just like to post on things that I think are AWESOME and that I feel my readers would really enjoy.

In any case, this week we have some new releases from Fuji and Panasonic that look interesting, more on the new Fuji later today.

Panasonic seems to be taking aim at Olympus as their new Silver G7 looks very “Olympus Like” in design and style. For those who love Panasonic Mirrorless cameras, the G7 looks like it will be the best G yet but then again, I feel the Olympus offerings give more bang for the buck, especially the new E-M5II, as that is one gorgeous and capable little camera. Even so, many prefer Panasonic as there are differences in color, rendering, and usability. The cool thing is that Micro 4/3 is so mature these days there are a myriad of AMAZING lenses available for your Micro 4/3 camera bodies.

THE NEW G7 – Looks sweet huh? Looks sort of E-M1-ish. You can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE

IMG_494315

G7 Specs:

16 MP Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine 9

A 16 MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor pairs with an updated Venus Engine 9 to deliver fast overall performance with matched image quality to suit working in a wide variety of lighting conditions with consistent results. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 200 to 25600, with the ability to extend down to ISO 100 for working in bright conditions or with longer shutter speeds. Versatile burst shooting modes also allow you to pair high continuous shooting rates with AF; including shooting up to 8 fps with AF-S, 6 fps with AF-C in one area, and 6 fps during live view. For even faster performance, up to 40 fps shooting is possible with the electronic shutter function or 30 fps at 8 MP using the 4K Photo Modes.

The sensor and processor combination also helps to ensure notable image quality through the use of accurate white balance settings, Live TTL direct exposure metering, and intelligent NR (Noise Reduction) control for clean, natural imagery. Additionally, the Venus Engine 9 aids in reducing image blur caused by diffraction using electronic adjustment to automatically sharpen edges for clearer results when photographing with smaller aperture sizes.

4K UHD Video Recording

In addition to the versatile still shooting modes, the G7 also supports recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video with either 30p or 24p frames rates at 100Mbps in the MP4 format. Full HD 1080p/60 is also supported, in both MP4 and AVCHD formats, as well as HD and SD resolutions.

A built-in stereo microphone can be used during recordings, and features an integrated wind-cut filter, or an optional external microphone can be utilized via the 3.5mm jack for even clearer sound.

IMG_494341

4K Photo Modes

Utilizing the 4K video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8 MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate:
4K Burst: Just as with video recording, this mode will allow you to continuously record 8 MP images at 30 fps for up to 29 min. 59 sec., making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.

4K Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record 8 MP images at 30 fps one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.

4K Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the 4K video recording process, and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 MP frame.

When using any of the 4K Photo modes, you are afforded complete exposure control using the PSAM dial in order to base metering results and exposure configurations on your own shooting needs.

Depth-From-Defocus AF Technology

For accelerated autofocus performance, which performs in low-light conditions down to -4 EV, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.07 seconds. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as depth of field distances.

Body Design and Wi-Fi

Featuring a sleek design that is characteristic to Micro Four Thirds cameras, the G7 pairs retro aspects with modern functionality for intuitive use and classic appeal. Front and rear dials avail direct aperture and shutter speed control, as well as quick changing of ISO and white balance settings. Six function buttons can be assigned to control a range of custom features and the main drive wheel offers fast switching between shooting modes, including the 4K Photo modes.

For greater versatility when shooting, both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and rear LCD monitor are available. The 2.36m-dot OLED Live View Finder features a 10,000:1 contrast ratio for bright, accurate viewing of scenes, even in difficult lighting. The 3.0″ 1.04m-dot LCD features a static touchscreen design for intuitive navigation and control, as well as a vari-angle design for easier working from high and low angles.

Rounding out the handling capabilities, the G7 also features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for wirelessly sharing images and remotely controlling the camera from a linked mobile device using the Panasonic Image App. Connection is simplified using a QR code system to pair the smartphone or tablet with the camera.

Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens

A versatile standard zoom, the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. is a 28-84mm equivalent wide-to-short tele featuring an Optical Image Stabilizer to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Two aspherical elements are incorporated within the lens design to reduce the overall size and weight as well as benefit image sharpness and clarity. Complementing the optical design is an internal focusing system that pairs with the camera’s contrast-detection AF for quick, accurate focusing performance.

The G7 with 14-42 Kit lens is coming it at under $800, so price wise it seems spot on. No 5 Axis, No Live time, but appears to be a solid Micro 4/3 offering and as always with Panasonic, I am sure the video will be spectacular. 

You can also pick up the G7 with the 14-140 Lens at $1097 is you prefer the better “kit” lens. 

 

Apr 082015
 

juddtitle

Kathmandu, Nepal with the Sony A7s and the Mitakon 50mm f.95

by Judd Weiss

These Nepal photos probably would not exist if not for this site. Steve Huff’s blog and wider sharing community has been the single largest influence on my photography. I don’t connect with the approach of most photography communities online. But this community of mirrorless enthusiasts has continued to inspire me and push me to keep going further with this photography obsession. I’m still relatively new to photography, starting about 4.5 years ago when I picked up the first Sony NEX-3. For about a year I treated it more like a higher quality point and shoot for parties. Since I’ve discovered Steve’s site, I’ve become a daily addict, pouring over the daily inspirations and user reports, trying to understand new perspectives, obsessively studying how you impressive bastards pull it off. I’ve never taken a real course in photography, this blog has been my photography school. It’s possible I might still be shooting glorified point and shoot style photos without it. And all the beautiful photos in my life that I cherish might never have been if not for the influence of the community here. So thank you Steve and everyone else who has contributed inspiring photos in guest posts here. I’m honored to offer my small contribution to the mix.

Despite all of my public statements at the beginning of 2015 that I’m going to tone down this photography obsession and focus more on business, I just can’t help it. I want to do everything at once. When you’re doing something you’re proud of and excited about, it feels like a crime to restrain yourself. And there was just no way I could turn down this trip to Nepal. I didn’t know anything about Nepal except that it’s north of India and that some very different world awaits.

nepal-2015-1002

nepal-2015-1003

I didn’t Google or Wikipedia anything about Nepal. Nothing. I didn’t want any movie spoilers, I just wanted the experience to be fresh. I was brought to Nepal to shoot a conference. I’m not a career photographer, I don’t market myself as a photographer or even have a proper portfolio site online at the moment. I’m not a professional, this is not my profession. I’m an enthusiast, I’m always obsessively trying to create beautiful compelling photos to the best of my ability. And that’s exactly what the conference organizers wanted. It’s a crazy expense to bring someone from the other side of the planet out to photograph your event in a 3rd world nation, so I knew I had some huge pressure to make sure I deliver.

The photos in this post are an album separate from the conference, purely the scenic photos of Nepal I captured outside of the conference.

nepal-2015-1004

nepal-2015-1005

nepal-2015-1006

I am hopelessly in love with my Sony A7s. The lowlight ability is not a leap in technology, this is some kind of magic voodoo shit. I don’t know what dark forces Sony has negotiated with to let us finally see clearly in the dark, but I’m not going to ask too many question. It’s amazing, and 12MP is actually still overkill when most of my images appear online and are seen at less than 2MP. I’m not limited by that sensor. On the contrary, the limits of light are pretty much gone. I only shoot with manual lenses. Most photographers don’t believe me when I tell them that using manual lenses is tremendously FASTER than autofocus but it’s the truth. Unless you’re center focusing ever shot, autofocus slows you down and limits your ability to compose a scene where the point of focus is anywhere but the dead center. Believe it or not, 1/3 of the photos in this post were shot from the front seat of a moving car. Autofocus would have slowed me down and outright prevented me from composing the shots the way I wanted while everything is literally speeding by me. Focus peaking, I can’t live without it.

I only brought 2 lenses, and almost exclusively used only 1, the Mitakon 50mm f.95. I suppose there may be snobs that don’t like that it’s not an $11,000 Leica, but what I do know is that this lens helps me produce images that make my heart skip a beat. I also use the Voigtlander 21mm f1.8, but rarely. I love the wide Voigtlander, and I plan to keep it even though I rarely use it. I suppose the way I often think about the lens combo is that I like to take a couple 21mm wide shots to establish the entirety of the scene. And then I go through with the 50mm and focus in on the details. I’ve taken many critical photos with the 21mm, but the Mitakon 50mm is my new baby virtually permanently attached to my camera (replacing the status previously held by my Voigtlander 35mm f1.2).

One note about the Mitakon 50mm, I’ve been chasing wider and wider aperture lenses since I got started a few years ago, and now I’ve finally gone too far. f.95 is ridiculous. I usually don’t go beyond f1.4 as f.95 is just too insane, and not the kind of shot I usually want. I suppose I like the luxury of knowing that I can totally abandon reality and push completely into a dream world by going to f.95, but I would also be totally fine constrained to a maximum aperture of f1.4. The wide aperture chase is now over for me.

nepal-2015-1007

nepal-2015-1008

nepal-2015-1016

Most of these photos were taken in a single day devoted to exploring Kathmandu. I knew I wouldn’t have much chance to explore the city while I was at the conference, so I gave myself 2 extra days in Kathmandu to see and capture whatever I could. Unfortunately, due to some serious incompetence and dishonesty from a tour guide, an early morning hike out in the rural mountains surrounding Kathmandu turned into an all day affair that caused me to cancel my packed schedule of sights I planned to see in my precious remaining few hours on my last day in the country. Stuck all day in the middle of nowhere, I was furious to waste most of one of my only 2 sightseeing days, but it’s a lesson in relying on your common sense over and above the assurances of strangers who act like they know what they’re talking about when it doesn’t make sense. Even when you’re in a totally foreign land. But I digress. I did manage to get good shots of the rural mountain villages and some groups of cute kids after they got out of school for the day. I have no shame, I just go up to groups of random school kids and ask who wants to be famous. They get ecstatic when I show them nice shots of themselves and their friends in my camera. No one asked for my info to get the photos, they seemed happy just that these photos of them would be seen by people in America.

nepal-2015-1009

nepal-2015-1010

nepal-2015-1051

nepal-2015-1050

nepal-2015-1059

One thing I totally didn’t expect was the weather. I knew I was going to the Himalayas. In January. I packed for very cold weather (I remember surviving the coldest winter on record in Romania), but it wasn’t that cold in Kathmandu. Once I was there I was told that Kathmandu is the valley surrounded by the mountains, and that it’s relatively warm. No snow ever falls in Kathmandu. It felt more desert like, maybe a little chilly at night, but no big deal. I had full body thermal underwear packed, but I wish I brought sandals instead.

nepal-2015-1012

nepal-2015-1013

nepal-2015-1014

nepal-2015-1019

nepal-2015-1020

nepal-2015-1097

I didn’t have time to check out any other city, though I’m told there are some real treasures throughout Nepal. Kathmandu was both beautiful and gritty. The poverty is pretty extreme, people often live on $80 a month. There is trash everywhere. Los Angeles is not exactly a clean city, but it feels like a sterile sanitary clean room by comparison. I’ve seen plenty of stray dogs and cats in other countries, but all the stray cows was actually pretty cool. The warmth of the Nepali people was striking. Everyone was extremely friendly and graciously greeted me with a Namaste and a bow. I’m talking about the random strangers I approached with my camera. I learned to reply back “Thank you friend” in their language, which people enjoyed.

nepal-2015-1015

nepal-2015-1034

nepal-2015-1022

nepal-2015-1026

nepal-2015-1021

nepal-2015-1033

nepal-2015-1077

The temples swarming with monkeys was a highlight. They’re really cute until you get up close. I was warned repeatedly not to get too close, but I didn’t listen, and one angry monkey tried to grab my camera from me. I was ready to fight him to the death, he’s not taking that (I did get a powerful angry picture of him, see below). The monkeys are rude. They are all unfriendly little shits actually. I can see why our society has so many problems, if we evolved from these bastards. Adorable as they are.

nepal-2015-1017

nepal-2015-1018

nepal-2015-1021

nepal-2015-1027

nepal-2015-1043

nepal-2015-1048

nepal-2015-1060

I took a $200 sight seeing flight to Mount Everest with a few friends. I regretted it immediately afterwards. We didn’t get that close, I’ve seen mountains from a plane window before, I wasn’t that impressed, and I really could have used the sleep instead of waking up so early for a delayed and pointless flight. But when I got back to Los Angeles and saw the photos I took of these majestic mountain ridges, I’m glad I did it. I shot those mountains totally sleep deprived, wishing I was back in a bed instead of a freezing cold plane to nowhere, but I managed to still capture a few shots that are priceless to me.

nepal-2015-1011

nepal-2015-1030

nepal-2015-1032

One night some of the conference attendees went out to a bar that had a local metal band playing. We were out on the patio where we could talk, which was my intention so that we weren’t drowned out by whatever crappy local band was set to play. But I was surprised and impressed with how good the local band actually was. I picked up my camera and started taking some shots of them, and damn did that amazing low light combo came in handy. They reminded me of some sort of a Nepalese Deftones. A throwback to 90s Numetal when it was still artistic, but driving and aggressive. And the guys were actually talented, the music was great, and fans were in a trance and pumped. I really didn’t expect that when I heard a local metal band was playing that night. I found the guitarist after the show and showed him a few shots I took, and he flipped out, immediately bringing me over to the singer to show him my camera screen. I promised they would eventually get these, and they invited me to share a joint with them. I got a picture of that too ;)

Pretty cool the places a little device in your hand will take you.

nepal-2015-1023

nepal-2015-1024

nepal-2015-1025

nepal-2015-1041

nepal-2015-1042

One of the craziest things I saw was a citywide protest that shut down all major streets on my last morning there, while I was rushing to get to the airport. Fortunately they were letting tourists through (the protesters don’t want to look like they’re cutting off vital income to the country). The protests were orchestrated by Maoists. Not Socialists, not Communists, but Maoists. With flags and banners of Mao. I’m just going out on a limb here, but it felt like it had to be China’s influence to me. Nepal is safe from out right occupation since it’s so closely linked to the massive India, but that doesn’t mean China isn’t going to meddle. Purely my speculation, but seeing very poor people that live off less than $100 a month carry around printed flags and banners of China’s Chairman Mao leads me to assume who’s funding this…

I WISH I had walked around and captured some compelling shots of the protests, but I was rushing to the airport, worried about catching my flight, and could only get a few imperfect shots as my taxi sped by.

nepal-2015-1035

nepal-2015-1036

nepal-2015-1037

nepal-2015-1038

nepal-2015-1039

Anyway, these pictures are worth more than any of my words. This is a landmark album for me, and easily the most exotic photos I’ve ever taken. I hope they help you get a better idea of the experience of this different world.

Full album and original post can be found on my blog here:

http://hustlebear.com/2015/03/12/kathmandu-nepal-january-2015/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

[All the rest of the images in order (excluding those already used and excluding nepal-2015-1029.jpg):

nepal-2015-1047

nepal-2015-1049

nepal-2015-1092

nepal-2015-1093

nepal-2015-1097

nepal-2015-1122

nepal-2015-1125

nepal-2015-1126

nepal-2015-1129

nepal-2015-1130

nepal-2015-1131

nepal-2015-1159

nepal-2015-1221

nepal-2015-1310

nepal-2015-1546

This final shot was a defocused cityscape take-off from my connecting flight in Guangzhou, China.

nepal-2015-1029

Feb 272015
 

The Moose That Got Away

by R.Luther

unnamed

(From Steve: This is a cool little post from Site Sponsor, rluther.com. He makes amazing little buttons to add to your mirrorless cameras for improved tactile feel and control. I have a set on my Sony A7s and A7II, love them. You can see more at his website HERE.)

Okay, it really wasn’t a Moose! It’s just that when you grow-up in a large city, (in this case Pittsburgh) ya think of all large four-legged animals with antlers pokin’ out of their heads as a “Moose”. It was probably a large elk. A really, really big Elk. We’ll get back to this mammoth mammal in a moment. But… Here’s how this true story really begins.

Sometime in February, 2012 I spotted in a photo magazine what I’ve been dreaming of my entire photographic life. Sony, in their divine, creative engineering wisdom, was offering a camera that I was sure I could not live without. A very small, twenty-four megapixel, Tri-nav….yada, yada The “Sony NEX-7 24.3 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera”.

The links below compelled me to lose touch with my normally prudent senses.

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/23/the-sony-nex-7-digital-camera-review-by-steve-huff/
http://www.cnet.com/products/sony-alpha-nex-7/

The Cactus

Next, came the very unpleasant task of convincing “the wife” that there’s a big difference between our definition of “need” and “want”. I would surely rather sit naked on a cactus! Persistence is key in these matters! After creating a solid week of sound arguments (mostly bullshit), I could tell that she was tiring. Persistence! Finally she gave in, but made it quite clear that all of my Nikon gear had to be “sacrificed” on Craigslist ASAP! What could I do? That’s right, I offered my Nikon D300 and all lenses on the www. I guess I under priced this equipment, because within a week or so I had more than enough funds for my new “dream camera”.

Then the floods came

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/20/sony-nex-7-majorly-delayed-due-to-flood/

The wrath of Mother Nature decided to super-soak Thailand and brought the Sony NEX production to an unexpected screeching halt. My disappointment was painful. Sometimes “bad” news can be good news in disguise and this delay actually turned out to be “a good thing”. While anxiously awaiting Amazon’s pre-order announcement, I began reading everything I could about Sony’s new offering. It soon became very obvious that they (Sony) weren’t thinking very hard or clearly when it came to the placement of the “Record” button. This “flaw” was reported by everyone everywhere.

An opportunity was revealed

This nuisance button placement needed a solution and re-ignited my dormant entrepreneurial spirit. It took a few drinks, a few days, and dozens of sketches, but voila, I felt good enough about my design/solution to begin production. “The Guard” was born! It was/is a success! Luck counts too. http://www.rluther.com/

unnamed

Finally

On Monday Sept 12, 2012 Amazon notifies me that they have a few NEX-7 bodies available and within two minutes my finger was pressing the “Buy Now With 1-Click” button. (Prime/No Shipping) for $1199.99. Now I’ll be happy! Within a few long days I ordered 3 “E” lenses. Even my wife thought that it was the coolest little camera she had ever seen. It’s all good.

I love that truck!

We live on an acre of high plains property in New Mexico and our neighbors are sparse. I mention this because it helps explain how the faint sound of a strangely colored truck could be heard miles away. To be fair, you need to know that the “Track Package” feature at the “Your Orders” page at Amazon gave me a “heads/ears-up”. Ya just gotta love that Jeff Bezos!
Robert, my UPS driver was grinning as broadly as I was when he pulled his beautiful “Toy Truck” (my wife calls it “Rick’s Toy Truck”) on to our property. I think they may be on to me. It was like Christmas morning! It was here!

Getting acquainted

It didn’t take long to not read the manual and installing the “Guard” was just as easy as I had been telling our customers. (note: I borrowed a NEX from a friend of mine that worked at Best Buy to develop the Guard). Before the sun settled on the horizon, I managed to take the obligatory 150+ pics of our four cats, 55 lawn furniture pics, & 88 sunsets. I believed I was ready.

Vacation time

On Sunday 6-24-12, after loading-up our Jeep Liberty with probably 72% of everything we own, (I’m not sure why, but my wife has this “disorder” that results in her thinking that when we take a vacation, we are permanently relocating. Very peculiar!) we headed North. Our destination was a time-share resort in Estes Park, Colorado. Very nice! We settled in and rested-up for the hiking we would do the next day.

 

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

The beast and the buttons

It’s just my opinion, but I think that cameras & hiking get along better than most any married couple that I’ve ever met. I’m just sayin’! The forest trails in Estes Park were almost as beautiful as my new NEX-7 but much more challenging. We hiked for hours when I heard something that sounded like it might be a lot larger than us and I quickly, but cautiously turned to see a monster of a Moose (Elk). It really was very probably the largest animal I ever made eye-contact with. Regaining my composure, I reached for the almost new camera and decided to use the attached lens, a 55mm f3.5-5.6. As I was getting the camera ready for the “shot of a lifetime”, I realized the “flush” setting buttons didn’t allow the quick access I needed for “the perfect shot”. The f@#$* setting buttons were “hiding” from me! The big beast patiently looked at me as if he knew he would have to pose a bit longer, but as I struggled with the “invisible” buttons he decided that he had lost patience with me and my new NEX, and wandered off leaving me with only an unbelievable mega-Moose (Elk) story to tell. Without the photographic evidence, no one was ever going to believe me. Damn!

unnamed

We hiked awhile as I cursed the stupid buttons.

On the way back to the condo I decided that subtle modifications could be made to my “baby” that would very likely preclude ever missing “the Moose shot of a lifetime”.

Goodwill, a manicure set & some toothpaste

Since we were staying in CO. for another week or so, I thought I’d put on my designer/entrepreneur hat once again and started drinking, thinking and sketching. I’m a big fan of all the used stuff at Goodwill and decided that would be the best place to begin. It was just down the road. Rummaging through a bunch of small junk, raw materials appeared that could be “whittled on” to produce my first, second, and third prototype. A bit of toothpaste and a hairdryer and Voila the four not so shiny buttons came to life. They looked like crap but added the tactile feel that I was looking for and needed to “find” the buttons. YES! My “missing the Moose” days were over and another simple but clever product began its infancy.

Home sweet home
Time to go to work. Taking some of the “Guard” profits, I ordered some materials for final button prototypes. After considering every conceivable material, I decided CRES (stainless-steel) would be the best choice. The production of these flawless buttons wasn’t as easy as you might think and I won’t bore you with details, but here are a few photos to illustrate some of the difficulties:

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

See the finished product at http://www.rluther.com

buttons

I love that Moose! …. The End

Feb 102015
 

The Light Weight Really Matters!

By Mohamed Hakem

I’ve written before on how Fuji helped me unhinge new passion in the street photography but now I’m back with a new experience. After the switched from DSLR (Nikon D800) to Mirrorless (Fuji X-T1). I wrote before on how this switch helped me discover new genres in photography as street and people. But what I couldn’t imagine is that the mirrorless could outperform the DSLRs in landscape also! I am a landscape photographer and I’ve been a loyal Nikon user all my life. Coming from a monster in the shape of a camera (D800) made me see all other cameras as toys. Huge dynamic range and massive pixels. When I first got into the Fuji’s I was never expecting that it will one day be my main camera and replace the D800, and it did!

DSCF0982

DSCF1083

People tend to look at the technical factors only; dynamic range, color depth and charts and come up with a conclusion that DSLRs are much better for landscape. Yes the D800 is much more capable on paper than the fuji, but the fuji can come to you to places that the D800 would be a burden! The Fuji can provide colors and of the nature and sand the Nikon never ever did provide!

DSCF1029

DSCF1778

I was going to a hike in Mount Mousa , Sinai,Egypt. This is the second highest mountain in all Egypt 2422m above sea level and it has extremely rough terrain. Its a challenge for an unexperienced hiker like me. Its an over night non stop climb that lasts for 5 hours and you stay up there for 2 hours then come back. So you have to save your energy as everybody will go up there to rest while you will be setting up for your shots. Everybody’s major tip was leave behind all unnecessary things. for me I carried the fuji X-T1, 10-24, 55-200 and 8mm samyung lens and a small 3leggedthing tripod. As we climbed things got heavier and heavier and it was really hard towards the end but we made it.

DSCF0871

DSCF0834

DSCF0923

I never thought of climbing a mountain before as I would die if I go up without a camera and my corresponding Nikon setup would be (Nikon D800 1KG, 14-24 1KG, 70-200 2KG, tripod 3KG. fisheye 0.5KG. and a decent backpack would sum up to roughly 10KGs! All of this on my back and I could barely walk! Compare this to a 3KG of the Fuji system. So I went up, setup my equipment and was really happy with the results and they sold well on my website. If I were to take the Nikon I would have either gave up during the climb or would have reached the top with no strength to compose and shoot!

DSCF0802

DSCF1015

DSCF0971

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography

Website: www.hakemphotography.com

500px: 500px.com/hakem

Jan 282015
 

Dirt Cheap Mirrorless Fun

By Ben Bird

As many of the guest contributors before me have done I want to thank Steve and Brandon for a chance to share my experiences with all of the other readers of Steve’s website. I hope you will find it as enjoyable to read as I have many of your reviews! (Thanks Ben!! – Steve)

I don’t have any exotic gear to review for you, no ultra-rare vintage glass that has been found in an attic and saved from the brink of extinction… nothing terribly exciting… what I do have for you all is a review of a dirt cheap and very fun mirrorless setup that I have been beating around with a lot of average and common legacy glass on some adapters.

Let me back up a bit and give you some context…

(I can assure you it isn’t anything special. You could probably guess the next few paragraphs and be spot on!)
I have been a Canon DSLR shooter for 12 years. I started out with a Rebel XT then moved on to a 20D, a 40D, a 5D Classic and recently a 6D.

I take pictures of anything and everything. I have photographed weddings as a Primary and a second shooter off and on over the last 6 years. I also did portraits, families shoots, seniors and events, but have since retired from those pursuits. I shoot a lot of candid portrait work and spend a lot of my shutter time with family and friends socially.

I also work part-time photographing an amazing local motorcycle shop here in Lincoln Nebraska called Great Plains Cycle Supply. I document the employees, customers, and events for their social media and websites. (Check them out!)

My current full-time day job allows me to work outdoors and I attempt to take my camera with me at all times, never going anywhere without it tagging along… but as we all have experienced, that isn’t always possible.

Eventually the hassle got to me and I started to leave the DSLR at home more and more often.

While I have enjoyed the image quality of my DSLR’s I have long been pining for something smaller and more discreet. The heartbreak of missing a really amazing photo because I simply didn’t want to take my big DSLR along was really taking it’s toll on me. And of course… who doesn’t want to get closer and be ignored more when taking candid photographs of people?

Tou Five Star 1

Ultron 4

As you have no doubt realized, it’s going to be another one of “those” reviews… DSLR to mirrorless… we’ve all read them, and everyone is doing it these days… so I will try to hurry past some of the more cliché parts and spend a little more time on what I can offer that is unique.

I really wanted to try a mirrorless system and see if I could make it work for me… but I was concerned that being a full frame DSLR shooter for so long I would never be able to “let go” of my obsession with full frame “look” and embrace the crop sensor files.

Fortunately I have the internet… and if there is one thing I know how to do well; its kill hours of my life while looking at photographs on the web!

I spent a lot of time enjoying thousands of photos taken with mirrorless cameras and at some point I realized I had forgotten that I was supposed to be analyzing the image quality of the photos and had just been enjoying the photographs! The image quality has ceased to be that big of an issue for me… and I also had realized that no matter how amazing the full frame files looked… if that full frame camera wasn’t with me when the photo presented itself… the photos would never be taken at all… and all that sexy full frame goodness was going to waste at home in the camera bag.

Finally I came to the conclusion I had to try for myself. In my circle of friends the only mirrorless cameras were a couple of Fuji’s. So I borrowed an X100 from my friend and took it for a couple of test drives.

And I was disgusted.

I couldn’t get the camera to cooperate with me; I couldn’t take a decent photo to save my life. I worked and worked and was constantly frustrated. But worst of all… I couldn’t seem to do anything to the Fuji files to make them work for me. I was crushed. I was so ready to be on board… I had seen loads of beautiful Fuji photos, so I knew that the system COULD work… but I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it.

I threw up my hands in disgust and went back to my DSLR’s and said I would never switch over to Fuji.

But, the years went by… and I saw more and more beautiful photos taken not only with Fuji, but also with the other mirrorless systems.

I forgot my disgust and frustration and started to daydream of the day I could carry a tiny discreet camera around my neck all the time.

I tried other systems in the camera stores. I lusted after the RX1 and RX1R, the OMD’s the A7’s and thought that maybe they could work for me but everything was out of reach financially.

A friend of mine had recently left Canon and bought a used X100s and an X Pro 1 for not a lot of money and was making beautiful photos with them on a regular basis. He encouraged me that working with the Fuji files was indeed different and that I should be patient and give it some time before I ruled out Fuji entirely.

I would look at the work done by so many of the great photographers on the web and all of the great reader reviews on this site and say to myself:

“Clearly it can be done right. Why can’t I do that? It has got to be me and not the cameras fault. “

Finally I’d had enough… I decided I had to jump in and actually put the hours into learning the system and stop blaming the equipment. After all… that IS what I preach day in and day out: It’s the photographer… not the camera that makes great photos. I was being a hypocrite.

So it was way past time for me to put my money where my mouth was!

It just so happened that my bank account and I weren’t on speaking terms at the time, so I couldn’t just rush out and snatch up a new system.

So, I looked for the cheapest possible way to start shooting Fuji… and I found a mint condition used XE-1 for 300$. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford glass for a long time, but I had some old manual lenses In the house… some M42, some Nikon and even an old Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7 Ultron that I could use on the Fuji with some adapters.

So I pulled the trigger and got the XE-1 and an adapter for the Voigtlander.

Well… I wish I could say it was a match made in heaven… but it wasn’t.

There were a lot of teething problems and I spent most of my time cussing the Ultron and trying to get the hang of the incredibly bad minimum focusing distance of the lens (somewhere around 2-2.5 feet!) I am so used to being able to shoot closer that it really threw me off. I could never tell if the lens was just a little soft or if I was just always blowing my focus.

Eventually I got a few shots I liked, and started to get the hang of the XE-1… but my poor manual focusing ability and the Ultron butted heads constantly.

Ultron 3

Super Takumar 50 4

Nikkor 50mm 3

Perhaps I should say a word about the XE-1’s focus peaking here:

While I am grateful for the focusing aid, and it does indeed help me some days… it’s not as fool-proof or precise as it was made out to be to me by some. Perhaps I haven’t gotten it set up right, or am missing something but I can also say there is a HUGE difference on my XE-1 on how the focus peaking works in the viewfinder and the rear LCD. It is MUCH easier to see on the rear LCD and it feels as though it is barely working in the viewfinder. It also seems to work better with some of the other lenses I ended up using on the XE-1 later on down the road.

And for whatever reason… my copy of the Ultron doesn’t seem to play well with the focus peaking. It’s a shame… because the Ultron is the smallest , lightest and the fastest focusing lens I have and I really thought it would be my favorite lens for the Fuji… but it has turned to be a bear for me to nail focus with.

I have a few good shots from the Ultron to share, but let me say it was a LOT of work to get those few shots! My hit rate was terrible!

So, as I was struggling so much I borrowed some adapters from a friend for my M42 and Nikon lenses to see if they would work any better.

At this point I was also still struggling greatly with the Fuji files, and not really able to consistently make photos that I liked.

Part of it was me still trying to learn how the camera “read the light” and where it’s sweet spots were. And another part of it was not finding a look in post that made me happy.

I was very frustrated again and starting to doubt my decision all over again. At this point I was only shooting RAW and bumbling around in Lightroom with every shot.

I decided it was time to try the famous Fuji Jpegs that I had read so much about… so I switched the XE-1 over to Jpeg, fiddled with the settings, put my Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 onto the Fuji and started playing again.

Well, right away I felt better about the purchase… the Takumar was sharp, as well as having a buttery smooth focus ring. Focus peaking seemed to show up a little better than with the Ultron. However… on the down side… the Takumar was much heavier, and the focusing while being more precise… was much slower and the focus ring has a much longer throw from stop to stop.

So, I had found a lens that started to work well, and I made a little progress with the Jpeg settings. However, I decided I really needed to buckle down and sort out the Jpegs before I went any further.

I spent about a week of hardcore testing with all the jpeg settings in camera. Shooting, comparing and pixel peeping to try to figure out what I liked and how they all worked for me in post.

Eventually I found a setup that allowed me a good starting point with the Jpegs that would allow me to process them in any direction I liked… for the most part.

The color was mostly there and I liked the way they converted to black and white after the fact in Lightroom.

So I started to work with just a single default Jpeg setup that allowed me a consistent baseline to try the various lenses in all sorts of lighting situations so I could learn the sensor and lenses personalities better.

This alone made such a huge difference in my Fuji learning curve… just having a stable baseline to always work off of.

Nikkor 50mm 1

Micro Nikkor 3

Tou Five Star 6

Tou Five Star 7

Tou Five Star 6

These are the settings I finally settled on:

ISO Auto 200-6400 range

DR 100

WB auto

NR -2

Fine Jpegs

Astia film simulation

Highlight Tone +1

Shadow Tone +2

Color +2

Sharp -2

Obviously, settings are very personal and this may not work for anyone else, but this is where I start from with every one of my photographs now.

After I got that sorted out I went back to my lens experiments.

Next up was my Super Takumar 35mm F/2. A beautiful looking lens, that is really quite large and heavy. I really thought this lens was going to knock me out of the park. Out of all my legacy lenses this tank has highest quality FEEL to it, and a fairly stiffly dampened focus ring. I also wrongly assumed that at F/2 it would be very sharp wide open.

Well… it’s not. It’s a little soft all over and only a little sharper in the middle. I was disappointed by how much the stiff dampening slowed down my manual focusing on moving subjects and frequently missed shots.

I struggled to find a good way to use this lens and was about to give up and put it back on the shelf when one early morning I took a few flower shots to stay busy and I checked the screen and OH MY GOSH!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!

The out of focus rendering when wide open on this lens in AMAZING with the right background, light and distance to your background.
I know this sort of rendering isn’t for everyone… but WOW… this lens has some serious character in the right situations!

Tou Five Star 4

Tou Five Star 5

Micro Nikkor 1

Super Takumar 35 5

Super Takumar 35 2

See for yourself… I can’t say much for the weight or the handling as it adds a LOT of weight and size to the little Fuji, but I pull this guy out whenever I want to take some photos where sharpness isn’t critical with some interesting bokeh in the background. I haven’t even come close to exploring this lenses potential but I am most certainly not going to be selling this one anytime soon.

Around this time I realized that I was really getting to enjoy the EVF a lot on the XE-1 when the light was nice. Lots have been written about both Fuji’s EVF’s in general and the lagging of the older models viewfinders and/or LCD screens in low light so I won’t try to quantify it for you in this review but I can say that:

a) (The older models) They leave a lot to be desired in low light.

b) They can be really great to use regardless of the shortcomings.

In nice light it’s really fun and relaxing to use. What you see is what you get. Quite a nice change of pace from the chimping we have come to assume is mandatory with our OVF’s of old.

(Like I said, all of this is old news these days and every “DSLR to mirrorless” review has already broke ground with all these points so I don’t have any shocking revelations for you!)

The camera’s ergonomics were growing on me as well. While using my legacy lenses really makes the XE-1 quite unbalanced and “nose heavy” at times, it is still pretty fun to use and hold. After spending some time with my Super Takumars, I pulled out my Nikkor 50mm F/2 AI and mounted it up.

First impressions were that it was a pretty light lens compared to the Super Takumars and it was quite enjoyable to focus with as well!

The Nikkor has a very lightly dampened focus ring and a very fast action with a pretty short throw stop to stop that makes it very quick to focus and to date is my favorite legacy lens to focus out of my small collection.

The focus peaking seemed to be a bit easier to see with this Nikkor as well, and it really makes an easy to use lens if you like this 75mm equivalent focal length.

I enjoy shooting this lens wide open or stopped down to F/2.8 from time to time as a candid portrait lens, or just a general do everything lens with a little more reach. I’m not an expert in this area but I can say it was plenty sharp wide open for me and I never found a problem with the image quality from this lens. Another keeper for me!

Next up was an old Micro Nikkor 55mm F/2.8 macro lens that I use as my primary macro lens on my Canon DSLR’s.

I am already fond of this lens from my years spent with it, so I can tell you with great confidence that it is slow focusing and precise and it gets nice and close just like you want with a good manual macro. I am not sure what else you need to know! It works, it’s cheap, and it allows the Fuji to really get in there!

If that is your thing, then it’s a great cheap way to go! (Sorry… but that’s the bottom line for me. It works well for me, but I am not a hardcore macro user… so your mileage may vary!) I would love to give you more details but that’s really all I have!

Around this time I realized that I was really feeling a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders… I could shoot in Jpeg and not worry about larger memory cards, filling up my precious hard drive space with monster RAW files, Lightroom was working faster (my CPU is getting a little long in the tooth) and I found that I was less concerned with blowing shots.

Ultron 2

Ultron 1

Ultron 5

Nikkor 50mm 2

Tou Five Star 2

Tou Five Star 3

I was trying harder to get the shot exposed and composed the way I wanted it in camera, but if I couldn’t, or I was too slow, or the shot had way too much motion blur… I wasn’t nearly as upset at myself for screwing up a shot… I simply said “oh well” and moved on.

I was clearly relaxing and enjoying photography more now.

But, the flipside was that because I had a hard time confirming that I nailed focus … I ended up taking a LOT more shots to make sure that I got SOMETHING that day. (Thank goodness I was shooting Jpeg!)

I was hedging my bet… which seemed very counterproductive and a little silly to me.

So my time with the XE-1 was being spent wrestling with my desire to nail every shot, get it right… but also to not freak out if I missed something and try to relax and let it go.

It was a confusing time. But slowly I was enjoying it more and more.

I was feeling more and more comfortable with the Fuji files as well. Where they Full Frame Canon files? No. Did they have to be? No.

I haven’t sold my Canon’s yet, and I and I don’t know if I will… but not because I think that one sensor is superior to the other anymore… it’s because I realize they are merely two different ways to render a photo.

Cameras are paintbrushes. Tools. You use different paintbrushes to render a work of art in different ways. You use different tools to do different jobs.

I like the very disparate painting styles of Monet, Davinci, Robert Williams, Salvador Dali, Frank Frazzetta, H.R. Giger, Gil Elvgren, Phil Noto, Simon Bisley, and Alphonse Mucha.

I love the photos of dozens of photographers with very disparate styles like Diado Moriyama, Henri Cartier- Bresson, Joe McNally, Patrick LaRoque, Magdalena Switek, Thierry Nguyen, Gabe Mcclintock, Laurent Nivalle, and Gordon Chalmers just to name a FEW!

All the artists that I love and appreciate use different “brushes” and utilize them in very different ways.

Is one better than another? No. They are merely different… not better.

I had come to realize that I while I hadn’t nailed down the way I preferred to process the Fuji files and they seemed a little mushy to me at times, and I WAS frustrated by the details I was losing here or there compared to my full frame files… I really was becoming quite fond of the way this first generation X Trans sensor rendered photos. It was a look all by itself and I had really grown to love them.

Steve has talked before about how the second generation Fuji sensors can absolutely sing with the right light and the right settings… and he is right… but he is ALSO right that when the ISO’s climb… they can get mushy, muddy and flat looking.

I can say now that I agree with Steve and I prefer the look of the first Gen X-Trans to the high ISO rendering of the second Gen X-trans… but like I said, I had come to find a little charm in the files regardless of the flaws. I am POSITIVE that if I spent more time with a second Gen Fuji sensor I would come to love that look as well… different… not better.

So, as I worked to become more comfortable with my lenses and the new sensor, I was enjoying the learning process more all the time and leaving the DSLR at home pretty often now.

Then one day I realized what was missing from my Fuji experiment: One good do-everything, universal lens.  I really wanted to leave the house with one lens that would do everything (if possible) and have a Fuji setup that worked something like the X100 was designed to be: practical and useful for almost every situation.

I was digging around the web, and hoping to find a cheap option when I checked the back room on a whim… and low and behold… I found an old Minolta XGA that I had forgotten about, with a Tou/Five Star 28mm f/2.8 macro lens attached. Hmm…. That would be about a 42mm equivalent and kind of fast at 2.8. And the close focusing ability would certainly be appreciated.

So I got myself an adapter ordered and crossed my fingers. Well, the day came… I slapped the adapter and lens on the Fuji and took it out for a spin. And it did not disappoint. I can honestly say this is the most practical and enjoyable legacy lens I have ever used. Not flashy, not fancy, not sexy, not rare, it doesn’t have tons of character… it is just really handy for all kinds of photos.

It’s a little heavy, and focuses slower than my 50mm Nikkor, but it’s not terrible. The focal length helps with moving targets, and the macro focusing ability makes it really versatile and quite fun no matter what you are doing. It even will take a decent portrait if you are careful as it doesn’t have a lot of distortion. It’s sharp, has great contrast, nice color rendering and can be purchased for very little money. Yes, it is still a little front heavy, and when it is cold the grease gets sluggish in the action and the focusing can be even more dampened.

There is lots of lens flare with no hood, and it’s not blazing fast at only f/2.8… But it is a really great daily companion for the little Fuji if you want to keep costs down and have a lot of fun like I did. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was ready to commit to using a Fuji most or perhaps even all of the time. I had come to love the Fuji first Gen X Trans sensor and the small body of the XE-1.

I had realized that I could have fun and take nice pics even with slower manual lenses. The Fuji was coming along with me everywhere, was fairly quiet, and fairly unobtrusive and I decided that if I could enjoy my time with the older lenses, then the Fuji autofocus lenses might be alright for me as well.

Three days ago I managed to scrape up enough money to buy my first AF Fuji lens, the XF27mm F/2.8 pancake lens.

Initial impressions are great and I love having such a feather light lens on the XE-1 after a lot of the heavy legacy lenses. It’s not a blazing fast autofocus camera, but I have already been working around that slower speed so it was actually quite an upgrade for me!

In conclusion, I think that if any of you readers out there would like to give Fuji a try, but don’t want to invest huge amounts of money into a system that you might not like… give the old XE-1 or X-Pro 1 a long hard look. Start with a few cheap adapters and beg, borrow or steal some old legacy lenses to try.

And please… give yourself a while to get use to the system and to learn how to work with the files… I am almost 4 months into this experiment now… and I was really struggling until about my 3rdmonth.

Have some patience and invest some time into getting the camera set up like you want and see what you can do with it.

The final word for me is this… I am absolutely certain I can nail my photos 90% of my time with my Canons. I am confident I will get my shot, I will make it work, and I will be able to process it the way I want 90% of the time.

Why? Is it the sensor? Is it the camera?

It’s neither. It’s the 12 years of practice and one million photos I took with that same system.

I’ve been using a Fuji for just a few months… come back and see me in 12 years and I am certain I will say the same thing about my Fuji’s.

If you would like to see more of my Fuji experiments you can see them on my Tumblr that I set up just to share the Fuji shots. I have been tagging all the photos with lens information for the curious!

http://mylifeaccordingtofuji.tumblr.com/

Or you can see a larger sample of all of my photos both Canon and Fuji here on my Flickr page:

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

Thanks again to Steve and Brandon for giving us all such a great site to enjoy!

Ben Bird

Jan 082015
 

Me and my Fuji X100 (original)

by Jonas Luis

Hi, Steve!

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

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

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

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

JonasLuis_1

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

JonasLuis_2

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

JonasLuis_3

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

JonasLuis_4

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

JonasLuis_5

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

JonasLuis_6

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

JonasLuis_7

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

JonasLuis_8

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

JonasLuis_9

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

JonasLuis_10

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

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

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

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

Jonas Luis

JonasLuis.com

Dec 272014
 

titlea7iireviewCOY

The Sony A7II  Real World Camera Review. My Camera of the Year 2014.

Follow SteveHuffPhoto.com on Facebook!

**Direct Links: Buy the A7 II at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE**

You just gotta love Sony. They are back yet again at the end of 2014 and have released a camera that is not only a fantastic update, but this one is my pick for camera of the year 2014! 

Yep, they squeezed in the last couple of weeks of 2014 and captured my #1 fave camera of the year. My #2 for 2014 is the Sony A7s, and those who know me and know this website know that I LOVE the Sony A7s. If you did not see my A7s review, you can see it by clicking here. 

The low light monster A7s really grabbed me in so many ways, from the full frame 12MP sensor that can literally see in the dark to the beautiful color and quality that comes from it. The fact that I can shoot at ISO 40,000 and get usable images from the A7s is pretty amazing. To my eye (and many others) Sony improved the image quality/color and AWB with the A7s and this made the images POP and have a more beautiful color. The Auto Focus could/can see in and focus in the dark, even without an AF assist light. So the A7s has been my #1 camera ever since it was launched. The silent shutter and ability to shoot wide angle Leica M lenses was icing on the cake.

The Amazing Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 on the A7II. Natural light and wide open at 1.4

katie1sh

So now today I am here to sit at my desk in a Log Cabin in the woods I rented for the Holidays..for the long haul..to write about my real word experience with the new and quite popular Sony A7II. As you already know, from my opening statement above…I love the A7II enough to have made it my pick for Camera of the Year 2014.

For me, Sony stepped it up in many ways with the A7II compared to the over one year old A7 yet it will not replace my A7s. Instead it will be an addition to it.

Wow. The Leica Noctilux on the Sony A7II at f/0.95. Look at the color..the depth..the magical rendering that adds emotion and soul to the image. This lens on the A7II is MAGICAL and in no way inferior to  using it on a Leica M, in fact, the color is much better here than with the M. Click image for larger version.

DSC06273

For one, the build of the A7II is all new and more beefy and solid. The camera feels like a  “pro” camera. It’s very nice.

They also changed the ergonomics by adding a new bigger grip and changing the buttons and dials around a bit. The shutter button and custom buttons are placed in a much better way allowing your fingers to naturally fall where the buttons lay. Perfect. After much use with the A7Ii and A7s, I prefer the shutter button placement of the new A7II. Take a look at my 1st look video below which was shot the day the A7II arrived…

My 1st look video when I received the A7II

 
The AF speed has improved by 30% over the A7 Mark I according to Sony (and I agree) and what may be the biggest news of all comes in the form of in body image stabilization. Sony is now using the 5 Axis IS system which moves the sensor itself to compensate for any hand movement or shake. This means that you will now get up to a 4 stop advantage when shooting low light and needing that extra bit of help keeping things steady…

…and yes, the 5 Axis IS works with classic lenses as well as modern day Leica M mount lenses though the system will revert to a 3 Axis IS (similar to what is in the Olympus E-M10). The 5 Axis will not make the A7II equal the A7s but it does indeed help in low light situations.

The Sony/Zeiss 35 f/2.8 at 2.8, a fantastic lens on the A7II. Click for larger. 

DSC06000

Sony also upped the Ante with the video, bringing in the same video possibilities as the A7s which has been heralded by some video pros as a fantastic camera for making films. I feel the video works very well with the image stabilization though I am not a video wizard and will be evaluating this camera mainly for photos. Even so, the video I shot with the A7II was fantastic. It has a mic input and the on board mics are quite beefy. By that I mean they are not tinny sounding. They sound nice and full as a good mic should.

With all of these improvements in the A7II you would think Sony would have priced it at the A7s level, or around $2500. Nope! The A7II is $1698 for the body only, which is a HUGE HUGE bang for the buck and worth every penny. Every cent. Every bit of it. I remember many years ago buying an original Canon 1Ds. I spent about $10k on the body and a couple of NON L Canon lenses. Today in 2014 this Sony A7II beats that old Canon 1Ds in EVERY single way from speed to image quality to high ISO to usability and versatility. Digital Photography has come a LONG way over the past 10-15 years.

With the Sony A7II comes a camera that will let YOUR abilities shine or your NON abilities to also shine ;) It is a camera for an amateur, enthusiast or pro, as it has enough to handle almost anything besides fast action sports shooting even though the continuous AF has been improved quite a bit. If you want a camera for the long haul, one that does not cost a fortune yet gives you results that appear that it does, one that will grow with you or allow you to flex your own photographic muscle, then I urge you to read on as this A7II may be just what you have been looking for.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 for Sony E mount using the Voigtlander close focus adapter. This $400 lens is very nice with a classic rendering though does have some slight vignetting. I reviewed it HERE.

com

But the A7II is not perfect, and I will get into all of this as the review goes on.

DISCLAIMER: As you have already seen, I will also show image samples from the A7II using all kinds of lenses from the Sony/Zeiss offerings (35 2.8. 55 1.8 and 16-35) as well as some M mount lenses from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander. Even a few from the teeny Nikkor 5cm 1.4 S mount. With the A7 series, almost ANY lens can be used from any manufacturer with the use of adapters. For this reason, I will be showing the results from all kinds of cool lenses in addition to my favorite three Sony/Zeiss lenses.

THIS, to me, makes the A7 series so much more desirable than any other camera system available today. Sure, you can mount most lenses to an Olympus E-M1 as well but you lose out on the full frame sensor that gives you the full lens character. So a Leica 50 Summilux or Noctilux will retain the same character that it does on a Leica M, in some cases even better. Amazing!

Just think about how special this is. Many of you will be saying “I have no interest in manual focus lenses” because you probably have a DSLR history or are just so used to AF lenses you are nervous to try a nice manual focus lens. I am here to tell you though  – DO NOT FEAR MANUAL FOCUS lenses on the A7 II! Shooting old classic RF lenses is a joy and SO BEAUTIFUL. Lenses can be had from $30 to $13,000 so there are affordable choices that are quite nice.

Manual focus with a Leica Noctilux, at f/0.95. Added a filter using VSCO filters and with the focus peaking and magnification of the A7II, manual focus is a breeze and is actually in a way more rewarding and makes using the camera even more special. 

DSC06290

With that said, the original Sony 35 2.8, 55 1.8 and new 16-35 perform fantastic as well on the camera. There is something for everyone with this camera and that is the beauty of it.

The A7II at ISO 8000. An out of camera JPEG with Noise Reduction turned OFF. Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. 

8000s

The Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at ISO 1600 – click for larger – OOC JPEG – The color, the crispness and the overall rendering is fantastic here! OOC JPEG at night!

DSC06020

The Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 once again, at night! OOC JPEG

DSC06029

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 with the A7II at ISO 3200, zero noise reduction. OOC JPEG

DSC05832

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 at ISO 2000 – OOC JPEG

DSC05835

The 16-35 2.8 zm Zeiss at my Christmas 2014 Getaway ;) Where I wrote this review!

DSC06227

The 16-35 and A7II at a Comicon fanfest in Phoenix AZ

DSC05919

First Impressions & Build

Wow, so many photos already and I am just getting started on this review! Phew!

My very 1st impressions of the Sony A7 Mark II was quite surprising. I was expecting an A7 with 5 Axis thrown in but when I took it out of the box I was a bit shocked to feel how much better built it felt, and the A7 already had a good build as it was. This was different. The new body with new grip and button layout feels more beefy and solid. It is slightly larger now due to the 5 Axis inside but it’s still much smaller and thinner than a DSLR.

DSC05862

When I held the camera in my hand I was impressed with not only the feel and heft but the new finish of the camera which is now a matte and a slightly rougher finish compared to the almost candy coated glossy black of the A7’s that came before. It has the metal build of the A7r and you can feel it. The camera is not thicker but the grip is, and this makes the camera appear larger than the older A7 and A7r as well as the A7s. Adding in the 5 Axis IS made the body slightly bigger so for some of you, this is good. For others you may not like the extra size.

When you hold this camera you instantly know you have something of great quality here, even more than the $1698 that it costs. It feels like a $2500-$3k body and no matter what anyone tells you, it is SMALLER than ANY DSLR and quite a bit smaller than even the Nikon Df. It’s not quite DSLR sized, and the way I love to shoot it is with small rangefinder lenses. BTW, Manual focus is a breeze (as already hinted) with the large EVF (same EVF from the previous A7 series).

You can set up any of the custom buttons to whatever you like. I have the C3 button on the back set up for focus magnification (and yes, you still need to do two button presses to get it magnified) and it makes for a quick and easy way to manually and critically focus any RF lens, such as a Leica Noctilux 50 0.95 which is the most critical lens to focus wide open. Basically, all of the buttons can be assigned to whatever you like meaning your A7II can be customized to your preferences.

Speaking of the Leica Noctilux

When using the Noctilux on the Leica M, you HAVE to make sure your rangefinder is 100% spot on or else it will be a lesson in frustration. Your shots will be slightly out of focus and makes the lens an expensive paperweight. On the A7II, using the Live View EVF with peaking or magnification means you never have to worry about your camera being calibrated. What you see is what you get. As much as I love and adore Leica M bodies, I would be lying if I said I never had Rangefinder calibration issues. When this happens it is NOT fun so using these “best lenses in the world” on the Sony A7II is a joy.

Below are a few examples of this stunning and unique lens on the A7II

All shots using the Leica Noctilux, 0.95, and shows the same gorgeous quality that it does on the Leica M but in some ways, slightly better. 

noct11

noct5

katieportrait1cr

DSC06288

DSC06280

noct4bw

DSC06262

DSC06295

DSC06286

and below…ISO 12,800, from RAW, ZERO Noise Reduction. THIS is what makes these Sony cameras special. ISO 12,800 and with a lens like the Noctilux lighting up the scene, it gives the impression that there was light to work with. When shooting this I could not see her with my eyes yet looking through the EVF allowed me to “see in the dark” and the image appears to be lit up when it was not really like this in real life. The A7s or A7II with a Leica Noctilux offers things that are not possible with any other camera system, period. ZERO noise reduction as always.

If anyone is interested in a Noctilux for their A7, A7II, A7s or A7r, I recommend Ken Hansen ([email protected]), the legendary Leica dealer.

iso12800debby

An Artist’s Tool

The buttons on the back are all laid out nicely, in place where you would and could easily access them. I am sitting here writing this and I have a Nikkor 50 1.4 S mount rangefinder lens on the camera. It feels SO SO solid and is nice and compact with this lens on.

DSC05881

The bonus? This lens has some magic in its rendering and while I once had it for Leica screw mount (which can run you up to $600-$800) this time I was able to buy the S mount for about $100 and pick up an S to E adapter from Cameraquest. Same lens as the screw mount but until now, the S mount lenses were not desirable as they were not usable on any digital cameras. As of today, it is quite easy to find S mount RF glass quite cheap. I have a feeling this may change with so many Sony shooters out there and the new Adapter ;)

There I go again, talking about lenses!

The cheap but super cool Nikkor 5cm 1.4 S mount Rangefinder lens works perfectly with the Sony A7II and S to E adapter (available at CameraQuest here)

ashnikkor2

The Sony A7 series is like a true artists tool because you can literally mount ANY lens to it and there are some very cool, very funky and mighty fine lenses out there that can be had for a song. Even my $30 Jupiter 8 does fantastic on the A7II. No DSLR can do this, none. You can not do this on a Fuji body THE RIGHT WAY as the lenses are all compromised seeing that you do not use the full frame of the lens on an APS-C crop sensor. Same goes for Micro 4/3. To date, the ONLY cameras capable of such versatility with lenses is the Sony A7 series. Even the Leica M can not do what the A7II does. The A7 series of cameras are unique for this very reason.

The Jupiter 8, a 50mm f/2 that is light, cheaply made and CHEAP to buy (mine was $30). This lens is even fantastic on the Sony A7II! It’s a Leica screw mount lens so I use a cheap $10 Adapter to turn it to M mount then use my Voigtlander close focus adapter to mount it to the A7II. 

DSC05749

So my 1st impressions on Day one of the camera were pretty amazing. In fact, two hours after getting the review unit I placed an order for my own A7II. I put my money where my mouth is as I always do when I rave about something. With that out of the way (and already over 2800 words written, geez) let me get started by breaking down what I LOVE about the camera, and then I will talk about what I think should have been different or improved upon.

I will break this down into oddball sections that pop into my head as I write..when I do my reviews I never have a plan or template or even an idea of what I am going to say…it just flows out as I write, so keep that in mind.

The A7II with the super cool Voigtlander 40 2.8 (my review of that lens is here). Crisp, clean, slight vignetting but super sharp for $400. These are OOC JPEGS.

DSC05936

DSC05935

The A7II Sharpness and Detail

While I love the Sony A7s and have used it ever since its launch, almost daily, the A7II will obviously have more detail due to the 24MP sensor (vs the 12mp sensor of the A7s). The bonus? For the most part, the A7II gives us the color, AWB and more pop of the A7s, which improved from the A7 and A7r. Below take a look at simple OOC JPEGS, yes Out of Camera JPEGs showing how sharp this camera can be without any muss of fuss of RAW processing. Make sure you click on each image to show the 100% crops correctly!

The 1st shot is from the A7II and 55 1.8 lens, at 1.8 This is a JPEG ladies and gentleman, usually this means mushy details but for this one I was very pleasantly surprised to see Sony improved the JPEG rendering of the A7II. Click for larger,

monkeycrop

This next image shows a 100% crop. I used an old 50 year old Leica 50 2.8 Elmar. Click the image to see the full size crop..the detail and the nice looking JPEG file. Again, OOC JPEG!

leicaelmar

Even more details. Rich deep color using the “CLEAR” JPEG preset. 

indoor1stshot

…and one more with a crop..the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at 2.8. This lens give a nice color rendering that borders on watercolor and reality. It’s quite beautiful. JPEG!

DSC00009

…and a full size image  – out of camera JPEG using the Sony 55 1.8 – YES, A JPEG!

fulsizefeed

While we get most of the good stuff from the A7s (color, AWB, pop, video specs) we do not get ALL of the good stuff. For example, with the A7II we do not get the silent shutter option as this is sensor specific. We also do not get usable ISO 40,000 images but we do gain the 5 Axis Image Stabilization which helps with low light. We also gain the build and re-design of the A7II.

So basically the A7II should be compared to the A7 Mark I (which I do not own but have shot extensively) and not the A7s as the A7s is a specialty camera for those who do not mind the 12MP resolution. The A7II when compared to the now $1200 A7 is much better due to all of the improvements.

Let’s break down the details of the A7II..

24.3MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor

This sensor is fantastic yet it is the same sensor that we had in the original A7. Sony tweaked things a bit though to deliver the better IQ and color over the A7 Mark I.

BIONZ X Image Processor

Sony’s processing that gives us more speed in the A7II.

5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization

First seen in the Olympus bodies such as the E-M5, E-M1 and E-P5, 5 Axis IS is powerful. For video it is superb and for images it allows you to shoot in lower light than before as the 5 Axis IS will move the sensor itself to compensate for your own hand shakes. It works well and I was able to shoot an image at 1/15th of a second with the 55 1.8. Some will say we should be able to do 1/8th of a second with the 55 but without the 5 Axis I was only able to pull off 1/45th. Click below for my 1/15th shot indoors, ISO 1600 with 100% crop. (click on the image).

So any way you slice it, the 5 Axis IS is a nice help and it is worth having it for photo and video. With video it gives some wide angle lenses such as the 16-35 a steady shot kind of feel. No shakes, no jitters, just smooth video.

15thsecondhandheld

Enhanced Fast Hybrid AF and 5 fps Burst

Sony sped up the Auto Focus speed for the A7II and I can tell that it improved. Continuous AF is also improved with much better tracking of your subject.

Full HD XAVC S Video and S-Log2 Gamma

For the video guys, this is good stuff.

3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

Same LCD as the previous A7 series

XGA 2.36M-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder

Same EVF as the previous A7 series

Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body

The A7II is weather resistant and has weather seals. Body is made of Magnesium Alloy.

Refined Grip & Robust Lens Mount

We gain a beefier lens mount and the larger more refined grip. This is a nice improvement but some will prefer the smaller grip of the old A7 and some will prefer the A7II grip.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

The A7II still has the WiFi and NFC built in.

So all in all, the A7II uses the Same A7 sensor with tweaked image quality in color, AWB and overall JPEG rendering. The Body is redesigned to feel like a pro body with a beefier grip and lens mount. The 5 Axis IS is the big news here and gives the camera an overall polished feel. The A7II feels complete. It feels like a camera and not a computer. This is good.

DSC06113

Low Light/High ISO of the A7II 

Ever since I acquired the Sony A7s I have become spoiled by the spectacular ability it has in low light. I have shot images at 102,000 ISO and they were PUBLISHED and usable. Insane capabilities. Of course ISO 102,000 will in no way create a clean image but it does better than any other camera I ave ever used when it comes to cranking up the ISO to get a usable image.

The A7s is quite a bit better than the A7, A7II, A7r when it comes to extreme high ISO because of the 12 MP sensor. Having those big fat megapixels on a full frame sensor helps to kick it into overdrive when it comes to low light abilities. But many could not get along with the 12 MP sensor. Some had a problem with it mentally, others just had a problem with it because they did not want to spend $2500 for a 12MP camera. Me, I printed 20X30’s from my A7s and the prints are gorgeous so I do not need 24, 36 or 54 megapixels to be happy. I am not one who stands an inch from a print trying to see how detailed it is…to me, this is not photography but a pixel peeping disorder. These are the things that can take away the true meaning of photography yet many suffer from it.

With the 24 Megapixels of the A7II we get to a happy medium between low and crazy high. I feel 18-24 MP is perfect and higher is usually when I start to have issues with file sizes, blurred images from hand shake, etc. Also, this is the first Sony body for me that meets or exceeds the legendary Sony RX1R. 

So after using the A7s since launch and not having a worry in the world using Auto ISO up to 80k, low light with the A7II made me nervous. I decided that I would cap it off at 12,800 which to me, is about as high as one would want to go with the A7II. But even so, 12,800 is massive!

Below are some shots taken at various high ISO as well as a side by side with the A7s at ISO 12,800 and 25,600.

ALL with ZERO Noise Reduction. ZERO. 

baby3200

DSC05968

DSC06046

iso10k

Many have asked me how much better the Sony A7s is with high ISO. Well, remember that the max ISO of the A7s is 402,000. The max ISO of the A7II is 25,600. I have shot the A7s at 102,000 ISO and had a shot published at that ISO though it was noisy.

The A7s at 12,800 and 25,600 has an edge over the A7II of course but the difference may not be as huge as you think. I found the A7II is also pumping out even more bold color than the more natural color of the A7s. Still a different rendering than the A7 Mark I though. These files were all Out Of Camera RAW files, meaning, nothing was tweaked at all. No noise reduction was applied at all. What you see is what you get.

Click the images below to see the 12,800 and 25,600 shots. This was taken inside a kitchen without lights on in the kitchen, just some window light.

And now a comparison with the Sony A7s at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 (the max of the A7II)

a7ii12800

a7siso12800

a7IIiso25600

a7siso25600

So while the A7s is still the king of the night, the A7II does mighty fine at higher ISO’s. I found ISO 8000 is a sweet spot for high ISO work, and ISO 12,800 will work well if needed. Not too shabby! Images above were taken with a Voigtlander 35 1.2 Lens.  Another mighty fine manual lens for the A7 series.

The Wide World Of Lenses for the A7II!

NATIVE LENSES: There are many lenses for the full frame A7 system even though the A7 (FE) mount is only 13 months old! Not sure why people claim there are no lenses. Sony has release a slew of them in a short time with many more to come.

16-35 Zeiss – Superb Ultra Wide Zoom, SUPERB!
28-70 Kit Zoom – CHEAP and Decent..did I say CHEAP?
24-70 Zeiss – Excellent Zoom, just as good as any Canon or Nikon!
35 F/2.8 Zeiss – Bests my Leica 28 Elmarit at 1/2 the cost. Yes, really.
55 1.8 – Gets close to the Leica 50 APO at 1/8th the cost. (I have done side by sides on this site. many preferred the Sony lens)
70-200 f/4 – Here is the 70-200 most people wanted! 
There is also a 28-135 Cinema lens for FE mount by Sony.
Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia for FE
Zeiss 50 f/2 Loxia for FE

Also, the 50 Mitakon Speedmaster f/0.95 – I reviewed it HERE but this is a full frame FE mount lens. Super speed.

New primes on the way this year. Within 3 years there will be more lenses for FE then you know what to do with as third parties are making them for FE as we speak.

Those lenses above cover 16-200mm right now. The A7 series is only 13 months old. In 13 months that is quite a number of lenses released. More than Fuji managed to release or Olympus for that matter. The FE mount is NEW so for this many lenses to be out already is quite amazing really.

More details…

So if you want NATIVE mount lenses, there are plenty here now with more on the way. If you want to be adventurous there are so many lenses you can use and have more fun with and get even more beautiful results with for not any more effort. It is the most versatile system you can buy right now with more lenses available to shoot than any other system.

To date, my favorite native lenses have been the 55 1.8, the 35 2.8 and the newer 16-35 which is a stellar wide angle lens. So for Sony native lenses you have quite a few excellent choices, even a nice 24-70 Zeiss.

Then we have the new Zeiss Loxia lenses, the 35 f/2 and 50 f/2. These are stellar in quality but are manual focus and a little larger in my opinion. They will offer you great Zeiss color and pop but do not expect the size and feel of the Zeiss ZM lenses, which also perform well on the A7II.

Of course there are all kinds of lenses that can be used on the A7 series with the correct adapters. Leica M mount lenses, Voigtlander M mount lenses, screw mount lenses, Nikkor S mount lenses, Canon and Nikon lenses, Contax lenses, etc.

When you sit down and think about it, the A7II has thousands of lenses that can be mounted and used. From vintage to artsy to creative to modern day masterpieces. I love shooting of rangefinder glass on these cameras as it is a sinch to focus and the results are quite different than the native lenses, with more character and pizzaz as well as being quite a bit smaller and better made.

I use Leica M lenses, Voigtlander M lenses, Zeiss ZM M lenses, and even a Nikkor S mount lens. All are fantastic in their own way, even my $30 Jupiter. ;) All are simple to use and make shooting more fun IMO.

Taken with A vintage Nikkor 50 1.4 in S mount. An old rangefinder lens that I am using thanks to the new Adapter available at CameraQuest.com. If you have old S rangefinder lenses, this adapter will let you use them on the Sony A7 series of camera. 

DSC06100

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 on the A7II

DSC05947

So whoever buys into the Sony A7 system, you have thousands of lenses at your disposal to use and have fun with. From a cheap Jupiter to a crazy Leica Noctilux  to the Native lenses from Sony, all will deliver a different feel and vibe which makes using this camera very motivating. You never know what jewel you may uncover on you lens hunts.

If going with a Leica M mount lens, wether it is from Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss or whoever, I highly recommend THIS adapter from Cameraquest.com. I own two and they are hands down the best adapter available, even allowing close focus with any M lens, something even the M can not do. Pricey but you get what you pay for and I always believe it is better to buy ONCE instead of buying, selling and buying again.

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 2.39.57 PM

Shooting Wide Angle M Mount Lenses on the A7II

From my experience, anything less than 28mm will bring in some color distortions with the A7, A7r and yes, A7II. The A7s is the best A7 camera for Leica wide angle lenses and the A7II has done OK with even the Zeiss 25 2.8 Zm lens but not so well with the Voigtlander 15 4.5. So if you mainly shoot wide angle Leica lenses, the A7II will not be your best bet. It is indeed the same sensor as the A7 Mark I, so I did not expect any major improvement there.

Below are three shots using the Zeiss ZM 25 2.8 Lens. A tiny and superb wide angle  that is between a 28 and 21. It did not do quite as well on the Leica M9 or M 240, and was a little off on the A7r due to colored fringing and edges. On the A7s and A7II it seems to do pretty good with the best performance on the A7s.

Three shots with the A7II and Zeiss ZM 25 2.8. You can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

cabin1

cabindogs

cabindebby

To my eyes the 25 is not perfect with the A7II but it is perfectly acceptable for me. I am not a massive pixel peeper though and go for the memory/emotional aspect of the photo, not the perfection aspect. Still, I am LOVING the A7II colors with almost any lens I attach to it. With that said, the best choice for Leica lenses from 28mm and wider would be the A7s.

The Video of the A7II

I am not a huge video guy and 96% of my use with the A7II and A7s will be for photo purposes but the A7s and A7II have fantastic video quality from what I have seen, better with the A7II due to the in camera 5 Axis IS. Shooting video with the 16-35 Zeiss was awesome as it stabilized the lens in a way that made the video appear almost steadycamish. NO shakes or jitters, just smooth video.

Some have complained about artifacts in the video but in my short and limited use, I saw no such things. Nothing that would bother me in the slightest. Then again, if I were making a full length pro feature film, I would be using something besides a mirrorless camera to shoot it. If you want the low down on the video I suggest searching the video sites such as eoshd.com. 

Even so, my humble little video using the A7II is below. It is a hodge lodge of nonsense just to show how the 5 Axis works, and you can see just how well it works when I attach the Leica 50 Noctilux to the A7II and then the A7S. The A7S video is much more shaky where the A7II video is smooth and silky.

Video test of the 5 Axis IS and A7II along with a side by side with the A7s to show the difference 5 Axis makes for video

My Fave Accessories for the A7 II

With a new camera always comes new accessories, at least for me. I have to figure out what strap I want to use, what bag, what memory cards, what case (if any) and even things like shutter soft releases and items that sort of pimp out my cameras. Below is a list of the things I will be using with my A7II and things I already have on my A7s:

STRAPS: My most used straps these days are the Street Strap Long (available HERE) and when I want to get serious, the MoneyMaker from HoldFastGear.com. BTW, The Street Strap has outlasted my expensive Artisan and Artist silk strap which was messed up within one week.

SOFT RELEASE: Amazing soft release for Any A7 camera? The Artisan Obscura Sticky Back release is beautiful. One has been on my A7s since I got it and it has never fallen off. I love these as they will not come off or come loose. Check them out here. 

TACTILE: I attached these little metal buttons to my A7s and love them. They give the camera a better tactile feel when button hunting and works on the A7 or mostly all digital cameras. You can check them out at rluther.com 

00_Final_8x11_300ppi_2495

BAG: My favorite bag EVER. The Wotancraft Ryker. Black or Brown, either one is GORGEOUS. My review is HERE.

WRIST STRAP: The nicest wrist strap I have used lately is from Classic Cases. It’s high quality leather and super comfortable. You can see them or order them HERE.  I have one of these attached to the A7II and a Street Strap on my A7s.

MEMORY CARDS: I use a Transcend 64GB and it has been reliable, fast and it was affordable. It is a 60MBPS card and you can nab one on Amazon for under $34. I bought FIVE. 

BATTERIES: I saved some cash and bought a few of these Vivitar replacements as they are cheaper and work just as well as the Sony branded batteries. THIS is the exact deal I bought..TWO batteries, a charger, a rocket blower , lens brush and cloth..all for $24.95. THIS is a steal! Just to verify, these are the A7 batteries and will work in the A7, A7r, A7s and A7II.

LEICA M ADAPTER: My #1 recommended adapter for Leica M lens use is the Voigtlander Close Focus adapter. To me, it is the best made, and allows for close focus. No lens play, just a solid locking connection. I bought mine from Cameraquest.com. 

NIKON S/CONTX RF ADAPTER: Picked up one of these new Adapters and was impressed with the quality and the fact that I can now use Nikkor S mount RF lenses on the A7 series. These are fantastic well made TINY lenses and can be found at great prices. Get it HERE.

71-1csqE07L._SL1200_

OFFICIAL SONY BATTERY GRIP (above) – This grip is all new for the A7II as the old one will not work. This is a weather sealed grip built to a pro standard and when it is on the camera, it feels like a PRO camera. It makes the camera much larger of course but also doubles the battery life. If I were to buy this I would only use it on heavy days when I needed lots of battery life. The price seems steep to me at $349 but some of you LOVE your battery grips, so Sony is offering this one for the A7II (and possibly whatever comes next to replace the A7r). You can order the grip HERE.

91fhjOCvYRL._SL1500_

JB WOODEN GRIP (above): JB has released a new wooden grip for the A7II. You can order it here for under $70

A7II – ISO 6400, Zeiss 35 2.8, OOC JPEG. It was dark! – ZERO Noise Reduction!

6400

My Favorite Lenses for the A7II, Native and otherwise

I often get e-mails asking me..”what is the best lens for XXXX” – I get this question day in and day out. Truth be told, there is no “best” lens as what lens you choose depends on what you like to shoot! Me, I have always been a 35 and 50 guy and I love fast primes. Even so, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 SHINES on the A7II, more so than it did on any other A7 body. Same goes for the 55 1.8. No idea why the is but others have noticed it as well.

These two lenses are my go to lenses when I want AF, and reliable performance.

The Sony 35 2.8 Can be seen HERE

The Sony 55 1.8 Can be seen HERE

Other lenses I adore with the A7s and A7II are the Voigtlander 35 1.2, the Leica Noctilux 0.95, the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar ZM, the Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar ZM and even the Voigtlander 21 1.8. 

So many lenses are amazing with these bodies, just choose what you enjoy the most and have at it! If you are unsure you can always rent lenses from lensrentals.com.

PopFlash.com also has deals on Leica M glass most of the time.

16-35 Zeiss at f/4

DSC00173

DSC06332

The Shutter Sound of the A7II

Many people were not happy with the loud shutter of the original A7R. In fact, it is the loudest of all A7 cameras. The A7II takes it down a notch from the A7R and is pretty much the same as the A7. My A7II is a bit more subdued though and sounds a little more muted than my A7s. While it does not have the silent shutter of the A7s, the shutter sound never caused me one issue when shooting street, portraits or anything. Below is my video showing the shutter sound of MY A7s and the A7II I have on hand.

A few more words about the Leica Noctilux with the A7II (or any A7 body)

I am a lucky guy and thanks to Ken Hansen, who has been part of this site since day 1 (Ken is a legendary Leica dealer with over 50 years experience) by helping me to get it going, I was recently able to obtain a Leica Noctilux again after selling off my last one 1 1/2 years ago due to needing funds more than the lens.

It has been a year and half since I shot with the Noctilux on the Leica M 240 (see a post here) and while it is always a magical lens and what I call a “Lifetime Lens”, it is a lens that is not only hard to justify for mere mortals, it is a lens that is so unique it may be the most lusted after rangefinder lens in history. It is a controversial lens due to the cost where half of the people never understand it and the other half 100% do.

The draw and rendering of this lens is nothing short of breathtaking in the right circumstances, something that is not easy to achieve every time you use it but one thing is for sure, when you DO use this lens it will deliver a WOW rendering that most non camera people will rave over. But be careful, overuse will make it boring after a while so use it sparingly. Bring it out once a month or so and it will retain that wow factor.

From the f/0.95 aperture to the legendary Leica build to the shallow and dreamy depth of field as well as the rich color and contrast, this is a lens that can deliver deep emotion. At $11,000 it is a hard one to swallow and is quite ridiculous in pricing IMO. Even so, I love it, I adore it and I hope that I can keep this one (and plan to). Seeing friends like Ashwin Rao who still has his original Noctilux (also from Ken Hansen) and still loving it makes me feel lucky to own one again.

On the A7II you will get 3 Axis IS with manual Leica M lenses, still a wonderful IS system that helps eliminate the shakes. (same as the Olympus E-M10 which uses 3 Axis IS). Just set the A7II menu to 50mm and shoot away!

Also, Anyone who shoots this lens on the M or the A7 series I HIGHLY recommend the Variable ND filter for it (Ken Hansen has loads of them). Best ND I have ever used and allows wide open aperture in full sunlight which gives an altogether different effect. You can contact Ken at [email protected] and ask him about it. Tell him I sent ya!

A few more images from the combo of Noct and A7II are below…

PS – The Leica M and Noct will cost you $19k. The A7II and Noct will set you back $12500 or so. Insane I know, and it is NOT for everyone but just showing that you can save some cash by using it on the A7 bodies. Keep this lens for 7 years or more and you will make money if you ever decide to sell it. It IS one of the rare lenses that can indeed be considered a true investment. For example I bought a brand new F/1 Noctilux long before the 0.95 was released. I paid $3500 from B&H Photo. NEW. Today I see them going for $8000 if new in the box or true mint with box. Amazing. In 10 years the f/0.95 may be up to $18k or more. You never know, but Leica lenses have a history of appreciating over the years.

DSC06271

DSC06258

katiefunny

DSC06143

noct14

DSC06261

The three images below had filters applied using VSCO film filters – B&W is not a problem for the A7II ;) 

DSC06283

DSC06274

DSC06254

As you can see, the combo of Noctilux and the A7II seriously rocks. These were all wide open at f/0.95. When you stop down to f/1.4 you get the performance of a Leica Summilux ASPH. Stop down to f/2 and you get the performance of a Summicron but with the added benefit of the 50 APO colors, and the contrast of the Noctilux. To me, the Noctilux beats the old F/1 version handily.

The Bokeh of this lens is legendary, the stuff of fantasy and dreams. I have seen some pretty special photos with this lens when in super  talented hands. Get the light right, the mood right and the scene right and masterpieces can be made with this lens.

Things about the A7II that I wish would have been different

The A7II is one hell of a camera, and again, my “Camera of the Year 2014″ but it is not perfect. Yes, the IQ is stunning. Yes, the 5 Axis IS is wonderful. Yes, the color saturation and depth of the 24 MP sensor is fantastic. Yes, the fact that so many lenses can be used and mounted is awesome. Yes, the new design and beefy build is welcomed and yes the video is stellar. Yes, you can shoot at ISO 8000 and up to 12,800 and get usable results.

But if I could make a change or two the 1st would be to the BATTERY. The battery life is not so hot with the A7II and seems worse than it does with my A7s. It uses the same battery as the previous A7 series but with the new 5 Axis IS being used, it seems that the battery life is even shorter. I found I needed a couple of batteries for a full day of shooting, and I am a light shooter. If you get the A7II I suggest buying 2 or 3 extra batteries. I bought 3-4 Vivitar branded batteries for mine off of Amazon and saved a bundle while getting batteries that work just as well as the Sony branded batteries. The link to the Vivitar batteries is HERE and what a deal it is. Just click it and see what you get for under $25..it’s amazing.

So it seems the battery should have been made better. The Nikon Df battery is awesome and I wish Sony would develop something similar.

Also, I wish the A7II had the silent shutter of the A7s. I use it every now and again and while it is not mandatory it does help sometimes when you need ultimate silence.

One last thing…if the Auto Focus was maybe 15% faster it would be hard it fault at all. As it is, the Af may hunt in low light (The A7s does not) but the good news is that the Auto Focus is CRAZY accurate. I have never gotten a false AF hit with the A7II (but did a few times with the A7 and A7r). In low light it is much faster than the old A7 but not up to the A7s for low light AF. Still, its just as good if not better as most mirrorless cameras that are out these days. I have been testing the Fuji X100T and it has been frustrating the hell out of me with its constant AF misses (though the camera says it is locked). The A7II never has this issue.

The A7II and Sony Zeiss 16-35, a SUPERB wide angle for your A7 body.

DSC05911

The Sony A7II vs the Leica M 240. 

Many have asked me this question lately and it is not an easy one to answer. The M 240 is a special camera with a special build, feel, emotion AND price. Coming in at $7k (deals can be had) and limited in high ISO and close focus and video use, it is mainly for those who want and love to shoot a rangefinder. The RF system makes the Leica M a 100% different camera to shoot than just about ANYTHING out there today.

The M feels fantastic, one of the best feeling cameras made today. The battery life is amazing, and the quality is superb. But, compared to the A7II, I feel the A7II can give better image quality, better color, and even more detail with 85% of Leica M lenses. Plus, the A7II beats the M in low light as well. Video? Sony 100%, no question. At the end of the day the Sony has a better sensor than the custom made one in the M 240.

All in all I find the only thing the M has over the A7II is the user experience and shooting ultra wide Leica branded coded M glass such as the 18, 21, Tri Elmar, etc. . Shooting an RF camera is a wonderful thing..a state of mind..an inspiration and brings passion into my shooting. I get some of this with the A7II but not as much.

At the end of the day, $1600 for an A7II that puts out better IQ and color and has more versatility is a steal compared to the $7000 M. Even so, I love the M. Always will. This is something that is personal preference and only you can decide. Have the cash? Buy both :) Bank account suffering after the holidays? Buy an A7II and know you ill be getting image quality that actually surpasses the Leica M in good light, low light, high ISO, low ISO, with much better video capabilities (if that’s your thing). I am not knocking the M at all, but I always speak the truth and 2 years after the M 240 arrived, we now have a camera from Sony that literally kicks its bootie in most areas, for 1/5th the cost.

Even so, the M will always have a place in my heart as it provides a “connection” to the user. It’s a thing of beauty.

Night time, Sony A7II and Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 – No issues focusing!

DSC06007

The Sony A7II Vs the Fuji X-T1

Here there really is no contest for me. I like the X-T1. I feel it is as good as it gets for Fuji, but for me, many of you know that I dislike the X-Trans sensor. The IQ from that sensor excels in perfect lighting but in anything other than that, it fails. You lose punch, sparkle, depth, color, and pop. You gain flatness and a dull sheen. I have seen 10’s of thousands of Fuji images and I have seen some that blew me away (perfect light, natural or studio) and most, around 95%, are flat and dull to me. They are “nice” but lack depth and punch and seeing that the Fuji uses an APS-C sensor you will also lose out on other things such as using 3rd party lenses to their full potential.

For me there is no contest here, if I were offered a Sony A7II at $1698 or a Fuji X-T1 at $499 I would splurge for the Sony. The Sony is $500 more than the Fuji ($1698 vs $1198) for the body only but I always say “you get what you pay for” and this is usually 99% true. I’d rather spend the extra $500 and be 100% happy then spend $500 less and wonder “what if”. I have learned that lesson in life many years ago.

With that said, the Fuji X-T1 is fantastic, and I feel Fuji’s best mirrorless to date. It’s fast, looks great, feels great, has great controls and some wonderful lenses. But when directly comparing, for me, I prefer the A7II in every way from build, feel, IQ, abilities, lenses that can be used, and so on.

To those that love their X-T1 that is awesome, as it can indeed put out some beautiful colors and images but for me, full frame will win out due to DR, Punch, Pop, etc. If there were no full frame Sony mirrorless, then the Fuji would be near the top of the heap but with the A7II and A7s, the Fuji drops below them for me.

You can read my X-T1 review HERE.  As you can see, I raved about it as Fuji got it right and it is something that will make any Fuji fan proud.

DSC06367

The Sony A7II vs the Olympus E-M1

Another AMAZING camera even two years after its release. The E-M1 is the pro grade Micro 4/3 and does just about everything right. The body is awesome, the feel is superb, the controls just work and the speed of this thing is impressive. The lenses available are 2nd to none and it was the 1st camera with 5 Axis inside. It’s a jewel for sure and many poo poo’ed it due to the smaller sensor but this sensor in the E-M1 easily stands toe to toe with any APS-C sensor around except for low light ability. The one main weakness of the E-M1 these days is the high ISO performance which lacks. Shoot in low light at ISO 3200 and you will get noise. Low light is a great test for high ISO and while many reviewers test it in studio light (which is silly) the real test is using it when you would need it..low light. So the E-M1 falls short for low light work when compared to most modern day cameras.

Compared to the A7II you are saving $300 with an E-M1 (not much) but losing the full frame sensor, better high ISO capability and all that comes with this such as DR, less noise at base ISO, etc. To me, these two are much closer than the Fuji X-T1 and A7II as the E-M1 is one of my all time faves. I still own one. Will take a lot for anything to get me  to remove it from my collection. Even so, I can get more use, better IQ and color, and better low light and DR from the A7II for $300 more. I feel the E-M1 may need to see a price reduction to $999 in the very near future. Will be interesting to see what Olympus comes up with in 2015.

The Sony A7II vs the Sony A7r

The A7r has not yet been replaced and Sony may be pairing down the A7 system to the A7 and A7s and creating a “pro” A9 to replace the A7r. Of course this is speculation as I know nothing at all about what is to come but rumors have been pointing to this.

If choosing today I would take the A7II over the A7r, 100%. No contest.

The A7r is clunky, loud, slower, worse in low light, no IS inside, has inferior AWB and color performance, and has too many MP when they are not needed for 99.5% of people. Every aspect of the II beats the R for me, all of it. The body, the performance, the IS, the video, the experience.

The II is more responsive and again, quieter. The R is the loudest of all A7 bodies (no, they are not all the same).

So to those who asked which one I would go for, the answer is clear. The one I did go for over the R, the A7II. It’s a more finished product and more enjoyable in real world use.

A7II vs the A7s

As for which camera I will use more, my A7s or A7II, that is hard to say as I love both. I see myself using the A7s in the low light scenarios or when I need the silent shutter. The A7II puts out such beautiful images in normal light that I may prefer it for my day to day shooting as it has slightly more oomph to the final image (though not a huge difference). Add in the 5 Axis, pro beefy build and feel and it bumps the A7s from daily driver to 2nd fiddle. Both have a place in my bag. The cool thing is the A7II is $1698 vs the $2498 of the A7s. That is quite the price difference so for new buyers I say go A7II. I own both and love both but if buying one it would be the A7II for me.

DSC06249

Pros and Cons of the Sony A7II

PROS (for me)

  1. Fantastic build, better ergonomics than old A7
  2. Button placement much better than previous A7
  3. 5 Axis IS really works well (for video as well)
  4. Video is stepped up from A7
  5. Weather Sealed
  6. Can mount almost any lens made for 35mm (this is huge)
  7. Improved color, pop, and overall IQ over A7
  8. Faster AF and overall response than A7
  9. Nice detail and sharpness
  10. Improved OOC JPEGS means you could shoot this as a JPEG camera!
  11. PRICE! $1698 is a GREAT buy. No one can say this is overpriced.
  12. Same great EVF/LCD from previous A7 bodies.
  13. Makes a great 2nd camera to a Leica M or A7s
  14. Still smaller than the smallest DSLR’s, MUCH smaller than a D800 style camera
  15. More Sony Native lenses (and primes) on the way in 2015!
  16. Still usable images at ISO 12,800, which is fantastic.
  17. Sony/Zeiss 35 and 55 seem to take on a new life on this camera for some reason.
  18. Worlds 1st full frame with 5 Axis IS!

CONS (for me)

  1. Battery life is disappointing. Needs a better battery. 250-350 shots per charge. Should be 1000.
  2. No silent shutter that is in the A7s – Boo.
  3. In really low light AF slows down. My A7s is faster in low light.
  4. Still no go for ultra wide Leica M mounts such as Voigtlander 15. Color issues with these lenses.
  5. Can have Moire in certain situations as the sensor is VERY detailed and has loads of resolution (but rare)

Sony/Zeiss 16-35 – crisp and clean – This is a stellar wide angle zoom besting my old Canon 16-35 from back in the day, easily. 

DSC00159

My Final Word on the Sony A7II

Sony is just hitting it out of the park lately (last 2-3 years)  – The RX1, the RX100, the RX1R, the A7 and now the A7s and A7II are all superb cameras that are pushing the tech and the experience up a notch compared to anyone else. It’s pretty amazing what they have done over the last 3 years.

When the original A7 bodies were released I spoke with Sony about their passion for this project. Basically, I was told they are not holding back and will be pushing forward to develop this system, lenses and all, for the long haul. They have many lenses on the way in 2015 (and ten lenses already for the FE full frame A7 system within a years time)  and it appears they are just getting started. I had the feeling that this was their baby..the one they were banking on (instead of DSLR production) and from my experience, it is working.

The Sony A series update cycle seems to be on a 12-15 month thing right now since it has been just over a year since the A7 and we now have the A7II. I am guessing the A7r replacement will be the rumored “Pro A9″ but believe me when I say it will be much more expensive and have a larger MP count. Many may want to hold out for that one even though right now it is all speculation and rumor (and no, I know nothing). Rumors say Feb 2015.

I was a fan of the A7 and A7r but did not buy one for myself after much thought. The things that held me back were slower than expected AF in low light, a teeny bit of clunkiness and in the case of the R, too noisy of a shutter and too high of a MP count for my tastes. When the A7s arrived I was in heaven as it solved these issues and became the most capable camera I have ever owned or shot with. The A7s, for me, was and is a game changer in the world of mirrorless photography and I am fine with nits 12 MP resolution as it does all I will ever need.

With the A7II Sony has done it again, and damn them! When a company releases a camera that is so good it motivates me to go out every day and shoot, then they have done something right. In 2014 it was a slow year IMO for stellar camera releases. Even the Fuji X100T failed to excite me (AF misses, X Trans Sensor, same old same old). The Panasonic LX100 failed to ignite the passion in me (massive lens flare issues, mushy details). It was not until the Sony A7s and now A7II that my passion was kickstarted in 2014. Passion, motivation and endless possibilities are what these cameras brought me. Sony is costing me more money…Ugh.

No one NEEDS a camera upgrade if you have one that works well already. I did not NEED an A7II as I have a few other cameras already. But when I saw what it could do, how it did it and the endless creative possibilities with it, I knew I WANTED it and the last few weeks have been so much fun discovering what this camera can do. To me, the price of the camera already was worth it for the joy it has brought and the many memories I created with it. Could I have done this with the A7s? Probably, but having the extra punch and 5 Axis in the A7II is what sold me. If and when the Pro A9 comes out looks like I will have THREE Sony cameras as long as it is not some crazy 50+ MP sensor.

The most impressive thing to me about the A7 series in general, especially the A7s and A7II is the fact that not only can we use so many cool lenses on these bodies to the lenses full potential, but now they are ALL stabilized with the internal 5 Axis IS. THIS is impressive and many blow it off as it is nothing, but to me and many others it is a HUGE deal. Many like to trash Sony because they just hate the name Sony. Many will never give this camera chance because they are stuck on Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc. That is the wrong way to look at it as the A7II is one hell of a camera. IN fact ,when I tested a Nikon D810 lately I found the Af to be OK (missed some shots), the body much too large and fat, and the weight an issue. The A7II performed just as well for me in every situation and did so while remaining light, small and with that 5 Axis IS. Again, a pretty big deal. The ability to throw on a tiny Leica 50 Summicron or Summilux, something that you can not do on a DSLR is quite amazing as well.

Yes you can do this on a Fuji but the results are MUCH different when dealing with APS-C as you will not use the entire lens so the lens character goes out the window. Overall, the A7II is a fantastic update and well worth the $1698 price tag. Doesn’t get any better for this price, period.

2014 may have been a slow camera year but Sony came in and snuck this one in last minute. For me, nothing else released in 2014 betters it. To me, this is what I would have called the “ULTIMATE DIGITAL CAMERA” just 6 years ago. Today, I still feel it is just that and I can only imagine what Sony has up their sleeves.

I highly recommend the A7II. I had no issues with it besides the sucky battery life. Everything else is beautiful from the buttons, dials and ergonomics (for me), 5 Axis and IQ. 

No matter if you want to shoot the native AF lenses, Leica M mount lenses, funky mount lenses or anything in between the A7II is going to bring you beautiful image quality, fantastic low light ability, super nice video and pretty fast and responsive (but not the best) AF. Bravo yet again to Sony. I can not wait to see what lies ahead for 2015 as I expect the A7r replacement and near the end of 2015 an S replacement.

I will go ahead and say it…I have been reviewing cameras for 7 years. This Sony A7II is the most versatile, fantastic, useful and all around best priced for what you get camera I have ever reviewed. Bam! I also feel that the review image samples here are among the best quality I have put in ANY of my reviews in those 7 years. 

You can buy the Sony A7II at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. My two #1 recommended Sony dealers. 

A few more images below, 1st three should be from the Zeiss 16-35 with the 2nd one at ISO 12,800 outside at night…

ZERO NOISE REFUCTION

DSC05896

DSC05865

DSC05902

DSC00102

DSC00224

DSC06267

DSC00010

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

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

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, in money and time. 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.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

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!

Feb 032014
 

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

My/the dream team for architecture:

Sony A7R with Canon 17mm/4 TS-E

By Dierk Topp

First I would like to mention, that I am not a Pro, I take pictures for my own pleasure and sometimes for others.

I bought the Canon 17mm TS-E for use with the ordered Leica M240, but when I got the M240, I sent it back after 2 days. The main reason (besides many others) was, that the focus field in life view was fixed in the center. Using tilt lenses with a focus only in the center of the frame is useless, and for shooting a portrait session, when you want the focus on the eyes is useless with a focus control in the center of the image, and shooting stills from a tripod with a fixed focus field in the center is useless as well.

I ended having no FF body for this lens! So I tried to use the 17mm TS-E with my Leica M9 and the MM and it was no problem. I used the 18mm finder for a rough composition and very often had to do only one or two test shots (no live view!) till I got, what I wanted (you will find two images from the M9 at the bottom).

When then the A7R arrived in October 2013, I discovered a big problem: my Metabones adapter Ver.1 was unusable, it is blocking the edges and the vignetting made it unusable. But I found the info, that the new Metabones Mk. III supports FF and I was very happy, when I got it a few days later and it worked perfect.

Why using a tilt/shift lens?

If you know about tilt/shift lenses, there is not too much to say about shooting this combination.

If not, here is an excellent post on shooting architecture with shift lenses:

Let me quote a few sentences, I hope you don’t mind James?

  • Point your camera up at a tall building. See how the lines of the building converge to the top of the frame? That’s an extreme case of perspective distortion. For a shot like that, sometimes it looks cool. But back up a good bit, zoom out, and try to shoot the entire building. More times than not, you’ll notice the verticals are not perfectly straight. It’s extremely difficult to get it right handholding the camera and trying to guess. That’s because in order to have no perspective distortion, you have to have the capture plane, be it film or digital sensor, parallel and plum with the building.
  • There is a lot of misunderstanding about tilt/shift lenses. Basically, it’s a lens that projects an image circle much larger than the frame it intends to cover. Then, it is allowed to be moved independently of the camera body to anywhere within the projected image circle.

If you are interested in the tilt function of this lens, you find an excellent description here at the site from Keith Cooper:

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/using_tilt.html

Now let the images speak for themselves.

  • images made with f/8 and tripod
  • as the camera is on a tripod, I very often just shoot additional shifted images and have more freedom during PP for stitching
  • very often prefer a different aspect ratio than what I get out of the camera and stitch images by shooting two or three frames with different shifted lens. And very often I shift the lens more than recommended and decide later, if I have to cut the outer (blurred) part of the image. With stitched images there is plenty of resolution for that. But you have to plan that during shooting.
  • if I want to get a wider angle of view and shift up (or down), I use two images with the lens shifted left and right up by 30° or 60°
  • if you have a close foreground and/or have to avoid parallax error with slightly differing images from moving the front lens by the shifting, you can use the special “Canon TSE Tripod Collar” from Hartblei: http://www.hartblei.de/en/canon-tse-collar.htm, this collar is mounted on the front part of the lens and keeps it in exactly the same position, while the rear part of the lens including the camera is being moved for shifting.
  • my post processing: LR 5.3, B&W conversion with Nik Silver Efex PRO2, stitching with PTGui or MS ICE (free for Windows)

The A7R or ILCE-7R with the Cannon 17mm/4 TS-E on Metabones smart adapter III

(I took the pictures with the NEX-6 and Micro Nikkor 85mm/2.8 PC, also a tilt/shift lens, on a Metabone adapter, tilted for more DOF)

the lens on this picture is shifted up for about 9mm, as you can see on the scale on the lens in the middle of it.

The front part of the lens for tilting is not tilted, you can see it on the second picture below.

The Metabones MK III adapter supports the electronic diaphragm and correct EXIF, this lens is manual focus (as all shift lenses) and I could not test the AF support of the adapter.

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

and here are some images made with this fantastic combination:

One shot shift up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

This one stitched of two shifted images (shift left and right), no HDR, 11.000×5.000 pixel

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift, stitch of 2 shifted images

This is a 1:1 crop of this picture

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

Gut Trenthorst

again from two stitched images, but this time the shift was 30° up to the left and right, to get the view upwards

Gut Trenhorst, A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of two shifted

from two shifted images (no HDR, the sensor has no problem with this high contrast!)

Gut Trenhorst, A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of two shifted

Now some pure architecture shots

 This is just a standard shot, lens shifted up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

HavenCity, Hamburg

Shifted full 12mm up, recommended is 8 to 10mm on the long side, the top of the building is getting blurred!

HafenCity Hamburg

If the camera is perfectly aligned, buildings tend to look strange, as if the top is getting bigger,

just a bit perspective distortion could look more natural.

HafenCity Hamburg

Bad Oldeloe, Germany

stitch of two images, shifted down and up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

Three images, shifted left, center and right

image size 12.000×5.000 pixel

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

… the same, three stitched images

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

and Hamburg, Speicherstadt

Three images shifted, 11.000×5.000 pixel

Speicherstadt Hamburg

…and two images, shifted up 30° left and right, 9.200×5.000 pixel

Speicherstadt Hamburg

Last but not least:

You can even use this lens on a range finder. Here are two images made with the Leica M9 with a cheap adapter. I used the 18mm finder on the M9 for rough composition and one or two shots, till I got it right. The M9 has no live view for controlling the image before the shot! And for the electronic aperture you need a trick with an extra Canon body.

 The Marienkirche, Lübeck, Germany

Mail Attachment

This is a special combination of shifted lens up on the M9 and rotating the camera on the tripod for much more than 120° view. I shot many very much overlapping images to make sure, that it will work for stitching – and I think it worked :-)

Leica M9 with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

Thanks for your interest and I hope, you find it informative and useful … and sorry for my English :-)

More images are on my flikr:

Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift (including A7R) and the Sony A7R images

thanks and kind regards

dierk

May 072013
 

 DSC02932

The Nikon Coolpix A Quick Review – Amazing quality in the palm of your hand

You can buy the Coolpix A at

B&H Photo  – Black – Silver

Amazon – Black – Silver

Hello to all! Welcome yet again to another one of my “Quick Reviews”. What is a “Quick Review”? Well, basically it means that I have only had the camera less than one week, and in the case of the Nikon Coolpix A, 5 days with 4 days of use. When I only have this small amount of time with a camera I do not pretend to be an expert on it and write a 5000 word review (only a 3700 word review, lol), instead I will give you my thoughts after a few days of use. I feel it takes 2-4 weeks to really use a camera and get to know it fully so for that reason this is a quick review. I can indeed tell you that this camera review could have easily been called “The Camera I Expected to Hate PART 2″ because yes, like the Nikon V1 I reviewed a while back I expected to dislike the A, which is why I was not going to review it in the 1st place. I have to stop doing that because guess what? I really like the Coolpix A:)

I originally saw the Coolpix A when it was just freshly released and someone let me handle it for a few minutes. I walked away with the impression that the AF was very sluggish (I did not know it then, but the camera I tested was in Macro mode which slows down the AF dramatically) and the fact that the camera did not have a built in Viewfinder made me feel it was not worth the $1098 asking price. After using it for 4-5 days I can state that my mind has somewhat been changed on this little guy, almost to the point where I prefer it in some ways to the Fuji X100s (but not in every way). I am about to tell you why and how that happened so read on, I promise it will not be too long.

Click the image for a larger view. This one is at f/2.8, ISO 100

I was in the grocery store when I saw this smiling boy who appeared to be the happiest kid on the planet. I pulled the Coolpix A from my pocket and snapped the picture. Even at 28mm I was able to capture the scene and the moment, thanks to me having a camera on me.

DSC_0219

What is the Nikon Coolpix A?

DSC02922

So what is the Coolpix A? It is a damn small and damn cool little 28mm camera that puts out quality MUCH bigger than the size of the body suggests! But really…

The Nikon Coolpix A is Nikon’s answer to the APS-C sized sensor cameras like the Fuji X100s, Canon EOS-M (which I was NOT a fan of AT ALL), etc. The Fuji X100s is $1299 and has an amazing built in OVF/EVF as well as a sleek retro style with beautiful output. The X100s feels like a serious camera. The Nikon Coolpix A looks toy like on the outside at 1st glance but on the inside it is filled with an amazing and large APS-C Sensor and a fixed built in prime 28mm f/2.8 “equivalent” lens that is indeed quite special for a camera of this size.

The build of the Coolpix A is SOLID and feels very nice in the hand. In other words, it does not feel like a cheap point and shoot though it may have a cheap-ish looking P&S design. Below you can see it is pretty much a boxy slim shape. I included shots of the top, back and front. It is sure not ugly and many will love  the boxy shape. Others will feel that it looks like a Point and Shoot. I am in between. I kind of like it though admit it could pass for a $400 Coolpix in looks.

DSC02935

DSC02934

DSC02925

The main draw to this camera is not only its 16MP APS-C sensor, but the fact that it can fit in your pocket. This is truly a supercharged high power pocket cam to challenge the much smaller sensor (but fantastic) Sony RX100. What I also like about the Coolpix A is the controls. You have your mode dial up top, another dial to change aperture of the included 28mm f/2.8 prime built in lens and plenty of buttons and another dial on the back to control whatever else you need to control.

When I 1st took the camera out of the package and installed the battery I immediately turned off Noise Reduction and set the camera to JPEG and RAW to see how it did with each. I soon discovered that shooting at f/2.8 using the macro mode (which is activated on the left side of the camera via a button/switch) I was able to get some decent out of focus rendering and yes, to me, the Bokeh is quite pleasant. I turn off all NR on every camera I use as I feel Noise Reduction only smears the details and makes your images look like MUSH, and the Coolpix A was no exception in the test shot I took at ISO 1600-3200. I feel the output looks much nicer without any noise reduction added. Today’s sensors can do quite well in just about all lighting situations. Low light is no longer a DSLR game and neither is gorgeous colors and shallow DOF. Nikon seem to always be on their game when it comes to color and auto white balance.

ISO 100, f/2.8, Macro Mode

DSC_0255

The camera is pretty much loaded with everything you could ask for. Below are the full specs of the Coolpix A:

DX-Format CMOS Sensor – This is the big deal..a pocket camera with a huge sensor!

Large APS-C size sensor–the same one used in Nikon D-SLR cameras–features a resolution of 16.2MP. It works with the EXPEED 2 image-processing engine to produce sharp image quality, high ISO sensitivity up to 25,600 equivalent, and low noise. The processor manages image data with high speed and accuracy while preventing the generation of excess heat. With the removal of the optical low-pass filter, the COOLPIX A is able to capture images with exceptional sharpness and extremely fine detail. Micro-lenses located above the sensor are arranged to produce natural, edge-to-edge sharpness

28mm f/2.8 NIKKOR Prime Lens – I found the lens to be insanely sharp, even wide open and with superb colors straight from camera

Despite its small size, the fine optics of this ultra-compact 18.5mm (35mm equivalent: 28mm) f/2.8 wide-angle NIKKOR lens are specially designed to deliver exceptional edge-to-edge sharpness, smooth tonal gradation, highly effective spherical aberration and coma correction–for consistent quality throughout the entire frame. Capture images comparable to those taken with D-SLR interchangeable lenses. The lens has an ultra-compact configuration of seven elements in five groups, as well as a seven-blade iris diaphragm for sharp detail at the focus points and pleasing background blur in the out-of-focus regions of the image

3.0″ LCD – LCD is beautiful, easy to use and I was able to frame and shoot in sunlight

Featuring an integrated panel and glass structure, the large 3.0-inch, 921k-pixel TFT LCD monitor remains viewable even in bright sunlight. The structure minimizes reflections and decreases light loss for clearer visibility, while providing a wide viewing angle. The LCD features 9-level brightness adjustment and offers approximately 100% horizontal and vertical coverage

Comfort and Control – When shooting it feels and looks like a Point and Shoot, nothing fancy. I wish it were slightly longer for my use.

The buttons, dials and switches on the camera have been designed and arranged to afford maximum comfort. Manual options like focus ring adjustment allow you to wield precision control over your compositions. Most of the operation system and the GUI are consistent with Nikon DSLRs. The camera features a tough aluminum alloy frame with a top surface covered by magnesium alloy for greater durability.

DSC_0245

Exposure Control – Mode dial makes it easy to control manual features

You can control the COOLPIX A exposure options with the same operating system used by Nikon DSLR cameras. The Mode dial makes it easy to choose from AUTO, P (with Program shift), S, A and M exposure control modes, as well as two of your own personalized setting configurations: U1 and U2. For still photos, exposure compensation is +5 to -5 in 1/3 steps, while for videos, it’s +2 to -2. AE lock, AE bracketing and manual with exposure bracketing are also available

Autofocus – I found the AF to be a teeny bit on the slow side. Not horrible, but not Olympus OM-D fast. No Phase detect.

Contrast-detect AF with the following focus-area selections: Face-priority, normal area, wide area and subject-tracking AF

Manual Focus Operation

In addition to autofocus operation, the COOLPIX A has a manual focus ring for when you want to take creative control DSLR-style, with the ability to alter the focus plane slightly forward or backward. This can be especially helpful in macro work

Full HD Movie Recording

Capture Full HD 1080p videos at 30fps with stereo sound. The subject-tracking AF feature keeps even moving subjects in clear focus. By connecting an HDMI cable to the camera’s HDMI mini port, you can output the movie to an HDTV for playback. The HDMI output provides the following resolution options: Auto, 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080i

Continuous Shooting at 4fps

To help capture fast-moving action, the camera can perform continuous capture of full-resolution (16MP) images at up to 4 frames per second, for a maximum of 26 shots (when image quality is set to NORMAL)

Picture Control – The typical color settings, all worked well but shoot RAW for best performance

Choose from six settings: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Landscape and Portrait. When you desire further fine-tuning, you can manually adjust the sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. The settings can be saved for future use

Auto White Balance – The AWB of the Coolpix A was excellent, beating the new Leica M easily

In order to determine an ideal white balance, this feature precisely analyzes scene color and brightness information. Select normal to render white as pure white, or choose to render the warmth of ambient, incandescent lighting. White balance bracketing is also available

Virtual Horizon – always nice to have this feature as you will know when you are 100% level

The in-camera virtual horizon feature can detect and display horizontal inclination on the LCD monitor. This function is especially useful when shooting subjects such as still lifes, landscapes and architecture

Wi-Fi via Optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter

With the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter connected, you can wirelessly transmit images taken by the COOLPIX A to a smart device with Wireless Mobile Utility installed, allowing you to share your photos and videos via email or social networking services (SNS). Additionally, you can use your compatible smartphone or tablet as a remote shutter release for the camera while using the device screen as a monitor

ISO 100 f/2.8, straight from camera colors, which Nikon is always good at.

I went to a pet store to pick up some food for my dog. They were having adoptions of homeless and unwanted dogs. This poor little guy..hope he ended up getting a home.

DSC_0236

So tell me about the image quality, focus speed and high ISO! 

With a camera as small as the Nikon Coolpix A you have to wonder if it can actually give you DSLR or even Fuji X100s output. Coming in at $200 less than a Fuji X100s you are losing the EVF/OVF, Retro Style, and you swap a 35mm equivalent f/2 lens for a 28mm f/2.8 so your field or view will be on the wide end of the spectrum. Before spending $1100 on a camera such as the “A” make sure you are comfortable only having a 28mm equivalent lens on board. If you are comfy with that then you are in for a real treat as the only weakness I have found is the whole “no EVF/OVF” problem and the AF being slower than most other cameras in the mirrorless segment.

The Image Quality – Details/Sharpness

This can not be faulted. While I only had 4 days of shooting with it (and not full days either) I can state with 100% fact that the lens/sensor combo on the A is FANTASTIC, in fact, I give the Coolpix A and “A” in this area. The quality, even wide open, challenges what I have seen coming from a Leica M9 and 28mm Elmarit in regards to sharpness and color. No, this is not full frame but in the 28mm (or equivalent) world this is about as good as it gets. Take a look at the shot below which was taken at f/4 on a full sunny day in Scottsdale AZ. You can click it for the full size but I have also put a crop below it.

Click image for the full size from RAW file – it is insanely sharp. I have put two 100% crops below the image as well. 

fullsize1

Razor sharpness – really too sharp!

cropfromfull1

A crop from the bottom left corner

cornercropfromfull1

Also, at f/2.8 this lens/sensor combo can give you some nice color and depth as well as sharpness and micro-contrast. Image below at 2.8 in very contrasty conditions with a crop below it

depyth

cropimagw2

So this lens has the goods, even wide open unlike the Fuji X100s which is soft at f/2 and sharp starting at 2/8 but razor sharp by f/4. The Nikon lens here fantastic.

Focus Speed

The AF of the Nikon Coolpix A is decent but not blazing. It is about on par with the old X100 and the latest firmware updates. The Olympus OM-D is quicker, the Sony RX100 is quicker and the X100s is quicker. The “A” is on par with the full frame Sony RX1 when it comes to AF speed. Not bad, but not amazingly fast. One thing that irked me before I realized there was a dedicated Macro button the camera was the minimum focus distance in standard mode. I could not get any kind of close focus whatsoever so make sure you set it to Macro when you want to shoot up close. IN fact, they should not call it “Macro” mode as you can not do really close up shooting. It should be called “Close Up” mode. Still, I am happy they have this mode as it allows me to get pretty close to my subject about 4″. Normal mode has about a 20″ limitation for close up. 

Auto focus in low light is a bit slower than the day of course. I have had it hunt and miss focus. If Nikon had put in an EVF and had super fast and accurate AF this could have been a game changer of a camera.

High ISO Capabilities

The Nikon Coolpix A is up there with competing cameras when it comes to higher ISO. If you stay at 3200 or under you will be just fine shooting just about anything. After 3200 you may object to the noise, or you may not. Still, these days most APS-C cameras provide such good low light and high ISO shooting capabilities that we need not worry about these things anymore. I rarely go over 1600 and I shoot in all kinds of light. WIth the wide angle of the “A” and an f/2.8 aperture we can get away with hand holding the camera at a slower shutter speed than even a Fuji X100. No issues. Below are a few high ISO samples without any Noise Reduction added. The 1st image is a B&W from the camera. When you click on them you will see the ISO they were shot at embedded on the photo and I go up to 6400.

DSC_0172

DSC_0158

iso1800

iso2500jpeg

and below is a full size file at ISO 1250 which was taken in my kitchen at night

fullsizeiso1250

and one more below at ISO 6400. This is an OOC JPEG

DSC_0308

If I had the camera for more than 4 days I would have done a full ISO crop test but in reality, those tests are no good anymore as all of these modern cameras can do high ISO very well. As I said above, we really should not worry about ISO anymore but instead worry about using a camera we can get along with and bond with. While all cameras have some sort of limitation, we can learn to work around them. That is what helps to create and make an artist, using the tool one has on hand to create something beautiful.

Pros and Cons of the Nikon Coolpix A

Pros

  • Large APS-C Sensor delivers the goods
  • Great color out of camera
  • Small size can indeed fit in your pocket
  • Black or Silver, no extra cost for black
  • Image quality is superb!
  • Best Auto White Balance I have seen in a mirrorless
  • Lens is very sharp, even wide open
  • Macro mode is useful for getting in closer
  • Controls are all on the outside so no menu diving required
  • Built in flash
  • Build is SOLID
  • No lens cap to lose
  • ON/OFF is quick
  • HD video on board

Cons:

  • AF can be sluggish at times, not as  fast as other cameras on the market
  • Macro mode focus is even slower while not really being Macro
  • No built in EVF or VF at all. Boo.
  • No focus peaking in Manual Focus mode
  • Not as much charm as the Fuji X100s

Next to the Leica Monochrom

DSC02927

My final thoughts to wrap up this quick look review of the Nikon Coolpix A, and where I prefer it to the X100s

So as you can see this was indeed a quick review. After four days of use I found that I really enjoyed using the camera as well as the output it has given me. I usually do not shoot the 28mm focal length often so I am not a wide angle guy, but yea, it was starting to grow on me. If I had more interesting things to photograph while I had it I feel it would have easily been able to take on any task. The build is solid. The controls are superb. The Menu system is great. The LCD is very nice and the output is awesome with rich colors, some of the best AWB I have experienced and high ISO that is up there with the best of them. In comparison to the X100s I prefer the Nikon Coolpix A’s Image Quality. There is no flatness to be found with the Nikon. I also prefer lens on the Nikon as it is much sharper wide open and is just about as sharp as what comes from a Leica M9 and 28 Elmarit lens, a $8k + combo.

Where I prefer the X100s over the “A” is the fact that the Fuji has that gorgeous EVF/OVF, the retro and solid design and the new Phase Detect AF speed. It also has more charm and fun factor but if Nikon had put these three things in the Coolpix A and kept it at $1100 this would have easily been my #1 pick for a mirrorless camera. It would have had it all, but with the limitations of a 28mm equivalent lens of course, but many of you LOVE the 28mm focal length and that is a great one for some up close street shooting as well.

Before going to buy a Nikon Coolpix A you must make sure you enjoy the 28mm focal length as that is all you get here. It is not quite 35 and not quite 21 so it is not ultra wide but an in between.

The Nikon is great for all kinds of shooting as you can get as close as 4″ to your subject when activating Macro Mode so it even works for portraits if you wanted it to.

There are things I did not even touch on in this quick review like the built in flash, the hot shoe for adding accessories, and the HD Video, which I did not get to test. Maybe if I can get a hold of one for longer I can add to this review at a later date but even so, I know the flash is decent for snapshots and some fill, and I know I would not use the WiFi add on, but some would and the video is probably just as good as modern day mirrorless cameras, but probably even better than the Fuji X100s video. The Nikon V1 had some fantastic video capabilities.

For now, I do recommend the Nikon Coolpix A if image quality is important as well as small size, and a wider angle 28mm lens.

With the new Ricoh GR coming soon it will be taking on the Nikon head on and the GR series has MANY fans because it is known as a “Photographers Camera” with the right mix of design, features, settings and quality. The new GR will have an APS-C sensor as well so it will be interesting  to see how it compares and if it can match the IQ of the Nikon.

At $1100 the Coolpix A is not cheap but when you look at cameras like the Sony RX1 at $2700, the Fuji X100s at $1299 and even a used Leica M8 and 24mm lens at about $4500+, the Coolpix looks quite affordable.

To me, the IQ can beat the X100s, the RX100, the Nikon V1/V2 and the Leica M8 with 24mm Lens (which will be closest to a 28mm focal length) but it does not beat the RX100, X100s and M8 in usability simply due to the fact it has no viewfinder installed.

I enjoyed my four little days with the “A” and if I wanted a 28mm solution I would probably buy one. As with the Nikon V1, I expect the prices to drop on the Coolpix A eventually but even at $1098 it is a great buy for those who appreciate quality and tiny size.

I expected to hate it but ended up really enjoying it and appreciating it for what it is, one hell of a 28mm shooter that will feel right at home at home, on vacation or on the street. Just wish I had more time with it to extract more memories from the little box :)

DSC_0263

DSC_0240

You can buy the Coolpix A at:

B&H Photo  – BlackSilver

Amazon – BlackSilver

A few more images from the Nikon Coolpix A

Exif is embedded in all photos! Thanks for reading this quick review of the Nikon Coolpix A! On to the next :)

DSC_0259

DSC_0258

DSC_0261

DSC_0277

DSC_0127

DSC_0129

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

PLEASE 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 (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), 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!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Mar 072013
 

Forgotten Friends, the ‘Year Old’ Camera – Fuji X10 by Colin Steel

Bangkok 1-1-7-2

Hey Folks, it’s been a long time since I had the energy to write anything here but I thought you might like to hear about a trip I made to Bangkok recently with the now very unfashionable Fuji X10. I am continually amazed nowadays at how quickly cameras come and go and it only seems like yesterday that I was eagerly awaiting the launch of this super-sexy little cam and Fuji’s nice ad campaign really had me wanting one. However, some major travel and expense came along at that time so somehow I passed it by but I never forgot the impact that the look and apparent usability of the camera had on me so when I got the chance of one recently for S$ 450 (US$365) I jumped at it, and believe me, what a bargain I got. Here is Steve’s review for those of you that may have already forgotten it :) Steve Huff X10 Review:

Bangkok 1-1-7

So just what exactly attracted me so much about the camera given that it was picking up some mediocre reviews and some folks were making a big issue out of the ‘white disk’ sensor problem? Well firstly, this is one beautifully made and designed camera, it just oozes quality. The black finish is very understated and with the lack of front logos, very discreet as well. The metal lens cap is something I thought I would dislike but it turned into a key feature for me. I usually put a lens hood on my cams only to protect the lens from knocks as I don’t believe in putting a filter in front of good glass. I quickly developed a workflow where I can whip off the cap, turn the lens to 35mm and start shooting very quickly indeed. which leads me on to the other key feature for me and that is the phenomenal lens which serves to switch on the camera and then manually zooms all at fast apertures if you want. I find that I have judged the ‘twist and on’ movement so that I end up spot on 35mm at which I can shoot at a reasonably fast f2.2 in low light. Really classy design, well done Fuji, none of that dreaded zoom hunting that plagues small camera.

Bangkok 1-1-8

One of the criticism I always read about with small cameras and M43 is that there is no great depth of field possible for blurring backgrounds, I am at a total loss to understand this, I want all of the depth of field I can get !!!! Take the above shot which was taken underneath a motorway overpass in the Klong Toey slum area of Bangkok and the light was not as good as it might look in the photo. I was very close to this guy and shooting at a wider aperture than my ideal for the shot in mind, but I desperately wanted to keep the people in the background at least enough in focus to be discernible, particularly the old guy with the little baby. I almost made it but this kind of shot would be impossible at wide apertures on a DSLR, I know it’s not what everyone wants but I think it’s really important to show context and other important elements that make the subject come alive.

While in Bangkok I was able to speak to Magnum photographer Nikos Economopoulos about this very subject and he told me that he only ever uses two ISO settings with his Leica M9, 640 for daylight and 1250 in poor light, the reason for this was simple, he wanted to shoot at F11 or at worst F8 as often as possible so that he could arrange the elements clearly in his photos. I know this will surprise many people but I also believe that for a documentary style its better to shoot at smaller apertures if you can and the more depth of field the better.

Bangkok 1-1-9

While on the subject of Bangkok areas to shoot in, all of the shots shown so far were taken in the slum area of Klong Toey which is easily reached by train from the central areas of Bangkok. Although poor I found the people to be very tolerant and gracious to me at all times (even when they were very drunk !!!)

Bangkok 1-1-3

Back to the X10 and it’s not my intention to re-iterate a review of the camera as, given its age, its been reviewed many times by people better qualified than me. What I want to do is let you know how I found it in terms of usability for documentary style photography and I have to say that it performed better than I expected and I have grown to really like the camera. Although I mess about with and own many cameras, very few of them make it into the ‘loved’ category but this little beauty certainly has. It is one of the few cameras that I like to use with a wrist strap and it seems to fit perfectly into my hand and, as I said, I have developed a shooting workflow where I can have the lens cap off, turned it on at 35mm and be shooting extremely quickly. This is very important to me and that usability factor along with the manual control for exposure comp really makes this cam work for me.

Bangkok 1-1-12

Surprisingly for such a small sensor, the X10 handles difficult light really well and the dynamic range appears to be better than I would have imagined. I also mentioned the exposure comp dial and it works seamlessly with the rear screen to allow you to see the result of your adjustments. This isn’t unique to the X10 of course but is an extremely useful aspect of electronic screens and viewfinders. I used to use a Nikon D3 for just about everything I shot and I picked it up recently and was shocked at how stone age it felt with the DSLR mirror slap and noisy shutter.

Bangkok 1-1-9-2

I don’t use it often but, as many reviewers have pointed out, the Fuji cameras are really classy when it comes to balancing light when you use the in cam flash. Take the above shot for example which was just completely impossible without a little help form the pop up flash on the X10. I think you can see how very bright it was behind the couple but the flash dealt with it very nicely indeed.

Bangkok 1-1-2

One of the other criticisms of the X10 was of the optical viewfinder and its slightly narrow view and lack of any shooting information. For me I have found that I mainly prefer to use the screen to compose and that allows me to ‘grab’ shots like the one above where I see something that is going to change very quickly but I can lift the camera to above eye height, frame and shoot very quickly. It’s almost like using a giant rangefinder where you have complete visibility of everything around you but can frame what you want. The criticism of the VF is I think pretty fair but it’s not at all unusable and you quickly learn to trust the focus if you leave the focus point on centre and recompose so for me it’s no big deal. There is a somewhat strange effect here that I noticed in myself though and that is that I seem to adapt to the camera rather than have a totally fixed personal style. Let me try to explain, I also have and often use a Fuji X100 (another loved cam) but I very seldom use the rear screen and almost always use the viewfinder because it works so well. With the X10, whether its to do with size or whatever, I find that I use the viewfinder less and shoot maybe 75% of shots with the screen and I am entirely comfortable with this.

Bangkok 1-1-10

A final comment on the usability of the X10. Most of you will have noticed by now that I have shot all of these in a 1:1 or square crop. This is something that I struggle to be able to explain and it doesn’t always work as you lose the narrative effect that comes with 3:2 however, somehow I find that I can get nice tight expressive framing with it and I find that it defines the main subjects better for the way I have been shooting. With the X10, like many other cameras, it’s so easy to set the camera to square and compose that way on the screen safe in the knowledge that you will have a 3:2 RAW file if you get it wrong. In terms of shooting approach then, I set the camera on square, RAW + Fine jpg and the B&W film effect with a yellow filter. This wont work for everyone but it certainly produces the results that I am looking for and gives me the RAW insurance policy if I need to re-crop.

Bangkok 1-1-5

I would like to pull this together now and one of the things I hope this little article does is make people think about the ‘year old’ camera if they are thinking of changing gear. Its very clear to me that models are changing so quickly now that the previous models are just nothing short of extraordinary value. I have now seen the X10 for sale in Singapore used and in exceptional condition for S$ 350 (about US$280) and that includes the good quality fuji case that came with the camera !!! Similarly the X100 is down to S$700 (US$560) these are incredibly good if not great cameras and they can be picked up for the price of a cheap DSLR lens !!!!
Having said that, I am as prone as the next guy to marketing and my mind is already a whirl at the thought of new X20’s and X100S :) its such fun though to pay small money for a camera that can deliver great results for you. Just ignore the forum talk about image quality, lens sharpness and all of that guff, find a cam that you like to use and focus on thecontent, light and form of your shots, the results will be much more satisfying.
Bangkok 1-1-18
Well that’s about it folks. I am very pleased to return to posting and I really hope this was interesting for at least some of you. If anyone would like to see more in this style I have three free ebooks that can be downloaded from Blurb here Colin ebooks. The process is very simple, just log in (or create a free account) add the books to your cart, check out (remember its free) and Blurb will send you the link to download to Iphone or Ipad. I have found that the app looks better on the iPhone.
I have an upcoming trip booked to Sicily for the Easter festivals there and will be spending some time in Rome on the way back so I should have some more material and experiences to discuss soon.
in the meantime, safe travels and happy shooting.
Cheers,
Colin
Jun 302012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about Street? Portraits?

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

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

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

How about portraits?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 142012
 

 

Mirrorless Mania – Which one should I buy? Nikon 1, Micro 4/3, Sony NEX

Hello again to all! After this mornings post about the ISO 3200 walk with the Nikon J1, and the uproar that followed I figured I would post a few more thoughts on the J1 in addition to more thoughts on the other popular camera choices available to us today. There are so many out there looking to get into their 1st serious *but small* system and reading reviews sometimes can make it even harder! So what do you go for if you are not invested in any one system yet and you want a small but capable mirrorless camera that has interchangeable lenses? That is the question of the year it seems (or so my inbox says) but it is not always an easy answer due to the fact that everyones tastes are different as well as their needs. For example, one person may love a certain camera and another may hate it. Much like the Nikon 1 series.

BTW, this little J1 I have been using is not my camera. It is just a loaner so I could try it out but have to say it is almost enjoyable to use as the V1 (for me). There are so many hobbyists out there in the enthusiast camp that think of this camera as a toy but the truth is that just about ANY camera in the mirrorless segment that is out today is plenty good enough f0r 95% of our needs, even the J1. These are not “pro” cameras, at least I wouldn’t use them in pro situations but cameras like the Nikon 1 series cameras, the micro 4/3 cameras, the Sony NEX cameras and a few others are all highly capable and plenty good enough for most peoples everyday needs. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. but which one ignites the passion inside of you? THAT is the more important question.

My e-mails say it all. I hear it every day and get the questions “Micro 4/3 or NEX”? Micro 4/3 or Nikon 1″? Nikon D7000 or Canon Rebel”?

It really is a tough decision because like I said, all of these little machines are pretty damn good but NONE are perfect in every way, NONE. As of today, if you want the perfect mirrorless it would have to be a mix of four cameras. If we mixed the speed, metering and responsiveness of the Nikon V1 along with the EVF of the NEX-7, the sensor of the NEX-5 and the fun factor and great styling of the E-P3 we would be pretty close to the perfect mirrorless camera.

Then again, the perfect mirrorless camera does indeed exist if you want to get into the costs and time of film :) But thats another story…

Digital is hot as ever, even in this so called recession and this industry is only getting hotter every year. Fuji is coming along with the X-Pro 1 which to me appears to be the closest of any camera released or announced to date in what I would call my perfect mirrorless solution. Then again, I have the best mirrorless camera made, the M9 :) Only issue with that is the cost and the insane prices of the lenses that were just raised yet again. The new Fuji is actually just about the same size as the M9 but in a much more affordable package. They are even releasing an M lens mount adapter so for the long term I think the new X-Pro 1 will be the ticket for those who do not want to invest the cash in the M system. I KNOW Fuji is gunning for all of  the people who want an M but do not want or can not pay the price. They did it with the X100 and succeeded by going against the X1. Leica will probably answer with the next X this year, at least that has been my prediction for the last year and a half and have said so many times.

But for now, this Fuji is real and it will most likely be the hottest release of 2012 if it doesn’t fall flat on its face with issues. I doubt that it will.

So where does that leave the other cameras? What should you go for if you want a great interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that will do what you need and you do not want to spend a fortune? Here is my take as of today, Jan 14 2012:

Micro 4/3 – The Olympus E-P3/Panasonic GX1/G3/GH2 – This group of cameras are all really really good. Make no mistake, Micro 4/3 is in this to stay and have a rather large following. The lenses available such as the Olympus 12mm, Panasonic 25 1.4, and Olympus 45 1.8 are absolutely SUPERB. There are no lenses like this available for any other mirrorless camera, so in many ways this format is one you can invest in and be confident because LENSES are the heart of any system. I am also hearing that the Olympus PRO PEN may be released sometime this year, but who knows. If they update the sensor, give us a built in EVF and add the rumored weather sealing then they will have a home run hit. There has been a surge lately in Olympus E-P3 sales for some reason so Micro 4/3 is still hot. The lenses…they have them! My recommended kit? E-P3, 12mm f/2 and 45 1.8. In chrome :) Cost – $1900

A few from the E-P3

—————————————–

—————————————–

Sony NEX System – NEX-3/5n, NEX-7 The Sony cameras are alsofantastic and Sony let us all know that they were in this seriously when they announced the NEX-7. That is a powerhouse of a camera with so many technological features it is almost like shooting a computer instead of a camera. Where Sony falls short is in the simplicity factor. Like I said, it is like you are shooting a small handheld computer. Their lenses are large, focus is good but not as fast as the latest M4/3 or Nikon 1 cameras and the metering is not always the best BUT their sensor and low light performance rock. The NEX series is great but the lenses are not as good as the ones available for M4/3. Still, fantastic images can be made with the NEX cameras. They have the largest sensors of the ILC’s to date. This means better low light and dynamic range. My recommended kit? NEX-7 and Zeiss 24.  Cost – $2200

A few shots from the NEX-7

———————————————–

———————————————–

Nikon 1 Series – The J1 and V1 – You guys know where I stand on these. I love them, and have been enjoying shooting them but in order to get the most out of the smaller sensor, which is indeed the smallest sensor of all the cameras mentioned here is to shoot RAW. No doubt about it. The RAW files from the 1 series are very hardy and much better than the JPEGS. These cameras are fast, accurate, have superb metering and really great video without the nasty Jello effect. They lose ground due to the small sensor and the fact that the only lenses available are very slow zooms. No shallow depth of field for these guys right now. The one 10mm prime, which will give you around a 28mm equivalent is an f/2.8 lens. Nikon needs some fast primes and when they release these (this year) I think more people will start to see just how good these cameras are. Even with the slow zooms the quality is there when you shoot RAW. I recommend the V1 and the 10mm along with the 30-110 zoom. The weakest lens is the 10-30. All have built in VR and it works well. This is my most used camera of the past couple of months. Cost – $1000.00

A few images from the Nikon J1 and V1

 So to summarize my fave three mirrorless cameras…

E-P3 – Great build, fast AF, good metering, good IQ with good lenses. Suffers in low light/high ISO.

NEX 7 – Feature packed, superb video, killer EVF, highest resolution. Lacks lens choices and lenses are large.

V1 – Great build, superb battery life, great EVF, Phase Detect and contrast detect AF, best metering, great video. Sensor size is small so no shallow depth of field until we get fast primes.

Not sure if that makes it any easier but these are all enthusiast models to some extent with the NEX-7 taking the prize for the most “enthusiastic”.  If you are looking to get into a new mirrorless system I hope some of my words help you out. I can not tell you what to buy but if you break down your needs and wants it should be fairly simple. I will leave you with a few shots from the “toy” camera of the bunch, the Nikon J1. :)

Dec 122011
 

A new hub for your Mirrorless camera fix – Mirrorless Central

The new breed of digital camera is starting to take over the digital world and for good reason. They are small, sleek, sexy and getting better with every release. I have been a fan of these cameras since day one and have written quite a bit about most models. Since this website is a blog style site, these articles may be hard to find unless you want to spend all day searching every article on this site, and I know that none of us have the time for that :)

You can also check out the entire site index HERE but still, there are so many articles it would be tough to find the ones you want to see. I made a new page here on the site that is called “Mirrorless Central” and this will be the area of the site where all Mirrorless camera reviews and useful articles will be posted. Only the good stuff!

Want to find info on the NEX series? The PEN series? The Fuji X series or even Ricoh? Then head on over to the “Mirrorless Central” page and see if there is something you may have missed! You can access the page at any time by using the navigation bar at the top of any page. It is listed under “Reviews & More” and then “Mirrorless Central”.

Anytime there is a review or cool article on a mirrorless camera I will also list it on that page so you can find it quickly and easily. Also, don’t forget there is a search bar at the top right of any page as well! Enjoy!

CHECK IT OUT NOW AND START READING ON YOUR FAVORITE MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

Skip to toolbar