Aug 182014
 

titlequ

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. 

SDIM0189

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.

08

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.

05

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.

03

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!

SDIM0129p

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

SDIM0167

SDIM0168

wallco

SDIM0179

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…

SDIM0147

katie

baby1

wallco4

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. 

bb

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.

SDIM0217

sprite

SDIM0232

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!

SDIM0024

blinds56

SDIM0209

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

iso100full

iso400full

iso800full

iso1600full

iso3200full

iso6400full

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. 

oocjpegdebby

rawdebby

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.

SDIM0188

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.

SDIM0126

SDIM0128

SDIM0155

SDIM0158

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.

SDIM0148r

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.

SDIM0214r

blueblue

SDIM0163

bwrain

SDIM0162

wallco2

redred

SDIM0066

iso3200

boofull

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (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!

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!!!

ricohGR

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.

SNAP FOCUS MODE

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/

sh-1

sh-2

sh-3

sh-4

sh-5

sh-6

sh-7

sh-8

sh-9

sh-10

sh-11

sh-12

sh-13

sh-14

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.

DSCF1717

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.

DSCF1726

DSCF1727

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.

DSCF1721

DSCF1722

DSCF1723

DSCF1724

DSCF1725

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.

DSCF1728

DSCF1720

DSCF1729

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

Pakon-1

Pakon-2

Pakon-3

Pakon-4

Pakon-5

Pakon-6

Pakon-7

Pakon-8

Pakon-9

Pakon-10

Pakon-11

Pakon-12

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.

???????????????????????????????

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.

????????

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. 

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

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 :-)

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

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:

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

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.

LensTurboII_12

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

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.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

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.

???????????????????????????????

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

Lumu

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!

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.25.04 AM

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

DSC_4567

Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

DSC_4571

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.26.42 AM

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

Lumu scott

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

DSC_4546

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

10448449_805616526136136_674731575960830179_o

-

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”

DSC_4297

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

Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

Huff-4390

Greetings!

As long time follower of your site, I am excited at my first opportunity to contribute. I have written an article about the Leica X1, titled “Yesterday’s News: The Leica X1 Review”. Below is the review for your, um, review.  Yesterday’s news: The Leica X1 review!

Released 09/09/09, the Leica X1 is certainly not today’s hot topic (the T is the current title holder now) and has likely been forgotten about as yesterday’s news by most of the photographic community. Heralding in a new era of the digital camera world with its fixed focal length, APS-C sensor in a small body, retro look and manual controls, it was considered to be the first of its kind that started a trend continuing through today. As the Leica T system ushers in a new kind of interface to the photographic world, I thought it would be relevant to share my experiences with this quirky but still very capable camera that was the talk of the town in 2009.

My experience with the X1 started in late 2010, well after its initial release. Not being able to financially justify the hefty price tag of a new X1, I patiently waited until the price in the used market came down to what I considered to be reasonable enough to make the jump. At that time, the camera brought me mixed feelings. The image quality was outstanding when everything came together, but most other times it was maddeningly frustrating. Maybe because I expected it to be as quick and versatile as my trusty old DLUX 4, or as reliable as my M8, but my initial experience left me wanting. After a few months of dedicated use, I decided to sell the X1 and chase photographic glory elsewhere.

So began my search for the ultimate APS-C fixed focal length camera. This journey took me through almost every form of the genre released on the market; from the retro-rific Fuji X100, to the uber-compact powerhouse Ricoh GR. Even the X1′s replacement model the Leica X2 passed through my hands at one point. All of the cameras had their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them really grabbed me, not even the X2 (a whole other story).

The closest camera that came close to staying in my stable was the Ricoh GR; what an amazing camera! It bests the X1 in many ways but it still did not have that feeling; the tactility in my hands, the manual controls, the desire to go out and take pictures with it. Something was always missing with the other cameras. You know, that elusive feeling that comes every so often when you really connect with a camera.

So what brought me back to the X1? It took an epiphany while shooting with the venerable Contax T2 (a fixed lens compact film camera) to see what I have been missing all along; stop trying to use the camera like a modern digital and shoot it like a film camera. Use a slower, more deliberate style of shooting. After coming to this realization, I had only one camera in mind to test my theory out. The X1.

Fast forward to February 2014. Found a great deal on a black X1 and went into the experience with a new mindset; don’t treat the camera like an automatic small-sensor point and shoot, treat it as a film camera like the Contax T2. Guess what? Yep, things went much better. Where blood pressure raising frustration used to kick in, now the zen calm of measured photography took place. Is the camera perfect? No. Will it hit the 100% “keeper” zone, especially with my ever-moving two-year-old? Certainly not. That being said, I find my keeper ratio close to that of my film cameras, even with the toddler in questionable light. I only use a 2 or 4GB card to ensure that I do not get in the digital “shoot, chimp, dump and repeat” mindset.

For those that may want to look at the X1, here are a few tips to get you on your way. First, keep your shutter speed above 1/60. Although you may think that 1/30 would work (as it does for me with Leica rangefinders), it tends to let the image get blurry quick, especially if the light is less than optimal.

Second, shot in DNG, all the time. No, really, all the time. Unfortunately the camera only takes DNG+JPG, and not just DNG (something about the camera’s software that cannot preview DNG files, so it grabs a stinky JPG). Delete the JPG and keep the DNG, even for black and white conversions. The latitude that the X1 DNG files give is pretty amazing. I have taken some photos in the unforgiving Florida sun and have been able to recover most of the blown highlights or deep shadows from most areas. The X1 can be frustrating, and a lot of shots can be missed if the camera is not understood. Used properly the X1 will reward you with some amazing photographs. My first time with the X1 stands testament to that, which is a good part of the reason why I came back.

The hype and fervor surrounding the Leica T is reminiscent of what the X1 went through in 2009. As a photographer, I look for cameras that create a connection with me. While the Leica T will one day end up in my hands, the X1 will still be in my bag bringing me exceptional photos that will last a lifetime for me and my family.

my photo blog can be found at www.uninspired.me

Huff-1000505

Huff-1000769

Huff-1000859

Huff-1000578

Huff-1000274

Huff-1090645

Huff-1000436

Huff-1000234

 

 

May 272014
 

 L1000985

The Sony A6000 Digital Camera Review by Steve Huff

Sony is back once again with a camera that may appear to be just like the previous NEX-6 but takes it to the next level with new branding (No more NEX name or Menu, this is the ALPHA 6000), a new more robust and square body, and a very good price. The new Alpha line came about when Sony released the A7 and A7r and renamed them from NEX to Alpha. With the NEX camera line, Sony always had loads of complaints that the menu..well..sucked. It sort of did. I even complained about it on a few occasions and said “why do they not just use the Alpha menu system”!?!? Well, now they do and it is so much nicer than the old NEX menu system. Much quicker, easier, and laid out better in every way. The last NEX, the NEX-6 was and is a great camera. Nice size, built-in EVF, good speed and finally, some great lenses for the system. The new A6000 kicks it up a notch and the result is Sony’s best APS-C NEX style body to date. This one is a screamer and a sleeper that many will pass up.

Before I get into the review and the images, let me state that I have had this body for 3 weeks, thanks to Sony sending me the review sample. So thank you Sony! If they did not send it I myself may have passed on reviewing it as I originally thought it was just another re-hash of the NEX cameras. While it is a rehash to some extent it is so much better than any NEX camera that if I were to offer an Editors Choice” or “Steve’s Pick”, this would be one of them. In the past I have reviewed all of the NEX cameras (almost) and you can see those reviews HERE at Mirrorless Central in the Sony section, the place where I archive all of my mirrorless reviews. BTW, This review will be of the shorter variety so I AM NOT re-hashing my reviews.

Most of what I felt of the NEX-5, NEX-7 and NEX-6 is the same with the A6000 because at its core and heart, it is still a NEX camera in design, in feel and in use. Basically we are getting the new menus, faster speed and the best IQ in a NEX type of camera to date. We also get the WiFi and camera apps but WiFi is in almost every camera today so it is a must for most companies to throw it in, and it works great here in the A6000. The apps are cool but I never use them as it slows me down too much. Some love them though. For me, the A6000 is a REAL camera that can offer someone wanting to step up from a P&S to professional quality images (with the right lens). It can also offer owners of the NEX cameras the new interface and the super fast speeds.

My biggest bang for the buck system of the year – The A600 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 – Under $1400 for the set. This one was shot at f/2.2 and is a JPEG from the camera. Click it to see it MUCH better. This impressed me, especially being a JPEG. 

katiecolor

The A6000. What are the specs?

The best of the  A6000 specs are below:

24.3MP Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor – The latest processing power and the latest Sony APS-C sensor. Sony always leads the way in Sensor design IMO.

Fast Hybrid AF System - The Fast Hybrid AF system utilizes both a 179-point phase-detection system and 25-point contrast-detection system to achieve precise focus in as little as 0.06 sec. This system also provides AF tracking when shooting up to 11 fps in continuous high mode and functions seamlessly when recording full HD movies. In real world use, this camera is FAST. One of the most responsive cameras I have ever used. No slowness here. I remember the very 1st NEX-3 and NEX-5. They were so slow when compared to this new A6000. How things have improved.

There is also Eye AF! A detail-oriented focusing function that can prioritize a subject’s pupil and dedicate focusing performance on that for sharply rendered portraits; Lock-on AF is a dedicated focusing method for use with moving subjects and adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame; AF area settings allow you to prioritize specific regions within the frame for increased accuracy; and AF-A (Automatic AF), AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), and Manual Focus modes can also be chosen.

Full HD Video Recording - Full HD 1080i/p video recording is supported at both 60 and 24 fps frame rates to produce high-resolution movies with a smooth, cinematic look. Full HD videos are recorded using the high-quality AVCHD codec, while 1440 x 1080 and 640 x 480 formats are also supported in the Internet-friendly MP4 format.

L1000983

Body Design - The Tru-Finder 0.39″ 1,440k-dot OLED EVF features a refined optical system that integrates four double-sided aspherical elements to provide 100% frame coverage and a wide 33° viewing angle for clear edge-to-edge viewing. The electronic viewfinder’s design offers a true live view image, which is able to simulate the appearance of the finalized image prior to shooting and also avails focusing aids, such as MF Assist and the Peaking function. The 3.0″ 921k-dot rear Xtra Fine monitor is a larger alternative, suitable for making accurate compositions, reviewing imagery, and navigating the menu system. It features a tilting design that can tilt upward approximately 90° or downward 45° to benefit working from high and low angles. Additionally, WhiteMagic technology works to increase the overall brightness of the screen to better support use in bright or sunlit conditions.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.
Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Retractable Zoom Lens.

The Zeiss 32 1.8 on the A6000 is fantastic though the front bokeh can be a bit odd at times. Still, one of the best lenses i have used on a Sony camera. I was not a HUGE fan of the Touit 32 1.8 on the Fuji system but love it on the Sony. 

DSC00791

My First thought on the A6000 after it arrived

When the A6000 box arrived I was thinking “Great, a variation of the old NEX-6..not exciting”.  Then I took it out of the box and thought..“Damn! This is the best feeling and looking NEX style body ever”. Sony sent me the silver version and it looked pretty sharp. All I had was a kit zoom so I knew I had to try something better but even so, the kit zoom was doing great. I love the fact that the new 16-50 is so small and sleek when compared to the old long and fat 18-55. Yes, these Sony’s are getting better and better with each release. The best part about the A6000 kit is the price. Coming in at $798 for the camera body AND kit zoom, it makes me feel dirty to recommend other APS-C cameras that cost more because the A6000 is so good in so many ways. It is a little on the lightweight side but feels just as good in build, if not a little better, than the Fuji offerings. So again, good bang for the buck.

I looked the body over and remembered I also had that Mitakon 50 0.95 and it was a native E mount lens! Why not slap it on and give it a try? I did just that and the snapshots I snapped with it are below (all were at f/0.95), as well as a look at the A6000 with the lens attached:

P1030668

DSC00029

DSC00454

DSC0004l

DSC00199

The combo of A6000 and the Mitakon ROCKED! Not as good as it was with the A7 but it was nice to have that shallow DOF and a super fast WELL MADE lens on the camera. It felt solid, it inspired confidence and for me, was easy to focus just using the EVF. While not a perfect lens (it has some odd Bokeh qualities) at $799 it gives you a taste of those super shallow DOF lenses like the Leica Noctilux that comes in at $11,000. While I feel the Sony 55 1.8 or Zeiss 32 1.8 are overall better choices if you are only going to have one lens, the Mitakon is great if you want to add some artistic flair to your photos. The thing is a beast of a lens and well worth the $799.

With more use of the A6000 I started to realize that this camera was actually pretty special. For under $800 I was seeing the fastest response of any camera in recent memory (mirror less). The response, the AF and even the shutter were fast and gave me an actual sense of speed while using it. Like AIM, FIRE, FIRE – BAM! Done! As I said I have reviewed nearly all Sony NEX cameras and while the A6000 is VERY similar to all of them in many ways, it is the most responsive in all areas without question.

Oops, they did it again! But no biggie. 

After looking through the box more I realized that Oops, Sony did it again. No external dedicated battery charger. This time I will forgive them though as for $798 (yes I keep relating the price because it is such a value) they could not have given it all. If this camera were $1200 I would have been upset at the fact that all we get is a USB cable to charge while the battery sits in the camera. At $798, it is fine. You can buy an external charger for Sony batteries at Amazon for cheap, so no big deal. Look at this crazy deal. For $19.99, and using Amazon prime, you can get a dedicated charger and extra battery. Yes, a battery and charger for under $20. SNAG IT if you have an A6000 or A7 as they use the same battery.

The Kit Zoom is pretty nice. 

Usually I am not too fond of the kit zoom’s that are included with camera kits. They are usually slow, soft and cheap in build. The A6000 includes the better Sony Kit Zoom, which is the 16-50 OSS lens that normally sells for $350 on its own.  Some people are not a fan of it but I happen to think it does great on the A6000. If you have light and need the versatility that a zoom offers, it is a great lens and gets the job done. I used it while walking around rural areas in Southern Illinois with my Mother over Mothers Day and it did great.

These are all OOC JPEGS using the kit zoom and A6000. Click them for larger! 1st two shot by Brandon. 

DSC00370

DSC00386

DSC00356

So while I am still not a fan of zoom lenses (I prefer primes) the kit zoom is actually a nice and small little lens. Not perfect, not high end, not anything giving a WOW factor but when it is included in a camera of this price it is very nice indeed. The color is very nice right from the camera as well, which is not the case with many of the cameras that are even priced into the thousands.

L1000975

The need for MORE speed!

The Sony A6000 is a monster in the speed department. It can shoot 11 frames per second and due to its crazy focus points covering 92% of the sensor, it is uber fast. It has contrast and phase detect AF, which in laymen’s terms means IT IS FAST. When I was shooting with the bundled kit lens the camera was lightning fast. I shot the camera in all kinds of light and never once had an issue with Auto Focus. As i mentioned earlier, I do not remember any other camera being this fast. It is faster than my old fave, the Nikon V1..faster than ANY other Sony to date (much quicker than the A7 flagship) and faster than any Fuji. I think it even edged out my Olympus E-M1 which has been my benchmark for speed and response. While the Sony system does not offer the lenses that Micro 4/3 does, nor does the A6000 offer the build and features of the E-M1…it is up there and maybe faster in the speed department.

Sony also excels here with focus tracking. If you want to shoot sports or action, this is probably the best mirror less to date to do just that. In fact, I know it is. So I will say it clearly: In May of 2014, the A6000 is the best mirror less camera for tracking moving subjects as well as overall speed. 

An APS-C sensor that is super fast, responsive and has amazing AF? Yep, that has finally become a reality in the Sony A6000. Every year cameras get faster and add more features. Sometimes they are not really worth the upgrade and sometimes they are. If you value speed and an APS-C sensor, you MUST try the A6000.

All three images below were shot as JPEG using the Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit lens. The 1st one was converted to B&W using Alien Skin. STILL my fave filters!

DSC00790

DSC00773

Overall Image Quality

I knew from the get go that the A6000 would have excellent IQ. I mean, would Sony release this camera with anything but at least as good of IQ as the older NEX-6? No. In fact, I feel it surpasses any NEX to date for IQ and I am just talking about JPEGS! The JPEG quality from the A6000 is fantastic. I shot this camera as a JPEG shooter to make it more challenging and to see what kind of color and quality would come out. I was surprised as every JPEG I looked at was sharp (though would be better and cleaner with RAW), clear and with pleasing color. The A6000 has the same color modes as previous NEX cameras so you have the usual Standard, Vivid, Nutral, Clear, Light, etc. While I feel they should drop 75% of those and just concentrate on the core color modes, the Sony’s always offer all  kinds of gimmicks and things to try. Still here is the Sweep Panorama mode, the Intelligent Auto and the Picture Effects, none of which I ever use. For me, just give me Aperture Priority and a good Auto ISO and I am off to the races.

As for JPEG shooting, below are a couple of direct from camera JPEGS. You can right-click on them to open them in a new window and see the full size file. Both were shot with the A6000 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8. 

DSC00797

DSC00730s

High ISO and low light. Is it any better than previous models?

High ISO on the A600 is excellent as one would expect. Today we should not have to worry about ISO capabilities of modern-day cameras as they give us so much more in this area than film ever did. EVER. We can shoot clean with many cameras right up to ISO 3200, some even 6400. With the new Sony A7s coming soon we can go to levels we would have ever thought possible in our lifetime just a few years ago. So shooting the A6000 in low light with higher ISO is as good as one would expect but below is some ISO crops from 1600 and up.

The A6000 has very good high ISO performance all the way up to 6400 ISO, which is all anyone would really ever need. I mean, how many of you shoot past ISO 1600 on a regular basis? The test image below was shot in my office with natural light coming in through slightly open blinds. Noise Reduction was turned off 100% in camera and what you see below is all OOC JPEG.

Bottom line, the ISO capability rocks on the A6000 but then again, Sony has always been good at this. You can see the detail at 6400 and it gets lost at 12,800 so 6400 is as high as I would want to go.

The Test Image

picture

-

The Crops

iso1600crop

iso3200

iso6400

iso12800

iso25600

A Crazy JPEG Comparison! The A6000 and Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit vs the Leica M and 50 Summicron APO

Ok, here we go. I was not going to do this but I had to! I mean, I have in my possession the A600 and Zeiss Touuit 32 1,8 which gives us a 50mm full frame equivalent. The Zeiss Touit lens and A600 come in at under $1400 TOTAL, FOR BOTH! I also have the Leica M 240 and Leica 50 Summicron APO. This kit comes in at OVER $14,000! 10X the cost of the Sony combo. YES, you read that right. $14,000! So how do they do against each other in pure IMAGE QUALITY results only? Judge for yourself. But before I show you I want to state that shooting these cameras is 100% different as is the build and camera construction quality. As you would expect the Leica is in another stratosphere when it comes to build, feel and quality of the camera itself. It is also a rangefinder. The ONLY digital rangefinder available today. It is a unique experience and it is a Leica. With that said, when looking at Image Quality ONLY, the little Sony A6000 is quite good. ;) Take a look. IMO, IQ alone does not warrant 10X the cost here. Not even close, and I love and adore my Leica system. Yes the Leica is better but $13k better? Nope.

THIS IS AN OOC JPEG COMPARISON! What it shows is that the JPEG out of the Sony is fantastic. It is average out of the Leica. 

a6000moachines

leicamachines

Things I did not like about the A6000?

There are only a couple of things I did not like about the A6000, and they were not major dealbrakers in any way. For the under $800 cost (with lens) of the A6000, I really have ZERO complaints. It is a mature system camera and when you attach a great lens it will reward you with good color, great IQ and detail and uber fast operation. I would have liked it to be a little more solid in feel..maybe even a pro version with waterproofing and a more robust feel. I would have loved to have a better EVF like the one Sony offers externally for the RX1 camera. The problem is that my wishes would have propelled the cost of the camera to $1300 and up. The beauty of the A6000 is the fact that it allows us to get into a mature system camera that has it all. Speed, nice build and design, great lenses, built-in flash and EVF, swivel LCD, good battery life, innovative features such as Eye Af and great face recognition AF. It has the best tracking of any mirrorless to date as well. All for under $800 with a nice (normally $350) kit zoom. I mean, for those looking for a new camera under $1000 the Sony A6000 MUST be looked at! Small size is the key for me.

So at the end of the day I really can not fault the A6000 because for the cost of admission it offers way more than it should.

DSC00435

DSC00698

Pros and Cons of the Sony A6000

Pros

  1. The price! Under $800 for camera and lens – MASSIVE Bang for the Buck.
  2. The sensor is fantastic with awesome color and detail.
  3. JPEGS are very good. Better than most camera.
  4. Fast AF and Response. Fastest in the mirror less world right now.
  5. Nice design and look to the camera.
  6. Built in EVF is always nice to have, and the A600 has one
  7. Tilt LCD
  8. Great high ISO performance
  9. Kit Lens is quite nice
  10. Small size and light weight
  11. Built in flash for those who like that sort of thing
  12. All new Alpha menu!
  13. Retains the gimmicky modes
  14. Nice control and customization
  15. Can use many lenses via adapters
  16. Good at AF tracking
  17. High ISO Noise Reduction can be turned off 100%! (which is good)

Cons

  1. No weather sealing
  2. No in body Image Stabilization
  3. EVF could be better

So there thou go. For me, 16 pros and 3 cons. This is after 3 weeks of use, which was not daily use but 3-4 times per week.

The OOC color can be gorgeous! Rich, beautiful color and tones. Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit. 

DSC00699

-

and B&W is also nice! Once again, the awesome Touit 32 1.8

DSC00714

My Bottom Line conclusion of the A6000 

To be honest I was not incredibly excited to review this camera. Why? Well, when I review a camera I do not just go through the motions nor do I have any kind of template that I use. Some reviews I do are more detailed, some are more exciting and some are short and sweet. ALL are based in real world use with the camera and never do I get technical or talk nerd talk. I simply use the camera and if it excited me you will know by the way I write (see an example of that here) and if I do not like it, you will know (an example here). Sometimes though I am surprised by what I think will be average or mediocre when it turns out to be much better than I expected. The Sony A6000 is an example of just that. I thought it would just be an average NEX-6 update with new Alpha menus. But as is the case on many occasions, I was once again wrong!

While I am not raving about how it is the best thing since sliced bread, I am very happy with the camera and feel it is indeed the best APS-C NEX type of camera to date and one of the best if not the best APS-C cameras available. I prefer it to most Fuji’s (besides the X-T1, slightly) and prefer it to any other APS-C Sony and almost every other APS-C camera. I have to keep reminding myself that this camera is only $798 with a lens as when you use it seems to perform and feel like a $1200 and up camera.

Sony did good with the A6000. Those who never shot a Sony and those who own something like  NEX-5, NEX-6 or even NEX-7 would be thrilled with the A6000. If I spent even more time with it I may have even fallen harder for it and ordered one. It truly does give outstanding performance and speed all in one small nice looking package. I review and use so many cameras each and every year it is easy to get a little burn out with cameras and new products but the A6000 is one of those cameras that makes os much sense on many levels and is fun to shoot, so it made me want to head out with it every time I took it out.

This is an important price point and Sony knows it, so it will appeal to a much wider audience than the over $1000 enthusiast cameras. I think if the A6000 was shown to a group of 50 people who were in the market for an under $1000 camera system, and they were able to use it for an hour, I feel that 40 would buy it on the spot (if they were in the market and ready to buy).

The only faults are with the smaller EVF, no touchscreen, no in body IS and no weather sealing. But add those and it will add to the price so in reality, when judging the A6000 at the current price point it has no flaws at all.

The Sony A6000 is one small step for camera fan and one giant leap for the masses who really do not follow the camera world or care about sensors and tech. By that I mean that ANYONE who takes pictures would be thrilled with this mid range offering from Sony. It does what it does extremely well and all you have to worry about is what lens you want to attach.

Speaking of lenses, I really enjoyed the Zeiss Touit for its rich color and nice overall rendering. At under $800 it is a fabulous lens that will give you the 50mm focal length equivalent and some nice shallow depth of field effects. If I owned the A6000 I would also own the Zeiss. The Mitakon 50 0.95 is also unique and built like a classic Leica lens in feel and the solidness of it. The Mitakon is manual focus only though so beware of that. At $799 it offers a more artistic approach in use and results. You can read about the Mitakon HERE.  Sony now has many lenses available for the E-Mount. From zooms to primes to expensive to cheap. Take your pic.

Bottom Line? If I offered an “Editor’s Choice” the A6000 would  take that title easily. Highly Recommended for those looking for a quality camera with DSLR quality and speed without the size. Also good to note is that during the review period I never had a mis focused shot or any issues at all with the camera. When I snapped I knew what would come out of the camera would be fantastic.

DSC00787

Where to Buy?

You can buy the Sony A6000 at my recommended and preferred dealers below. Just click the link to go direct to the A6000 page to check stock status, price and to order if you so desire!

Amazon - Sony A6000 in BLACK or SILVER with Kit Zoom.

Amazon - Sony A600 in BLACK or SIlVER without Kit Zoom.

B&H PhotoAll variations of the A6000 are HERE!

Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 Lens for Sony E-Mount at Amazon or B&H Photo

SMILE!

eric

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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!

A few more images from the A6000! Enjoy and THANK YOU for reading!

-

katiebw

katiebw2

DSC00830

DSC00822

DSC00747

DSC00703

DSC00294

 

Feb 252014
 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Olympus 25 1.8 Lens Review on the E-M1

By Steve Huff

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

oncam2

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Micro 4/3 Version of a 50mm explained

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Olympus 25 1.8 vs the Panasonic 25 1.4

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

and both stopped down to f/5.6

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

WHERE TO BUY?

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

PopFlash also sells the lens here.

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

A few more shots with the Olympus 25 1.8 Lens 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

Nov 112013
 

titlerx10rev

The Sony RX10 Review – One amazing Superzoom!

NOTE: All images shown here are JPEGS! RAW will be in a future review update.

Yes indeed! The Sony RX10 has been in my hands for review and while I have only had it for a little while it is proving to be quite the versatile camera. When Sony announced the RX10 it was kind of hidden and clouded due to the BIG Sony wham bam announcement, the Sony A7 and A7r full frame cameras. When the A7 was announced and Sony gave many of us exactly what we have been waiting for there was excitement and craziness going around for a while. Those little A7 cameras meant that there was finally a pair of  full frame mirrorless cameras that were not only close to medium format in quality, but also much lower in price than we thought.

Leica lenses, Canon lenses, Nikon lenses and of course Sony lenses..will all work with the A7 and A7r (though some ultra wides will have flaws) via adapters and the EVF is big and beautiful and easy to use and focus with.

So with all of this nuttiness going on, the poor little (or not so little) RX10 got lost in the mix for most media sites and blogs. Until Now :)

First, take a look at my 1st look video for the RX10..in my hands, in my house and ready to rock and roll:

What is the RX10?

The RX10 is a 20 Megapixel 1″ sensor camera that will appeal to many but sadly, also be dismissed by many. It is a perfect choice for the newbie masses who go to stores like Best Buy to pick up a Canon Rebel and cheap kit zoom because it will not only be easier for them to use, it will give them better range in the lens department with a 24-200  f/2.8 constant aperture zoom that even has optical steady shot to eliminate the shakes. What does this mean? It means that shooting in low light will be possible with a super zoom 1″ sensor camera and that most who buy this guy will really want for nothing more.

The camera is full of technology and here at the end of 2013, it has to be. In basic terms, it is a higher end digital super zoom 24-200mm one lens camera with a superb lens and fantastic versatility. 

rx101

While this camera can not compete with the image quality of a full frame camera or even a Micro 4/3 with certain lenses, it does offer one thing that the others can not. ONE BODY..ONE LENS..and no need for anything else to shoot just about anything you need. Most of you here know that I love and adore my fast prime lenses to go with my cameras. I just love shooting an image with a 3 Dimensional pop.

This camera, much like a Nikon V1 or V2, will not really give you that POP but it will give you more realism..more grit..more of what your eye actually sees. Even at f/2.8, it is not really fast enough with this lens to give you those creamy shallow DOF moments.

At 200mm and  f/2.8 you can get a little creaminess but this is not a camera meant for that kind of use. Much like the Sony masterpiece from last year, the RX100 and the RX100II, the RX10 is set and ready to deliver the same image quality performance as it uses the same sensor as the RX100II. To see my review of the small RX100, click HERE. I named it the best pocket camera EVER for a reason :)

The RX10 adds a Zeiss 24-200 super zoom, constant f/2.8 aperture though out the zoom range, fast AF, superb video and audio and a fantastic EVF built-in.

Click ALL images for larger size!

Sony RX10 – ISO 1600

bwcarnie

-

Sony RX10 – ISO 320 at 2.8

DSC00457

Yes, the Sony RX10 uses a smaller 20 megapixel 1″ sensor much like the sensor in the Nikon V1 and V2 and Sony’s own RX100. As already stated, the RX100 is a powerhouse pocket cam and the RX10 is what the RX100 would be if it took a weekly dose of steroids for a few months. It is larger, though not too large. It is built nicer, though not fully “pro level” (as in NIkon D4 territory). It is weather sealed and has a built-in ND filter as well that will automatically activate when needed. The sensor in the RX10, while being 1″ in size absolutely gives superb image quality for a camera in this sensor size class. This is a great sensor that beats the Nikon V1 sensor in many areas including low light.

Sony RX10 – ISO 1000

DSC00489

-

ISO 500

DSC00492

When I first reviewed the Nikon V1 I was all set to trash it, dismiss it, and forget about it but that little camera surprised the hell out of me and I ended up owning two of them for nearly two years along with some of the great primes offered with the system. I found it offered great film like sharpness and rendering as well as super fast AF speed and JOY OF USE. So how does the RX10 compare to one of my favorite cameras of all time, the little V1?

rx103

The fact is that the sensor in the RX10 is better, and the RX10 is more advanced and offers an all in one convenience. It may not focus any faster but it is equal to the V1 in this area. For sharpness, detail and color..the RX10 wins it for me though I do prefer the size of the little Nikon V1. 

Color POP! RX10 OOC JPEG – ISO 125

DSC00525

-

ISO 500

DSC01792

The Build of the RX10..it’s a serious weather sealed machine!

The RX10 is solid. It has weather and rain resistance and can be shot out in adverse conditions. It feels great in the hand and while I normally hate DSLR styled designs, this one feels great because the Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* lens on this guy is on the FAT side of lens design, so the camera NEEDS the grip that it has. It’s stout and the grip on the body feels great when in the hand. The battery door feels good as does the side SD card slot door. Not heavy-duty but not cheap either.

Truth be told, it feels better than most starter DSLR’s. It is a serious camera and Sony did not create and build this one to be a quick and easy cheap zoom. They built it very well and intended on this being in the top of its class.

“Take Me Home” – indoor, low light, ISO 1600 – RX10 – JPEG

iso1600

-

At The Zoo

DSC01831

In other words, it does not feel like a cheap $400 DSLR, it feels like a well thought out and clean design. I like the fact that it has an exposure comp dial on top as well as a top LCD display that lights up when needed. The lens is a thing of beauty, especially if you LOVE your zoom lenses. 24-200 – from wide to telephoto, all while keeping a 2.8 aperture if you desire. The way you control that aperture is with a physical aperture dial on the lens! HOW COOL IS THAT? Much like the RX1, the RX10 keeps that tradition. I wish the A7 lenses were made the same way, would have made much more sense with the camera and would have given a feeling of control. Manual aperture dials are always good!

rx102

It also has a switch under the lens that when activated allows you to turn the aperture dial from a clicked design to click less so if you want to physically change aperture during video shooting, you can do so in silence.

So the build is fantastic as is the user experience with the lens.

The RX10 makes for a cool low light B&W shooter as well. Here is one at ISO 1600.

iso1600

So in other words, I really like the build, feel and lens design of the RX10 and if I can be honest, I was really afraid I would hate the camera and not even want to review it. Instead, the opposite has happened! I have been enjoying the hell out of this thing.

I even heard that a certain Sony employee had a tear in his eye when he first held this RX10..he knew it was something special. True story!

DSC00535

The AF, Usability and overall Feel when shooting the RX10

A camera could have all of the features in the world along with a great build and feel but if it fails in the usability department then it is a big fail in my opinion. By now, Sony knows how to make a great camera and the RX10 ranks high on the usability scale for me.

When using it at night I had no trouble focusing and it always locked on to the correct subject..what I was pointing at with my center point focus box. Even when zooming in or shooting video, the RX10 did very well with focus. It really is no faster than the Nikon V1 or V2 but it is about the same, and that is a good thing as this camera is pretty quick to AF in mostly all situations I have used it in.

So overall the camera was easy to use, fun to use, and quite responsive, even at night! It is also SILENT! Once you turn off the fake shutter sounds (which I think all camera companies should THROW OUT and never use again) the RX10 is silent and stealth.

DSC00537

DSC00544

The Video performance.. Any good?

Take a look at the video below that I shot at the AZ State Fair. The footage looks great for being shot at night, and AF was quick and fast. 

I loved the quick video footage that came out of the RX10 when I tested it at the fair, at night. I have tested and messed with video from mostly all cameras that offer it. If you go back and look at my past reviews of the NEX-7, Olympus E-P3, Olympus E-M5 and others you will see quick real world video tests. Many times we have the rolling shutter issue and other times we have focus issues. With the RX10 it did amazingly well in all areas, INCLUDING the built-in mic, which is one of the best I have heard built into any $1300-$2000 camera.

Nice full sound comes from the built-in mics in this camera. Much better than the tinny mics of some higher end DSLR’s even. 

Take a look at the video above and you will see some footage I shot at the state fair at night. It did well. The optical steady shot kept things steady and the color stayed rich as well. I could see me using this as my main go to video camera for shooting my new format YouTube videos that will start in 2014.

DSC00554c

Low light and high ISO..how far can you go?

We all crave low light performance in a camera for some reason yet many of us never even need to or dare to use it. Catching a moment using only natural light is a magical thing, especially when it is captured in low but magical light, where many cameras fail. Actually, most cameras today do just fine in low light but it was not always like this. The RX10 does as good as one can expect in low light considering the 1″ sensor, even better than some may think. The days of excessive noise at higher ISO is gone and mostly all cameras today do very good in low light. NO flash required (I never ever use flash and have not done so in 10+ years).

ISO 800-12,800

The RX10 is decent at high ISO. These were shot in my house with indoor light. 

iso800

iso1600

iso3200

iso6400

iso12800

BELOW: A quick ISO 3200 comparison to the E-M1 at f/2.8, ISO 3200, 1/100s

rx10iso3200s

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wide to Zoom, all in one killer lens. Do not underestimate it!

I will state right now that I AM NOT a zoom guy. I love my 28, 35 and 50mm 1.4 prime lenses. With that said, the versatility a 24-200 all in one offers is tremendous. NO, it is not a 24-600 but the key with the RX10 is that the quality is stellar at 24 as well as at 200mm. No compromise. The Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* lens is a good one here folks, no question.

24mm

DSC00586

-

200mm

DSC00587

Shallow Depth of Field. Is it possible?

So how creamy can you get? Do not expect full frame or APS-C performance when it comes to shallow DOF. Even the Nikon V1 can get you closer to that 3D pop when using certain lenses like the 32 1.2 or 18.5 1.8. The RX10 is f/2.8 all the way so while you do not get subject isolation and 3D pop, you do get sharpness and clear results. You will never have to worry about getting what you need to be in focus..IN FOCUS.

Having a large DOF has its advantages, that is for sure. If you need some shallow DOF, just go to 200mm and stick to f/2.8.

DSC01804

Full Size Image Evaluation…

Having a 1″ sensor, the RX10 will not give you that rich and thick image quality that many are used to with APS-C DSLR’s but it will give you performance and files that will easily beat any point and shoot and print very well. Below is a full size image right from the camera (JPEG) shot at ISO 125 and f/2.8. Click it for full size, or see the 100% crop below the image.

fullsize

fullsizcrop

Who should buy the Sony RX10?

The Sony RX10 is aimed at those who want a step up from point and shoots and do not want to mess with DSLR’s and their large, slow, average quality kit lenses. It is for those who love to shoot images AND video and also for those that love versatility. Those who want an all in one zoom to take with them on vacation or business trips or social events.

The RX10 is an all in one powerhouse. Shoot wide, shoot medium or shoot telephoto. No need for lens swaps, dust on the sensor or worrying about focus speed. The camera is also great for Photojournalists who want easy, speed and results. Video and Photo in one.

This camera can do quite a bit and while I usually would have dismissed it due to the built-in zoom and design (DSLR), I am happy to have had a chance to shoot with it as I realized that this camera can indeed serve as a take anywhere camera that will offer great results.

If you have been looking for something like this and want the best in class, the RX10 needs a long hard look. At $1299 it is NOT cheap, especially when you have the new Olympus Stylus 1 at half the price. Will it or can it deliver the performance of the Sony? Not sure, but my guess is the Sony will be the winner for all around quality as well as video AND audio.

It is always all about the lens quality, and this Zeiss is fantastic.

The Pros and Cons of the Sony RX10

Pros

  1. Versatile – 24-200 2.8 all in one slick package
  2. IQ is great for the sensor size and colors are rich, even in low light
  3. Optical Steady Shot
  4. Video quality is fantastic
  5. On board mics sound VERY good..better than any standard camera I have ever tested for audio.
  6. Weather sealed and solid build and feel – Magnesium Alloy
  7. EV dial on top
  8. Very easy menu system
  9. Fast AF, and accurate
  10. EVF is large and easy to use
  11. Area Specific Noise Reduction only applies it where it needs it. 
  12. Macro feature is fantastic to have. 
  13. Built in ND filter activates when needed.

Cons

  1. No real shallow DOF opportunities
  2. Images can get grainy at 100% view due to small sensor
  3. $1300 is a bit steep for an all in one, Olympus Stylus 1 is half the cost
  4. Dynamic Range lacks a little compared to larger sensor cameras

DSC00593

DSC00606

For $1299, how about the Olympus E-M1 instead? Or the Stylus 1 for 50% of the cost?

Many have stated that one could buy the Olympus E-M1 for $1399 and it would be a better choice than the RX10. While I would say that I prefer the E-M1 over the RX10, the cost of the E-M1 is $100 more, WITHOUT a lens. If you added the two pro zooms to the E-M1 (Oly 12-40 and Panasonic 35-100) the total cost would be nearly $3500, a difference of over $2200. That is quite a bit of cashola!

So let us talk about the Stylus 1 from Olympus…

Many will say that the Olympus Stylus 1 is a better buy but I am going to sat now that the Sony is the better camera all the way around for IQ and VIDEO and BUILD. It is setting the superzoom standard for quality in all areas. The Olympus has a SMALLER P&S sized sensor, a larger zoom that will not be as stellar as the RX10 Zeiss and it will be more of a pocket super zoom with good quality, but not TOP quality. The Olympus has a standard P&S sensor size, so the images will have a P&S signature. The Sony will have better IQ, better video, better low light, better build and weather sealed.

BUT the Olympus, it is half the price and packs a 28-300 f/2.8 lens and to some of you, that is all that matters. Olympus almost seemed to know that the RX10 was coming and countered with their own smaller mini powerhouse zoom. But me, if going with one of these as an all around general use and every use camera, it would be the Sony for the serious IQ capabilities.

DSC00662

The final word on the Sony RX10

Sometimes with new cameras my reviews can get long. I have had requests to shorten them up a little so this one comes in at less than 3900 words total. Not bad for me :) For a quick comparison, my Leica M 240 review came in at 15,000 words.

In any case, the Sony RX10 came in as a real surprise to me and I suppose it will be to many others as well. Like I said in the beginning of this review, I think much of the thunder was taken away from the RX10 with the huge news of the Sony full frame A7 cameras.

It’s a funny thing but the “MASSES”..as in the general public who buy cameras will be MUCH more attracted to the RX10 than they will the A7 but in internet land where our passions can sometimes take over, the A7 stole the show. The bottom line though is that the Sony RX10 is fantastic if you are into one camera, one lens and simple versatility. The sensor in this camera has already proven itself with the amazing RX100 and RX100II, both which were huge hits for Sony even at the premium $650 price. Why? Because they were amazingly good for the size.

As for the RX10, you can take this ONE camera with you ANYWHERE and never have an issue with any photo you want to take (unless you want really shallow DOF). It even has a great Macro feature that can get you super close up and personal. So Macro, wide-angle, long, photo, video, panorama..you name it, the RX10 will give it to you.

Me, I am more of a fan of fast prime lenses so the RX10 will not be my daily go to camera but I will most certainly use it for video and I can see my son Brandon LOVING it as he is into simplicity and versatility, and he likes having a zoom. I also wish the camera were less DSLR shaped and a little smaller but also understand that to have a lens like the Zeiss 24-200 f/2.8, there needs to be some size and heft to the camera.

There is nothing wrong with this camera as long as you do not expect full frame or APS-C “smooth” file quality. The files at 100% will have some noise and the dynamic range will not be as huge as those from the larger sensor cameras. Only you can decide if the $1299 asking price is worth it for great usability, fantastic build, fast AF and superb colors and IQ. In fact, many prefer the output of 1″ sensors to any other sensor size for  the “realness” they portray.

Sony made the RX10 in a well thought out way and there is really not much that this little dynamo can not do. I have not been able to even hold an Olympus Stylus 1 yet, so have no idea how it compares but I think the Sony is the creme of the crop of all in one cameras just due to the Zeiss lens and the superb photo, video and AF performance.

Sony just keeps on pumping out the quality products!

Where to Buy the Sony RX10?

You can buy the Sony RX10 at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE. Using the links here to do so will help this website to continue on so I thank anyone who uses my links! The Sony RX10 is scheduled to ship on December 1st 2013.

More samples below! Remember, these are all from JPEG so I have yet to even tap the quality of RAW. I will do so in a future update : )

DSC00612

DSC00616

DSC00660

DSC01795

DSC01769

DSC00579

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help is HERE!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +! You can also visit the new FORUMS here including the popular BUY AND SELL forum!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Oct 122013
 

SAMSUNG CSC

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Full Review. The most versatile Mirrorless Camera ever.

Inspiration: a person or thing that inspires. 

The E-M1 with 17 1.8 at 1.8. Also ran through an Alien Skin Color Fading filter – click it to see it the right way

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hello to all and once again I thank each and every one of you who have been reading my reviews, my raves, my rants and of course all of the amazing guest articles and posts that have been posted for the past few years. Without YOU, this site would be nothing and would have become one of the thousands that get lost every year in the sea of information we call the internet. I am truly blessed to even have this website doing what I love to do day in and day out.

So again, I thank you all.

It is strange, I have  recently been asked by a few people starting photo blogs how to make a successful blog or website. Well, besides writing an article on this subject HERE like I did quite a while ago I can state that when one writes from the heart, when one is honest, when one sticks to their guns and also injects their personality, emotion and passion into what they do, no matter what it is, then they will have the highest chance of success.

The E-M1 and 17 1.8 Lens at 1.8. Amazing Combo. The kid below was dressed up as a Zombie for the yearly Phx, AZ Zombie Walk :)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did not get into this nor am I in it for the money because if that were the case I would have gotten myself into big trouble a long time ago. Nope, this site was born and continues on due to my passion, your passion and the common love of photography, memories… AND cameras :)

The gentle transitions to an out of focus meltdown are beautiful indeed. The E-M1 with Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 1.4. This combo is incredible. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So long story short: Live life, love in life, and be kind to all you come in contact with. Enjoy what you do and do not worry about things in life that do not matter but the things that do. :)

WAIT! I thought this was a Camera Review? Yes, yes..the OM-D E-M1…

Lol, me too! Sorry about that but as some of you know, I sometimes get lost in a rant that has nothing to do with the article I am supposed to write so I apologize! So yes..the Olympus OM-D E-M1!

The new hot-shot on the block that promises everything and delivers on just about all of it.

Released in October of 2013 and the follow-up to the highly successful E-M5, the new E-M1 is slightly bigger, quite a bit stronger and subtly faster. After using the camera I thought Olympus must have been injecting the E-M5 with steroids for the past two years to give it some beef and the E-M1 was/is the result.

Don’t mess with this guy! Shot this at a horror convention with the 17 1.8 but did some PP tweaks to the background for more pop, so this one is a just for fun shot. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes all of my camera gearhead friends, the new Olympus is here and let me tell you this without hesitation (SPOILER ALERT) – This is the best Micro 4/3 camera ever made if Photography is your main use (rather than Video). But I will take it one step further and probably by saying this will irritate some but it is how I feel after extensive use.

The new E-M1 is the fastest, best built, best size, and most versatile mirrorless camera you can buy today as of the moment I am writing this (October 12th 2013). In APS-C land, Fuji can’t touch it, Sony can’t touch, Leica can’t touch it for these things:

Speed, Versatility, Size, Lenses, Features, Viewfinder Experience, in body IS, and so much more. 

My video from Castle Leslie with the E-M1

For Micro 4/3 video, the Panasonic GH series takes the cake. But for Photography, the reason these were made and built, this camera is the real deal and just does not get any better when it comes to Micro 4/3 . I can go on and on and on and on about the features, the history, the reasons why this is THE camera to own for those who want performance in a small package but most of you already know all of this. I wrote about this camera a couple of  times already here on these very pages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was able to be one of the many who tested this camera in Ireland at the huge Castle Leslie Olympus launch event and I was wowed with the camera for sure.

While it is no match IQ wise for a big fat full frame sensor, it easily takes on all APS-C and smaller challengers and beats them in so many ways it is not even funny.

SAMSUNG CSC

This E-M1 is destined to be a classic and yes, it is a replacement for the full size E-5 (according to Olympus) and I applaud them for this because we get the speed, IQ, pro build and results all in a body that is smaller than those old 4/3 bodies.

You can see my 1st report of the E-M1 HERE

I added noise to this image during the B&W conversion. Lovely. The E-M1 and 17 1.8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

Remember the E-P1, E-P2, E-P3 and E-M5? 

ep1

I do remember as I owned them and shot them all long-term so I could write about them and compare to competing cameras. Back in the E-P1 and E-P2 days Micro 4/3 had many challenges. The AF speed was awful, the IQ was full of noise and the usability was average. But back then we didn’t care because the technology we have today was not there yet. We were used to these flaws in most cameras and dealt with it and saw it as a challenge in many ways to do the best with what we had. We also only had the 14-42 kit zoom along with the 17 2.8 pancake, which I enjoyed but it was far from being a WOW lens.

Even then, I preferred those little PEN cameras to many others due to their style, charm and full on fun factor. I reviewed them all and by the time we got to the E-P3 things were looking pretty good. When the E-M5 came that is when I knew that this format was here to stay (contrary to what some “experts” have predicted) because with the E-M5 we have a camera that does so many things so well. The E-M5 has been my favorite Micro 4/3 ever but that has now changed with the introduction of the Pro Level E-M1.

Sir Jack Leslie, Ireland 2013 – E-M1 and 45 1.8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what has improved in the E-M1 over the E-M5?

When I reviewed the fantastic E-M5 I remember it being a very long 8000 word review. Some said TOO long. I was also recently told by one person that it took him a few days to read it :) So this time I will go lighter on the text and just write about what  you really need to know instead of yapping away about things that I already yapped about in that E-M5 review! So I promise it will not be 8000 words, maybe 5000 at most :)

So what is different? What is better? What is the big deal with this new E-M1?

Well, for me the OM-D E-M1 is THE  mirrorless camera to own right now. Since the beginning of Micro 4/3 there have been bashers and haters who hated for the sake of hating! Calling cameras like the E-M5 and even new E-M1 “Toys” and “Not Serious” and “Silly” and “The format will die” .. these individuals were ones who either never shot with the cameras, and if they did then they went in with that attitude or only used a kit zoom, which is NOT recommended by me at all.

The AF tracked this horse and rider from the water until she passed in front of me. Every shot I took was in focus. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In fact, if you are planning on buying any Micro 4/3 body, be sure to get a GOOD lens. The fast primes and new zooms are fantastic. In any case, those who bashed this system really were only bashing it due to the smaller sensor in the camera even though it was just as capable as larger sensors. Since I am not biased and only rave about the cameras or lenses I truly love and feel are worth it, no matter the sensor size, I was telling it like it “was and is” for years now.

Today, Micro 4/3 is as serious of a system as any APS-C format system. While not equalling full frame in image quality it can equal APS-C easily while being built better, while auto focusing faster/more accurate and while having the BEST mirrorless lenses available next to Leica. It’s a win/win and the only ones who dismiss this system in 2013 are those who are living in an alternate universe.

Full size file – click it. E-M1 with 17 1.8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have met and spoken with pros who shoot the E-M5 as their main cameras. They earn a nice living doing so. I have met some of the most talented street shooters and many of them use Olympus.

OM-D Users: Check out these two guys who shoot with an E-M5 – Thomas Leuthard and Adde Nakoseda

The facts are plain and simple. There are really are no limits with this system in 2013 . It may lose some in high ISO ranges from 6400 and up and it may not have that last 5% of bite that a Leica M has but it easily matches an APS-C and in many cases, exceeds in beauty of rendering and that is thanks to the lenses. But even if I have said it a million times, usability and joy of use go a long way, and this camera has it.

So fear not my friends. With a camera like the E-M1 or E-M5 you can take images in any situation. You can go for wide and large depth of field or get very shallow DOF. You can shoot with one of the best Macro lenses ever as well as an amazing Fisheye and Ultra Wide Zoom. You can use a fast 2.8 pro zoom or even one of the best portrait lenses made today. You can go as fast as f/0.95 in three focal lengths and get gorgeous results. It is absolutely amazing when you sit and think about it. A few years ago we had a couple of kit zooms and a couple of pancakes.

Today it really is limitless. Amazing.

Again, the lovely 17 1.8. This lens has become my fave lens for the E-M1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But what has improved?

Oh yea, there I go again! Here is my list of improvements over the E-M5 that I realized while shooting:

  • Better build, pro quality feel and heft
  • NO Anti Alais filter on the E-M1. The E-M5 has one (from what I understand)
  • Faster AF with Dual Fast (contrast and Phase detect)
  • HUGE brilliant EVF (EVF-4) makes MF and composition a breeze!
  • Better control placement and more custom options
  • Shockproof and better Weather Sealing – also freeze proof!
  • Live Time rocks!
  • WiFi implementation is AMAZINGLY simple and app works great
  • Slight improvement to image quality..richer..sharper.
  • New Color Creator is interesting
  • Small improvements to 5-Axis IS
  • Improvements in high ISO over the E-M5 by one stop
  • The E-M1 has a dedicated microphone input jack for better sound quality with your video!

So for me, it is a no brainer. This is an amazing camera because the E-M5 is amazing the way it is. Add these improvements and you have something special that usually only comes around every 2-3 years. I do not know where Olympus can go from here except to make a “Pro PEN E-PX or even better OM-D E-MX” – still not sure what they could improve, though there is always something because no matter what, sensor technology is constantly evolving.

The Voigtlander 25 0.95 on the E-M1. Love this lens as it feels like you are shooting a Leica when using it on the E-M1. It may not always be sharp and perfect but it has character for sure :) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

The Torture Test. How tough is it?

SAMSUNG CSC

I love this camera. :) So much so that I gave it a bath in my kitchen sink when it had some dust on it. You know, water gets dust off quite easily :) Lol. In reality, this camera is made to take a beating and keep on going. Freeze it, spray it down with heavy rain or drop it and Olympus says it will keep in going..and going..and going.

Yep, Olympus has been really pushing the toughness of this guy though and since I had a review sample with me for a couple of weeks I decided to give the camera a test and see if they are for real. But what if I do a torture test and it breaks the camera? Would I have to pay for it? Ahhh, what the hell. Why not. I sprayed it with water for 120 seconds while it was on, no problem. I buried it in ice for 30 minutes. No problem. I did NOT drop it as I did not want to damage a lens. But this camera is as tough as they come in the mirrorless world.

The cool thing though? While it is tough as nails, it is a gentle giant with gorgeous handling of color, highlights and details.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

ISO tests

Below is what you can expect from the camera at higher ISO’s. While I would not shoot it at ISO 12,800, I would go up to ISO 3200 no problem. The good news is that I never go over that with ANY camera and neither does 99% of photographers or enthusiasts. Remember film? ISO 400 is as noisy as what you will get with this camera at ISO 3200.

Looking at 100% crops is deceiving as at 100% you see more noise than you would in a print or resized image. The tests I have done show the E-M1 to match the GX7 and just about match the Fuji X-M1 as well. (you can see the E-M1 vs Fuji ISO HERE). If it can get close to the Fuji, then we know it is pretty damn good at higher ISO. It can not match full frame, no, but for 99% of us who shoot up to ISO 1600 or even 3200 it is just fine.

1600

iso3200

iso6400

iso12800

ISO 3200 on the E-M1  with a Voigtlander Leica M mount 35 1.4 Single Coated classic

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and one at ISO 6400 in the worst conditions. Low light, indoor at night, normal house lamp in the room, zero NR

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inspiration

Early on in this review, during the 1st line of text, I put up the definition of the word “Inspire”. Why did I do that? Well, I did that because the E-M1 is one of the few cameras made today that does just that. INSPIRES you to use it. There are not many cameras out there that have been made over the past few years that have inspired me to want to pick it up, to use it, to push it to the envelope, to learn with it and to have it be my constant companion. It used to be my Leica M but with the price of those things as well as them being fragile in the RF department (as in, the focus getting out of whack if you breathe on it wrong) I tend to baby the Leica M more these days. With a 50mm Lux, the M and lens will set you back about $11,000.

So while it was the same situation with the M9 a few years back (high cost), I always had my M9 with me because at that time nothing compared in that small size for usability or IQ. Nothing.

Using a VSCO Film Preset gives me that vintage vibe of color that takes me back a bit. 17 1.8 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

Olympus Colors are always pleasing – this is an OOC JPEG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

Another JPEG in Vivid mode..8mm Panasonic Fsheye at f/3.5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well today that is a different story.

While I love, adore and really enjoy the Leica M 240 (as you can read here, and SEE here), today there are cameras that not only compete with it in the small size category, there are cameras that are tougher, faster, and offer overall better performance in use and  “close enough” IQ  for 1/8th the cost. There are also some things right around the corner that may just put a dent in Leicas plans (the rumored Sony FF)  because at the price point of the Leica M there should be nothing to compare to it. With the M9, there wasn’t. With the M, due to technology, there is.

OOC JPEG – My son as we were out exploring in Prescott AZ – I added some B&W grunge via Alien Skin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am not saying the E-M1 can touch the Leica M for IQ but it can get me 80-85% there, and in some cases, match it for beauty depending on lighting and skill.

So when I see a $1800 combo getting close to an $11,000 combo but the $1800 combo is tougher, faster, more responsive and problem free..it makes me think and also makes me look at my wallet and bank account.

*Again, not saying in any way that the E-M1 beats the Leica M for image quality or high ISO. It does not. But how close is close enough?*

For some it does not matter, Leica is their life, their lifestyle and the camera they truly enjoy and bond with. For others, they will go with what gets them close enough and use that extra cash to travel, or save or buy a lens or two. Whatever works for YOU is the direction you should go or stay in. These days, you will never have to worry about the camera as mostly all decent cameras today are fantastic.

But as much as I love Leica (and I own one) I have to say I am not sure I will continue buying new Leica bodies because I just enjoy cameras like the E-M1 so much, while getting beautiful results and saving a ton of cash. Like I said, when the M9 was out there was nothing in its size that could compare. Today there is.

The Voigtlander 25 0.95 up close and personal with a Chameleon. Shot at 1.4 and ISO 640

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So will I leave my M and use the E-M1 as my #1 carry around? Probably not. But the more I think about it, the more I realize something. I do not take pro jobs any longer. I do not have the time to do so. The free time I do get these days I spend with my loved ones so these days, no more tours, no more paid portraits, no more paid weddings, no more paid photo work, period. So why would  a guy like me who gets to use every camera and lens made due to my profession need a $15,000 Leica M setup?

I don’t.

But the problem is that I am “bonded and attached” to the Leica M. I have been shooting with an M for many years starting with the M7. So not so sure I can just leave it, but the money is tempting. I can buy a new car with what I could get for my Leica set (though I would not as I do not need one).

So if I did, this E-M1 would be my daily shooter, or 2nd daily depending on what Sony has in store this month :)

ISO 1000, B&W conversion using Alien Skin Exposure – 17 at 1.8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So that right there says a lot. The E-M1 is so good, it is making me think of no longer owning a Leica camera body! Me, the Leica “Fanboy”. WOW.

Also think of this..I use ALL cameras that are released. I review many of them but not all. If I could buy into ONE system camera today and start from scratch it would be the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

I would spend $4500 for an E-M1 setup before spending it on Fuji, Samsung, Nikon, Canon and possibly Sony NEX depending on what their full frame move is, and even so, I would just own both most likely, the Sony FF and the E-M1. :) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So Micro 4/3 is rocking in 2013. The Panasonic GX7 is fantastic, the OM-D E-M5 is still amazing, and the new E-M1 is the best yet. In fact, I could say that, feature for feature, build and speed and taking all into consideration, it is the best mirrorless camera made today. WOW, did I just say that???

Is Olympus the new Leica? I’d say they are the closest to Leica as you can get in a mirrorless body. 

SAMSUNG CSC

-

Compared to the Leica M. Can you get Shallow DOF? 

SAMSUNG CSC

Same lens – 50 Lux ASPH

This next test should be illegal because Leica owners always hate when I do these tests (and remember, I am labeled as a Leica fanboy). I did one once where I pit the E-M5 against the $8000 Leica Monochrom. Of course, two totally different cameras but hey, why not? Sometimes that underdog gets mighty close to big dollar results but we all know it is a totally different experience and state of mind (and results when viewing full size). Now in all reality, the Leica Monochrome is one of the most beautiful and unique cameras made today and it is in another league but again, you CAN get B&W with an E-M1 :) Not all of us have $8k lying around.

With that said, how about an image with the same lens  - one on the Leica M, one with the E-M1. Of course the E-M1 will double the focal length and make that 50 a 100mm but that is OK, we are just looking at color, rendering, bokeh, etc. All with the same Leica 50mm Lens.

COMPARE THE TWO for Depth of Field – Same lens, one on the M and one on the E-M1 – The M image was taken with the NEW firmware that corrected skin tones and it is improved over the previous FW for sure. 

leica

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yep, the Leica has that full frame creaminess and the E-M1 looks more compressed due to the sensor crop but look at them closely. The color is fantastic from the E-M1 and also looks nice from the Leica though a little warm. The E-M1 file is basically a cropped full frame file due to the 2X crop of the Micro 4/3 sensor. The question: Does this come close enough? Some will say yes, some will say no and some will say the E-M1 is even better when considering the cost but the fact is that when you look at those two images, the E-M1 looks DAMN GOOD next to that $11k combo.

Micro 4/3 today in 2013 is FANTASTIC. It can not match the fine texture of the Leica M file, and it should not be able to, but it can put out a very nice pleasing and beautiful image that goes head on with any APS-C and gets 85% of full frame quality. Not too shabby.

-

Other thoughts and tibits. Live Time, no AA filter, and all around awesomeness

No AA Filter on the E-M1

At ISO 1600 the E-M1 retains sharpness, even when shooting with the 17 1.8 wide open. Love that it has NO AA filter!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many may not be aware of this but the Olympus OM-D E-M1 sensor does not have an AA filter. I was not fully aware of this early on but it was told to me that indeed it does not where the older E-M5 does have one (supposedly, still not 100% on that). That would explain everything because the Olympus 17 1.8, while a great lens, was a little soft on the E-M5.On the E-M1 it is razor-sharp, even when wide open at 1.8 and at high ISO. THIS lens now is my #1 preferred for this focal length even over the slower focusing Panasonic 20 1.7 II. So without an AA filter we get more sharpness and pop. To me, this is a step in the right direction for sure. At times the output has that crispness that I remember from the Leica M8. Crisp and detailed while remaining very pleasing. To me, this is a BIG deal as I strongly prefer my cameras without an AA filter.

Art Filters

The art filters are still here and better than ever. You are either a fan or not but they only work in JPEG mode for that quick cool looking image. My fave is the grainy B&W mode. Not much has changed from the E-P5 or E-M5 in regards to the filters.

PA110048vs

-

Live Time

There is also much more about the E-M1 that should be talked about. One thing I did not even touch on in my E-M5 review is “Live Time” which I believe was called “Live Bulb” on the E-M5. To activate live time, just go into Manual mode and twist the exposure dial all the way until you see “LIve Time”. Then you can set your aperture and ISO. For really long exposures of the night sky you could set your aperture to f/22 and ISO to base ISO. Press the shutter and then watch as your exposure develops like magic right in front of your eyes. When the exposure is where you want, press the shutter again. There is nothing like it from any other camera manufacturer. I previously showed some light painting we did in Ireland with the camera and the possibilities are endless:

Live Time in Action

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

In camera HDR mode

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am not a fan of HDR but there is no denying there has been quite an HDR movement in the past few years. MANY love it and while 99% of the time, in camera HDR is lousy, on the E-M1 it is not horrible. I would never use it but for those that like to dabble in HDR, the settings here make it as easy as taking a normal photo. The sample above was shot in HDR1 mode.

-

HD Video 1080p

While Olympus themselves say their video could be better, when mixed with the 5-AXIS IS it is amazingly smooth. I used the video on the E-M5 for a few productions and will also use the E-M1. I do not make hollywood or pro movies, so for what I do it is good enough. The 5-Axis is amazing!! I can not stress that enough. So for me, the video is great. The good news is that the E-M1 now includes a dedicated mic input jack so you can record with a better microphone :) This is not a camera one would buy for the video but for occasional or hobbyist or youtube use, no problem.

-

Yep, the E-M1 is the whole package in one small compact powerhouse. The following two images were shot with the Voigtlander 25 0.95 wide open

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

Focus Peaking for Manual Lenses

Olympus did implement focus peaking in the E-M1 and while I am happy to see it I found the peaking to work better in the Panasonic GX7 I reviewed a week or two ago. For some reason the peaking quality is not up to snuff yet. BUT, the good news is that due to the huge EVF you do not even need peaking and can easily manual focus just by eye, and if that is not enough, one button press and you can magnify the screen and do critical focusing.

I shot a few images with a couple of Leica lenses and did not even need the peaking or the magnification. Still, the peaking could be better. Sony still leads the way in focus peaking IMO.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Final conclusion on the OM-D E-M1

Well here we are in 2013 and the choices for all of us crazy enthusiasts are plentiful and excellent. We finally have a definitive Micro 4/3 camera body that is pro level and can do just about anything one needs it to do and do it in any weather. As always, I review cameras from an enthusiasts point of view in a real world way. There are things I do not even get into like Flash, because I have not used a flash in 14 years. I am anti-flash even though I know it is good to have on some occasions. But as an enthusiast and a passionate photographer who has seen it all and used them all, I can say with confidence that the OM-D E-M1 is one of the best cameras “as a whole” that I have ever reviewed. It is superb. Yes, there are others with better overall IQ and others with better high ISO but as a whole, speaking of the whole package, nothing else has come close.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You have seen me rant and rave about a few different camera models over the year. Leica’s and Sony’s for the most part. Well as of today there is a new camera in town that offers the perfect mix of speed, usability, build, image quality, cost and lenses to place it at the top of the heap in the world of mirrorless cameras. Someone asked me today if I would take a Canon 6D and 85L or an E-M1 and 25 1.4. For me that choice is easy. The E-M1 only because it would go with me everywhere when the 6D would be left behind. It is just too large, too bulky and too heavy and the lenses, while fantastic are just too much weight wise for everyday use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The image quality of the E-M1 is an improvement over the E-M5 due to the new processor and lack of an AA filter. The files pop more and I feel they also have slightly different color that I prefer. Crisp. Beautiful. The exposure metering is fantastic, the AWB is fantastic, the out of camera colors are beautiful.

There will always be naysayers no matter what towards this Micro 4/3 system. But those who disregard or trash Micro 4/3 or the E-M1 have no idea what they are doing or saying. There is simply nothing to trash and that is fact.

It will not match full frame like the RX1 or M in all out flat out IQ but it will meet head to head ANY APS-C mirrorless and beat them on build, speed, and every other area usability area with ease. What it boils down to for me is..Olympus E-M1 or Full Frame? The answer for me is BOTH. One all out IQ monster and one usability and IQ monster. :)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also, let us not forget the lenses. Micro 4/3 has some of the best lenses made for any system, period. There are many highly recommended jewels in the lineup.  At the end of the day this camera gets my highest recommendation. Buy the E-M1 and a couple of nice fast primes and go out and use it and it will be hard to put it down. The Olympus E-M1 has the charm, the soul and the goods to Be my pick for Camera of the Year 2013. Not sure if it will as I hear Sony has something on the way but as it stands now, the E-M1 is at the top of the list. :) 

As of this writing (October 12th 2013) I can say that for me, the Olympus E-M1 is the best Mirrorless camera on the market today when looking at the “Whole Picture” of cost, size, build, speed, toughness, EVF, performance, features and lenses available. No one else even comes close and I should know, I have used EVERYTHING out there. Well done Olympus, you have indeed created a mirrorless masterpiece!

The E-M1 and 8mm Panasonic Fisheye at f/3.5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Which would I take?

Panasonic GX7 or E-M1: E-M1 no contest.

E-M1 or Fuji X Body: E-M1 no contest.

E-M1 or new rumored Sony Full Frame: BOTH, one for the Full Frame IQ and look and one for all that I have raved about.

E-M1 or NEX-6: E-M1 due to the lenses and speed and build and IQ.

E-M1 or Fuji X100s: Close, but for me, E-M1

E-M1 or Pentax K3? The new Pentax looks amazing on Paper, but is still a DSLR. I can not say until I test the K3 :)

E-M1 or Leica M: Two different cameras for different audiences. End of story, so BOTH :)

The Exposure, the color, the sharpness, the lenses..wow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Where to Buy the E-M1?

If you are interested in the Olympus E-M1 you can buy it at the recommended links below, and THANK YOU for stopping by and spending some of your time to read my thought on this exciting camera:

Buy the E-M1 at Amazon HERE

Buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the E-M1 at PopFlash.com HERE

The cool thing is that you can pre-order and your credit card will NOT be charged until the camera ships, ensuring you a place in line. Pre-orders are also easily cancelable. With Amazon it takes one click. So if you want this camera, I suggest pre-ordering from one of the dealers above!

More Samples

I will leave you with a few more samples below. Enjoy!

Some JPEGS, Some from RAW, some High ISO, Some LOW – EXIF is embedded in all. Click them for larger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recommended Lenses for the E-M1:

The Olympus 17 1.8

The Panasonic 25 1.4

The Olympus 12mm f/2

The Olympus 45 1.8

The Olympus 75 1.8

The Olympus Pro Zoom 12-40

The Voigtlander 25 0.95

-

MORE TO COME!!

As I use the camera more I will be adding to this review with more samples including video, so stay tuned and check back every week or so to this page. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Oct 072013
 

L1000652

The Panasonic GX7 Review. Micro 4/3 Hits Hard in 2013!

NOTE: I am and was well aware that the lens cap is on in the above image. This was done purposely to show the LUMIX lens cap for the GX7 review. Image was taken with the Leica M and 50 Lux, NOT the camera I am holding of course. 

WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN! Wow! It seems like this year has FLOWN by as it was about one year ago when I was talking about the new Sony RX1 and freaking out at how far tech has come in the digital camera world. One full year and I have been so busy with this site it seems like it was just a few weeks ago when I was shooting the Zombie walk last October using the OM-D E-M5.

SAMSUNG CSC

Micro 4/3 has been one of the solid offerings in the mirrorless camera world and I have NOT been shy about professing some love for this system. When I sit back and think about it, today in 2013, Micro 4/3 is kicking some serious behind. With the new OMD E-M1 and the GX7, we have two jaw droppingly good mirrorless cameras that can take advantage of some of the best small prime lenses on the market next to Leica.

Yes, I did just say that!

In the world of small high quality lenses, Leica is #1 but these fast primes that are coming from Panasonic and Olympus are real jewels in the photography world and are some of the best I have shot with from any system. You have everything from fisheye to super wides to fast 35, 50 and 75mm to superfast tough as nails f/0.95 uber fast lenses. Shallow DOF is easy today with Micro 4/3 and the DOF naysayers can no longer say that this system can not deliver shallow depth of field. It can easily do so with the following lenses  - the 25 1.4, the 25 0.95, the 42.5 0.95, the 45 1.860 Macro and 75 1.8, just a few of the Bokeh monsters of Micro 4/3. Coming soon is a new Panasonic lens called the “Nocticron” which takes the Leica names and blends them into a Noctilux/Summicron hybrid with an 85mm portrait equavilent F/ 1.2 lens. This lens should be a masterpiece. I hope so. It will also be quite expensive.

Wide open at f/0.95 with close focus, something a Leica could never do. The 25 0.95

close

It has taken a few years but in 2013 there are not too many negative things one can say about the Micro 4/3 system. These new breed of cameras deliver in all areas, and for me, surpass other mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors due to speed, dependability, usability, blazing AF, and very good ISO performance. Micro 4/3 is sort of “sweet spot” because due to the smaller sensor we get that faster and more accurate AF performance. It seems that the larger the sensor, the slower the AF. So todays Micro 4/3 is not yesterdays Micro 4/3. When compared to a Fuji X Trans APS-C sensor, these new breed Micro 4/3 sensors GET MIGHTY CLOSE, some would say, easily meet them in quality.

Panasonic GX7 – Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 1.4 – Alien Skin film filter applied. When using these fast 0.95 lenses with Micro 4/3, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

P9920383

My Panasonic Micro 4/3 History

About 4-5 years ago Panasonic released the GF1, the 1st Micro 4/3 mirrorless offering coming in just before the Olympus PEN E-P1. Even today, years later, there are MANY shooters using that same GF1 without fail or problems. That camera was and still is wonderful though the performance is getting a little “old” with ISO noise and slower AF performance when compared to what we have today. I reviewed that GF1 back in the day and loved it. Sadly, that review is long gone as it was on Version 1 of this site back on an old Apple iWeb server but it is easy to sum up. I loved it back then, it was a real jewel and the 1st in what was to become the “Mirrorless Movement”

The original Panasonic GF1. While a great camera for its time, the new GX7 is a huge improvement in every way. 

panasonic-gf1-la20-800

To make a long story short, Panasonic started something really good with that GF1 and Olympus soon followed with the PEN E-P1. Back in those days we had a couple of slow kit zooms and one faster prime, the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens. I did review that lens HERE and it has been somewhat of a legend in the Micro 4/3 world. Small, fast, sharp, and with a very pleasing image quality it is hard to fault the little 20 1.7. Now it comes in a Version II with build improvements as well (my review of version II is HERE) and is still one of my all time recommended lenses for Micro 4/2, no matter if you shoot Panasonic or Olympus.

Shot with the 20 1.7 II at ISO 400

P9960015

In fact,  it is my belief that ANYONE shooting Micro 4/3 should own this 20 1.7 lens. The size, weight and performance exceed the cost though the AF is a little on the slower side when compared to other Micro 4/3 lenses. (Amazon sells it HERE).

The 20 1.7 II wide open on the GX7 – ISO 3200 in a normally lit hotel convention center. ISO 3200! Micro 4/3 has never looked this good at high ISO.

P9960027

After the success of the GF1, Panasonic rolled on and released camera after camera including the DSLR styled G and GH series, which ended up becoming more tuned in for video work. I reviewed and enjoyed the Panasonic G2 (can see that HERE) but sadly, that was the last Panasonic camera that I felt was worthy to review or talk about. I have shot with them ALL of course but the GF3 and all of those silly little “micro GF” cameras were not very good IMO. To me it seemed like Panasonic lost their way and started trying to appeal to the masses with cute little dumbed down cameras. Too bad, because they did not sell well and ended up being cleared out at stores like Target and Best buy for $199 with kit lens. While Olympus rolled on with their premium PEN series Panasonic was releasing stinker after stinker and at the time, it appeared they abandoned the enthusiast market for Micro 4/3 in regards to a good solid body solution.

The 20 1.7II with the GX7, up close and personal – shot at f/1.7

P9960066

I often wondered why-oh-why did Panasonic release the amazing GF1, which was a real “Photographers Camera” and then choose to follow it up with silly micro sized releases. A couple of years rolled by and Panasonic seemed to make a come back with the much talked about and touted GX1. Yep, this was to be a return to form for Panasonic and was the REAL follow up to the GF1. When one came my way to review I was also reviewing the Olympus E-P3 at the same time (which I adored) and after doing some side by sides I realized that even the GX1 fell short for my tastes. Soon, this was yet another camera being cleared out on Amazon. It had its fans, but I knew Panasonic had more, and I made it clear that I felt the E-P3 was better, because to me, it clearly was..again, for my own tastes. The GX1 sold well, but not amazingly well.

So Panasonic went on releasing cameras like the G3 and GH3, which were nice, but we were still missing that little square “rangefinder-esque” GF1 style camera and man oh man was I rooting for them to release something special, and if it had a built in EVF, even the better.

The GX7 with Voigtlander 25 1.4 at f/2.8 – click it for larger. 

P9960039

Enter the Panasonic GX7 – A true return to form

So finally in 2013 we all heard about the new Panasonic GX7 and rumor was that it has a built-in EVF, GF1 styling and all new and improved sensor and performance, including in body image stabilisation and fast Auto Focus. Wooooo Hoooo I thought! FINALLY, A sexy beast of a Micro 4/3! Sure, we had the new and exciting Olympus OM-D E-M5 which was taking the Micro 4/3 world by storm (and rightfully so) but this was the mighty comeback of the “Photographers Camera”, the new GX7.

So of course as soon as it was official, I placed my pre-order for one just so I could get one as soon as I could for review. Some camera companies will send me review samples but Panasonic has never sent me a review sample directly. In fact, Panasonic is the only camera company that I do not have a contact at for review samples. Not sure why, but that is just how it has been, so I just had to order one for myself (which isn’t so bad, is it)?

SAMSUNG CSC

So the moment it arrived I unboxed it and took a look. Pretty snazzy huh? It has an EVF, sweet style and design, superb feel in the hand and is the best looking, feeling and performing Panasonic Micro 4/3 to date.

But just as the Panasonic was being shipped Olympus was making huge noise with the release of their all new Pro series E-M1 micro 4/3 camera that had all kinds of features that this new Panasonic lacked. A pro build, weatherproof, shockproof and freezeproof, In body class leading 5-Axis IS, Dual Fast AF with Phase and Contrast detect as well as a HUGE built-in EVF that puts all other mirrorless EVF’s to shame.  The Olympus also had a new sensor, live time feature, the ability to use legacy 4/3 glass with fast AF and all kinds of amazing things. A truly revolutionary product for Micro 4/3. The GX7 is evolutionary no question but Olympus decided to go for it with the E-M1.

While the Panasonic lacks many of the E-M1 features, for many of us, this is for the best. Let me explain.

Not everyone needs all of these fancy features and to many, simplicity is what it is all about. All one needs to take a photo is a camera, lens and a shutter button. Do we really needs a million bells and whistles? I admit, I have BOTH of these cameras in my house right now, the GX7 and E-M1 and after extensive use, I would 100% go for the E-M1..FOR ME. I love the feel, the build, the 5-Axis and even Live Time feature. I also feel the IQ is a little more “refined” in color and rendering not to mention the flawless and amazing WiFi implementation.

But this comes at a price. The E-M1 is $500 more than the GX7.

For that difference one could buy the awesome 25 1.4 Panasonic lens.  So this is not a decision to make lightly. In the real world, the GX7 is just as capable in IQ and image taking as the E-M1 so what you choose should depend on what you need and want. If you do not need all of those snazzy features of the E-M1, the GX7 is the next best in the Micro 4/3 world.

closebw

My real world experience shooting with the GX7

After shooting with this camera for a while I have grown to really enjoy shooting with it. Below is a list of the things one should know about the GX7, because it is one hell of a camera and at $899 for the body or $999 for the body and kit lens, it is a GREAT buy and well worth the cost.

SAMSUNG CSC

The Build and Feel

The Panasonic GX7 did not disappoint when it came to the feel of the camera. In my hand it felt fantastic. The grip is just large enough to fit around my fingers and rest in my palm comfortably. When holding the camera I can easily use the built in EVF to frame and shoot. In regards to the build quality, the GX7, in my opinion, is very good. If I compare it to the classic GF1, GX1 or even Olympus E-P3 the build is equal to those cameras.

It is solid and my only complaints about the build would be that some of the dials and buttons feel a little bit on the cheaper side. Plastic.

If I compare the build and feel side by side with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the E-M1 and E-P5 wins easily. They feels more solid, heftier, and the dials and buttons are smooth and solid. No plasticky feel with the E-M1/E-P5. But again, $500 more for the Olympus E-M1, so it should feel a bit better made and there is no built in EVF with the snazzy E-P5, so there are always trade offs.

Overall, the GX7 gets a B for Build because when comparing to all Micro 4/3 cameras or even other mirrorless system cameras it is about equal, 2nd only to the new and top of the line E-M1 .

OOC JPEG at ISO 2000 WITH in camera NR

katie2000jpegP9920118

The AF speed

The AF speed in the new GX7 has been touted by Panasonic as being blazing fast and I have to say, I have no disappointments with the AF of the camera. When using it with the kit zoom, it is lightning quick. When using it with the 20 1.7II it was slow to AF indoors. Sometimes taking a second to lock or longer. In comparison, the E-M1 with the 17 1.8 was lightning quick in the same indoor lighting and the E-M1 with the 20 1.7II was quicker than the GX7 by a small margin.

But with the right lens it is fast, accurate and never once in my use did it miss AF or fail to lock. Even in low light it found the focus and nailed it. Compared to the E-M1, it is a tad slower in general. Compared to the E-M5, it is equal or slightly faster. At this level it is plenty fast enough.

When I say the AF is fast, it is for static subjects. For moving or tracking, this may not cut it for you. So sports shooters who want to head to M 4/3, I would suggest the E-M1 but even so, Micro 4/3 is not the format for pro sports shooters as DSLRs still have the edge in THIS area.

This camera will AF faster than any Fuji body, any Sony body and any other APS-C mirrorless body. But each lens will give you a different AF performance level. The 20 1.7 is one of the slower lenses but it is still a beautiful lens to use and own. Slap on a 12-35 and you will be amazed at the speed.

The 20 1.7II may not be the fastest to AF but it has amazing IQ :) 

P9960112

The HIGH ISO performance

As for high ISO the GX7 is as good as the new E-M1 when it comes to bumping up the ISO and dimming the lights for some night shooting. With any Micro 4/3 camera you will have more noise than any APS-C sensor but in reality, not much more. These new sensors are better than ever (for Micro 4/3) when it comes to high ISO and ISO 3200 is usable and actually not so bad. Below see some ISO samples and comparison with the E-M1. The  WB of the E-M1 is a bit better than the GX7 in these samples. Zero noise reduction here, zero.

As you can see, ISO 3200 as an OOC file does not look that bad resized. But pixel peepers who view their images at 100% on a computer screen will see the noise :) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HIGH ISO CROPS

1600

iso3200

iso6400

iso12800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To me the high ISO capabilities are similar between the two cameras and any differences that are there would not show up in print.

-

The Usability of the GX7

Micro 4/3 cameras have usually been good for usability. The very 1st cameras, the E-P1 and GF1 were not so good by todays standards but today..it is an all new story. These cameras are fast, responsive and mean business. In fact, I recently shot with a Canon 6D and a couple of fast primes. The GX7 can focus faster than that 6D did when using the 85L and 35 1.4. The GX7 is also just as responsive.

Menus are easy to navigate and settings are simple. Large easy to read text and a simple navigation mean JOY of use :) 

The GX7 also now has IN BODY Image Satbilsation. This is welcome as previous bodies only had IS in the lenses. The only bummer is that manual lenses/3rd party lenses are not compatible with the IS when shooting video. With the Olympus bodies, you can use the in body IS with all lenses. I am hoping Panasonic fixes this in future FW updates.

P9960113

The EVF

The EVF on the GX7 is good, but far from perfect. I am thrilled that there is an EVF but after shooting the E-M1, it is obvious there is a quality difference between the two. Still, its a good EVF though in the GX7 I have been shooting the white balance in the EVF is WAY OFF when compared to the LCD screen. Looking through the EVF I sometimes see off color and orangy color but when I review on the LCD it looks perfect. Not sure why this is the case but it is annoying when using because you think you are way off with your white balance or exposure only to find out it is just what  you are seeing through the EVF. I prefer a what you see is what you get experience.

I love love love the fact that the EVF swivels up as I have used it numerous times now in this fashion. Looking down into the EVF while holding the camera lower is a nice way to shoot sometimes. With the GX7 you can do this. When you are done it flips right down and the camera retains the clean lines. I love the fact that you can do this and there is no other camera made where this is possible.

P9960095

The Lenses

As I have stated many times on this blog, Micro 4/3 lenses are superb. Take a look at my faves HERE.

-

The Silent Shutter Mode

The GX7 has an electronic Shutter mode for those times when you want to be silent. The Nikon V1 had this years ago and am happy to see it in the GX7. For those times when you want or need 100% silence, you can activate the electronic shutter and be as stealthy as a ninja :)

-

The Video

The GX7 does indeed have full HD video capabilities. 1080p at 24 or 60 frames per second. From my quick tests, the video looks great. I have some sample videos shot with the camera in the video I posted a little ways up. I am not a huge video guy but Panasonic always does a good job in this area. If I were shooting pro video I would not be using a GX7 but the video I see is plenty good enough for personal use, youtube or fun projects.

One thing that I did not like is that in body IS does not work with manual lenses like Leica or 3rd party manual focus lenses.

P9960124

The Value

For $999 with a kit zoom lens, the GX7 is a best buy for Micro 4/3 bodies if you want something on the higher end of Micro 4/3. Along with the older Olympus E-M5 it is highly recommended in the $1000 price range. But what about the older E-M5? What camera would I take between the GX7 and that older Olympus? Well, between those two, it is a draw for me. I prefer the feel of the GX7 but the E-M5 is wonderful. I would probably lean GX7 if buying fresh today between those two but both are great. Still, to be fair, if starting fresh in Micro 4/3 today I would buy the E-M1 and call it a day. Bottom line? You can not make a WRONG decision here. Go with your gut :)

-

VS the E-M1

1275700_610196215699466_1433000983_o

While the GX7 is the best Panasonic Micro 4/3 to date for taking photos, the E-M1 is the best Olympus to date for Micro 4/3 in general. Which is better? Well, my opinion is that the E-M1 is better but both can take an amazing photo. It’s all up to you, the photographer. Your eye, your mind, your style. Looking at the image above, which camera tugs at your soul the most..just by looks alone?

Some will choose the E-M1, others the GX7. But looks are not the whole story. While I prefer the sexy clean lines of the GX7, in the real world I find the E-M1 to be one incredible camera. My full review will be here soon for it but to put things into perspective, what makes it for me is the incredible 5-Axis IS, weather seal, huge and beautiful EVF and the ergonomics and control. It is one advanced camera and even the WiFi rocks. I also prefer the color from the Olympus.

But at the end of the day, as I said earlier in this review, it all comes down to your wants and needs. You may not care or need 5-Axis, weather sealing or the other features of the E-M1. If  that is the case, saving some cash on the GX7 would be the thing to do. Both are excellent. For $500 more the E-M1 is indeed the better camera technically but the GX7 is no slouch, not at all.

Some may wonder why I keep comparing this to the E-M1. Well, I have to do this. The E-M1 is the other brand new micro 4/3 body and it is a better body, though at $500 more. I want the readers to be aware of this in case the Olympus is more to their liking. I would hate to read a review, buy a camera, then find out the next day there is something that I may have liked better.

Even so, some will prefer the GX7 as it is also a superb tool. It comes down to features, and that is all.

The E-M1 can be seen here for $1399 and the GX7 here for $998 with lens

P9920397cc

Pros and Cons of the GX7

Pros

  1. Nice size and feel
  2. LOVE the new EVF, kudos to Panasonic for putting it in
  3. AF is fast, almost as fast as the E-M1. Same as E-M5
  4. Camera design is awesomely cool
  5. Swivel touch screen LCD is nice
  6. High ISO VERY usable to 3200 ISO
  7. Multitude of lenses available
  8. Price is right at $899 for the body only, $99 extra for kit lens
  9. Finally, the worthy follow up to the GF1
  10. FOCUS PEAKING!
  11. The GX7 has a silent electronic shutter mode ala Nikon V1

Cons

  1. Some dials and buttons feel cheap
  2. No in body IS during video with manual lenses
  3. In body IS is nice, but not as good as 5-Axis in the E-M1 or E-M5
  4. Not available in all black in the USA
  5. White Balance and Color is off in the EVF at times when it is perfect on the LCD

P9960079

My final word on the Panasonic GX7

After shooting the GX7 and E-M1 side by side for a while I can honestly say that I fell in love with one of them, and that was the E-M1, but I also loved shooting the GX7.

As always, it’s personal preference. IQ wise they are neck and neck so go with what you LIKE. I found the GX7 to be the best Panasonic Micro 4/3 made to date. Nice build, nice size, nice weight, great EVF that tilts up and down for more versatility and the touch screen LCD with all of the modern speed you can ask for.

The Auto Focus is fast on the GX7 but not any faster than the Olympus E-M5 or E-P5. The Battery life is good, had no issues with battery drain and shot a whole weekend on one charge. When mated with the lovely 20 1.7 II this makes for a nice compact lean mean sexy shooting machine. The Lumix GX7 is up there with the best of Micro 4/3.

At $998 for the body and Kit Zoom, it is well worth the cost if you want to get into Micro 4/3 while getting superb quality while spending under a grand.

Not much else I can say on the GX7, I like it.

Some have asked me about the GX7 vs the E-P5. Well, the E-P5 is beautiful, in and out. It is built to a nice standard, very hefty and solid with a gorgeous retro design, stellar LCD, amazing 5-Axis IS and features as well as having that PEN Mojo. My only issue with the PEN E-P5 is there is no integrated EVF! If Olympus would have put one in, it would be no contest..E-P5. Its a better made camera, feels better in my hand and I prefer the design as well. I just can not excuse Olympus for leaving it without an EVF in 2013. The PEN needs an EVF.

Panasonic listened to the demands of the enthusiast (something Sony has been doing for 2 years now) and made the camera we wanted to see made for Micro 4/3 at a decent price point. While there are many things I prefer on the E-P5, I have to say that I would probably choose the GX7 over it as I find it more enjoyable to shoot with. Still, I do like the E-P5 very much as I have always been a huge PEN fan. I am hoping that in 2014 or 2015 we will see one with a VF4 embedded in the body :)

With that said, look for my Olympus E-M1 review in about a week :)

Two with the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the GX7

P9920257

P9920276

WHERE TO BUY!

You can buy the Panasonic GX7 at Amazom or B&H Photo, my two favorite big time shops. Direct links are below:

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at Amazon with the 14-42 Kit Zoom HERE

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at Amazon – Body only

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at B&H Photo with Kit Lens HERE

Buy the Panasonic GX7 body only at B&H HERE

Buy the Voigtlander 25 0.95 Lens HERE – (LOVE this lens)!

ISO 2000 with the Kit Zoom – NO NR

P9960018

-

With a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at f/2

50lux1-

and the box..

SAMSUNG CSC

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21