Apr 142016
 

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IN USE: The Leica T and the new 35 1.4 Summilux T Lens!

THIS IS AN “IN-USE” REPORT – Giving my thoughts after a week or so of use. Shorter than a full review, with plenty of image samples. Click ’em for larger! 

Hello to all of you here! It’s another beautiful day (90 degrees in sunny Phx AZ in mid April) and here I am looking at one hell of a gorgeous lens today. Now, I will admit up front that the Leica T camera is lagging today when it is compared to its competition, it just is and this is a fact. Yep, it is slower than most, not good for moving subjects as its C-AF is sluggo, it has a lag after every shot and will not give you cutting edge low light or high ISO shots that can compete with the newer cameras today (that are less expensive than the T), but then again, neither does a Leica M but it still has its charms and has many buying it at $6-7k, it’s the Leica way after all. We buy with our heart, at least I always have.

As for the Leica T, I expect that a new T model would be in the works by now, but who knows. Maybe, maybe not.

EVEN with that bit of info, and even though the T is not great at high speed, high ISO, or 2016 functionality (no built in EVF, no tilt LCD) when compared to newer APS-C offerings, it does one thing better than all of those other APS-C competitors and with this lens, even more so.

IMAGE QUALITY!

With the new 35 1.4 Summilux T lens, the T has some new life breathed into it as this lens is a stunner, even outperforming the M version (if it were to be used on the T) and that is saying A LOT. This new lens for the T system is gorgeous, and can also be used on the new Leica SL in crop mode. THIS IS an APS-C lens as is the T itself but it has the traditional Leica build, feel and performance.

YOU MUST CLICK ON ALL IMAGES HERE to see them the way they were meant to be seen! The 35 1.4 for the T has a beautiful way of rendering. 

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I was actually VERY curious about this lens and wondered if it would be worth a look so when Leica asked if I wanted to give it a try, I could not resist! I am glad I did as I really enjoyed using it, and it had me, at times, wondering if it was worth it for me to own just to use on the SL as I do not own a T and have no plans to buy one at this point in time. With a price tag of $2395 new, this lens is NOT cheap. It’s more expensive than the full frame top tier professional new Sony G master lenses, and those are some mighty fine pieces of glass (of course, they will not work on a T, was just comparing cost) though much larger and heavier, and again, for Sony not Leica.

For most, a crop sensor prime lens for $2350 is tough to swallow but then again, all of Leica’s cameras and lenses are on the pricey side. That is no secret or mystery as it has been like this forever. Just look at the 35 Summilux M lens for a REAL expensive but oh so gorgeous 35 1.4 lens that is small, built like a tank and delivers that Leica look and glow we all love :) Just under $5k. Makes this one look affordable ;)

If you own a Leica T though, and If you have the money to spend, you could do worse than buying this lens. Believe me when I say that this lens is a stunner in every way. Sharpness, Bokeh, Color, Contrast, Build, Feel, AF accuracy and speed (limited only by the T itself) is as good as it gets in a 35 1.4 APS-C lens.

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I am not sure how many of you that are reading this own a T but if you do, and love fast prime lenses, this is one you WILL want to take a look at.

While being a 35mm lens, the equivalent focal length of this lens will be more like 52mm so many will see it as a 50mm lens. Due to the APS-C crop factor of 1.5, 35mm is not the field of view you will get, so keep that in mind. But hey, 52mm may be even better for most as 50mm is usually a goto for most prime shooters.

The Leica 50 Summilux has always been their most popular lens for the M mount, and this lens will give you a 50mm reach (though not a 50mm character) when used with the T or SL, so what is NOT to like?

The struggle for some will be the price. Many have been wondering what is going to happen with the Leica T line as it has been sort of slow out of the gate and talk about the T is quiet sparse on the forums, even the Leica forums.  It never seemed to take off even though it has a slick interface, is created from a solid block of aluminum and hand polished for hours in Germany :) My full review from when it was launched can be seen here. It is like a camera that APPLE would create in so many ways.

Even so, many have been harsh critics of the T. When I originally reviewed the T, I enjoyed it and thought it was great for the time. The IQ stood out with the Leica X style of IQ and color, and the only issue at launch was the two lenses you had to choose from. One a slow expensive zoom and one a 23mm Summicron f/2 prime that stopped down to a slower aperture if you focused closely.

These days there are a few more lenses to choose from with the T but jumping into the T system could cost you more than jumping into other possibly more attractive systems. $4100 is what it would cost you for a T camera and this one lens. Around the same cost as a Q and $1000 more than an RX1RII. More than an A7II or Fuji X-T1.

Is the T worth buying just for this lens? For some, it just may be. For others, no. For those who own a T, it is a MUST to at least look at it, rent it or give it a try.

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LEICA = SIMPLICITY – PASSION – GORGEOUS BUILD AND IQ

Leica offers simplicity, solid build and gorgeous IQ and lenses. That’s what you can expect from them in todays world of whiz bang cameras that are really computers in disguise. Many buy into Leica just for that reason as many feel, myself included, that Leica IS photography. There has always been a mystique around the brand and while many cry they are only for the elite, I say this is NOT true. Leica is for the passionate photographer which is why I jumped in with an M7 many many years ago while my income at the time was below poverty level. I saved, and saved and sacrificed other things to own it and that camera was with me for a long time, and I adored it.

My 1st Leica was an M7, and I adored it and shot hundreds of rolls of film through it with my 50 Summicron

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I was not ever any kind of “elite” and never will be but I appreciated the design, the form, the way it worked and the small jewel like lenses that were just at times, GODLY. I enjoyed the history of the company and knew I had a product in my hand I could be proud  to own, happy to own. It’s a special thing when you own a Leica as it is the passion inside of us that attracts many of us to the brand.It truly is. So not all Leica users or owners are “Elite’ or “Rich’ or “Snobs”. Many are true working class photographers, others are hobbyists and enthusiasts and yes, some are collectors. But most of the friends I know that shoot Leica, are in no way rich. They just really enjoy the Leica experience, and contrary to what many may say, you do get a Leica experience with the T, as there is nothing else like the T from any other camera manufacturer. While not an M or an S or an SL or X, the T is like the red headed stepchild of the Leica family. The oddball in the bunch.

But odd as in good. Different. Unique.

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So in my opinion, this is who a lens and camera like this are made for, the passionate photographer who has always had a thing..a spark or a love for the Leica brand of cameras. It is expensive, sure, but gear like this always rewards you with gorgeous results and that pride of ownership that many cameras lack. To some, a camera is just a tool they use occasionally. For others, they bond with their cameras and make the most of owning that camera. They use it daily, learn its weaknesses and strengths and exploit those strengths.

The Leica 35 Summilux T is by all accounts a fantastic performer in the real world. While I have never done scientific chart testing, I am sure this lens will test out great as the real photos from it bring out the best of the T itself. FOR ME, it is the best T lens available to date. If you love your Leica T, this is where it’s at! I always say these days, buy ONCE and be done with it. Meaning, I quit buying cheap lenses as I never liked them or loved them, even though I knew I was saving money. Buy once, and you will not lose money as you will have something you love and can bond with. QUALITY.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can pre-order the Leica 35 Summilux T at the dealers below, all whom I recommend 100%

KEN HANSEN – Email him at [email protected]. Ken is a legendary Leica dealer.

POPFLASH.COM – PopFlash.com is a huge Leica dealer as well. Tony Rose is very well respected in the Leica world.

B&H PHOTO – Order the 35 1.4 at B&H HERE

A few more samples with the Leica 35 Summilux T on the T. CLICK the images for larger, better versions. EXIF is embedded on all of these shots. 

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

Hello to all! For the past 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 receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use 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 (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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Apr 092016
 

5

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

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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

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

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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

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

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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

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

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

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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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 receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use 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 (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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)

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

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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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

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

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

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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

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

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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

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

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

Feb 092016
 
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Mirrorless Revolution – Fantastic Video from Parker J Pfister  – Sony A7RII

Came across this video today created by photographer Parker J Pfister where he talks about the Sony A7RII and shows what he does with it in so many creative ways. INSPIRING. Amazing work, fantastic video and spot on. Enjoy! Be sure to check out his website HERE. Parker is putting that A7RII to great use.

Parker J Pfister walks through his transformation into a mirrorless studio. With the new Sony A7Rii in his hand he has his perfect translator. (please be advised!!! This video is pretty low tech and un-polished. The Audio is a touch off towards the end. It was a one take shot and I’m going with it.I know this. Just trying to get my point of view out there as I am re-charged as a photographer by a new way to create and I just want to pass it on.) Have an awesome day and keep on clickin’ .PJ

Parker J Pfister’s Mirrorless Revolution. from Parker J Photography on Vimeo.

Feb 092016
 

Pro’s moving to Mirrorless? Yes they are!

By Craig Roberts

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Are pro’s moving to mirrorless cameras as well as amateurs and enthusiasts? Yes, they are. Is the quality good enough? Yes, it is. Can you still sell the images easily? Yes, you can. Are the images accepted by photo libraries? Yes, they are.

I made the move to mirrorless cameras a couple of years ago and use them for travel and landscape photography. I had intended to invest in the Fuji system with the XE-1, but trying both this and the Olympus E-M5 MK1 at a trade show, in my hands there was no question which felt best and I bought an E-M5 the next day.

The E-M5 has since made way for the E-M1, whilst a faulty E-PL5 was replaced with an E-P5. It’s a great combination of cameras and I have a great set of primes and zooms in the OMD system to cover all eventualities. I don’t like talking gear that much. To me it’s all about the image. The camera is just a tool and whether you choose Olympus, Fuji, Sony or Canon or Nikon for that matter, makes no difference to the end result. It’s the picture that’s important in the end, not what was used to create it.

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That said, mirrorless cameras have some great advantages over their digital SLR cousins and whilst they aren’t perfect, each of the Fuji, Sony and Olympus models have their plus and minus points.
The OMD system works for me as a landscape photographer. It suits me, the cameras feel good in my hands and the system matches my way of shooting and produces fantastic results. If I had chosen the Fuji or Sony instead, I’m sure I would have written the same sentence about them for this feature.

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I started off buying the selection of primes for the cameras, because I felt the small and compact size of the lenses, especially the Olympus ones, suited the smaller and more compact camera bodies. I love working with prime lenses and I like the discipline they force upon you. They make you consider your viewpoints more. They force you to see the world through their focal length and encourage you to put more thought into whether you should stick with that focal length or swop to another, much more than there would be with a zoom lens. Of course, they are smaller, generally faster and sharper than zoom lenses and everyone should have at least one fixed prime lens in their arsenal to appreciate the limited vision that they offer, which is a bonus, rather than a hindrance.

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I do have some zooms and they are useful for certain situations and subjects. There are times when changing lenses all the time is not convenient and so this is where zooms come into their own. Having spent the last 20 years shooting landscapes, I now, like many others, pass on my knowledge though workshops etc. In this changing world of photography, it has often become the way for landscape photographers to earn money from their profession. There’s not many photographers shooting and selling landscape images without using teaching as a way to top up their income.

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I use many was of teaching. Through location-based workshops, online courses, text-based articles and more recently through video. This last medium is an exciting one and a way of teaching that the others can’t match. I have a YouTube channel and I also a subscription service run from my website called e6, which offers even more videos and content. I teach about landscape photography and to a certain extent, the advantages of shooting with mirrorless cameras. I will rave about the Olympus system, but appreciate the choices others have made too. They all have their place and as I said at the beginning, the camera is merely a tool for an artist to use (we photographers are artists aren’t we?!)

I love photography and I love shooting with mirrorless cameras, just as I did with my Canon SLR and my Mamiya medium format camera before that come to think of it. I need a camera that suits my needs as a professional photographer. The Olympus does that in bucket loads and I’m happy to use these new breed of cameras as a workhorse for my work.

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So, the images in this feature were all captured with Olympus cameras. They make fantastic landscape cameras, yet are equally perfect for street photography too. I’m capturing images that I probably never would have with my Canon SLR and they have made me a more creative photographer. They are part of my evolution as a photographer. Why? Because of their size, their design and their flexibility. Yes, they are just a tool, but if you have great tools to work with, your progress isn’t hindered.

My YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/channel/UCqRkV8eRVvxwVStV5May0rQ

My website:
www.craigrobertsphotography.co.uk

Feb 022016
 
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A Professional Wedding Photographer’s Perspective on Switching to Sony Mirrorless


by Peter Georges

Excluding short interludes with cameras from Nikon, Fuji and Leica most of my photography life has been centered on Canon DSLRs.

Although it functioned as my workhorse system, I was never completely satisfied with what was on offer from Canon. Issues of sensor technology aside, DSLRs have issues pertaining to focus accuracy once higher megapixels are involved. Issues relating to mirror slap and the lack of image stabilization on prime lenses also become difficult to deal with as the megapixel count rises. As I would later learn, there are other advantages mirrorless systems offer that make it difficult to go back to a DSLR camera.

Read on to find out why I made the switch to Sony Mirrorless, why DSLRs are history for my style of photography and what I think remains to be done to completely seal the deal.

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The Early Steps

Initially it was the Sony A7s that drew me in. Sony became professionally acceptable for video use well before photography. It makes sense doesn’t it? Autofocus does not factor into the equation very much allowing an easy jump into a new camera body while adapting your existing Canon EF lenses with ease.

It stoked my curiosity with regard to the viability of the A7 system for professional photography. I picked up a Sony A7II and the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Lens and after some heavy testing went in to my next wedding with that combo. A Canon 5d Mark III kit was available as backup and tele reach. It worked! Almost…

A7II + 5d Mark III wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/jonathan-monica

Although I delivered some of my best images, the Canon had to come out more often than I’d have liked. Unfortunately the A7II wasn’t completely ready. Poor tracking, no continuous autofocus when using eye detect and poor low light autofocus meant the 5d Mark III had to be used for the bridal entrances and for almost the entirety of the reception. Although the A7s was better at picking up focus in low light conditions, the lack of phase detection meant it was simply too slow to capture people in motion.

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The Camera That Changed Everything

Then – almost as if to immediately curb my disappointment in the autofocus performance – the Sony A7rII was announced and I picked up mine on the day of release.

All of a sudden I could use continuous eye detect focus (a revolution in itself), focus in low light and track subjects coming toward me with ease.

A problem with mirrorless cameras is the lack of support for firing IR flash beams to achieve low light autofocus. I believe it’s to do with the autofocus points being on sensor which is behind an IR filter. They need to be many stops better in low light conditions compared to a DSLR to compete. The advantage they do have however – unlike DSLRs – is that the autofocus operates based on the aperture of your lens rather than a fraction of the light being passed by the mirror to a separate autofocus sensor. In all my experiences so far the A7rII with a 35mm f1.4 can achieve focus even in extremely dark club environments.

As high megapixel DSLRs make the job of producing sharp images more and more difficult, the A7rII has the perfect storm of technologies that make it easier than ever:

Image Stabilization which is applied to all lenses including f1.4 primes
• The traditional mirrorless strength of accurate focusing, without the need for per-lens focus tuning
• The lack of mirror slap
• The lack of shutter vibration thanks to an electronic first curtain shutter
• Continuous eye detect autofocus, since getting critical focus on the eye is always key

Add that with a WYSIWYG view on your exposure and it means a staggeringly high hit rate. Allowing you to focus on making great artwork rather than managing the technical aspects of photography.

I happily said good bye to chimping.



Full Sony mirrorless wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/ryan-georgie

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I can’t say enough about the joys of having a tilt screen with the same focus capability as the EVF. It has been a mini-revolution. I rarely hold the camera up to my eye and thanks to IBIS I don’t receive a penalty for the slight loss of stabilization. This has allowed me to experiment with creative angles so much quicker than having to move my whole body into position. Once again it is a culmination of features which makes it impossible to go back to a DSLR.

Current Limitations and the Future

It will only take one or two more generations at the rate Sony is going to completely close the gap on the remaining DSLR advantages: speed, durability and native lens selection. There is no technological reason at all why it won’t happen – and quicker than many expect. Mirrorless cameras have the potential to do everything a DSLR can do. The reverse is not true.

Speed is the key. With faster and faster sensor read outs and more advanced onboard image processing the disadvantages of mirrorless melt away.

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I do have some issues with the current implementation however, so to Sony I say:

• Give us dual SD slots throughout your A7 model range! This is absolutely critical especially if you want to capture the wedding market. Don’t leave this to the mythical A9, put it in the A7iii. This should be a standard and not a way to get people to buy a camera with features they don’t need. At the moment I’m forced to back up my images multiple times throughout the day because SD cards can and will fail.
• Work out a nice solution for moving the focus point. There are situations where there are no eyes to detect and a simple joystick would do wonders. The current system is an ergonomic nightmare.
• Consider releasing larger and more durable models with better battery life.

As for Canon and Nikon? I predict they will eventually strip the mirror box from future generation 5d’s and D810’s while retaining fast autofocus with EF and F mount lenses. They would be absolutely crazy to get rid of their lens advantage. They won’t have the smallest or lightest cameras, but they will be smaller and lighter than they currently are. More importantly, not a single one of my reasons for moving to mirrorless was size or weight.

I’d like to thank Steve for letting me contribute to the site.

Peter Georges

http://www.petergeorges.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/petergeorgesphotography

Jan 082016
 

Shooting the original Sony RX1

by Franklin Balzan

So last week I received my RX1R camera… yes its the first version of the camera (second technically as there was asl othe RX1). You may say that I am a bit late in this purchase as Sony has recently announced the RX1R II version of the camera… but the reason I bought the first version of the camera is I intend to use this as a fullframe compact carry around camera and not for work related stuff.

The Technical Details

The RX1R camera has been greatly praised in all reviews I have read, with its amazing dynamic range, very good bokeh and low light performance. The camera comes with a fixed lens 35mm Zeiss prime (f2), a very flexible So the camera had everything that I needed, in a very compact body. Also the camera has a silent shutter – no sound at all when you click for the picture – making it perfect for discreet work.

When I say that the camera has an amazing dynamic range, I really mean it. In fact it seems that it even wins against my A7s and A7ii in the amount of information and detail I am able to recover.

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Usability

If you are like me, I am always imagining street photography shots as I walk around. It happened to me a number of times that I said to myself that I wished I had a camera with me. Now I am making a resolution with myself to carry this gem around with me, wherever I am and up till today (around 2 weeks of use) I have always been able to take it with me apart from one time when I wore a very tight jacket.

What is missing

What I do miss, more then the viewfinder, is a tilting screen. Since this camera is a street photography workhouse, a tilt screen would have been really useful to shoot from the a low point and not attracting too much attention. I have also decided to purchase a wrist leather strap, since I find the camera grip to be existent and constantly feel as if the camera is going to slip from my hands.

The Pictures

I am here sharing some shots I have taken with this camera up till now.

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Well I must say, I am really happy with my RX1R and I feel I will be using is a lot over these Christmas holidays ! :)

More of my work on www.fbalzan.com

Nov 242015
 
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From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

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

 

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

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

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That Sensor!

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

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

Auto Focus

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

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

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Manual Focus

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

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

The body

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

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

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

Menus

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

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Necessary Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

ILCE-7RM2-DSC09825

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

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

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

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

Some notes:

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

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Things to fix via a firmware:

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

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

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

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

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Wrap Up…

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

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

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

Oct 222015
 

HOT NEW Mirrorless Cameras coming BEFORE Christmas!

Hey Hey!  Here is a list of what I feel are the hottest, most talked about and anticipated releases still to come before the end of the year, and some that are already here. Keep this one bookmarked as I will update it in a month with new info! As always, my three fave camera companies, Leica, Sony and Olympus are on a roll with new products in the last quarter of 2015. Take a look…

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  • Sony RX1R Mark II – This is one I am waiting for. The original RX1 and RX1R were , IMO, masterpieces of image quality. While the AF suffered with a slowness we are just not used to today in 2015, for the time it still did well (and does for many today) and the IQ is and was stunning. The RX1R, the original, gave me some of the best Sony IQ ever, even when compared today to the new A7RII. The new RX1RII, three years after the original comes in with an all new sensor, much faster AF and the body size is still VERY small. Many do not realize how small the RX1 series really is. I hear the new one is SLIGHTLY larger..SLIGHTLY. So new sensor, new built in EVF and the same amazing Zeiss lens that outperformed even the Leica 35 Summicron in scientific tests. With a variable low pass filter that you can dial in to your preference and the new EVF and the 42MP sensor along with much faster AF, WiFi, NFC, ISO up to 102,400 and new processing with Bionz X the RX1R II will be an IQ monster as well as a camera that can be taken ANYWHERE due to its small size. This one will pack a punch. I will review it SOON. This one ships starting November 5th. Just a couple of weeks away! PRE-ORDER IT HERE AT B&H. 

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  • NEW OLYMPUS PRO? – Rumors are abound that a new Olympus will be heading our way before year’s end. I am not sure, and have no clue if this is true but if a new E-M1 Mark II is on the horizon it can only mean good things as Olympus has been on a crazy roll. So this is something that I feel MAY BE coming before year’s end. Not fact or verified. My crystal ball is saying YES ;) If so, this will be one hell of a mirrorless camera for those not ready to jump into the full frame $$$ arena. If anything happens with this, and a new Olympus pro is released before the end of the year you can bet full coverage will be right here!

a7sii

  • NEW SONY A7S MARK II – I have this one on hand and am reviewing it now. It’s not far off from the original A7s but it is so much better for a few reasons. The new body style is now with the A7SII, and for me, its much nicer. Also, with the new 5 Axis IS, better video features, ISO past 400,000 and Sonys best Auto Focus in an A7 series body the new A7SII continues the low light king tradition. This camera can shoot anywhere, anytime and give you tremendous results. My 1st tests seem to show me better color performance yet again, though not sure if its just me as it does use the same 12MP sensor as the original. The files from the SII look more “medium format” than even the A7RII. odd. THE A7SII IS NOW SHIPPING AND AVAILABLE AT B&H Photo or Amazon. 

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An OOC JPEG from the A7S Mark II in strange light. It nailed it. Click it for larger and much nicer looking version. This was at night and just a snap to txt AWB, which it aced. 

lemon

  • THE LEICA Q: This one was a surprise. I expected it to be ho hum but it was and is fantastic. The IQ is gorgeous and gets close to the old M9 look. The camera is a nice size, has a good EVF, and is an all in one single lens camera that anyone could be proud of. Surpassing the original Sony RX1 and RX1R the Leica Q is faster, sleeker and more simple. Not sure how it stacks up against the new RX1 Mark II but the Q has character, and is probably the most exciting single lens fixed digital they have ever released. For me it beats the X-Vario, X1, X2, X and all other fixed lens Leica’s. The only problem is..finding one. Leica has not been sending the Q and M 246 to dealer lately here in the USA and it has created some frustrations among Leica fans. If you can get one, you will not be disappointed. My review can be seen HERE. Again, I recommend Ken Hansen, PopFlash or B&H for your Leica needs.

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Other than these cameras, nothing is exciting me in the mirrorless digital world that is on the way or coming soon. There are loads of cameras already out that are amazing (each one is linked to my review for that camera). Leica M, Sony A7RII, Olympus E-M5 II, E-M1 and E-M10II as well as still going strong Fuji X-T1 and Sony A6000 for APS-C. We also can not forget about the Ricoh GR or Sony RX100 IV, both stunning pocket cameras. The Fuji X100T as well, awesome.

The holidays are almost here and Christmas morning will be here before you know it. To all of you photo enthusiasts, pros and hobbyists looking for something new and exciting, what do you have your mind set on, if anything? Let me know in the comments below!

Steve

Oct 142015
 

The Sony RX1RII Announced! What I have been waiting for!

rx1r2

PRE ORDER THE RX1R II ON NOVEMBER 5th AT B&H PHOTO HERE!

The one camera I have been waiting for, and asking Sony for and wondering about for the last year and a half has finally been announced, just when I thought they would never do it! Well now they did and my PRE ORDER HAS TO BE IN!!!

YES, the Sony RX1RII is coming, and this is a GOOD thing, as even today, the RX1R has probably the best IQ from any Sony camera made. There was something special about the RX1R files due to the sensor and lens and now Sony have upgraded the camera with its latest sensor tech and other goodies, and you can bet your behind that the AF will be faster. I SO CAN NOT WAIT to review this one, and my review will be a big one.

The original Sony RX1 made my Camera of the Year when it was released. Small, built well, powerful… an amazing camera. Three years have passed and it is time for a successor. I am so EXCITED!

Now, the RX1RII is on the way and I wanted to tell you about my excitement for it as well as tell you about what Sony has done to make it so much better.

I was supposed to be in NYC this week with Sony and others to test the new A7SII, and this was apparently a surprise announcement at the meetings. Unfortunately I became sick and could not make  the trip (fever and all) so I missed out on the live announcement.

In any case, I am alive and well so let me start by showing you guys what is NEW with the RX1RII:

BUILT IN VIEWFINDER (EVF) – YES YES YES!

BACKLIT 42MP SENSOR

3.5 FASTER DATA AND TRANSMISSION SPEED OVER RX1R 1

35 mm f/2 Zeiss lens perfectly matched to the sensor for best quality

MACRO RING for focusing as close as 14cm in front of the lens

UNCOMPRESSED 14 BIT for those who wanted it! (Also coming to A7RII)

AF: the worlds widest AF coverage on a full-frame sensor for much faster AF

TILTABLE LCD SCREEN 

Worlds 1st Optical Variable Low Pass Filter – YOU choose

AND THIS WILL BE SHIPPING NEXT MONTH, NOVEMBER 2015!!! 

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Bottom Line? Sony is kicking ass and forging ahead more so  than any other camera company I know. I still see Sony and Olympus as the game changers in digital imaging, and Sony is just creating cameras that all of us enthusiasts really want. When it comes to full frame these days, SONY IS THE WAY TO GO for cost, quality, features and the fact that their cameras are so damn good these days. If you want smaller than full frame? Olympus or Fuji get my vote for now.

PRE ORDER THE RX1RII AT B&H PHOTO HERE!

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MORE DETAILS IN THE PRESS RELEASE….

Sony Introduces New Palm-Sized RX1R II Camera with 42.4 MP Full-Frame Image Sensor

Sonys Latest Premium Compact Features Back-Illuminated Full-Frame Sensor, ZEISS® Sonnar T* 35mm F2 Lens, High Speed AF, retractable XGA OLED Viewfinder and Worldกฏs First Optical Variable Low Pass Filter

NEW YORK, Oct. 14, 2015  Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the worlds largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced the latest addition to their acclaimed Cyber-shot RX compact camera line, the full-frame RX1R II (model DSC-RX1RM2).

Joining the original RX1 and RX1R cameras in the family of the worldกฏs smallest full-frame cameras, the new RX1R II delivers the highest picture quality of any Sony compact camera ever made. This can largely be attributed to the new cameras high resolution 42.4 MP sensor paired with its large aperture, fixed focal length ZEISS Sonnar T* 35mm F2 lens, which have been fine-tuned to optimize performance together.

Additionally, the new model features a 30% improvement in AF response speed compared to the original award-winning RX1 models and is equipped with the worlds first optical variable low pass filter that can be set to off, standard or high based on user preference, with low pass filter bracketing available. The camera also has a convenient retractable XGA OLED viewfinder for eye-level shooting, which has been implemented with minimal change in overall body size from its predecessors.

The new RX1R II offers a combination of size and performance that has never before been realized in the world of compact cameras, said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging for Sony Electronics. We’re giving imaging enthusiasts and professionals the opportunity to enjoy a camera with one of the most powerful combinations of sensor and lens in market today that can easily fit in the palm of your hand. Its simply the latest example of the progressive innovation that Sony is bringing to the world of imaging.

Ultimate Image Quality in the Palm of Your Hand

The new RX1R II camera utilizes a back-illuminated 35mm full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor with approx. 42.4 effective megapixels paired with a powerful BIONZ X processing engine to achieve superior levels of image resolution and sensitivity (ISO 100-25600, expandable to 50 – 102400) with wide dynamic range. The sensors back-illuminated structure, with an expanded circuit scale and copper wiring design, enables faster transmission speed and outputs data approximately 3.5x faster than the original RX1R, ensuring high-speed performance.

Matched specifically for the image sensor, the large aperture 35mm F2 ZEISS Sonnar T* lens ensures that all images captured by the camera are impressively sharp from the center to the corners. The lens also has a unique Macro shift ring for focusing on subjects as close as 14cm in front of the lens and has nine aperture blades that produce smooth, even background defocus or bokeh in the most commonly used aperture ranges.

Another unique benefit of the new camera is its fixed lens design, which allows the positioning of its sensor and lens to be precisely adjusted to maximize all benefits of the sensors extremely high resolution. The closer the two components are to one another, the wider the angle through which light can pass through the lens and directly reach the sensor, resulting in imagery that is rich in detail and resolution. Also, unlike the focal plane shutter common to interchangeable lens cameras, RX1R II utilizes an in-lens shutter, allowing 1/2000 sec flash synch speed and a significant reduction in overall body size.

The new RX1R II also offers uncompressed 14-bit RAW image capture to maximize the benefits of the image sensors wide dynamic range, while also still supporting existing compressed format.

High Speed AF to Capture the Decisive Moment

The RX1R II model is the first in Sonys acclaimed RX line of compact cameras to feature Fast Hybrid AF capabilities. The cameras sensor features 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points that cover about 45% of the image area the worlds widest AF coverage on a full-frame sensor1 that work together with 25 contrast AF points to achieve focus response that is about 30% faster than the original model. Additionally, the camera has adapted an advanced motion-detection algorithm that offers superior tracking performance of moving subjects and allows for the addition of AF-C mode that accurately tracks a subject after focusing. It also can achieve up to 5fps continuous shooting with AF tracking.
Other focusing improvements on the new model include multiple AF area settings including Wide, Center and Flexible Spot and Expand Flexible Spot. The camera also has Eye AF and lock-on AF.

World’s First Optical Variable Low Pass Filter

In a first for digital cameras, the RX1R II features an optical variable low pass filter that allows shooters to manually adjust the balance of image resolution and presence of moir or color artifacts to match the subject.
The three settings for the low-pass filter include off, which provides comparable effects to having no low-pass filter and is suitable when prioritizing resolution, standard, which strikes a balance between resolution and removal of moir and color artifacts, and high, which places more emphasis on reducing moirจฆ and artifacting. This unique feature allows photographers to achieve the desired image quality and resolution based on the presence of moir-inducing high spatial frequency objects in the scene, essentially combining two cameras จC one with and without a low-pass filter จC into one body. Low-pass filter bracketing is also available and can be used to compare the effects of different settings.

New Retractable XGA OLED Viewfinder, Tiltable Screen, HD Video and more

New for the RX1 series, the RX1R II has a built-in retractable 2.4 million dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder that pops up and down with simple one-push operation. The viewfinder features ZEISS T* Coating and four glass elements including two aspherical lenses that work together to deliver a magnification of 0.74×4 and clear corner-to-corner visibility with minimal distortion. The new camera also has a 3.0 type WhiteMagic™ 1.2 million dot LCD display that can tilt upwards up to 109 degrees and downwards up to 41 degrees, allowing for a greater range of shooting angles and positions.

On the video side, the cameras advanced sensor and processor deliver exceptionally detailed movies with low levels of noise. It is able to support full HD 1920×1080 video recording at frame rates of 60p, 30p or 24p through use of the versatile XAVC S movie recording format.

The new RX1R II camera is also Wi-Fi® and NFC compatible and fully functional with Sonys PlayMemories Mobile™ application available for Android™ and iOS platforms, as well as Sonys growing range of PlayMemories Camera Apps™.
A new version of the popular กฐSmart Remote Control app (version 4.0) from PlayMemories Camera Apps, which enables remote shooting from a connected smartphone, will be released that features updated bulb and continuous shooting functionality to match the new camera.

Pricing and Availability

The Sony RX1R II full-frame compact camera will be available in November for about $3300 US and $4200 CAD at a variety of Sony authorized dealers in both countries. There is also a new camera case (model LCJ-RXH) that will be available at launch that fits snugly on the new RX1R II as well as the original RX1 and RX1R models.

A series of exciting new content shot with the RX1R II camera can be found at http://www.alphauniverse.com Sonyกฏs new community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony imaging brand.

The new content will also be posted directly at Sony global sites https://www.sony.net/Product/di_photo_gallery/.

For US customers seeking more information on the new RX1R II camera, please visit http://www.sony.com/electronics/cyber-shot-compact-cameras/dsc-rx1rm2 .

 

Oct 052015
 

The new CosySpeed Streetomatic Camslinger bag!

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Take a look at the new Indigogo page for the new Camslinger STREETOMATIC bag. A much improved version (IMO) of the previous camslinger bag. I have one here and it looks great, feels great, and holds a bit more all while being super comfy no matter how you choose to wear it (holster style or waist). Your camera is always at the ready with this bag, and the pricing is incredible at under $70 USD.

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Below, me using the older version in Las Vegas. 

Be sure to go to the Indigogo page for these guys as they are GENUINE photo enthusiasts. I had the pleasure of hanging with the owner of CosySpeed for a couple of days and Mr. Thomas Ludwig is one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He has stated that if the campaign gets above $12,000 he will go ahead with manufacturing even though the goal is $17,500. As of now, they are only $700 or so from the $12,000 so get over there and read all about it, and if you like it, give $1, $5 or whatever you can! The rewards are great as well.

CHECK IT OUT HERE!

Sep 242015
 

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The Sony RX1R around the world

by Dick Hoebee

Hello Steve,

The subject of this write-up is the magnificent Sony RX1R and some of the places I’ve taken it so far. Every photo you see here was shot in RAW and edited in Adobe Lightroom.

Positive points and general comments

Going to New Zealand was something I wanted to do for a very long time, and in late 2013 I finally had the means and time to do it. My trusty Canon Eos 450D was becoming unreliable after five years of heavy use, and I took this opportunity to go out and get a new camera. The logical choice would be a new Canon, as I had accumulated two nice lenses and a great flash. Mostly thanks to the raving reviews on this site, I checked out the Sony RX1R as well, and ended up buying it, to my own surprise.

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It was either this camera, or an EOS 5D Mk. III. That’s not an easy choice to make, but I’m ultimately glad I went with the Sony. I was a little anxious about limiting myself to one lens, especially for the monumental price tag that the camera has (I bought it when it just came out, too), but that turned out to be unwarranted, as I never enjoyed a camera more than this thing.

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New Zealand was the maiden voyage of the RX1R for me, and boy was I glad I took the plunge before going. This country has many sights that are truly awe-inspiring, and I recommend anyone visiting it at least once in their lifetime. I felt very small there many times. It is a humbling, unforgettable experience.

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Besides the incredible image quality of this camera, I absolutely love this thing for its size and weight (or rather, the lack thereof). It is also built like a tank, which gives confidence to carry it all over the place. And I do. Because it’s so easy to take everywhere, I take it everywhere. I left my EOS 450D at home many times when I shouldn’t have, because I didn’t feel like lugging it around, and that’s even a small DSLR. Another advantage about its size is that it is an unintimidating camera to subjects. When you point a big, professional-looking camera with a large lens at people, they sometimes get self-conscious. The RX1R looks more like a cool-looking hobby-camera than the full-frame monster that it is. The shutter is completely silent, too. Most people have no idea what it is (including those who have nice cameras themselves), and some even think it is an analog camera. An older gentleman I met commented that it looked like his Leica M6.

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At low to medium ISO settings, photos are incredibly clean. That said, the high ISO performance of this camera is one of the reasons I fell in love with it. I can take it out at night, and take hand-held shots without having to use flash in pretty much any situation. The results are great, and photos still look alive and punchy at ISO 6400 and even 12800. Things naturally get more grainy once the ISO goes up, but it’s nice-looking grain, almost film-like. I leave luminance noise-reduction completely off in Lightroom. With a tripod and long exposure + low ISO, it really shines, too.

I use the RX1R for landscapes, portraits, and as a walk-around camera. The dynamic range is really something else, and it’s possible to achieve some amazing results. Colors are wonderful, and black & white is rich and deep. It’s easy to pull tons of detail out of shadows and highlights, and I’ve never felt the need to pull tricks like multiple exposure HDR. RAW files have an incredible amount of headroom. After having owned and used the RX1R for two years, I still get blown away every singe time I load the files in Lightroom. The image quality is absolutely staggering, still in 2015.

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Settings & usage

I shoot in Aperture Priority (the ring is nice) or Program most of the time, and I use Manual for long exposure shots and stitch-panoramas. The exposure compensation dial on top is a useful tool for quick adjustment. I assigned the little C-button on top to ISO-settings, which I usually leave on auto with a range of 100-6400. Sometimes I lock it when I want to go for a specific look. All 5 buttons are programmable, as well as the four-way buttons under the wheel on the back. I set metering to multi-metering, and it is generally accurate. The auto-focus does a great job most of the time. It sometimes has a little trouble in the dark, but it usually catches what I want after a try or two. I set it to one focus point in the middle. Focus speed isn’t super fast, but fast enough for me.

I never really use the flash (not needed) or video mode (I’m a photographer, not a video guy). The only accessories I have in my bag these days are a GorillaPod and an extra battery. It really feels like everything I need now.

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The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2.0 lens is incredibly sharp at every f-stop, and it seems to be at its sharpest at f/5.6 and f/8. The photos are so sharp in fact, that Adobe Lightroom’s default sharpening-setting of 25 is too high and creates harsh edges. Usually I end up setting it around 10-15. Having a 35mm prime lens is easy to get used to, especially when it’s as great as this one. I love primes in general; they force you to get creative and walk around to find a good angle.

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Dislikes

The battery-life is not great. I immediately turn the camera off after I’ve taken a shot, and I don’t spend much time reviewing photos already taken. I have an extra battery, but since Sony doesn’t include an external charger (at this price point, I’d say that’s strange), I need to switch them around while the camera is hooked up to charge them. The camera has a standard micro-USB port for file transfer and charging, which means it is compatible with pretty much every standard phone charger out there, which is convenient.

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Manual focus is useless without a viewfinder (save for forcing infinity focus), as focus-peaking only works with a magnified view. I don’t know why this is, as the Sony A7 cameras are able to do this on the overview view. Another little quirk is that the camera always returns to infinity focus when it wakes up or turns on. This is something I’d like to be able to lock when I’m waiting to take a shot of something that moves. Both these things are fixable with a firmware update, but Sony doesn’t seem to do those with this camera for some reason.

I miss having an infrared shutter release. That seems like a more logical choice to build into this camera than an external mic-input.

The prices for accessories are ridiculous. I’d like to have the viewfinder (partially because using a circular polarizing filter is almost impossible with the LCD screen), but I’m not paying 500 bucks for that. Even their simple metal lens hood costs 200 bucks (check eBay for knock-offs for 1/10th the price). The only official Sony accessory I bought for it was the leather case. Although that hurt my wallet, I’m glad I got it. It provides good protection, and it really emphasizes the old-school cool look.

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Sum-up

I’ve never been this happy about a camera, or any electronic device I’ve ever owned. It is not perfect (no camera really is), but the positives easily outweigh the negatives. The more I use it, the more I love it. The Zeiss lens, overall image quality, build quality and size, make the RX1R nothing less than a masterpiece.

I would probably still love this thing if it gave me an electric shock with every photo I take.

It is that good.

If you liked this write-up and my photos, check out my personal portfolio and blog. I update it constantly.
http://dickhoebee.com/photography/

I also have a Facebook-page. Give me a “Like” and tell your friends, it always helps!
https://www.facebook.com/dickhoebeedotcom

Or, follow me on Twitter if that’s your thing.
https://twitter.com/DickH86

I will visit Australia in the near future and many other places after that, so keep an eye on my website and social media pages for new photos soon. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments, I’m always more than happy to talk.

Many thanks again, Steve, for allowing me to send this in. Keep the website going, I enjoy the hell out of it.

-Dick

Aug 312015
 

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The Sony A7RII Camera Review. A real world look.

By Steve Huff

Buy the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo

Here we go! After a few weeks of use with this camera I can finally sit down and write about all of my thoughts on this incredible technological marvel, the new Sony A7RII. As of the end of August there are many who received their new A7RII and are enjoying it. I can state with conviction that I have enjoyed every second I have had with this stunning memory maker. I hope you enjoy reading my real world review as much as I have enjoyed creating it for you.

Zeiss Loxia 50 on the RII at f/2 – click it for bigger!

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Let me start this Sony A7RII review by saying I have never shot, tested, used, owned or reviewed a camera in 35mm full frame format that competes with this one as an overall package. It does everything I need, and then some. It offers me fantastic low light abilities, fantastic video abilities, amazing snap and detail and beautiful files that print out as large as you would ever need, and look amazing as well. The camera is a true beauty, and one I expected to like not love (I usually steer away from mega megapixels due to the usual compromises involved).

55 1.8, late night low light with the A7RII – click it for bigger!

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The A7RII, when announced, was something I thought was a “Uh Oh” moment for Sony. I assumed ISO would suffer, speed would suffer and the camera would  be cumbersome and slow due to the 42MP sensor (Like the original A7R was when compared to later models). Sony was promising a “no compromise” experience, the best of the A7II, A7R and A7s all in one camera almost…well, they did not say that specifically but hinted at it on more than one occasion or gave the idea that yes, this is one camera that can do it all.

Here is an image shot with the little Voigtlander 40 2.8 for the Sony system. See my review HERE. LOVE this lens on the A7RII!

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The shot below was with the Zeiss 35 Loxia, another fantastic lens on the A7RII. Maybe not as brilliant as the 35 1.4 Distagon but so small and lovely to use. Shot at f/2 in a very dim and low light restaurant. The sensor of the A7RII sucked in the light and “lit it up” which is what my Leica M always seems to excel at. This lens renders a nice organic image on the A7RII sensor. 

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When I finally was able to test this camera, I started to realize that their claims were true (no compromise). Here I was with a “much smaller than any full frame DSLR” beautiful camera in feel, build and looks and when I started shooting it I was blown away by the speed improvements, IQ, color, AWB, metering, ISO performance, video and EVERYTHING it was doing for me. Those 1st few days were great but I knew I was in the “Honeymoon Phase” and that excitement would eventually wear off, as it always does. That is why these companies cam make a new camera like this every two years, as many people (the ones stricken with GAS) love to upgrade for something new and exciting after some time and tech keeps evolving at a rapid rate in the Sensor arena, so companies like Sony who make these sensors are pushing strong with the hardware to go with these incredible imaging sensors.

Outside at night with the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 (at 1.8) and the A7RII

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So I kept shooting and using the camera and every day my enthusiasm would jump UP instead of DOWN, which was odd while testing a new camera. The more I used it, no matter the light or situation, it never failed me in any way, and always delivered beautiful results. It was quick, it was easy to use manual focus glass on, it felt beautiful and with my wooden JB Grip, I had many asking me what kind of camera I was using as it looks stunning with a nice prime lens and that grip!

This one, the Zeiss 16-35 on the A7RII. Lovely lens that I am now addicted to for its amazing performance. Click for larger!

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Then again, I also use the Voigtlander 15 4.5 III in Leica M mount and also adore it for its small size and brilliant performance. Click for larger! 

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In any case, the more I shot this with Sony FE lenses, Zeiss FE lenses, Leica M mount lenses, Canon EF lenses..the more impressed I was. When I did this ISO test against the A7s I was blown away. When I shot it indoors, outdoors, in brutal full sun, in the magic hour or for portraits or landscapes, the A7RII just delivered the goods without muss of fuss. The Dynamic Range of this camera/sensor is astounding.

The 24-70 Zeiss on the A7RII

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The Controversy

All the while I was enjoying the A7RII I was seeing forum postings about pixel peeping nonsense that has nothing to do with taking, displaying or printing photos. Was boggling my mind. If you believe what some who never touched the A7RII say, you would think you could not get a decent image from this camera due to the compressed RAW files. Lol. As you can see in this review, I see no issues with any of these images in regards to compressed vs non compressed raw files. I also do not see any issues in my huge prints I made. Hmmmm. The whole thing stems from pixel peepers and has nothing to do with the real capabilities of this camera as a serious or pro photo tool. I know pros using it without issue, at all, ever. So that is what matters. The real results.

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With that said, I feel Sony should give an option of uncompressed RAW files just to please those customers who want it. Shouldn’t be too hard for them to do with a camera on this price level.

As you can already sense, I love the A7RII. Spoiler. Bam. BUT it is not perfect and I’d love to see a couple changes made down the road to get it closer to where perfect lies.

The 1st image below was shot with the Zeiss 24-70 at f/4. VSCO Filter applied. I found this lens to perform exceptionally well on the A7RII. The filter here crushed the blacks, but sometimes I like this look. 

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Below, using the Canon 50 1.2 via a Metabones adapter. No more front or back focus with this lens ;) 

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Before I get into all of the Nitty Gritty, I’d like to say that while I really liked the original Sony A7 and A7R, I never LOVED them for the long haul or when compared to the newer gen A7 series. Compared to what we have in the A7II and A7RII and even A7S the A7 and A7R were slow, clunky and LOUD. Todays A7RII is like a different camera when compared to the A7R of yesterday. Newer body style, better build, quieter shutter, silent shutter, 5 Axis IS, 4K video, 40% faster AF, much better C-AF, and the list goes on. Shooting the A7RII is very enjoyable so the usability factor is up there with this one, and that is unusual for a Sony camera as old NEX bodies were more like mini computers than cameras. The A7RII is very much a “camera” but one that is loaded with features and usable function.

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Using it with a Canon lens was also enjoyable. The image above and below were both shot with the Canon 50 1.2 using a Metabones adapter, and the AF was faster on the A7RII than the Canon 5DIII using the same lens! Crazy but true, and verified by many who were with me. I loved the 50 1.2 Canon so much on the A7RII I put one in my Amazon cart right after testing it out. I never did buy it as it’s not a cheap lens but one day I just might as it seems to do really well on the A7RII.

Was much more enjoyable to use on the A7RII than it was on my old 5D from long ago (would always front focus or back focus on the 5D for me). This lens keeps its 3D character on the A7RII.

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One more from the Canon 50 1.2 (see it HERE). Beautiful color, rendering and Bokeh.

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It’s all in the details..

For me, I enjoyed the Sony A7s with intense enthusiasm (and still do) because those big fat megapixels on that big full frame sensor just delivered the goods. It was the 1st A7 body that really pushed on with speed, low light, video and user experience. Due to the 12MP on the huge sensor we were getting insane high ISO performance that was previously not possibly. We were close with the Nikon D4 and Df but the A7s pushed it over the edge for low light work. Video guys were using video at crazy high ISO and getting nice clean footage out of it. The A7s and A7II, for me, were the pinnacle of the A7 series. Until now. With the A7RII I am seeing the best of all previous A7 bodies rolled into one, and then some.

Click the image for larger view and enjoy the details ;) Taken from a Helicopter while in Portland.

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With the A7RII we have a camera that is not only full frame, not only 40% faster than the previous A7R for AF and not only built to a higher standard, we have a camera that creeps somewhat into the A7s territory for low light high ISO work. We have a camera that is the technically best in the Sony line for video (though some overheating issues have been reported).

We have an improved 5 Axis IS (though it still is not up to Olympus E-M5 II levels of performance for the 5 Axis IS) so ALL lenses can be stabilized on this new massive sensor, even old Leica glass. We have a huge EVF that allows us to see what we do in real-time as in, “what we see is what we get”. We have a swivel LCD and a vast selection of native and non native lenses to pick from to use on this camera. We have an amazing street camera in the A7RII because while we do not need 42MP of resolution, with the camera being fast and good in low light, we no longer compromise here (huge MP used to mean crappy low light, not anymore). This also gives us great cropping ability with all of those megapixels.

Man, remember the days of 1MP cameras? Now we have 42 in a smallish full frame compact body. Crazy!

Take a look at the images below. Click on them and see them larger with a full 100% crop

1st a full size from RAW image, OOC

1st one, Zeiss 35 Loxia at f/2

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Next, Zeiss 16-35 at f/4

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Loxia 35 at f/5.6 – CLICK IT TO SEE THE INSANE DETAIL!

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Voigtlander 40 2.8

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Image then a crop. Taken with the Batis 85 

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Click it for 100% crop!

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One more crop but you must click the crop to see it in its full size. 

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It’s a pretty amazing thing what Sony has accomplished in such a short time span. About two years from the first A7r to the new A7RII and we have a camera that is BRILLIANT in almost every aspect.

Sure, there will be those who still prefer a DSLR, Optical VF and the DSLR way of shooting but for many, and yes there are many, this Sony represents the wave of the future for hobbyists, enthusiasts and pros alike. It is a camera like the Sony A7RII that is breathing new life into what was becoming a tired industry. This A7RII has shaken up things a bit, and for good reason. Even Leica is starting to really sit up and take notice as mark my words, they will be releasing a Sony A7RII competitor soon, they have to as this camera and the previous A7II and A7s have eaten away at some of their M sales I am sure.

ISO 8000, 55 1.8 at 1.8, Zero NR (I never use NR, always OFF)

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Just look at the impressive specs below of the new Sony…

THE SPECS OF THE A7RII:

With a world’s first full-frame 42.4-megapixel Exmor R back-illuminated structure CMOS sensor, the Alpha a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera from Sony is prepared to take mirrorless imaging to another level. This sensor design both improves low-light operation and speeds up data throughout, enabling fast high-resolution stills and UHD 4K video recording. Working with the BIONZ X image processor, these images can be produced at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400 and at a continuous 5 fps shooting rate. Five-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization has also been implemented, compensating for vertical, horizontal, pitch, yaw, and roll movements.

Speed has received a major boost with a 40% increase in speed over its predecessor. The AF system received its own massive upgrade with the use of 399 phase-detect points and 25 contrast-detect points for a speedy Fast Hybrid AF system which will offer extremely accurate tracking. The phase-detection points even extend to A-mount lenses when used with the LA-EA1 and LA-EA3 adapter.

Designed to last, the updated magnesium alloy body has improved weather sealing and a robust lens mount for working with large lenses. Also, the shutter has a reduced-vibration design, cutting down shutter vibrations by about 50%. Also, it now uses an electronic front curtain shutter and is rated for 500,000 cycles. Silent shooting is also available for a quiet shooting experience when needed.

Onto video, the major addition is internal UHD 4K 3840 x 2160p recording at 30 or 24 fps with the XAVC S format at 100 Mbps. This is possible using either the Super 35 crop mode, with no pixel binning, or the full-frame readout. Full HD 1920 x 1080p is still readily available at up to 60 fps and HD 1280 x 720p is possible at up to 120 fps. Additionally, the a7RII benefits from the inclusion of the S-Log2 Gamma and S-Gamut settings as well as fully customizable picture profiles.

Composing and reviewing your images as you work is handled with either the 0.5″ 2.36M-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder or the 3.0″ 1,228.8k-dot tilting LCD monitor. The viewfinder offers 0.78x magnification and a 4-lens system with double-sided aspherical elements for comfortable viewing. The monitor helps in odd positions by tilting up 107° and down 41°. And, to stay connected, the a7RII packs in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC for remote operation and transfer of images to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Zeiss Loxia 35 mid day sun – OOC

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42.4 MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor

The world’s first back-illuminated full-frame sensor, the 42.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor present in the a7RII works with the BIONZ X image processor to offer high-resolution stills and video while minimizing noise and improving speed. This sensor structure works with gapless on-chip lens design and an anti-reflection coating, as well as eliminating the optical low-pass filter, to improve light collection and enhance detail. Also, the copper wiring layer dramatically improves data transmission speed for creating high-resolution 42.4-megapixel stills at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400. Also, it enables internal UHD 4K video recording with a wide dynamic range using the full-frame sensor.

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5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization

Packed into the svelte a7RII is a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system. This compensates for five types of camera shake encountered during handheld shooting of still images and video. This allows users to confidently use any lens, even adapted lenses, for critical imaging without encountering blur from camera shake. This system will compensate for approximately 4.5 stops of shutter speed for working with a huge variety of subjects.

For long focal lengths, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments. Macro and high magnification imagery on the other hand will benefit from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation. And, all shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

When using lenses that do not transmit imaging data to the camera, manual settings can be used to input the correct focal length and ensure proper stabilization. Also, the viewfinder can be used to preview the amount of compensation by pressing the shutter release button halfway or magnifying the image.

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Fast Hybrid AF with 399 Phase-Detect Points

Lock onto your subjects quickly and without hesitation thanks to the revamped Fast Hybrid AF packed into the a7RII. It uses 399 on-sensor phase-detect AF points with 45% coverage along with 25 contrast-detect AF points in order to improve the speed, accuracy and tracking performance of the system. Faster readout thanks to the back-illuminated sensor structure also allows for tracking while shooting at the top continuous shooting rate of 5 fps. This can be captured in a burst of up to 24 frames when shooting in JPEG Fine L format at 42 MP and a continuous AF Display allows users to view the active AF points.

Another feature available with this AF system is a Lock-on AF tracking that will analyze more information from the scene to provide dramatically improved accuracy and stability. Eye AF is also available which will prioritize a subject’s pupil for excellent portraits even with a shallow depth of field.

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UHD 4K Video Recording in XAVC S Format

In addition to the first BSI full-frame sensor, the a7RII is the first full-frame camera to offer internal UHD 4K video recording at 30 or 24 fps. This is possible using either the full-frame sensor or the Super 35 format which uses oversampling with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. This limits moire and aliasing common with high-resolution sensors. Video recording also benefits from live tracking thanks to the 399 phase-detection AF points present in the Fast Hybrid AF system. An additional benefit of this camera is the ability to switch back and forth between NTSC and PAL operation for worldwide use.

When recording internally, users will record video with a 4:2:0 sampling at 8-bit, however, to even further improve image quality the a7RII has clean HDMI output for use with an external recorder. This allows users to capture 4:2:2 uncompressed video and save in an edit-ready format.

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Timecode and User Bit Settings

The a7RII has multiple timecode recording options to meet different workflows. It has the standard ‘Record Run” mode that only advances the timecode when recording, as well as “Free Run” timecode that advances the timecode even when not recording, which can be great for syncing multiple cameras at live events. It can also record timecode in both drop frame and non-drop frame modes. When recording internally the a7RII is also able to output timecode via HDMI.

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Customizable Picture Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma

To make sure the a7RII is able to use its extensive dynamic range while recording video it incorporates extensive customizable color and gamma controls. Users can adjust the gamma, black level, knee, color level, and more. Also users can use the same S-Log2 Gamma Curve that is found on high end Sony Cinema cameras that squeezes up to 1300% more dynamic range into the video signal then traditional REC709, for increased post-production flexibility.

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3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

With a higher 1,228.8k-dot resolution, the LCD screen will provide shooters with an excellent screen for composing images, adjusting settings, and reviewing video and photos. It also tilts upward 107° and downward 41° for working with multiple shooting angles. Use in sunlight is improved with the implementation of WhiteMagic technology which doubles the brightness of the display through a RGBW pixel structure.

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0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder Electronic Viewfinder

With its 4-lens optical system using double-sided aspherical elements the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a 0.78x magnification enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.

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Redesigned Grip, Shutter Release Button, and Controls

With a larger, more refined shape to the grip, users will find the a7RII to have a more secure feel and grasp even when large lenses are mounted. Also, the shutter release button has been reshaped and moved forward for a more natural shooting position and a decrease in camera shake. The controls also have been refined with new position for easier handling and improved operation. Button customization is available with the ability to assign any of 56 functions to any of the 10 customizable buttons for a more personalized setup.

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Magnesium Alloy Construction and Robust Lens Mount

The compact form is well-built with a magnesium alloy top cover, front cover, and internal structure. The lens mount has been redesigned with a greater strength and rigidity for extra security when using larger or longer lenses. The body itself also features greater sealing for dust and moisture resistance, providing more protection when shooting out in the elements. Additionally, the optical filter on the sensor has an anti-static coating and there is an anti-dust mechanism to prevent dust from adhering to the sensor.

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Reduced-Vibration Shutter & Silent Shooting

Cutting down on mechanical vibrations by 50% is the durable reduced-vibration shutter implemented in the a7RII. It has been tested to last for 500,000 cycles and also uses an electronic front curtain shutter. Additionally, a Silent Shutter mode is available for completely silent shooting when needed in certain environments.

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Audio Input & Headphone Jack

The a7RII features a 3.5mm microphone input jack for compatibility with external microphones. And for users needing more the a7RII is also compatible with the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter for recording professional balanced XLR audio signals with phantom power and adjustable mic/line inputs. For monitoring audio the a7RII features a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as real time audio levels for a visual reference.

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Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables the a7RII to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera’s shutter.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

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Other Camera Features

Picture Effect modes: Posterization (Color, B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.

Creative Style settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia (all with +/- 3 step contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustment).

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Color space: sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS Color.
Picture Profile parameters: Black Level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine 1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode, Color Level, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, and Reset.
Scene Selection modes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur.

Face Detection is available to base exposure and focus on up to eight recognized faces. Furthermore, Eye AF can be used for even greater precision by maintaining critical focus on a subject’s eye.
2x Clear Image Zoom can be used to effectively double the magnification afforded by any lens in use with minimal image degradation. For even greater magnification, 1.5x and 2x Smart zoom is available, as well as 4x digital zoom.

Pre-flash TTL control with flash bracketing available and a variety of flash modes, including: Flash off, auto, fill-flash, rear sync, slow sync, red-eye reduction, hi-speed sync, and wireless control.

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More of MY Experience with the A7RII

Here we are 3700 words in and I have yet to show you guys comparisons, Leica M mount results, High ISO performance…wow. From this point on I will try to be to the point and quick so let’s start with some high ISO results against the top dog in high ISO, the Sony A7s. I assumed the A7RII would be sub par at high ISO due to the massive 42MP sensor. Well, I was wrong, and this is good! So below I will get to high ISO, Leica M lens use, Dynamic Range and more. Let’s get to it!

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HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE vs LOW LIGHT INDUSTRY LEADER A7S

Let’s take a look from ISO 6400 all the way to 102,800 ISO on both the new A7RII and the high ISO king, the A7s. WOW, this is 42MP? IT DOES QUITE WELL though I would only use it at up to 6400 comfortably with the occasional 12,800.

Text that says what camera is what is on each image, click them for larger and 100% crops!

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So there you go. The A7s still beats the A7RII (as expected) at the extreme higher ISO’s but the A7RII did much better than I had thought here. ISO 12,800 is VERY VERY usable, which is unheard of in a 42MP sensor.

Also, When out and about shooting in VERY low light or near darkness the A7RII gave me no issues. I never ever ever use Noise Reduction, so EVERY shot you see in this review or any other reviews by me in the last 4-5 years will not have NR applied.

Two more high ISO shots in VERY LOW LIGHT! The 1st image we were in a DARK room and her face was lit by her iPhone, that is all. ISO 6400, Zero NR as always. Click it for larger and know this is what you can expect of the A7RII in super low light at 6400 ISO. The image shows much more light than my eyes saw! 2nd shot is also 6400.. Lens is the 55 1.8

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ISO 12800, crazy low light room. 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 – Zero NR here. Zeiss Loxia 50

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For being a 42MP sensor, this is extremely impressive.

LEICA M MOUNT WIDE ANGLE PERFORMANCE

Testing the Leica 28 Summicron and 35 Summicron up close, mid distance and at infinity. From what I understand, shooting at infinity is where these M mount wide angles pose the largest problems with the A7 series, so I was asked by a very knowledgable guy who loves his Leica glass to test these two lenses, and if they do well at infinity then it could mean the A7RII is fantastic with M glass.

Let us take a look and see how it went..1st up, a few images using the Leica 28 Summicron f/2 lens:

Looking at these snapshots with the Leica 28 Summicron tells me “no problems”!! No magenta edges, no off color, none of that..

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In this next image you can see the searing on the left and right side of the image (the red wood) which is an issue if you want across the frame sharpness. In fact, I would recommend the Sony 28mm f/2 over the Leica as depending on how you focus (infinity or up close) there could be some soft corners…

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Here is a shot with the 28 cron and a 100% crop, plenty of detail here..CLICK IT FOR LARGER and 100% crop! Corners have some softness but no color issues. 

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NOW THE 35mm SUMMICRON

The 35 Summicron also shows no magenta colors, edges or problems unless you are shooting something like a sweeping landscape using infinity focus, which is where you will see the softness/smearing on the sides of the frame.

This is the Sony A7RII with Leica 35 Summicron at f/4. Click for larger. No vignetting issues, no color issues but there is some edge smearing when shooting at infinity (or so it appears). 

The good news is that for 98% of uses, the 28 and 35 Leica cron work great on the A7II. So if you have one of them, they will do well on the A7RII unless you are doing critical landscape work shooting at infinity.

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Few more snaps with the 35 Cron. Click them for larger. 

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Detail and snap looks as it should with the 35!

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For wide open shooting up close and mid distance this lens is great on the A7RII

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So at the end of the day, it seems the Magenta sides and color issues when using wider angle Leica lenses are no longer issues, as in 100% gone, which is fantastic. The new backlit sensor does indeed fix the #1 issue we had with M glass on the A7 series. Bokeh and character rendering all are the same as they are if shooting these lenses on a Leica M. In other words, if I shot a portrait using the 35 cron on the M and A7II, my guess is that no one would be able to tell me which was shot on which and the Sony may even produce a sharper image.

If I was buying an A7RII I would stick with native lenses for the most part, and would pick up vintage M mount lenses for their character here and there (the cheap ones). I would not invest $4-5k in a 28 cron or 35 summicron for the A7RII as I feel there are cheaper lenses that do just as well on the camera. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, (the Zeiss 35 1.4 M mount is also fantastic), the Sony 28 f/2 is cheap and punches well above its price point, etc. There are some amazing Leica 50mm lenses I would consider like the 50 Summilux ASPH or 50 APO which work amazingly well on the A7S, A7II and now A7RII. Other less expensive 50’s I would buy for the A7RII in Leica M mount would be the Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton ASPH or the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar. Both are spectacular on the A7s, A7II and A7RII,

If I already owned a few Leica M lenses I would 100% buy an A7RII to use them with as a backup to my M or whatever I was using. In many ways the A7RII beats the Leica M. In some ways the Leica M beats the Sony (Build, feel, design, RF use, simplicity).

So there ya go, and the new 15mm III from Voigtlander works VERY well with the A7RII, sharp across the frame, no distortion, tiny. :) The A7RII is a VERY versatile camera.

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DYNAMIC RANGE

Dynamic range is spectacular just going by the fact that it is simple to NOT blow highlight and that shadow detail is incredibly easy to recover as well. The info is there, packed in to the file and if we under or over expose, we can easily fix the issues. Of course, underexposing is always easier but the challenge has always been when we pull out those shadows, we also pull out noise and in some cases, banding or other artifacts. With the A7RII, I had no problem recovering the shadows from the shot below which I exposed this way purposely. As always, click images for larger.

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So as you can see, the DR of this sensor in the A7RII is rather good. I look forward to seeing DXO’s test of the sensor to see what the numbers are. I am not a huge DXO guy but I do like their Dynamic Range and ISO tests.

COMPARED TO the A7II and A7S and old A7R

Compared to the A7II and A7s (TWO cameras I adore) the A7RII is like having the best of both of those bodies into one. It beats the A7II for me as I prefer the image quality I am getting from the new backlit sensor in the RII over the A7II. With fantastic low light ability, fast AF and the ability to shoot any fast prime ever made (just about) the A7RII has taken the place of my A7s and A7II, and condensed it down to one body. The A7s still has a place in my heart as it is a unique camera and it is still on my shelf. LOW megapixels, easier to handle the files, easier to edit on a low horsepower computer and lovely color and speed as well as industry leading low light abilities.

The A7RII is not too far off from the A7s in low light, which is astounding and makes me think a new A7SII will have 1 million ISO possibilities. I could be wrong but I feel that is where we are headed.

To see my A7s review, click HERE

To see my A7II review click HERE

To see my original A7R review, click HERE

SO basically, for me, the A7RII is “IT”. It replaces the A7II for me, as there is no need for both. I still have an A7s and will keep that one around for when I want low MP and extreme low light use.

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AF SPEED – MUCH IMPROVED OVER A7R and equal to or a tad faster than the A7II in my experience 

The AF speed is MUCH faster than the old A7R and its not subtle. If you have been shooting an A7R and move to the A7RII you just might be shocked in the 40% faster AF speed, AF accuracy and the shutter which is now MUCH quieter! The new body style is also more rugged and solid and feels fantastic. Sony really did their homework with this camera and while it is not perfect (no camera is), it is fabulous and quite a special machine. Well worth the investment if you are a passionate shooter like myself. It brings many levels of joy and with the new AF speed, I no longer miss shots as the A7R used to make me do with its dodgy AF, especially in low light.

Also, I feel I can AF faster with the A7RII than I can with a Nikon Df, which gave me many AF misses. With the EVF showing me exactly what is IN focus, if it did miss I could easily fix it on the spot. So yes, the AF is at the level of the A7II, maybe a bit faster (seems like it is)

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VIDEO

This camera is WAY beyond my capabilities as a videographer but many have been reporting overheating issues with video recordings longer than 30 minutes. I remember having this issue with my old NEX-7, but I have not experienced myself with the A7RII yet, but my videos have been 15-20 minutes max. Seems Sony has some overheating issues with some of their cameras when shooting video. Should not be here in a camera of this level or price point so if you shoot video segments longer than 30 min at a time, you may want to dig into this issue deeper on other review sites that specialize in video reviews. All I can say is that the video I have shot so far (for my own personal projects) has been superb, especially with the new enhanced 5 Axis IS, which is in body. Shooting with a Zeiss 16-35 is so nice, it almost seems like a steady cam is attached when shooting at 16mm.

If I were buying this strictly for video work though I would investigate the over heating issues 1st!

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Leads me to two more weaknesses with the A7RII, video overheating is one..and the 2nd and 3rd?

*EVF PERFORMANCE

The EVF of the Sony A7RII is an upgrade from the old A7R but it is not without issues that some have been reporting all over the internet and camera forums. When using a manual focus lens, let’s say a Zeiss Loxia (which I love to death on the A7RII). Turn the focus ring and the A7RII will automatically magnify the EVF screen so you can critically focus. Press your magnify button again and it will blow up even bigger, but when this happens you will see some degradation in the EVF frame, something the A7II and old A7 series did not do. There is some sort of degradation which makes it hard to critically focus, so I never blow up the EVF image that large, as it is does the opposite of what I need, making it harder to manually focus.

Other than the Manual Focus issue with the EVF, it is fantastic. I still can easily manually focus my Loxia lenses, so do not think it makes it hard or impossible, it just makes it “harder” than it should be if you magnify the screen to its max level.

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*BATTERY LIFE

The weakness that has started with the original A7R continues..battery life. For some this is an issue. For me it is not at all as I get 350-400 shots per charge, and I have 6 batteries (but only carry two with me when out shooting) and batteries are cheap if you go 3rd party, very cheap.

Many want 2000 shots from a battery charge and many shoot their cameras like a machine gun. Me, I do not and if I am out for 8 hours shooting I may come home with 40 images. Many would come back with 3000. So if you are a massive frame rate machine gun shooter, you will need a few batteries or you will need to slow it down, or bring along a Nikon D4 with it’s massive weapon of a battery.

If you are like me, and getting 300-400 shots per battery is PLENTY, then this is a non issue. When shooting video you will use more power so the battery does suck down MUCH more when filming video. But the A7RII is just as impressive with still images as it is video. In other words, it is NOT a video specific camera, at all. I am more impressed with the photo side than video on this camera.

I slightly mis-focused this one with the Zeiss 35 Loxia

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PROS AND CONS

Pros

  1. Lovely build and feel
  2. 5 Axis IS is now enhanced for the new sensor
  3. Splash proof
  4. Compatible with ALL FE lenses and E lenses
  5. Compatible with all Leica M lenses, Canon and Nikon (with adapters)
  6. Nice big fat EVF
  7. Tilting LCD
  8. Gorgeous IQ and color
  9. Improved AF speed by 40%
  10. Much nicer AWB than previous model
  11. Pro level video features and capabilities.
  12. Feels fantastic in the hand
  13. High ISO is incredible for megapixel size.
  14. All buttons are customizable! Woohoo!
  15. Sony’s best digital camera ever IMO.
  16. Resolution can be mind blowing
  17. Near medium format feel at times (to the images)

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Cons:

  1. Expensive at over $3000
  2. Still some smearing issues with some wide angle Leica M mount lenses
  3. EVF degradation issue at max magnification for manual focus
  4. Battery life could be better, especially for video use.
  5. Could be simpler. I’d love to see an A7 series body stripped down  to basics, like a Leica. ONLY for photo, no video.
  6. 12 Bit RAW, they should make it 14 bit for those who want it.

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MY FINAL CONCLUSION

Well here I am again writing a conclusion on another Sony camera. I remember vividly reviewing the early NEX-3 and 5 years ago. Both revolutionary cameras at the time that I loved back then. Today it’s all about full frame and pushing the limits of 35mm IQ, low light high ISO and even image stabilization. The latest and greatest camera in the mirrorless world is the A7RII and for me, it surpasses any and all that have come before, quite handily. Is it the best 35mm full frame camera in the world? Maybe not, but then again, maybe it is. Depends on your needs and wants, and for me, it is the one I would choose if I was buying ANY 35mm format full frame digital camera today. Here is why…

  • Massive resolution
  • Finally…fast AF speed
  • C-AF is quite good though not pro DSLR good
  • High ISO is up there with the best in the world
  • Video is outstanding (as long as we do not overheat)
  • Color, detail and image quality up with the best available in 35mm
  • Pro-ISH build and feel here, much better than previous A7R and A7
  • Large EVF, I prefer these to OVF’s today by FAR!
  • Camera handling, speed and response is fantastic
  • Hundreds, if not thousands of lenses can be Mounted and used. Limitless creative possibilities with ONE camera. It’s a beautiful thing.

The A7RII is one hell of a camera, and it’s not just me saying this. Many long time reviewer’s are praising it as well, and the reason is because it is the real deal. Many are complaining about the compressed RAW thing, and I understand the concern (on paper) but for me, I have never had any issue with any of my A7RII images that have been taken since using it in Portland at the Sony media event and now in my home. NOT ONE issue related to that, so for me, it is a NON issue. Though I do get it, and I hear Sony is looking into this as I write this.  If I ever have an issue due to having compressed RAW files I will let you all know. I do not expect to EVER have an issue as I do not pixel peep at 400%, or even 200%.

At the end of the day, the Sony A7RII is quite an achievement. Sony never gave up, never stalled, and they listened to what WE had to say. They implemented many of our needs and wants and we now have a NEAR perfect camera in the A7RII for those who just love to shoot, love photography and love when they see such amazing quality when they load the images.

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From Zeiss to Sony to Leica to Canon to Nikon to others…so many lenses can be used to great effect with the A7RII. With its in body 5 Axis Image Stabilization, its resolution and all the things I Just mentioned, there is really nothing NOT to like. For me, it’s the best camera in 35mm full frame format that I have ever used, tested or reviewed. This is my new #1 replacing my A7II. I will keep the A7s for those moments when I am in the “S” mood or need that extra bit of low light ability.

Sony 35 1.4 Distagon – Chris from the Phoblographer

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If you want the best that 35mm can offer you in IQ and features and size and ease of use/joy of use, take a long look at the A7RII. It may be your dream camera. Now I have to try the Canon dream lens on the A7RII which I will then dub the “Dream Team”! Hehehe.

Where to Buy?

I would buy the A7RII at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. Two of the best retailers on the planet.

A few more A7RII Snaps…

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Purchase the A7RII at B&H Photo HERE

Purchase the A7RII at Amazon HERE

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HLPHH

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Aug 252015
 

Fujifilm’s Professional F2.8 zooms take on nature

By Ben Cherry

About me

My name is Ben Cherry; I am an environmental photojournalist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. I’ve been using the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm alongside the X-T1 for most of the year now. During that time I’ve spent three months in Borneo and two months in Costa Rica, where I’ll be until mid-December for a conservation research role. It is fair to say that these lenses have been put through a tropical boot camp, pushing them to their humid and heat limits. You can find more of my work via: www.bencherryphotos.com

The Lenses

Both are weather sealed with constant F2.8 apertures, these zooms are built to last with superb image quality, making them up to the ever-increasing standard of photographers that need gear to work everyday, all day. Made to complement each other, this could be a two-lens set up for many photographers who want a lightweight system that covers a wide focal length. Indeed if you’re not after smaller F-Stops, then these offer prime quality optics.

I personally do prefer to use prime lenses as I feel that they encourage me to be creative, the likes of the XF16mm have pushed me to improve my compositions. But when on the move, in hot tropical environments, I couldn’t ignore the convenience of these two lenses. The XF50-140mm is a no-brainer for me as it is the longest F2.8 or faster lens currently available. In the rainforest I’ve found that I’ve craved light more than focal length, so this lens ticked a lot of boxes (not that I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat for the impending super telephoto zoom!..).

XF50-140mm-2.jpg (leaping proboscis monkey), XF50-140mm-5.jpg (play fighting pygmy elephants), XF50-140mm-26.jpg (scarlet macaw portrait), XF50-140mm-27.jpg (scarlet macaw in flight)

Certain things stand out in this 1st picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they’re not eating only have one thing on their mind.

Certain things stand out in this picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they're not eating on have one thing on their mind.

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-5

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-26

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-27

As for the XF16-55mm, this was a lens I took a little more time considering whenever it came to packing the bag light. The reason for that is it covers the same range as the XF16mm, XF23mm and XF56mm, three exceptional prime lenses with faster apertures. But again it comes back to one word, convenience. Stuck in a rather wet part of the world, whenever it does rain, it pours and the last thing I want to do is change lens. So more often than not the XF16-55mm gets the nod. Other than missing the faster apertures of the primes, I have no hesitation to use this zoom instead, especially as it is weather sealed. A lot of people are put off this lens by the lack of OIS, yes it would have been helpful… but at the same time I understand Fujifilm’s explanation, I’d rather have the brilliant image quality than compromise some for OIS.

XF16-55mm-5.jpg (Sunrise at Mt. Kinabalu), XF16-55mm-15.jpg (violet woodnymph pit stop), XF16-55mm-17.jpg (vivid Pacific sunset),  XF16-55mm-18.jpg (released baby turtles using red filtered flash so don’t distract babies.)

Mt. Kinabalu at Sunrise

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-15

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-17

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-18

Benefits

Other than the superb build and image quality, these two lenses have very snappy autofocus, especially when used with the X-T1 (the only camera which makes this a weather resistant system). I’ve captured monkeys leaping through the air, elephants fighting, and birds swooping through the rainforest. None of these were easy autofocus tasks. The X-T1 has been greatly improved by a series of firmware improvements. I am sure these two lenses will see a huge performance boost with the next generation cameras, which will have improved hardware instead of only updated firmware. To put it another way, if I was told I could only have access to two lenses then no doubt it would be these two, with the XF16-55mm just pushing out the superb XF10-24mm – please Fujifilm, make a F2.8 WR version!

What is rarely brought up is the effective focal length of the XF16-55mm, which is 24-85mm, that extra 15mm over the usual 24-70mm range is a big benefit. Expanding the uses of this lens, particular helpful for portrait photographers.

XF16-55mm-10.jpg (inquisitive young elephant)

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-10

Downsides

Because of all that lovely glass, range and build quality, these aren’t exactly light lenses when compared to the rest of the Fujifilm range. Not to say that they feel out of place though. If using the hand or battery grip with an X-T1 then even the XF50-140mm is nicely balanced. I feel like these lenses have more to give but are waiting for camera upgrades, this isn’t necessarily a bad point just one to think about. I have been in situations where I know the lenses can handle the moment but sometimes the X-T1 gets a little flustered. This occasional occurrence is massively outweighed by the general satisfaction I get from using this system over others I have tried.

XF50-140mm-6.jpg (tactile family members)

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-6

Conclusion

This system has been baked and soaked more than I’d ever admit to Fujifilm representatives… (awkward because they’ll probably read this… sorry!). But it is still working and producing images that I am very happy with. Certainly the products have more to give than I am currently demanding, this encourages me to push myself so I can reach the standard of these brilliant products. The camera market is incredibly competitive, a good thing as there are basically no bad systems out there. However, for me, this weather resistant X-Series is definitely my preferred choice. For anyone looking at camera system options, no matter your genre, I firmly believe that the X-Series at least warrants consideration, it is certainly producing the goods for me with nature photography.

Ben

Aug 172015
 
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The SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T 0.95 for Micro 4/3

By Steve Huff

Order this lens at B&H Photo HERE

I remember back in the early part of 2012 when I was putting on a Los Angeles workshop with Todd Hatakeyama and we had 32 attendees or so, which meant we all had a blast shooting on the streets of LA.

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What was ultra cool about that workshop was that we had a couple of special guests and a very awesome lens debut at that event. The 1st special guest was none other than actor and comedian Jeff Garlin who came by to give us some stand up and talk about a movie he was working on called “Finding Vivian Maier” which is EXCELLENT BTW and a MUST SEE! Jeff was awesome and he was part of that memorable event and helped make it a success.

Me and Jeff in 2012 at my Los Angeles workshop

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The other special guest at the workshop was Andrew Chan from SLR Magic and he was there to let all of us try the a lens that he was very very proud of. That lens was the amazing 50 T 0.95 Leica Mount and yep, it went right after the Leica Noctilux f/0.95, and man…not only did it go after it, it proved that a Leica Noct killer could be made for MUCH less than the $11,000 Leica charged for their lens.

Me shooting the 50 Leica Mount Hyperprime back in 2012 on my Leica M9. Photo shot by Judd Weiss.

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Not only was the lens $6-7K cheaper than the Leica at the time, it was a tad better in the sharpness department and even Bokeh department. It has less CA and focused closer. It was a bit larger and heavier but wow, that lens was a masterpiece.

After it was getting some crazy buzz online it seemed some politics came into play as all of a sudden SLR Magic was being attacked with nonsense accusations in an attempt to stop them from selling that lens, or at least derail them here in the US. Seems it was a huge threat to someone somewhere as the mud-slinging and stories that were told were just ridiculous. The lens was Leica M mount and worked with the RF meaning it was RF coupled. Six friends of mine bought one and loved it, and a few still have the lens to this day for their Leica or Sony FE cameras. In any case, SLR Magic seemed to withdraw the lens for a while but it did return and is still available for purchase in the NON RF coupled version in Leica mount but in reality for Sony FE mount (using an adapter) for $2999.  The lens indeed has some magic. See my review HERE.

But wait! Now there is the New 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime for Micro 4/3

Well, today I am happy to announce that SLR Magic have brought out that same lens formula for Micro 4/3, in a NEW 50mm T 0.95 Lens. This is a premium lens in build, feel and performance for Micro 4/3 and the fast T 0.95 aperture (T stops are used in video and are slightly faster than the F counterpart making this lens an F/0.91 or so. While it will not give the same look and feel as the full frame version, it will offer a flavor of that look for a fraction of the cost and will be one hell of a manual lens for your Olympus or Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras. It will also be a fraction of the LM version, coming in at $999.

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Now, all Micro 4/3 shooters realize (or at least I hope they do) that the sensor in our cameras will double the effective focal length of any lens attached, which is why Olympus sells the 25 f/1.8, to mimic a fast 50mm. So naturally this 50mm T .95 will now give us an effective focal length of 100mm, which is quite long for my tastes. I am a tried and true 50mm guy, sometimes 35mm and sometimes even 28mm. But 100mm? Not so much. This was a concern of mine when Andrew Chan sent over the new 50mm T 0.95 for me to test..that 100mm reach means not so good for indoor work.

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About a day or two after I received the lens my worry subsided as I remembered that no matter what lens you have on your camera, you can always find shots to fit it and make it work if you truly open your eyes and look for shots. You know, the old saying “zoom with your feet”, well that rings true here.

I took the camera with me along with friends and family to Las Vegas and enjoyed testing it out in various lighting situations. What I soon found out is that when wide open at T 0.95 there is a very SLIGHT softness. VERY slight. But stop this lens down to T 1.1 or 1.4 and you have an amazingly sharp and crisp lens that has some serious POP to it, and I mean amazing sharpness to the level of some glass that will set you back much more than this.

I believe SLR Magic designed this lens as a video tool primarily but it is equally as nice as a photo tool. With its smooth click-less aperture and medium focus throw it feels delightful on my E-M5II Titanium Edition. It looks awesome as well. The slide out hood is reminiscent of the Leica 5o Summilux ASPH, quality all the way around in regards to fit finish and feel.

This shot was taken at T 1.1 to give a tad more crispness to the subject. This could have worked at T 0.95 but I found that I preferred using this lens from T 1.1  to T 1.4 most of the time. 

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This one is at T 0.95 and I focused on the upper most piercing. It is also up close at its minimum focus distance, which is also why we see a tad bit of softness and glow.

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So what do I think of the lens after using it non stop for a while? I do really enjoy it, but at the same time it is a specialty lens. I would use it if I wanted a nice portrait with shallow DOF. I would stop down to f/2 for max pop and detail as well as making it easier to nail the focus (when wide open it is very tough to 100% nail focus as T 0.95 has paper-thin depth of field). I would use this lens in low light or night-time situations when I needed the maximum light sucking capabilities. I would use this lens whenever I was in a manual focus kind of mood when using my Micro 4/3 camera or if I wanted an artsy look. I would use this lens for video interviews as well or even some street work. So yes…

It is versatile.

You must click images for better view. 

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What about detail? How sharp is this lens?

As I hinted at already, this lens sharpens up DRAMATICALLY when stopping down just slightly to T 1.1 or T 1.4. Wide open at T 0.95 it is a tad dreamy and slowly and unsharp. Take a look at the crops:

YOU MUST click on the images to see them larger and with full 100% crops! 

1st image is shot wide open at T 0.95…click it to see the crop..

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The next image was stopped down to T 1.4, look how much sharper it gets..like it “snaps” into place and becomes another lens..

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Below is a full size image from RAW, click it to see to full size. Shot at f/4

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The lens is not perfect though, and as I mentioned in my video overview above, it does have some CA (Purple Fringing) in high contrast situations. The thing here is though is that all fast primes like this have CA, all of them (when used on digital). Some cameras now remove this in camera before you see the image. Leica, Canon, Nikon..all have CA in their fast primes. So if you shoot this lens wide open, and take a picture of a high contrast scene with metal or glass, look out for some CA. As you stop down this will go away and I did not have any issues once I stopped down to just T 1.1. Below is an example of the CA you can expect when shooting wide open and in a high contrast situation..

Click images below to see them larger…examples of CA in high contrast areas when shooting wide open..

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So all in all, the new SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime lens for Micro 4/3 is a winner in my book. When SLR Magic wants to put out quality, they do and can. This lens is a solution for anyone wanting a shallow DOF option for their little M 4/3 camera or for those who shoot lots of video or for those who need a lens for ultra low light to keep the ISO down or even for those who want to shoot some nice creamy portraits.

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What this lens is NOT

What this lens is NOT is perfect. DO not expect to shoot a scene and get an image that looked like it came from a Leica M and 50 APO cron. This is what I call a “character lens” when shot wide open, and this is good as character is unique from lens to lens and it’s always nice to have these options in your toolbox. So if you shoot at T 0.95 do not expect across the frame sharpness, instead expect a nice almost dreamy kind of look. In fact this is probably the look that is attracting you to this lens!

Click any image for larger and better versions! I love the deep blue and shadows in this 1st shot. The 2nd blue man is a ball of blur when shooting at T 0.95.

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If you click the image below you can see how sharp this gets by T 1.1..I focused on his face/eyes..

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My final word on the new SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Micro 4/3 Lens…

With so many lenses out today for Micro 4/3, and 98% of them being fantastic, how do you know which lenses to invest in and which ones to skip? Well, you don’t! All you can do is read reviews, look at samples and decide what works for YOU. If you enjoy the images here, the Bokeh, the color, the way this lens renders on an Olympus E-M5II AND you do not mind manual focus, and you want a solid well made lens that will last you a lifetime..then this just may be what you have been looking for.

What separates this lens from a lens like the Panasonic Nocticron that offers a 42.5 f/1.2 design with auto focus and gorgeous color and IQ is about $400 and with the Nocticron you get a much larger lens as well. You can see that review HERE to compare the images. The Nocticron is beauty and will give you an 85mm equivalent instead of 100mm. It will give you f/1.2 instead of T 0.95 (more like F 0.91) and at T 1.2 I’d put the SLR Magic up against the Nocticron any day and while it will not replicate the look of the Nocticron it will offer you its own look and character. You do lose Auto Focus but some prefer this as it slows us down, makes us think about the shot. So all up to YOU, the user.

Then we have lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8 which gives us 150mm, for me, too long for every day and indoor use though it is also a beauty. At the end of the day I enjoyed the SLR Magic lens. The 50MM T 0.95 Hyperprime is a premium lens, with much of the character from their legendary M mount version at 1/4 the price, which is nice and I have no complaints. ;)

To have yet another option for those of us who shoot Micro 4/3 is a good thing, selection and choice is wonderful :)

Where to Order?

If you want to order the SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 for Micro 4/3 you can do so HERE at B&H Photo who is an authorized SLR Magic Dealer. The price is $999.

A few more snaps below using the SLR Magic T 0.95 from wide open to T 1.4…

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HLPHH

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