Aug 072014
 

My quick interview with Olympus on the E-M1

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When I was in Ireland with Olympus they sat down with a few of us at Castle Leslie and asked us a few questions about the fabulous and game changing E-M1 camera. Below is my short but sweet interview. Of course you can see my full E-M1 review HERE and my visit to Castle Leslie in Ireland to shoot the E-M1 HERE. I feel the same about the E-M1 today as I did the 1st week it was launched. Best Micro 4/3 made today!  Thanks Olympus!

May 222014
 

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Olympus E-M1 for wedding photography?

By Katrin Küllenberg

As a professional wedding photographer I decided to use Olympus as my sole camera system. After one year in practice did this prove to be the right decision?

Traditionally, one had to have the biggest and most expensive camera around to be respected as a wedding photographer. There would always be some guest comparing his own equipment with yours, trying to discredit your professionalism. By switching to the Olympus OMD I refused to take part in this kind of competition and ignored all disparaging remarks about my gear. To my surprise, the longer I am using these cameras now, there is an increasing number of guests asking me about the benefits of the OMD, talking about their own intention of getting rid of their heavy DSLRs.
I also noticed that I now can blend into a crowd much easier and am able to take more candid shots than before as people hardly notice me – or just don’t take me seriously enough to freeze in awe of the camera, which serves my purpose just as well!

The biggest plus oft the OMD system is its weight. As a wedding photographer I will have to lug around two cameras all day but even after a 10-16 hours workday my back hardly registers the cameras at all.

Ergonomics
I started using the E-M5 first and added the E-M1 when it came out last December. The E-M5 is smaller and a little bit lighter, their functions are basically the same but the EM1, though bigger, is the more user-friendly model due to the greater amount of buttons, which can be programmed individually.
These shortcuts are missing with the E-M5 which you need to control by going into “menu” more often.
Both cameras are equipped with an EVF. Although it takes a short while to get used to as its view differs from a traditional view finder, the eye adjusts quickly and the positive aspects outweigh the cons. For reviewing the photo the camera shows the image just taken, giving you instant control of composition and exposure without having to refer to the monitor.
I shoot in manual mode, which is supported perfectly by the EVF. No test shots to determine ideal lighting are required. All adjustments in speed, aperture and ISO are reflected directly in the view you get by looking through the EVF. It is not a 100% perfect rendition of the image loaded down on the the computer later on but it comes approximately close.

The autofocus is very fast and accurate. To move the AF center-point one needs to press the buttons which, unfortunately, are quite close to the face ( remember: the camera is small!) but it is also possible to control the autofocus by working the dials regularly used for aperture and speed or the touch screen.

The OMD system offers high image quality with the following lenses:

Lenses
I work with several lenses for different situations.
My favourite is the 45mm 1.8.
The portraits are extremely sharp , and due to its f.1.8 I can use it everywhere all day long with beautiful bokeh.
The 12 mm is my wide angle lens. Light and combined with manual focusing + flash my favourite lens for the wedding party. Don’t use it with a higher aperture than f8.0 because of diffraction.

Sometimes I also use the 12-40mm 2.8. Not being quite as sharp as the primes it, nevertheless, gives me a broader range of possibilities but, unfortunately , its bulky size and heavy weight don’t recommend using it for very long.

The 75 mm 1.8 is great for intimate moments when the photographer does not want to interfere with the couple too much, e.g. at chuch or some moments during reception.

I hardly ever use the 60mm 2.8. I bought it for details and ring shots but besides that I yet have to discover its advantages for other situations.

Things to improve

Though being a great friend of the Olympus system, there are some aspects that I would want to see improved.

  • Sometimes the E-M1 freezes and has to be switched off and on. I don’t know if this is a common problem or just personal bad luck.
  • A general deficit of the entire OMD system it its lack of high ISO potential. It should not be pushed over 1600 ISO what gives it a disadvantage for use in badly lit places and at night. Here I need to use a bounced flash sooner than I would like to.
  • Another aspect waiting for improvement is its battery power: Shooting a wedding I need to have a serious backup of batteries as the OMD has to be recharged three or more times during the day.

Conclusion

Is the Olympus E-M1 the perfect camera for wedding reportage photography ?

It definitly depends on your shootings style and the look you want to achieve. E.g. if you prefer really shallow Depth of Field, use full frame with 85mm 1.2. This extreme effect you cannot achieve with the E-M1.

For me it is the nearly perfect camera system at the moment, which supports my style and does not get between me and the image.

All the best
Take care and take pictures
Katrin Küllenberg

www.heiter-bis-wolkig.info

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Katrin-Küllenberg-heiter-bis-wolkig/687532634605529?fref=ts

http://instagram.com/heiterbiswolkigphotography

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May 012014
 

The NEW SLR Magic Anamorphot “add on’”Lens with SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 Cine Lens and Olympus OMD EM-1

by Wilson Chong

This article was originally written in Christmas last year in anticipating the launch of the new SLR Magic Anamorphot Lens. However, some delay in sending to you this belated review. All shots were taken last year before Christmas.

First of all thank you for Andrew for lending the new SLR Magic Anamorphot Lens for me to try out. Secondly, I also thank you for Steve and Brandon for posting my user experience on this lens.

So, what the hell is “Anamorphot” or “Anamorphic” lens? This was way ahead of me but according to what I can understood how from Andrew over a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, it was cinematography technique which basically squeeze everything into the 35mm format but you have to correct it to the right aspect ratio before screening it…. huh? He was getting way too technical for me and I have no idea what he was talking about but I would love to try it out this new lens.

Here is bascially what Anamorphic format means according to Wiki.

My review purely as a user with little technical background.

I first thought Andrew was going to give me some special lens but suddenly a straight clip on lens appeared in front of me, It is a kind of add-on lens which you can put it over your existing lens. This makes we wonder, will it hold? Yes, it does and very solid too!

Since, I will be shooting this with my new OMD EM-1, but using the SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 Cine Lens. Now, I mounted it on my proud OMD EM-1, I wonder how this thing do on photos and vidoes.

For my previous review on the 35mm Hyperprime T0.95 cine lens, please click HERE.

Now, I must admit, I am no video shooter. In fact, I probably made so many mistakes in my shooting that I will fail my class (if I am a Videography student). However, I am eager to show you what I shot is because this thing actually make me to shot films and make me do some editing (even I have not done it before). Here is one of my test film shot in Mongkok, Hong Kong:

(Note: I am not too bothered with the aspect ratio because it does give you a 60s/70s retro feel to it. However, I guess occasional use is fine)

The second time, I have edited a couple of shots I and made this short film:

However, I must give kudos to this video using SLR Magic Anamorphot Lens called RELIEF (an excellent watch!):

Back to shooting using the new Anamorphot Lens. Since the Anamorphot Lens is very much depends on what the other lens you use, hence, you have to be careful to select the right one for your own use. As many of you may know, the 35mm Hyperprime T0.95 Cine Lens is a very contrasty lens and great for black and white shots. Shooting it with new Anamorphot lens also give you this unique characteristics.

The handling of new Anamorphot Lens together with the 35 Hyperprime and the new OMD EM-1 is surprising good. Mind you, I have got the hand grip add-on so that I have the pressure point at the bottom of my hand to hold up the camera and both lenses. Of course, when mounted the lens to the OMD, it looks like having a huge lens wandering around with you. Is heavy and definitely not discreet either.

Set aside the ergonomics, the focusing on both lens is rather simple, once you have the right setting on the Anamorphot lens, you don’t need to do much. The focusing is mainly on the 35mm Hyperprime lens. Of course, one of the main advantage of having the OMD EM1 is the anti-shock capabilities. The lens performs good and well up to my expectation. Once you are used to the set up, both lenses become one and I do not feel any immediate danger of the Anamorphot Lens being fall off or loosen during my filming.

The photos are great and with the new OMD EM1, it is surely, one of the best M4/3 camera available (although I got the new Df later with no Video Mode). I am sure it will satisfy fans who like to add some cinematic feel and also the opportunity to take advantage using other lens for the other moods. In short, the possibilities are endless.

please visit my flickr page

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Anyway, I would thank you Steve and Brandon for posting my submission and wish you all the best! Looking forward to your reviews, reports and thoughts on photography!

Best regards,
Wilson Chong

 

Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon stevehuffphoto.com and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.

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So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.

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Reliability

The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.

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Precision

Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.

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Quality

Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.

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Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

If you want to check out my websites:

http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/

http://www.hochzeitsfotograf-rs.de/

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Mar 312014
 

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The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 Lens Review & Comparison

By Steve Huff

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Hey hey! It is review time again and I have been a busy man shooting this Panasonic/Leica Nocticron lens for the past two weeks and let me tell ya, it is a serious lens my friends. It is large, it is expensive, and it is FAST with an f/1.2 aperture for those “NOCTurnal” moments.

Panasonic decided to create a “statement lens” to show that Micro 4/3 users can have some fun with shallow DOF, subject isolation and 3 Dimensional POP just as much as the APS-C guys :) The only problem is that they must have forgotten that Olympus has the 45 1.8 Lens that one can now buy for $350 or so. Yep, almost the same focal length and almost as fast in the aperture department for about $1100+ less. Oops.

But is it really an Oops? I do not think so because this Nocticron is so so so good that it beats the 45 1.8 in most ways (besides size and weight and cost). Is this Panasonic jewel $1100 better? No, but the Nocticron is a lens for those who want the best of the best..the unique draw and style, a taste of a real Noctilux and yes, the LEICA name.

Indoors, a coffee shop..I raised the Panasonic GX7, aimed, and fired. F/1.2 wide open and sharp as a tac. This Nocticron offers it all. Color, contrast, sharpness, gorgeous bokeh, build and more. Click the image below for a larger and much better view. 

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It seems that some think that Leica makes this lens. They do not. It also seems that some feel Leica supplies the glass for this lens. They do not. This is a made in Japan Panasonic lens made by Panasonic. Panasonic has a deal with Leica where they use the Leica name on certain lenses because Leica helped with the design. So in reality, Leica did help with the design but the construction is all Panasonic, made in Japan.

So does the LEICA name on the front of the lens mean that this lens at least has some of that Leica mojo and magic? Previous lenses from Panasonic with the Leica name included the now legendary 25 1.4, which has been considered as the best Micro 4/3 lens available when you want that Leica look and quality. There is also been the older 45 2.8 Macro, which was astounding in the IQ department though slow to focus. Panasonic also recently announced the new 15mm f 1.7 with the Leica name and that one looks like a 100% winner at $599. A 30mm equivalent with a fast 1.7 aperture. Yummy.

After using this lens extensively I would say that YES, it does indeed have a little of that Leica look, feel and rendering..or as I call it “MoJo”. I will go a bit farther and say that this is an overall better lens that the old Leica F/1 Noctilux that sells for $6500 or so used.

Olympus E-M1 with Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – IMO, nothing beats Olympus colors.

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So if we look at pricing..the “PanaLeica” 25mm 1.4 is around $529. The 45 2.8 comes in at $719. The new 17 1.7 will be $599.

So why is this Nocticron nearly $1600?

Well, the real answer is because it is a costly design AND an amazing performing lens and as I said earlier, a Statement piece from Panasonic. Panasonic will not sell loads of these due to the cost and the fact that it is really a specialty lens. So they can not spend millions to design and create it only to sell it for $500! Even the old 45 2.8 is $720, for an f/2.8! This Nocticron is not or in any way a $500 lens. In fact, when I first saw it and held it it reminded me of the real deal, the $11,000 Leica Noctilux f/0.95. It has the same design on the outside. In that regard it has some “Noctilux” character to it. The Leica is $11,000 for a 50mm f/0.95 and that lens is a tour de force of optical magic. Is it worth $11,000? No. But it sells well at that cost for Leica because there is nothing like it, at all. It is one of a kind and sharp even at 0.95 with a creamy Bokeh that melts into the frame.

The Panasonic is $1600, or $9400 less than the Leica Noctilux! While the Panasonic is NOT a Leica Noctilux it does indeed offer some of the flavor of that big money lens, for MUCH less money..MUCH less. I will state right up front that the Panasonic Nocticron has the best Bokeh I have seen next to the real deal. It competes and compares with the Leica Noctilux in this area 100%. The Bokeh is amazingly creamy, dreamy and NOT headache inducing like some lenses. Many exotic lenses fall short in this area..the out of focus background areas. Not this lens!

This is also the area where the 45 1.8 falls a bit short as the Bokeh can get busy and neurotic during certain scenes. The Panasonic has gorgeous Bokeh quality above and beyond any Micro 4/3 lens I have seen to date. In fact, I will call it the “Bokeh Master” of the Micro 4/3 world.

E-M1 and Nocticron at f/1.2 – click it for larger

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Is smooth and creamy background blur worth $1600? No, not really but in this review I will be taking a look at this lens as a whole from build, to O.I.S., to AF speed to sharpness at all apertures, bokeh and a comparison with the Olympus 45 1.8 and Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95 (that comes in at $1000 but is manual focus only). Then I will decide if as a whole “is this lens worth $1600″?

I have used this lens exclusively for the past two weeks and what you will read below is my experience with it in all aspects. If you do not want to read the full review let me just say that after my time with the lens I bought one for myself from Amazon right HERE. Yep. I found it is just as special as the real Leica Noctilux (in a Micro 4/3 kind of way) and offered me more character, more pop, better contrast,  and much nicer Bokeh than the $350 Olympus (which I also own). I guess that answered my question of “is it worth it” pretty quickly! I will get more into why I bought one of these expensive lenses when I already own the $350 marvel in the conclusion of the review :)

The Nocticron Arrives

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I originally rented this lens because I did not want to buy one to review it. I figured I would rent it for a week or two, use it, review it and say “Buy the Olympus 45″ and be done with it. But as it went, I was wrong. When the lens rental arrived I pulled it out of a case only to say “wow, this LOOKs like the Noctilux”! It is not built like the Leica Noctilux, not even close…but it does resemble it. It is much lighter than the Noctilux as well. Still, this lens looks and feels mighty impressive for a Micro 4/3 lens. I instantly knew that this was the best built AF lens for the system, hands down. While all Olympus primes are built nicely and feel like little light jewels, this Panasonic is more of a brute..a serious light gathering machine..more importantly “An Artist’s Tool”.

Olympus E-M1 and Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 12,800

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I say “An Artist’s Tool” because this lens has that capability, that extra something that is lacking in most lenses to call it just that. The rendering when wide open, at the right distance from your subject gives you the 3Dimensional Pop (not as much as an f/1.2 lens in full frame) as well as the color and contrast characteristics of high end lenses. The Micro Contrast is also very good here, among the best I have seen with Micro 4/3 (Olympus 75 1.8) and the Bokeh is phenomenal.

But before I go on and on about the qualities of this lens, let me start by talking about the specs:

Focal Length 42.5mm - Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 85 mm (classic portrait lens)

Aperture Maximum: f/1.2 – 16.0 (starting at a super fast f/1.2 this gives us true light gathering of an f/1.2 lens, so for night this is #1 in M4/3)

Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds

Minimum Focus Distance 1.64′ (.5 m) (pretty close min focus, Leica Noctilus has a 1 meter min distance)

Elements/Groups 14/11 – (14 elements, 11 groups)

Diaphragm Blades 9 (for better and smoother Bokeh. The Fuji 56 1.2 has 7 blades)

Image Stabilization Yes – (built in O.I.S. which is what makes it so large)

Autofocus Yes

Filter Thread 67 mm

Weight 14.99 oz (425 g)  -(Leica Noctilux is 700 grams)

Additionally, there is an Extra-low Dispersion element that increases contrast and sharpness and an Ultra High Refractive Index element allows for a uniform look to the edges of the frame.

The above specs are impressive for this lens no doubt and one of the most controversial will be the f/1.2 aperture. Micro 4/3 hater and naysayers always are quick to point out that an f/1.2 lens in Micro 4/3 is like having an f/2.4 lens in full frame. Well, this is not true. FOR LIGHT GATHERING AND LOW LIGHT USE, this is a true F/1.2 lens. Period. For DEPTH OF FIELD it is more like a 90mm f/2.5 lens. Something like the $1800 Leica 90 f/2.5 Summarit but with a closer minimum focus distance and true f/1.2 light gathering ability and for less money. :)

The lens breakdown…

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The key to this lens is that you are getting pure state of the art performance for your Micro 4/3 camera and yes, Micro 4/3 is a legitimate format that is used by pros, enthusiasts, amateurs and every day camera Joe’s. The performance of the latest M 4/3 camera bodies (specifically from Olympus) is up there with any APS-C, and as I have reported about before, in some areas they are better. Cameras like the E-M1 are a whirlwind of performance in every way. I also feel, after using everything out there, that Micro 4/3 offers the BEST quality lenses for any mirror less camera system (besides Leica M). They are that good in build, speed, and IQ.

These Leica/Panasonic lenses take it up another notch when it comes to color, contrast, micro-contrast and overall IQ.

Was in my kitchen table at night, Brandon was in front of me and I called his name and fired. The E-M1 was at ISO 800, lens was at f/1.2. CLICK it for larger and sharper.

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This lens will work for portraits..

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or even candid street moments..

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Bokeh is smooth and free of the nasties, even in a bokeh torture test condition like the one below  - click for larger. E-M1

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Yes this lens works well with Olympus or Panasonic bodies

This lens works with the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies just as well as it does with the Panasonic bodies. Yes, I have been shooting a GX7 and E-M1 side by side and I get consistent results with the E-M1 in regards to color and lower noise. The GX7 files have SLIGHTLY more noise (RAW, without NR) even at base ISO and I prefer the color rendering, build, and quick menu of the Oly system. But the GX7 produces IQ almost the same as the E-M1 with some color differences but the build is of a lower standard with the Panasonic GX7 vs the E-P5 or E-M1.

It is a fact! The Olympus bodies are built so so well. The E-P5 feels like a solid brick of metal with quality switches and dials. The GX7 feels plastic with lower quality dials and levers.

But with that said, the lens works well on either camera and on Panasonic bodies you will be able to use the manual aperture dial. On Olympus bodies the Aperture ring is useless and can not be used so you just use the normal aperture thumb dial on the E-M1. It is a give and take I guess.

The manual aperture dial reminds me of quality Leica M glass, much like the real $11k Noctilux (which I have owned long term in the past). 

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So wether you have an Olympus OM-D or PEN this lens works wonderfully. If you have a Panasonic you get the Aperture dial function.

Inside of a restaurant at f/1.2 – Olympus E-M1

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Built in OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION

The Panasonic Nocticron has O.I.S. built in, so for all of you Panasonic body shooters this is very important and useful. For Olympus shooters that have one of the 3 or 5 Axis IS bodies then you will want to use the in body 3 or 5 Axis over the lens O.I.S. as the Olympus IS system beats the lens O.I.S. hands down. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is NOTHING like the 5 Axis IS of the Olympus bodies, nothing. The few who put it down just do not shoot Olympus and prefer Panasonic but the real story is that the 5 and 3 Axis IS systems of the Olympus bodies is revolutionary and offers HUGE benefits, even for video use.

Below is a snippet where I tested the built in O.I.S. of the lens vs the Olympus E-M1′s 5-Axis IS – same shutter speed but the 5Axis provided a clear image vs the lens OIS blur.

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So having the OIS in the lens is good for those who shoot without a body that has the advanced IS built in. On the GX7 this is mandatory to have in a lens like this so it is good that Olympus packed it in, they really had no choice.

A Closer Look

Below is a comparison between the amazing little Olympus 45 1.8 that comes in at around $350 as well as the Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95. It seems I had an issue focusing the Voigtlander on the Panasonic GX7 due to the small EVF. When the 42.5 Voigtlander is focused correctly it is razor sharp, even wide open, in the center of the frame. See my review HERE. 

1st up, YOU MUST click on the images below to see them correctly. 

The Nocticron is 1st at f/1.6, then the Olympus at 1.8 and then the Voigtlander (slightly mis-focused, sorry!)  The Olympus has more magnification going from 85mm to 90mm and is quite good for a $350 lens! The Olympus offers more of a “telephoto” look with more compression..flatter. The Nocticron offers a gentler more 3D rendering similar to a real Leica lens.

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Below is a more visible example of the difference between the Nocticron rendering and the Olympus 45 1.8.

Click the images for correct and larger versions..

The 1st image below was shot with the Noctiron and GX7 at f/1.2, wide open. Here you can see the 3D pop between the subject and the background. There is a clear distinction between Debby and the background, with a superb fall off from in focus to out. This is the hallmark of a good lens IMO. 

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Below is the Olympus 45 1.8 and when you click and view this side by side with the Nocticron you can see the differences. To some, you may not even see it. To others it will be huge and to some it will be slight. The 45 rendered the image in a duller way from color to a flatter look. As good as the 45 1.8 is, it does not approach the Nocticron, which is one reason why the Noct is so expensive. 

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And now and image from over a year ago in the same spot taken with the Leica Noctilux at f/0.95 on an M 240. This is the most 3D of them all but it should be considering the combo of lens and body will run you about $18,000. :)

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Full Size Files and a crop

I am finding the Nocticron to be sharp even wide open but at the same time it is not clinical in any way. It is more organic and flowing, much like the original F/1 Noctilux from Leica. It has a certain character to it wide open that I like, a lot. Below are two full size files, one wide open at f/1.2 and one that should have been f/4 but the EXIF reads at f/3.2

Thanks to “Baby” my little Chihuahua we rescued for being extremely still while modeling :)

1st up, wide open at f/1.2. Right click image and open in new tab or window for full size from RAW

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again, right click and open in new tab or window for full size at f/3.2

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The lens is RAZOR sharp wide open and gets sharper as it is stopped down. I actually love the lens at f/4 as well as f/1.2. It is an all around great performer and for this focal length, the ultimate lens for Micro 4/3. HERE IS ONE MORE wide open at f/1.2 – look at the sharpness, color, detail and Bokeh. Amazing..

CLICK IT for larger and better version – the way it was meant to be seen..AMAZING detail at f/1.2, superb color and Bokeh. This was shot with the GX7. THIS simple test shot reveals why this lens is so special. Bokeh gets an A, sharpness gets an A+, color gets an A, 3D pop gets an A. 

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Distortions

While shooting this lens in real word scenarios I never saw any kind of distortion or had an issue with CA. I do not do scientific tests nor do I shoot white walls looking for vignetting, because if I do not see an issue while using the lens for what it was designed to do (take photos) then I do not see a problem. When shooting the Panasonic Nocticron I had no issues with Vignetting or Distortion. Period. The lens does have slight vignetting wide open though but so does the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95.

The one shot that slightly missed focus but this so reminds me of the Leica Noctilux F/1 Rendering! I love it.

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AF Speed

The Af speed of the lens is VERY quick in good light and slows down in low light but it always locks on and the only time it missed for me is in the above shot of the dog but I think it was trying to focus on the dirty glass instead of the dog, so maybe it did NOT miss. AF speed was a TAD faster on the E-M1 vs the GX7 but both were comparable.

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VIDEO USE

This lens SHOULD be a video shooters dream. I have yet to shoot video with this guy but plan on it soon and when I do I will post a sample video right here :) So check back in a week or two!

Bottom Line Conclusion

So is this lens worth $1600? THAT is the question, especially when we have lenses like the Olympus 45 1.8 which is similar in focal length and slightly slower in aperture speed for $350. The Olympus is also MUCH smaller and MUCH lighter and slightly faster to AF. So wouldn’t the Olympus be the “No Brainer” decision? Why yes, it would.

BUT! If you are like me, and DO notice those small differences such as contrast, color, bokeh quality and rendering then you might want to take a serious look at this Nocticron. The Panasonic/Leica lenses have all been SUPERB. The 25 1.4, the 45 2.8 and now the Nocticron all use a Leica design and in the case of this Nocticron, more exotic glass than a normal Panasonic lens. When good glass is used you can tell and this lens has a way of lighting up a scene just like a real Noctilux does.

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Sometimes a lens comes along that is special. This is one of those lenses. It has it all built into one monster shell, though it still comes in smaller in size and lighter in weight than a comparable full frame lens. Built in O.I.S., great sharpness and rendering at f/1.2 AND Auto Focus, something that the Voigtlander lenses are missing and those lenses can be tricky on a smaller EVF camera like the GX7. I am thrilled that Panasonic created this lens.

Many will argue that this is not an F/1.2 lens, but it is indeed a true f/1.2 aperture lens. I will repeat: THIS IS A TRUE 42.5MM f/1.2 LENS.

Yo will get f/1.2 light gathering capability. You will be able to shoot at f/1.2 in the dark and you will be using a true f/1.2 aperture with 1.2 light gathering ability. THIS is what an f/1.2 lens is made for..low light and in that regards the Nocticron is true to its name..NOCTURNAL.

The image below was shot on the E-M1 at ISO 10,000 at f/1.2. It was inside my house at night with barely ANY light at all. ZERO noise reduction. Reminds me of something that would have come out of the Leica Monochrom! Good lenses can make all of the difference in the world. 

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So if you shoot Micro 4/3, Olympus or Panasonic, and you want a fast portrait length prime that offers a bit of EVERYTHING such as fast aperture, delicious bokeh, amazing sharpness and detail/micro-contrast which also happens to shoot great video then PUT THIS LENS ON YOUR LIST. Yes, it is $1600 and yes it is expensive but this lens will hold value over the long-term, moreso than a standard M 4/3 lens.

Micro 4/3 has come a long long way since the early days and today it offers astounding IQ, fast speed, the best built mirror less bodies as well as the fastest and the best collection of glass out of any mirror less system. From wide to tele and macro, there is nothing that a Micro 4/3 system can not do. Olympus and Panasonic are rocking it big time and this lens just solidifies the fact that Micro 4/3 will NOT go away despite the doom and gloom of some large sensor fans. Many have asked me about the new Fuji 56 1.2, which is also a fast portrait prime for the X system. I have NOT tried the Fuji yet but HAVE handled it. The build of the Panasonic is better. I have seen numerous shots from the Fuji and they look gorgeous as well but no OIS in the lens OR body for Fuji. Also, the Bokeh from the Fuji is a little on the busy side in comparison.

If a man came up to me and said pick one and keep it..for free. Either a Fuji X-T1 and 56 1.2 or an Olympus PEN E-P5  with finder and the Nocticron, I would not hesitate for a nano-second. It would be the PEN and Nocticron. Easy choice for me. Still, Fuji is another company that seems to “get it” when it comes to releasing what many of us enthusiasts want. I say, keep ‘em coming!

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I feel that the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 lens is the best built AF lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Period. It is also the fastest aperture AF prime for the system. It is a true “Noct” lens in its rendering and style and deserves to be up there with other well-known “Noct” lenses that cost MUCH more than this one does. For me, I had to own one so I bought one after shooting the review sample for 2 weeks, so that may say something right there.

In regards to the 45 1.8 which I also own, I bought the Noct as it inspires me more to go out and shoot with it. It offers am ore creamy and organic rendering over the 45 1.8, better color and contrast and is more of an Artists tool than a lens. I am a sucker for fast glass and I did not believe for a nanosecond that I would spurge and purchase this lens, but it is that good. It has more Leica than Panasonic it seems, and that is a good thing as you can not get a real Leica lens for less than a few grand new (50 Summilux f/1.4 is $4300). This is why I purchased one for myself.

So I highly recommend this lens for any and all Micro 4/3 shooters who WANT and DESIRE a lens such as this.

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WHERE TO BUY THE NOCTICRON!

You can buy the Nocticron using the direct links below to Amazon or B&H Photo. Using these links will help me to keep this site going and costs you NOTHING extra so if this review helped your decision, I thank you for using the links below!

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

More samples from the Nocticron!

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

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

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Mar 262014
 

User Report: The Olympus E-M1

by Leigh Miller – His website is HERE

These are exciting times in the world of photography and for the first time we have cameras in three different formats that show some real innovation.

I’ve switched completely from the dominant format (35mm) to Micro Four Thirds and APS-C. All of my professional work is now done with a combination of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and an assortment of Fuji cameras. The E-M1 saw the majority of use on my trip because it’s so versatile. The small size, fast performance and great image quality meant that I could take it anywhere with zero concerns.

Size

The complete kit of body and 12-40 zoom lens takes up practically no space at all in my slingback bag. Over the two-week period I hiked, biked, rowed, went boating and horseback riding making pictures along the way. It’s so light that I was shooting one-handed in many situations.

Sunrise in San Pedro

Performance

You don’t wait on the E-M1, it waits for you. This thing starts up fast, focuses fast and writes to the SD Card fast. I never over-ran the memory buffer during high-speed shooting. The 12-40 zoom was tailor-made for this camera. Used together you have a weather-resistant kit that can go anywhere. I took it out of an air-conditioned hotel into searing heat without it fogging up. I got it splashed with water repeatedly while boating down a fast-moving river with absolutely no problems. I never missed a shot because of focusing issues either. The AF is as accurate as it is fast.

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Image Quality

Lot’s of noise has been made about the IQ of M4/3 sensors. The general opinion is that while they turn out great travel and leisure activity images, you need a full frame or APS-C camera for professional work.

Absolute nonsense.

The image quality from this camera in top-notch and I haven’t had any trouble using them in my professional assignments. I’ve done headshot, product, product, real estate…beauty & fashion photography assignments for my clients with it. In many cases, I don’t even bother shooting RAW. Like Fuji cameras, the E-M1 allows you to pre-process your images exactly as you want them to look.

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Summary

I spent a month with the E-M1 before taking it to Belize. More than enough time to familiarize myself and set it up according to my shooting style. The sheer number of configuration options can be overwhelming but there are good resources to help you out.

http://www.biofos.com/mft/omd_em1_settings.html

http://photolisticlife.com/2013/10/17/olympus-om-d-e-m1-user-guide/

Give yourself an hour and a glass of wine. By the time the hour is up and the glass is empty this camera will be configured with all of the important functions right under your fingers.

Feeding Time

 A couple of items you want to watch:

Battery Life: Right out of the box this camera is set up to drain the batteries really fast. Change it to turn off the rear LCD unless you are reviewing an image. Also turn of the full-time auto-focus. When you have done those two things, set the camera to go to sleep after two minutes. Doing this extended my battery life to about 700′ish shots per charge.

Weather Resistance: The only lens that completes the body sealing is the 12-40mm zoom. If you have older lenses such as the 45mm, they become the weakest link.

JPEG Engine: Very good but you want to tone down the noise reduction. It’s far too aggressive with the factory setting.

Shutter Button: Very light action. If you sling the camera over your shoulder and it comes into contact with your body, you will go home to find an SD Card full of random shots.

Video: Olympus readily admits that video wasn’t their biggest concern when they designed the E-M1. That may turn some people off but it shouldn’t. Unless you need the advanced video features of the Panasonic GH2/3 or 4 the E-M1 will do a good enough job.

The IBIS alone is worth it’s weight in gold when shooting video. Handheld footage is smooth and generally well exposed and detailed. The files also respond well to post-processing in Adobe Premiere. The only time it tripped up was when I filmed while on horseback. The gait of the horse threw off the IBIS and focusing. However in every other situation it performed very well.

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Streets of San Pedro

Video Sample

 

Equipment Used for the images here

Olympus OM-D E-M1

M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8

M.Zuiko 45mm F/1.8

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Feb 252014
 

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The Olympus 25 1.8 Lens Review on the E-M1

By Steve Huff

Hello once again to all of you camera crazy readers! Today I am going to talk about the new-ish Olympus 25 1.8 lens as it has recently shipped and is really the only Auto Focus competition to the now legendary Panasonic 25 1.4 lens, which has been known as one of the finest lenses for  the Micro 4/3 system. That lens, on SOME cameras, has been known to have slower focus and a “rattlesnake” sound when just attached to the lens with the camera being powered on. (On the E-M1 I do not hear this effect though). The new Olympus is smaller, sleeker, focuses faster, much shorter with hood attached and comes in at $129 less than the Panasonic counterpart.

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But how does it stack up to the Panasonic? Well, I will tell you right off the bat that while it is not as sharp as the Panasonic, it gets about 99.5% there. It does not have the Micro Contrast of the Panasonic, but gets us about 90% of the way there. It vignettes slightly when wide open where the Panasonic does not but it does focus slightly faster and like I said, it is quite a bit smaller as you will see below in the size comparison.

On the Las Vegas strip at f/2.5 with the Olympus 25 1.8. If you click this image you can see a larger size that is much sharper. In fact, it will show you just how sharp the lens is. I converted this one to B&W. 

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Over the years I have grown fond of certain lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. The Panasonic 25 1.4 is one of them while others like the Olympus 45 1.8, 75 1.8 and even 17 1.8 are up there as well with me. The 60 Macro is astonishing and the 12mm f/2 is one I really enjoy. The new 12-40 Zoom seems pretty versatile and incredible as well. I’d say my #1 most used lens on my E-M1 is the 17 1.8. For me, it has the sharpness, the detail, the color, and the “feel”. I love it but I also have been enjoying the 35mm (equiv) focal length more lately.

Shot at f/1.8 this is close focused and right out of camera. Bold bright color and sharp with a pleasant Bokeh. Click it for larger/sharper!

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The Micro 4/3 Version of a 50mm explained

I go in phases between the 35mm and 50mm being my #1 fave to shoot with and these days it is 35 all the way, so when out shooting with this 25 (50mm equiv) I was once again having to get used to shooting this focal length. After a solid few days of shooting with it daily I remember what it is that makes it my #2 favorite focal length! It has the perfect mix of sharpness and shallow DOF possibilities. While this is indeed a true 25mm lens, and we will get 25mm DOF from the lens, the focal length appears as a 50mm. So imagine the Olympus 25mm as a 50mm with 25mm Depth of Field and “Bokeh”. Due to the shorter focal length we will not get subject isolation as we will get on a real 50mm. It will give us 25mm DOF and isolation and yes, f 1.8 is a true f/1.8. Just on a 25mm lens.

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At the end of the day though, a 25mm acts like a 50mm for focal length/magnification so this is what you are going to see when looking through your viewfinder. It will not be like when you put a 24mm on your full frame camera, but like when you put a 50mm on your full frame camera except for the Depth of Field control. Basically, on Micro 4/3 we are magnifying that 25mm to give us a 50mm field of view.

Other 25mm lenses include the Panasonic 25 1.4, which is one of the highest rated 25mm lenses for Micro 4/3. We also have the amazingly good, and one of my all time manual focus faves, the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 which allows you to focus close, get almost full frame quality Depth of Field and Bokeh, and is built like the Voigtlander lenses for the Leica system.

One of our workshop attendees taking a break in the middle of the desert with his Starbucks and Leica M :)

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As always, speed costs and in Micro 4/3 is no exception. The Olympus 25 1.8 costs $399, the Panasonic is $529 and the Voigtlander will run you a cool grand.

You can see my Panasonic review HERE and some Voigtlander shots are HERE.

At the Valley of Fire with Todd Hatakeyama (Master Organizer – foreground) and Pro Photographer Extraordinaire Jay Bartlett (Background)

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Just as with my other Micro 4/3 lens reviews, there is not much to say about the lens. I mean, when a lens is sharp, focuses fast and is small, light and beautiful in design what can you say? It really has no faults so all I can do is write about what I feel when it is compared to the Panasonic 25 1.4, the lens who reigns supreme in this focal length for this format. I already did ONE quick comparison while out on the road (which is why it was quick) so let me go into more detail about this lens VS the mighty Panasonic.

This is an OOC JPEG from the E-m1 and 25 1.8 shot at 2.5

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The Olympus 25 1.8 vs the Panasonic 25 1.4

  • Cost. The Panasonic can be bought HERE for $529. The Olympus can be bought here for $399. So, the Olympus is $129 less expensive than the Panasonic. Makes sense because the Olympus is an f/1.8 lens vs an f/1.4 of the Panasonic. So for cost, and bang for the buck, the Olympus wins.
  • SIZE. The Panasonic is quite a bit larger than the Olympus when the hoods are attached (see below) but the Panasonic is still a very small lens. Only when viewed next to the Olympus does it look large. The Olympus is super small and light where the Panasonic is wider, taller and has more bulk. The Olympus almost appears to be half the size when looking at the image below. So if small size if your thing, the Olympus wins. 

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  • Sharpness. BOTH of these lenses can render a super sharp image. BOTH have slightly different color and contrast signatures though. I would say that the Olympus is just as sharp as the Panasonic..well, 99.5% as sharp when both lenses are shot at 1.8. I’d say the Panasonic has a little bit better Micro Contrast though as when looking at some real world street shooting files on my 27″ display I see it. This is a sign of a very good lens, and is one area where Leica excels with their uber expensive lenses. For example, the Leica 50 Summicron f/2 has amazing micro contrast and one of my all time favorite Leica lenses for the M system (or Sony A7). The Panasonic 25 1.4 is a Leica/Panasonic collaboration so it shares some of that Leica magic. I used to think it did not but it does indeed though not to the level of true Leica glass. The difference is not huge between the Panasonic and Olympus  by any means but you can see it when pixel peeping. So because of this, For overall performance and sharpness, the Panasonic wins.

See the full size files below from each lens at apertures from 1.4 to 1.8 to 5.6..the Panasonic does not appear to be any sharper than the Olympus here:

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Now the Panasonic wide open at 1.4, which the Olympus can not do..

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and both stopped down to f/5.6

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  • AF Speed. When out on the street shooting these lenses I though for sure that the Olympus would smoke the Panasonic with Auto Focus, and that was not the case! Both lenses focused fast on my E-M1, and to be 100% honest, I saw no difference in speed when out in the street at night using both. The Olympus may have a slight edge overall, but it is not a night and day, and for some will not even be noticeable. Remember  though, this is on the E-M1 which may be helping the lenses to focus fast. So I give this one a Tie with a SLIGHT edge going to the Olympus.
  • Bokeh. Well, if Bokeh is what you are after (and many Micro 4/3 shooters are indeed after this) then you will want the Panasonic as it is an f/1.4 lens. While not much of a difference at all, there is indeed a mental difference going on in that head of yours and if speed is what you need then you will not be happy with the f/1.8 of the Olympus. Nope, go for the Panasonic! If speed is not of great concern and you realize that f/1.4 is not a huge step up from f/1.8 then the Olympus may be just the ticket. In reality, when the Panasonic is shot at f/1.4 you will not see much more background blur than the 1.8 of the Olympus. It exists but will you see it? Maybe, maybe not. Both lenses rock this.  Panasonic wins here as it has the ability to create MORE shallow DOF and Bokeh. 

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  • Distortion and CA. The Panasonic has more CA (Purple Fringing) than the Olympus, which is clear and evident. So for this the Olympus wins. See the crop below from each lens. 

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So at the end of the day BOTH of these lenses will deliver the goods. Me, I prefer the Olympus as I am not losing much at all over the Panasonic but I am gaining the small size, the nice price and the overall look that matches my other Olympus primes AS WELL as almost no CA issues. I could live with EITHER lens long-term. It comes down to if you want small size, slightly faster AF, and f 1.8 or if you want larger, faster aperture at 1.4 and slightly slower AF while paying $129 more.

If you own the Panasonic, keep it. If you do not own either, you can save money and be 100% happy with the Olympus. If you want the Olympus you can sell your Panasonic for as much as it costs to buy the new Olympus. In other words, there is no wrong choice here. Both lenses are fantastic. Those who are putting down the Olympus (and I have already seen it on forums and right here on the comments of this website) are just those who own the Panasonic, never tried the Olympus and are sticking up for their brand. BOTH lenses are wonderful and both will give you the tool you need to express your photographic vision. I have to hand it to Olympus for constantly releasing new amazing lenses. This is another one they can add to the premium list of primes that help make the Micro 4/3 system so enjoyable! Keep ‘em coming Olympus AND Panasonic! PLEASE!

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WHERE TO BUY?

You can order the Olympus 25 1.8 at Amazon HERE or at B&H Photo HERE.

PopFlash also sells the lens here.

This lens has a 46mm filter thread so using my favorite ND filter is possible with this one!

A few more shots with the Olympus 25 1.8 Lens 

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

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

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Feb 242014
 

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Quick Comparison: Olympus 25 1.8 vs Panasonic 25 1.4

So here is the much asked for comparison of the $399 Olympus 25 1.8 vs the $129 more expensive 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3. Besides the slight speed increase of 1.4 vs 1.8, what does the Panasonic offer you for the extra $129..or should I say what DOESNT it offer?

I have shot with them side by side for a few days and found that they are VERY close in regards to image quality/sharpness. So close in fact that if I were buying new today I would buy the Olympus if I was using an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera. It seems to be just as good, it focuses fast, is smaller, and has no issues on the Olympus bodies. Below are a few quick comparison shots so you can judge for yourself.

The test images below.. you can right-click and open them in a new tab or window to see the full size file.

1st, Olympus 25 1.8 with the E-M1 at 1.8, wide open

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Now the Panasonic 25 1.4 at 1.8 on the E-M1

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and the crops..

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The Panasonic is slightly sharper here but not by much at all. To me, the benefits of the Olympus ($129 less, smaller, faster AF, silent focus, more neutral color) beat out that small miniscule sharpness difference.

and speaking of sharpness, here is a full size shot from the E-M1 and 25 1.8 – right-click and open in a new window to see the full size image (from RAW). This was shot at f/2.5.

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Feb 122014
 

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Olympus E-M1 takes Manhattan!!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Just before Christmas I sailed from Southampton to New York on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner for the 3rd year running. This time I had with me two beautiful models, one was the London-based print model Irina Sosnova and the other was the Olympus OMD-EM1. My objective was to come back with some shots depicting the loose narrative of a beautiful woman crossing the Atlantic alone to be with her man in New York.

Along with the EM1 body I had with me a bag of Olympus lenses including the 12mm, 17mm (f1.8), 45mm, 60mm macro, 75mm and 12-40mm f2.8 Pro. I also had my Leica DG 25mm Summilux and a Leica M 35mm Summilux ASPH (non FLE).

The weather was pretty bad for most of the journey. We managed to get out on the deck for only 15 minutes during the whole trip. During this mini-shoot the winds were so high Irina was convinced her false eyelashes were going to blow right off! As we shot, passengers and crew were forming an audience and were running a book on how long it would take for her flimsy silk dress to do the same! I was using my Olympus FL50 flash on manual but was still managing to wildly overexpose many of the shots. Everything felt so rushed with the winds, we could hardly hear each other talk, it was both frantic and exhilarating! Fortunately I shoot RAW so managed to save the files but I really need to try to get to grips with flash this year:)

The rest of the journey we spent indoors, moving around the ship looking for interesting light and reasonable backdrops. By the end of the week we knew exactly where to go for the best light at any given time of day. Night time shooting was not easy but I did find some wonderful diffuse light in the doorway of the perfume store, thanks to the huge perfume display lighting. But as I keep reading in Gregory Heisler’s new book, things would be so much easier if I could crack the ‘off camera-flash mixed with ambient light’ thing! I will do one day but even on manual, I seem to get big variances! Anyway, I pressed on with my reflector disc and what comes through the window.

We arrived in New York with unusually balmy, warm weather. Within 3 days it dropped about 25 degrees. It started warm and rainy and we had a terrible first day of shooting traipsing around Soho looking for opportunities in the rain along with our NYC based make up artist Gil Aldrin who very wisely as it turned out, wore uber-fashionable Wellington boots!. The next day we awoke to clear blue skies, it was colder than a well-diggers ass, but brilliant sunshine. We were joined by a New York model TJ Fink who does a sideline in stand-up when he’s not smiling for the camera. We shot a few scenes near the Brooklyn bridge where it seemed extra cold by the water. I had remembered from my first year in New York that around 2pm the low winter sun lights up 6th Avenue and creates a monumental drama at around 56th street. So we headed over there and popped out the reflector which Gil kindly wielded for me. I’m not accustomed to shooting more than one person at a time and even newer to shooting peoples’ ‘legs’. Combined with the Christmas traffic and having to dive inside nearby cafe’s and hotels just to warm up it made for a challenging but rewarding day!

I also brought out a Sony A7 to use with my Leica M 50mm Summilux lens. I thought perhaps a full frame option would be useful. It’s a breakthrough camera there’s no doubt but I have to say, I found it slow and unresponsive in actual use. Reviewing images was a drag. The images I was able to capture with the fast AF of the EM1 were turning out more accurately focussed than I could do manually. Of course the A7 with that lens has a little more subject isolation but its not enough of a difference to make me want to pick it up in place of the EM1. I ended up shooting very little on the A7 even though I took it along every day.

The last proper day of shooting was even colder but we lifted the mood with a trip up to the top of the rock which was surprisingly warmer than on the street! We got there about an hour before sundown and it made for some nice reflector shots wide open and closed down. I normally have my standard prime glued to the camera but as I wanted some context, I used wider lenses a great deal. The 17mm was a great performer wide open and still gave me a very pleasing background. The 12-40 zoom was a great lens to use too, sharp, contrasty and handy in its range of immediate focal lengths. But the EM1 body was simply the most intuitive camera I have ever used. Ive been using it since September and it just works. It feels solid and secure to hold without weighing me down and it produces lovely clean files in low light. Adjusting the exposure in real-time in the viewfinder, using exposure compensation is now for me the only way to shoot. No numbers, no calculations, no guessing, just visualising the shot, dialling it in and seeing the end result appear before I even push the release.

So here are my favourites from the shoot. I’ve processed these with Photoshop, Lightroom Silver Efex Pro 2 and Colour Efex 4. Of course as some of you may know, I do have a working relationship with Olympus but I have to say, I’m a very willing evangelist (or ‘fanboy’ as I think is the popular vernacular:) I sold my M9 recently and I have a strong feeling that I’ll be selling my M lenses soon too!

More EM1 pics can be seen at www.buchangrant.com

Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens Olympus FL50 flash ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 3200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 60mm Macro lens ISO 1600

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm pro lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 3200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 1000

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (31mm) ISO 320

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 640

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6th Ave Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (17mm) ISO 200

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (27mm) ISO 320

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 1250

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Times Square street portrait, Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux lens ISO 1600 (grain added for effect in post-processing)

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Williamsburg Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40 Pro lens (15mm) ISO 200

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Top of the Rock, Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica 25mm ISO 200

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Times Square – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12mm lens ISO 1600

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Top of the Rock , Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Times Square street portrait – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 400

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (27mm) ISO 200

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Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica M 35mm Summilux lens ISO 250

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This was shot handheld at 1/5th of a second thanks to the OMD EM1′s in-built stabilisation system. Taken on the very cold open air rooftop bar of the Peninsula Hotel off 5th Avenue (which you can see below filled with last minute Christmas shoppers!)

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Top of the Rock,Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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More EM1 pics can be seen at www.buchangrant.com

Jan 212014
 

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24 Hours with The Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. A quick review.

by Steve Huff

This is not really a “review” of the X-E2 and 23 1.4 but more of a report on using the camera for 24 hours. The X-E2 is VERY similar to the X-E1 and there is not much more to say about the X-E2 besides talk about the AF speed improvement and the overall response time. Has it improved from the X-E1? Read on to find out as I write about my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 14!

Here we are in 2014 and Fuji is still continuing to pump out X body after X body with another new one supposedly on the way at the end of Jan 2014. For now I will be talking a bit about the Fuji X-E2 which is the replacement and update to the X-E1, which I found to be a good camera but a little slow to focus.. With that said, the X-E1 had the IQ behind it even if I have not been a fan of the X-Trans sensor for various reasons (I am in the minority here, I admit). Nope, I have always preferred the X100 sensor above all of the Fuji cameras as it just a had a tad of magic behind it that I preferred. The X-E2 continues with the X-Trans sensor but these days the support for processing these X-Trans files has finally grown and one can now use Adobe products to process the RAW files without any issues.

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This makes a difference or course and helps to removes some of the “flatness” and odd artifacts I saw in earlier reviews or earlier X-Trans cameras (when using Adobe to process). In fact, I am now really liking what I see coming from these X-Trans sensors and I do not have to download special software or software that I do not enjoy using to get fantastic results.

Fuji X-E2, 23 1.4 at 1.4 and ISO 320

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The Fuji X-E2 looks and feels like the X-E1 though it feels better and more solid when in use with the new and fantastic 23 1.4. Thanks to B&H Photo I was able to shoot one for a few days or so and while I originally was not going to review or do a report on the X-E2 I decided to give it a shot as I really wanted to check out the new 23 1.4 lens, which I knew would rock. Fuji makes some fantastic glass and all of their lenses have been stellar even though a couple of them have had focus speed and accuracy issues. Overall they are solid in the IQ department even beating out the Zeiss Touit designs.

ISO 3200 – 23 1.4 wide open

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With the X-E2 Fuji brings in a few improvements

For starters the sensor is still 16Mp but is now named the X-Trans CMOS II and the processor is also version II. The AF is also quicker and now included phase and contrast detect AF, which indeed does speed up the focus from the snail days of the original firmware X-Pro 1. The X-E2 adds the gimmicky face detection and the LCD has grown by a smidge as well as the resolution doubling (LCD). Same battery, same charger, same everything else but the body is now $999, same price of the X-E1 at launch. Basically it is what the X-E1 SHOULD HAVE been from the get go! But Fuji is learning and I give them the award for most dedicated support because n other camera company has been as dedicated to firmware updates for their cameras. Fuji improves the performance of their cameras with each and every firmware update, and they are not shy about releasing them like some companies (Leica for one).

In use the X-E2 is indeed an improvement over the X-E1!

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Size and Weight

The size of the X-E2 remains exactly the same as the X-E1. In fact, besides some button changes the bodies are almost 100% identical. So the X-E2 feels the same as the X-E1, which as I reported before is a little on the hollowly side of neutral. Both the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 feels more solid in the build department and in fact, the X-E2 is bigger than both of them, even the full frame Sony A7! The X-E1 is nice but not quite there yet when it comes to build quality but there has not been any issues reported with the X-E1 or X-E2 so this really means nothing when it comes to shooting and bringing home the image. Just know if you are coming from Leica, Sony A7 or the E-M1 that your 1st impression may be “this feels hollow”. ;) If Rambo were to shoot a mirror less I see him more as a Leica guy…

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What happens in Vegas..gets reported about HERE. Under certain light the Fuji’s always give me this pinkish tone/hue. Talk about bad taste…they do not call it “Sin City” for nothing!

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Vegas Baby!

When I decided to give the X-E2 a try a decided I wanted to take a drive to Vegas and shoot the camera. I brought along the X-E2 and 23 1.4 as well as the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1, both with 35mm (or equivalent) lenses. All I had with me was one focal length and that was 35mm. I wanted to shoot all three and see which one I preferred shooting. Would I enjoy the X-E2 the most or would the E-M1 slaughter them all for usability? For me Usability is very important because if a camera mis focuses, can not focus or is slow to start-up or just plain giving me hassles I will HATE it. That is one reason the X-Pro 1 bothered me so much with the 1st shipping firmware. By now Fuji has surely fixed all of the teething issues..at least that is what I told myself.

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The good news is that during my 24 hour stay in Las Vegas I had 3 missed shots with the Fuji out of 100 due to not being able to focus due to low light. This is a huge improvement over when I reviewed the X-Pro 1. I also missed a few from the camera taking so long to wake from sleep mode. By the time it popped back on the subject and photo pop was long gone so beware if you are attempting to shoot on the street when you need all of the speed you can get. When the camera goes to sleep it can take a couple of seconds to wake up. Other than that I had only TWO shots that mis-focused out of the 100. So again, a huge improvement over the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 (in my experience).

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This is more like a modern day camera :)

The color was typical Fuji and if you love Fuji and know Fuji then you know exactly what I mean. Fuji has a way of rendering colors that can be very pleasing. They can pop, they can give a feeling of “wow” and they can be very contrasty as well. Throw that Velvia setting on and shoot JPEG and you will have some rich and contrasty vibrant shots and IMO a bit too much. But some love the JPEG presets and they are well known to be that “Fuji Look”.

Rich Fuji Colors will explode from the X-E2. These are colors that do NOT come out of a Sony or Olympus. If you like it you buy Fuji.

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Shooting it with the A7 and E-M1..which did I prefer?

While I was having fun walking around Vegas and looking for a shot or two I was taking turns shooting between the X-E2 and Sony and Olympus. For starters I can say that the fastest and most complete feeling experience came from the Olympus E-M1. To be honest, it feels and shoot with such speed and grace and feels so good doing it many would never need anything more. It does lose quality as the lights get low though and the Sony and Fuji was able to keep plowing through. Still, the 17 1.8 on the Olympus was able to shoot without issue in any light and remained fast in doing so no matter if it was dark or light. The Fuji and Sony slowed down in the AF department when the lights got lower but as stated, the quality stayed high.

So it is a give and take and all depends on what you desire more..speed and usability or the best IQ in all situations. All cameras delivered images for me that I was 100% happy with. None of them left me wanting anything more. I enjoyed them all.

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Auto Exposure..a quick comparison

As a quick test for my own curiosity I wanted to shoot each camera and lens wide open with Auto ISO set to ON. The 23 1.4 at 1.4, the 17 1.8 at 1.8 and the 35 2.8 at 2.8. What exposure and ISO would each camera choose? How much higher would the Sony have to go in the ISO dept to get the shot? The results are below. Be sure to see my full size file comparison of the X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 HERE.

First the Fuji. Set to 1.4 the ISO chosen by the camera was ISO 1600 and the Shutter Speed was 1/60s.

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The Sony was set wide open to f/2.8 and the camera chose 1/60s and ISO 6400! Yes, ISO 6400. Due to the slower lens  the ISO had to be jacked up. As you can see the Fuji DOF looks the same as the Sony but the Fuji need a 1.4 lens to match 2.8 on the Sony. If I threw a f/1.4 on the Sony it would have been much better with a lower ISO, more shallow DOF and more pop. 

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And the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8 at 1.8. You would think the Olympus would fail here but it chose ISO 1600 and 1/30s. A little more noisy but still looks great considering the circumstances and low light. This shot has the MOST DOF for obvious reasons. 

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The thing to remember here is that I had an f/2.8 lens on the Sony. If I brought along the 50 1.5 Voigtlander or the Sony 55 1.8 the Sony would have the most WOW factor and neither the Olympus or Fuji could have touched it. for sharpness, noise or 3D pop. In other words the Sony can do better as it has much more in the reserve tank but the Fuji and Oly are maxed out to their limits here.

To sum it up..

To sum it up..the Fuji X-E2 is the BEST fuji X body at the time of this writing. I may still prefer the X100 and X100s but if you want interchangeable lenses then the X-E2 gets my nod for best body today (until the new X-T1 arrives at $1700 US). At $999 it is a good buy and fairly priced for what you get. Many like to claim that the Fuji’s have the best IQ of any camera today. I do not agree with that at all but can say that these Fuji’s have a look all of their own and can pump out fantastic beautiful quality images that have the Fuji signature stamped on them. If you happen to adore that signature then there is nothing better than the X-E2 to get you there.

Fuji is pumping out quality fast primes as well. The 23 1.4 is the best lens from Fuji that I have shot with and the aperture dial on the lens is the icing on the cake. I think ALL camera manufacturers should do this as it just adds to the whole shooting experience.

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Today we have choices like we would have never dreamed of just a few years ago. Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Pentax, Ricoh, Leica are just a few that come to mind when I think of high quality small mirror less. Each one of those manufactures have a solid offering that can deliver images that rival just about anything out there, and imagine..it WILL be getting better in 2014 and beyond.

My only niggle with the Fuji X-E2 is that the auto white balance can be pretty off in some lighting where the A7 and Oly did fine. I sometimes get a pinkish and harsh hue in low light situations (see the nuns above of the table balancer below) which I have only seen in the X-Trans sensors. Other than that I had no problems with the Fuji X-E2.

So yes! I can highly recommend the Fuji X-E2 and especially the 23 1.4 lens.

Where to Buy the X-E2 and 23 1.4 Lens.

X-E2  - B&H Photo

23 1.4 – B&H Photo

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X-E2 – PopFlash.com

23 1.4 – PopFlash.com

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X-E2 at Amazon

23 1.4 – Amazon

More images below from my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 1.4! Enjoy!

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

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

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Full size from the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. EXIF is embedded. Right click and open in a new window to view correctly.

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Dec 032013
 

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My pick for Camera of the Year 2013! The Olympus OM-D E-M1!

So here we are at the end of the year 2013 and boy did this year fly by just as they all seem to do. Last year I remember sitting down to write about my pick for  “Camera of 2012″ and back then I chose as the Sony RX1 due to its amazing IQ, small size, beautiful lens and overall awesomeness. I still love the RX1 and it is just as good today as it was last year. I expect it to be just as good in 5 years from now or as long as the camera stays alive.

This year there were MANY cameras released that were drool worthy. The Leica M did not start getting into most peoples hands until 2013, the Olympus E-M1 hit mid year and the Sony A7r and Nikon Df JUST hit in these past couple of weeks. Sure there were other cameras released this year but for me, these are the four that stand out for 2013 without question.

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And the winner is…

Yes indeed..for me, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the Olympus E-M1 takes the prize for camera of the year. Why? Well, there are MANY reasons, so many in fact that it made the decision quite easy for me. Sure, the A7 and A7r from Sony are top-notch IQ machines, but a camera is so much more than just IQ alone. Sure the Leica M is a masterpiece of German design and in the hand it feels amazing and it is a joy to shoot with. The lenses are second to none. Sure the Nikon Df is a retro inspired low light king but it is still a DSLR and has those huge lenses that go along with it.

Nope, for me the E-M1 is it. It has everything one could want in a camera. It is a joy to use, to handle, to frame with. There are so many amazing lenses available for it that the choice is nearly unlimited in what you can do with it, and there are some flat-out astounding lenses for this camera, not just average quality lenses. The E-M1 “just works”.

The AF is blazing fast and accurate. The 5-Axis IS is the best in the business. The build is solid and pro. Weather, freeze and shock proof, and it really is. The EVF is the best in the entire digital camera world right now. The color it puts out is beautiful and the sharpness is very good, even for large prints. The lifetime and live bulb feature is one of a kind. The LCD is big and sharp and swivels.  It is also the least expensive of the lot of cameras I have mentioned here. $1399 for a pro quality bullet proof body with the lenses available to do whatever you need. Olympus thought of and gave us their all, in one hell of a camera body.

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Yes, the E-M1, for me, is indeed the best camera that was released in 2013 due to everything that it offers. It is more than a one trick pony, it offers everything. No, it is not up there in flat out IQ when pixel peeping against a Leica M or Sony A7 file, and the highest of ISO’s is not as good as what we get from full frame but the E-M1 holds its own in all areas.

It is one of those cameras that when you pair it with the right lens it is hard to take a bad shot with.

I love the Sony A7 and A7r, I love the Leica M 240 and I really like the Nikon Df but the E-M1 is one of those rare cameras that has the ability to “bond” with me, and it did.

So to all of you who look past this little guy due to the smaller sensor, I urge you to slap on a 25 1.4 or 17 1.8 or 45 1.8 or 75 1.8 or even a 12 f/2 or 25 0.95 or 42 0.95 and go out for a day and shoot. There is just no way you would be disappointed. I have shot with them all and still love and use the E-M1 the most right now. Like I said, it works and works well :)

Of course many will be arguing and disagreeing with me but I call it like I see it and like I say over and over and over…a camera is MUCH more than image quality (of which none of these cameras are lacking). A camera needs to have the ability to inspire you to take it out and shoot..a constant companion. One that delivers time after time, one that is versatile and one that is problem free. A bonus for the E-m1 is the 5-Axis, the EVF, the Build and the other one of a kind features. Easy choice for 2013.

As for the other cameras that were out this year, the Fuji’s, the Canons and the Samsung NX…well, those were all good as well but for me the four above are the creme of the crop of 2013. If I had to pick an order for these four it would be:

  1. Olympus E-M1
  2. Leica M 240
  3. Sony A7r
  4. Nikon Df

Where to Order these hot cameras? 

You can order the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo or PopFlash.com.

You can order the Leica M 240 from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), The Pro Shop, PopFlash.com or Leica Store Miami

You can order the Sony A7 or A7r at B&H Photo or Amazon

You can order the Nikon Df at B&H Photo or Amazon

A few shots with the Olympus E-M1, click them for larger! 

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Dec 022013
 

Look at what is Under My Tree!

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Ho Ho Ho! Man, am I a lucky guy or what? I realized that I currently have 4 of the hottest, if not THE hottest and most desired digital cameras out there right now!

The Nikon Df, the Leica M 240, the Sony A7r and the Olympus E-M1.

 

I just had to take a quick shot of them as one of these is my pick for Camera of the Year 2013. Which one will it be? Hmmmm..

Also, The Nikon Df just arrived to me today and my 1st impressions?

  • It is much lighter than I expected. The Nikon Df with 50 1.8 is lighter than my M 240 Body alone.
  • It is easy to manual focus
  • IQ seems the same as the D4
  • The camera is smaller than I thought it would be, but still fat.
  • Shutter is nice and smooth, more quiet than the A7 for sure.
  • IQ with the 50 1.8 kit lens is SOFT. This lens sharpens up by 2.2/2.5
  • Smaller battery than D700, D800, etc but Nikon claims 1400 shots.
  • Dials and buttons feel more on the cheap side than rock solid side. 
  • Low light? Superb but the RX1 may beat it in this area..or similar. 
  • It is unique and I love the manual controls. After 10 minutes I learned them all quite easily. 
  • Love the design and look. But the E-M1 feels better in my hand. 
  • VS the A7? The Df is $1000 more for the body but offers many more lenses, faster AF, better high ISO/Low light, quieter operation and an overall faster feel. But it is a DSLR and NOT a mirrorless, so lenses are larger. The Nikon is made in Japan as well. Overall the Sony offers more bang for the buck but lacks in the lenses. 

I will be starting to shoot it tomorrow and will post my full review in the next 2-3 weeks. I will do my 1st look video on Friday or Saturday and compare the black and silver side by side. I will also be testing a trio of 50′s..the kit 1.8, the 50 1.2 AIS and the new 58 1.4, which looks spectacular.

Stay tuned!

Steve

Nov 202013
 

Midnight Crazy Comparison! HIGH ISO – Sony A7, A7r, Leica M and E-M1!

It’s just past midnight and probably will be 1Am before I am finished writing this post but I just can not sleep and am not sure why. In fact, I feel wired for some reason. Maybe it is the fact that tomorrow I will be yet another year older and hitting the age of 44 yet my brain is telling me I am 25 and full of energy :) Nahhh. I think it was the fact that I was laying in bed thinking about what the high ISO performance of the Sony A7 and A7r is like side by side. I decided to get up from bed to go to my office and do a quick and dirty high ISO test between them. While I was at it I added the Leica M 240 and the Olympus E-M1. All cameras were using a 35mm or equivalent lens and all are OOC JPEGS without any NR turned on.

I noticed some reviews of the Sony were claiming mushy details at high ISO. Well, that is because they were using Noise Reduction. TURN IT OFF on ALL of your cameras for best results. It is my opinion that NR should not even be an option for a camera as it always obscures details and adds odd side effects to your images. Almost like a painting. The 1st thing I do when using a new camera is I turn off all noise reduction. It is off on my Olympus E-M1, the Sony RX10 ,the A7′s and the M 240 does not even have it as an option (from what I have seen) so Leica did it right.

The A7r…I am bonding with it…

The Sony A7r has been really attaching itself to me. After a few days I prefer it to the 7 in all ways..even shutter sound. It may be longer but it is a little more “silkier” it seems.  I also prefer the higher resolution as it is something I just do not have in any other camera. Having no AA filter is only good IMO and my favorite cameras do not have them (Leica M, E-M1, RX1R, etc). Also, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 is THE lens to order with this system. I like the 55 1.8 as well but the 35 has something about it and I can tell it has those Zeiss qualities. Many have asked me how the A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8 compares to the RX1 or RX1R. Well, the A7r focuses faster, is higher resolution, just as sharp but you lose that f/2 and have to settle for f/2.8. But at f/2.8 you still get a great look to the image. Full frame + f/2.8 is good :)

A quick snap while in Ikea today with the A7r and 35 2.8 Zeiss. f/2.8 at ISO 400. JPEG.

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So at $2300 for the A7r and $800 for the 35 you are $300 over the cost of the Rx1 but you also have a built in EVF which would run you almost $500 for the RX1R. So in many ways, the A7r is the better bet unless you want the smaller RX1R with the f/2 Zeiss.

So again, my full review is in the works for these new A7 cameras, so check back soon for the full detailed report with loads of images. I will also be in Los Angeles next week with some buddies at a studio testing out these cameras in a studio situation as well as some quick street work. Can’t wait and these images and my report on them will be in the full review.

The Crazy Comparison – HIGH ISO!

Hey! This was supposed to be a High ISO Crazy Comparison! Lol..well, here you go!

The Sony’s had the 35 Zeiss 2.8 mounted, the Leica has an old 35 3.5 Summaron mounted and the Olympus had the 17 1.8 mounted for a 35mm Equiv. ALL shots were JPEG, noise reduction OFF, OOC color and Exposure and AWB. The Sony and Olympus were shot at f/2.8 and the Leica f/4.

It is not a sharpness test but a noise test so here we go!

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So there you go. Olympus did the worst with AWB, Leica did the best. As for noise at ISO 6400? What do YOU think? 100% crops are embedded so you must click the images above for the larger size. What I think is that ALL of them did great for a midnight indoor high ISO test in my office at ISO 6400 :). These days, high ISO is great on all decent cameras.

It is now 12:51 AM..and I am ready for bed..finally :) Have a great night (or morning) everyone!

Steve

PS – You can pre-order the A7 cameras at my pre-order link page HERE!

Nov 122013
 

Get a grip! The J.B. grip for the Olympus E-M1 is here!

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A couple of weeks ago while searching on Amazon for accessories to go along with the awesomely delicious Olympus E-M1 I found a listing for a grip that adds a little height to the camera but no more bulk. It had a slot at the bottom for easy access to the battery and was made in the U.S.A. by J.B. Camera Designs. 

I checked out the images of it and said “THIS is what I need”. I really have no interest for the Olympus battery grip as it makes the camera bulkier and fatter..more DSLR like. But this J.B. grip looked cool..solid..sleeker. So I ordered it and Amazon told me it was set to be released and shipped ion November 14th.

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I never had any contact with JB camera designs but have seen images of their previous grips and they looked great so I was excited to see if this one stood up to what others have raved about. Well, the grip arrived on November 9th, 5 days early along with a note from J.B. thanking me for the order and to let me know he is a fan of this website! How cool is that?

Anyway, the case came packaged in a nice box as well as a new shiny penny that is used to screw the grip onto the camera. The grip is HEAVY duty and EXTREMELY well made. I paid $46.95 for this and I have seen some Leica accessories, not as well made, sell for 5X this amount. If it were me, I would have priced it at $74.95. It is VERY well made, feels great and fits perfectly to the E-M1.

So at $46 it is a steal for anyone who wants a grip added to their E-M1 without adding bulk and fatness. This grip allows a place for your pinky to rest when holding the camera. It works very well. I HIGHLY recommend this grip!

For those that want one, you can order it HERE on Amazon. 

The images below are direct from the JB camera designs website. 

EM1 Grip Base-8

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EM1 Grip Base-3

EM1 Grip Base-6

EM1 Grip Base-4

  • Grip-Base adds better grip, protection and ergonomics to your E-M1
  • Grip-Base design allows full access to the battery compartment and tripod threads while attached
  • Grip-Base works perfectly with the size of Four Thirds Lenses when used on the E-M1
  • Adds protection and that little bit of extra Grip that improves camera handling and only weighs 2.2 ounces
  • Hand poured and hand finished parts – Made in the USA

 

Nov 052013
 

Choices in 2013. Leica M, Olympus E-M1, Sony A7 and Nikon Df

By Steve Huff

Over the past few weeks and months there have been three camera models released that were brought in with a little bit of hype (E-M1), a bunch of hype (Sony A7 and Leica M 240) and a massive amount of hype (Nikon Df). But which ones will live up to the hype? Will the most hyped and long-awaited camera be the best bet or will it fall flat (Nikon Df). Will the underdog come out on top at the end of the day due to the fact that it is a near perfect camera (E-M1) or will the overall super rich quality in a small compact form win over the enthusiasts with the ability to shoot Leica M glass and new Zeiss glass (Sony A7 series)? Will the Leica M survive with this new set of cameras that are flat-out incredible in their own right?

No one knows just yet, even though many like to claim that they do. 

I just wanted to give a brief overview of these four models as well as mention one that has been lost in the shuffle. Even though it in not in the Full Frame club, the little Sony RX10 is rocking the Huff house and is one heck of a camera for everyday use. But I will have more on the RX10 soon…so stay tuned. For now, I want to run down my list of pros and cons of each of these models and hopefully help some of you decide if any are right for you.

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The Leica M 240

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1. The Leica M 240 – The beautiful one. Full review is HERE

Make no mistake about it, the Leica M 240 is a GORGEOUS looking, feeling and shooting camera. It feels right, looks right and performs better than any previous M digital camera. The latest firmware update improved the White Balance and it is now what it should have been out of the gate. But this camera is $6995 for the body only and is a rangefinder camera that has the ability to use an EVF (but it is slowwww in this mode).

The M 240 offers a new CMOS sensor and replaced the CCD sensor of the M9. Many say the sensor is softer, and it is. Many say it has lost the look of the M9..and it has. But I have always said, it has improved upon them in every way. More DR, better high ISO, richer color, etc. But with this comes a problem that Leica never had. The M 240 now performs like any other full frame camera. IQ is identical to a Canon 5D, Nikon D800, or any other full frame model, just with different color signatures. Where they always had the edge was with the lenses. You just can not shoot a Leica 50 Summilux on a Nikon or Canon or any other full frame camera (until now with the Sony A7 series).

Now that the A7 and A7r will be shipping soon, many Leica lens users are gearing up to test their lenses on the new Sony, and I have been there and done that and have to say..it does mighty fine with most M mount glass. IN fact, using a Zeiss 50 Planar f2 ZM I preferred the output of the Sony $1700 A7 over the $7000 Leica M! Sharper, more 3D, crisper, and the Zeiss Look I remember from the M9 days when using this lens.

So while the Leica M is a work of art, today at the end of 2013, you can get the same or better IQ for less money AND still get to use the superb M lenses that are out there. Vintage, modern, Voigtlander or Zeiss..whatever you desire. The key is that these lenses are small, sharp and amazing :)

Leica M 240 image samples

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The Leica M still has its place of course as many LOVE the rangefinder experience, including me. There is nothing like shooting an M and unless someone else releases a digital RF, nothing ever will come close to that experience. If you want that shooting experience it will cost you, but many LOVE their M’s..it is indeed the beautiful one ;)

The M can be purchased from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), The Pro Shop, PopFlash or B&H Photo. 

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OM-D E-M1

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2. The Olympus E-M1 – The 1st professional Micro 4/3 model – Review is HERE

Anyone who has hung around this blog for a while will know that I am a huge fan of the Olympus E-M1. Ever since my first tests with it in New York and then Ireland, I have fallen in love with this little mini tank due to the fact that it has never done me any wrong. It has blazing AF with Olympus lenses. It is built SO SO well. It feels SO SO good and it really is a nice looking camera. The dials and controls are all there, spaced out nicely and the grip is very comfortable. Just how it should be. In fact, it almost feels that Olympus took a mold of my own hand when designing it!

The camera has a gorgeously huge EVF that makes it easy to focus manually if you desire. There are fast f 0.95 lenses available that give you stealer results with blurred out shallow DOF. I have been shooting with the E-M1 for a while now and I seriously can not find anything wrong with it besides the fact that it is not really a camera one would go to for pro level video. Speaking of video..I actually do use it often and like it for what I do, but I just post to youtube. The 5-Axis IS stabilizes the video VERY VERY well. Slap on a 12mm f/2 and shoot some video..and be amazed at how smooth the footage is. 5-Axis is the bestir image stabilization on the market, and it is in the body/sensor so every lens is stabilized.

As for the images, they are sharp, colorful, and this is as good as it gets in Micro 4/3. Period. 

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So why would anyone even need to look at another camera if this one is so good? Well, the problem is many people do not realize just how good this camera is and many feel the sensor size is too small, so they dismiss it without testing it or taking it seriously. Micro 4/3 has come a LONG way and I feel it has reached a peak with this camera. Sure you get a little more noise than a full frame sensor, but me, I would take this camera over ANY, and I mean ANY APS-C camera made today. It will beat it in build, speed, responsiveness, EVF, Af, MF, and even IQ and color. That is a bold statement but try out an E-M1 for a week with a set of nice Olympus primes. Then go back to an APS-C. Joy of use goes a long way and the E-M1 is one of the most joyful cameras that exists for real world photography use.

There have been talk of the demise of Micro 4/3 by many bloggers but I disagree. We are just now getting to where Micro 4/3 is meeting (and for me exceeding) APS-C camera bodies in all areas (again, more to a camera than the output). I am seeing amazing things coming from Olympus and Panasonic and they are dedicated. There is a huge fan and user base and once the E-M1 gets out in the hands of more and more photographers, there will be no going back to slow, clunky, larger APS-C cameras for many. Throw in the upcoming Panasonic “Nocticron 42.5 1.2″ lens and we will once again have another killer lens for this system.

It really is that good, but do not take my word for it..read other reviews online. The E-M1 is a kick ass amazing camera that delivers all that I really could ever need. But does it deliver all that I WANT? Hmmm. That is the question.

The cons? Video not up there with the best, you will see some noise even at base ISO. That is is. Is this camera capable of Pro results for paid jobs and large prints? Absolutely. 

Due to lenses available, the quality of the camera, the build, the EVF, the 5-Axis IS, the responsiveness and the color and IQ, this is my #1 recommended camera as of November 2013. I feel the price is cheap for what you get. $1399 for the body and your results will be outstanding.

You can order the Olympus E-M1 at B&H Photo, Amazon or PopFlash.com

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Sony A7r

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3. The Sony A7 and A7r  - The World’s Smallest Interchangeable lens Full Frame camera! 1st Look is HERE, full review SOON.

Wow, after that glowing endorsement of the Olympus E-M1..what can I say about the new Sony A7 and A7r?

Well, one word..RICHNESS. 

The A7 and A7r are full frame cameras, the word’s smallest full frame IC camera in fact. Next to the $7000 Leica M 240, this guy delivers the same or better IQ at a fraction of the cost (with most M mount lenses, not all) and also has the ability to use native mount FE lenses, Canon AF lenses and Nikon lenses. It’s an artists tool and the brushes you can paint with are limitless. THIS is what makes the A7 and A7r special.

They are slower to use, feel slightly clunky, have loud shutters and when shooting you really feel like you are working with Medium Format..or something in between 35mm and Medium Format. The cameras will AF slower than the E-M1, the body is not as thought out as the E-M1 and the overall feel is less responsive than the E-M1.

With that said, the IQ is amazing and there are no complaints in that department. You will get they full frame rich depth that you do not get in Micro 4/3, so if you want massive Shallow DOF and “Bokeh” this will deliver and the camera is a breeze to use. The EVF, which I prefer to an optical VF these days, is beautiful, large and 2nd best next to the Olympus E-M1/EVF-4.

I found it to be easy to manually focus Leica M lenses on the A7 and A7r and using the Zeiss 35 and 55 were also nice (though the 55 hunted in low light). I had 5 days with these cameras and enjoyed every minute of it, even pre-ordered one for myself (A7r) because facts are facts and  reality is reality. With the A7 and A7r I can use thousands of lenses, have amazing image quality and a nice user experience for 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of a Leica M. The Sony will be more versatile, will never have focus issues due to getting knocked around and while not hand assembled in Germany, I have never had one issue with any Sony I have owned. Sony has been pushing hard and is the #1 company to innovate and create something new and special.

They have no fear, and grew some big balls a couple of years ago when they released the NEX-7. The new A7 series is way above the NEX-7 and they even priced these just right. My full review will be coming soon (review samples arrive next week)

The cons? Slower in every area than the E-M1, not as responsive as the E-M1, Af can hunt in low light. Not quite as enjoyable to use as the E-M1 but when you see your images on your screen, you will not even care :) Has a little learning curve to get the most out of it. Also, battery life could be better. I was shooting morning till night and had 50% left. Others were running out mid day (but I pick and choose my shots and shoot when I know I have something cool to shoot). But I think you will get around 300-400 shots per charge.

Not perfect but beautiful results. I will have one in about a week for a full real world official review, so stay tuned!

PS – Zeiss ZM glass is AMAZING on this camera. Voigtlander glass is GREAT. Leica glass is stellar!

My 1st samples from the A7 and A7r

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You can see all things Sony A7 HERE. More coming SOON.

You can also pre-order all of the new Sony cameras at these E-Z links to my recommended shops that YOU can trust 100%!

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Nikon Df – retro full frame DSLR

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3. The Nikon Df – Full frame 70′s inspired body. But still a DSLR. Review Soon.

This camera was hyped beyond belief. When I posted blurbs about it before it was announced my traffic blew up and hundreds of comments were left. There was a ton of excitement, anxiety as well as negativity surrounding it but mainly POSITIVITY. After the announcement 75% of the comments went from excitement to negativity due to the cluttered design, the price and the thickness of the body.

Before it was even leaked I predicted a FAT body. I was told I would be wrong. I also predicted the price to be $2800. I was told it would not be that high. I also said it would be a DSLR in a square shape..sort of like a D700 in a new retro shell. Guess what? ALL of that came true.

Even with that, I am excited about this one and it is the 1st DSLR I am excited about in many many years. The last time I owned a full frame DSLR was the D700 when it was launched. I LOVED the IQ and low light capabilities. It was a magical thing back then. I owned a few Zeiss Zf lenses and was in heaven until I realized I hated shooting it due to the size and weight. It was left at home 90% of the time because it was much to large to be a daily shooter. The quality was well worth it but I just did not enjoy lugging it around. I sold it and went back to Leica back then with an M7 and then eventually and M8, M9 and M240.

When Nikon decided to release a smaller DSLR that looked like and old F I was in..until I realized that it will still be a camera that mounts those large DSLR lenses! Uggg. Even so, there are some old classics that will work very well with this camera.

“She’s a…BRICK…HOUSE”

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So even though I am not a fan of large DSLR’s or the large lenses that go with them I still am happy to review the Df as I may just end up liking it. The IQ will be fantastic with the lower MP full frame sensor and the style, while bulky, is still reminiscent of those old F bodies from the 70′s. I like the controls on top and t he fact that it does NOT have video. It’s a photographers camera and who cares if it is a D610 in a new shell? The new shell is what will make me want to go out and shoot with it. I would never buy a D610 for myself. I find them ugly and just not motivating  to shoot. The Df is a D4 in a retro body and some dumbed down features. The D4 is how much? Exactly, this is half the price for the same IQ.

I could care less if it has 100 focus points or 2 as I only use ONE with any camera I shoot. If it inspires, and it is not too heavy, that is 90% of it right there.

I will be testing it with the 50 1.8 as well as a few older AIS lenses. If it is REALLy good, and I do not mind the bulk and weight AND if it feels really nice and is a joy to use..I will keep it. Otherwise, it will be sold after the review.

I do not have images from the Nikon Df yet as I have yet to see one in the flesh but I am in line for a review sample now at the end of the month when it is released. I also preordered on in black because if it turns out to be what it should be, there may be a wait to get one just as there was with the D4, D800, D700, etc.

So I will be reviewing the Df and that will appear in December sometime.

Stay tuned.

You can Pre-Ordet the Nikon Df at Amazon or B&H using the links below:

Pre-order at Amazon HERE

Pre-Order the Nikon Df at B&H Photo

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Wrap up..

So which camera, if any, is right for you? What do you shoot? What do you hope to shoot? Do you like shallow DOF? Do you shoot in low light often? Do you prefer speed and usability over slow and insane resolution? Only YOU can decide what camera you will like. Take a look at them and see which one speaks to you. One thing to keep in mind..

You can buy a Sony A7 with Kit Lens, an Olympus E-M1 with 20 1.7II and a Nikon Df with 50 1.8 for $6745. About $250 less than a Leica M body only setup. Now, I am a HUGE Leica guy but have to give it to Sony, Olympus and maybe even Nikon for releasing cameras that are all making us G.A.S. badly :) Props  to Sony for pushing the envelope and high five to Olympus for creating that E-M1..what a jewel it is.

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