Apr 022015
 

There is no “I” in Team

by John Tuckey

Team Efforts

I wouldn’t advise anyone to overload a shoot with unnecessary bodies. The fewer people cluttering your space, the better. The less people to organise the better. It’s an absolute if you’re trying to create a sense of intimacy or intrigue and a simple practicality when you’re working to a budget or a tight time scale as most of us are. But ‘one man and his lens’ is not always enough – indeed, modern professional work is hardly ever created so. It’s a creative collaboration between the photographer, an art director, a stylist, a make up artist, a hair stylist, a lighting technician and possibly a set dresser. That amazing image in magazine ‘X’ is usually the result of a tight team who have a good working dynamic – not ‘one man and his lens’.

If you’re thinking about crossing this river and working your shots with a team it can be daunting at first. My advice is to keep it simple and pick your team carefully, don’t waste your resources and know who you can and can’t live without. I get my moments, but I’m still no pro – so I won’t worry about an assistant until i try a complicated location set-up. And a stylist isn’t even on my list unless I get involved in a commercial fashion shoot and the client specifically requests one – and even then they will probably be chosen by the art director.

So I’d suggest that for an amateur or hobbyist, the bodies to make sure you have covered on a model orientated shoot are the make up artist and the hair stylist. Sometimes the model can cover this off herself, but indispensable doesn’t even come close to describing the best I’ve worked with. And without even thinking I can give you three very good reasons why they’re always worth stretching the budget for.

Transformation

A skilled makeup artist can simply transform a face. Try these two of Emily, one with ‘normal’ self done makeup and the Next from a Make Up artist.

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The Devil is in the Detail

Much of my work revolves around vintage themes. Having the right make up or a particular hair style makes the world of difference. In these portraits of Olivia, the lighting may well have achieved the look on its own, but the work of the hair stylist in those thirties style fingerwaves added the polish – making the vintage feel of the final image effortless and complete.

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Tricks, Shortcuts and FX

These Lonsdale shots aren’t just about beauty and boxing, but also strength, character and control. The make up artist on this shoot pulled the FX off with ease: Jammy the model was engaged with the concept and we got some great shots as a result.

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Saving Time in Post

Doesn’t digital mean make up artists are a waste of money? If you don’t think of the hours you’ll spend in post-production as money, then I’ll grant you that a hair or make up artist might not be your best use of budget. But I’d rather get it right for real on the day and trade that time in front of a screen for more time with a camera thanks – a good MUA allows that.

If you are interested in my images or my workshops you can follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook/jrtvintage, on twitter where I’m @jrtvintage, at my own site at http://john.tuckey.photography or on my gallery page at Saatchi Art http://www.saatchiart.com/jrtvintage

Credits:

Models: Emily, Olivia Harriett, and Jammy Lou
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/oliviaharriet/
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/raspberryjam/

Emily and Jammys Make Up: James Minahan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Minahan-Makeup-artist/482722908502345?pnref=lhc

Olivia’s Hair: Le Keux Salon
http://www.lekeuxvintagesalon.co.uk/
Best regards

John Tuckey

Dec 272014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 1st look video when I received the A7II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First Impressions & Build

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of the Leica Noctilux

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

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

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

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

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

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An Artist’s Tool

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

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

There I go again, talking about lenses!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The A7II Sharpness and Detail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24.3MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor

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

BIONZ X Image Processor

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

5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization

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

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

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Enhanced Fast Hybrid AF and 5 fps Burst

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

Full HD XAVC S Video and S-Log2 Gamma

For the video guys, this is good stuff.

3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

Same LCD as the previous A7 series

XGA 2.36M-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder

Same EVF as the previous A7 series

Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body

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

Refined Grip & Robust Lens Mount

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

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

The A7II still has the WiFi and NFC built in.

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

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Low Light/High ISO of the A7II 

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

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

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

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

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

ALL with ZERO Noise Reduction. ZERO. 

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

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

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

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

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

The Wide World Of Lenses for the A7II!

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

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

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

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

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

More details…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Voigtlander 40 2.8 on the A7II

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

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

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Shooting Wide Angle M Mount Lenses on the A7II

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

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

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

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

The Video of the A7II

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

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

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

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

My Fave Accessories for the A7 II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Favorite Lenses for the A7II, Native and otherwise

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

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

The Sony 35 2.8 Can be seen HERE

The Sony 55 1.8 Can be seen HERE

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

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

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

16-35 Zeiss at f/4

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The Shutter Sound of the A7II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things about the A7II that I wish would have been different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sony A7II vs the Leica M 240. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sony A7II Vs the Fuji X-T1

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sony A7II vs the Olympus E-M1

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

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

The Sony A7II vs the Sony A7r

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

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

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

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

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

A7II vs the A7s

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

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Pros and Cons of the Sony A7II

PROS (for me)

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

CONS (for me)

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

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

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My Final Word on the Sony A7II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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

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Dec 052014
 

Rediscovering an old friend, The Lux’50 ASPH

By John Tuckey

Hi all!

The last couple of months I’ve been pretty much exclusively shooting the new M-P, but ironically not for the main reason I bought it.

As a B&W obsessive I was very happy with the M-Monochrom and I bought the M-P pretty much exclusively for the EVF to use with my noctilux f/1 at minimum range – focusing that single digit stop at 1m was a hard gig, and the EVF made the world of difference – yay! So much so, that I bit the bullet and sold my f/1 off and ordered the newly announced silver 0.95 nocti – a suddenly empty wallet of course but hurrah! Cue excitement! Not a moth to be seen! Except, nearly two months later it hasn’t arrived yet – oh, curses :-(

So my last few shoots have been with my previous standby the Summilux ’50mm ASPH. It’s hardly a hardship, much as I’ve neglected it the last year the ‘lux is a truly gorgeous lens with a very different character to the super soft f/1 nocti. It will be interesting to be able to compare the 0.95 to both when it finally arrives.

Anyway here’s a selection of frames from the last couple of months with the M-P (type 240) and the Summilux 50mm ASPH. The last of these (09) was accepted by vogue italia into their own photo gallery, which I always see as a huge seal of approval. I hope you enjoy them all as much.

For those who enjoy film, yes there’s ilford film in the lab for most of these shoots which might well come to a film friday soon ;-)

PS to the genius at leica who decided that ‘M10′ was too long or complicated a name, I add my name to the list, you were wrong. M10-P (11P, 20P or even 50P) would have been quicker to either type or say than M-P (type 240) and then we wouldn’t have the fringe ‘MP – oh do you mean digital M-P or analogue MP, M9P or M-P’ marketing side plate going on now. And, no you don’t get out of that one by dumping the MP and just selling the M-A with no built-in light meter unless you’re planning on giving us a new leicameter ‘M-D’ which will talk to the M-A body and give the same in camera functionality the MP already does. And breathe – Just sayin’ ;-)

 ‘Victoria’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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 ‘Jason’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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 ‘Belle’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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‘Land & Freedom’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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 ‘Iris’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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 ‘Masques’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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 ‘Tillie’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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‘Raphaella’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

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Best regards

John Tuckey

Nov 132014
 

Photographing the bride on my own wedding

by Milan Swolfs

On the 27th September this year my wife and I got married in Belgium. We both like vintage clothing and love all things from the 20s, 30s, 40s till 50s. My wife www.macheried.com is my muse and we often do (commercial) shoots together.

I couldn’t resist taking some pics of my wife during our wedding with my Leica M9P and Noctilux f0.95 ASPH.

Thanks to your excellent reviews Steve I bought now the Sony A7S together with the Voigtlander Close Up adapter and use it with my Noctilux too. It’s much easier to focus and I can use it at night.

More of our work you can see on my website www.milanswolfs.com

Keep up the good work.

Kind regards

Milan

Milan Swolfs

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Jul 132014
 

The best for me: Leica Monochrom!

by Francois Roosens

I think it’s the moment to send you some pictures from my Leica MM (Monochrom). Leica came into my life about 2 years ago, I sold my D4, D800e and all reflex kit to buy it.

The Leica MM is for me the best camera I have bought. I now own the MM(The best), M240,  A7r,  A7s (fabulous), and also the Lumix GM1 (it’s a perfect micro camera). I like your job.. Thanks for everything.

I am sending you some picture of « GILLES » from Belgium, it was in March for the « Carnaval » It was an important feast in my country. Early in the morning Gilles come pick  up other gilles and drink and eat at each house. in front of every house, they dance around… and lunch some oranges to give at children or at people for have a lucky year. I hope you like this.  The Leica 24 Summilux and 50 Noctilux 0.95 was used for that and I was up at 4AM.

Thank you!

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May 302014
 

Friday Film ‘Death of an M2′

By John Tuckey

Hi All.

My M2 just died, but it died as it lived – in action.

On my last shoot I decided to indulge in a bit of an experiment. Rather than shooting with the Nocti and MM and leaving the ‘Lux 50 on the film body for inbetweeners, I decided to invest a little time in a set of comparison shots between the ‘Lux 50, Sonnar 50 and the Noctilux f1. All three lenses on digital and then on film. My own chief interest was comparing the Nocti at 1.4 to the 1.4/1.5 rendering from the Lux and Sonnar. Why? Well I love the Noctilux f1 for that romantic glow it kicks out wide open, but I’m usually at its 1m minimum distance where f/1 is a hard aperture to shoot. So I was interested in how much of that glow would still be there at 1.4 and 2, and how that would compare to the 1.4 kings? If enough of that glow survived at 1.4… that’d be like having the cake and eating it. I brought the M2 as I wanted to see the film DoF compared to the digi on the same shots – and I figured the film comparison would interest folks on here too.

So I packed the M-mono, an M2, and the three fifties in my kit bag along with a pen and a clapper board. With some assistance from the extremely patient Iris FitzGerald (who never wants to tie another bow in her life), I set out making my comparisons. Same model, same light, same scene, same distance – you get the picture. (I’ll gloss over the digital experiment for now, the files are here http://media.jrtvintage.co.uk/public/files/25wq-a2h325n3 for those who want to see the comparison and draw their own conclusions).

So, I shot all three lenses on the M2 loaded with some Ilford Delta 100, but part way through some sonnar shots it seems that it developed a shutter problem. From there in I got a few frames of odd exposure banded shots and then a steadily increasing series of over exposures. By the time I got to my second set most frames where unusable :(

Thankfully some of the early exposures where very nice, in fact I think the Noctilux images from the camera’s early death throes are my favourites from the whole set! Much nicer than a comparable overexpose from a digi would have been, and a bonus in so far as it was something I wouldn’t have set out to do intentionally, but will certainly play with going forwards.

Finally be forewarned, these are home developed in perceptol and scanned on the epson v750 with all the authentic dust and crud included, that’s part of the fun after all ;-)

I think that although it’s nice to be able to shoot at 0.7 when you only have one lens, the reality is that if you’re shooting a 50mm at 0.7 you should probably be shooting a 90mm, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4 at 0.7m

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Summilux 50mm f/1.4 at 1m

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I’m assuming the odd banding is a shutter issue, which would tie in with what happened after, but happy to be corrected if anyone has a different explanation from past experience, Sonnar C at f2 – The moment of failure

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We’re on the downward spiral now – so a bit more exposure than I intended, but this is probably my favourite image from the set, Noctilux f/1 at 1m

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Back to the Sonnar at 1.5, but we’re closer to the end now, much brighter than expected (compared to the digital shot taken at same EV). After these shots it starts to white out :-(
Sonnar C 50mm

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Maybe melodramatic as I’m pretty sure it’s fixable, but I will have to see what the cost will be. I suspect it’s a write-off and it might just be time to go for an MP instead!

R.I.P

Finally, before I sign off, I have a plug for everyone. This year I’m a nominee in the UK’s ‘National Vintage Awards‘ under the Best Photographer category, it’s a voting contest and if you enjoy my work every vote for JRT Vintage Photography ‘here‘ is very much appreciated. Thank you!

Best regards

John Tuckey

May 072014
 

The Sony A7r & 55 1.8 along with the M9 & Noctiluxf1

By Julien Ducenne

Hi Steve and Brandon,

My Name is Julien Ducenne, I am a filmmaker living in London and working on images for about 12 years now.

Since long time my dream was to have a Leica M and couple years ago I bought the M9 with a CV 35f1.2, I was amazed by the quality of both and quickly bought a Noctilux f1 to continue my personal learning and exploration on images. I really love shallow depth of field, and the bokeh was great…
Until the day when the Sony A7r was available, I bought it with the FE55mm 1.8 and with a bokeh result really close to the Noctilux ( at equal aperture), I had more details and Sharpness on my pictures. I did not regret the Noctilux at all and I will continue to Buy M mount lenses but I will use both…

…At the end gear is only gear and the result only matter…

Have a great day.

Julien Ducenne

My Flicker : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ducenne/

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Apr 222014
 

Holy 50mm! The Mitakon 50 f/0.95 Speedmaster for E-Mount Arrives.

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What you see above is serial# 000001 of the brand new Mitakon Speedmaster 50 f/0.95 FULL FRAME lens for Sony E Mount. Yes, the A7 now has a 50 f/0.95 and from a few shots I have seen circulating online this lens looks AMAZING. Holding it, I can tell you that the quality is flat-out amazing. Leica quality in feel. Size wise, it is not so bad and much smaller than say a Leica Noctilux f/0.95. This lens will sell for $799 and start shipping end of May but I will be doing a FULL review on this bad boy on an A7 over the next few weeks. But imagine this on the new A7s! Wowzers. This lens and an A7s could indeed be a dream team of the night.

There is a funny story about how I managed to get this lens. I remember reading about it a while ago and seeing some images from it. A few days ago I received a random e-mail from someone I did not know and never heard of. He asked me if I wanted to review a 50 0.95 lens he designed for Sony NEX. I asked him where his website was, if it was full frame and where it can be ordered. He wrote back saying it was full frame but with no other real info. I had no idea it was this lens! Pretty cool that I get to review serial# 000001. Sweet.

The packaging is stellar and the lens arrives in a very nice case, the nicest I have ever seen any lens ship in.

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The lens itself feels so solid and it is constructed in a very high quality. Smooth dials, a click less aperture ring and a metal screw in lens cap.

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I will start reviewing and using this lens at the end of the week once I am done with another camera I am wrapping up a review for ;) But I am excited about this one because I have a very good feeling about it. I will also test it on the new A7s whenever that camera surfaces! Stay tuned…

Dec 292013
 

A Noctilux is for Life, not just for Christmas!

By John Tuckey

Hi All, Season’s Greetings!

Some of you may know me from previous posts, for those who don’t, my passion has always been black and white – particularly the timeless quality that it can impart. Black and white allows an element of ‘anywhen’ into an image which with just a couple of props can suddenly be your own personal time machine.

Anyway, I finally gave in to the ultimate in lens lust and bought a Noctilux f1 for christmas. I’ve been blown away, so I wanted to share a few of the first images with you.

Steve’s written extensively about this lens, and frequently uses the word ‘magic’ – he’s right!

There are those who say it’s too big and heavy – but to be honest it’s only 120grams heavier than my silver chrome summilux ASPH. Yes it blocks a chunk of the viewfinder – which doesn’t bother me in landscape – but really freaked me at first in portrait, the models head was completely obscured – yikes! Yeah thats a pain, but it’s not so scary once you remember there’s no reason why you can’t hold the camera the other way round so the lower corner is blocked rsther than the upper ;-)

Viewfinder aside, what’s the picture like – does it deliver the magic that so many others have raved about so much? I’ve gone through most of the 50’s: the 50’Cron, the Lux ASPH, the Sonnar C, the Nokton 1.1 and the 1.5 – will this really be worth all that money on top of say the Lux ASPH and Sonnar?

You can judge for yourself below, here’s two sets of three from my first shoot with the Nocti on an M9 yesterday. The Shots with the shirt are f4, ISO 80, Shutter 1/180 with Elinchrom flash at 4 stops firing through cardboard flags. The vintage styled portraits are done using the same flash heads just as modelling lights (not firing) while switching the lens down to f1, 1/60 and letting the M9 sort it’s ISO out which turned out to be 800.

The last one just shot into the 500px ‘popular’ section within 15minutes, and got placed in the LFI’s M9 mastershots gallery overnight – which tells me there’s plenty of magic in here to go around.

This is one Noctilux that will be for life, not just for Christmas!

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All the best

John Tuckey

http://www.jrtvintage.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/jrtvintage

http://500px.jrtvintage.co.uk

Oct 012013
 

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Two months with my Leica Noctilux f/0.95

by Jim Main

Hello again Steve,

A few weeks ago I sent you and email explaining the story of my slightly off the wall buying experience of my beautiful black and glass gem otherwise known as the Leica Noctilux f0.95.

Well I’ll start off by saying that despite the risk everything paid off and the lens and seller are both 100% genuine and the lens is now on a Passport under my name, phew! So I did get a genuine £6.5K ‘bargain’ :)

Anyway onto what I’ve been doing with it. First up I’ll say that, if anything, I find it easier to hold and use than the 50 Lux it replaced. Focussing is generally a snap and I use the RF 95% of the time rather than the EVF. I’ve included one ‘action’ shot taken with it, admittedly not wide open, but it was still one a series which came out sharp. If you do buy one of these then a decent ND is a must if you want to use the lens to its best open potential in most daylight conditions. I keep a UV protection filter on the front and I’ve noticed a bit of vignetting when I stick the ND on top of that but it doesn’t bother me too much as it usually suits the image and saves me adding one in LR or PS.

Nighttime performance is amazing, no flash on an M, who cares, this thing sucks in light and with the better high ISO performance of the M the only thing I would need flash for is fill in rather than overall illumination.

You can read all the reviews and see lots of sample shots, but it’s not until you take your own ones that you really discover the beautiful smooth creamy effect that this lens can bring to even the most mundane of subjects, I’ve never experienced it with any other bit of kit I’ve owned over the years, and that includes a lot of fast Nikon lenses. I know that the copious bokeh isn’t to everyone’s taste but I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with it.

As you can tell I kinda love this lens and it’s been with me recently to Spain and Florida as well as just down the road.

Do I recommend this lens, you betcha, have a garage sale and clear out anything you can to save up for one of these and I doubt you’ll regret the purchase.

I’ve attached eight shots for you and I really couldn’t decide which ones to send. There’s a few of my favs that I’ve kept for the time being as I’m going to enter them in my local club competition and they have rules about images not being seen before but hopefully you won’t be disappointed by these.

Thanks

Jim

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Jun 172013
 

My new Noctilux Story by Jim Main

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a reader of your excellent site for a few months now and between yourself and Thorsten Overgaard you have ‘forced me’ to the position where I just HAD to go and buy a Nocti 0.95.

I’ve been looking for a second-hand one for ages and keep missing them as they sell so quickly. Well this weekend I finally succeeded and as it was a bit more complex than walking into a shop I thought you might like the story as an example of how far us mad photographic types will go to blow a few thousand $ or £’s!!

The brief story was I came home quite late on Friday night and had a quick look on eBay to see if there was any interesting lenses on there. I spotted this new listing for a 2 week old Nocti, the story given that a girlfriend had bought it for her boyfriend but he didn’t like it (we all want a GF like that!) I stuck it on my ‘watch list’ and went to bed. When I checked in the morning and it had been taken off, I thought damn it but sent a message to the seller. To cut a long story short we ended up talking on the phone and I took the gamble that they were genuine after they sent me photos of the lens, receipts etc. I stay in S.West Scotland so I drove to Carlisle and jumped on the train to London then jumped on a tube to the Wimbledon area where the guy told me to wait for him driving by in a black Audi. At this point I’m thinking do I really want to jump in someone’s car that I don’t know! Anyway the car came past and he was with his GF so they parked up and we went to a cafe. I tried the lens and everything was above-board. She had paid the new UK price of £8k for the lens the week before in Selfridges. I got the lens and two B+W Pro1 ND filters (0.9 +1. for £6.5K, I reckon that was a relative bargain (if you can ever say £6500 for a lens is a bargain!!) He told me he’s quite a novice photographer and has an M9 but he couldn’t get used to focussing the lens and preferred the Lux 50 that he also has. It was like a scene from a film when I sat with my ipad doing an online bank transfer to him, you know the ones where the criminal is watching the progress bar tick along with the money

I then jumped back on the Tube and caught the 6:30 back to Carlisle and was in the house by 10:15, 700 mile round trip in 10 hours and a big hole in my bank account!

I’ve attached a few pics of my first shots with the lens, the face on shot in the cafe was my first ever with a Nocti and I was sold straight away (he’s the guy I bought it from). So far I’m finding it easier to focus than my Lux (not sure what to do with that now). All these pics are OOC Mono jpegs focussed using the RF. I snapped a few of my son in a field this evening on the way home from his swimming lesson. I’m blown away with the creamy look to these although for some reason a couple are showing vignetting and others aren’t?? I cropped one in the filed to straighten the horizon.

Keep up the excellent work.

Jim

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Apr 042013
 

Two new videos…Leica M 50’s and an M 240 Video with the Noctilux

Just realized I have not posted these here though they have been on my youtube channel for a week or two. The 1st one is an overview of three mega Leica lenses. The 50 cron APO, the 50 Lux ASPH and the 50 Noctilux ASPH. The 2nd video is a short little video I shot with the 50 Noctilux ASPH to show the rolling shutter effect that is very noticeable when shooting 50mm. It was taken with the Noctilux wide open and with the M 240 in B&W mode.

Enjoy!

Mar 242013
 

Updates on the Leica M. AWB, Noctilux 0.95 & Black & White

Updates on the Leica M. AWB, Noctilux 0.95 & Black & WhiteThis 1st image was intentionally processed to be more contrasty and grittier over out of camera M files. I am well aware of the highlights and it was done intentionally. Gives it more of an M9 flavor. :)

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I know, I said I was taking the weekend off but I had some extra time after finishing up shooting for my X100s review that will be posted tomorrow and I am sitting here in my Mothers house wide awake late at night, so why not :) My Fuji X100s review ended up at 5300 words or so and goes over the camera and updates that were made to it along with my thoughts on shooting it for the past 10 days straight. So look for that tomorrow!

Today I have one more follow-up on the Leica M 240..the camera so many love to hate!

Since posting my Leica M review I have been getting input from those of you who own the M (not too many of us out there yet), those who are thinking of getting one (many asking about B&W capabilities), and those who feel it is just ridiculous to buy a camera for this kind of cash and claim the Fuji X100s is a better camera. Yes, I have heard from all of you with your thoughts, opinions, and requests and I will address all of those concerns in this post.

This post is for those of you who have been on the fence between the Monochrom and new M when it comes to B&W and for those of you who have asking me for Noctilux samples. I decided to write about both in one post to kill two birds with one stone. I am also going to go over a couple of issues that I touched upon in my review but did not go into great detail with (that review is already over 15k words)!

Here is a nice lower contrast look for B&W. This is what you get out of the camera.

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Since getting my M I have used it every single day. I have been shooting it side by side with the X100s and the Sony RX1. To me, it doesn’t get much better than the M and RX1 combo and have decided to use the RX1 as my 35mm lens. For my M I will go 28, 50 and 75 but my main focal length right now is 50mm, no question. I seem to go back and forth between 35 and 50 but lately have been really digging the 50mm. It is a “classic” focal length though any focal length can be used for amazing imagery.

I feel the 50 is just the right balance and good for 85% of my shooting. I recently decided to take the 50 Noctilux out for a spin on the new M and since I was visiting family in Illinois my nephew happily volunteered to be my model for the day. What better combo to have then a Leica M and 50 Noctilux ASPH? I mean, this setup alone costs $18k!

INSANITY when you think about it but there is nothing out there that will give you the look of that 50 Noctilux. Not the Canon 50L, 85L, or any Nikon that I have ever shot with. So it may very well be “worth it” in the things it brings to the table for some and if you want this specific look, nothing else will really do it. To be fair, other lenses have their own unique looks as well like the ones I just mentioned from Canon, Nikon, etc. The Noctilux is one expensive piece of glass but if your wallet is fat and you want that look, it is there for you to buy, and I know Leica sells loads of these as I *personally* know 7 people who own this lens. It is also a lens you can actually call “an investment”. The original f/1 version sold new for $3500 6-7 years back, now it sells for $7k used.

BAM!

No, that is not a dust bob on the sensor, it is a smudge on the wall :) Noct wide open.

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The 50 Noctilux is nice but keep in mind that it is heavy, it is uber expensive, and it is not really a lens one thinks of as an everyday lens. It can be (see my article here on this idea shot with the M9) though depending on your wants, needs and wallet but I see the lens as something you may use for certain occasions or circumstances. It has a very unique look and shooting the Noct at 1.4 will not look like the Lux at 1.4. The Noct character sticks through f/4 or so but it is made to be shot wide open or close to it. In comparison to the Lux, it is a totally different lens and I know a few who own both. If one has the funds, for example, if I had a million or two in the bank I would own every Leica lens :)

ISO 1600 on the M with the Noctilux doing what it does best at 0.95

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So as you can see just by the samples I have posted so far (click them for better and larger views) the Noctilux quality shines on the new M, no question at all. These have not had any PP, just simple and quick LR B&W conversions which leads me to the B&W capabilities of this new M. With the Monochrom available at $7995 using the M9 body and technology it would seem that the best “deal” would be the M. It is $1000 less and can shoot color as well as B&W and has all of the new enhancements in speed, menus, etc. But what if you want superb B&W to rival the MM as well as color? Can the M do this?

But is the B&W that far off from the Monochrom?

This post is not a comparison of the two cameras but rather just showing you what the new M can do with basic out of camera images with a one button conversion in Lightroom. It will be up to you to decide if this is good enough for your own B&W needs, as we all have different needs.

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After shooting the M extensively now day in and day out I can say that the camera can do a very nice B&W and better than what the M9 did with B&W due to the increased DR and ISO capabilities. As for the Monochrom vs M, I can tell you the Mono is sharper out of camera and does better at high ISO because the M at 6400 will show banding and odd noise if you shoot in the dark. Is it usable? Sometimes, depending on if you expose properly or not but my max is staying at 3200. The Monochrom also has a different rendering of the tones.

The Monochrom can at times look like Medium Format so it is the ultimate tool for B&W though this comes at a price. The M does not really give that same look or tonality so if B&W is your thing, the MM is the camera for you. Yes, those Monochrom files can be gorgeous…but that also comes at a price of $7995, very very steep. I can tell you though that there is nothing quite like the Mono files. So silky, detailed and beautiful.

The question is: Is the M good enough for B&W to get by without having to pay $7995 for a dedicated B&W camera? Only you can answer that for you because your needs are different from everyone else.

The Mono with 35 Lux – amazingly beautiful output – click it to see it correctly

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Win a Monochrom

BTW, for those who can shoot and are lusting for a MM, the contest site I-SHOT-IT.COM has their Leica Monochrom premium contest and it ends in 11 days. Not only will the winner get a Monochrom but there is a cash prize as well and that is currently up to $8,770.00, yes almost $9,000. A Mono and $8770? That is INSANE! Whoever wins that contest is going to be one happy camper. If you want to enter it you can see the details here. They also have loads of other contest going on as well.

Some issues I found with the new M

ISO 6400 Banding

In my M review I mentioned that your files may show banding at ISO 6400, and yes this is true if you underexpose and try to bring out the details. Below is a sample of a B&W at ISO 6400. You can click it for a larger view to see the noise and banding. I have seen better than this and worse than this at 6400, depending on the situation. But it is there and therefore, I recommend sticking to 3200 if at all possible. You can get banding free 6400 results but you have to really expose correctly. Still, it seems that in 2013 Leica could have d0ne better than this at 6400 because the RX1 does not show banding at 25,600. Still, 96% of us shoot at 3200 or lower. In fact, I do not know of anyone who ever shoots at 6400, so again, up to you if this is an issue for you.

Now the M at 6400 – click it for larger

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If you shoot between ISO 200 and 3200 you will be just fine with the M in color or B&W, and for me the B&W is fantastic coming out of the M even though it is not quite up to the Monochrom standards. If you are not a B&W addict or just occasionaly shoot B&W, the M will be fine and to me is better than the M9 for B&W without question. I love those MM files but I also love my color so for me the M makes more sense. But If I were going out to do a dedicated B&W project, it would be with the MM.

With over 1,000 images under my belt with the M so far I am confident in its abilities and what it brings to the table for M shooters. It is quite different from the M9 in almost every way so if you are upgrading to one, be prepared for a few days of getting used to the new files. It took me a little while to figure it all out.

The AWB issue – super warm

Be prepared for very warm color out of the camera. I am guessing there will be yet another firmware update or lightroom update in April to deal with it. I could be wrong but that is my feeling because skin tones can show a little too much red/magenta and it is something that I have noticed as I shot more portraits.I get the same thing with Fuji files but with the M9 we did not have this issue.

The skin tones are just way too red coming from the camera and need to be toned down some during the conversion. This happens in some situations but not all as I have some portraits without this red issue. It seems to happen with daylight, even worse with direct light coming in through a window as in my sample below.

Below is an image straight from camera using AWB and standard color mode. Below that is an image I have already corrected to the best of my ability (WB adjust in LR 4.4 is all it took) and I think it looks good but still not 100% right, a little blue but better than the original unless you like bold reds and color. Maybe Leica was trying to tune the AWB to be like Fuji? In any case I am confident this will be fixed with an update soon because others are noticing the same thing. The image below..the blue shirt is spot on, background colors look great but the skintone and hair has a little too much red. There is a slight orange cast over the image as well. Something I also mentioned in the review.

Direct OOC

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Some adjustments in LR4 with WB – just cooling it down a little

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and a B&W conversion using Alien Skin Exposure 

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My prediction: Leica will have a FW or some kind of update in April. Just a guess. I have no inside info.

As for the stability of the camera, I have had no technical issues whatsoever. None, zip, zero. No freeze ups, no SD card issues (and I have used many) and no lag problems. This is good because the M8 and M9 had a few of these quirks. The M seems  to be rock solid.

RX1 vs M

As for IQ, in comparison to the Sony RX1 it is no better or worse. You can not get the Noctilux look on the RX1 of course but that Zeiss 35 is special in its own right. The RX1 is a sweet camera, and as I said in my review, there is a reason it was launched at $2799. Because it gives Leica/Zeiss quality in a small well made package at 1/3 the cost. If you want a small 35mm only camera, the RX1 is the best in this category and beats the X100s without question.

X100s vs M

Finally, for those who have been asking me about the X100s, no it is not better than the M in any way, shape, or form and that is a fact no matter what anyone else will tell you. Well, that is a lie. The X100s is superior to the M and RX1 when it comes to high ISO. The X100s is the high ISO champ, no doubt. But that is where the comparisons end.

The M files are much richer, hardier,  have more depth while  the X100s files are more digital and flat when you compare them side by side. It can be very sharp but IMO it has lost some of the soul of the old X100 output. The X100s body is in no way equal in build to the M and the lens can not match any Leica lens, period.

The Noct at f/4 – High contrast? No problem and no blown  hi lights 

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Leica M and 35 Cron – lower contrast – this works as well

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But this is to be expected. The M is $7k for a body and $3k for a 35mm f/2. The Fuji is $1299. For it to even be in the same ballpark to be compared says alot. The Fuji is fantastic, but it will not give you the Leica look, feel, usability or any of that. It will give you the best Fuji shooting experience to date but more on that in my review tomorrow :)

The Leica M is already stirring up loads of controversy due to its price tag. Same thing the M8 did as well as the M9. It’s Leica, we all know their pricing and we all know they are not for everyone. It is what it is but many shoot Leica for the glass. Lenses like the Noctilux and Summilux line. Lenses that are legendary (and actually go up in value instead of down over the years). I feel that the M offers nothing special over the RX1, D800, etc in image quality but it is the usability of the camera, size and the lenses that put it up there for me . It lets the lens character shine through as they should, with a full frame high quality sensor .

Just hope Leica ships more soon to those who are waiting!

Steve

PS – Yes, the M is still my favorite cam ever. Used to be the M9 and that has dropped to my 3rd fave ever behind the RX1. :) I’ve had more fun shooting in the past two weeks than I have in a long time and after 3+ years with the M9 the M has been a little bit of a challenge due to it being so different but once you settle in with it, the camera is what you expect it to be, an M. I am sure Leica will have FW tweaks soon as well just as they did with the M9.

Mar 222013
 

Taking the weekend off to shoot! X100s review on Monday!

Hey guys! Just wanted to post to let everyone know I am taking the weekend off from the site to concentrate on shooting and finishing up my X100s review. I still want to take the X100s out tomorrow to do a portrait session and will then wrap up the review which will be posted on Monday at some point.

Also been shooting with the new Leica M and 50 Noctilux ASPH and the character is still there no question…I took the image below at 0.95 using an ND filter and then converted to B&W using the Lightroom 4.4 “B&W Look #3″ filter and  then took out the grain. Lovely results but damn! How can anyone afford this setup? I know there are many who can and this lens will not really lose value if you hold on to it. It is one special lens that I loved from day one of shooting it.

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So hope you are all enjoying your weekend and come back Monday for the real lowdown on the hot Fuji X100s. Been working on it nonstop all week. Thanks to all for coming by and I appreciate each and every one of you who read my site!

Steve

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