Mar 282015
 

A Small Pit Bull with Balloons, an A7II User Report

By Brandon Labbe

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Much like Godzilla in the 2014 movie “Godzilla,” I recently strolled through the streets of downtown San Francisco. Unlike Mr. Zilla, however, instead of being met with giant moth creatures that blew blue fire, I was met with dragons. Yes, you read that right, dragons! Monstrous creatures that breathe fire and eat every person they come across; at least, that is how one would describe wild dragons. Amazingly, unlike their wild counterparts, the dragons of San Francisco are very well-trained, as they simply stood in place waiting their turn to delight the crowds gathered for the Chinese New Year parade that San Francisco hosts every year a full two weeks after the actual lunar new year day passed, which is like seeing New Year fireworks on the 14th or celebrating St Patrick’s Day on Easter, and trust me, you do not want to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Easter.

Heavy drinking and easter egg hunts are not a good combination. Of course, when one comes upon a dragon in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in America, the logical course of action is not to grab your children and run, but instead to take out your A7II and take a picture. I know, we San Franciscans are a strange bunch, but I’d like to think that’s what most people would do if they saw a dragon, as opposed to follow Harry Potter’s lead and jump on its back, but enough dragon jokes, on with the A7II!

If the A7II were an animal, it’d be a lion, because it’s the king of cameras. Unlike a lion, however, it takes amazing pictures and instead of eating zebras it eats batteries. I know what you’re thinking, “please, no more animal jokes!” but this comparison is actually Sony-approved, because I’ve seen ads for the A7 series with a roaring lion behind the cameras, and I must say, an advertisement must be amazing to make someone describe it in detail in a camera review. Sony’s got some geniuses in their ad department. In all seriousness, yes, it eats batteries, in that I used to only need one where as now I need a second one in my pocket if I want the camera to be on all day. You see, I was expecting a horrific battery life based on reviews I’d read of the other A7 models, so the first thing I did with my II, straight out of the box, was put it in airplane mode, and two batteries lasts me an entire day. Battery life aside (and, again, even that isn’t bad), there is absolutely nothing wrong with this camera. Now, it’s not a perfect camera, because, as experts have echoed a thousand times, there is no perfect camera, but I believe you can only get so close to perfection. Can I drop the II out of a plane and expect to recover it without a scratch? Of course not, because whoever was passing by when it fell would snatch it up in an instant because it’s a perfect camera!

I’m not one who is well-versed in camera lingo, I just know a good camera when I see and use it. I could say it’s got a good build, a good sensor, weather sealing, nice grip. Hell, it can probably do your taxes for you. I didn’t really notice these things, though, because they just worked well. When something works well, you don’t really notice. That might seem like an odd statement, but to try to let you see it from my perspective, think of it like this: in movies, you know immediately when someone’s a bad actor because they make certain mistakes or are just all-around unconvincing. However when someone’s a good or even great actor, you almost don’t notice because you’re so subconsciously convinced by their performance that you forget they’re acting. If that was confusing, let me put it this way: you know when a camera is bad because you have a lot of complaints over it. However, if a camera is perfect or near perfect, you don’t really notice. It just works the way you want it to. It complements your style, it doesn’t get in the way when you’re not using it, it doesn’t disturb your or anyone’s experience with a loud shutter at a quiet moment. It doesn’t freeze, crash, miss autofocus, explode in your hand, etc. It really is easier to say what a camera doesn’t do than what it does. That doesn’t just apply to cameras, but anything. If something works well, you don’t really notice. It’s only when something doesn’t work the way it should that you notice. To apply this way of thinking to the II and other cameras and technology in general that I’ve owned, the II is the only thing I’ve never felt the desire to throw against a wall. Though that may seem like a silly thing to say, I assure you that is extremely high praise.

The thing about the body that did stand out, however, was the viewfinder. Though I don’t use the viewfinder to take pictures (see my reason here: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/03/11/what-i-learned-from-trading-a-dslr-for-a-phone-by-brandon-labbe/), I find it incredible. Looking through your pictures with your eye to the viewfinder is like seeing your pictures in 3-d. Have you ever looked through a stereoscope (one of those old-timey 3-d viewers where you have a card with the same image printed twice and you look through the viewer and it looks 3-dimensional)? The viewfinder is like that, but in color and high-quality, and even though I don’t use it to take pictures, I look through pictures with it because it is just a phenomenal viewer. I wish it were detachable so I could plug it into my computer and view all my photos with it because it is just so incredible.

Then there’s the iso. The beautiful, amazing, incredible iso. 10000! Ten-freaking-thousand, and I still got a pic that I could print as large as I’d like. How many cameras can you say that about? And if you can’t tell which one of these I took at 10000, that just proves my point. Okay, I’ll just tell you because it actually looks cleaner than some pictures. It’s the photo of the with the clock tower in the distance.
For a review of the lens, the Zeiss 35/2.8, which may as well be welded to my II, I could sum up my feelings for it by comparing the pictures I take with it to balloons. They’re all colorful and pretty, but when the lens is especially sharp, the pictures pop. Just look at the pictures above to see what I mean.

Also, compared to other cameras I’ve used, pictures I’ve taken with this camera, not all, but some, seem to glow. I think this is a combination of the lens and sensor. I’m sure this sounds like a very amateurish observation, but it’s true. With the right light and shadows, some pictures seem to glow. I like the look so much, I try to find the right conditions to get that glowing effect in as many pictures as I can. I don’t have a very good example of this effect from the parade, but I’ve run into the effect several times in daily shooting around the neighborhood when the sun is just right. I don’t think I’m explaining myself well enough. When I say they glow, I don’t mean some of the pictures look smudged or that blown out highlights somehow look pleasing. What I mean is the way light is reflected and dissipates into shadows is like nothing I’ve ever seen in any camera I’ve used before. Perhaps this is just a full-frame thing – a light sensitivity that smaller sensors couldn’t hope to achieve, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think there’s something really special here, in the II, or maybe even the whole A7 series; something you can’t just be told about, but you have to experience for yourself.

The one flaw that I found was, as good as the auto white balance is in the day, at night it seems to favor a blue tint. This isn’t noticeable a lot of times, because night is rather blue anyway, but, looking back through photos now, and even at the parade itself, I noticed that the live view display and the resulting picture looked noticeably more blue than the scene before me. No great fault if you shoot in raw, but if you shoot in jpeg, I’d recommend going manual on white balance at night, or at least, only if it’s noticeable, because it only happened to me twice.

If you’re curious as to what settings I use, I have it in manual mode, and that includes iso. 95% of pictures are with autofocus, and the autofocus might miss only once in 200 photos, and even when it does, I don’t complain because the photo still looks good. I’ve heard some people have had a bigger problem with autofocus, that it ‘hunts’ sometimes, especially at night. I constantly have the lens in center focus mode so the lens always knows what I want it to focus on  I have the lens at a constant /5.6 because that’s the lens’ sharpest aperture. I only go wider at night or in close-ups.

Another thing I love about the II is how unassuming it is. I was surrounded by guys with fat dslrs and lenses thicker than my arm, and I actually enjoyed the condescending looks they were giving me, as if I brought a chihuahua to a pit bull fight. If only they knew.

To recap: my II is a pit bull the size of a chihuahua, and my pictures are balloons. I think that sums up the A7II/Zeiss 35 combo very well, a small pit bull with balloons.

Also I should note that the parade isn’t this unorganized. Most of the pics were taken before the parade actually started.

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Mar 262015
 

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

USER REPORT: The New Sony 28 f/2 on the Sony A7S and A7II…BAM!

by Chad Wadsworth – his website is HERE!

Last week the FedEx guy delivered a box on loan from Sony containing a couple of much-anticipated new FE primes. The 35/1.4 is as good as Steve reported – a near perfect balance of center resolution and bokeh – but what about the little FE 28/2?

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I’m a big fan of the 28mm fov and have owned a few highly regarded lenses (C/Y Zeiss 28/2.8, Zeiss 28/2.8 G, M-Rokkor 28/2.8 & Minolta AF 28/2) and film compacts (Minolta TC-1, Ricoh GR1), so there was a personal expectation for Sony to deliver a modern equivalent of the Minolta AF 28/2.

After a few days shooting and editing, a few things are clear: this little guy is shockingly sharp, renders out of focus transitions smoothly and transmits color with pop. With a price tag under $450, compact size and quick AF, there is little fault to find with. You will notice some minor distortion that should easily be handled by a PS or LR profile, but other than that…no complaints. (Pre-Order it Here at Amazon) – (Pre-order it HERE at B&H Photo)

Early web samples had some forum “experts” calling the bokeh nervous, but my results indicate a good amount of “cream” especially in the foreground. A 28mm is never going to draw the bokeh of a portrait lens but what this lens does produce is attractive to my taste. Samples here are from RAW and processed in LR – most are shot wide open. Stopping down quickly improves the corners but even at f/2 the subject sharpness is just amazing. (From Steve: I also have this lens now and it is just as Chad Describes..a MUST OWN for any A7 series shooter)

With this kind of price/performance level, I hope users reward the FE 28mm with big sales and Sony takes note of the demand for compact, high quality f/2 lenses at reasonable price points. Up to now, I’ve held onto my Minolta AF 28/2, waiting to see if this new FE 28/2 could replace it – I think it is time to let it go…

click images for larger and much better and sharper view!

1st FOUR were shot on the A7II, rest were A7s

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Venue

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mar 242015
 

Quick Crazy Comparison! Leica M-P 240 with 35 Cron vs Sony A7II with 35 Zeiss Loxia!

JUST FOR FUN!! I have a Leica M-P 240 here with a Leica 35 Summicron ASPH. I also have my A7II with Zeiss 35 Loxia so I decided to run out back to take a couple of TEST shots, just for fun. I was curious about BOKEH of each lens and for my tastes, the Leica 35 Summicron won the Bokeh test for me. The Loxia is a tad busy in comparison. In either case, both of these cameras and lenses can do wonderful things but there are small differences in IQ and HUGE differences in using the cameras.

I have become so used to my A7II and Manual Lenses I adore the EVF and accurate focusing. With the M I adore the experience of shooting a rangefinder in a mature digital body. I also love the battery life of the M. Below are a couple of shots all wide open at f/2 to see the character of each lens. Nothing more, nothing less.

All were RAW and colors were not tweaked. What you see is what came out of the RAW conversion except for test shot #2 where I converted each to B&W to see if there was a difference. I used Alien Skin for the B&W conversion. Click images for larger versions.

You can read my A7II review HERE or my Leica M Review HERE. 

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Mar 232015
 

24-240 bh

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens First Look

by Brad Husick

Yesterday I received the new Sony 24-240mm super zoom lens for full frame Sony FE mount cameras. I had a chance to shoot some ultimate frisbee with it and I thought I’d share my first impressions.

I have been a professional sports photographer for the NLL (National Lacrosse League) and for that I generally have used the big gear – Canon EOS and Nikon D3 and D4 cameras and lenses. In the low light of indoor sports I need the speed and precision of these monster camera systems to give me reliable results.

For this first taste I shot outdoors in relatively good late evening light. I was anywhere from 5 yards to 50 yards from my subjects, shooting on a Sony A7II using auto ISO limited to 3200. This was my first chance to try the A7II for sports.

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The incredible reach of this lens at 240mm made the job easier. It’s quite long when extended to the maximum zoom, but not particularly heavy or unbalanced on the camera. I did not feel the need to shoot on a monopod, which is my typical setup for sports. The combined weight of the camera and lens were more than manageable for the 60 minute game. This would not be true of my Nikon D4 and 70-200 lens.

I also found the wide-angle end of the lens useful when the action came close to me on the sidelines. If I had my 70-200 mounted I would have missed some of this action.

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Overall I can say I am pleasantly surprised with the optical quality of the lens. I don’t see any major flaws at either end of the range. I do wish it could be a little faster than f/3.5-6.3 – a constant f/4 would be nice, but I am sure we’d be looking at a much larger lens in that case. It’s a tradeoff I am willing to make here.

Build quality is excellent. The zoom throw is a bit stiff but it doesn’t creep when you hang the camera down at your hip. The hood is plastic but nicely finished and no so large that it gets in the way. I do wish all these lenses had real aperture rings, but leaving the camera on A mode wide open does the trick most of the time.

Image stabilization combined with the in-camera stabilization of the A7II is superb, perhaps the best I have used. I can’t measure the benefit in stops, but I’d say it’s very, very useful especially at the far end of this big zoom.

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Autofocus was an interesting combination of good and fair. The subject tracking capability of the camera was very good, locking on and not letting go despite players running in front of the subject. I was pleasantly surprised by this. On the not-so-good end, the lens wouldn’t always lock on to the intended subject immediately. I am quite spoiled by the performance of the Nikon D4 and its lenses and their ability to almost magically lock on to the subject. I didn’t expect the Sony to knock the Nikon out of first place for this application, but it was a reminder that there are certainly different tools for different jobs. I am not ready to replace the D4 when I am being paid for my sports work.

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In summary, I think the combination of the 24-240 and the A7II is a great setup for parents and family to get the shots of their children they have wanted and missed in the past.

I look forward to getting more shooting time with this combo and learning the subtleties of this system.

You can order  the Sony 24-240 Lens at AMAZON or B&H Photo

Mar 192015
 

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The Zeiss Loxia 35 Biogon f/2 Lens Review on the Sony A7II

Here we are, another day, another week, another month and another year. Man, 2015 is here and it boggles my mind at how fast the time goes by. Seems like it was just yesterday that the camera world was a buzz about the Zeiss Touit lenses for Sony and Fuji. Those were some great lenses but today, for the Sony full frame system, we have something even better. The Zeiss Loxia line.

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The Loxia line of lenses consists of just TWO lenses for now, the 35mm Biogon f/2 and the 50mm f/2 Planar. Thanks to Zeiss,  I have been lucky enough to be shooting with BOTH of these lenses on my beautiful A7II camera (that has taken #1 top spot over the A7s for me) and let me tell you…once you shoot with this setup of an A7II and the Loxia lenses, you will not want to be without them. The only problem is that these are VERY hard to find IN STOCK as they have been much more popular than Zeiss imagined. I expect this review to make them even more desirable as both Loxia lenses are SUPERB.

Click images for larger and better view! All with A7II and the 35 Loxia

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The Size and Build

First off, the size of the Loxia lenses is on the small side. I know when these lenses were first launched many were thinking they would be large or bulky, but that is not the case. The Loxia line is smaller than the Touit line for APS-C and not much larger than their Leica M counterparts. THIS is good news. Also, the lenses feel fantastic in the hand and when on the camera. The build is solid, with metal parts and mount. The focusing ring is silky smooth and the aperture dial is solid yet never stiff.

My video showing the Zeiss Loxia Line of lenses for Sony FE

The Loxia line is all manual focus and I LOVE THEM for this. Because these are manual focus, the size was kept down and compared to DSLR lenses of the same spec (high quality pro DSLR lenses) these are much smaller. Even with the included metal hoods, these lenses are still small, and fit the camera just right. No front heaviness, no bulky huge monster size, no looking like you are pointing a bazooka in someones face when taking an image of them.

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From the packaging to the product itself, the Loxia line is quality all the way.

I used to be a huge fan, and still am, of the Zeiss ZM line, which is the Leica M mount line from Zeiss. Many use these on their Sony A7 bodies and are happy though some have corner issues. Some will have magenta sides, soft edges, and slight issues. The wider the ZM or Leica M mount lens and the more problems there are on the Sony cameras. With the Loxia line, those issues are gone as these are specially made for the Sony full frame sensors. They work, and they work well.

Click any image in this review for a larger sized and much nicer looking image. All with the Loxia 35 f/2 on the Sony A7II. EXIF is embedded.

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The Beauty of Zeiss mixed with the beauty of the A7II

The A7II (my full review here) is one hell of a camera. I have praised it to everyone I meet as it truly is a mature A7 body. It is solid, it is very well designed, and the sensor is fantastic. With the 5 Axis IS that works for ANY lens attached to the camera to the nice EVF and ease of manual focusing, the A7II is truly a fantastic camera. With lenses like the Loxia’s made for these cameras as well as the new and special Sony lenses coming out for it (35 1.4, 28 f/2, 90 Macro, etc) this system is now fully fleshing out. In just a year and a half Sony has pumped out MANY amazing pieces of glass for the A7 system, and today no one can complain about lack of lenses.

With the Zeiss Loxia line though, what we have is a special set of lenses that will appeal strongly to many, and not at all to others. Not everyone can get along with manual focus, and many are not even interested in trying. I do feel though that once someone tries these lenses on their A7 body, they will fall for them hard. There is a certain beauty of using these lenses with the cameras they were designed to be used with. The solid feeling, the smooth focus and the final image is just so nice.

As always, the Zeiss look is here with nice pop, color and separation of background from subject. At f/2 the lens shows its true character and is just what I would expect from a Zeiss lens. Zeiss color, Zeiss sharpness, and the Zeiss signature is all here in the 35 f/2 Biogon.

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What about the Zeiss 35 f/2.8 or the Zeiss 35 1.4 for the FE system?

With the Loxia 35 f/2, we now have THREE native 35mm lenses to choose from for the A7 system. First, we have the original 35 f/2.8 which is an amazing lens. Small, light, auto focus, and also has that Zeiss color and pop. The only issue with the 35 f/2.8 is the aperture. At f/2.8 it is not a speed demon, and today so many love their “fast glass”. Many want f/1.4, which we also have in the new Zeiss 35 1.4 for the FE system. My 1st look is HERE and that is one hell of a lens. Probably the best 35 1.4 I have ever tested, ever. The only issue with that lens is the size. It is a MONSTER. It is HUGE.

See the size comparison of all three of these lenses below:

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The Loxia stands in the middle ground for size, and on camera is the best feeling as well. I admit though, I do prefer the rendering and character of the Zeiss 35 1.4 over the Loxia but for many it will just be too large and cumbersome. Many will prefer the manual focus action and size of the Loxia and some will remain happy as a clam with their 35 f/2.8 Zeiss. You just can not go wrong with any of these. They are all beautiful in their own way.

More images from the Loxia 35 f/2 on the A7II – click them for larger!

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A QUICK COMPARISON:  35 Loxia, 35 1.4, 35 2.8

Below is a quick OOC comparison from all three 35mm FE Native lenses. First, since this is the Loxia review I will start with the Loxia. Then I will show the same shot from the 35 1.4 and again from the 35 2.8. THIS IS JUST to show RENDERING differences and what to expect from 1.4 to 2.8. Which rendering do you prefer? Here, I like the POP of the Loxia but the creaminess of the 35 1.4!

All three images are OOC RAW from the Sony A7II and each lens WIDE OPEN to show differences of Aperture, which is what the differences are here. CLICK THEM for larger!

1st, the Loxia and the A7II, at f/2 – click it!

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Now the awesome Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 at 1.4

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Now the Zeiss 35 2.8

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Before anyone says “these should have all been done at the same aperture..well, no, they should not have. The main reason to get one of these over the other is APERTURE speed! So the shot above shows what each lens will do at its fastest aperture speed. f/1.4, f/2 and f/2.8. Three different lenses, three different sizes, three different price points.

Crops and Full size images

While this is a short review as most lens reviews for me are, I will still show you two images that will show you more about what this lens will do when stopped down. Below are two shots. The 1st one is a simple shot at f/9 with a crop. Straight from RAW with no sharpening added. The second shot is a full size image from RAW at f/8. You can right click these to open the image in a new window or tab to see the full size out of camera file.

1st shot, click it to see a larger version with 100% crop embedded. This one was at f/9, no sharpening added. From RAW. A7II.

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This next image is a Sedona AZ scene shot with the Loxia 35 at f/8. Right click and open in a new window to see the full size file from RAW. A storm was brewing for sure ;) 

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For me, I always find the rendering of Zeiss glass to be pretty fantastic. Zeiss is up there with Leica, without question but the lenses from Zeiss offer a different character, a different color signature and a different kind of feel. Both are at the top of the heap but which you prefer is up to you. I love Leica M glass and I also adore Zeiss glass. The Loxia line for me strikes that perfect balance between M glass and FE glass. They have the build of the Leica lenses with the feel and smoothness of premium Zeiss glass. The size is nothing like a larger bulky DSLR lens, but instead in between M size and APS-C sized glass. The fit is perfect for the A7 series.

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Conclusion:

I won’t beat around the bush here. The Zeiss Loxia line has lived up to the Zeiss reputation and they have delivered two beautiful lenses in the 35 Biogon and 50 Planar. My 50 review will be coming in the next few days and for me, THAT one is the best of the lot. Even so, this 35mm is fantastic and I feel it beats the Zeiss 35 Biogon ZM when being used on a Sony A7 body, as the Loxia is MADE for the FE system. No adapter is needed and the build beats the ZM line from Zeiss as well.

The Zeiss pop, color and rendering are all here. The Bokeh of the 35 f/2 is not the best ever, but it is typical of the 35 Zeiss Biogon ZM, not much difference there at all. I have never seen a perfect Bokeh lens, ever. The best I have seen is from the Leica 50 Noctilux, the Leica 50 APO and the Panasonic Nocticron for Micro 4/3. The 35 f/2 Loxia is nice but Bokeh is a personal thing. What one person loves, another may say is “busy” or not good. I love everything about the Loxia from the detail to the tad bit of glow when shot wide open at f/2. For me, all Zeiss needs is a 21 or 28 and an 85 f/2 Loxia. THAT would be amazing to have a full set of Loxia lenses covering wide to portrait. I can only imagine how good an 85 f/2 would be as the old 85 f/2 ZM was magical.

I highly recommend the Loxia 35 f/2. If you can handle manual focus you will be in heaven. Speaking of manual focus, if you have never done it on the A7 series, using the Loxia may just convert you. It is a wonderful experience and I have had NO out of focus shots in all of the ones I shot with the Loxia line. It is very easy to do, especially as the A7II auto magnifies the scene when you turn the focus ring. Quick, easy, and a fun experience. When you hit that shot you feel rewarded for your work.

As for the Loxia 35 and A7II vs the RX1r? That is a no brainer for me. In fact, the Sony RX1r is $2798 today. The A7II with Loxia 35 is $2998. A difference of $200. With the A7II you gain a nicer body, faster AF, built in EVF (RX1 has no built in EVF), the opportunity to use so many other lenses, the 5 Axis IS, etc. The A7II and Loxia would be the much better buy today. No brainer.

As for the 35 Zeiss ZM vs the Loxia, well, they are very similar in output but with the Loxia you will not have any colored edges. The Biogon Zm and Loxia have nearly the same color signature, bokeh and detail but the Loxia is better made and feels much better in use, and it is made for Sony FE. There ya go.

Most of my shots with the 35 were taken on a stormy overcast day in Sedona AZ during a test run of trails with my new Jeep (that I will use for 3-4 one on one day photo tours this year in Sedona, info and video soon). It was a fun day, and the Loxia and A7II never disappointed. ;)

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Where To Buy?

The Loxia line is available at the recommended dealers below. ALL of whom I vouch for 100%! The Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 is $1299 and worth every cent!

PopFlash.comThey have the 35 in stock NOW!

B&H PhotoTheir Loxia Page

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Mar 172015
 

titlebjarke

2014 in Twelve images

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Hi Steve,

Another year has passed, and at least from my perspective 2014 was extremely busy. I fulfilled a dream of mine and opened a rock bar, Zeppelin (www.zeppelincph.dk), + my very own photographic haven/store, One Of Many Cameras (www.oneofmanycameras.com), here in Copenhagen, where I live. The camera store, which deals with both new and 2nd hand stuff gave me even further possibilities to explore the photographic medium and although it hasn’t exactly cured my GAS, it helps that I can just borrow stuff from the shelves now and then :-)

I only shoot manual lenses as they fit my shooting style the best, and I spend most of my photography time on celluloid, expired chemistry and especially large format portraits, but that ol’ Leica M9-P of mine is still my favourite digital camera (since I can’t afford or justify a Monochrome, hehe), but I also adore the little MicroFourThirds camera which was given to me as a x-mas present by my One Of Many Cameras partner Daniel because of its portability, since the large format cameras are a bit bulky to drag around. My work can be seen here: www.oneofmany.dk and www.polaroid.com

Anyways, here goes — once again — 12 images, 12 cameras, 12 months – this time for the year 2014.

***

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photograhic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

2014_01_8x10_scan_deardorff v2_270mm_boyer saphir paris f63_iso3_after

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photographic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

I’ve been working on a book/exhibition the last couple of years. It’s gonna be called “After” and will feature 130+ portraits of my girlfriend, all shot immediately after we’ve had sex. There will be no pornographic content or nudity but “raw” portraits that try to capture that very special moment just “after”… I went about it in a dogmatic way, so I decided that all had to be shot within a five minute time span and I would max make 3 exposures. It was very challenging as many of the shoots were rather trivial when it comes subject, and location of course, but I managed to use a great variety of cameras and now in the final editing stages of the book, I believe it turned out okay. The book will be published around May/June if everything goes as planned. For this particular shot, Katja laid still for 8 seconds while I captured the light.

***

February · Leica M9 · 50mm Summilux Asph @ f/2.8 · ISO200

2014_02_LeicaM9_50summilux_iso200_Lucer

Still love the Leica, still love rock ’n roll, and I still have a record label, so I actually managed to shoot quite a few album covers in 2014, this being one of them. With vinyl making a serious comeback it’s a joy to shoot band pictures again. The band is called Lucer and they play high-octane rock. Be sure to check them out on Spotify –– or even better, on vinyl.

***

March · Goecker Studio Camera · 270mm Dallmeyer 3B Petzval · Expired Ilford Multigrade photographic paper used as paper negative · ISO3

2014_03_8x10_paper negative scan__Goecker Studio Kamera_Dallmeyer 3B_iso3_Street

I bought an old wooden large format studio camera, dating back to 1913 and it came with a wonderful Dallmeyer Petzval from the 1860s’ so I decided to drag it outside our little camera store (which is also a studio) and test it out. Two teenagers were walking down the street, but I convinced to them to stand still for 1 second while I used my hand as a shutter. Notice the Petzval curve, it’s absolutely wonderful. Oh yeah, the logo of One Of Many Cameras is actually the Petzval lens design from 1840 – both my partner Daniel and I even got it tattooed, so I guess that lens is rather special to me.

***

April · Fuji GX680III · 125mm GX f/3.2 · Ilford Delta 100

Picture 521

Even though I love large format and the creative possibilities it gives regarding perspective and focus, it’s not exactly portable. Enter the Fuji GX680III, a high-end medium format camera from the final days of the professional analog era. It has a small bellow and therefore tilt-shit capabilities and you can cram 8 images on a 120-roll film, so economically speaking, it’s quite okay (compared to large format). You can shoot the camera handheld – and those Fujinon lenses — whauh. This one in particular, it’s perfect. My youngest clone was shot wide open at f/3.2. Love the bokeh.

***

May · Kodak DCS PRO SLR N · 55mm Nikkor f/1.2 · ISO160

2014_05_Kodak DCS PRO SLR N_55mm Nikkor f12_iso160_Mikkel Munch Fals

I don’t want to (re-)start the whole CCD vs. CMOS war, I’ll just conclude that you’ll find on the CCD-side when photographic civil war begins. I haven’t owned a DSLR since I sold my 5D Mark III and I swore I’d never go down that road again… But then I was presented with this Kodak beauty, the first full frame pro digital camera, which cost a fortune back when it was introduced, and having never shot Nikon glass before (!) I couldn’t resent the 55mm Nikkor f/1.2. The 3 included batteries last only 5 minutes each, the camera breaks down constantly, has many quirks and is hardly usable above ISO400… But that Kodak CCD sensor is absolutely wonderful… I get the same feeling as when I look at images from my Leica M9-P and Hasselblad H3D-39. If I’m working digital (and not doing video), I’ll definitely go for a CCD-camera.

***

June · Leica Monochrome · 50mm Apo-Summicron f/2 Asph · ISO320

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Had the chance to spend a day with the APO-Summicron. Took it to the beach along with a Monochrome. Nice combo. Stupid price tag, though.

***

July · Leica M9–P · 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE · ISO160

2014_07_LeicaM9P_35mm Summilux_ISO160_Barcelona

Took my two clones to Barcelona for our summer vacation, alongside a couple of Leica’s and the Fuji GX680 monster. I keep coming back to the Leica, it’s “like home” every time I shoot it. The swimming pool was nice, too.

***

August · Sinar P2 · 36cm Voigtländer f/4.5 · Impossible Silver Shade 8×10” Polaroid

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Having a record label is nice because you get to meet some really cool people, in this case the Swiss noise-rockers Herod who performed here in Copenhagen, and stayed at my place for a couple of days. I dragged the boys to my attic alongside my Swiss 8×10” large format Sinar camera, and shot an 8×10” Polaroid polaroid. The lens was stopped down at f/5.6 (which is like f/1.4 in 35mm terms regarding depth of field), but with the help of the movements of the camera, I was able to get all 4 members (relatively) sharp.

***

September · Kodak Master View 8×10” · Rodenstock 210mm Sironar f/5.6 · Ilford Direct Positive Paper · ISO6

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Another band photo, this time around it was the death metal act Undergang, who were about to embark on a 5 week US tour and needed a band photo for their upcoming LP, so of course we went to a cemetery. I brought an antique Kodak Master View 8×10” large format camera and some Direct Postive Paper, and I snapped this ghoulish portrait with the Rodenstock lens shot wide open. Again with the gigantic negatives (1 x 8×10″ negative = 1 roll of 35mm film), the depth of field is extremely shallow, only a couple of millimeters but that old Kodak large format camera with its bellowsmovements made it possible to get them all “pretty sharp”. I made the vocalist only show the white in his eyes for the second I exposed the Direct Positive Paper, which indeed is a fantastic medium when working with the large format, since it’s like a Polaroid (positive) and you can handle it under red/safe light which makes it much easier than the negatives.

***

October · Sinar P2 5×7” – 21cm Voigtlander Petzval · Expired Ilford photo paper

2014_10_5x7_Sinarp2_21cm_Voigtlander_iso2_when the silver runs dry

One Of Many portraits of my favourite subject(s) – my clone, Hjalte. Almost 16 years old, he looks nothing like the child I’ve been documenting for many years now, as he’s growing rapidly, physically as well as mentally. Teenagers are hard to shoot since they’re pretty demanding, and pretty pimple ridden, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with expired analog materials and decided to try to drag the absolutely last silver out of some photographic paper which expired the year Hjalte was born (1999). He sat still for around 4 seconds while I underexposed and then the negative laid in the (also expired) chemistry for around half and hour before it was fully developed. I love it, one of my favourite portraits of 2014.

****

November · Sony A7S · Leica 75mm Summilux f/1.4 · ISO1600

2014_11_SonyA7S_75 Summilux_iso1600_Ruth Storm

Yes, I love old cameras (and especially lenses) but of course I also embrace new technological wonders –– like the Sony A7S. Most of my work is shot at extremely low ISOs, but the A7S opened new doors for me with its extreme low light capabilities. I’ve shot portraits for record covers at ISO 100.000 (!) which look fine on print – and my Leica lenses all perform wonderful on that little Sony. And the ones that can be hard to focus on a rangefinder are easy to nail spot on with the focus peaking turned on. Sometimes I wish the A7S had just a few more pixels as 12mp isn’t a lot for print/pro work, but I use it mostly for videos anyway, and there it reigns supreme.

****

December · Panasonic DMC-GF5 · 1″ Taylor-Hobson f/1.9 · ISO1600

2014_12_Panasonic DMC-GF5_1inch Taylor-Hobson f19_iso1600_trine tree

Yeah, I prefer large format and medium format, and full frame digital sensors. But lately, I’ve come to love a small, not-very-special little Panasonic pocket camera (DMC-GF5) – due to one fact: its MicroFourThirds sensor and the c-mount adapter that came along the little x-mas presents. That combo opens totally new doors when it comes to lenses and look. Old 16mm film lenses (c-mount) shine on that little digital sensor (the ones that cover it that is) and since the camera is very cheap (and lenses, too) I bring it everywhere for snapshots that otherwise were reserved for my iPhone. Here you see the newest member of the Ahlstrand-clan, Trine The Cat, climbing unto a x-mas tree. Nothing fancy, just one of those “family shots”, but I really dig the look of that tiny 1960s 16mm film camera lens, which I just had CLA’ed by my friend, Professor Olsen (repair-guy at One Of Many Cameras).

That’s it. Enjoy.

Mar 162015
 

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Battle of the Champions: Leica M & 50 APO vs Sony A7II & 50 Zeiss Loxia

by Brad Husick

It has been an exciting few years in the development of high-end digital cameras. With the advent of full frame sensors in compact mirrorless bodies, it is now possible to obtain truly outstanding results that can be printed at virtually any size for the home or gallery.

My objective in running this test was to examine the image quality of two of the most highly regarded full frame digital mirrors cameras today – the Leica M model 240 ($7,250) and the Sony A7-II ($1,699), paired with the best available standard optics for each. For the Leica the choice was obvious in the Leica 50mm f/2 APO Summicron ($8,250) and for the Sony the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* ($949). The prices listed here are retail. Street prices can be lower.

The cameras are very different from each other and there are many articles and reviews that go into these differences. My purpose here is to look only at image quality regardless of other factors such as price, functionality, shooting style, build quality, etc. The key question here is which camera and lens combination produces the best images under a variety of real world shooting conditions. This is not a scientific laboratory bench test, it is meant to see how well the cameras do under reasonable realistic conditions.

My methodology was wherever possible to shoot the lenses wide open at f/2 and match the other shooting settings as closely as possible, including ISO and shutter speeds. Both cameras were shot in RAW and the images are displayed in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.1. No adjustments other than tiny overall exposure movements used to match the images were made. Settings were left in default positions and do not differ between camera images.

These lenses are both manual focus lenses so I used each camera’s focus magnifying tool at maximum to obtain the sharpest images I could. I did not achieve 100% focus accuracy despite using a tripod for all the indoor shots and high shutter speeds for the outdoor shots. This points to my abilities and the nature of f/2 lenses having very thin depth-of-field when wide open. The indoor shots were taken at ISO 1600 and the outdoor shots at base ISO 200. The wind was blowing at about 5 mph outdoors. The cameras were set on manual exposure and automatic color balance. I did not re-adjust color balance once in Lightroom. These are “as-shot” images.

Each comparison starts with a “master” image showing the entire frame, followed by a few 100% zoom details taken from various positions around the frame.

Rather than try to make this a guessing game, I will tell you up front that each of the side-by-side comparisons has the Sony on the left and the Leica on the right.

I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions about the relative strengths of each image.

My conclusion, with which you should feel free to disagree, is that there is a surprisingly small difference here. Based on image quality alone, it’s very difficult to choose. I must conclude that both systems are capable of producing outstanding images, and other factors such as price, preferred shooting style, features and functions, and others are much larger influencers in the decision between these cameras and lenses. One might come to the conclusion that if you choose to invest $15,000 in a Leica system then $2,700 for the Sony system is cheaper than buying one more Leica lens, so why not own both if you care to?

I hope you enjoy this comparison.

IMAGE ONE – FULL FRAME

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Sony crops on left – Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops!

(Steve’s Opinion: The Loxia is sharper here in these MAP crops to my eye)

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IMAGE TWO – FULL FRAME

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Sony crops on the left, Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops

(Steve’s Opinion: These appear to be so close, I would call it a tie)

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IMAGE THREE – FULL FRAME

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Sony crops on the left – Leica crops on the right – click them for full size crops

(Steve’s Opinion: What sticks out to me here is the warmer WB of the Leica, sharpness seems similar)

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IMAGE FOUR – FULL FRAME

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT – CLICK ‘EM!

(Steve’s Opinion: The LOXIA seems sharper in crop 2 and 3 with Leica for the 1st)

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IMAGE FIVE – FULL FRAME

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT – YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO!

(Steve’s Opinion: To my eye, APO wins this one)

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IMAGE SIX – FULL FRAME

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: LOXIA wins this one – less CA and sharper)

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IMAGE SEVEN

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: These are close, VERY close)

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IMAGE EIGHT

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: Again, VERY close but I pick APO for this one)

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IMAGE NINE

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SONY LEFT – LEICA RIGHT

(Steve’s Opinion: Almost a draw again but the APO Bokeh is a TAD smoother)

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Best regards,
Brad

Mar 112015
 

What I learned from trading a DSLR for a phone.

By Brandon Labbe

NOTE: All images in this post are phone images. 

It is expected that a photographer wouldn’t revert to a lesser camera once they’ve used a professional one, however my experience has proven otherwise, and while I did indeed go back to using a professional camera in the end, I learned a lot along the way.

I could go into painstaking detail on the cameras I’ve owned, how they compared with each other and with other brands, but that would take much too long. I’ll at least name what I was planning on upgrading to, the Canon 6D, because for subconscious psychological reasons I don’t have the time or credentials to delve into, I am one who normally practices a sort of brand loyalty that could be described as borderline religious. That being said, in the year 2014 I had not shied away from photography itself, but from dslrs. In the years before, I’d taken a dslr nearly everywhere with me, but I’d noticed something in 2014 about my camera that I hadn’t noticed before. There was dust on it. Without even being aware of it, so much time passed between the few times I used it that a noticeable amount of dust gathered on it like one would expect to find on a book. An even bigger surprise met me at the end of the year: I had only taken the camera out of the house 4 times, as opposed to 40 times in 2013. When I was trying to think of what could explain the dramatic decline in my photography between the two years, it hit me: at the end of 2013, and I mean quite literally the very end of 2013 (it came in the mail late in the afternoon on December 31st), I had bought my first smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S (not an S5 or S4, just a plain old S).

2014-05-30 15.28.45 1500

 

I’d owned phones with cameras before, but as anyone who ever used those would know, flip-phone cameras are pathetic. They took pictures that were never really meant to leave the phone, as on a computer they only looked good when viewed at the size of a thumbnail, but I digress. On the night I received the phone, I was heading out to view the New Year fireworks, and even though I hadn’t had the phone for more than 3 hours, and I used the camera on it only once to test the quality, when it came time to leave, I made a last-minute decision to just take my phone and leave my dslr behind. I didn’t know why I did it. I’d never done it before, but it just felt right to leave it. I just knew I wouldn’t miss it. I think you can see where this is going. Throughout the year there were many times I felt comfortable enough with my phone to leave my dslr behind, and after some months there wasn’t even a question about it. I just packed my dslr into its never-used camera bag to keep it from getting dustier, and I practically forgot I even owned it. Sure enough, by the end of the year I’d amassed 1500 photos on my phone. Not nearly as many as I took with my dslr the year before, but still quite a lot.

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Why did I do this? I didn’t think about it at the time, but it was the weight and size of the dslr that I apparently found repulsive compared to the phone. That much was obvious, but the amount of photos was a curious thing. Why did I take much fewer photos with my go-to camera (the phone) in 2014 than with my go-to camera (the dslr) in 2013? Two reasons: first, my phone has a short battery life, limiting the amount of pictures I could take. Second: my phone was pocketable while my dslr was always in my hand. I went rather photo-crazy with my dslr, taking multiple photos a minute, where as with my phone I thought about each picture, sometimes reaching for it, pausing, and putting my hand back down when I realized the image before me wasn’t special enough. I should note that while I can’t pocket the A7II, it’s light enough that it can hang from my neck as opposed to my constantly having to hold the heavier dslr that would give me neck pains if I let go of it. The limited battery of the A7II also keeps me in check, just like the phone. Like countless experts have said, limiting the amount of pictures you can take makes you more selective with taking pictures and that makes you better at thinking about pictures before you take them. This is the argument as to why you should learn photography with film, but a limited battery gives you the same discipline without the anxiety of not knowing if a picture came out well. Also, hanging a camera from your neck as opposed to always holding it in your hand makes you less of a shutter bug. I know these are tips that have been echoed a thousand times before, but what made them so meaningful in this situation is that I learned them without even realizing I was learning them.

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Since it wasn’t till the end of October that I realized it wasn’t photography I was tired of, but dslrs, and the A7II was to be released in just 2 months, I held out on buying a new camera till the A7II came out. It wasn’t until I went lens shopping online that I partially realized another valuable lesson I apparently learned while using my phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year. I was torn between 2 options: the Zeiss 24-70mm 4 and, for reasons I didn’t even know at the time, the 35mm 2.8.

While I luckily never went through a ‘carry everything’ phase that some photographers go through when they’re starting out, from the time I bought my first dslr I always had a zoom lens, an 18-55mm (28-90 full frame) and I’d heard of prime lenses, but I was convinced that I’d die without a zoom lens. With that same mentality, I told myself, when shopping for lenses, “obviously I’m getting the zoom,” but when I saw the size of the lens, I cringed because it would make the A7II as long and nearly as heavy as one of my older, cheaper dslrs, which was still too big, and then I saw the 35mm, and it was like hearing angels singing, because it was a small lens that was rated very well and it hardly added mass to the body. There was just the little problem of “I’d die without a zoom lens,” but when I thought about it, I realized that for the last year with the phone I’d basically been using a prime lens (because I certainly didn’t use the ghastly digital zoom) and I even remembered in the first month wishing I could zoom with it but by the end of the year I never thought that and I was content with the phone’s fixed focal length (and sure enough, when looking up the phone’s specs, the phone’s lens’ focal length was equal to a 35mm full frame lens). I’d wanted to switch to using a prime lens before, because experts say it makes you a better photographer, making you visualize a picture before you take it, but what always held me back was the thought that It would be too limiting for me and I’d miss all sorts of shots, but in using my phone, I made the change I was scared to make without even realizing I made it!

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I was still nervous when I bought the lens that I’d hate it and think it was too limiting, but in the 2 months I’ve owned the A7II I’ve already taken it out of the house more than I took the dslr out in 2014 and not only did I not feel the need for a zoom lens, but I actually felt better without it. With a zoom lens, I’d always find myself stopping and seeing which focal length would make a certain shot perfect, and that took time, perhaps not a lot of time, but seconds add up, and ultimately it just takes you out of the moment more. Well, that and holding the camera in your hand and taking a hundred photos where a dozen or even fewer would suffice, and what’s the point of capturing a moment when you’re detached from it?

If you make all of the mistakes that I made before quitting dslrs (taking too many pictures, using a zoom lens, using gear that’s too big, etc), I wouldn’t tell you to use a phone, but you can skip that step and learn all of the things I did by getting one of the Sony A7 models (with your best bet being the A7II) and a prime lens that suits you’re style of photography. For example, I like 35mm where some people like Henri Cartier Bresson think anything wider than 50mm is blasphemy. To each their own, Mr. Bresson.

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This isn’t really related, but one thing I found myself doing with the A7II from day 1 is using the fully manual mode. I don’t know about Nikon, but manual mode looked so complicated on Canon dslrs that the very sight of the ‘M’ on the mode dial gave me chills. I always had it in automatic, but that wasn’t always a good thing because while I got most of the shots I wanted, I missed some because they were over or underexposed to a degree that I couldn’t do much for them even in photoshop or lightroom.

One final note. Be warned, though, the following isn’t for the faint of heart. Having used a phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year, I grew so used to looking at the screen to compose pictures, as there was no viewfinder, that I find myself only using the lcd screen of the A7II and even find myself wishing it didn’t have the viewfinder, as I feel it’s just unneeded bulk. I know, I’m probably the only person who’s used an A7II and thought that, but it’s true. I’d buy the RX1, but the tech is older and it doesn’t have a grip. If the RX2 is a fixed prime lens (I’ve heard rumors that it might be a zoom; I hope that’s not true) and it has a grip like the A7II, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe I’ll warm up to the viewfinder eventually, but right now the live view on the screen is an appealing reminder of a phone where as the viewfinder is like an ugly reminder of my dslr days.

Brandon Labbe

Mar 082015
 

Have a good Sunday. One shot, Sony A7II, Zeiss Loxia f/2

Been shooting with the Sony A7II (and A7s) along with the Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 and 50 f/2. These are fantastic lenses from what I have seen so far (see my 1st look video here) and for me and my tastes I prefer the 50 to the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 for color, detail, build and overall joy of use on the A7 series.

I’m taking the day off but figured I would post my A7II setup, which I must admit, looks pretty nice :) My A7II is set up with the Gariz Half Case which fits perfect (unlike the case they make for the A7, A7R and A7s) and it is beautiful. The ONA Presidio strap also is a nice fit for this camera. The camera feels hefty but not heavy, the improved build and feel of the II is so nice in the hand and after months of use, I prefer the new body design to the old  – no contest. Take a look below:

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One shot, taken at f/2 with the 50 Loxia. This one is from RAW. Nice Bokeh, color and detail. Teeny bit of CA on the shoulder but my CA torture test shows this lens has less CA than even the Leica 50 Summilux, TONS less than the $11,000 50 Noctilux, and even less than the Leica standard 50 cron. All fast glass has some CA – Nikon, Canon, Leica, Sony, Zeiss, etc. This one less than most.

Have a great rest of your weekend, will be back tomorrow with new posts!

kylecolor

Mar 062015
 

The Contax 85 1.2 60 Year Anniversary Lens

by Mark Wu

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Hello, my name is Mark Wu.

I have been following Steve’s wonderful site for about a year and was always thinking about writing something to contribute. After getting the Contax 85/1.2 60 years anniversary, I think the time has come for me to write something about it.

I got this lens through auction by chance. Since this lens has the fame for both superb image quality and the high price, I have not thought about to get it at such a reasonable price.
When this lens comes to me, after unpacking I was first astonished. What a huge piece of glass! It is a 77mm f1.2 lens, the glass is just gorgeous! On the body it says “Contax 60 years”, and actually it is a limited lens which has an older version of “Contax 50 years”. The lens itself is in great condition and I’m satisfied about it.

Now here comes the real user report. I used an adapter to put it on my Sony a7 body, the balance is not so good as the a7 is just so light. Any way, I take this combination to the CP+2015 and got some shots. You can see the pictures below. The results are just amazing.

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Sharpness:

What can I say? Already quite sharp at f1.2, even at the corner compared to lens like Noctilux 1.0 which is a twice expensive lens. At the center, every thing within the focus area is clear and with appropriate contrast, out of the focus area, the BOKEH is so smooth that makes is a perfect lens for portrait. From f2 and upper, I can hardly see very much improvement in sharpness.

CA or purple fringe:

Just like other fast lens and tele-lens, this one also suffers from obvious CA at f1.2. It disappears after going down to f2.8 totally. Though, it can be adjusted in Lightroom or Photoshop or anything else, it is just so obvious that even these softwares can not fix it completely. I use a little trick in those pictures, I lower the saturation of purple in particular area, it may appear to be a little weird, but I dislike the “purple” more.

BOKEH:

BOKEH is smooth and beautiful but it may appear to be a little uncomfortable due to particular objects. And just like other wide aperture lens, the aberration makes the BOKEH looks like ellipse at the corner though I find myself quite fond of this kind of imperfectness.

Vignetting:

Of course it is obvious, but I don’t care.

Mechanic:

Nothing to complain about. German-made top grade quality same as Leica.

I have heard of the tale of this lens, that Zeiss got angry because people keep complaining about their Contax 85/1.4 being soft. So may be this lens is a kind of show off. But look at the Leica 50 summicron APO ASPH, does it not? Well I see them as a challenge towards the greatest optical quality of man-made lenses.

Mar 042015
 

New Sony E Mount Full Frame “FE” Lenses announced!

In addition to the GORGEOUS Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 FE lens that was announced (see my hands on first look here) Sony has announced a few other lenses for the FE system. Take a look below at what is coming as well as links to pre-order. All of these are for the full frame FE system (A7 series). So FOUR new lenses. Three primes and one SuperZoom.  There are LOADS of lenses for the Sony System now, from super  wide-angle to telephoto to Macro to the Zeiss Loxia line.

The Sony 28mm f/2 Lens – $448

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This is a standard Sony lens. Not a Zeiss, not overly expensive. I’d say it is “mid priced” at $448. Even so, I bet it will be a great wide-angle for the FE system. Yep, this is a full frame lens. A fast 28mm f/2 for under $500 and a smaller size as well. Looking forward to seeing how good this one is. Pre-Order it HERE.

Official word from Sony:

The FE 28mm f/2 Lens from Sony is a full-frame compatible wide-angle prime lens for E-Mount mirrorless cameras. Its wide focal length and fast aperture make it a practical and versatile addition to your gear bag. Also compatible with APS-C format E-Mount cameras, it provides the angle-of-view equivalent to a 42mm lens in the 35mm/full-frame format.

Its optical design features Extra-low Dispersion glass elements which reduce chromatic aberrations and provide improved contrast. Also, aspherical and advanced aspherical elements minimize spherical aberrations and help to maintain the lens’ compact, lightweight form. Multi-coating on the ED glass elements reduce flare and ghosting and also improve overall image contrast and quality.

An internal focus system and a linear actuator autofocus mechanism provide fast and quiet focusing and make this lens ideal for both still shooting and video recording. The internal focus system also maintains the compact length of the lens during focus and does not rotate the front element. A uniquely designed 9-blade system creates a circular aperture which helps to create pleasing out-of-focus highlights.

The compact design of this lens is a great match for the compact E-Mount cameras and its robust build with dust and moisture resistant seals enable it to be used in less than optimal conditions. It is compatible with Sony’s Ultra-wide and Fisheye converter lenses for even wider perspectives.

Wide-Angle Prime Lens for Full-Frame E-Mount Cameras
This 28mm prime lens is designed for full-frame format E-Mount mirrorless cameras and is also compatible with the APS-C format cameras on which it provides the 35mm focal length equivalent of a 42mm lens. Its f/2 maximum aperture is effective in low light and enables shallow depth of field control.

Optical Design
Aspherical and Advanced Aspherical lens elements reduce spherical aberration and multi-coated Extra-low Dispersion glass elements minimize chromatic aberration and reduce ghosting and flare for sharper images with more contrast.

Internal Focus and Linear Actuator Autofocus Mechanism
Only the middle groups of the optical system move to achieve focus, so the overall length of the lens does not change. Other important benefits include fast autofocusing and a short minimum focusing distance. Also, the filter thread at the front of the lens does not rotate, which is convenient if you’re using a polarizing filter. The linear actuator AF system provides smooth and quiet AF action.

Circular Aperture
A unique 9-blade design keeps the aperture almost perfectly circular. Smoother, more natural out-of-focus highlights can be obtained as a result.

Compact, Robust Form Factor At less than 2.5″ long, this 28mm lens is a ideal companion for mirrorless E-Mount cameras and its dust and moisture resistant seals allow it to be used in less than ideal conditions.

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The Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens – $1,098

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I will make a prediction that this will be a stellar macro lens. A 90mm, which is perfect for Macro along with a nice design and build. Expensive but this guy should be gorgeous in performance. No hands on yet, but hope to soon. Pre-Order it HERE.

Official word from Sony:

Get up close and personal with the 1:1 magnification ratio of the full-frame compatible FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens for Sony’s E-Mount mirrorless cameras. Optimized for macro shooting, this medium telephoto lens utilizes an aspherical element along with extra-low dispersion and super extra-low dispersion glass in order to create sharp imagery with minimal aberration. Also, it has a Nano AR Coating that suppresses reflections and allows for efficient light transmission for clear photographs.

Its maximum aperture of f/2.8 is effective when shooting in low light and allows for shallow depth-of-field focus. An internal focus system in which only the middle optical groups move when focusing provides fast autofocus action and a short minimum focus distance of 11″. Also, the lens does not extend when focusing and the front end does not rotate. The Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF motor employs piezoelectric elements oscillating at ultrasonic frequencies to drive the focus lens with accuracy and near-silence. The focus ring slides back and forth to select manual or auto focus and with a focus hold button and focus limiter switch, the lens offers precise control of where you place focus.

An optical image stabilization system uses gyro sensors to detect camera movement and quiet linear motors to shift the stabilization lens for blur control that is very helpful when shooting macro and/or in low light. Nine circular aperture blades create a unique diaphragm design that is almost perfectly circular throughout its aperture range and thus helps to create pleasing out-of-focus highlights. Finally, a handsome and sturdy build with a dust and moisture resistant design contributes to the overall quality and durability of this fine optic.

Full-Frame E-Mount Telephoto Macro Lens
A 90mm prime telephoto lens with 1:1 macro capability, it provides an f/2.8 maximum aperture for low light effectiveness and shallow depth of field control. Compatible with full-frame E-Mount cameras, it can also be used on APS-C E-Mount cameras with an angle of view equivalent to a 135mm lens in the 35mm/full-frame format.

Internal Focusing
Only the middle groups of the optical system move to achieve focus, so the overall length of the lens does not change. Other important benefits include fast autofocus and a short minimum focusing distance. Also, the filter thread at the front of the lens does not rotate, which is convenient if you’re using a polarizing filter.

Focus Hold Button
Once you’ve adjusted focus to where you want it, pressing this button on the lens barrel will keep the lens locked to that focusing distance. The preview function can also be assigned to this button through the camera’s custom settings.

Focus Range Limiter
This function allows you to set a limit on the focusing range which can save you time during AF operation as the lens will not ‘hunt’ through the entire focusing range. On this macro lens, three ranges are supported: Full, infinity to 19.7″ and 11″ to 19.7″.

Sliding Focus Ring
The focus ring slides back and forth to select manual or auto focus.

Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF Motor
Quiet, precise DDSSM focus drive employs piezoelectric elements oscillating at ultrasonic frequencies to drive the focus lens groups. In this case two floating focus groups are driven by independent DDSSM systems for precision positioning of the relatively heavy lenses required for macro photography. The system is remarkably quiet, making it ideal for animal and insect photography, as well as for video recording. It also improves the precision of “focus wobble” employed to achieve optimum focus when shooting movies.

Lens-Based Optical Image Stabilization
Gyro sensors built into the lens detect even the slightest movement, and the stabilization lens is precisely shifted to counteract any image blur that might occur. The use of precision, quiet linear motors and technology inherited from high-end Sony professional camcorders results in exceptionally quiet, effective image stabilization that contributes to high-quality movies as well as stills.

Aspherical Lens Elements
Aspherical lens design dramatically reduces spherical aberration while also reducing lens size and weight. Specially shaped aspherical elements near the diaphragm restore alignment of light rays at the image plane, maintaining high sharpness and contrast even at maximum aperture and can also be used at other points in the optical path to reduce distortion.

ED and Super ED Glass
Extra-low Dispersion and Super Extra-low Dispersion glass elements reduce chromatic aberration for sharp, color-accurate images.

Nano AR Coating
Effectively suppress reflections that can cause flare and ghosting with Sony’s original Nano AR Coating technology. This nano-structure allows accurate light transmission, contributing to high-quality images, even more so than lenses with coatings that use an irregular nano-structure. The reflection suppression characteristic of the Nano AR Coating is superior to conventional anti-reflective coatings, providing a notable improvement in clarity, contrast, and overall image quality.

Circular Aperture
When changing your aperture to defocus the background, the light sources appear blurred. This ‘bokeh’ effect of the blurred background can be enhanced with circular aperture blades used in this lens. Its unique design keeps the aperture almost perfectly circular from its wide-open setting to when it is closed by 2 stops. Smoother, more natural defocusing can be obtained as a result.

Dust and Moisture Resistant Design
A solid and handsome design is complemented with dust and moisture resistant sealing enabling this lens to be used in the field as well as in-studio.

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The Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens – $998

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This looks like it will have quite a few fans as an all purpose  superzoom. To those who like a full on zoom packed with wide reach, this one may do the trick. At $998 and with OSS, this one could be a great buy for that ONE LENS and done crowd. Pre-order it HERE.

Official word from Sony:

The FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens from Sony is a full-frame compatible E-Mount telephoto zoom lens with the versatility to stretch from true wide-angle to super telephoto perspectives. Its advanced optical design includes 5 aspherical elements and 1 ED glass element, achieving high-quality performance with reduced chromatic and spherical aberrations in a compact design. Optical SteadyShot image stabilization facilitates sharper imaging in low light situations and when shooting at long telephoto lengths.

An internal focus system means that only the central optical elements move during focus which enables faster autofocus and a shorter minimum focus distance. Also, the lens does not extend during focus and the front element does not rotate which is more practical, especially if using a polarizer filter. A linear AF motor drive also helps to achieve fast autofocus and a circular 7-blade aperture helps to create smooth and pleasing out-of-focus highlights. Like all other FE lenses, the physical design is dust and moisture resistant.

Full-Frame E-Mount Telephoto Zoom Lens
Designed for Sony full-frame E-Mount mirrorless cameras, this lens provides a versatile 24-240mm focal length range. When used on APS-C format E-Mount cameras the lens provides the 35mm focal length equivalent of a 36-360mm lens.

Optical Image Stabilization
Optical SteadyShot image stabilization reduces the blur that accompanies camera shake when shooting in low light or at long telephoto lengths.

Internal Focus System and Linear Motor Drive
An internal focus system with a linear motor drive provide fast and precise autofocus as well as maintaining the length of the lens during focus. The lens’ front elements do not rotate during focusing, which is convenient when shooting with certain filters and lens hoods.

Optical Design
Five aspherical lens elements and one Extra-low Dispersion glass element control chromatic and spherical aberrations leading to sharp, high-contrast, color-accurate images.

Robust and Compact Build
At just 4.75″, this is a very compact lens for such a broad focal length range and its dust and moisture resistant design allow you to confidently use this lens in inclement weather and less than ideal conditions.

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The Sony-Zeiss Distagon 35 1.4 FE Lens – $1598

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If you did not see my full hands on first report with this beauty, take a look HERE. It is a beautiful lens. In fact, for IQ, the best 35mm I have ever used (and I also have the Loxia on hand). Expensive at $1598, large for a mirrorless prime, but man..what a gorgeous lens. Nice solid build, not too heavy, and a gorgeous rendering. See my report HERE. All details are there!

 

Feb 272015
 

The Moose That Got Away

by R.Luther

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(From Steve: This is a cool little post from Site Sponsor, rluther.com. He makes amazing little buttons to add to your mirrorless cameras for improved tactile feel and control. I have a set on my Sony A7s and A7II, love them. You can see more at his website HERE.)

Okay, it really wasn’t a Moose! It’s just that when you grow-up in a large city, (in this case Pittsburgh) ya think of all large four-legged animals with antlers pokin’ out of their heads as a “Moose”. It was probably a large elk. A really, really big Elk. We’ll get back to this mammoth mammal in a moment. But… Here’s how this true story really begins.

Sometime in February, 2012 I spotted in a photo magazine what I’ve been dreaming of my entire photographic life. Sony, in their divine, creative engineering wisdom, was offering a camera that I was sure I could not live without. A very small, twenty-four megapixel, Tri-nav….yada, yada The “Sony NEX-7 24.3 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera”.

The links below compelled me to lose touch with my normally prudent senses.

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/23/the-sony-nex-7-digital-camera-review-by-steve-huff/
http://www.cnet.com/products/sony-alpha-nex-7/

The Cactus

Next, came the very unpleasant task of convincing “the wife” that there’s a big difference between our definition of “need” and “want”. I would surely rather sit naked on a cactus! Persistence is key in these matters! After creating a solid week of sound arguments (mostly bullshit), I could tell that she was tiring. Persistence! Finally she gave in, but made it quite clear that all of my Nikon gear had to be “sacrificed” on Craigslist ASAP! What could I do? That’s right, I offered my Nikon D300 and all lenses on the www. I guess I under priced this equipment, because within a week or so I had more than enough funds for my new “dream camera”.

Then the floods came

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/20/sony-nex-7-majorly-delayed-due-to-flood/

The wrath of Mother Nature decided to super-soak Thailand and brought the Sony NEX production to an unexpected screeching halt. My disappointment was painful. Sometimes “bad” news can be good news in disguise and this delay actually turned out to be “a good thing”. While anxiously awaiting Amazon’s pre-order announcement, I began reading everything I could about Sony’s new offering. It soon became very obvious that they (Sony) weren’t thinking very hard or clearly when it came to the placement of the “Record” button. This “flaw” was reported by everyone everywhere.

An opportunity was revealed

This nuisance button placement needed a solution and re-ignited my dormant entrepreneurial spirit. It took a few drinks, a few days, and dozens of sketches, but voila, I felt good enough about my design/solution to begin production. “The Guard” was born! It was/is a success! Luck counts too. http://www.rluther.com/

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Finally

On Monday Sept 12, 2012 Amazon notifies me that they have a few NEX-7 bodies available and within two minutes my finger was pressing the “Buy Now With 1-Click” button. (Prime/No Shipping) for $1199.99. Now I’ll be happy! Within a few long days I ordered 3 “E” lenses. Even my wife thought that it was the coolest little camera she had ever seen. It’s all good.

I love that truck!

We live on an acre of high plains property in New Mexico and our neighbors are sparse. I mention this because it helps explain how the faint sound of a strangely colored truck could be heard miles away. To be fair, you need to know that the “Track Package” feature at the “Your Orders” page at Amazon gave me a “heads/ears-up”. Ya just gotta love that Jeff Bezos!
Robert, my UPS driver was grinning as broadly as I was when he pulled his beautiful “Toy Truck” (my wife calls it “Rick’s Toy Truck”) on to our property. I think they may be on to me. It was like Christmas morning! It was here!

Getting acquainted

It didn’t take long to not read the manual and installing the “Guard” was just as easy as I had been telling our customers. (note: I borrowed a NEX from a friend of mine that worked at Best Buy to develop the Guard). Before the sun settled on the horizon, I managed to take the obligatory 150+ pics of our four cats, 55 lawn furniture pics, & 88 sunsets. I believed I was ready.

Vacation time

On Sunday 6-24-12, after loading-up our Jeep Liberty with probably 72% of everything we own, (I’m not sure why, but my wife has this “disorder” that results in her thinking that when we take a vacation, we are permanently relocating. Very peculiar!) we headed North. Our destination was a time-share resort in Estes Park, Colorado. Very nice! We settled in and rested-up for the hiking we would do the next day.

 

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The beast and the buttons

It’s just my opinion, but I think that cameras & hiking get along better than most any married couple that I’ve ever met. I’m just sayin’! The forest trails in Estes Park were almost as beautiful as my new NEX-7 but much more challenging. We hiked for hours when I heard something that sounded like it might be a lot larger than us and I quickly, but cautiously turned to see a monster of a Moose (Elk). It really was very probably the largest animal I ever made eye-contact with. Regaining my composure, I reached for the almost new camera and decided to use the attached lens, a 55mm f3.5-5.6. As I was getting the camera ready for the “shot of a lifetime”, I realized the “flush” setting buttons didn’t allow the quick access I needed for “the perfect shot”. The f@#$* setting buttons were “hiding” from me! The big beast patiently looked at me as if he knew he would have to pose a bit longer, but as I struggled with the “invisible” buttons he decided that he had lost patience with me and my new NEX, and wandered off leaving me with only an unbelievable mega-Moose (Elk) story to tell. Without the photographic evidence, no one was ever going to believe me. Damn!

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We hiked awhile as I cursed the stupid buttons.

On the way back to the condo I decided that subtle modifications could be made to my “baby” that would very likely preclude ever missing “the Moose shot of a lifetime”.

Goodwill, a manicure set & some toothpaste

Since we were staying in CO. for another week or so, I thought I’d put on my designer/entrepreneur hat once again and started drinking, thinking and sketching. I’m a big fan of all the used stuff at Goodwill and decided that would be the best place to begin. It was just down the road. Rummaging through a bunch of small junk, raw materials appeared that could be “whittled on” to produce my first, second, and third prototype. A bit of toothpaste and a hairdryer and Voila the four not so shiny buttons came to life. They looked like crap but added the tactile feel that I was looking for and needed to “find” the buttons. YES! My “missing the Moose” days were over and another simple but clever product began its infancy.

Home sweet home
Time to go to work. Taking some of the “Guard” profits, I ordered some materials for final button prototypes. After considering every conceivable material, I decided CRES (stainless-steel) would be the best choice. The production of these flawless buttons wasn’t as easy as you might think and I won’t bore you with details, but here are a few photos to illustrate some of the difficulties:

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See the finished product at http://www.rluther.com

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I love that Moose! …. The End

Feb 192015
 

Crazy Comparison!

Olympus E-M1 with 40-150 f/2.8 vs Sony A7s with 70-200 f/4

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Many have asked for this as well as a Olympus/Sony/Fuji crazy comparison so I will start this one off with a Olympus vs Sony JUST FOR FUN Crazy Comparison! I will be using the E-M1 and the Sony A7s because the E-M1 is the flagship from Olympus and the Sony A7s is closest to the Megapixel count of the E-M1 as well as Sony’s “flagship” A7 series product. If I used the A7II it would have been an 8MP difference vs the 4 MP difference of the A7s and E-M1.

The two lenses used will be the Pro Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 which is a fantastic lens that gives an equivalent of 80-300mm with the light gathering of an f/2.8 lens. The Sony 70-200 f/4 has a constant f/4 aperture yet it is the larger lens with the Olympus being a bit smaller. They are the same price coming in at a cool $1500. The Olympus is weather sealed and has a great integrated slide out hood included.

Next week I will do another more involved comparison, probably my most extensive to date using the Fuji X-T1, Olympus E-M1 and Sony A7s or A7II.

For now, I will keep it simple with two shots. What i am looking for is sharpness, color performance, and overall pop of the shot. Just how much difference will there be using a flagship Micro 4/3 camera and lens vs a killer full frame A7s and premium telephoto?

1st up, a simple shot for detail and color and bokeh…

A simple tree shot to show detail, color and bokeh. 1st up, the Olympus shot. If you right-click and choose “open in new window” you will see the full size image where you can pixel peep to you hearts content. I love the color, sharpness and pop. The bokeh is quite nice as well. Used the 40-150 f/2.8 Zoom at 2.8. On my 27″ screen this image has some real POP and detail.

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Same shot as above but resized with a full 100% crop embedded. To those who can’t see the full size shot for some reason, you can see the crop here. 

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Now the Sony A7s, same shot. 70-200 Lens at f/4. The color is a bit dull in comparison to the Olympus as is the pop. Bokeh is a tad smoother though neither is bad. I love both in this regard. The Olympus is sharper and the edges are sharper as well with the E-M1 file. A tad more shallow DOF due to focal length differences. (True vs Equiv)

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For those who can not see the full size shot above see the same image below resized with a full 100% crop embedded..

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So from what I see here, the Olympus lens and E-M1 combo produce a more exciting image here. More pop, more detail and more OOMPH! You can see the color differences here easily. As for Bokeh/DOF, f/2.8 on the E-M1 is about the same as the f/4 – f/5.6 on the full frame Sony with a tad more blur going to the Sony (for DOF only). This is a true 40mm vs an 80mm here, so this is why. With the Olympus you are getting a TRUE 40mm f/2.8 and with the Sony a TRUE 80mm f/4. Longer focal length = less (more shallow) DOF.  With the Olympus you are indeed getting TRUE f/2.8 light gathering and 40mm (not 80mm) f/2.8 DOF with an 80mm FIELD OF VIEW.

Let’s try one more image …here you can see the DOF differences with the A7s giving you a more shallow DOF at f/4 than the Olympus will give you at f/2.8. For many, they would take the sharper image and larger DOF of the E-M1 over the less detailed and more shallow DOF of the Sony. The same goes for the other way around..many would choose the creamier Sony version over the more sharp Olympus version.

Interesting to see that at 40mm (80 Equivalent on full frame) and at f/2.8 the Olympus E-M1 is bitingly sharp with more depth of field than the Sony file at 80mm and f/4. This is because the Olympus is actually shooting at 40mm, which will always give you more depth of field (less blur) as it is a wider lens. If I plopped the amazing 75 1.8 on the E-M1 and shot at f/4 we would get the same Bokeh as we do from the Sony at f/4 but we would have a 150mm equivalent focal length. It’s all about the lens focal length so even though we are testing a 40mm vs a 80mm, the Olympus 40mm turns into a 80mm for magnification but retains the Bokeh of a 40mm lens. So this is indeed a true 40mm f/2.8 shot for light gathering and bokeh. But we have an 80mm magnification. Understand? Hope so because many do not and get this so wrong. 

The E-M1

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The Sony A7s image at 80mm and f/4 gives us a more shallow DOF as we are truly shooting an 80mm lens. So more blur and a more “organic” looking image. If I shot the Olympus image with the 42 1.2 Nocticron it would offer even more shallow DOF than the Sony image below and be sharper. So again, it all comes down to lens and what we see here is a 40mm f/2.8 lens vs an 80mm f/4 lens and while the magnification appears similar (because it is) the DOF will always be different. For some, shooting full frame is more of a challenge due to the shallow DOF. 

UPDATE: This is the CORRECT Sony image with CORRECT focus. Thank you.

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So at the end of the day I own both of these cameras. My Sony comes out when I want ultra creamy shallow DOF or when I want to shoot with Leica M glass. The Olympus comes out when I want to do video (love my 8mm and 12mm primes with 5 axis video) and use a telephoto or use a special prime such as the Nocticron or Voigtlander 25 0.95 or my 8mm Fisheye..or when I want to do night long exposures or will shoot in adverse weather.

There is no winner here, but there can be a “preference”. What is yours?

More Sharpness with more depth of field (Olympus) or a more creamy shallow DOF look (Sony)? BOTH lenses are around $1500 and having both here side by side I can say with confidence that the Olympus 40-150 f/2.87 is technically the better lens. It is better built, weather sealed, has an amazing pull out hood attached and is probably the best lens made for Micro 4/3 (though my fave is still the Nocticron) as well as giving you the light gathering of an f/2.8 lens, fast and accurate focusing and amazing IQ. The Sony is larger, white for some reason, and f/4 but made for full frame and has OIS built in. Both are $1500. Same price. I own both systems..if I were to buy a lens of this type it would hands down be the Olympus 40-150 over the Sony.

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See the Sony 70-200 at B&H Photo HERE. 

See the Olympus 40-150 at B&H Photo HERE.

Also, For those who say the E-M1 can’t do high ISO, here is a quick snap at night using the Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 6400 with no noise reduction at all. Click it for larger. Usually 6400 is my max with the E-M1 though I have used 10k ISO images. With the A7s, my cut off is 80K ISO ;) Yes, the A7s is the king of high ISO without question and the Micro 4/3 system can not even get close to what it can do at ultra high ISO.

But at 6400, the E-M1 retains color, sharpness and the files look great. Its all about exposure and NOT using noise reduction…

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…and an ISO 10,000 shot from the E-M1 without any NR..stays sharp as can be, even at f/1.2…

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…and just for fun, a bokeh shot with the 12mm f/2  – Olympus

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Jan 302015
 

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The Sony-Zeiss 16-35 F/4 OSS Lens Quick Review

By Steve Huff

A few weeks ago Sony sent me the 16-35 F/4 Zeiss OSS lens to review and seeing that I rarely shoot wider than 35mm, I knew it would be a while before I could really evaluate the lens. I do not get a review item and go on the street, take 10-20 snaps and come in and write a review. I prefer to USE the gear I review for a few weeks as this way it feels like I own it. This is why when I started this site seven years ago I called my reviews “Real World reviews” as they are written by a real guy who really loves and is passionate about photography AND I despise technical tests with charts and nonsense. Testing with charts personally tells me nothing about a camera or lens, but the results and photos do, and for me, THAT is what matters.

So by really using the gear over an extended time, I can see what my feelings are on longer term use which is always good because if the lens or camera ended up sitting on my shelf most of the time instead of being used, then it would not be so good :)

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With the Sony 16-35 that did not happen. I used it any time I could and evaluated it on the A7s and A7II. For me, Lens reviews are pretty easy to write as I will just be sitting here to tell you about my experiences with the lens and how I feel it compares to other wide-angle lenses I have shot with. I will share most of the images I snapped while using it as well so you get an idea of the IQ from the lens. You will not see resolution tests as this does not matter. As I said above, the photos and results matter and tell me MUCH more than any resolution chart ever will.

To make a long story short, the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 is a hell of a lens for your A7 system. If you shoot wide-angle and LOVE the 16mm-35mm focal lengths…this is about as good as it gets for the A7 series, or any system for that matter.

These three were all shot on the A7s – A&s review is HERE

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Long ago I shot with a D700 and 14-24 Nikon lens. Even back then, not being a really wide-angle guy I was unsure about the lens purchase but with the raves coming in for it back then I knew it was a masterpiece..and it was. While it was large with a huge bulbous front piece the image quality was stunning and that combo of D700 and 14-24 had some magic going on with it. That lens brings back very fond memories of a unique time in life. As I go over the old photos I see my son, much younger..I see where I lived, as well as the fun me and him had with that wide-angle lens,  and I start to remember that just maybe…I AM a wide-angle guy! (just a little).

I always tell myself that I am a 35 and 50mm shooter as that is what I love to shoot with most of the time but there is a beauty to be seen with certain wide-angle lenses and the word at 16mm or even 21mm can be pretty cool. I still feel I am not skilled enough to pull off masterful shots with an ultra wide but with time, patience and passion I think I can get there. The Sony 16-35 may be the lens to push me in that direction as it is a stellar lens for image quality, flare control and distortion control.

While very large (and this I do not like) for a mirrorless system, I can not fault the lens quality or feel. It’s sharp, provides color that is bold and behaves like an ultra wide should. I have used the manual Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 on many occasions over the past 4-5 years but on most of the Sony full frame bodies (A7, A7r, A7II) it suffers from color issues and massive vignetting. On the A7s, it works much better as do most wide-angle M mount lenses. But with the Soy 16-35 there are no problems..though the lens is about 10X larger than the tiny 15mm Voigtlander ;)

There are shots with this lens in my A7II review as well..

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Impressive. The shots below were shot directly into the sun and NO FLARE. This lens has outstanding flare control. 

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The Info:

Here is the lowdown on the lens from Sony:

“With a dust and moisture resistant design, the compact and lightweight Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens covers your wide-angle zoom needs and is designed for full-frame FE-mount cameras but can also be used on APS-C E-mount cameras as well. A constant f/4 maximum aperture offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range. Benefiting working in dim light is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which serves to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed steps.

The optical construction incorporates five aspherical elements, including a large diameter AA (advanced aspherical) element, and three ED (extra-low dispersion) elements to help reduce chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range as well as contribute to a compact overall form-factor. A Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating has been applied to the lens elements to minimize lens flare and ghosting while providing enhanced contrast, clarity, and color fidelity.”

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The lens is well made, and when I look over the images captured with it I see rich color, medium to high contrast and share details. There are no weird issues with the lens and the AF is fast and accurate as can be on the A7s and A7II. For video, this lens is also quite fabulous and with the A7II, the 5 AXIS really makes your video appear smooth as butter.

Usually my lens reviews are short, sweet and to the point and with the Sony 16-35 I really found nothing I disliked about the lens besides the larger size, so this review will be low on words and heavy on the images captured with the lens. The IQ, for me, beat the Leica Wide Angle Tri Elmar (When used on the A7s and A7II) which is a VERY expensive lens at 3X the cost. The Zeiss lens is larger but not so heavy and if I were a wide-angle guy this would be the wide-angle lens of choice for my A7 system, hands down. For Sony owners who love and adore ultra wide to wide, this could be your perfect lens in one simple zoom.

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How about the slow f/4 Aperture? Does this pose a problem in real world use?

In a word, NO, not at all. With the excellent higher ISO performance of these Sony cameras the f/4 aperture never ever was a hindrance. In fact, for wide-angle zooms I do not feel f/2.8 is needed at all (when you have camera tech as it is today). Look at the Leica Wide Angle Tri Elmar..VERY expensive but it is an f/4 lens as well yet considered one of the best wide-angle lenses you can get (when used on a Leica M). It has a huge cult like following and even on a Leica, the f/4 aperture was never an issue due to the fact that with ultra wides, fast apertures are not needed.

Also, at f/4, this lens is sharp and has the quality one would expect for a stopped down lens. So shooting wide open is not a problem AT ALL with the 16-35. This means that there are basically no limitations on what aperture you can shoot with the lens. It will reward you with the same consistent quality throughout the range.

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The lens also has optical steady shot inside which Sony says will give you a 4 stop advantage, and is another reason it is on the large side. When using it on the A7II you can choose if you want to use the 5 Axis in the camera or the OSS in the lens. I choose the 5 Axis in the body when I use it on the A7II.

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My Conclusion on this mega short review?

With lenses there is not much I can say or ramble on about if the lens performs exceptionally well, and this lens performs about as good as I expected, if not better. For the A7 system it will provide problem free wide-angle shooting and while it will not have the character of something like a mega exotic Leica 21 Summilux, it will give you sharp, consistent, bold color and a clean image. Seriously guys, one of the best wide-angle zooms I have ever tried or used, up there with the Nikon 14-24! At $1,398 the lens is NOT cheap but when we look at other full frame lenses like this for other systems, this one comes in well below the others. This is mainly due to the slower f/4 aperture but as I said, f/2.8 is not really needed for a lens like this, especially on the A7 system.

If I had to give a score, I would give the Sony-Zeiss 16-35 f/4 a 95% –  HIGHLY Recommended. Just a few points taken off only for the large size (I feel they could have made it smaller, which would have made it PERFECT) but optically it is wonderful. 

Where to Buy?

You can buy the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4 Lens at B&H Photo or Amazon Below:

B&H Photo 16-35 Page

Amazon 16-35 Page

More images below. All EXIF is embedded and images are a mix from the A7II and A7s. Click any image for a larger size. 

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