Dec 192014
 

Best Christmas Deal Yet. Nikon Coolpix A, $700 OFF!

The fabulous Nikon Coolpix A, the pocket APS-C IQ monster that sold for $1100 since launch has now sunken to an amazing LOW price for the Silver model (which looks really sharp in person). Do not pay $1099, nope! B&H Photo is blowing out the silver Coolpix A for $399. THIS my friends is the best deal of the year I think.

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You can see my Coolpix A review HERE, and then if you want one at this special price of $399 B&H Photo is even including FREE Next Day Shipping! Wowzers! Thanks to Brad Husick for the tip!

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You can also add the nice $399 OVF to the camera and save $300 on that as well! So you can get the camera and OVF for $499 total, free next day air shipping!

CLICK HERE TO SEE OR TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS DEAL (WHILE SUPPLIES LAST)!

Dec 182014
 

From a Nikon D800 (DSLR) to Olympus and Fuji (Mirrorless)

by Robin Schimko

Three months ago I had the opportunity to do a reportage on a sailing boat cruising along the coastline of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea. Last year I did the same thing in the Caribbean but this time I didn’t bring a heavy and bulky DSLR, since I‘ve gone fully mirrorless at the beginning of 2014. For this trip I brought a Fuji X-T1, 23/1.4, Samyang 12/2, Samyang 8/2.8 fisheye and of course my Olympus E-M1, 42.5/1.2 and 75/1.8 with me. I was basically covered for almost any possible situation and at the same time my kit was relatively lightweight and compact.

The day I arrived I met up with my client and the moment he saw my gear he became skeptical. For him it was hard to believe that a camera this small is able to deliver good image quality and a certain look that screams “professionally” taken images. He was very pleased with the images I took in the Caribbean with my D800. So I gave him my tablet to have a look at some of my pictures I took prior this trip just to make him feel more secure and it worked fine.

So, how did it work out?

Well, the mirroless set up had two major advantages over my former D800. The first one is really obvious and that is the small form factor and the light weight. Compared to my DSLR, the Fuji for instance with attached lens is less than half the weight and that makes a huge difference. On a shaky sailing boat it can be really tough to move around safely, especially if you’re carrying heavy gear which needs to be secured with one hand to make sure it’s not bumping into something or someone. The mirrorless kit was much easier to handle and it was a breeze to use. Attached to the Fuji was the Easy Slider by Artisan & Artist which allowed me fit the camera very tightly to my chest, so I could use both hands to secure myself in case I needed to. With a bulky DSLR that would have been much more uncomfortable over the duration of a whole day or at least a couple of hours. The second advantage was the ability to shoot from the hip incorporating the tilting screen. When you look through the viewfinder it can easily happen that you punch yourself in the face with the camera and yeah that had happened to me in the past. :D Like I wrote before, the boat is constantly shaking around and the intensity of those shakes can vary randomly.

In two weeks there was only one thing I wasn’t really keen about and that’s the battery life. Especially the X-T1 tends to eat batteries very quickly and that did concern me. One could say that this is not a big issue if you bring enough spare ones. That’s totally true and I had five batteries with me, but I had no idea that these batteries had to last up to three days. Last year I could recharge every day, but not this time. The boat was quite old and electricity was only available every now and then. That was indeed the only issue I had using mirrorless cameras.

The sailing itself again was a very nice experience. The first week the weather was crazy good and we did sail a lot. The second week everything changed dramatically not just the crew and the second boat that joined us, but also the weather. There was a storm approaching and we couldn’t leave the harbor for two days. Eventually we left on the third day, but the sea was still very rough and half of the crew got seasick. Luckily I wasn’t one of them, but taking photos was almost impossible without a waterproof housing, because every couple of minutes there was a big wave coming in.

Here are some shots I took during my trip and if you like my work, you can follow me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture)
or check out my blog (http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/)

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Dec 012014
 

Nikon Coolpix A Deal, over 65% off! $300 off OVF!

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Here is yet another killer deal some of you may have missed.

The SUPERB Nikon Coolpix A, the camera with a 28mm fixed lens and an APS-C sized sensor that fits in your pocket is more than 60% off. Instead of $1100, this camera has been marked down to $499 and the coolest part? Buy the Optical ViewFinder and you will save $300 on that piece alone! Instead of $396 for the OVF you can bundle it with the Coolpix A purchase for $96! So you can get a camera setup that would have costed you $1500 a few weeks ago for under $600!

You can see my review of this camera HERE.

To take advantage of this deal (only while supplies last I am told) CLICK HERE and see this deal at B&H Photo NOW!

The link above will take you direct to the camera in BLACK or SILVER as well as the OVF in BLACK OR SILVER!

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Dec 012014
 

The Nikon Df with Zeiss Zf.2 Lenses

by Sebastian Bey Haut

Dear Steve,

I’ve been fortunate to have you publish my user report ( Fuji X-Pro1 / Zeiss Touit in Varanasi) in last February. I received very pleasing comments from your readers, which gave me enough confidence to submit my images more widely… As a result I recently exhibited my work in an important photo festival in France and got a few shots published in magazines. It has been highly motivating and made my interest for photography grow even more!

I still have my Fuji but enriched my gear list since my trip to India with a Nikon DF and two Zeiss ZF2 lenses, the 21mm 2,8 and 50mm 1,4.

I have always been attracted by manual focusing, but I did not want to do it via an EVF nor by manipulating a lousy focus ring made for autofocus (tried, and did not like it).

Photography is a hobby and I don’t need it to feed my family, I’m thus free to choose whatever gear I like without any technical constraints… Which is why I indulged my self with this new kit, starting with the lenses. The Zeiss ZF2 are 100% made for manual focusing: manipulating the focus ring is a joy, and their sturdy metal construction with almost no electronics will let me enjoy them for as long as there is a Nikon F mount camera on the market. It might be purely psychological, but this unlimited life time is really helping in the buying decision as I really see myself with my two Zeiss mounted on a DF 15 in 2034.

*The Ultimate Dream Zeiss Zf Lens kit for Nikon with case*

I’ll not discuss the technical merits of the lenses in details as there already are many reviews available. The only thing I want to emphasize on is the pleasure one has in using them during the “picture taking” process. It’s very easy to zone focus using their distance scale and there is no front / back focus to mess with. The 21mm is objectively superior to the 50mm in terms of pure image quality, but both have the same “Zeiss” color rendition and micro contrast that make your shots much more beautiful and alive.

After choosing the lenses then came the question of the body. The Df was a pretty obvious choice for me as I did not want to “waste” my money in buying a “pro” autofocus system and never use it because of the manual lenses… Much has been said about the Df which might be far from perfect on the paper… But once again what matters to me is the pleasure of using it, which is far superior than the one I have with my D300 for example. The small size, the D4 sensor, the dials, and (let’s be honest) the look make it the exact “fun” camera I was looking for.

I’ll mostly use it for street and travel photography: the old school “retro” design is very un-intimidating, even cheap looking for non connoisseurs. Manual focusing is very easy and the high iso capabilities allow to close the aperture to f8 to get enough depth of field for zone focusing in most of the lighting situations.

I matched it with a Gariz leather half case (perfect to get a bit of extra grip without adding too much bulk), a Roberu canvas strap, a Nikon DK17m magnifier to make focusing even easier, and cherry on the cake and absolute must have for any serious photographer: a soft release ! (the Nikon ebonite one – I fully assume my hipster tastes :) )

I had my first serious photo trip with the Df in NYC in October, here are the resulting images.

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More are available on my 500px: https://500px.com/Sebastien_Bey_Haut

Thanks for reading

Sebastien

Nov 032014
 

NIKONADEAL

B&H Photo is having a big sale on the Nikon Coolpix A (which I think does a bit better than the Ricoh GR). It feels great, is made to a high standard and has the large APS-C with superb color and sharpness. At launch it was a bit pricey but now you can get a brand new Coolpix A WITH the $395 finder for FREE for a grand total of $699 – Saving  $400 (they ran out of the finder). This camera launched at $1099 and I loved it, you can see my review HERE. At $699 with finder, it is a great buy for anyone looking for a great all around compact large sensor camera with beautiful IQ.

YOU CAN VIEW IT OR BUY IT HERE

 

Oct 292014
 

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First Week with the Nikon Coolpix A

by Julien Hautcoeur

Hello Steve,

I’m Julien Hautcoeur from Bust it Away Photography.

You posted one of my blog posts that I sent to you last February about the Voigtlander 40mm F2 Ultron.
Thank you very much for that; it was very nice.

I wanted to share with you the rest of my experience. I still have the Voigtlander 40mm and I love it so much that I also got the 58mm f1.4 to add-on my D700. As I really love wide angle lenses I was thinking of getting the Voigtlander 28mm f2.8, which is the same size as the 40mm. But even if those lenses are pancakes and make my D700 less bulky, it is still not a very pocketable solution.

After hours of thinking and hesitation (as usual with cameras) about getting the Voigtlander or an other alternative, I found a refurbished Coolpix A for a very reasonable price.  When this camera was released last year I went to see and try it in my local store and I really liked the feeling.
It is a robust and very small camera with a high quality sensor and a nice 28mm (FX equivalent) f2.8 lens.  It’s only problem is its price which is debatable.

Anyway, the refurbished price was low enough to make me order it and I received it just before a two-day trip in a yurt in the middle Gatineau Park close to Ottawa, Canada. I took it with me and decided to only use this new camera. I had the D700 in my bag in case the Coolpix A’s battery would be too short, but finally I got enough to cover the whole week-end.

My experience with the Coolpix A has been really great, the biggest advantage compared to my DSLR is definitively that I don’t disturb people, it is very quiet and discreet in my hand. My main concern was the AF, but by using the Fn1 button set on AF-ON it is quite responsive and I have been satisfied with it.

The most important point is that I got pictures that I am happy with. The 28mm if wide enough to be close to people and to get that life feeling.  It also captures beautiful landscapes as well as details. The low Iso are very clean, and I used it up to 2000 Iso. The color pops and it fits quite well in my Nikon D700 flow. You probably understand that I’m happy with my choice.

The Coolpix A won’t replace my DSLR, but it will be my little camera option for my every day photo opportunities: 28mm on the Coolpix A and 40mm on the D700.

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Thank you
Regards,

Julien Hautcoeur @ Bust it Away Photography

http://bustitawayphotography.com
https://www.facebook.com/BustItAwayPhotography
http://bustitaway.tumblr.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustitaway/

Oct 262014
 

Quick Comparison EOS M, Nikon Coolpix A and Nikon 1 V3

By Noel Beharis

Dear Steve

I am a Nikon fan. I have a respectable Nikon collection starting from the Nikon F Photomic through to a Nikon D3. I also love Leicas and Hasseblads. I have collected a few of each camera brands over the years.

Recently I returned from Europe. I carried with me my Hasselblad H3d-31 II, a Panasonic GH4 for videos and the Canon EOS M which seems to be the most unloved Compact System Camera out there. Travelling to several cities over a short period of time made me realised that carrying around a Hasselblad H3d-31 was painful Carrying the Panasonic GH4 was necessary as my daughter sang at Notre Dame and the EOS M was the camera I reached for first because it was the fastest lightest camera of the group.

It’s image quality was decent with it’s APS-C sensor. The touch screen was great. Just touch the part of the screen you want the camera to focus on and presto, the meters on that spot and takes the image. Very quick. I used it almost exclusively with the Canon 11-18 lens (18-28 equivalent). When you want the whole scene, it took it all in with a minimum of fuss.

As for image quality, I will let the images speak for themselves.

Canon EOS M Images

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It’s no medium format camera but for a travel compact with interchangeable lenses, it can take the odd award-winning shot if you try hard enough. I found using menus to navigate between P, A, S & M annoying but that is the price you pay for compact size. It could handle any situation without a sweat. Great thing about it aside from it’s image quality, there are many Gypsies that occupy the streets of major cities in Europe, no one cared about the EOS M or thought twice that I had a digital camera. If I lost it, it wasn’t that expensive. These Gypsies have expensive tastes and they will follow you if they see you with a Leica. The practical side to owning a Leica is that you need to think as Noah did. If you don’t travel in pairs, you just don’t travel. You need that other person to have your back while you are shooting.

They are frightened though of the H3D because it would cause significant damage if I used it in the same way one uses a Baseball bat or a Cricket bat (I do live in Australia. We play Circket. Losing a Leica because you came out second best to the Gypsy lunging for your camera while you are taking a photo of St Charles Bridge in Prague or Montmarte in Paris is definitely not Cricket. Thankfully, it didn’t happen to me. In case you were trying to guess, I went to Paris, Stuttgart, Berlin. Prague, Chania, Thessalonika and Helsinki. From 2400 photos, there are a few images to go through.

Given the number of cities I visited, I came home with a back ache carrying cameras. I nearly had heart failure when there was no overhead luggage space on the aircraft and my camera bag, Hasselblad and all when in the cargo hold. I thought it was lost forever. It wasn’t. I was shocked. I was ropeable and none of my family wanted to be with me until my camera bag with all the cameras returned to me intact. At least I had travel insurance but still, Hasselblads are not the easiest things to replace. Neither are aching backs!

Where do my Nikons come into this? I needed something that could do the work of bigger cameras and fit in my pocket. I also needed to cut down on what I carried with me. I needed to be light and nimble. The camera had to be fast and pack a punch quickly. Much that I like the Leica M, manually focussing a moving target is not one of those things often done quickly. You need to anticipate the moment. Sometimes, you can be tone deaf to the moment. Further, your average relative that wants a happy snap gets impatient waiting for you to set the camera up. Traffic and bystanders often get in your way. That fleeting moment you want, the kiss on the footpath or the growling cat at the zoo just won’t wait for you. The EOS M has its limitations. Although it’s small, it has this large lens protruding from it which makes it difficult to put into a jacket pocket or place in a small compartment in your back pack It’s autofocus system is OK but it’s not what I would call lightening quick. I would still take it with me wherever I went but I needed something really small and fits into my pocket that was quicker.

Enter the Nikon Coolpix A and Nikon 1 V3.

The Nikon Cooplix A should really be named the Nikons 28TiD. It is its digital successor. It’s a fixed 18.5mm f2.8 (28mm equivalent) APS C pocket camera that is small enough to fit in your trouser pocket. I packs a wallop when it comes to image quality. After playing with it for a week there was nothing this camera could do wrong in my eyes. I wish I discovered this camera before I went to Europe. That said, it’s autofocus system is quicker than the EOS M but as I discovered, it is no match for the Nikon 1. I missed the odd photo opportunity. Nevertheless, I could take it with me on my lunch break anywhere and discretely shoot any subject I wished without attracting the attention the Hasselblad did. By the way, I love that H3D.

Although the 28mm equivalent is not a 18mm equivalent lens the EOS M carried, I find 28mm is my preferred focal length for walking around. I know 35mm is a classic focal length is well “classic”. I found the 28mm focal length more flexible for most walk around subjects including capturing that decisive moment. I can more easily take one or two steps closer when compared to taking 2 steps back into the Seine river.

I attach some of the iconic subjects of my home town Melbourne Australia.

Nikon Coolpix A Images

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I haven’t pitted the EOS M against the Coolpix A because I think they are different cameras. The EOS M is a more flexible package but it is bigger than my Coolpix A. Since acquiring the Coolpix A, I would consider leaving the EOS M at home. It will capture the images the EOS M could miss (but not necessary would miss). I think it is capable of some spectacularly sharp images with a film like rendering of colour and image quality.

I am happy to dive into the details of the camera but suffice to say it’s a DSLR APS-C equivalent camera that has a fixed 28mm equivalent lens that fits in your pocket that is not much bigger than an iPhone 4 and smaller than an iPhone 6plus. It will do everything the DSLR does at the same speed. It just primarily menu driven.

Why then, after purchasing the Coolpix A did I want the Nikon 1 V3? I just wanted one. Aside from that, I would call this the Ferrari of the pocket camera world. I have a D3. It’s about as quick but not quicker than the Nikon 1. The Nikon 1 is about getting the photo. It will shoot so fast that if it existed on that fateful day the naked little girl in vietnam that ran from the Napalm attack was captured by that famous photographer photojournalist, it would have captured 100 + frames before the little girl ran out of the frame. You would have seen every moment from her clothes catching fire, the explosion forming behind her and every half step she took towards the photographer as she tried to escape the cataclysm. Maybe that’s why that one image is special. Because the rest is left to the imagination.

Seriously, this camera may only have a one inch sensor but if you are not cropping the image, I can’t say I would notice the difference. Yes it has noise in the shadows. Yes doesn’t allow a crop of the image to be as clean as a larger sensor camera. Yes it may be overshadowed by other compact systems but none of the other are as discrete, fast, and have an image that is quite like the Nikon 1. Viva la Difference. It may not produce the best possible image you could get but it will get the photo every other camera would miss. It never misses. If I were a photojournalist, this is the one I would take with me into the field. I can shoot silently and still get up to 60 frames without autofocus and 20 frames with it. It’s not a point and shoot. It’s the gatling gun of the compact camera world with near APS-C image quality. I would carry two bodies, one with the 32 f1.2 permanently mounted to it. The other with the 10 f2.8. Basically a 28mm and 85mm equivalent set up.

No Doubt the Coolpix A has more punch in it’s colour and it’s noise is well controlled. It has a better lens and sensor combination . It’s no where near the fun to use that the Nikon 1 is. It is also a fixed lens camera. Hence, the designers can sort out the lens and sensor combination better than an interchangeable lens camera the Nikon 1 is. I would pick the Coolpix A over the Nikon 1 if I had time to take the photo. The Nikon 1 is the one I would pull off the shelf because I know I will have time to take the image and the 19 other ones it takes before the Coolpix A has taken the first one.

After purchasing the Nikon 1, I had to see what it was like compared to the Coolpix A. I attach photos of the same subjects with the Nikon 1 of Melbourne on a warm spring day (see below). I used the standard 10-30 zoom. The Coolpix A was set to vivid colour. the Nikon 1 was set to standard. Although I used vivid colour in the second last Nikon 1 photo of the building (the Rialto tower). I do not think it adds much in the same way it pushed the colour in the Coolpix A. I think the lens and sensor combination in the Coolpix A overshadows the zoom on the Nikon 1. Message to Nikon, build a better standard Nikon 1 10mm lens that is faster than 2.8.

thank you again Steve for being patient with me. I love your website.

I hope my email interests you enough to write about these cameras for me.

Best wishes

Nikon V3 Images

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Oct 022014
 

One year with the Sony A7r

By Pascal Jappy

Website http://dearsusan.net

It’s been just over one year since my A7r was delivered to my door and few of my cameras had been so intensely anticipated as this one. I vividly remember watching Steve’s Memphis images, particularly those made with the ZM35/2, Voigtlander 35/1.2 and crazy OTUS 55 lenses and mopping up the drool from my keyboard.

A long-time lover of the Mamiya 7 camera, I had never really been able to match the usability and image quality of that camera with any of the – too numerous – digital cameras owned since turning my back to film in the early days, not even my technically excellent D800e. But this Sony certainly felt like a potential candidate with its exciting mix of size, resolution, dynamic range and je ne sais quoi in pixel level fluidity.

So has it lived up to the Mega Mamiya ?

Mostly, yes.

For anyone following the “f/8 and be there” motto, being there has certainly never been easier than with this small, yet robust camera. It’s been with me in the freezing Lapland winter, hot Mediterranean summer and torrential rain that afflicted my neck of the wood in between. It has always delivered the goods in spades and, although a friend’s sample died on him in Greenland, mine has been blessed with excellent reliability.

La Defense Nighthawks

One year later, with several new cameras on the market, there still isn’t one I’d want to trade it in for. And the reason I’m writing this so long after the release of this camera is that its price has dropped significantly and will continue to do so with the introduction of its successors in the near future. So, to me, it has become the bargain of a lifetime for many to step into a world of affordable ultra-high quality. Yes, its successors may have more pixels, but not enough to discard this pocket monster. After all, the rumoured 46Mpix successor only offers a negligible 13% increase in resolution on each axis …

So why “mostly” ?

Are you familiar with Guns n Roses’ November Rain video? Well, if you’ll excuse the musical metaphor, my (really, really) beautiful A7r bride snores and sometimes makes me feel like I too “need some time on my own” …

But since the beauty far outweighs the beast, let me get the snoring out-of-the-way first and elaborate on the goodness after that.

Wakey, wakey !
So you’re walking down the street in KL, a monkey is looking eagerly at a lady’s ice cream. You switch your A7r on with the intuition that something funny is going to happen. And it does. And the A7r is still asleep. And the monkey eats the ice cream, particularly relishing the best chocolatey bit down the bottom of the cone. But the A7r is still gathering its wits. The monkey backflips its way to the rooftop, the sun sets, you have a delicious indian curry and, suddenly, the A7r has come to life.

OK, possibly a slight exaggeration here, but you get my angry drift. There are few slower cameras on the market anywhere near this price point. And as a street photography tool, it will mess with your Zen like little else can.

Happily there’s a way around this inconvenience. In the 2nd screen of the toolbox camera menu, you can set the Pwr Save Start Time to 10 seconds and leave the camera on. It takes a full press on the shutter button to wake the camera on so there’s little risk you’ll do it by accident. And doing so normally brings the camera back to life in a much more manageable 1.5s (compared to the sluggish 2-4 seconds from OFF). Since battery life is fairly good, that’s one big issue partly taken care of.

Marshmallow autofocus
My only AF lens on this camera is the (fantastic) Zeiss/Sony Sonnar FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA. Aside from the typically poor construction of the Zeiss lens cap, this is an exceptional performer and could easily be my only lens.

Bu however wonderful, it is let down by the unpredictable autofocus on the A7r.
AF isn’t the fastest, but isn’t slow either. It’s also very accurate when it focuses.
It’s main drawback is the occasional inability to focus at all.

Forget taking AF photographs of clouds. You’ll have to find a distant tall building or mountain range to approximate infinity and recompose your shot once focus has locked.

AF really needs subjects with high edge contrast to function properly. And when it does, near-far situations are a constant worry, the camera always making the strange decision of focusing on the background. The example below of my daughter in the car is very typical.

In car blur

That being said, manual focusing is – by a wide margin – the best I have ever experienced on a digital camera. Focus peaking works brilliantly and offers the certainty of 0% miss when combined with the elegant digital zoom system. Given how excellently this camera deals with most third-party lenses, this truly makes up for the occasional inadequacies of the  AF.

Noise
Handling noise seems inversely proportional to electronic noise, in this camera.
A lot has been written about the shutter noise, and there’s very little I can add, other than the camera can even scare you with a very loud noise when powering down.

How bad is it in real-life ? Well, if I’m out walking and making pictures for a few hours, I actually don’t notice and forget all about it. It’s loud, but actually rather pleasant, in a positive, clunky way.

After a long day, it does get tiring to the point that I resist making more pictures unless they really beg to be made. In a way, that’s a good thing, because restraint is always advised after a day’s shooting. But I doubt that Sony intended that way and that noise is really something you could do without when you feel tired. That’s one of the only occasions the camera doesn’t feel like a close friend you want to take along everywhere.

Church in Marken

Churches, theatres and ceremonies when silence are expected are also obvious turn offs. A couple of years ago, I visited 20 churches in Venice to create a collection of photographs. That’s definitely not something I would like to attempt with this camera. Which is a shame considering how brilliantly it would handle the low light and tonal ranges found in these places.

Ergonomics
Mostly excellent. The size is right. Anything smaller would be pain to work with. The camera is light yet feels very robust. There is a – highly subjective but very real –  tactile pleasure to handling it.

And the EVF is so good and informative I would never want to go back to optical. Having fought the D800e to focus manual lenses using its abysmal live view, the EVF on this A7r is an absolute godsend. The artificial horizon is such a help with wide angles too. My percentage of frames requiring no cropping or rotation has increased dramatically thanks to this EVF.

Buttons and dials are firm and positive, although placement seems governed by some inexplicable alien logic or usage scenario.

Automatic white balance
The ease of bulk modification of white balance in editing software such as LightRoom or Capture One kind of makes this a non issue, but AWB is a bit flaky on the A7r. It often seems in a happy mood and makes everything appear a bit more golden than in real-life. That works well in most scenes but adds a slightly sickly mustardy tinge to others. Still, you can set 500 frames to auto-WB in a matter of seconds in any editing software, so no problems here.

Amsterdam-Canal

Now the good stuff. There’s no suspense as many others have reported on the superb image quality offered by this little gem. But let me qualify that from my personal point of view.

Sharp, yet organic look at pixel level
36Mpix is a lot. Probably enough for 99% of photographers in the world and certainly enough for me. Obviously, it makes it easy to crop severely to recompose or enlarge a portion of the frame yet retain enough information to obtain quality prints. Which, in turn, means I never need a lens longer than 135mm for any of my shots.

Enchanting forest

But, beyond the pixel count, it’s the actual pixel-level quality that I find lovely. At 100% – at base ISO – the quality is silky smooth with an organic feel to it that I don’t remember with my D800e. Images are fluid and look beautiful viewed at full scale, provided I have been careful to avoid shake. As mentioned above, focusing using peaking in the glorious EVF is easy and very efficient (another major strong point over the D800e). But shake is a very real issue and one of the areas where the greater mass of the D800e helps stabilize. Still, when proper technique is applied, the results are incredibly gorgeous to look at, time after time. When everything comes together, there is a real sense of achievement that is quite similar to browsing through a large format slide with a loupe or examining a great print.

Remarkable tolerance to older glass
Don’t ask me why, but some sensors seem to emphasize the technical blemishes in some of the older lenses we own and love. Edges can seem mushy and lifeless, for instance.

Not so with the A7r. It may be because of that apparent fluidity, or it may be something else, but the A7r just loves older glass and proves very tolerant to designs that would not work so well on other cameras.

Thanks to some kind friends, I’ve used this camera with a great variety of legacy lenses from Olympus, Nikon, Leica (M & R), Zeiss and Mamiya 645. Roughly 20 lenses in total. Not one has been bad ! Most have been superb.

Yes, I steered clear of the known offenders such as some wide-angle Biogons but, from the superb 19mm (Leica Elmarit-R) to the great 135mm (Leica Apo-Telyt-M) it’s been a bed of roses. Some variation in sharpness, some strong flaring, but definitely no deal-breaking nasties.

So, in keeping with the dropping price of the camera itself, it is quite possible to equip yourself with a slew of fantastic lenses that will never disappoint you.

In the cheap and lovely pantheon, I would state many from the Olympus stable (28, 50, 135) as well as most of the Leica-R offerings (50/2, 35-70/4, 90/2.8). The adapter adds a bit of visual heft to these lenses, but they are not overly large, or heavy, in your bag.

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And at the top of the price ladder, lenses such as the Leica Elmarit-R 19/2.8 II and Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135/3.4 are true stunners. Special mention goes to the specialty Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 with its gorgeous bokeh. But even the cheaper lenses perform brilliantly as Steve’s recent reviews of the Jupiter 8 and Petzval lenses (among others) illustrate.

Huge dynamic range
I’ve long been fascinated by the aesthetics produced by some of the digital medium-format photographers. The silky smooth tonal range is particularly appealing to me.

The Sony comes closer to producing that look than any other digital camera I have owned. And I strongly believe the astounding dynamic range has a lot to do with these great results. There is very rarely any harshness in the highlights, gone are grad filters, and dark shadows always lift with very little noise.

It’s truly amazing and – to me – the single most fantastic feature of this camera (shared with others using its sensor, such as the Nikon D800 range) which opens up so many new possibilities

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I could go on. The camera is a never-ending source of pleasure; interspersed with some frustrating episodes, but mainly a gem. It has been my constant companion for a year. I have smuggled it in deep pockets, work bags and suitcases to document my daily life, travels, family parties and it has been equally at ease on all subjects – provided they didn’t move too fast ;)

More importantly, in spite of a slightly warm tinge that’s easy to correct, I think this camera is neutral and can suit many styles. With most lenses, its huge dynamic range makes it a treat in B&W.

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But colour landscapes are just as glorious and the detail is formidable.

The only real type of shooting location it wasn’t designed for is whenever silence is a necessity. Churches are one example and you’ll soon feel conspicuous. However, that’s a small price to pay for the other opportunities opened-up by the amazing sensor, light weight and the form factor which doesn’t attract attention.

The reason I’m writing this now is that it will inevitable be replaced. Probably sooner than later. The sensor is 3 years-old and Sony probably have new tricks up their sleeves by next year. But whatever comes up to replace will signal a fantastic opportunity to acquire this level of technology at significantly discounted price. If I was shopping for the almost-perfect-yet-affordable camera today, I’d wait for the A7r’s replacement and buy an A7r :) It’s that good.

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Aug 262014
 

My muse: Alina, with the Nikon V1

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon. I would like to present to you and your readers my muse: Alina. She’s my youngest kid, 4 years old, and she’s not (camera) shy at all. (Put a plastic toy microphone in her hands, and she’ll start singing instantly!) The pictures below were all taken in the past couple of weeks, and were taken with my Nikon V1 and the Nikon 1 18.5mm f1.8. I shoot jpeg, not raw, and the pictures were treated with Lightroom and Nik Software plugins, esp. Silver Efex Pro 2. I use natural light only. No flash.

I wrote about the V1 for your website about a year ago. Then, I wrote about the surprising video capabilities of this camera. 

The V1 has become my favourite ‘family trip’ camera for still images because of its fast focus and compact form. I don’t have the budget, honestly, for fancier gear, so I make the best of what I’ve got.

I live in Belgium, a country that has quite strict privacy laws, especially towards the under age. For photographers, it basically implies you need a release form when post portraits online, unless you are the parent (or legal guardian), which I am, of course. Aside from the legal aspect of publishing my children’s pictures online, I do have other reservations as well. I have friends who would never publish pictures of their (young) children online for safety reasons. In the late nineties, Marc Dutroux, a serial child molester and murderer, shocked the country, and now parents of young children are particularly sensitive about the issue.

To be honest, there is a bit of a guilty feeling, mixed with suspician, each time one of my kid pictures is liked or favourited on Flickr… which is sad, not? But there is yet another angle to this. A while back, I was asked by one my best friends to remove pictures from my flickr account. The reason: the kids have now reached puberty, and they are afraid to be bullied for these pictures, which their fellow class members are googling for.

Professionally, I’m a teacher at a secondary school (ages 12 up to 18), and I am the unofficial ‘official’ photographer for many school events. I always take care only to publish pictures in which the kids look good/cool and not goofy or whatever, just for that reason. (When children enroll to our school, they automatically must sign a release form too). Here is a link to an article I wrote for Steve about such a school event.  This is the reality of the world we live in, and I am writing this post because I’m curious about what you, Steve and Brandon, and your readers think about all this.

This is my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,
Ivan Lietaert

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May 242014
 

Aahh, Venice………..HATED IT! Liked it. LOVE IT!!

By Brendan Jack

Hello!

This is Brendan in Dubai. After you kindly posted my first “Daily Inspiration” a few months back, featuring New Year’s Day camel racing here in Dubai (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/27/new-years-day-at-the-camel-races-in-dubai-by-brendan-jack/), I thought I would share another post. While browsing through my Lightroom catalog I came across some photos I’d taken in Venice over the space of a few visits and it occurred to me how much my feelings for this city have changed.

Living in Dubai, we are lucky that it is a travel hub & that it is relatively easy & affordable to travel from here. My wife and I are Australian, and when we were living in Australia, it was neither relatively easy nor affordable to travel to Europe from there (although you wouldn’t know that from all the Aussie accents you hear in far flung corners of the world). Moscow is closer to Dubai than Perth is to Sydney and it’s much cheaper to get there.

Our first visit to Venice was done as part of our first European holiday in 2007. We drove throughout Switzerland and northern Italy (including a mandatory stop at Maranello J ) and on to Venice. I had such a romantic vision of the place, developed from many movies and photos I had seen shot on location there.

I HATED IT!!

At this point, I should come clean and say that we were daft enough to visit there in August….summer high season. I did say it was our first European holiday. And being from Oz, we have a slightly different take on what “crowded” means…we were warned and (rather foolishly as it turned out) I thought, prepared. It was during a heat wave (big one that year that thinned out the Euro population some), seriously overcrowded & it stank…..boy, did it stink. Forgot to mention that one on the travel brochure. No scratch-and-sniff on the “Visit Venice” fold out glossy, no-sir-eee. Oh, and it was also old and crumbly and mouldy….fancy a thousand-plus year old water city built on reclaimed swamp being old, crumbly & mouldy…..go figure. My wife, on the other hand, loved it (not for those same reasons, of course). Nothing really dimmed her romanticism for the place. You would have sworn we were sailing about on rose water & not what surely had been plumbed directly from the toilets of Wandsworth Prison the morning after curry night. I was more than happy to see Venice in the rear view mirror and set course for the Dolomites and Lichtenstein. Some very ordinary photos from Venice on that visit. With me at least, I need to have my head in the right place to take anything half decent and I was really not in the mood. Crushed. And I vowed not to darken Venice’s dank and malodorous doorstep again. My wife’s secret plan for a romantic few nights were no doubt crushed too, given my all-round petulant whining & feral grumpiness.

Fast forward three years and we were planning a short holiday to coincide with some public holidays here in Dubai. Where to go? After a pretty warm Dubai summer, we wanted somewhere cool. My wife had not long finished reading a book set in Venice during Aqua Alta (high water). I knew that she would really love to go back and that she was not game to ask, given my earlier gondola-hating trollishness. But, feeling somewhat abashed and sheepish over how badly I had behaved last time; and time having returned my sense of smell to near normal; and time also having dulled the memory, I suggested Venice. Yes, yes…screw my vow….I really do love my very patient wife. It was late November, early December, and it also coincided with an Aqua Alta. Serendipity. We had a week in Venice. It was cold, windy, sunny, foggy….pretty much everything that a photographer could want. There were no crowds and the experience of being there during Aqua Alta was amazing.

After a few days….I liked it.

After a few more days…..I LOVED IT!!!

The light during this time of year is spectacular. It is fickle but rewarding if you have enough time to wait it out. Having done a lot of the “touristy stuff” on our first visit, this time, we had a list of off-the-beaten path things that my wife wanted to visit to compare the reality to the context of the books she had read. Me? I was happy as a lark to wander the back alleys with her & my Nikon while we found the various literary spots. To see all the high-end shops around St Marks Square with two feet of the Venice Lagoon slopping around within their walls was something that you don’t get to see every day. It must be heartbreaking for them but they seem to just get right on with pumping their stores out and using these “doorway dykes” (no, they’re not large, waterproof, lesbians) to seal up their shops before the next high tide. On a few mornings, we ate breakfast in the restaurant of our historic Grand Canal hotel, with several inches of water frolicking over the floor, served by impeccably uniformed waiters in gumboots, serenaded by submersible pumps hidden away behind the instant-art of jenga-esque antique furniture stacked on top of each other to get them out of the water. Great memories.

We have been back for a day or two since then, on the way through to other places in Italy and I look forward to our next chance to go back. It is one of the marvels of the (photographic) world. I have included a few lo-res shots from our Aqua Alta visit for visual reference.

All the best and thanks for your hard work to keep this site so damned spectacularly good!!

Kind regards
Brendan

Early Winter Walk, Aqua Alta, Venice

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Fog, Gull & Aqua Alta, Venice

Winter Fog & Aqua Alta, Venice

 

 

Apr 222014
 

Ironwork craft makers

By Sebastien Bridelance

Hi Steeve, Hi Brandon,

My name is Sebastien, I’m french and fond of SteveHuffPhoto.com. I like the way you and your readers share and sharing is also the topic of the little story I would like to tell you.

An event, ‘the european days of crafts’ takes place during the first weekend of April. I would probably miss this but fortunately a friend of mine invite me to visit ironwork craftmakers of his friends. They’re located in Estaires, only few kilometers away from home. Obviously, my camera and me have accepted the invitation.

I’ve met passionate men, lovers of their work, preserving a traditional know-how. They’ve shown me how they shape pieces of iron for building and decorating a banister or a portal. They’re inspired and inspiring persons. I thank them for their friendly welcome. I’ve taken the following photos using a ‘classic’ gear : nikon D700 and two of my favorite lenses : Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 and Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/2. The 85 shot the first picture while the Distagon 35 made the two others. I’ve post-processed the raw files with Silver Efex.

Curving the hot metal – Nikkor 85/1.8 @ f/1.8

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In front of the forge – Distagon 35/2 @ f/4

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Mr Lenglart, owner of the workshop, making a flower from a sheet of iron – Distagon 35/2 @ f/2.8

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Best wishes,

Sebastien Bridelance

cercle2confusion.wordpress.com

Apr 172014
 

The Real Digital FM3? Nikon Manual Lenses on the X-T1

by David Nash

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Hi Steve and readers.

Not being as young as many of you I still have a soft spot for small metal cameras with lots of dials (even if I don’t actually turn them) – and a bundle of Nikon lenses including one or 2 old bought cheaply at our local camera shop (yes we still have one in a city of 500,000!). So like many I was desperate to get my hands on the Nikon Df – and I did. But I was a bit underwhelmed and when it had to be returned because of an AF fault I took a refund rather than a replacement.

With the money I got back I’m now the delighted owner of a Nikon 24mm 1.4 and, arriving yesterday, a Fuji X-T1. And it’s definitely not going back…. But being a bit slow on the uptake I hadn’t up till now thought about using Nikon manual lenses on Fuji X cameras (I had an X-E1) and immediately ordered a Nikon fit adapter that arrived this morning. So I spent a couple of hours this afternoon shivering my way round the streets of Edinburgh with my brand new X-T1 and a 135mm f.3.5 Nikon that I picked up for less than £100. As you’ll see in the photo it’s really quite small for a 200mm equivalent focal length – but very solid and well made and quite sharp (though not in the same league as the 90mm Elmarit which I will be trying out next).

Here are few photos of bits of some of our local buildings. What I really enjoyed about using the X-T1 with the manual lens was how well the focus peaking worked (in most circumstances) and how easy it is to magnify the focus area with the focus assist button. You need to focus at max aperture to get the best result but it’s no hassle to stop the lens down a few clicks if you need some depth of field. But what I particularly like about using the X-T1 with a longer lens like is that if I turn the ISO dial to auto (yes I do actually use the dials a little) and the shutter speed to 180th of a second the camera will automatically change the ISO as I (manually) change the shutter. That way I can keep a high enough shutter speed and have complete control over the aperture. Smart! Oh, and I think you all know anyway that the Fuji sensor is rather good at high ISOs. And I did I remember to say the viewfinder is brilliant??

So – as many others seem to be saying – is this not what the Df should have been?
Thanks
David
www.davidnashphotos.co.uk

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Apr 072014
 

Seven years with one camera

By Amirali Joorabchi

Hi steve , hi everybody!

I’m AmirAli , a reader of this awesome blog for about two years. I’m 23 , live in Tehran. I do painting and photography as an enthusiast. I started photography when I was 14-15. As a gift my family bought me a Canon 400D and a 50 f1.8 and if I’m right I have this set and been using it for about 7 years ! Well it’s 10mps , ISO800 isn’t clean , ISO1600is only usability in monochrome , the LCD is 2.5″(240k). The camera and two lenses weighs in at about 850g…and yes I’m still using it !

This lest seven years that has passed by..well, photography has changed a lot (which you all know better than me). The wave in digital photography started with Canon 350D (affordable DSLR for everyone) then led to this following seven years. Companies got competitive with each other , introducing new models like a mad man ( canon 40D/50D… Nikon D80/D90… Canon 5D/5DmarkII Nikon D700/D800/D610 Sony A900/A800/A99 , then mirrorless Olympus , Panasonic , Sony , Fuji…).

The more technology went further , the more prices came down , which now you have so many affordable options (heck you can buy a full frame for 1600$ which weighs less than 500g). In theory this should help people but , instead , it turned out to be a huge problem for us!

For example it became like an idea that “because a pro photographer has that camera/lens then he can take pictures that I can’t”. So I started to blame the gear and I thought if I had better camera I would have made a better photographs. This is the point when your endless loop starts (even if you are aware of the fact that getting new gear won’t make you any better), where you buy new cameras when the one you have is already very qualified. Jumping from one system to another or jump from one brand to other. You fall into this endless loop where you waste time and sources on the wrong side of the photography.

I was about to fall , but a wise photographer told me this: “Changing your gear won’t change your view , it only replaces the last window with a new window to the same view , you’re the one who should change the view “ It hit me really hard. I still didn’t know about composition , lightening , color management… My VISION was weak yet I blamed the camera that I still have. He showed me that how much VISION is more important than gear , that your vision can create beauty , you have to train it to get the most out of it. Although the truth was clear but still resisting the new gears was hard. I get another advise : “loan and play with the new ones , the hype will come off of your mind”. I took the advice and it worked most of the time.

I tested Canon 40D , Nikon D90 , Canon 1DsII , Canon 5DII , Sony A900 with zeiss 85F1.4 (this lens didn’t came off ever) , Canon 17-55F2.8 , 24-70F2.8 , 14F2.8 , Nikon 80-200F2.8 , 18-135… . All of them are far better than my set , but using them I realized that my results weren’t that different… if not worse ! The brand was different , the format was different , the lens different , but my vision was the same. Yes , new gear makes it easier to take photos like more pixels , better ISO , better OVF/EVF… . These things are not necessary to capture a master piece. These are tools to help us create. But the features has spoiled lots of photographers’ minds. A slight change in light/composition can make a mediocre photo into a master piece , yet we waste our time wondering about gear…

Well , the question is , which is worth to you more ?

1.Having G.A.S and taking mediocre images , or

2.Mastering your vision and taking eternal images

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Feb 122014
 

Using the V1 for shooting an ‘Open Stage’ school event

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I teach at a secondary school in Belgium. At school I often shoot pictures during extra-curricular events for the for the school archives, and more importantly for the official school website and social network. Last week, the annual ‘Open Stage’ took place: students aged between 12 and 18 can show off their talent on stage to a wild crowd of enthusiastic fellow students. It is the most anticipated and fun event of the whole school year. Mostly, young kids take the stage in their debut rock bands, playing covers; some impressive street dancing, a blossoming singer-songwriter, it ‘s all really varied… this year, we even had an illusionist who had quite some tricks up his sleeve.

Ideally, when shooting this kind of event, a full frame camera and a really fast lens, something like a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, would be the camera of choice. I don’t have that kind of pro-gear. Last year I used my 550D/T2i with a non-stabilized Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens. (Soon, I found out that was not good enough, so I swapped it with the ‘nifty fifty’ EF 50mm f1.8 and did some serious cropping in post.) The pictures turned out quite fine, back then.

But this year, I decided to take a risk. I decided to use my Nikon V1, which has a smallish one inch CX sensor, mounted with the Nikon 1 10-100mm VR Power Drive Zoom. I love this little combo for video shooting (https://vimeo.com/85671971), but I knew that in low light, with an aperture of 4.5-6.5, I was taking quite a risk. I do own the faster 18.5mm f1.8 as well, but as this lens is pretty wide, close-up shots would be out of the question, and cropping them in post doesn’t make much sense either, as the V1 only produces 10 megapixel size pictures.

So there I was, holding the V1 and the 10-100mm PD Zoom and the bands started playing loud! I was shooting raw, in manual mode, exposure set at 1/40 or 1/60 with iso at 3200, and aperture as wide as possible. I used no flash, and to make things even worse, a fuse had blown, so only half the staging lights were properly working. I was a bit worried, because I knew that with these settings, I really was pushing the V1 beyond its comfort zone (being iso 1600). Autofocus, usually lightning fast, was now struggling a lot, and there was a lot of hunting, and I did miss quite some good pictures because of that.

So when I got home, I felt quite uncomfortable. After import into Lightroom 4.4, I did a first selection. From the 360 pictures I had taken, I had to throw away about two-thirds, for the usual reasons: bad framing, motion blur, bad composition, closed eyes, out of focus, boring etc. Mind you, in the 120 pictures I kept, there were still some that were slightly out of focus, but hey, these kids don’t care too much about this! As long as they can show off with them on their social networks!

Of course, when zooming in on these iso 3200 pictures in LR to the 1:1 level, detail and sharpness is horrendous. I decided to leave it to the standard LR treatment, without any tweaking, and instead to quickly move on to Google’s Nik Collection Plugins. I really love them and I still have 12 days of trial left. I used the Analog Efex Pro module, and went for one of the ‘Vintage Camera’ presets. There, I would fine tune some of the settings. I love to tweak the light leaks, the bokeh and the frames which come with the plugin. When done the tif-file would be saved. Back in Lightroom, I would then export to the jpeg format, which is suitable for distribution.

Late into the night, I uploaded the ten or so pictures picture I processed through Nik Software to one flickr set, and I uploaded the 120 ‘regular’ pictures to another set. I then posted both sets on our school’s Facebook page and the school’s website. Then I went to bed. The next day, I enjoyed watching the stat counters going up, and the ‘likes’ on Facebook growing. Sometimes, being a teacher can be very rewarding!

This is my personal flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,

Ivan Lietaert

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Feb 072014
 

The Voigtlander Ultron 40 f/2 SL II

by Julien Hautcoeur

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I’m Julien, one of your readers, thank you for all your work that you share with us on your website. I’m a French engineer living in Canada. I like to travel and take photographs of the places I visit. I would like to share with you my experience with the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II that I use with my Nikon D700. I thought it could be interesting for your other readers.

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This “review” will be more about the feeling of using this lens than the evaluation of the technical aspects. There are already lots of websites to describe the build and the qualities of this lens, so, I won’t do it here. It took me a while to finally buy it, but I had mainly three reasons to do it:

 

  • The size: this a very small pancake lens which makes my big D700 to look smaller. As lots of DSLR photographers, I was looking for a small camera to complete my D700. Something I could take with me every day, on a walk, instead of the big and heavy 24-70 f2.8. I bought the Olympus Pen E-P1 when it was just released but I discovered how the lack of viewfinder was making it difficult to use for me. I was tempted by the Fuji X100 or X100s but didn’t want to spend another 1k$ for a camera. The Voigtlander 40mm seemed to be a good alternative.

 

  • The manual focus: I wanted to slow down my photography to be more concentrated on the frame and the action. As the Voigtlander 40mm is a manual focus lens, it was a good response to that need. Due to the chip inside the lens, I can use the green dot in the viewfinder of the D700 to focus properly.

 

  • To give a present to myself: it’s important to do it sometimes.

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I couldn’t find the lens to buy in Ottawa, so I ordered it online. When I received the lens 3 weeks ago and I took it in my hands, the feeling of this metallic build directly surprised me, it feels really serious. It is really solid, well made and feel very comfortable. Moving the focus ring is a joy; it is so smooth compared to my plastic Nikkor 50mm AF-D f1.8. With the D700 I have a nice compact combo, still bigger than some cameras such as the Fuji X series or the new Sony ones but already small enough to have it in my bag every day.

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One of my fears was to not like the 40mm focal. I have the cheap 50mm AF-D f1.8, but I don’t use it because it seems to short, I had the 35mm f2 but I sold it because I didn’t use it enough. But surprisingly I feel comfortable with the 40mm for indoor and street photography. I can’t explain why the feeling is that different compared to the 50mm and the 35mm but it’s real. It’s probably a personal feeling, which is different for every one. When I see something interesting and I want to take a picture, the 40mm seems to frame it as I want.

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The other important point is the manual focus, I’m used to the fast AF of my D700 with the 24-70 and 14-24 f2.8 lenses, but the manual focus seems to give me more pleasure to use. I feel more into the process of taking pictures. When I’m traveling or visiting a new place, with the AF, I see something, I frame it, I click, it’s done. With the manual focus I have to take my time, I correct the frame; I pay more attention to what I do. It’s a very good feeling, and even better when the result is a good photograph. I won’t stop using AF lenses but this little Voigtlander will be used a lot this year, perhaps I will also add the Voigtlander 28mm for more possibilities.

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Finally this experience is a success for me. I think it’s important to move from what we know to try something different, to at this end, learn more and more.

I really recommend this experience to photographers who have only used AF lenses.

Thank you

Regards,

Julien Hautcoeur 

http://bustitawayphotography.com

https://www.facebook.com/BustItAwayPhotography

http://bustitaway.tumblr.com/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustitaway/

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