Dec 182015
 
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The Sony RX1R Mark II Review

by Steve Huff

If you are interested in the RX1R Mark II I recommend the dealers below 100%:

B&H Photo – Click here to order the camera or see more info on the B&H Page

Amazon – Order via Amazon Prime RIGHT HERE!

Here we are at the last edge of 2015 and about to head into 2016. YES! We are NOW in the future! Remember back in the 80’s? Well, if you are old enough you do..when many TV shows and movies would be set in the future..like 2010 or 2020 and the vision of earth was always full of either flying cars or spaceships or the world was already gone due to nuclear wars. One thing they always tried to predict was technology, and usually it was way over the top. In any case, as we launch into 2016 we have cameras that beat the pants off of cameras that were launched just 2 years ago. Technology is here, and it is good. While not “Buck Rogers” kind of good, this new Sony is beautiful, but I never doubted it would be anything but.

RX1RII – Also some PP work with this one ;) (Blur, Contrast, Smudge)

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Yep, but back in the day we would shoot film. Remember the cheap disc film or the 110 film? AWFUL quality but those cameras and film were had for cheap, and they fit in your pockets ;) Today top end cutting edge digital cameras are made for professionals, enthusiasts and serious hobbyists. They have to be as these things are costing more than they ever have it seems. A Leica SL for $7500 without a lens. A Leica M for $5600, no lens. A Sony A7RII for $3400, no lens. A Leica Q for $4300 which is a single fixed lens camera, and now this…ladies and gentleman…I give you the long-awaited…

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Enter the new Sony RX1R Mark II

When the original RX1 was released it quickly became my #1 favorite go to camera for SO MANY reasons. I put up with its faults simply due to the fact that it gave me the best image quality I have seen up until that point. Rich, creamy, full of life, detailed, sharp, gobs of micro contrast, nice bokeh and an overall character that approached the look of Medium Format. It was the 1st 35mm full frame digital that I felt this way about and it even beat out my then previous 3 year love affair, the Leica M9. I suggest reading or refreshing with that old review HERE to see the main character and feature set of the RX1R II as it is mainly the same as the old version with a host of new features, all of which I will talk about here.

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Somehow Sony created a 35mm full frame camera in that original RX1 as it gave and produced output VERY much like Medium Format but less sterile, as in, it was almost perfect but still had plenty of character. This was my view on it and it quickly became my all around take everywhere camera. After the RX1R (R stands for RESOLUTION as it had No Low Pass filter) was announced and I reviewed it, I then fell in love again even though the camera was the same, just without an AA/Low Pass filter for even MORE detail. It boosted the RX1 up a bit with more of everything that made it great.

Unfortunately it (The RX1R) also kept all of the things that frustrated most about the camera..AF speed was dog slow and the lens looked like a 90 lb weakling trying to push 300lbs. It was slow but most who loved the RX1 and RX1R loved it for what it rewarded their patience with. Some of the most beautiful IQ ever seen in 35mm. The original has sort of collected a cult like status with users who own them vowing to NEVER give it up.

All three image below are from the new RX1R Mark II. Click them to see them correctly.

Kurt Kamka – Lunch Meeting in Phx AZ

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My son Brandon sleeping in until noon..

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My beautiful Debby once again helping me test cameras ;) 

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Then there was the Q

In mid 2015 Leica announced and released the Q, which is a camera that aimed directly at the Sony RX1 and RX1R. It is sort of small (though the Sony is quite a bit smaller) has a 28mm f/1.7 lens instead of a 35 f/2 like the Sony and well, it is a Leica. It has the red dot and all and is assembled in Germany. Coming in at $4300 which is $1000 more than the Sony, many felt it would be a Sony killer, and to be honest, it was. It took on the original RX1 and upped the ante with a BUILT in damn good EVF of which the RX1 lacked. It also has a touch screen, a beautiful LCD and has VERY fast AF. It’s a snappy all in one camera that also manages CRAZY GOOD IQ. Now, I do not feel the IQ can match the medium format look of the Sony but it is up there with the best there is in 35mm.

Overall, the Q beat out the old Sony and many were quick to fork over $4300 for the Q, and many still are. It’s one of Leica’s more popular digital cameras of the last 3 years or so. The 24MP sensor in the Q is stunning, so much so that they use it in the new top end SL that comes in at $7,500 (and won my Camera of the Year for 2015, see my review HERE). You can read my Leica Q review HERE.

So how would Sony answer Leica’s RX1 clone, the Q? And would it beat it?

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Enter the Sony RX1R Mark II!

It’s HEEEEERRRREEE and BOY, were MANY waiting for it. This camera has made my  inbox explode more than any other camera in recent memory. Most of you know I am a HUGE fan of the original RX1. I consider it a legend already due to the IQ alone. Now that we have the Mark II version with a FEW new things, it’s closer to perfect that it has ever been, and for me, this new R2 beats the Q. This will not be a huge LONG review as this at its core is still an RX1. Same body design, same feel, same lens, same controls, etc. So this review will focus on real world use while sharing thoughts and images from my 3 weeks with the camera that I have had the pleasure of shooting for the past few weeks.

All images in this review should be clicked on so you are seeing the correct version

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The RX1RII and its 42 MP sensor deliver “delicate detail”. It’s never analytical in its rendering but instead it offers what I like to call an ‘Organic Flow” to the rendering. For example, in the boring image below look at the screws, the web, the areas between what IS and what is NOT in focus. It’s falloff is fantastic and that is thanks to the Zeiss 35 f/2. This is a powerful camera that fits in my coat. Wow.

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Color & Light

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Click on this one to see the beauty in the rendering. 

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Lovely Blues from the Sony Sensor…

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Sony did not rest and now RX1R Mark II is here. That’s a mouthful, so I will call it the R2 from now on this this review. 

The new RX1R 2 looks the same, feels the same and yes, even smells the same as the original RX1 and RX1R. Upon closer inspection you will see the built in flash has been removed (not many used the flash, including me as this kind of camera does not need a flash) and now we have a very nice and sleek built in EVF that at first glance looks like an afterthought but in reality is a very nice powerful EVF, slightly improved from the A7RII!

So we now have the camera with a built-in EVF and most importantly faster auto focus which was the main #1 complaint on the original RX1 from those who used it or owned it. The new R2 has 30% faster AF, and I believe it as it is much much snappier than the old one, and even competes head to head with the Leica Q in AF speed. Also, I had no AF issues with the camera.

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So what is new in the new R2? All of the below!

  • New backlit 42MP full frame sensor. Yes, the same sensor as the A7RII!
  • New built-in and pop up EVF that is slightly better  than the A7RII EVF!
  • The new Af is 30% faster than the old RX1 series. This is evident as soon as you use it. 399 Phase Detect Points.
  • Swivel LCD screen this time around
  • Adjustable or Defeat-able Low Pass/AA filter! This is now an RX1 and RX1R in one body!
  • Eye AF now in this model
  • WiFi and NFC inside
  • Uncompressed 14 Bit RAW
  • Multiple Aspect Ratio Support
  • Smart Zoom to crop in camera without losing quality..use this with Macro mode ;)

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The Sony RX1RII uses the same battery system as the old RX1 and RX100 line. It is one of the weaknesses of the camera so be sure to invest in 2-3 more batteries (you can get generic versions VERY cheap) to get you through the week.

The more I shot with the RX1R2 the more I was falling in love again, just as I did with the original. But at the same time, I have shot with the competition, THE competition that copied Sony and made a better camera than the old RX1 (Mark I). That would be the Leica Q.

The Leica Q vs the RX1RII

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While the mighty Q beat the old RX1 and RX1R in just about every way, how will the Q stack up against the latest and greatest from Sony? With this top of the heap technically advanced 42MP backlit sensor, how could the Q compete? Well, lets take a look..but 1st, see my video on the RX1R II vs the Leica Q:

NOTE: I incorrectly spoke at one point with the Leica Q in this video. I said it will stop down the lens automatically when closer than 1M. I was thinking of the X. The Q does not do this but will stop down when in Macro mode. 

So at the end of the day, for me, I prefer the new Sony but it’s VERY close. My main reason? The Sony is $1000 less expensive and gives me slightly superior IQ, or at least “different IQ”, and is smaller… though I have no issue with the size of the Q. But do not take my word for it, let’s see some comparisons. Who knows, you may prefer the Q!

Away we go…

1st up. ISO

Let’s get this one out-of-the-way 1st. High ISO. Let’s face it, below these high ISO’s both cameras are comparable, but how do they stack up at 50,000 ISO? Let’s see…

Sony RX1RII – RAW – ISO 50k  – MUST CLICK IMAGE!

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LEICA Q – ISO 50K – RAW – MUST CLICK IMAGE!

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Sony wins, the Leica has banding at its max ISO, and Sony still has steam pushing along to ISO 102,000..Sony Wins the ISO here.

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Portrait? These are all good IMO. One is from the Leica Q, one from the RX12 and one from the Leica SL with 50 APO (which is easy to spot). Can you spot which is which? EXIF info is in the photos..

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Same shot. The 1st one is the RX1R 2 as you can tell from the longer focal length of 35mm over the Q’s 28mm. 

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Sony is handling the color better so far…also, bokeh effect will be more pronounced on the Sony due to the longer focal length.

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Boots…1st up, Sony

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Leica Q

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1st, Sony

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Leica

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Coming in at $4300, the Q is expensive but hey, it’s a Leica. People love the idea of Leica and when they released the Q, and it exceeded expectations, well, the old RX1 kind of became forgotten. It was much slower than the Q and was dated in comparison. As you can see above the Sony delivers the goods. Some will prefer the Sony rendering, others the Leica. There is no wring choice here but for me, the RX1R II delivers the goods in a bigger way while being smaller and less expensive by a grand.

Now there are areas of the Q that beat the Sony. For example:

  1. The Q has a 1/16,000 shutter speed so you can shoot wide open in full sun, Sony does not
  2. The Q is a bit snappier to AF but only by a little
  3. The Q Design is Nicer IMO
  4. The Q menu is simpler than Sony’s
  5. The battery life is better on the Q
  6. The Q has a touch screen, not on the Sony.

With that out of the way, the Sony has some things to like over the Q…

  1. Latest sensor tech with the 42MP Backlit sensor from the A7RII Flagship delivers stunning results
  2. Swivel LCD
  3. Smaller size, can indeed fit in a coat pocket, Leica Q can not
  4. Better high ISO performance means better night time shooting
  5. files have more of a medium format look over the Q’s harder look
  6. More dynamic range from the Sony
  7. $1000 Less expensive than the Q
  8. You can turn on or off or adjust the AA filter. Want to avoid MOIRE? turn it ON. Want max detail, turn it OFF!

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What I tell everyone when they ask “Which should I get” I say “go with what you feel would make you the happiest and don’t look back”. There is no perfect camera but they are getting mighty close these days! The new Sony RX1RII is a stunning machine with power that you would never think could come from a camera this small. I had people looking at some of my sample shots telling me “did you use the Pentax 645”?!? It’s something that Sony is doing these days but the images that come from their latest cameras do indeed have a medium format feel to them.

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And the black and White conversions can be stunning!

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The Details…

Remember, this guy packs the 42 Megapixel sensor of the top of the heap FLAGSHIP Sony A7RII (See review HERE). That is FORTY TWO MILLION pixels in your coat pocket! That is the draw to this camera, not “Which one is better”. This is the smallest full frame camera you can buy as far as I know, and according to Sony, it offers the best IQ of any camera they currently produce. This is the top of the heap for IQ when it comes to Sony full frame. At the same time, it is not the best for video, and even Sony will tell you this. This camera was designed for the enthusiast and passionate shooter who wants a no compromise camera  – one they can shoot day, night or anywhere in between all the while getting top of the line quality that will beat just about any full frame camera around well past its price point.

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The camera also has an adjustable AA filter meaning if you want MAX RESOLUTION turn it OFF and you have an RX1RII. Turn it on and you have an RX1II. Adjust it and you can customize it to your needs. Me, I left it OFF at all times as I am ANTI AA filter. I RARELY EVER have Moire issues, so always leave it off.

But let’s see some shots with 100% crops to check details…

These bricks…this is a JPEG but click it to see the full 100% crop

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Again…

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…and again…

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…you get the drift…

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corner to corner this camera is sharp..this is an OOC JPEG

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Any reports you may have heard about the Sony RX1RII’s image quality not being as stellar is it was hyped up to be..well, not sure what to make of those (must have had a stinker) as I think the camera is as good as it gets in this class of camera. It bests the old model easily in speed, usability, and image quality. It’s more versatile with the nice pop up EVF and delivers a fantastic experience. In all other ways it is the same as the 1st version. Same menu system, same size, same style, same lens, etc. So there is nothing to report on there.

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I did hear something about Sony stopping production for a few weeks but I have not confirmed this nor do I know what it is about (I do not go by rumors or “he said/she said”). If this is the case, and fact, then the issue is not in my camera that I have here. 


-For me, my three full frame references are the Leica SL, Sony RX1RII and the Sony A7RII. To me, these are as good as it gets in 2015, heading into 2016 for cameras that deliver the goods. Expensive? Yes, very. Worth it? Only you can answer that one.

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Is the Sony RX1R II for you? Maybe..maybe not! My Final Word.

Think about it like this. The Sony RX1R II is like having an A7RII and 35 Loxia with AF in your coat pocket. Tiny, small, but uber powerful. There is nothing not to like on the Sony RX1RII. It’s beautiful in build, feel, and the EVF is fanatstic, even besting the one in the A7RII and it easily hides away when you do not want it. It delivers the best IQ of the Sony line due to the matched lens to sensor (which I talk about in my original RX1 Review HERE). It’s as good as it gets in an all in one, with the Leica Q right on its heels.

I love this camera as I loved the original, and it has earned a place at the top of my “keeper heap” in the Huff Household.

But I have many cameras. Many here will be using this as their one and only camera, so if this is the case I would say to make sure you are OK with only shooting 35mm as that is all you will get. There is no zoom on this guy, but that is the beauty of it. In many ways, using only the 35mm focal length for a year can greatly improve your photography, so for many this could be a welcome change from those big huge DSLR’s.

If you like what you see here from the camera then you will love it when it is in your hands. It’s a superb upgrade to the Mark 1 and while not a huge revelation when compared to the old one, it is a very nice step in the right direction for this series.

One more detail shot using an OOC JPEG! Click it for the larger version with 100% crop.

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Where to Buy?

If you are interested in the RX1R Mark II I recommend the dealers below 100%:

B&H Photo – Click here to order the camera or see more info on the B&H Page

Amazon – Order via Amazon Prime RIGHT HERE!

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——————-

HLPHH

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Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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Dec 082015
 

UPDATE: My RX1RII Review should be up within 7-10 days..

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A few have been asking me when my Sony RX1RII review will be up and it has been delayed due to the comparison with the Leica Q, which many have asked for. It has been very hard to get a hold of a Q, even the rental houses have been out of stock, and I did not feel like buying one to do a comparison ;)

LensRentals finally received the Q back in stock, so I rented it for a few days (over $200)! so I can compare with the RX1RII for the Sony review, which is what the delay was about.

But so far I can say that the RX1RII is stunning. The IQ for me, edges out the A7RII and Sony did tell me the RX1RII is their best image quality camera they have ever produced, beating even the A7RII. If one is OK with just a 35mm f/2 (and what a lens it is) then the RX1RII is well worth a serious look.

Iin comparison to the Leica Q the Sony is smaller, actually has a true F/2 lens (Leica will stop down no matter your manual setting when closer than 1 meter), even when in Macro mode, has a pop up very nice and very good EVF (much better than I expected and improves on the A7RII EVF)  and offers a tilt LCD, 30% faster AF than the previous version, an adjustable or defeat-able AA filter, and superior low light and high ISO performance.

The RX1rII also “feels” more solid than the Q which is a very lightweight body, especially for a Leica. For example, the Q feels NOTHING like an M in the hand. The RX1RII is also about $1000 less than the competing Q. Does the Q offer you $1000 more of a camera? In this case, I will say no. The RX1RII can beat the Q in overall technical IQ, dynamic range, ISO, etc so it is all a matter of taste.

Will one prefer the high contrast bolder color look of the Q or the higher dynamic range and gentleness of the RX1rII sensor? They both are full frame and both are gorgeous capable cameras but the RX1RII does offer more for less IMO.

So look for my review within a week or so, the camera is also in stock now at Amazon (one left for prime) ;) Three snaps below from the RX1RII…

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Nov 102015
 
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The Sony A7SII Review. The King of The Night gets updated.

By Steve Huff

You can buy the A7sII at Amazon HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE.

It seems that every time I sit down to write a review lately it is for a new Sony camera, and believe me, as much Sony as you see written here and all over the web (due to so many new cameras coming from them before the Holidays), it is not stopping here. With the RX1R Mark II on the way within days Sony is like a runaway freight train, except instead of crashing and burning at the end of the road I think Sony is hoping for world domination in the world of Mirrorless cameras. I have to say, their plan is working well for them as I know so many who are shooting with the latest generation A7 bodies these days, and they all love them. The A7II, A7RII, and now the A7SII are fantastic full frame 35mm digital cameras that can do it all. With impressive image and video specs, the new breed of a7 cameras are stunning and surpass the 1st gen A7 bodies by a large margin IMO.

But this review is for the newest Sony in the A7 line, the new and improved a7SII. If you missed the original a7S review, see it here as this will not rehash the things that are the same there. 

Empty Swings – A7SII, Voigtlander 35 1.7 Ultron – Click for lager. 

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After reviewing the INCREDIBLE a7R2, it became my #1 go to camera. It pushed aside my old A7s and A7II as it offered the best of both of those bodies. With the A7SII, Sony’s most sensitive low light camera as well as an amazing video machine, Sony has taken the proven sensor and has now put it in the new body which is more solid, with a  better control layout than the previous A7, A7s and A7r. This body is the same as the new Mark II versions, and as I have said before, it is a pretty substantial improvement. After shooting the new a7sII for a while, it was tough to go back to the old A7s body as it felt so much different…not as nice and the shutter button placement on the new body is so much better and natural it is tough to go back to the old style after using the new breed for a while.

But at the end of the day, did Sony pack enough in the Mark II to make it a worthy upgrade to someone who has an a7S already?

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Well, maybe. Maybe not. That all depends on YOU and what you want. If you want the new body style, then yes. If you was 5 Axis IS, then yes. If you want even better AF performance and new processing then YES! What you will not get in the new A7SII is a new sensor or better low light performance than its older sibling. It is still the tried and true 12MP sensor from the original A7s, which means low light performance will be about the same and IQ should be about the same. Even so, in my shooting I have found that I was getting slightly better color and pop with the new A7sII, though it could have been because of the lens I was using for much of the review..the Excellent Voigtlander 35 1.7 in Leica M mount.

The uber cool Voigtlander 35 1.7 works so well on the new Sony A7 bodies…and the Leica M of course!

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This particular lens gives a “Leica Look” and it has no issues on the A7RII or the A7SII. It’s small, manual focus is easy and the quality is not far off from the Leica or Zeiss 35’s. When I switched back to the standard Sony lenses, I see the familiar rendering of the original “S” model, unless I used the one Sony/Zeiss lens that also gives this look, the 35 1.4 Distagon. When I use the 35 1.7 M mount, I see images that remind me of the old Leica M9, which is legendary in its image rendering. Nothing like it, even today. That lens can be seen at cameraquest.com HERE. My review of that lens is HERE. 

The Color, Pop, Depth and overall IQ of the A7SII is stunning. This are all JPEGS out of camera! EXIF is embedded. I have not seen rendering like this since the Leica M9 ;) 

Click them for larger and better..to see them correctly! 

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Away We Go! 

So after a couple of weeks with the new A7SII, and while still owning the original A7s I was critical of the new body, mainly because I have bonded with my original. Yep,  it has been here since launch. These cameras are not cheap, so I wanted to see if I would pay the upgrade fee for the SII over my old S Mark 1. Before I get into that, let me tell you what Sony improved in the new A7SII over the A7s Mark 1.

  1. New body style. The new A7SII now has the A7RII and A7II body style. I LOVE the new body style and prefer it to the original in a big way. It feels more solid, it feels more comfy and the controls are laid out more natural for your hands. a7SII WIN. 
  2. Seemingly faster AF. While the original A7s was the best A7 body for Auto Focus the A7sII seems to step it up as I was seeing slightly quicker auto focus and it still has the uncanny ability to focus in the dark, even  when I do not use the Af assist. This is the one Sony a7 body with the best AF performance. a7sII Win!
  3. Slightly different IQ out of camera. It seems the colors and snap and pop are slightly different, in a good way. Many shots remind me of the old Leica M9 in rendering, just with a crazy ISO capability. Could be the lens choice as Leica M lenses seem to give more color saturation and pop.
  4. Improved video specs for the video pros. I am not a video guy, but this camera can shoot pro level video without question and I have shot at ISO 200-400,000 and had results I could actually use. It sees in the dark, without question! Video is fantastic. a7SII Win!

Here is what Sony says about the A7SII sensor and BIONZ processor…

“A 12.2MP full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor work together to enable an expansive dynamic range with minimal noise and notable sensitivity from ISO 100-102400, which is further expandable to ISO 50-409600. Coupled with the large individual pixel size the 12.2MP sensor affords, this camera is well-suited to use in low-light conditions.

The sensor’s design also features a new-generation RGB color filter array, as well as a gapless on-chip lens design. Together, these two technologies enable truly efficient light-gathering abilities that further reinforce the low noise, high-sensitivity design. Furthermore, an anti-reflective coating has also been applied to the seal glass of the image sensor to minimize surface reflections, glare, and ghosting for contrast-rich, color-neutral imagery.

The sensor and processor combination also avail a wealth of performance-related benefits to still shooting, including a Speed Priority continuous shooting rate of 5 fps, or a 2.5 fps shooting rate with continuous AF.

The Fast Intelligent AF system employs 169 AF points (up from 25 points of the original) , which is comprised of 25 contrast-detection points and nine central AF points that have been split into 16 segments each, in order to provide both speed and accuracy in low-light conditions down to -4 EV.

So in a nutshell, the Af is better and faster than the previous A7 body and that one was already the best A7 Af system out there, and the new a7SII focuses without an issue in just about any light I have had it in.

I also have been enjoying shooting in B&W with the a7SII as I find it does very well in this area. These were all shot B&W in camera, all JPEG up to ISO 25,600

1st two with the Voigtlander 35 1.7 Ultron, 3rd with the Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and the last with the gorgeous 35 1.4 Sony/Zeiss

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Niche?

The a7sII is what some would call a “niche” camera as it has a lower megapixel count than what is generally accepted today by pros and pixel peepers. I find 12 to be great for my uses and I would take a guess that 90% of shooters who read this page would be fine with 12MP in the real world as well. Posting images online, making prints up to 16X20 and general use does not require any more than this. I see many friends who just shoot JPEGS casually yet they are using 30-50 megapixel cameras. I see their images on Facebook and as small JPEGS or prints. For that, nothing more than 12MP is needed. If you want to make huge prints on your wall with detail and finesse, you will want a higher MP camera, but for the average shooter, hobbyist or enthusiast I feel there may be more to like from the a7SII than even the fantastic a7RII, but with that said, the mighty a7RII is not that far off in performance from the A7sII when it comes to AF and ISO.

The a7SII focuses faster. It will focus in the dark. It has amazing low light video capabilities and can shoot in places you never could before…of course once you start cranking the ISO past 60,000 or so you will get some offensive noise, but I have images shot at even the max, as a torture test at 409,000 in NO light (only in B&W) just to see what that setting would yield.

High ISO. One strength of the a7s and a7SII both. Same sensor, same ISO capability. 

Now if shooting at 409,000 forget about shooting in color. Turn that camera to HC B&W (high contrast) and take a shot in the dark, literally. The image below was shot in DARKNESS. As in, where I stood I could not even see the ocean! The camera, at this setting gave me an image full of noise and grit but at the same time, it reminds me of some fast film I used to shoot. ISO 6400 film, but this is 409,000 ISO! I can see someone doing a very moody portrait session on the beach at midnight, no lights or flash…may not be ideal but could yield interesting results. I am not afraid of grain, never have been which is why I turn off all noise reduction as soon as I get a new camera. 

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If we step down the ISO a tad…

1st two, 128,000

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ISO 102,800

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Color at 256,000 and lit by the moon

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25,600 at night…

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All samples above were without any noise reduction, zero. All were out of camera JPEG’s, so nothing here is from RAW as Adobe has not updated their software yet for this camera at the time I did teh review. Also, be sure you click the images for the real deal, to see them larger and better and to see the real noise.

Overall the a7SII keeps with the tradition of amazing low light performance, and for me, even after trying all of the others that do well in low light (yes, even the Nikon D750, Canon’s, etc) nothing can do what the a7S series is really capable of. By the time you hit 12,800 on the others you want to stop..with the a7S II you can keep working…yes, with some noise, but you can keep working or maybe even get shots no one else could even dare to try and get. It’s that kind of camera and makes you want to push the crazy limits.

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I even shot some personal video on the beach at ISO 256,000 and 409,000 and it was useable.. I was amazed at what it was doing for me in no light. The a7RII was not too far behind, but it couldn’t match the SII in the dark, focus wise or with ULTRA high ISO as the RII stops at 102,000 ISO. The SII can go up past 400,000 but expect serious grain at that level. In other words, the RII is close  to the SII in Af speed and ISO but the SII does indeed edge it out in both areas.

But it’s just as good in GOOD light!

So while many feel this camera is a one or two trick pony (low light or video) it offers so much more like class leading AF speed and AF in the dark, it offers 5 Axis IS, it offers solid build and great button placement and amazing video. Oh, and it also does DAMN well in great or good or decent light!

Loving the color and pop of the a7SII files..EXIF is embedded on all images but these are shot with a mix of the New Voigtlander 35 1.7 and Sony Zeiss 35 1.4, two fabulous 35’s for the A7 series. OOC JPEGS!

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As with the original Mark I a7s, I see the character and almost medium format look of the files. Many were afraid of this camera due to the 12MP sensor (too low for many) but to the friends I know who bought an a7S, they LOVED it tremendously and created some amazing images with it. Believe me my friends, there is nothing to worry about with the a7S or a7SIi. If you like shooting in low light, or lower than low light, you should seriously consider this camera as it opens up a whole new “nighttime” world where flash or light is not needed. It’s a cool thing and even though other cameras today can shoot in low light or even lower than low light, none of them can do it like this “S” series from Sony. I can only image what they will be doing in 5 more years.

ISO 4,000 with the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 at 1.4 – OOC JPEG, zero NR

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But is it worth the upgrade if you own an a7S?

Even after 2 weeks with the a7SII I am still not 100% sure I would spend the extra on the new version. The a7s sells for $2200 and the new Mark II is $3000. That is a $800 difference. If you already own an A7s, then trying to sell it means you will get around $1400 for it and then have to pony up $1600 MORE for the new version. If this is the case, you have to ask yourself if you want the following:

  • New body style and control layout
  • New 5 Axis IS for image stabilization in video and photos
  • Faster AF, best AF in the A7 line
  • Better video specs over the original  – 4K capable now in camera

Speaking of video, here is the blurb for the new video specs:

“Internal UHD 4K Recording and Full Pixel Readout – Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the 12.2MP resolution, full pixel readout is possible that is void of pixel binning for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing. Full HD 1080p recording is also supported in frame rates up to 120 fps, and both resolutions utilize the 100 Mbps XAVC S format contained within an MP4 wrapper with 4:2:0 sampling. The high-speed, 120 fps recording also enables 4x and 5x slow-motion movie recording with the frame rate set to either 30p or 24p.

In addition to high-resolution internal recording, uncompressed HDMI output also enables the use of an optional external recorder for clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.”

So you get the 120fps slo motion features as well over the a7s. With the new firmware update from Sony, the a7SII can also shoot uncompressed RAW files. Just what everyone has been asking for.

A7s vs A7sII vs A7rII – QUICK IMAGE COMPARISON for Color and ISO at 25,600. 

Many would call this a silly test. I mean, who shoots at 25,600 ISO? Some do, but not many. The a7SII can go on to ISO 400,000+ so 25,600 should be a piece of cake. This was in my office, late afternoon, one light on in the corner BEHIND the dog toy. Each file is from the camera, as a JPEG. The a7RII file has been resized down to 12 MP so it is a fair fight. Click each one to see the OOC file (again, a7RII was downsized to 12MP)

They all look pretty similar showing the RII hanging with the big boy in the high ISO arena, at least at 25,600!

 

A7SII25600

A7SISO25600

A7RII25600

As you can see, the a7S and a7SII are about the same, while the a7RII is hanging right in there! Not too shabby!

So, again..would you buy an A7sII if you have an A7s?

So while I enjoy the hell out of the new a7SII, I do not think I would sell my a7s and pay $1500 more to get the new version. $700 maybe, $1500 no.

If I was new to the a7 family, I would 100% go with the a7sII over the old model simply due to the fact that 12MP is plenty for me, and I prefer the faster AF, and the best low light performance I can get. It’s got everything one would need BESIDES massive resolution. and while the new A7rII is no slouch in low light, its not quite at the level of the a7SII once it gets darker and  the ISO gets cranked past 25,600.

Few more images with the a7SII. Even in low or mixed light, the camera does very well. Remember, I have all noise reduction OFF. I use NONE. These are all OOC JPEGS. 

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My Final Conclusion

Sony seems to be really shooting for the stars as these new Mark II series of A7 have all been phenomenal. Mirrorless is taking off in a huge way. DSLR sales are down, way down..mirrorless sales are UP, way up. I remember when the A7 arrived, the original..many predicted the doom of Mirrorless while I was predicting the slow death of DSLR’s. The slow death of DSLR’s IS happening as many have been switching to mirrorless  – some do it every single day and companies like Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and now even Leica are leading the way for those who want a great mirorrless experience with not many limitations.

In the case of the Sony a7SII, the ability to shoot in any light, with almost any lens made and having 5 Axis IS inside with a great EVF and LCD along with perfect button and control placement, well it just makes it a cool and very capable camera. Nothing quite like it out there right now.

If 12MP doesn’t bother you, I see no reason to go for the A7II or RII over this one. With some M mount lenses this guy will give you an almost Leica M9 feel, not 100% but close. The color pops, OOC JPEGS are fantastic and in the hands of someone with uber talent there would be nothing this camera can’t do..well, even today these cameras are not better than a DSLR for continuous AF but I feel we will be there within a year or two, so sports shooters..I’d stick with your DSLR even though these cameras are plenty fast for just about everything else.

With cel phones taking over as the most used camera in the world, us enthusiasts and hobbyists are becoming a niche breed ourselves. Me, I can’t stand using a phone for any real serious shooting. As good as the iPhone camera is, it does not match something like the Sony A7 series or Leica or Olympus or most other serious cameras. I will take a real camera anyway over a phone, and always will. There will always be a desire for REAL cameras and while one day they may get close to extinction, they never really will. Kind of like Viny Records. They are still being made today for most new music releases. Yep, good old records and they sound GLORIOUS and give a much more “real” experience over digital files or CD. Same way I see a real camera vs a phone. :)

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Pro’s and Con’s of the A7sII

Pros

  1. New body style, better controls and more solid feel
  2. 5 Axis IS inside!
  3. Improved video specs over the original A7s. 4K, slo motion, etc..
  4. Improved AF speed, also focuses in extremely low light
  5. Beautiful IQ with saturated colors and 3D pop 
  6. Built in mics for video are fantastic
  7. Low light capabilities are best in class, without question
  8. Sony has many lenses available now for the FE mount system
  9. Almost any lens can be used here, and M lenses work well with the SII

 

Cons

  1. Same sensor as the original so do not expect ISO improvements or massive changes to IQ
  2. Battery life not the best, as with all Sony A7 series bodies.
  3. Price..at $3,000 it is not cheap, but IMO worth it if you want versatile camera that can shoot anywhere, anytime
  4. No real weather sealing here
  5. Continuous AF could be improved to get to pro DSLR level

So should you buy an a7SII? Well, that is up to you.

This review was shorter than my normal 7-10K word reviews because this is basically an a7s but with a few nice improvements and upgrades along with the new body style. Nothing revolutionary or mind blowing over the original but still enough for many to lust for and want to shoot with this beautiful camera, and it is a beautiful machine. As I shoot it I think back to just 10 years ago at what we had in the digital camera market and if someone would have told me that today in 2015 we would have cameras doing 4K video, ISO 400,000+ and using live view EVF’s that are actually usable..I may not have believed it. We are living in that future and the choices are here. It’s an amazing thing and I can only imagine what the next 10 years will bring to the digital photography world.

Bottom Line: If you want an A7 body, I’d go for this one or the RII. Both are “End Game” cameras, at least for a few years until the next big thing. I still have the original A7s and love it. With the SII and RII, there would be no situation you couldn’t cover.

Oops! Sony did it again!

WHERE TO BUY?

You can buy the A7sII at Amazon HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE.

Both shops 100% recommended by me!

HLPHH

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Sep 212015
 

TTTTHL1

The Olympus 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye Quick Lens Review

Well well. Olympus has been successfully creating cameras and lenses for decades now. When the original E-1 camera came out in 2003 (Four Thirds mount, NOT Micro 4/3) I loved it to pieces. For me, that camera had some magic at the time. While today that’d E-1 falls way short I do know some who still shoot with that camera every now and again and still treasure it. There is just something about Olympus that always keeps me with a body and a lens or two, no matter if I move on to bigger and better things (like full frame).

Even when I am shooting my Leica heavily, or my Sony heavily I always come back to Olympus in the form of the E-M1, E-M5 II or now the new E-M10II (currently reviewing). Olympus, for me, means I will always have a fun time shooting. It also means I will always get my shots as my Olympus cameras never seem to fail me, they offer a huge lens selection and they are fast and have some of the best features on the market. While not holding up to full frame image quality, the IQ from these little wonders is nothing short of astonishing when you consider the small sensor and size of these camera bodies.

Video showing off the 8mm Fisheye

So even today with the likes of the Sony A7 series, the Leica M, the Canon and Nikon’s of the photo world and all of the other amazing cameras out there today, the Olympus Micro 4/3 is still a solution for many of us who want the small size, some of the best glass (lenses) in the business and the largest selection of lenses for any mirrorless system. Speed, IS, color, and performance is top notch. Many pros are using Micro 4/3 and loving it.

That leads me to this new lens release from Olympus. The 8mm Fisheye f/1.8 Pro. Yep, Oly is listing this as a pro lens as it is dust and splash proof, and it offers a worlds 1st for a fisheye..an f/1.8 aperture. Usually these 8mm lenses come in with an aperture of f/3.5 but this one, at f/1.8, actually will offer you more creative possibilities than any other fisheye that I am aware of.

Olympus E-M10 II with the 8mm Fisheye Pro

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I love fisheye lenses and while I only use them 3-4 times per year I find that owning at least ONE fisheye is well worth it. With so many less expensive fisheye’s out there today, most coming in between $250 and $350 with even the promo Panasonic 8mm fish coming it at round $600 how can Olympus charge $999 for this little guy?

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Well, it is a PRO lens which means it will survive the elements. Rain, snow, freezing temps, dust.. this lens should survive any of that. It also has the worlds fastest aperture for a fisheye at f/1.8, and it has Auto Focus, something the less expensive models lack (and yes, you can mis-focus a fisheye). This lens is the nicest looking, feeling and well made fisheye I have ever used. I find it bitingly sharp contrary to one report I saw that said it was not that share wide open. My copy is VERY sharp wide open.

Next two shots, E-M5II and the 8mm Fisheye

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you have never shot with a Fisheye lens before, you are in for either a treat or disappointment. What a fisheye does is allow you to get massive surroundings into the frame. Usually offering a true 180 degree field of view, this means that it is WIDE..beyond ULTRA wide. It will also give you massive distortion, which is the character of these lenses, hence “fisheye”.

—–

QUICK SPECS OF THE 8MM 1.8

Micro Four Thirds System
16mm (35mm Equivalent)
Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
1 Aspherical, 5 ED, and 3 HR Elements
Anti-Reflection ZERO Coating
High-Speed Imager AF with MSC
Expansive 180° Angle of View
Dust, Splash, and Freezeproof Design
Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

—–

When used correctly (and it is very hard to do, I rarely can get a GREAT fisheye shot) the results can be spectacular. When used incorrectly, the shots are average. This is a challenging lens and if you slapped this guy on your M 4/3 camera and kept it there for one week, by the end of that week you will be much better with the lens than if you just use it sparingly.

This kind of lens can really put the viewer into the moment and scene.

1st shot E-M10 II, then E-M5II for 2 and 3

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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I have owned and loved the Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 but compared to this Olympus it was slower to Auto Focus and did not offer the pro build or the f 1.8 aperture. Coming in at $400 less I feel this Olympus is priced right for what it offers above and beyond that Panasonic. (speed, pro build, aperture). While not the fastest lens in the Olympus lineup for Auto Focus, it is fast for a fisheye. Imagine what the camera would think if it had a brain…

The sensor would see a MASS amount of information due to the ultra wide view…”what to focus on”?!?!? So this will not be as speedy to AF as a 25 1.8 or 12 f/2, rather it will be a touch slower but not slow enough to call it slow or sluggish. It is quite quick, and depending on light it can go from super fast to semi fast. So no worries on AF speed or accuracy. I remember my Panasonic would often times focus incorrectly and while many think you can not mis focus a fisheye, you very well can, ESPECIALLY when you have a faster aperture like f/1.8. Luckily the AF is working very well here.

 

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While having this lens for review I started to really enjoy it..a lot. While walking through the catacomb like pathways of an old ghost town in the AZ desert I was doing some long exposures and the ultra wide view helped to show exactly where I was…THIS is when I found this lens invaluable. No other lens would have worked quite the same. I also have the 7-14 f/2.8 pro here and that lens did very well in these areas as well, but the fisheye really shows the viewer more of what I was seeing while in these spots.

E-M10II and 8MM Fisheye, long exposures. 

 

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So at the end of the day, after 1st renting this lens for a week a month or so ago, and now having a review copy here I have a solid two weeks with this lens and I now want it for my Micro 4/3 lens collection. I sold my Panasonic month ago because I knew this was on the way, and it does not disappoint. I found ZERO weakness. No flare issues, no softness issues, no missed AF issues and no build issues. I even caked my review samples with massive dust and dirt while out in the AZ desert during a windy night where dust and dirt was blowing everywhere. The lens was coated but after a clean up that took 2 minutes it was good as new.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So now I must own this lens. Even for video it rocks – for Vlogging it does well though the distortion my bother some. I once did quite a few videos for public viewing using mostly a fisheye lens, and it works out great. In some tight situations, if shooting video, this lens would be fantastic (as would  the 7-14 without the distortion).

This lens mated to an E-M1, E-M5II, or E-M10 II or any of the other M 4/3 cameras out there will offer you a unique, different and sometimes surprising view of the world. While not an every day lens (no fisheye is) it is a lens that with selective use can expand your photo portfolio with shots that stick out. While not cheap at $999, I consider this lens to be priced JUST right for what it offers over other less expensive Fisheye lenses.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

So once again I say BRAVO to Olympus for releasing yet another amazing lens for their M 4/3 system. The new 8mm Pro offers you a “no compromise” fisheye that can be used in nearly ANY situation and I find it to be a notch above the competition in every way. AWESOME! Highly recommended for those who have been itching for a Fisheye lens!!!

You can order the lens at my preferred Olympus dealers below:

WHERE TO BUY

B&H Photo – Olympus 8mm fisheye

Amazon – 8mm Fisheye

——————————————-

HLPHH

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Jul 132015
 
Sakura and Mount Fuji

A Review of the Sony A7II from a Newbie to Photography

by Alex Foon

Sakura and Mount Fuji

Hi Steve!

First of all thanks for hosting such a wonderful, no-nonsense website that I’ve been religiously visiting every single day. The past six months had been a roller coaster ride for me (photographically speaking) and I just managed to find time, sit down and write a photography beginner’s review of the Sony A7 mark II.

Prior to 12 Dec 2014, my tool for photography had been limited to camera phone and then smartphones. Back then, I never understood why some of my friends were into this expensive hobby called “photography” – the hassle to carry DSLRs the size and weight of a bowling ball, lifting it up to your face, adjust the settings for what lasted like an eternity, and then fire in burst; when the simple action of whipping out the iPhone could seemingly produce similar results.

Fast forward to the fateful 12 Dec 2014, I touched down at the airport after a grueling business trip, in my mind I was thinking perhaps I could do a little shopping therapy and so I aimlessly walked into the Sony store. The storekeeper told me that their latest release was the Sony A7II (just launched that day) and 10 minutes later I walked out with the A7II kit bundle, not knowing better what I had gotten myself into.

Of course over the next few days I was quite excited about my new toy, I had absolutely zero idea about what was aperture, shutter speed, metering, exposure, depth of field and etc. (maybe I still don’t quite get it now). It was frustrating to have such a high-end camera and yet the images I captured were not up to my expectation. I started researching online about how to operate the camera and how to capture a photograph properly, and that’s when I chanced upon your review of the A7II. It was almost instinctive that I made another investment in a prime lens (FE Zeiss 55 1.8, still my favorite lens to date) instead of keeping the kit zoom 28-70 (not that it’s a bad lens either).

Marina Barrage Singapore

And then things started to get very interesting.

I suppose I needed to justify my impulse purchase, hence I brought the A7II with me everywhere I went, from daily grind in the office, to Penang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing and many more locales to come. The delectable combo of the lightweight A7II body coupled with solidly build FE lenses means it’s possible for me to carry them in my backpack all the time, and this allowed me to shoot whenever I find pockets of time in between.

Chinatown Singapore

Great Wall Beijing

The improved ergonomics of the second iteration of the A7 series body should not be underestimated. The grip is beefed up for a firmer one handed operations when needed, and coupled with the placement of the shutter button, this alone potentially allows an additional stop of stability over the corresponding mark I’s in the series. And you’ll be surprised that a 45 degrees slant of the C3 button (C2 in mark I’s) can really improve the functionality of the camera especially when using manual focus.

Speaking of focusing, having such a shallow depth of field in full frame bodies makes the autofocus unreliable at times, you thought you might have nailed the focus on the eyes but when you review it again the spectacles were in focus instead. So 90% of the time I opt to use manual focus. MF is made stupidly easy and some might even argue that it is faster than the AF on the A7ii, turn the focus ring and the image magnifies, press my assigned C3 button and the focus magnifier further zooms in for fine tuning.

Touting in Bangkok

Restocking in Chatuchak

With the OLED EVF, what you see is what you get! No more worrying about whether you nailed the exposure or the focus. The in-body 5 axis image stabilizer further supports the notion of WYSIWYG because I could be having seizure and still manage to see through the EVF and get a shot in focus. (alright, I promise this would be my only attempt in over-exaggerating, but you guys get the idea ;-D)

The short flange distance of the full frame A7ii camera body, working in tandem with manual focus assist tools and the IBIS, enable users to mount possibly every single camera lens ever made, as long as there is an adapter made to mount it. From my current favorite and affordable Minoltas, to the wallet breaking but absolutely fantastic Leicas, there is a lens for A7 users on any level of budget.

Shrine in Shinjuku

I understand that Sony had announced the lustrous A7RII, and how willing am I to sell a kidney for that one. Looking at it from another angle, I’m glad Sony had priced the A7II at almost half price of the A7RII. And for all the joy and memories it had brought me over past half a year, I think this was the best impulsive buy that I had ever made. Today, I hope I had at least learnt something about aperture, shutter speed and whatnots, and I might have found a lifelong passion in photography.

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I will check out for now with 10 photos I had taken over the past 6 months with the A7II. Hope to finish my first roll soon on the Minolta SRT Super so I can send some entries in for Film Friday ;)

Till then, keep shooting.
Alex

Flickr: alex.foon
Facebook: facebook.com/sotongball
Email: [email protected]

Jun 182015
 
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The Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2 Sony FE Version Review

By Steve Huff

(all images here shot on a Sony A7II)

I have never been a 85 or 90mm lens kind of guy. While there are some GORGEOUS lenses in this focal length (Leica 90 Summicron APO, Leica 75 Summilux, Zeiss 85 Sonnar, Sony 90 Macro) I just always prefer a 35mm or 50mm, and sometimes a good 21mm focal length. When I shoot, my preference is to shoot people, and for people, I like to get in close to talk with them before I take their picture.

But even so, a nice 85mm lens has its place in my bag on occasion. Maybe I want to isolate a subject more, or get a little more reach than I am used to. Either way, two of my favorite 75-85 lenses have been the Canon 85 1.2 L lens, which is a beauty in all kinds of ways. When that lens is shot on a nice Canon full frame camera, the color, sharpness and Bokeh are outstanding, and unique. If I were rich, I’d have a 5D style camera and the 85L here just for those few occasions when I wanted that Canon 85L look.

The other lens I love is the Leica 75 Summilux. Not an 85mm of course but still a wonderful and beautiful lens capable of ethereal and organic renderings. The Leica 75 Summilux has been long discontinued and is one of those lenses that went from un popular to VERY popular after they released the M9. During the Leica M8 days, the 75 Lux could be found for $1200 all day long as no one wanted it on a crop sensor. After the M9 was released the prices went through the roof, and now a 75 Summilux will set yo back $3500+.

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So why am I mentioning a Leica 75 Summilux in a review meant for a Sony mount lens? Well, because this Mitakon 85 f/1.2 Speedmaster lens reminds me more of the Leica 75 Lux than anything. I am not saying it is just like the Leica, as it is not, but the rendering has that out there ethereal kind of vibe, and it’s way more Leica Lux than Canon or your typical Sony lens.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW AND TO SEE IT CORRECTLY!

Here is a shot taken in NYC in the morning. I was walking and saw this stylish woman taking some shots of everything with her phone. She had style, spunk and personality so after this shot I asked her if I could take her portrait. See those below… But this one was at f/1.2 with the Sony A7II

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The Mitakon Speedmaster 50 Came first..which is better?

A while ago I reviewed the other amazing Speedmaster lens, the 50 f/0.95. You can read that review here as it is loaded with samples that show the character of that lens (and PopFlash.com sell them HERE). While not a competitor to the Leica 50 Noctilux, the 50 Speedmaster is a pretty damn fine lens for  the money. To see some amazing shots with it, click HERE.  So the first lens, the 50, for the money was stunning and comes in at about 11X less than the Leica Noctilux. $1k vs $11k.

This new 85 1.2 has grown on me the more I use it. First, I thought it was a tad dull as the contrast is low with this lens, and needs a boost in post processing to get that WOW POP we all love. Second, the color is a tad duller than I am used to with the mega lenses but again, easily fixed in post. After I figured out the signature of the lens, I realized just how good it was, again, for the money (it can’t be beat).

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As to which one is better, well, neither. Both have the same sort of signature and style, which as you can see in this review and the 50 review, that style is very “Bokehlicious” lol. The best thing to do if trying to decide between this 85 and the 50 is decide what focal length you prefer. That is all. Both lenses are built like a tank, literally. Both lenses are heavy and unruly, both lenses are manual focus and both lenses ship in a lovely hard shell case.

I prefer the 50 as it is my focal length but some may prefer the 85 and many may choose to have both, the 50 for normal shooting and the 85 for isolation or head shots.

1st shot was stopped down a bit to f/2.8 I believe..2nd shot was a close up of some red blood like water in the streets of NY and the last shot is wide open at 1.2 in my hotel room to show how well this lens is with subject isolation. All Sony A7II.

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Construction…

See my video below with the Mitakon 85 1.2 – It’s a dual video with a Sony lens but I also showcase the Mitakon so you can see how big it is and what I feel about it. 

Construction is quite good on the Speedmaster lenses. They are built SOLID and they are all metal, so yes, they are heavy and large. When I hold a lens built like this I think “QUALITY” as somehow, a heavy feeling just gives you that impression. SO yes, it FEELS amazingly well made like most Leica M lenses do. The focus ring leans more to the stiff side than loose, which I like and it has a long focus throw which is helpful for fine tuning the AF. The Aperture dial is solid but is clickless so no click stops. Many prefer this, especially for video work.

So for build it is top notch, and usability is nice a it gets for a lens of this type. As I said, it reminds me of my old 75 Summilux, just larger. :)

The three below, all wide open at f/1.2 on the Sony A7II – you must click them for larger. 

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DETAILS? With this lens? Sure!

Of course a lens like this will not give you corner to corner sharpness wide open, just not going to happen. This is one reason why Leica glass is so damn expensive..it is just about perfect. This lens, being a “fast budget lens” will not give you crisp sharp corner to corner goodness wide open at f/1.2. BUT!!! Stop it down a bit and wow, it sharpens up NICELY. The shot below is at f/4 and is VERY sharp.

CLICK FOR LARGER AND FULL 100% CROP TO SEE THE DETAIL AT F/4

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The CONS of the 85 1.2

Well, there will always be at lest one con, no matter how perfect a product is. Nothing made on earth is for everyone, so it comes down to personal preferences, needs vs wants and of course, cost. For me, the things I did not like about this lens was the WEIGHT and SIZE. I love small high quality glass, and this is a LARGE high quality glass. ;) It is heavy, it is BIG. So remember that. I also feel it could use a tad more contrast out of the box but this takes a few seconds to fix i post. Out of camera JPEG shooters may wish for deeper blacks and an image with more pop. Also, the color needs to be boosted IMO to give it that WOW pizazz.

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We can not expect perfection in a $799 lens but for the $799 that it costs, it is just about perfect. If it were $2000 I would have said no way, but at $799 it is a steal and a deal for anyone who wants an optic like this for their Sony, Canon or Nikon system.

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My time with the Speedmaster lens…

I have had this lens here for a while now and have used it sparingly, here and there as even when I review items, I tend to review what I like, and what I enjoy. What fun is writing about something you do not even like? The more I used the 85 f/1.2, the more I liked it..and today I love it. After quite a few shots under my belt I feel this is one of those lenses that are actually a deal. Fast glass is NEVER cheap, but when you get something built special like this, that is designed for full frame, and can be used on my Sony makes it a win win IMO.

This lens is called “The Dream Lens” by the maker, and is available on Sony FE, Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. AWESOME. The best part is? The cost is $799. Not $999, but $799, and to me, this is a bargain for what you get here as it will give you renderings much like a classic Leica lens for a FRACTION of the cost. While not up to Leica standards, it is 75% there and MUCH cheaper for the wallet.

This is a “Character Lens”  – full of those qualities that make people look at the results and say “WOW, how did you do that”?!?

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Where to Buy?

You can buy the lens direct from Mitakon HERE or check with PopFlash.com (not sure they have the 85 yet) as they are a dealer and sell the 50 0.95 all day long.  B&H sells the 50 as well HERE though its $100 more than PopFlash. Again, to see my 50 0.95 review, click HERE.

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Aug 182014
 

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Got IQ? The Sigma DP2 Quattro Review. 

Here I am again with yet another Sigma DP body. This time, the newest super funky DP2 Quattro model. I have never seen ANYTHING quite like the design of this Quattro and after using it and shooting with it I can state up front that I actually adore the style and design. For my hands, it feels superb when out shooting and when held correctly it really is easy to shoot with, and a joy. The last time I was with a Sigma camera it was when I reviewed the DP2 Merrill. I loved the Merrill for its amazing image quality, which was the best I have seen in any small camera. Very much like Medium Format and in some ways even better.  Now the Quattro has taken that image quality, improved the AF speed and other aspects and then jammed it into an all new body that is worthy of a whole conversation in itself.

Out of camera JPEG of my Fiancee’ Debby. This is complete OOC. Just resized to 1800 pixels wide and no sharpening. You can see the larger size if you click the image. For me, this is gorgeous out of camera color and IQ. From detail to color to bokeh. It looks fabulous. 

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So what is the Quattro?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a super funky designed camera that houses a new Foveon sensor and it will give you some of the best image quality you have ever seen, period. Even when shooting JPEGS. IN fact, I much preferred shooting the enhanced resolution JPEG’s over shooting RAW as shooting RAW is a process. Why you ask? Well, shooting RAW means you have to process those files in the Sigma Slow Photo Pro software as the files from the Foveon chip are not compatible with any other software. This means, no using lightroom for your Sigma DP2 files.

The Quattro has a 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS image sensor which will give you 5424X3616 files. The color and detail in these files is absolutely beautiful. Some of the best I have ever seen.

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The Quattro has a unique design as well and does not look like any other camera I have seen or used. It is long, oddball and with a strange reverse grip. When I first held it I was saying “OH NO! What have they done? The grip does not feel right”!. Then after  few hours of use I was saying “This feels great! Shooting with two hands feels natural and easy”.

My Quattro Video Overview

Basically, the design..while odd..is very effective for me. I have small hands but the camera fits me well and the buttons and dials are easily within reach.

Image quality is through the roof and when browsing over images I took, which were mainly quick snapshots, I was continually blown away by the complete lack of adjusting the photos. No need for changing or adjusting color, no need to sharpen, no need to fix exposure and no need to change ANYTHING. Out of camera JPEGS were just so pleasing with a rich file and crisp 3D feeling images. The Quattro, IMO, offers the most pleasing IQ from any DP camera to date though I have found the Dynamic Range to be on the lower side when compared to other cameras like the E-M1, A7, etc. When you blow a highlight you will not be able to bring back the detail if it is severely blown.

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The lens is a 30mm f/2.8 that gives us the equivalent of a 40mm 2.8 with the APS-C sized sensor. The lens is sharp and with great color and rendering. The Bokeh is smooth and pleasing and there is plenty of detail to be found here. No complaints on the lens at all.

Build quality is also fantastic and a step up from the previous versions. It feels solid and well made but I do have one major complaint. I feel it is a big one. The door that houses the SD card is not a door at all but a rubber flap that has to be pulled out and moved to the side to access the SD card. Over time this rubber will break off and this will mean that the SD card compartment will be exposed to the elements of dust, dirt and moisture. Horrible design on the SD card part. Sigma should actually fix this in the current production and replace it with a legit door. Not sure who designed that or who approved of it but it is the worst design SD card compartment cover I have seen.

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The Sigma is also missing any kind of EVF or OVF and the LCD does not tilt or swivel. If Sigma would have added these two things they would have had a serious camera that would be tough to pass up for those who love their image quality. The brand spanking new Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is quite a bit different from the previous Foveon sensor due to a new top layer with a higher res. This should now give more detailed results with faster image processing and overall speed. So Sigma has reworked their sensor tech and the 29MP Quattro is said to give the results and resolution of a 39 MP normal sensor. Pretty cool.

Here is what Sigma says about their creation:

“Unique and without peer among image sensors, the Foveon direct image sensor is similar to traditional color film in that its multiple layers capture all of the information that visible light transmits. Vertical color separation technology produces incredibly rich color gradations, which in turn make possible texture and expressive power that are immediately apparent to the eye. Even when you are photographing an object with a single color, the sensor captures the full gradation perfectly, with no discordant jumps between lighter and darker areas. Proof that capturing color accurately one pixel at a time really makes a difference, these perfect gradations are at the heart of what we call “full-bodied image quality.”

While delivering this rich, colorful, ultra-high resolution that optimally replicates what you see in the real world, the new dp offers image files of a reasonable size in an easy-to-process format. To achieve this combination, we thoroughly rethought and redesigned every aspect of the camera, including the sensor, engine, lens, body, and interior layout. The result is a camera that carries on the dp tradition and gives you unprecedented image quality.

To a radical degree, the new-generation dp series embodies SIGMA’s philosophy of creating cameras that produce works of art. Featuring the highest level of fundamental performance, this series unites artistic expression and daily experience as no other cameras can.”

As it stands, the camera produces some of the most gorgeous colors and files I have seen…comparable to real medium format files but are the weaknesses enough to put you off from buying it? Let us take a look at everything in a little bit more detail.

My son Brandon and my Nephew John while visiting the domes of Casa Grande, AZ. Sigma Sp2 Quattro at 2.8. This is from RAW. Click it for larger!

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The Auto Focus speed of the Quattro

With the DP2 Merrill the AF speed is what killed it for me. Even the write times to the card were horrible. I wanted to love the DP2 Merrill and buy one as I started to get addicted to the image quality. At the end of the day I could not do it as when it launched it was $999 and for me to spend a grand I need a camera that will not frustrate the hell out of me to get a shot. The DP2 Merrill with its quirks and annoyances put me off from buying one, even at the current price of $699. It is just too slow and doesn’t feel right in the hand to me. You can read my review of that camera HERE.

With the Quattro I had hoped that Sigma improved the Auto Focus speed. If not, it would be the same thing for me and the design would not have saved it.

After shooting the Quattro in many different conditions I have found the AF to be much better this time around but still on the slow side of the tracks. It will not compete in AF speed with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the Fuji X-T1 or the Nikon 1 series. It is nowhere near DSLR Focus speeds either, but it is much better than the old DP2 Merrill. The camera is full of flaws but IQ is not one of them.

When shooting in decent light it is quick enough to get a grab shot though not fast enough to catch a super quick moment. Even with the speed increase, which also is seen in write times, it does not even come close to making the Quattro any sort of action camera. I still say that this camera is best for static subjects. Portraits, scenes, landscapes, urban decay, etc. This is where the camera will excel. I have found the images to have a medium format feel in color and details. In fact, the IQ is so special with this camera that I feel the speed increases seen, while still slow, make the camera worth a purchase for those who value superb color and IQ. For portraits this camera just gets it right and if used from ISO 100-800 you will not be let down by the IQ. If coming from a Merrill of even older DP2 you will find the speed increases very welcome indeed. Just do not expect a speed demon, as it is in NO WAY a speedy camera in operation.

The next three images..all OOC JPEG

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What the DP2 Quattro is missing, in my opinion

While I have been enjoying my time with the little Quattro I have been wishing that it has a few things that it does not, and if it did, it would make it complete IMO. For one, I love the fact that it is so simple. It is a device built for one thing, all out image quality without any stress of color, sharpness or quality. In this regard, it just works. Image after image, even of plain old mundane subjects looked superb, reminding me of the old Leica M9 in many ways with the crisp yet pleasing details and slide like film color. Add in some medium format smoothness and you have a camera that REALLY delivers in the IQ department. I know I said this already but for me, the IQ is almost worth the asking price alone here. Add in the funky design (which I love) and the ease of use and you have a real camera that photo geeks and enthusiasts will really enjoy when shooting in good light.

But the DP2 is not perfect, far from it.

For starters, there is no EVF  here. An EVF embedded into the body would have just added so much to the experience. When out in bright light the LCD gets hard to see and framing your shot is basically not possible. It turns into a guessing game for everything. An EVF would have solved this and made it more enjoyable to shoot. Sigma is releasing an OVF (Optical View Finder) for the Quattro but there are issues to using an OVF with a digital camera.  For starters, let’s say you shot with the LCD off (which is as easy as a button press away) and wanted to frame with the OVF. You will not get an exact framing nor will you know where the camera focused. If you want precise focus you will need to use the LCD. An EVF would have been perfect.

Also, the LCD does not swivel and while I appreciate this being done to keep clean lines and save on thickness, it hurts the usability because without the EVF or a tilt LCD it takes away points for versatility. Then we have the shoddy high ISO performance. I have been using the Sony A7s as my main camera for months now and have become quite spoiled with the ability to shoot anywhere and at anytime. With the DP2 Quattro forget low light interior shots or ISO above 800. After ISO 800 the noise gets nasty and even with color I would prefer to stop at ISO 400. This is one area where the Foveon sensors just have not been able to improve upon. At base ISO and up to 400 the file quality is outstanding in color or B&W. After 400-800 you will want to go B&W only, and yes, you can get good results at ISO 3200 with B&W. OOC B&W mode looks great.

So while the IQ and design is beautiful (for me and my tastes) the camera still lacks due to not having an EVF, swivel LCD and not so great high ISO performance.

With that out-of-the-way, if one wants a camera for certain subjects like portraits, landscape or scenic type of stuff then the Quattro will deliver better than almost any other camera. I feel it has better IQ than the Leica M9 that came in at $7k. From color to detail, it is stupendous. If we treat it like a “Mini Medium Format” then it is understandable  that it is lacking in many ways but up there with the best of the best in other ways.

As long as you know what you are getting with the Quattro then it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed with it. I recently saw a YouTube video review of this camera and the guy concluded with “It’s a piece of crap”. I have never seen such a horrible review as the guy had no idea how to use it to its potential. The Quattro is far from a piece of crap and is highly capable when it comes to making/creating an image. From the color to the detail to the rich file. You just have to realize what it is and what it is not!

The NONO’s: No action shots, no low light interior or night shots, no easy framing in harsh sun. Battery life is below average but camera comes with two of them.

The WOW’s!: Gorgeous MF like IQ & color, unique design and simple menu setup. OOC JPEGS look fantastic.

There more OOC JPEGS…

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The Shooting experience with the Quattro

The DP2 Quattro, as previously stated, is a unique design. I am a HUGE fan of those companies that go outside of the box when it does to design and features. I love to see companies push the envelope and do or try things that no one else does. When I saw the design of the Quattro before it was released I was very excited about it because it was something different from the normal ho hum camera shape. I found the DP2 Merrill to have an awful body design. The Quattro, while odd at first while holding it soon becomes comfy and natural. I had zero issues using the body, holding the body or controlling the camera. The magnesium alloy body feels solid and secure and everything is top quality (besides the dumb rubber SD card cover).

Brandon getting the shot with his Diana camera. OOC JPEG. Blown highlights outside in the sun. 

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Using Auto Focus with the Quattro is a much nicer experience over the DP2 Merrill, which was borderline unusable for most situations. At least now we have a somewhat snappy AF and while it will hunt in low light, it is not bad at all. I expected worse, so it exceeded my expectations in the Auto Focus speed department. The Quattro does not do the fancy tricks that other cameras do. Video? Nope. Fancy built-in effects? Nope. No panorama, no smile detect, etc. It is a simple camera with a simple design and button layout.

The Menu system is superb. Clean, elegant and easy to browse. I wish all were like this. It reminds me of a Leica menu in its simplicity and the quick menu is so clean, so easy to navigate and make changes. I love it.

When I washout shooting with the DP2 Quattro I always loved taking it out of my bag to shoot and I even had a few people ask me what it was I was taking pictures with. It is a conversation starter and stare getter for sure, so forget about being stealth with the Quattro. Never once did I have an issue with anything and it always delivered the goods. I had a wonderful time shooting with it unlike the previous DP2 Merrill.

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It’s all in the details

Even when shooting JPEG you can see the immense detail in the image. Below are three images with 100% crops embedded. You must click the image to see it with the crop. Remember, these are from JPEG!

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High ISO Test and Crops

The Sigma DP2 Quattro, or any DP camera for that matter is NOT a camera made for low light shooting. In fact, for best IQ keep this camera set to ISO 100-400 and no more than that. Yes, very low on the ISO scale but there are always trade offs as there are no perfect cameras. The DP2 Quattro is a camera to pull out of the bag when there is good light available. Then it will reward you with beautiful colors and results.

I am posting a few high ISO files below starting with base ISO 100. I them move on to 400, 800. 1600, 3200 and 6400. The best are 100 and 400 but see for yourself. Once you get to ISO 1600 problems start to creep in including odd color shifts and reduced DR. Stick from 100-800 and you will be just fine.

For best viewing experience, right-click and open each image in a new window. These are full size files from the camera, OOC JPEG

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JPEG vs RAW comparison

I have found that shooting the Quattro in JPEG  to be quite good. In fact, with all of the hassles of processing the RAW files of the DP2 Quattro I would just shoot JPEG for 95% of what I shoot. If I was shooting something very special that I was going to print large t hen I would process the RAW file for sure. Below are two images, one out of camera JPEG and one processed from RAW.

JPEG is up top, RAW underneath. Right click and open in a new window to see the files in their full size. 

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding Medium Format image quality!
  • Unique design and shape that works well for my hands
  • Conversation starter
  • Detail, color and 3D feel is all here
  • Camera ships with two batteries and full charger
  • 30mm f/2.8 lens is sharp corner to corner
  • Sigma’s best DP to date
  • Faster Af and processing over previous DP cameras
  • Great JPEG engine
  • Super JPEG size:  7,680×5,120
  • Superb for B&W shooting
  • OVF is available for those that want one
  • Good Dynamic Range up to ISO 800
  • Menu system is simple, clean and elegant
  • Most Unique camera of 2014!
  • IQ puts most other cameras to shame…really.

Cons

  • Still slow to AF compared to other (non DP) cameras
  • No swivel LCD
  • Must get exposure correct as it is tough to recover highlights
  • SD Card rubber “door” will break eventually
  • No kind of EVF even possible
  • Shape may be trouble for some
  • Battery life is not the best, sucks down quick.
  • Fixed lens means only 40mm equivalent
  • Limited ISO use, best from 100-400
  • Dynamic Range suffers after ISO 800+
  • RAW files can only be opened and processed by Sigma Software, which is SLOW as molasses.

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Who is this camera for?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a camera for camera pros, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It is not a P&S for a new camera buyer or for someone without any knowledge of how a camera works. It is for those who crave detail, rich color and unreal micro contrast. It is for those who want a Medium Format look and feel in a camera that is much smaller and lighter, as well as cheaper. It is a camera for portraits, landscapes or still life. It is not for someone who wants to shoot running kids inside the house. No way, no how. If you shoot outdoor scenes, landscape or people and you want a camera that will deliver some of the most beautiful files you have seen, the this may be your camera. I find it works great as a 2nd camera for special situations or those moments when something like this will work for you.

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Final Word

As I sit here and think about my time with the DP2 Quattro I am extremely pleased and happy with the image quality. It exceeded every expectation and beats out some much more expensive cameras when shooting in the iSO 100-400 range. For IQ, this is one of those camera that just scream out with it. It doesn’t get better in IQ even in the 3K range! It was reminding me of such cameras as the Leica M9, Sony RX1R and even a few Medium Format cameras when it comes to IQ. That is some pretty impressive company, especially when you consider that the camera sells for $999. Well under the others I mentioned.

But will the IQ be enough for most of you who are in the market for a new camera? Probably not. The Sigma DP Quattro would not make for a good “one camera” to own because it limits your shooting to daytime or good light, ISO 100-800 for color shooting and it does not offer an EVF or swivel LCD. The Battery life is tough (but it does ship with two) and the camera does not do video or the gimmicky tricks that some other cameras do so well.

The DP Quattro is about one thing and one thing only…making memories in decent light with the best quality possible in this size and format for under $1000.

The Auto Focus has improved greatly from the DP2 Merrill I tested but it is still lacking in speed when compared to other cameras. I never found it unusable or missing the shot, not at all, but again…it is only good for still shots, NOT action or moving subjects and in low light it slows down and hunts. The DP2 Quattro has the all new sensor that delivers faster speed and better performance across the board and the 29 MP Foveon sensor is said to give the same results as a standard 39MP sensor. I would not argue that point. The battery life has improved from the Merril’s 50-60 shots per charge and now I can get about 120-140 shots per charge The two batteries supplied should be good for a day of shooting as long as you are not a speed demon machine gun shooter (if so, this is NOT your camera).

Shooting the Quattro is something you will either LOVE or HATE. If you can get along with the funkytown design then you will enjoy shooting with the Quattro. If you find the grip odd or off, then forget it.

Me, I love the design. I think it is the loveliest camera design of 2014.

So will I buy one? When B&H Photo sent me this camera to review I assumed I would “like” it but not “love” it. Well, I fell hard for the special image quality which does have some magic embedded in it. I also enjoyed the faster AF and write times and beefier design. I hate the flimsy rubber SD card “door” but overall enjoyed my time with the camera. I feel it is worth the $999 if you are after IQ for landscapes or portraits and as a 2nd camera for those times when you want the Foveon Look. So I have to ask myself if I would use it enough. I have a Leica, I have a Sony A7s and still have an Olympus E-M1 lying around. Do I need this one? NO, not at all. Do I want it? Sure, I would love to own it just for the IQ, color and design. I feel one day this camera will sit in a museum for its unique yet oddball design! It may be a flop sales wise but it sure is unique ;)

So would I buy one? Yes indeed, if I had the spare $1k to spend, without hesitation. If I can save some cash I may just go for it. I passed on all previous DP models but this one is my favorite without question. I can not image ANYONE being disappointed with the image quality. Just beware that you will need light because after ISO 400 or 800 the IQ degrades fast.

I would love to test this camera and the upcoming DP1 (28mm equivalent)  during my upcoming Southwest workshop as it would create some breathtaking images I am sure. I may have to buy one just for that trip :)

WHEN YOU SIT AND THINK ABOUT IT…the Sigma DP Quattro beats the Leica M 240, Sony A7 and others for Image Quality, has Auto Focus (the Leica does not) and comes in at $6k less (than the Leica) but includes a lens where the Leica does not. When you look at it in this way then it is a no brainer and worth the cost if you value high image quality above all. Just be ready for what this camera does NOT do well (low light, action, etc).

Overall it gets a recommendation from me, and a high one..but only if your main concern is image quality and you do not need a camera for low light or for fast moving subjects.

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Where to Buy

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is available at the links below from my recommended dealers:

B&H Photo – You can see or buy the Dp2 Quattro at B&H Photo HERE

Amazon – Buy the Quattro at Amazon by using my link HERE

Outside the USA? Use my Amazon UK, Germany and Canada links HERE.

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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.

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Aug 142014
 

My 26 day road trip thru Australia with a Ricoh GR

By Gabriel Lima

Hello everybody!

I’m Gabriel from Brazil and the moment I write this article I’m in the city of Ubud, central Bali, Indonesia. I’m here to talk about my user experience for travel, landscape and long exposure photography using the RICOH GR and filter adapter with B&W ND filters.

First a bit of my background. I’m a 27 year old guy from Curitiba, South of Brazil. After I graduated in a 4 years Business degree in the Uni I realised that it was to boring for me and decided to pursuit 2 old dreams: Travel the world and be a photographer. So, my first steep last year was move to Australia learn english and photography.

My first problem was: Which camera should I buy? Oh god, its hard, there are heaps of models, sizes, sensors, lenses, brands, DSLR, mirrorless and all that history I sure you guys now about. What did I? I immerse myself in review sites and forums searching for specs, image samples and user reports. After long hours and days here in Steve website and searching for samples on flickr I got stuck in 3 cameras: Olympus EM1, Sony A7 and Ricoh GR.

My weapon of choice was the Ricoh GR because it`s small form factor, height, IQ and easy of use. I have to confess that I had to eliminate the Sony A7 cause its price got over my budget and the EM1 because its problem with noisy long exposures in the dark.

After 6 months of practicing with and testing the camera, on 6 of June I left the City of Gold Coast for a 4 weeks road trip sleeping in the back of a small 97 Daewoo hatch from eastern to western Australia, till the city of Perth, a 8000 Km trip always driving the coast and photographing some great Australian spots like the Sydney Opera House, The Great Ocean Road and the Bunda Cliffs. Now I`m in the start of a 2 months backpacking trip thru Bali, Philippines and Thailand.

So, How is the camera doing? How am I feeling about my decision? Even though I still want a Sony A7 (anyone interest in help me? just kidding LOL… Ok, maybe not…) I couldn’t be happier and i’ll tell you why in topics!!!

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SIZE:

Sleeping in a hatch and backpacking with a very small budget means I often have to carry my life on my back city and island hopping, hiking in the forests to a desert beach and even driving a scooter in Asia. The camera is so small that it packs anywhere. My entire kit with a Macbook Air, a MeFoto Backpacker tripod, B&W polariser and ND filters and a Mophie battery pack packs in a small backpacker and height less than 5 kg.

As most of my work is about landscapes i use the camera most at F8 and set to snap focus in the infinite what means i need i tripod most of the time and i found myself walking around Sydney or a forest in Bali with the MeFoto Backpacker with legs extended and the camera attached without any problem (ok, I often get some weird locks from the crowds, LOL).

EASY OF USE

The possibility of having 3 personal camera modes on the top dial is amazing and you can configure just everything there I have MY1 set to auto bracketing AE where i can set the exposure I want in each photo and even the order that the camera take/store the shots for my landscapes, MY2 set to F2.8 shallow exposures for temples, confined spaces or portraits and MY3 with my settings for long exposures. That means i don’t have to go thru the painful long menus of the camera, one of the disadvantages of the high user configuration that the RICOH GR allow, what would make me lost lots of shot opportunities. The camera even allows me to configure 3 other buttons for some functions, I use the effect button for shooter timer(use this a lot to eliminate the need of a non available shutter cable to avoid camera shake, just set for 2sec and everything will be ok), FN buttons for ND filter, snap focus distance or autofocus point and I have every thing I need easy to find.

AUTOFOCUS

The ability of move the focus point with the back dial makes me happy every time I have to compose and not worry about choose the correct focus point in a predetermined matrix during a shot in a confined temple.

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That`s one of the main reasons for me to choose the RICOH GR, just so easy to configure the distance I need and click. So easy, no shooter lag at all, perfect for street photography when you can`t miss the moment.

IQ

I`m very happy with the IQ i get from the RAW files in the Lightroom 5 but I wont talk about that as lots of people already did. The only think is that I felt that I need to expose to the right to get best results and avoid noise.

GW3 HOOD AND FILTER ADPTER + B&W FILTERS (LONG EXPOSURES)

I love for long exposures, specially in rock beaches and i got really frustrated during my road trip in Australia where i missed many opportunities cause the built-in ND filter wasn’t enough to produce good results during the day and I didn’t have the time to wait for the blue and golden hours on every location I stopped. So I got myself a GW3 adapter that fits around the lens and allow me to use 49mm filters in the camera and that changed my life, with the B&W ND 3,0 now I`m able to shoot long exposures and get cool effects from the water almost any time of the day and use a B&W XS-PRO MRC nano circular polarizer that have been helping me to increase the contrast of my photos and eliminate water reflections.

What could be better?

-The camera takes lots of time to process long exposures, almost the same time of the exposure itself, so when I take a 5 minutes exposure it takes more almost 5 minutes to process and show the photo;
-The button that hold the top dial in position got stuck after I felt climbing a dune and the camera got some sand;
-The display drains too much battery and I learnt it loosing an amazing sunset cause I composed the shot and kept the camera on waiting for the sun to set and the last bar of the battery was gone in less than 5 minutes.

That’s  it guys, I hope you like the reading and to help anyone interested in the RICOH GR for travel, landscape and long exposure photography.

You guys can follow my adventures in:

www.facebook.com/gabriellimaphotography

instagram.com/travel_gave – my iphone dairy

plus.google.com/+GabrielLima87/

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Aug 062014
 

Locho Camera Bag review

By Justin Heyes

Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes from little pocket pouches to heavy-duty rolling rigs and for the most part they can be pretty ugly. Would you ever walk around carrying your belongings in something that resembles a heavily padded diaper bag? No. Then why would you want to carry your camera, a tool for your creativity, in something like that? Style should matter to you when it comes your photographic life – enter Locho.

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Usually fashionable camera bags cost you as much as much as you paid for the camera itself. You justify the cost by telling yourself that everyone else has that bag so it must be good. Locho is a new comer to the seemingly overcrowded camera bag world. Jeremiah Robison Kickstart-ed the Locho DSRL Satchel in December of 2012. After a month the campaign was unsuccessful, but that didn’t stop the bag from coming to market.

The Locho Satchel is modeled after the Cambridge style satchel and can either be worn on the shoulder or as a backpack with the set of included straps (3 straps: 1 shoulder, 2 backpack). Measuring 16.5” x 6” x 11.5” the Locho Satchel is by no means a small fry. The exterior is made from top quality water resistant vegan leather (polyurethane) and the interior is a soft felt material. It comes in four colors: black, blue, brown and red. It has a subtle distressed look like it had already been well-worn. The side of the satchel was stiff and a touch boxy. The main flap is not floppy like a messenger bag and kept its shape when folded back.

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It has ample room with pockets for a 13 inch laptop and tablet. It also provides a padded interior pocket and magnetic side pockets. The pockets are described “for phone storage” and seem a bit small with the dimensions able to hold something the sized of an iPhone 4. The satchel comes with 3 adjustable Velcro dividers that almost are the full depth of the bag. Two dividers can be laid on their side to crate a bottom compartment. Locho’s logo is embossed on each side pocket flap and on the front pocket with their stylized “locho” underneath.

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Locho uses a tuck-lock closure instead of hidden magnets or traditional buckles. This give the bag an old world style. The closures are attached by a non-adjustable buckle and don’t have satisfying click when closed, but they held strong when needed. On the back there is a zippered pocket that can be open to slide over the handles of your luggage; it can also be used to store the set of straps that are not in use.

When I chose to carry my tripod with me, I used the backpack straps to attach it to the bottom of the satchel. The straps attach to D-rings around the satchel. There are two on the sides for the shoulder strap and three in a V-shaped pattern on the back. Neither set of straps include padding. Wearing the back as a backpack doesn’t cause any strain or fatigue on the neck or shoulders, but the body strap will dig into the shoulders a little when the bag is fully loaded.  When the satchel was shipped to me it was in a plain cardboard box. It was wrapped inside a dust bag with Locho logo printed across the front. There was a subtle smell of leather not as strong as a normal leather bag, but not overbearing.

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My initial feelings toward the bag were not very good. I thought it was big and boxy. It was much different from most soft sided bags I have used, not at all what I was expecting. I was informed what the difference between Cambridge style satchel and a messenger style bag were. It is a different style and required a different approach.

With any traditional soft-sided camera bag I have had, placing it on the ground I would make sure it wouldn’t get bumped or get knocked over. The Locho Satchel has proved time and again that it is rugged and tough. I have placed it on the muddy and rocky ground with out damage to my glass inside. I just wiped it off and continued on my way.

I always wonder why only few people care about the weight of the camera bag, albeit many seem to care about the weight of the camera. Camera manufactures are also crazy about reducing the weight of the camera, but bag manufactures aren’t. Bag weight only reflects it’s construction and padding or lack of.

The recommended capacity from Locho is one DSLR and three lenses. It can handle the 5D Mk IIIs and D800s out in the world without a problem. What I got into my satchel was a Fuji X-E1, a fist full of lenses, two flashes, a flash recorder, external drive, my tablet and notebook and miscellaneous cables and extra batteries with room to spare.

The use of vegan leather (polyurethane) as the external material may be a problem for some, but it has its benefits. It’s waterproof and socially conscious. It won’t age, become discolored, or stretch out over time. Leather is nice for occasional carry but is susceptible to damage from abrasion and stains. While genuine leather is great, it is costly and needs regular maintenance.

I gave the bag to another photographer and a local artist an this is what the had to say about the bag.

Few things to say about Locho Satchel:

Let me start by pointing out the obvious but also my favorite thing about this satchel; the color! I’m a really big fan of vibrant colors and this bag nails it. The 4 colors available really appeal to my sense of aesthetics. Its got an old style feel to it (with its design and clasps), a leather look to it, soft interior, and eye-catching colors with a handle and strap (very functional).

Now to move beyond the eye candy, the other aspect of this satchel that I like is the SPACE. I personally did not give the dividers a chance because most of my art supplies I keep in their own containers, but I was able to fit so much into the bag. I could fit my tablet, sketch book(s), 2 containers of markers, and 2 separate pencil cases. I never felt my stuff was crowed or worried the I would crush anything. Re-arranging things I bit, my 15 inch laptop, charger, small sketch book, and more were able to be fit in the main compartment. This isn’t even with me taking advantage of all the extra side/back/interior pockets.

My only real complaint for this bag it that its bigger then what I personally would need for my supplies. It’s large and very block-y. It’s a very rigid bag. But I’m also not using it for camera gear were I assuming the need for dividers and space to keep fragile equipment would come in handy. The plus-side to a bag design like this is that with wear I believe it would hold up and it would give you a really nice worn in look and with colors that would last.

Include in the box with the Locho Satchel was their DSLR strap. It is a nice little strap with a woven wool exterior and rubberized backing. The nylon attachment straps are a little too thick to easily thread on the plastic slide. The padded rubberized backing was nice when used on the shoulder and didn’t slip off nearly as much as a stock strap; when used on the neck it grabs the skin and can be uncomfortable. I would have liked this if it were padding on the satchel strap. Locho offers the straps in colors to match their satchel so you can mix or match.

 

Aug 012014
 

Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner Review

By Logan Norton

www.logannortonphotography.org

Hello again Steve, Brandon and readers. A couple of weeks ago I read Brandon’s account of his experiences with the Epson V600 scanner. I have used that same scanner for a couple of years with similar results. While I found it to be a good tool for working with medium format film, I struggled to get consistent quality results from it when using 35mm film. Black and white performance was decent but where I had the biggest issue was color film.

This struggle led me to the Kodak Pakon F-135.  After extensive research I order a Pakon and got to work setting it up. This small desktop scanner was a staple in 1-hour photo shops for many years and is relatively widely available on the used market today. I was able to find one in excellent condition for $250, a far cry from the $12,000 they sold for in 2004! Because of this age, and the fact that Kodak/Pakon no longer support these scanners, it is necessary to run them with Windows XP or earlier software. While this is a definite downside to the equipment, the Apple Parallels program is able to provide me with a relatively seamless operating experience.

Once I had the machine up and running it was time to scan my first roll of film. Key word being roll; the Pakon scans entire rolls of film and does so in less than 5 minutes! So, I loaded a roll of Ektar and started scanning. When I opened the images in Lightroom I was absolutely blown away. The color was so rich and vibrant, the exposures so consistent and the detail was fantastic! The scanner produces RGB, 16 bit files with a maximum resolution of 3000×2000. The scanner has a very good version of Digital Ice that handled some very dirty negatives well without being overly aggressive in the image softening. I have found it to produce spotless images with reasonably clean negatives.

The most important factor for me though was the color rendering that I get from this scanner. Kodak designed the software that is used and it produces color that is so good it only requires a very minimal amount of post-processing. Highlights and shadows are both heavy with detail and skin tones are some of the best I have seen from any scanner, easily rivaling those from both the Frontier and Noritsu scanners I have used. I have created a number of 16×22 prints from Pakon scans that are fantastic.
So, are there any downsides to this magical little machine? Only one as far as I can see: it only handles 35mm film. My answer to this was to continue using the Epson V600 for medium format and incorporate the Pakon for my 35mm work, which grew exponentially after getting this scanner up and running. For those who shoot a lot of 35mm film or those who may have a large quantity of old film they would like to digitalize, I highly recommend you give the Pakon some serious consideration. I am sure that you will find it an excellent tool for your needs.

Additional Resource:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llthINnRSYA

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Jul 312014
 

Lens Turbo II Review

By Henrik Kristensen

Hi My name is Henrik Kristensen, and I am so lucky to be able to share my work on this amazing site. English is not my strongest, so hope it’s not to bad – Feel free to ask is there is any doubt. Got a small Danish camera site (Kameravalg.dk), and recently received the brand new Lens Turbo II adapter, and want to share my experience with it. Its pretty much a cheap Metabones adapter, thats turn your APS-C Sony NEX camera into full frame – Or that’s what the ad tells you :-) … It will provide 0.726x magnification and increase aperture by 1 f-stop, using Canon EF lenses on the Sony E-Mount platform.

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The setup:

I’m a hobbyist photographer, and often just use “Auto” settings, so this review was quit a challenge, since this is a 100% manual adapter with no electronic.

To start with this is my setup:

– Sony NEX-3N mirrorless

– Canon 24-105L f4 lens (Rentet)

– Lens Turbo II adapter – Canon EF to Sony E-Mount

(All pictures have been shot in .jpeg with no editing done)

To show the size and how its work, I made this little film.

And just a single picture, the Canon 24-105L mountet on my Sony NEX-3N with the Lens Turbo II adapter.

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Maybe a detail, but on the new version they have removed the red text and made it white – Looks way better + the black and white match the NEX-3N great I think.

The First day:

As told in the top, I have just rented the Canon 24-105L, so the first day was used just to get learn how to manual focus etc. The first test was the range, and with the 0.726x magnification this adapter got, you get pretty close to the Full Frame experience on this point. 

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24 vs 105mm, and to me this is a GREAT range when shooting on a daily basis. Is used to my old Sony 18-70mm, and the ~4x optical zoom range fits me very nice.

The adapter is all manual, and these was some of the first pictures I snapped that were in focus :-)

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Second day

Being a amateur photographer and alway use autofocus, the hole “Manual” thing was something I really feared.But there was nothing to fear, the “focus peaking” in the Sony NEX works like a dream, even if you never tried it before. On my NEX the peaking colors are “White, Yellow and Red”, all easy to see on the screen when the subject is in focus. The only problem I found with focus peaking, was that I REALLY missed having a EVF like NEX-6/7 or the A6000. I am sure it will make it much easier to see the focus peaking when the sun is bright, but not a deal breaker.

Lets see at some more pictures:

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One of the big problem with the first Lens Turbo, was the corners being soft and not sharp – A pretty big problem to most people. Being an amateur I will let people judge themself, but when compared to pictures taking by the old Lens Turbo, I think the new one is way better.

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Another problem with the first Lens Turbo, was an issue called “blue dot” – When shooting in the sun or bright light you could something see a blue “dot” on the pictures. Has only played with the Lens Turbo II adapter a short time, but has not seen this problem in ANY of my pictures  – Really looks like the new coating on Lens Turbo II has resolved this problem.

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After 2 days I had to deliver the Canon 24-105L back, and its time to look at the experience. Looking at the quality of the Lens Turbo II, I really got nothing to complain about. Its fit very well, and feels like a quality piece to put on your beloved camera. Is not a big fan of the release button to the lens, but think it’s a minor thing. Not being an expert, I will say that the adapter got a very nice optics performance – They have improved the corner performance compared to the old version, and the “blue dot” issue seems to be total gone.

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Using a small house like the NEX-3N I don’t think a bigger lens will be nice to work with, but the 24-105 is just about the right size to me. Using the adapter with focus peaking worked really well, and most people will learn it fast without any problem. It could be nice having a EVF + a bigger grip, but it’s no deal breaker.

Compared to the Metabones it’s almost on par in performance to my eyes, and it only cost 1/3 of the price ! – You don’t get the electronic connection, but with focus peaking it’s not a huge problem, and you can play with all the amazing Canon EF lenses.

It has been really fun to make this review, and it’s not the last time I play with the Lens Turbo II adapter ! … You can buy a Sony NEX-3N + the Canon 24-105L at a decent price second-hand, and the adapter cost around 165 Dollars = You got a very nice setup and a great platform to work with. –

You can see a lot more pictures on my site here:

http://kameravalg.dk/lens-turbo-ii/ (Unboxing)

http://kameravalg.dk/lens-turbo-ii-review-foerste-skud/ (First day)

http://kameravalg.dk/lens-turbo-ii-review-billeder-fim-og-tanker/ (Second day)

Thanks for reading! Regards Henrik Kristensen – Kameravalg.dk

Jul 292014
 

A look at the Lumu iPhone Light Meter

By Brandon Huff

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Ahhh now here we have it! The Lumu, which is an external iPhone light meter! This little device plugs right into the headphone jack of an iPhone. Once you do this, all you have to do is download the Lumu app which then shows Aperture, Shutter speed then ISO you simply use it like a normal light meter, putting it next to your subject or pointing it in the direction of which you are shooting press measure then it shows all the information needed. Take this information and set your camera using it and you should have a perfect exposure!

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The light meter and app itself are very snappy. Let’s say you want to shoot at ISO 800 and need the shutter speed info for your lighting situation…you simply set the meter app to ISO 800 and then press the”measure” button and it will give you the shutter speed and aperture needed for that scenario. Same goes for if you want to shoot at f/2  – set the app to f/2 and it will tell you what ISO and exposure to use. Simple.

BUT! In use I have encountered one little issue. After you get used to the app and actually take a photo I noticed it was slightly underexposing when using my Nikon V1 to  test it with.  You can calibrate it inside the app although it does not really explain how to do it perfectly, but I was finding my shots slightly underexposed. This is great for preserving highlights but it is not a 100% correct exposure. See the samples below…

Using the Lumu  – Nikon V1

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Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

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These photos are straight from camera JPGS and there has been no editing of any kind. Yes, the difference is not huge and its nothing too crazy that a little Photoshop can’t fix but it is not perfect.

The price of this Device is $150 US Dollars and you can buy it direct HERE. In my opinion it is worth it if you wish to have a small yet useful light meter. Problem is when your phone dies you have no light meter, other light meters batteries last way longer than an iPhone battery will which makes them more reliable.

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So I decided to try the meter in direct sunlight, F4 with the Nikon 30-110 lens I must say it really underexposed on this one,  now could this be user error? Sure, it could be! I have only used this tiny guy a little bit, but imagine if I was shooting out of an old TLR and I thought all my images were coming out correctly, when all I’m actually doing is wasting film and money for images that may be unusable. I verified I was using the meter correctly and following the directions supplied with the device. It says to bring the phone by your subject and aim the meter towards the camera. This is what I did and you can see the results below:

Direct sun Lumu Metering

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Direct sun aperture priority mode – Nikon V1 meter (overexposed)

Camera Lumu

The Lumu always seems to underexpose it and the in camera meters have slightly over exposed this photo, it seems you just have to mess with it a little bit, figure out what you are looking for. In the above situation the Lumu gave me the preferred exposure as I can always lighten that image up but can not really fix the blown highlights in the V1 exposed image.

If you are using strictly analog I recommend getting a proprietary light meter, however if you shoot mostly digital but film sometimes I strongly recommend this Lumu.  Another good feature of this little gizmo is that you can measure light intensity in the room at a constant scan rate. For the price though this product isn’t too bad. IMO it is better than spending $400+  on a light meter if you don’t need or rely on one all the time. It is pocketable and you can even wear it around your neck with the included necklace or carrying case (that will connect to your strap).

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.26.49 AM

Necklace

Necklace

If you are thinking about purchasing one of these Id look to see if it will work with your device if using Amdroid, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and it won’t register even though I have the app. Its made for iPhones more than android devices and it works great on my iPhone.

Brandon

Jul 282014
 

Good Things Come in Small Packages: My Sony RX1R Experience

 

by Daniel Stainer – His website is HERE.

Sony-DSC-RX1R-1

From the scorching Nevada desert to the sandy shores of Outer Banks North Carolina, I’ve had six months to put the amazing Sony RX1R through its paces.

For my landscape work, I mainly shoot with the equally capable (but different) Nikon D800e, although I find it a bit bulky for spontaneous street and travel work. I always say that when you’re working the street with a larger-sized DSLR, people either want to mug you or they think you’re a member of the paparazzi. Either way, larger cameras are not as discreet and can often impact the subtle dynamic and interaction between photographer and subject. This is where the smaller Sony RX1R really shines.

Light & Shadow (Old Rhyolite Prison) (1 of 1)

So after six months, you’re probably wondering…what is my overall opinion of the RX1R? In a nutshell, It’s like owning a Leica M with a 35mm F/1.4 Lux lens, but at a fraction of the expense (so long as you’re fine using a slightly slower fixed prime). For those of you with Leica lens lust like myself, this is certainly a viable alternative – and one that won’t elicit buyer’s remorse.

While I won’t go all DxO on you with lens peeping comparisons, I can tell you that the Zeiss optics and image characteristics are simply stunning – as is the camera body fit and finish. Dynamic range and low-light/high-ISO capability is quite frankly excellent – as is color rendering and micro contrast. Much like Leica, the bokeh characteristics have a 3D quality that really pops. I can’t believe Sony was able to fit such a good 24MP FX sensor into such a small body.

Rhyolite Ghost Town (Beatty, Nevada)

Surprisingly (and as many users have already noted), the camera was actually too small for my hands weighted against the built-in Zeiss lens. Paired with a Really Right Stuff L-bracket and grip, it now balances out perfectly without compromising on the small footprint or good looks. I did initially purchase the stylish Gariz leather half-case, although I ended up selling it because I found the RRS bracket set-up to be more practical for my tripod work (boasting better hand-held stability).

Some would call the slower AF system the Achilles Heel – and I would somewhat disagree. While it’s not as blazingly fast as some of the Nikon/Canon DSLRs out there, it is very respectable (especially once you get a feel for things). I tried it out many times in lower light, and it seemed to track well – especially when coupled with Auto ISO to maintain an optimal hand-held shutter speed.

Desert Effigy (Beatty, NV) (1 of 1)

I absolutely love Sony’s Auto ISO capability. Shooting in aperture priority or manual, there’s not much this camera can’t handle – and even the high ISO shots are very clean – just about on par with my former Nikon D4 up to about ISO 6400. Combined with the speed priority continuous burst drive setting, and you’ll have a formidable dual weapon for sharply stopping action dead in its tracks.

Truth be told, the AF is not nearly as lackluster as many have reported. That’s not to say that a faster and more responsive AF wouldn’t be a welcome enhancement for fast action or street-shooting scenarios. But you can manage and mitigate these shortcomings with the right settings and technique.

Old Las Vegas Blvd (1 of 1)

As for other weaknesses, some argue that the lack of built-in OVF/EVF is a deal breaker. I did get Sony’s optional EVF – which is pretty sweet. It does make the camera a bit more bulky, but the fact that you can take it on and off and go stealthy is a nice thing IMHO. Shooting from the hip or via the beautiful-rendering LCD can also have its benefits when you’re trying to blend in. So maybe not ideal for some, it was not a show stopper for me.

Forget-Me-Not (Disabled American Vet) Big Butler Fair, PA (1 of 1)

So what didn’t I like? Well – I’m not crazy about the organization of the menu system (being spoiled by Nikon). Too many non-intuitive tabs. Also, I think the camera has too many features and options (if you’re a JPEG shooter, you’ll love all the cool filters and snazzy pre-sets). But like anything else, you can choose to ignore most of them and focus on basic minimalist RAW settings. And if B&W photography is your thing, the RX1R converted RAW files are breathtaking – with deep dark blacks and plenty of contrast to satisfy even the most discriminating user.
Probably the biggest miss from Sony is the lack of proper weathersealing. As I’m writing this review, my RX1R has been mailed to Sony service to clean up some rather noticeable dust bunnies that made their way deep onto the sensor/inner lens element. I was hoping to avoid these issues with the attached lens construction.

Carny (Big Butler Fair) (1 of 1)

If you shoot wide open at F/2 everyday, all day – you probably won’t notice any dust. But if you stop down for any landscape work (even urban landscapes), they could become glaringly obvious. In all fairness to Sony, taking a non weather sealed camera to the desert or beach was probably ill-advised on my part. Even if you treat the camera with kid gloves, the RX1R was not designed for extreme environments (wind, sand, dust, water). Just don’t tell that to all the pros, semi-pros and advanced amateurs out there who refuse to put their cameras behind a museum display case. When all else fails, you’ve always got the clone/heal tool.

Bingo (Big Butler Fair, PA) (1 of 1)

Kennywood Amusement Park (Pittsburgh, PA) (1 of 1)

Lastly, I wanted to talk about the price. Sure, the camera with accessories can cost a small fortune. And I would agree that some of the accessories (like the obnoxiously-priced lens hood or lack of standalone charger) should be included. But when you consider the amazing optics and capabilities – it’s a veritable bargain. That Leica lens I referenced above cost $5,150 from B&H, without the camera.

On Top of Old Baldie (Big Butler Fair) (1 of 1)

Make no mistake – Sony has created something very special in the RX1R. For those looking to augment their larger DSLR system for more discreet street and travel work, I can’t think of anything better than the Sony RX1R. It’s not perfect – but what camera ever is? But in the area that really matters (image quality and lens rendering characteristics), the Sony RX1R is the king of mirrorless as far as I’m concerned – and a very strong contender to the best that Leica (or any manufacturer, for that matter) can offer.

Abandoned Fun Park Mansion (Salvo, NC)

Best of all, you won’t have to sell off your first-born to own one (ha-ha), although you might have to sell a few knickknacks on eBay to cover the rather pricy accessories. This is one camera I won’t be parting with anytime soon – even given its quirks.

Faded Glory (Salvo, NC)

Daniel Stainer

Jul 222014
 

My $3 wonder, the classic Ricoh FF-90 Review

By Brandon Huff

DSC_4551

Hey everyone, hope you are all having a great day today! I recently acquired a new to me Ricoh FF-90 film camera. Gotta love the local Goodwill! After buying it I wanted to put it to use so away I went.

I took the Ricoh FF-90 to the river hoping to get some great shots of people and the group I was with, I got a few but noticed some small issues with this camera. This could easily be that it was a Goodwill camera and had some issues from the owner misusing it or just due to age, who knows. However when this camera does focus right and focus well, the camera has pretty well photo quality even though I am using not very good film for this test (just some cheap CVS Kodak film) I may put some Porta 160 in this camera to see how much better it is then update this review with better photos. To me, the lens looks good so far.

My favorite part of this camera over the Contax T2 that I have been using is it is way quicker, though more cheaply made it still feels great in the hand, when I took this on the river I had to keep it in a small waterproof box attached to my belt loop which wasn’t the most comfortable thing ever but good enough to be able to get some good photos. I could easily and quickly grab it out and take a picture then hurry and put it in before the rapids came. When you place film inside this little camera it automatically winds it and tells you the ISO by itself. It’s practically a fully automatic analog camera which is nice for a point in shoot sometimes. So yea, this is indeed a Point and Shoot. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic..just a good old-fashioned P&S film camera.

Kyle, mid day AZ sunshine on the river – Ricoh FF-90

Kyle tube

The colors are actually quite nice even with very cheap film about 8 dollars for 3 rolls, if I was to put Porta 160 in here and the camera focused correctly I bet it would be quite superb..I love Portra!

Sarah Ricoh FF-90

Sarah

Group Photo Ricoh FF-90 – others that were on the river that day..

Group photo

Group of tubes Ricoh FF-90

Group

Party

Focus issue 2

Landscape

Focus prob

This camera has made many of my photos unusable as it did not focus correctly on many occasions.  It either focused really close or behind the subject which is quite…. odd, but when it works well the images do come out nice and I enjoy the images this camera gives! I must say for 3 dollars from Goodwill this camera is terrific even if it is a little sketchy but hey,  you can’t beat that price! I will be keeping this camera as a backup or carry while hiking kind of camera! Id say if you can find one for under 8 dollars go for it! It’s a great cheap alternatives to the higher rated point and shoots and isn’t that bad of quality!

Thank you everyone for reading!

Brandon

http://brandonhuffphotography.com

Jul 162014
 

Epson Perfection V600 scanner

by Brandon Huff

(From Steve: Hey guys! Today I bring you an article by my Son, Brandon who has just started to get into film photography, and he is hooked for sure. He has been saving for a Leica M6 but he asked if he could post this short review of his new film scanner here and of course I said yes! He also started his own little website just for fun where he will talk about film gear, scanning, shooting and all kinds of stuff from time to time, so check it out at http://www.brandonhuffphotography.com. He works for me a few hours per week and liked it so much he wanted to start up his own little space on the web. As I always say, it’s all about the passion..and he has it! Like Father like Son!)

For over a month now I have been wondering…should I get a scanner? Should I spend all of that money and potentially not enjoy this time intensive process at all? Well, I will just tell you the old way I was doing it first. After my first roll of film I realized it would be REALLY expensive to get it all scanned at the pro lab at 10-15 dollars a roll. I decided to look for cheap ways to scan film while keeping good quality for what I was doing. I took my Nikon V1 with 18mm lens and propped it on a tripod. I then took a glass door from a cabinet and a bright LED light under with photo paper on top. I would take a picture of each frame and crop it out, this was working great for black and white and medium format but once I got around to color film and especially 35mm format it all went down hill. The contrast was horrible, the colors I tried to fix myself were horrible and it was all just not going to work. So I finally splurged and paid the $220 on Amazon for the Epson V600 scanner.

I must say WOW! This is without a doubt the best 200 dollars I have spent for film photography since I’ve started.  The V700 does medium format and 35mm plus regular scanning as well. It’s resolution for film scans can be set all the way to 12000 DPI even though I can not use that resolution as the scans come out in TIF format at a whopping 1Gig each!! Yes 1GIG! Insane!

Here is the Epson closed

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Here is the Epson open with transparency unit exposed

DSC_4541

Excuse my product shots I have no good way at the moment to do things like this.  The resolution of this scanner is fantastic, it is considered a semi pro model under the Epson V700 which is the professional line but the main reason for not purchasing this is the price jumps and I mean JUMPS this model is only 200-220 dollars while the V700 sky rockets to around 600-700 depending on who you buy it from. Enough talk, lets get to the sample images. I will be showing the old way in which I was doing it (Using my Nikon V1) and the new way as well (with the V600)…

Contax T2 old way with the Nikon V1

mom

Contax T2 same photo Epson V600 4800 DPI

Film auto008

Contax T2 old way with the V1

Brother

Contax T2 Epson V600 4800 DPI

Film auto009

I will now show you some holga shots that are color as well…when I did these color photos they were done in full auto mode with NO retouching WHAT SO EVER non at all!

Holga old way with V1

Asian man

Holga Epson V600 4800 DPI

Film auto020

Holga old way with V1

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Holga Epson V600 4800 DPI

Film auto021

The rest of these photos will be from the Mamiya 645. I do not have any color film with it yet but the sharpness if fantastic. Before I do that I would like to say one thing that is wrong with this scanner. The two photos above with the shirts… if you notice the first one is a bigger frame, you can see more shirt to the right and while the one scanned with Epson is WAY better looking it cut off some of the image because it did not see the shirt on the right side. The V600 cropped the frame a bit.

Mamiya 645 Old way with the V1 as the “Scanner”

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DSC_4296

Same images but with the Epson v600 9600 DPI

Film auto035

Film auto034

As you can see these photos are FANTASTIC! WAY better quality out of this scanner so all in all I will be keeping it. I love it!  it’s amazing and I think for all you film shooters that do not have the money to blow $600 on the V700, this is one of the best alternatives I know of. Here are some new photos for you all to enjoy from this great scanner!

Mamiya 645

Selife

Moped man

Momma

Grafwall

Also if you want too you are all welcome to check out my new photography blog/review site. I mostly do film cameras and film types, I am in the process of getting more equipment to review so I will try to post as much as possible!

http://brandonhuffphotography.com

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