Oct 202014
 

Which is Which? Leica Monochrome vs Sony A6000

UPDATE: #1 is the A6000 and #2 is the Monochrome! You guys got it right, (most of you)!

Have not done one of these in a while and I always get asked to do these crazy comparisons so here we go. Which is which?

ONE image was taken with a Sony A6000 and one with a Leica Monochrome. Not going to say what lenses were used with each but let’s do a fun poll to see who can guess it right.

So seeing that the Leica is an $8000 camera vs the Sony at $648 pick which one you feel is from the Leica. EXIF has been stripped. 

IMAGE 1

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IMAGE 2

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If you are unsure which is from which camera, then just take your best guess. :)

UPDATE: Sony is #1 and Leica is #2!

Oct 132014
 

My First time with Zeiss

by Toni Ahvenainen – His blog is HERE
About eight months ago I started my Sony Alpha related photography project called ‘ Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography‘. The aim of my project was to find my inspiration again for photography and gain better understanding of my own photographic eye. On top of that I decided to set up a photo blog, where I would share my images at least two images per week and hoped it would gain some interest plus convoy inspiration to other photographers like me. Right from the start I got lucky and my site had much more traffic than I ever believed would be possible. Because of this the project turned into something that has given me a lot of inspiration and energy, not only for photography, but for life in general. It is also partial reason why I am doing this story here today.

As I have already introduced my photography project here before and with greater length I won’t go anymore into details. You can find the earlier story about my project here.

Because of my photography project and the way it had drawn attention in social media circles, an unexpected opportunity came to me: Zeiss was willing to support my photography project and they would let me use two lenses from their Touit line up. If you haven’t yet become acquainted with the Touit line up before, it is the new family of Zeiss lenses which are targeted to mirrorless system cameras (Sony E-mount & Fuji X-mount). All the lenses have full autofocus capabilities and they represent a modern Zeiss design with black matte finish and more contemporary look – but most importantly they convoy the famous Zeiss optical quality for mirrorless system cameras.

So, at one Friday afternoon, after UPS delivery had brought me a parcel which I had opened with child-like enthusiasm, I had two Zeiss lenses in my hands that in real life would be very much out of my reach: Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. I had of course read about the famous Zeiss from countless photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. Like for many other photographers the most exciting lenses and their magical qualities were always something I could just see through a store display window. And while the Touit is not exactly an Otus (optically the most advanced DSLR lenses currently available, also build by Zeiss), for my photography it was a unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. For return favor I would need to tell story of my experience with the Zeiss lenses.

Like any true and committed photography enthusiast, I was very interested to see how these lenses would affect my photography. What will be my first impressions? How will they fit into my shooting habits? How I will be using these lenses? What kind of optical qualities will they have and will I be able to find the famous ‘Zeiss look’, described with terms like Zeiss contrast, punchy colors and 3D-pop? In short, what will be my first time experience with Zeiss?

I will be exploring these and other questions as well for 10 weeks in my photo blog. The Zeiss lenses will accompany me with a theme called ‘Season of Touit’. With this theme I will move away from the standard focal lengths that I’ve used thorough the year so far and concentrate doing ultra wide and close-up photography which are, regarding the perception of the depth, kind of extreme ends. If you are interested, you are most welcome to follow my story through this season. Later on I will do a more complete story about my findings right here at the Steve Huff’s website where it will surely find the most friendly and kind audience one could ever hope. (Thanks for the opportunity, Steve!)

To give you some insight right now, I can already say I’m very impressed by colors and contrast the Zeiss Touit lenses convoy. At the first day, right after I had opened the parcels, I did a short photo walk and immediately noticed that the images looked a bit different from my cameras lcd. Maybe more vibrant and subtle regarding the overall look. Am I imagine things, is this just the placebo effect, I thought to myself. Even at home, looking pictures from computer screen, I felt certain anxiety because the pictures looked different and better, but felt that I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference to myself. After using these lenses for about a month, I honestly feel they have trained my eyes for better understanding of how good optics will affect the contrast and colors.

I’ll show couple of examples here taken with Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. Everything you see here has been post processed with my own regular methods and with a help of VSCO film pack 4. While the pictures in this state doesn’t offer a neutral starting point, if there even exist one, for detailed analysis of Zeiss look, they however represent the great results I’ve been able achieve with these lenses – and which I think are extraordinary regarding color & contrast. In future article I might also present images that will be better suitable for detailed analysis, if I find meaningful ways to do it.

Thank for reading my story and if interested you can follow it at: www.yearofthealpha.com. Also remember that within five or six weeks I’m going to do a longer story which I’m going to share right here at the Steve Huff’s website.

Toni Ahvenainen


Snap from the street – Didn’t do much of post processing with this snap, but immediately thought that nothing from my camera has looked so good before regarding colors & contrast. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO100, f/6.3, 1/400sec, raw)

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The Great Divide – Touit 2.8/50M doubles as a macro lens and let’s one approach the wonders of the macro world. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO250, f/10, 1/80sec, raw)

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Simple landscape – I just love how easy it to get great clarity and contrast with these Zeiss lenses. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO100, f/4.5, 1/200, raw)

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Unusual church ceiling – Relatively fast wide-angle lens like Touit 2.8/12 offers certain freedom in dim lighted interiors like churches. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO400, f/2.8, 1/25sec, raw)

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From Steve: Thanks Toni! If anyone would like to submit a user report or guest article, just click here for details!

Sep 152014
 

SAMSUNG CSC

Black & White with the Sony A7s, Leica Monochrom and Cheap lenses!

There is a beauty to B&W that is oftentimes not seen in color. Sure, there is place for color photography as our own vision is in color, this is how we see but there is something classic about B&W that just pulls at the heartstrings for many of us. When I was growing up the big thing was Polaroid cameras and instant film. Even 110 cameras and those silly disc cameras with disc film were in. There was NOTHING quite like what we have today and photography, while well-loved by so many back then, was not practiced nearly as much as it is today.

The Sony A7s with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. For ANY Leica Monochrome or Sony A7s shooter, his lens is a MUST own. It does well on color on the A7s as well. One of my faves. At $599 shipped, you can not go wrong for those times when you want wide-angle on your full frame. 

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With so many color filled images on Facebook and in all of the social circles I have become quite fond of pure, simple B&W photography.

Yesterday I went out to shoot some portraits of my (soon to be) stepdaughter Katie. I brought along my Monochrom, a Sony A7s and even a Mamiya 645 with Leaf Credo 40 back (have it for testing now) and the HoldFast Money Maker and Roamographer bag I just reviewed. I have to say, this Sony A7s just keeps on impressing the hell out of me. Seriously. It seems there is NOTHING it can  not do. From ultra low light to super bright light. From rich color to pleasing B&W. From using Sony FE lenses to using Leica mount lenses. It just seems to do it all, very well. I won’t even get into the video aspect, which is its main feature.

Even the 85mm f/2 Jupiter 9 that I paid $80 for is a fun lens. This is another Russian Leica screw mount lens and while it is a bit soft wide open it is well worth the cost for when you want a soft look. Sony A7s.

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For me, so far, the Sony A7s has been the best camera release of the year. Even with all of the new stuff at Photokina, so far, nothing has gotten me more than the A7s in 2014. I was shooting it yesterday with a $30 Jupiter 8 lens I picked up locally, which is a Russian Leica Screw mount 50 f/2. Yes, $30. How can ANY $30 lens be any good? Well, it may not be anything like a Leica or Zeiss 50 but it has its charms for sure.

Below is an image I shot with the A7s and Jupiter 8 lens, wide open at f/2. For $30 it can render a beautiful soft image. This was shot on the Sony A7s.

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As I mentioned earlier, I also brought along the Leica Monochrom, which for me is an instant classic. I feel Leica will release a new Monochrome in a year or two based on the M240 or whatever the next M will be. If they do, it will not be like the current monochrome due to the CCD sensor. Again, as with the M9 vs M 240, there will be fans of each model. The Monochrom has something about it that makes you just want to use it, shoot it and LOVE it. Is it worth $8,000? No. But it is a wonderful camera to own and use and it has results that can be superb, depending on the lenses you use with it.

The Leica Monochrom with Voigtlander 15 (cropped)

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The MM is simple in its design, it is an M after all. It has simple menus, basic settings, and is small yet very sturdy and solid. Many scoff at buying a camera that can only do B&W but if you love pure and true B&W imaging and have a true passion for it, there is no other alternative. For me it is like having a Leica film camera loaded with every B&W film type on the market and then some. You can dial in any look you want from Tri-X to Neopan to Delta.

The Leica MM with the Voigtlander 15 – cropped

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So how much difference is there between a file from the Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom when both are done in B&W? Well, the Monochrom will have much more fine detail for super large prints and a more subtle shift of grey tones throughout but the A7s is also very nice with B&W imaging. For the images here I used VSCO filters for ALL of the images so they will all have a similar signature and look. Without those filters the differences are more pronounced with the Monochrom giving a deeper range of grey tones to the image. But I have to hand it to the A7s. It rocks with color or B&W. Daytime or night use. But I still love my Leica MM! Also, use it with some great lenses and it will really strut its stuff.

You must click on these images to see them correctly and larger/better quality. This one is a full wide image from the MM and 15.

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For this shoot I used not only the Voigtlander and the Russian glass, I also use the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 which is a fantastic lens. Contrasty, sharp even when wide open and has Auto Focus so you do not have to be critical with your eyeball :) Both images below were with the A7s and 55 1.8 lens.

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So while B&W may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love it. For me it pays homage to Photography’s past while also allowing a purity to come through. No white balance to worry about, no color shifts, no problems. Just pure. simple. photography. I would like to thanks my model, Katie Casey for her time and patience with me while I tried to manually focus those old lenses in the 100 degree heat :)

You will notice I did not include any images from the Leaf Credo/Mamiya system. I shot about 20 images with that setup yesterday and it was a BEAST. Heavy, cumbersome, large and loud.

 With that said, here is one from the Leaf setup though the shadow of my head ruined the shot:

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and again, the similar shot with the A7s and $30 Jupiter lens which shows the soft Jupiter signature:

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You can read my full Sony A7s review HERE or buy one HERE at Amazon or at B&H Photo HERE.

You can read my full four-part Leica MM review HERE, see my gallery HERE or buy one at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami or Pro Shop. Also at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Sep 152014
 

Photokina! New mirrorless releases from Canon, Panasonic, Olympus, and more!

Photokina is upon us and today there were loads of cameras and lenses announced today from many of the usual suspects. It seems that Canon and Panasonic are jumping on the Sony RX100 bandwagon but Panasonic did it right by making an RX100 style camera but with a full on 4/3 sensor inside which means this guy will deliver the best quality in a compact camera! So far it is my favorite Photokina release (but that silver E-M1 is gorgeous, making it my #2 fave) but there is more to come. Let’s take a look at the cool stuff being announced today!

PANASONIC

The LX100 Compact powerhouse!

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The LX100 that has been rumored forever is now official. The 1st of the so called RX100 clones (even keeping the 100 name) this one is quite nice and will present a challenge to the Sony pocket cam. Basically this little guy has a Leica/Panasonic 24-70 equivalent f 1.7-2.8 lens, 4K video, solid build, great looks, a built-in EVF and wonderful ergonomics and control. It is easy to see that this one will be popular without question.

Coming in at $899 you can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE.  

I see this as a direct hit to the RX100III but with a larger sensor and LARGER body as well of course.  Wi-Fi, NFC and manual control rings round off this polished looking offering from Panasonic.

Amazon is also taking pre-orders for the LX100.

Even though the LX100 is priced at $899, which may be a little bit high, it is priced appropriately to the RX100III due to the larger sensor. As you can see in the image below of the camera, it is larger than a Sony RX100 but it is still rather compact. This will deliver 4/3 quality in a solid, modern, stylish and usable lens range camera. It has it most of what everyone needs and I see it as a perfect take anywhere, vacation, kids and everyday life camera. With 4K video there is not much this guy can not do (besides long telephoto of course).  An instant winner here IMO and even has ISO up to 25k!

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The Panasonic GM5

Panasonic also released the GM5, a super compact micro 4/3 camera much like the old GM1. From B&H Photo: It features a similar magnesium-alloy body as the GM1, but replaces the pop-up flash with a 1,166k-dot electronic viewfinder, as well as a hot-shoe mount, creating a more full-featured camera system. The GM5 also features a 16-megapixel Digital Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine image processor to produce detailed still images and a heighted sensitivity up to ISO 25600. It is also capable of recording Full HD video at 60 fps.

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The GM5 is a TINY, attractive and useful powerhouse as it is pocketable but also will take any micro 4/3 lens available. If you want SMALL and a TRUE “Micro” 4/3 then be on the lookout for the GM5.

You can pre-order it at B&H Photo for $899 with a 12-32 (24-68) kit lens.

This guy with the 20 1.7 II would make for a great compact camera that would provide beautiful IQ and video.

Amazon also is taking pre-orders for the GM5.

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CANON

The 7D MARK II AND G7X has arrived.

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Canon has released a new 7D Mark II which for me is a YAWN. The 7D is fantastic but as you guys know I am not a DSLR guy. I could fake it and act like I am just to make affiliate sales but hey, I have to be honest. After using cameras such as all of the mirrorless option these days, DSLR’s have become un-necessary. I have done pro work with my Leica’s, with my Sony A7s and with my E-M1 and never did I wish for a DSLR. So yes, Canon released the 7DII but I am going to talk about the G7X which is yet ANOTHER camera from Canon that is 3 years behind the times. It seems that Canon just can not be innovative in the small pocket cam or mirrorless area. They want to keep their DSLR sales strong so they are afraid to release anything revolutionary (like Sony is doing many times per year). Instead they copy others and release little flops like the EOS M. This time it is an RX100 copy in the form of a G7X.

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The G7X comes in at $699 but has a 1″ sensor like the Sony RX100 and Nikon 1 series cameras. Already the Panasonic above beats the Canon for sensor size. The lens has more reach at 24-100 but does not have the “Leica” name attached to it. No 4K video but it does have 1080 video on board. No EVF. BASICALLY IT IS a Sony RX100 in disguise as a Canon. Not really, but for me, nothing exciting. I would pay the $200 more and buy the Panasonic in a NANO second over the Canon.

You can pre-order the Canon G7X here at B&H Photo if you just love Canon :) 

Amazon is also taking pre-orders for the G7X HERE.

OLYMPUS

The new Silver E-M1

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Olympus did not create a new E-M2 powerhouse (and frankly, I am glad they didn’t as the E-M1 is still a massive powerhouse of a camera that is capable of APS-C quality) but they did upgrade the E-M1 firmware with new features as well as release a pimped out version in Silver and black. Many have been asking why they did not originally create the E-M1 in silver like they did with the E-M5 and now Olympus has created it! I have to say, it looks mighty sharp in silver! I am a huge fan of the E-m1 and if for some reason you missed my old review of it you can see it here. 

The new firmware is pre-loaded onto the Silver E-M1 so right out of the box you get all of the new benefits and features. For those who already own an E-M1 there will be a firmware download so you too can benefit from the new features. So what are the new features?

“Features for improved performance include improved EVF display time lag. The display time lag has been reduced to 16 msec when the frame rate has been set to high-speed. New Photo Story themes “Zoom In/Out” and “Layout” have been added. The addition of a hold function has also made it possible to temporarily save a photo story while shooting, and complete it, later. Live Guide makes it possible to layer on multiple effects simultaneously*. Remote shooting features in the OI.Share™ App have been further advanced, with the addition of a self-timer sequential and interval shooting, allowing for rich variations in movement and expression. A new Scene Mode “Panning” allows you to set the optimal shutter speed automatically to match the movements of an object. “Shade” Art Effect inserts bands of shading on the left and right side of the image (or top and bottom) for a sense of wideness. A new Movie Effect “Old Film” turns your videos into flickering images with noise, scratches and dust, for the vintage look of old movies shot on film.”

em1silver2Firmware Upgrade Availability
Firmware Version 2.0 is pre-installed on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 silver model. Existing OM-D E-M1 camera owners can also enjoy the features of this new firmware by upgrading their camera using Olympus Viewer software.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The OM-D E-M1 in Silver will be available in September 2014.
Estimated Street Price: $1,399.99

You can pre-order the Silver E-M1 at B&H Photo HERE

Also at Amazon HERE. This one ships THIS month! PopFlash.com also will have the new silver E-M1! 

The new 40-150 Pro f/2.8 Lens

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Olympus has also finally released the new 40-150 Pro Zoom! This long-awaited zoom lens has been in the works for a long time now and will round out the systems pro zoom category which also includes the new 7-14 f/2.8. The 12-40 is already known to be an amazing zoom lens and now the 40-150 will give you some reach, at the expense of size and $$$. IT IS NOT CHEAP AT $1,499.00 but those who know the quality of Olympus pro glass will know that this is well worth it. For those telephoto shooters out there who own a Micro 4/3 camera, it will not get any better than this. YES this is a 40-150 f/2.8 zoom, bringing you a 80-300 equivalent! NOW THIS is an amazing lens!

You can pre-order the 40-150 f/2.8 pro zoom lens at B&H Photo HERE 

PopFlash.com is also an Olympus dealer, and a site sponsor!

SONY

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Sony has announced today the new wide angle FE mount (full frame E mount) 16-35 f/4 OSS lens, something many have been waiting for. This one will fill your wide angle needs for the A7 system and comes in at $1349.

You can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE.

Amazon is also taking pre-orders HERE!

Wide-range zoom lens designed for full-frame FE-mount cameras

Constant f/4 maximum aperture enables greater consistency throughout the zoom range and benefits working in dim conditions

Features a circular that, through the use of curved blades, keeps the aperture almost perfectly circular from its wide-open setting to when it is closed for smoother, more natural defocusing highlights

Optical SteadyShot image stabilization works to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed steps to benefit shooting handheld in dim lighting

Five aspherical elements, including one AA (advanced aspherical) element, and three ED elements helps to reduce chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range while also maintaining a compact form-factor

Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating enhances contrast, clarity, and color reproduction by countering the effects of lens flare and ghosting

Only the middle groups of the optical system move to achieve focus, so the overall length of the lens does not change when focusing. Also, the filter thread at the front of the lens does not rotate, which is convenient when using a polarizing filter

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So there are my fave releases today. For me Canon was the biggest disappointment. They have the funds and ability to create something extraordinary but they never ever seem to do it. They are happy sticking to their DSLR model. Same with Nikon. Nothing exciting at all from them besides the D750 DSLR. No real innovation from the two “Big Guns”. Sony has been constantly releasing new exciting products, Olympus has been keeping the momentum going with amazing lenses and Leica, well, they have yet to make their full announcements but I think we will hear from them by tomorrow.

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SAMSUNG

oops, I almost forgot the NX1

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Samsung has announced the NX1, their flagship mirrorless coming in at A WHOPPING $2799 with kit lens but that one leaves me scratching my head. The price is out there IMO. I will say that the ‘kit” lens seems more like a pro lens with a 16-50 range and a variable aperture starting out at f/2 and going to f/2.8. Still, $2799 for the set is a bit much I think. It looks like a DSLR, the lens is huge and for the money I would take the fantastic Canon 6D with a 24-105 for the full frame performance. I reviewed the 6D and loved the IQ and usability, just hated the weight with those big L lenses, but the quality is stunning. I am finding it hard to see how Samsung can sell this for $2799 with lens. Seems overpriced to me. It may be a stellar camera but not sure how many will plunk down that kind of cash to SWITCH systems. I think only some the current Samsung base will go for it.

Amazon is also taking pre-orders HERE.

Sep 112014
 

The most Interesting Pre-Photokina Releases so far…to me.

With only a few days to go until Photokina kicks off we have already had some pre announcements from Fuji, Sony, Olympus and others. Nothing MAJOR and nothing WOW but I feel these big announcements will come VERY soon ;) They better! So far we have the below announcements that are somewhat interesting, but nothing ground breaking.

FUJI

As I reported the other day, Fuji has announced the X100T, the new 56 1.2, new X-T1 color/finish and even the X30. The X100T is an ongoing evolution of the X100 series camera and for me, the best Fuji has announced yet (more to come i am sure). Me, call me nuts but I prefer the original X100 even today over the X100s. After using both side by side I feel the sensor in the original is a bit more organic and dare I say..more Leica like? The X100T uses the same sensor as the X100s, which is also a fabulous camera that many swear by (my review is here). The X100 series for me is where it is at for Fuji. While I like the X-T1 a lot, the simplicity and classic lines of the X100 is what gets my blood pumping to shoot. For me, it is about simplicity. Period. Simple, clean, easy to use and shoot, fixed 35 f.2. What more can you ask for besides a full frame sensor? (See Sony RX1 for that). The X100T is available for $1299. Priced right for a super camera system.

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The new X30 is also an evolution of the X10, X20 and appears to be a super little camera as well. New EVF, new told LCD, new Classic Chrome simulation and new Large capacity battery that will give you a powerhouse 470 shots makes it sound like the little X30 may be the bang for the buck in the Fuji lineup. It looks sweet as well, the best X10 type camera to date in the design department I think. The cost is also right at $599. 

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You can pre-order all of the new Fuji from my list of recommended Fuji dealers: B&H Photo, PopFlash.com, or Amazon.

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OLYMPUS

Olympus has some new goodies on the way as well…a few that I can not mention just yet but so far they have announced a minor release or two. For example, one is the all black 12mm f/2. The 12 f/2 has long been one of my fave Olympus lenses but to date they have only released it in Silver and a black limited edition that had some extras but also was extra in the $$ department. Olympus has now released the black for normal production so you can get one for $799. This lens is so good on a Olympus body and has given me some fantastic shots. But the lens is nothing exciting if you are looking for something new and fresh. Let’s wait and see what the official Olympus releases will be as compared to the rumor sites :)

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SONY

Sony has announced a new QX camera, the QX1 which is actually an E-Mount in the size and shape of a lens. Basically it helps to turn your iPhone into a high-end APS-C camera. You can use it as is or with your phone. Me, I was never a fan of these oddball cameras. Many love them but for me, if I am going to have something like this, I think I would just use my phone as it is. I love what Sony is doing with the A and RX series but am not sold on the QX yet. Maybe once I give it a try I will enjoy it :) Coming it at $398 you will also need to add an E-Mount lens to this QX1. It is rumored that Sony will be saving its big WOW announcements for 2-4 months AFTER Photokina. Is there truth to this? NO idea but if so it seems odd as they would miss the Christmas season with those big releases. The last two years were huge for the Sony A7 and RX1 with huge holiday sales at launch. I am anxious to see the rumored new RX2 ;)

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ZEISS

As I posted about last week, Zeiss has announced two new full frame manual lenses for the Sony E-Mount system. The Loxia 35 and 50 f/2 will be superb I think and give Sony A7 users more choices when it comes to a high quality fast prime lens, and Zeiss is a name that means quality. I use Zeiss ZM with my Leica’s and love them. Zeiss also announced the 85mm OTUS which has already been tested by DXO and they claim it is the best portrait lens ever made. Coming in at $4,490 IT IS NOT cheap! But damn, it will venice. The Nikon mount can be converted to use on Leica or Sony cameras.  Zeiss rocks for sure but be prepared to pay for the Otus if you want the best!

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What is to come?

I feel that this Photokina will not be as ground breaking as previous years. I see Fuji bringing out the X-Pro 2, which is just about due for a full on refresh new EVF, sensor, etc. I also see Sony releasing new FE lenses for the A7 series, as that is what is needed for the A7 cameras! More fast primes IMO! Olympus will be releasing new lenses I am sure..maybe some pro zooms that are expected and possibly a new prime or two. Panasonic I feel will not be doing anything huge this year and Leica, well, I think they will be releasing something really cool, really expensive and really limited edition. I also feel some new T lenses will be shown as well. The new 28 Summilux will also be announced but I expect it to come it at around $7k. Also, MAYBE a new X camera and D-Lux? Maybe. I think Sony has some big guns that will be special on the way but not sure when they will make them official. Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Samsung…I have not heard anything major going in with any of them though Samsung may have something really interesting coming in a few days.

I guess we will find out VERY soon, so I am looking forward to seeing what actually is announced!

Sep 102014
 

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Shooting Ephemerisle 2014 with the Sony A7S and a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2

By Judd Weiss – Visit his site HERE

Most places I go lately, I am the best photographer around. But I come to Steve Huff’s site and community specifically because here I am definitely not the best photographer. I’m learning fast, but I’m relatively new to photography, upgrading from a point and shoot to the original Sony NEX 3 only about 4 years ago. Discovering Steve’s site almost 3 years ago was a major turning point in my photography. I started taking it more seriously when I saw what you guys were up to. I’ve been inspired. The daily inspirations that so many of you have contributed has made me rethink what I’m doing with the camera I’m holding. I’ve never taken any photography classes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t received an education. This community around Steve Huff’s blog is one of the greatest influences on my development as a photographer. So thank you to all who have contributed their vision and creations here. I am very grateful. (Thank you Judd!! Steve)

I’d like to also make a contribution, from my favorite work yet. I shot this entire set of photos with the new amazing Sony Alpha A7S full frame mirrorless camera, with a manual Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 lens. That combo allowed me to achieve low light shots never before possible in the history of photography. Ephemerisle was the perfect event to test out what the Sony A7S can handle in extreme low light. And the Sony A7S was the perfect camera to capture the experience of the dark glowy night that made Ephemerisle shine.

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These shots are unapologetically processed, and I admit I went a bit intense with the colors, but I wanted to, to accurately reflect the surreal nature of Ephemerisle. Some of these photos are a little abstract, but believe me when I tell you those are very true to the experience. What a visual experience! Ephemerisle was incredible. I did the best I could to run around and convey what it was like to be there, over stimulated by this new beautiful foreign universe everywhere you looked.

It’s fair to think of Ephemerisle like Burning Man on the water. Imagine a bunch of RVs at Burning Man connected together, but floating. With dance stage platforms between them.

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I think Ephemerisle was the most exciting and fun time I have had, that didn’t involve a girl, since maybe my college days. I loved running around in that crazy dream world meeting the cast of characters you’ll see in the photos below.

I’m not saying Ephemerisle is better than Burning Man. There’s no way an event of a couple hundred people can in any way rival the scope and all the amazingness of the 50,000+ strong Burning Man festival. But I will say that I enjoyed Ephemerisle more. I loved Burning Man, but the desert is a harsh place. No doubt the sea can be unforgiving as well, but I was very happy to trade an over abundance of dust for an over abundance of water.

No way I would bring my beloved new Sony A7S and Voigtlander lens to get ruined by the intense barrage of fine dust on the Burning Man playa.

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Burning Man is incredible as it lights up the middle of the desert nowhere into an epic glorious city; being out in the middle of the water nowhere, lit up only by the most amazing glowy party you’ve ever seen, Ephemerisle too is a bright beacon of a testament to our evolutionary progress, while floating over the type of early ocean microbes of life that began it all. How far we’ve come, to create such a stunning atmosphere. A cool blend of excitement and serenity. Like Burning Man, being at Ephemerisle confronts you to face both our fragility and our promise that can only be truly seen in an intentional community that has left many of the comfortable constraints of modern society.

Stylistically people often compare Ephemerisle with Water World, and you can see where that’s coming from, only this wasn’t dystopian. Whatever was rough around the edges wasn’t post-apocalyptic, it was prototype. This is from the future, clearly. These are experiences our grandchildren will inherit when they are our age. But it’s a beautiful future. When the sun goes down, we light up even brighter. Humans evolved from a state of continual starvation in a struggle to survive among brutal nature, and now we master the harshest environments to throw parties of abundance like this for recreation. Humans have no shortage of serious problems, but it’s things like Ephemerisle that compel me to acknowledge our bright future of possibilities ahead.

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You might think I’m hyperbolizing a little much. And if I hadn’t been there, that’s totally what I would think while reading this. But there’s a reason for these reflections of anthropological grandeur. Ephemerisle is comprised of exactly the group of intellectuals, business leaders, and artists who are focused daily on the topic of our evolutionary potential as a species. These ARE the people consciously working to design a more beautiful future for all of us. What a treat it is to see one of their early prototypes. And I have to say, I’m in love with this particular prototype they call Ephemerisle.

I’ve got to thank everyone involved for coming together to create Ephemerisle. They made these photos. I just captured what I saw as well as I could. Their vision created this reality. Congratulations to all of their beautiful minds. These photos are my humble tribute.

Ok guys, get ready to watch the colors move…………

The full album and original post can be found on my blog here: http://hustlebear.com/2014/09/04/photos-ephemerisle-july-2014/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

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Note: The widely acclaimed Canon 5D MIII could not have achieved many of these shots. For example: The below shot, while not the cleanest photo in history, was shot at 51,200 ISO (!!) at 1/125 second, handheld from a bobbing moving boat in the dark. It was challenging to stand, and hard to see clearly, let alone to take a clean photo. Try to get anything remotely usable in those conditions with another camera setup.

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Again, the below shot is not perfectly clean and crisp, but it was shot at 32,000 ISO from a moving bobbing boat.

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I love how the camera rendered the daytime shots as well.

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Sep 042014
 

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The Sony A7s Experience: Ongoing thoughts on a Fascinating Camera

By Ashwin Rao - Follow Ashwin on Facebook HERE

Hi everyone, here’s an update with my thoughts on the Sony A7s. This is a camera that seems to be gaining interest, particularly for those individuals who enjoy low light photography or who have a set of rangefinder lenses in place and are looking for another body. I posted these thoughts at one of my favorite forums, and wanted to share them with you, along with a few new photos, just in case you were considering buying the camera in light of the 2014 Photokina announcements.

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In summary, I LOVE my Sony A7s. It’s given me a burst of creativity and joy in shooting that I haven’t experienced since my early days with the Leica M Monochrom (and M9 before). Here are my rolling thoughts. In general, it’s the best non Leica full frame digital solution for M mounts to date, though there are compromises (for some).

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Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. The camera does well with Leica M lenses. Only the 28 Summicron ASPH lens has performed “poorly” on the camera, and even it is usable for non-critical work where sharpness at the edges may not be as important. Everything else that I have thrown at it works well or is easily fixed in post processing using the lens vignetting correction tool in LR5.

2. RAW colors are solid. The camera exhibits different palette than Leica’s M9 and M240 (I prefer the look from the M9, personally, but it’s a matter of taste), and the palette seems tweaked compared to the A7R and A7 cameras, though that may just be my own eyes fooling me. Skin tones tend toward orange, but it’s quite easy to fix (unlike the M240, which I struggled to get right for peoples’ skin tones). I find that it’s quite easy to get the look that you want from A7s files with a bit of post processing

3. Dynamic range: To me, solid, better than my M bodies (no banding through most of the ISO range), but maybe not quite as good as the A7R or A7 in recovering shadows and highlights…this seems borne out by DXO testing

4. The silent shutter option is amazing: Absolutely awesome feature, that I believe re-defines this camera for those who employ it. I am surprised that Sony doesn’t allow a programmable custom button to quickly access this feature. A firmware upgrade here would be perfect. I use the silent shutter feature for nearly all of my shooting, as it eliminates any shutter shake effect (the size and design of the bodies does not allow the present A7 bodies to be very well dampened to vibraation), and the silence makes photographed subjects not know when you are shooting, which can be helpful on the street. The silent shutter does not work well in low light scenes where fluorescent lights are at play, due to interference/banding effects due to the frequency of light interacting with the frequency of the electronic shutter.

5. Class leading shutter speeds: The other nice feature not spoken about regarding the shutter, is that it’s possible to shoot up through 1/8000 shutter speed, so in bright light, one can use very fast lenses for creating DOF without the need for a neutral density filter.

6. ISO: yup, it’s great. I have had no issues shooting through ISO 12,800 (though some detail and DR is lost at that ISO), and I have gotten usable shots through ISO 40,000+. I don’t typically push past ISO 40,000. I consider the A7s to be an “ISO-less” camera, in that I don’t consider ISO to be a limiting factor any more for my style of shooting. Paired with fast glass such as f/0.95- f/1.4, one can literally turn night scenes into day. Color fidelity appears to be preserved as ISO’s are pushed up, meaning that colors don’t get too muddy as ISO’s jump up into the stratosphere. That being said, the camera is just as good in normal light. What doesn’t get stressed enough is how good the camera is across its ISO range

7. Using the Voigtlander VM-E mount adapter with close focus opens up now possibilities with close focus and macro work with the M…this is MARVELOUS, for those of you who like to do macro. I am re-discovering macro in this manner. The adapter is pricey, costing around $300, but it’s worth it and allows standard and close focus use in a cleverly designed way. I have found that you have to be a tad careful about infinite focus, as the adapter seems to allow telephoto lenses such as the 90 summicron to focus just a smidge past infinite.

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8. Autofocus: The camera focuses much better in low light, but the change is not really revelatory. I have the 55 FE lens, which I enjoy, but don’t use much ,as I can manually focus faster in low light (or really in all light). The 35 FE is supposedly a lot better, but I don’t own it at this time.

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All in all, I have found the A7s to be a revelatory camera. The combination of camera design (flip up LCD, EVF, M mount capacity, silent shutter, ISO performance, close focus with VM-E adapter) allows me to be creative and to shoot discretely in ways that were not possible before. Is it perfect? By no means…here are some things that could get better.

1. EVF: Solid, but there’s room for improvement (higher resolution, faster refresh rate), particularly when using focus magnification and focus peaking in concert. Now that Zeiss is producing Manual Focus E mount lenses, I am hoping that Sony incorporates more design elements into future E mount bodies to maximize the utility of manual focus lenses

2. Megapixels. For me, the 18 megapixel range (m9, M Monochrom) is a sweet spot, balancing quality of pixels and size of files. I would hope that future A8s or whatever they are called will increase MP counts without compromising ISO performance or M Mount lens compatibility.

3. M mount lenses. As mentioned, they work great on this body…really! But put the 28 Summicron on the body, and you’ll see there’s room for improvement. Hopefully Sony will recognize that these bodies could really stand to use smaller lenses, in which optical elements lie closer to the sensor, and design sensors that accomodate smaller lens design (i.e. rangefinder/retrofocus lenses)

4.Camera haptics. Sony cameras don’t quite have the joy of handling as do other manufacturers (i.e. Fuji, Leica), and simple tweaks to camera button layout, grip, viewfinder placement, and menu structure could go a long way to making the cameras joyful to use for more people. I have many friends who love the quality of Sony files, but don’t really like how the cameras operate.

Okay, hopefully that “mini” review of my present thoughts helps some who are considering taking the plunge. I have zero desire to upgrade or change cameras, because the A7s is an outstanding photographic tool as is and does so much.

All the best,
Ashwin

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Aug 272014
 

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Wedding photography with a Sony RX100II

By Dennis Low

There are lots of contradictions when it comes to how photographers think about their equipment. Street photographers, for instance, often value small cameras and we all know the reasons why: when cameras are small, they’re unobtrusive, discrete; unlike dSLRs, small cameras look ‘friendly’ and ‘unthreatening’ which puts people at ease, should they even spot them at all. The ever-ready small camera is perfect for shooting the world unawares, capturing the moment as it happens.

All of this makes perfect, logical sense – until, that is, someone asks you to photograph their wedding. Now, you’d think wedding photographers, with everyone wanting candid, documentary, fly-on-the-wall imagery, would have a lot in common with street photographers, and that small cameras would be absolutely central to the wedding photography industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who *isn’t* wielding, say, a couple of Canon 5D MK III bodies, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 zooms, maybe with a couple of fast aperture primes to boot, or an outfit that’s very, very similar. With every guest at the wedding taking photographs already, the official photographer, it seems, needs to have equipment that’s bigger, better, and more expensive than everyone else’s – otherwise, what’s the point of hiring a photographer at all?

But surely it’s the photographer rather than the kit that matters, right? Yet, if that was the case, how come you never hear about wedding photographers using the pocket digicams favoured by many street photographers? and what would wedding photography look like if they did?

I spend most of my time developing my fine art practice and trying to find new ways of photographing animals but, last month, I was asked to photograph two weddings (consecutive weekends!). On both occasions, I was asked for candid, documentary-style shots, and instructed to ‘blend in’ and basically not get in the way.

That in mind, I had a think about how I was going to work: I wanted to be free to weave in and out between groups of guests, unencumbered by a huge, heavy bag; I wanted guests I’d never met to not even flinch when I stood next to them and took their picture. Visually, I wanted images that my clients could pore over in years to come, ones that reveal every detail of their wedding days rather than hide them in a gorgeous, creamy blur of expensive, full-frame bokeh at f1.4. (Those classy-looking, ambient light shots where nothing’s in focus except the bride’s left eye, or the groom’s new wedding ring, are actually pretty easy to do, but they don’t actually tell you a lot about the day, where they were taken, or when.) I wanted my photos to sidestep all those old wedding conventions and, instead, somehow tune into the language of the normal, everyday photography that everyone knows and understands, like the stuff you see all the time on Facebook or Instagram. But supercharged, obviously :-)

It became increasingly apparent that the tiny size and huge depth of field of small sensor cameras were just what I needed. So, I took a deep breath, resisted all things dSLR, left my Leica M9 at home, and packed a little satchel with a Sony RX100II, together with a couple of flashes on remote triggers.

What does a digicam wedding look like? can it ever look professional, and is it something you’d ever try to do? Take a look and decide for yourself!

Dennis Low

www.TakeMeToTheKittens.com

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Aug 072014
 

Why cameras are important!

By Rudiger Wolf

Steve,

Your site really does provide inspiration. After the A7s review, I decided to try the low light monster. I had hefted the A7 before, and it just did not feel/sound quite right. The A7s arrived just before our annual family pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe. We try to enjoy family time together at Lake Tahoe every summer. This time it would be especially fun, because the grandkids are getting old enough to enjoy the festivities (2 and 5 years old). Many years ago, I read an article wondering why some professional photographers use the best cameras and lenses on their clients, and then use lower quality gear for pictures of their families… pictures that could bless the lives of family members for generations to come, long after the value of client pictures are gone. I took that lesson to heart, and use the best equipment I can on my own family. Here then, are a few pictures of our recent trip to Lake Tahoe, using the A7s and Zeiss 24-70.

Ok, well not quite always that camera and lens combination. In this case, it was the A7s with Leica 21mm f3.4. Shot at ISO 3,200, F3.4, 20 sec.

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This is my 5 year old grand-daughter. She woke up early one morning. I was already working on the images from the previous day. The light streaming through the glass doors looked like it might offer some interesting images. She is an absolute sweetheart, and agreed to model for our photo shoot. I used the A7s and Leica glass, but ultimately, this is one of my favorite shots. Leica M240 with 90mm at f3.4, 1/30 sec at ISO 800. The colors on the A7s just did not match up as well.

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There is no intention of a fake out here. The A7s is an impressive instrument. I did have the chance to use the A7s exactly as I imagined it. Auto ISO, shutter speed fast enough to capture the active grandkids, Zeiss zoom lens for auto focus and flexibility. It all came together with a series of shots in a pretty dark room and my two grandsons…cousins. Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70, 1/125 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800! This one will last a lifetime! Where is the grain? Awesome.

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Obviously, we also watched the fireworks. I had tried to get them from the boat before with my D800e. Don’t get me wrong, I love that camera. Like any camera, it has limitations. Again, the A7s showed it’s capability. This was shot with Zeiss 24-70 at 1/125 sec, f4.0 at ISO 51,200! Just a fantastic camera for low light.

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Did I mention my grand kids? They loved the show! Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70 at 1/40 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800.

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To wrap this up… Thanks for the recommendation on the Sony A7s. It has enabled me to capture images I will treasure for a long time. My kids and their kids will see these, and remember the great times we have had together as a family. I can think of no loftier goal than to invoke those memories and feeling of joy and love together as a family.

Rudy

digitalwolftracks.smugmug.com
Rudiger Wolf

Aug 042014
 

ttmitr

The Mitakon 50 0.95 lens Review on the Sony A7s

My Review of the Mitakon 50 T 0.95 Lens as used on a Sony A7s camera by Steve Huff

It appears that B&H photo is taking orders for the popular Mitakon 50 0.95 (see the review I posted earlier today) with a ship date of 2-4 weeks. You can pre-order HERE direct from B&H Photo.  

All images here shot as JPEG on the Sony A7s (review of the A7s is HERE)

A few months ago I wrote a first look on the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens for Sony E mount cameras. The Mitakon is a unique lens in that it is built like a tank to a very high level, comes in a deluxe hard shell case and is uber fast at 0.95. It is also a full frame lens, so basically it is MADE for the Sony A7 series of cameras which all have a full frame sensor. It CAN be used on APS-C E-Mount cameras of course but the full benefit comes when using it on full frame. There is no real vignetting issue (though there is slight vignetting wide open), no color issues and at the price of the lens (which is now $999) it is a great buy for anyone looking for an artistic lens for their Sony A7, A7r or A7s. if you can find one for sale that is…

My 1st look of the lens in April created a buzz and many shooters ordered the lens. I must have had over 75 e-mails from those who said they placed an order within a couple of days of my post. Wow. Only if I made a commission ;) So it seemed to generate quite a bit of attention, and that was with my 1st look and a few other blurbs from others online at the time. Today, four months later there are a few others who own the lens and more is being written about it on various online forums and sites.

My months of use with the Mitakon, still enjoying it!

The Mitakon really surprised me and here I am now four months later, still using it and still enjoying the hell out of it. I have been shooting with it on the Sony A7s as I felt that this combo would be the ultimate low light dream team. An 0.95 aperture lens with a camera that can shoot in darkness as it is. Wow. I used this lens in such darkness that required 0.95 and ISO 102,000. INSANE, but man, it has the capability to be used in some crazy situations when it comes to available light. As of today, August 2014, the A7s is my favorite and most used camera. Pictured below is an A7 with the Mitakon, from my 1st look report.

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This post will be my follow-up to my 1st look (which can be seen here) and I have found that using it on the A7s to be the best experience yet. The color is fantastic, the depth is superb and even the Bokeh is very pleasing in many shots.

Shot wide open with smooth Bokeh. Shot as a JPEG and accidentally had it in Vivid mode but still looks pleasing. Sharpness is there and color is as well. Sony A7s.

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I wanted to use the heck out of this lens before writing this as I was making sure the lens would not fall apart on me or have some other serious issues. To date it has performed flawlessly and is still as solid as it was on day one. I even lucked out and had serial # 000001 sent to me. Yep, the first production model off the line. The fit, finish and performance has gone above and beyond the price range. When you consider that the full frame Leica 50 0.95 Noctilux goes for $11,000, ($10,000 more than this one) and that they are both full frame 0.95 lenses built to a high standard..it makes you wonder..$10k difference? Does the Leica have that much difference in its build and feel and performance? Well, no it doest. The Leica is indeed the much better lens but I would say it is about $2,000 better, not $10,000 better. The Leica will have a better build, is heavier, larger and sharper (when calibrated correctly) and will have world leading Bokeh quality unlike any other lens made. It will also have more CA/Purple Fringing, which is odd but true. The Mitakon is surprisingly absent of CA from my shots (in which I have not seen much of it at all).

Smooth, silky, nice color once again and fantastic sharpness and transitions from sharp to blurred (DOF). Sony A7s

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Bokeh test..looks good to me for a $999 lens.

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When I sit down to write about a lens, or review a lens, I always try to make sure I am not rambling on about it, but sometimes I still do. This review will be short (for my standards, long for most others standards) and I will keep it under 3000 words. There is not too much to say about it anyway but I will break it all down from packaging to build to feel and use to sharpness, issues and final conclusion. Will even throw in a quick comparison to the Sony 55 1.8. While the Mitakon is not a perfect lens, and there are some things to be aware of like the fact that it is manual focus only, for $999 I have never seen a lens like it.

Mitakon has created something that is not only affordable for this  type of lens, but very useful and with good quality all the way around. In no way is the lens they sent me shoddy in workmanship or focus feel. It is up there with any Leica lens I have used or owned when it comes to focusing feel (which is smooth and nice). Remember, the Leica Noctilux is $11,000 (one of mine had to be repaired twice after the aperture blades broke down inside), the old SLR Magic 50 0.95 Hyperpriime was $4500+ (which never gave me one problem) and then there are the various $999 0.95 50’s that were just awful from color, to sharpness, to bokeh. None of those $999 lenses even come close to this Mitakon. None of them.

A few images shot indoors and wide open at 0.95 at low light during a Phoenix AZ meet up I set up last week.

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As you can see from the JPEG images above, in low light, the Mitakon 50 0.95 is a great performer, especially considering what it is, what it costs and what it can do. If you click the images here in this review you will see them how they were meant to be seen. All I have done with these is resize them to 1800 pixels wide for web viewing. They look great on my 27″ screen. Even looking at the Bokeh in these images, in no way do I find it irritating, busy or offensive. Actually, I am finding it pleasing, creamy and “fat”. With that I mean the highlights that are Out of focus are big, fat and puffy which is an effect of the large aperture. Overall the character of the Mitakon is sort of “rounded” meaning it is not analytically sharp nor is it soft. The focus point, which is VERY small when shooting wide open will be sharp but the rest of the image will look more dreamlike. For example…

Shot this below in JPEG and focused on the glasses. The rest of the image is a tad soft due to Depth of Field, not because of sharpness. This lens is plenty sharp, even at 0.95 AT THE focus point! Remember when shooting 0.95 of full frame your depth of field is TINY! All three images below were shot at 0.95 and are right from the Sony A7s JPEG mode.

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In fact. this lens remains pretty sharp wide open but gets sharper when stopped down to at least 1.4. Almost 95% of the images here were shot wide open at T0.95. Yes, this is a T 0.95, not an F/0.95. What does that mean? Well, to make it simple it basically means that it is FASTER than an f/0.95…but only slightly. So for me, having a T 0.95 lens at $999 that is full frame, well made and performs well in regards to color and sharpness at T 0.95, well, it is something we never see. This lens is up there with lenses that cost much more so $999 is a great price point for the lens. Anyone who owns a full frame Sony E mount and has interest in a fast lens..well, I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in the 50 T 0.95.

The lens comes in a deluxe case like the one you see below. Nice touch,

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My 1st Look Video

Below is the video I did of the lens in my 1st look. You can see the lens, the case, etc.

The Sony 55 1.8 vs the Mitakon 50 T 0.95? A comparison.

No, it is not as crisp of analytical as the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8, which is a FANTASTIC lens for the Sony A7 cameras. The Sony/Zeiss 55 is sharp, has AF and has no issues with color, distortion or sharpness. At all. It has pleasing Bokeh as well. So who in their right mind would choose the Mitakon over the Sony when you lose Auto Focus, across the frame crispness and the lightweight construction of the lens making it easier to carry? Well, that is a tough one as the Sony is such a good lens and the cost is about the same at around a grand.

For me, I would choose the Sony if I wanted ease of use, convenience and perfection. I would choose the Mitakon if I enjoyed using a manual focus lens (which I do) and even faster aperture (T 0.5 vs f/1.8) and enjoyed a more artistic rendering and Bokeh. The Sony is more “correct” but the Mitakon is more “Creative”. The Sony will deliver pleasing results but some have said the Sony lens is too crisp and analytical with no real character. I agree with that somewhat as it is a bit “bland” in its rendering. I am a fan of character which is one reason I love so many old Leica lenses. The Mitakon has loads of character but it may not be everyones cup of tea. The best way to find out is to look at image shot with the Sony and images shot with the Mitakon. Then decide for yourself which rendering you prefer.

Below is a crappy test shot in my yard at 8PM  – one taken with the Mitakon at 0.95 and 1.8 and then one shot with the Sony 55 1.8 at 1.8. You can compare them for yourself.

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Low light use

Many have asked me how hard it is to use the Mitakon, as in.. not only in good light but in low light as well. How is it to focus the lens using the Sony EVF? Does focus peaking work well?

When I was using the lens in almost complete darkness I used the EVF and have my custom button set to magnify for critical focusing. This will slow you down but at T 0.95 in the dark it is hard rot rely on peaking alone as you may miss when you think you hit. Using magnify I never had an out of focus shot but it did slow me down. The Sony 55 1.8 would have AF’d using the A7s in the dark so it would have been a better lens to use for speed but not for character, as mentioned above.

I shot this guy and pushed it to the limits, even going to ISO 102,000 at T 0.95 in almost complete darkness. I found it has a flare issue if pointed direct into a light source and also found it has some barrel distortion. Other than that, the lens is problem free, or has been for me at least.

The performer I shot in the 1st image personally emailed me and told me how much she loved that image and she invited me back  to shoot them again next time they came to town. It is always nice to get a compliment on your work. The fact that the Mitakon worked here is quite amazing as no other camera or lens would. I tried my Leica M and 50 f/2 and it was impossible even at ISO 6400 (max of the M). Even with an 0.95 lens on the M it would not have worked as I needed to go to ISO 25,000 and up for this light.

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and 102,400 again but with the flare

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Using this combo of A7s and 50 Mitakon in extremely low light, bordering on full darkness in some situations was a pleasure. I had no idea if anything would work out or be usable (especially the insane 102k iso shots) but man…when I came home and downloaded the images I was shocked. Not only were they all usable, they looked good! Up to ISO 32,000 was fantastic, and this was all JPEG shooting!

It was during this time that I bonded with my A7s and Mitakon. This also made the Sony A7s my #1 go to camera for day-to-day shooting. While I normally use the Sony 35 28 and 55 1.8, I bring out the Mitakon when I want the look and feel that it offers, which is similar but different to any other 0.95 lens I have used.

While not perfect for most A7 shooters due to the fact that it is manual focus only, the fact that it is such a fast lens and will be hard for amateurs or those new to fast glass to focus at 0.95, the fact that it does have some slight barrel distortion and flare (if pointed to a light source, but so do many Leica lenses), well, makes it NOT perfect. But no lens is perfect (besides THIS one) and at $999, for a lens of this build quality, speed and performance, well, we have a home run hit for Sony shooters who want something like this and want something that will perform without breaking the bank.

One thing about the Mitakon that is unique to lenses such as this is the close focusing ability. Yep, you can focus this lens as close as .5 meters, which is pretty close. When shooting at the closest focusing distance it is very tricky to nail focus when wide open but when you do, you will get a somewhat sharp image. For comparison, the Leica Noctilux will focus only to 1m.

Two images of our new puppy “Olive”. The 1st one at 0.95 and the 2nd at 0.95 but at the closest focusing distance of .5 meters. Love the OOC color here from the A7s and I even have a print of this I made at 8X10. Looks lovely.

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Where to Buy the Mitakon?

Well, here is the tricky part. I was sent the lens to review and the site that used to have them listed for pre-order has seemingly taken the lens off of its site. I can not find it as of today yet it was there 4 months ago when I wrote my 1st look. I did find a few e-bay listings for pre-orders but this lens is only available buying direct from Hong Kong. There are no distributors in the USA it seems. I remember SLR Magic having these same issues with no real easy way to order their lenses. I find that to be a huge mistake as ordering should be simple, easy and hassle free. Yes, all three of those words mean the same thing but c’mon! Pushing out a cool lens like this, asking for a review and then offering no real way to order the lens? Odd.

So I would suggest going to MXcamera (if you have interest in it) and sending them a message about this lens..as in..”how can I order and when can you ship”. The ordering is the one area that makes me uneasy about this lens. It just doesn’t seem to be obtainable, at least in an easy way. So if you can find one and want one I do recommend it as it is a super lens for any A7 shooter.

You can buy the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

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My Final Conclusion

The Mitakon is a very good lens for full frame Sony A7 shooters and it is MADE for the Sony E mount. It is not usable on Fuji, Micro 4/3 or Leica. It is a wonderful creative lens and I am proud to have one in my collection. I know that if I have to shoot something in insanely low light that the combo of A7s and Mitakon will get it done without issue. The more I use it, the more I like it. There is a slight learning curve here with the lens as well and it may take a few days to get used to focusing it and nailing the shots. The lens does show some slight barrel distortion if shooting straight lines up close and has slight vignetting wide open at 0.95 (as do all 0.95 lenses). It is not the easiest lens to get a hold of but I have nothing but praise for this guy because at $999 it is well wroth it to anyone who has a Sony A7, A7r or A7s. I liked it best on the A7s.

Steve

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

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Jul 242014
 

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The Sony RX100 III Review. The best pocket camera ever?

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

Man oh man oh man! Sony is on fire and hotter than ever (Sony A7s just recently and now this) and while the RX100 III is sort of older news already, as in, it has been released and in the hands of many shooters for a while now it is just now that I have been able to sit down, relax, and write down my thoughts about it after using it for 2-3 weeks. As many of you know, the RX100 III is the latest and greatest version of the Sony RX100, a true pocket rocket of a camera. In my review of the original RX100, I praised it up and down for what it was, what it could do and how it could do it, all while fitting in a front pocket. You can read that review here and to be honest, the original is still a damn fine camera today and can be had at a much better price than when it was launched.

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After the original RX100 came the RX100 II and after I had one for 2-3 weeks I found it was NOT enough of an upgrade to the 1st version to warrant the expense. With version II Sony added the capability to use an external EVF and improved the sensor slightly, but for me, I preferred the original sensor. Odd huh? Because of this, I never really reviewed it. Instead I took a quick look at it HERE. 

Now with version III Sony has given us a pop up EVF which is absolute GENIUS! It stays hidden until you want to use it, and then you flick it up with a switch on the side. It pops up just like a pop up flash would and then you pull it out to use it. It is a very welcome addition to the camera and for me, makes the upgrade worth it right there! But Sony did not stop there as they also changed out the lens, which is now a 24-70 equivalent ranging from f/1.8 to f/2.8. Even at 70mm you can stay at f/2.8, which will allow more light to come in. Faster is always a good thing when it comes to aperture. So while we lose some of the reach of the Version I and II RX100, we gain speed and IMO some slight improvements to the lens quality.

We still have the same RX100 size, tilt LCD, selfie mode, and all of the usual Sony features and gimmicks. The lens barrel rotates and can control just about anything you want it to. I have it set to aperture but you can also set it to control color mode, or even ISO. The camera is a VERY polished and “finished” type of design. Smooth jpeg files as well with plenty of pop for a small sensor camera, and do remember that this is a small 1″ sensor camera that is not meant to replace a larger sensor mirrorless or DSLR as it does have limitations when compared to its larger cousins.

One of the 1st shots I snapped in JPEG with the RX100 III. Our new puppy “Olive” – Was in some weird mode so high contrast..

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One in High Contrast B&W Mode (JPEG) – click for larger. Focus was on the hair (of the wig) in front of his eye. Even with the small sensor you get some shallow DOF at the widest 24mm setting.

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Since the RX100 III is basically an RX100 with an improved sensor, new lens and new EVF it is still at its heart, an RX100. Same idea, same body, same concept, same shooting experience. So to read about all of that, click here to read what I said about the original in regards to all of that. In use, the new III is not only just as fun, fast and slick to use as the I and II, but even more so. While it may be small for some hands, there are a few grip options out there including Sony’s own grip made for the camera. There are also cases, and my fave is the one made by Gariz, which you can see below and order HERE. It’s really an attractive and useful accessory for the RX100 III and makes the camera look “luxury”. Much like a Leica ;) If it had a red dot…Hmmmm.

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Out of the Box impressions

The RX100 III arrived in a TINY cute Sony box and when I opened it I was welcomed by a familiar shape and design. As I stated before, the RX100 III is the same shape and design as the original, but in its III form it is like a “Super RX100″. In fact, I will call it the “Super 100″ from here on out as I feel it is so jam-packed with features that PHOTOGRAPHERS want. Nice fast Zeiss zoom, pop up EVF, swivel screen, fast and accurate AF, slim design, high quality video, etc. After taking it from the box I charged inserted a battery (I have six of them from my previous RX100) and popped the camera in my pocket. I shot a couple of frames at a KISS concert (though had seats off to the side) and around town during  my day-to-day errands. I shot JPEG 100% of the time.

For me, a camera like this should be able to do JPEG well, and the RX100 does indeed do it well. For me it offers a fun factor and stress free experience, which is good. While it does not compete with a DSLR or one of the larger sensor mirrorless cameras it does blow away any other point and shoot style camera out of the water. Forget Canon, forget Nikon and yes, this one even smokes any Olympus compact I have tried. This “Super 100″ is on another level from any other P&S and is still the best there is in this area. It has class, style, grace and it performs without breaking a sweat. The build feels solid and nothing about it feels cheap or hollow. I like this.

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Using the selfie mode, the LCD flips up so you can see it and  then the camera counts down  – 3-2-1 on the screen. This is a useful little mode that sounds silly to some, but I used it 4 times in my 2 weeks with the camera. 

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Did a similar shot in my review of the RX100 I so I figured I would do the same here, why not? Excuse the dirty mirror.

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This “Super 100″ (RX100 III) is perfect for an EVERY DAY camera. Phone? Naaaaaaa.

Do you want something of high quality, something that is small and hassle free to carry yet offers you a huge improvement over your cel phone for images? You want ease of use, HD video, a fast lens and great low light performance? Look no further my friends as the RX100 III can do it all, and it does it so much better than your phone. While the most popular camera today is the iPhone, there are still those out there that care about quality, and I am one of them. There are those who want a viewfinder, who want the experience that once upon a time came with photography. A phone does not give you that experience and while it may be capable and easy, it is not like using a real camera.

For me, memories are meant to be captured and preserved. Not everyone wants to carry a large DSLR or mirrorless but something like this RX100 III takes all of those issues away. It can take nice quality photos, without using a flash, in almost any light. While it will not be an “in the dark” shooter, it will give you so much better results than your phone in 99% of situations.

BTW, Every image in this review was shot as an OOC JPEG.

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The image below was shot by Bill Goodman, a local Phx photographer who was checking out the RX100 III when I brought it to Az Hi Fi 

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The color, the smooth files and the dynamic range are fantastic for what this little guy is. I was finding that the “clear” JPEG setting was giving me rich and punchy results that I liked. The way the RX100 III handles light and shadows can indeed be dramatic and very pleasing to the eye…it’s funny but there are times when the images I took with the RX100 III looked better in the final file over my Leica M 240 for resized web images! The color and smooth look is a signature of the RX100 series. With only a 1″ sensor it punches well above its weight class, for sure. When compared to a Nikon V1 or V2 or V3, the RX100 series presents images in a smoother way, reminding me of a larger sensor without the grit.

Dramatic color and tones…JPEG

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Shot in CLEAR JPEG mode..which is what gives it the look you see…

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TECH SPECS

Below are the tech specs of the RX100 III, or the Super RX100 :) I highlighted in BOLD the features that are worth mentioning and remembering as to me, these are what make the camera.

20.1MP 1″ Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor
The large 20.1 megapixel 1″ Exmor R CMOS sensor features backside-illuminated technology to enhance its low-light capabilities to a native ISO 12800 while still retaining vivid clarity. Using Sony’s Column A/D Conversion and area-specified noise reduction, images are rendered with impressive quality and smooth gradations between tones and colors due to the marked, intelligent reduction in apparent noise. Further enhancing imaging quality, detail reproduction technology works to increase the fine detail rendering capabilities for a more three-dimensional, realistic image quality while diffraction-reducing technology helps to enhance the optical qualities of the lens by suppressing diffraction that is common when working at smaller apertures. Additionally, aiding working in difficult lighting conditions, the sensitivity can be extended to an effective ISO 25600 when using Multi-Frame NR, which records and composites sequential images in order to attain high sensitivity with minimal noise.

Also benefitting the image quality, as well as overall camera performance, is the BIONZ X image processor, which provides continuous shooting up to 10 fps in Speed Priority Mode, 2.9 fps shooting with single-shot AF, a shutter lag time of just 0.008 sec., and a start-up time of 1.6 sec.

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
The built-in Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-70mm, covering wide-angle to portrait length perspectives to suit working in a wide variety of shooting conditions. An f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions throughout the entire zoom range and also enables greater control over focus placement for shallow depth of field imagery, which is further accentuated by a seven-blade diaphragm to produce a smooth out-of-focus quality. Nine aspherical elements, including two cemented AA (advanced aspherical) elements, are incorporated into the lens design to minimize chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range to benefit creating sharp, clear imagery. The lens also features a Zeiss T* anti-reflective multi-layered coating to help minimize lens flare and ghosting in order to produce imagery with rich contrast and color neutrality.

Benefitting the 2.9x reach of this lens, as well as supporting working in difficult lighting conditions and with longer shutter speeds, is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which helps to offset the effects of camera shake. When recording movies, the image stabilization utilizes an Intelligent Active Mode, which also uses electronic image stabilization to compensate for both camera shake and rolling shutter effects.

Additionally, a neutral density 0.9 filter is incorporated into the camera’s design, which provides a reduction of three stops in exposure to enable working in bright conditions with wider aperture settings and for greater control over how subject movement is rendered.

Direct OOC color from the RX100 III JPEG – this one was shot in VIVID mode.

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Camera Design
Within the compact design of the RX100 III is both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a large rear LCD monitor. The 0.39″ 1,440k-dot SVGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF provides a bright, clear means for eye-level monitoring, which is well-suited to critical compositions and working in bright conditions. It features 100% frame coverage, a unique pop-up mechanism, and a Zeiss T* coating on the optics to reduce surface reflections and flare for enhanced visibility. Alternatively, a 3.0″ 1,229k-dot Xtra Fine LCD screen is also available and features a tilting design (180° up, 45° down) to benefit working from high, low, and front-facing angles. WhiteMagic technology has been applied to the LCD’s design, too, to increase effective brightness for easier viewing in bright lighting. When working with both viewing means, an integrated eye sensor automatically switches between both the EVF and LCD. Additionally, the camera can be turned on simply by popping the EVF into place.

For intuitive, SLR-like adjustments over a variety of camera settings, a manual control ring surrounds the lens and features a smooth, click-less design for quick and quiet changing of settings. The ring can be assigned to control a variety of features, at different values, such as zoom, aperture, and Picture Effects. A step-zoom feature can be utilized, too, to allow instant switching between commonly used focal lengths.

Full HD Video Recording
Full HD 1920 x 1080 movies can be recorded in the high-quality XAVC S format, which uses a Long GOP (Group of Pictures) structure, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression, and linear PCM audio compression, and saves within the MP4 container format. These compressed files permit recording times up to 29 minutes while allowing 50 Mbps video recording at 1080/60p, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, and 720/120p frame rates. Full-pixel readout helps to minimize any artifacts in recordings due to the ability to utilize data from the entire image sensor, which ultimately results in smooth, high-resolution recordings. Movies can also be recorded in the AVCHD format, which is ideal for HDTV playback and Blu-ray disc burning, and the MP4 format, which is ideal for uploading online. Additionally, when shooting for two purposes in mind, dual recording is possible in different formats-XAVC S and MP4 or AVCHD and MP4-for the ability to instantly share footage while also having a higher quality version for subsequent editing.

Benefitting advanced video applications, the RX100 III also supports clean HDMI output for recording uncompressed video via an optional external recorder and for real-time viewing on an accessory monitor. Recording frame rates include 24p, 60p, and 60i, and the shooting info display can be turned off during recording for a cleaner view when utilizing an external monitor.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables instant transferring of imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices, with no complex set-up required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and, using Smart Remote Control, remotely control the camera’s shutter release.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

Other Camera Features
A contrast-detection autofocus system works to acquire precise focus using single-shot or continuous AF modes. When working with moving subjects, Lock-on AF, with wide, center, and flexible spots, adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame. Face detection and face registration technologies can be used to base focus on recognized faces and Eye AF is also available, which is a detail-oriented focusing function that prioritizes and dedicates focusing performance on a subject’s pupil for sharply-rendered portraits.
For manual focus control, DMF (Direct Manual Focus) and standard manual focus options are available. Benefitting precise manual focus, focus peaking can be used, which highlights edges of contrast within the frame for a more objective means of determining critical sharpness, or MF Assist is available, which enlarges the image for a better view of important details.

A zebra function can be used for easier detection of exposure clipping to prevent overexposure.

A dedicated Custom button permits assigning of one of 42 possible functions for instant, one-touch access to a chosen control.

A digital level gauge detects pitch and roll types of movement and helps to produce even, consistent horizons and plumb verticals.

Smile Shutter technology enables the camera to automatically release the shutter when a subject’s smile is detected

Multi Frame NR records consecutive images at a reduced ISO sensitivity and then composites them into a single image to realize higher effective sensitivity (up to an equivalent ISO 25600) with minimal image noise. Standard image compositing is comprised of four exposures and High image compositing utilizes 12 distinct exposures.

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.

Picture Effect modes allow you to apply creative settings and emphasize certain facets of individual images for a richer, more aesthetic picture quality. Posterization (Color/B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration modes are available.

Creative Style settings provide control over how the camera processes images based on different predetermined styles: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia, and Style Box. Within these settings, contrast, saturation, and sharpness can also be adjusted depending on personal preference.

To extend the effective reach of the optical zoom lens, Clear Image digital zoom can be used to intelligently magnify scenes up to 5.8x at full-resolution. This digital zoom technology uses an intelligent interpolation process to minimize the amount of image degradation in order to produce realistic, high-quality images.

In-camera creation of 4K slide shows is possible for rich playback to ultra high definition televisions. An HDMI port is incorporated into the camera’s design, too, to enable direct connection to HDTVs.

TRILUMINOS Color support is supported to produce rich, natural colors when imagery is viewed on a TRILUMINOS Display.

I enjoyed having 24mm for the wide end…

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For me, the new EVF rocks..though it is SMALL

As soon as I saw that Sony included a new pop up EVF in this model I was instantly attracted to the camera. If this one feature was NOT put in then the RX100 III would not have generated as much attention as it has and the camera would not be worthy of the III name, it would be more like an RX100 II. The new pop up EVF if really an awesome and fantastic addition to an already great camera model. The coolest part is that if you do not want to use it then it stays hidden. There are no humps, no evidence it is even in the camera. Without using it no one would even know it was there but flick a switch located on the left side and BAM! There you have it, instant EVF. Now you can put it up to your eye and frame with a viewfinder. The EVF is very small but much better than something you will see in a Leica C for example.

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The color is good, the clarity is good and i used the EVF quite often..and I can prove it! See my reflections in the window shots below? Look how small and compact the RX100 III is here! It is small but feels nice and weighty in the hand. The lens offers great clarity and snap and the EVF takes this model over the top.

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Is this camera for you? Answer these questions to find out!

The RX100 III is not a cheap camera, in build or design or in cost. It will cost you about $799 to purchase the greatest Point and Shoot of all time, but to see if this is worth it to you, answer the following questions, if you answer yes to ALL then you would benefit from an RX100 III.

1. Do you want a pocket-size travel type of camera to take anywhere?

2. Do you dislike larger and heavier cameras?

3. Do you value QUALITY when it comes to images? As in, IMAGE QUALITY?

4. Do you like having a convenient and fast zoom?

5. Do you like to shoot hassle free, and even shoot JPEG?

6. Do you often want the “best” you can get to avoid making mistakes in purchases?

7. Do you value having an electronic viewfinder to frame with?

If you answered YES to ALL of the questions then you would not be sorry with the RX100 III. In fact, I guarantee it!

Again, to get what the RX100 III is all about, read my RX100 review. Most of the camera is the same in regards to what it is, what it does and why it is so awesome :) This is a “light” review going over the new features only!

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The Pros and Cons of the RX100 III

Pros

  • It is small and fits in a front pocket
  • Pop Up EVF addition is AWESOME!
  • Camera AF is fast and accurate
  • Tilt LCD is very useful, even selfie mode
  • Build quality is good
  • Lens 24-70 1.8-2.8..nice
  • pop up flash if needed/wanted!
  • HD video is nice with optical steady shot!
  • WiFi built in, works well
  • Camera apps can be downloaded and used
  • Built in ND filter for when the sun gets bright, automatic
  • Smooth control dial on lens will control almost anything you desire
  • Many cases and grips made by third parties
  • Batteries are small, and cheap (third party sellers)
  • Best in class image quality and color

cons

  • Price of $798 is a little high for a P&S
  • Small sensor cannot compete with larger sensors for DR or ISO NOISE
  • Not the best for really low light, NR gets aggressive
  • Can be too small for some with large hands
  • Does not come with dedicated charger

 

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My final conclusion on the RX100 III

The newest RX100, or what I call it,  “the Super 100″ (RX100 III) is a genuine masterpiece of a point and shoot. It does NOT get better than this in a pocket P&S camera, period. From the design, the build, the EVF, the swivel LCD to the fast lens and punchy color and pop from the files, the RX100 III is the real deal. Once again Sony hits it out of the park here, as they have been doing for 2-3 years now. Sony is surpassing companies like Nikon, Canon, Leica in many areas with some of their recent cameras and they are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping and I think…yes I think..they are just getting started. Call it intuition but I have a feeling something ver special is coming in the high-end arena from Sony..very soon.

Keep in mind, the RX100 III will not and can not replace an APS-C or full frame camera (get the same results) as you just do not get the dynamic range, ISO performance or depth of field possibilities with the smaller sensor RX100 III. What you do get is a camera that is perfect for family use, vacations, world travel, and every day shooting. I have seen images from the RX100 (original) that blew away images I have seen from large DSLR’s, but that was from a VERY talented photographer. It seems that if you really know what you are doing then the RX100 III will reward you with its capabilities. I have noticed the DR is not up there with larger sensors as highlights can get blown, but it is not a big deal or deal breaker. The files from the RX100III are sublime and as good as you can get from a camera of this size.

The lens is fast with a versatile and normal 24-70mm range. With an aperture starting at f/1.8 and slowing down to only 2.8, the camera is highly capable even in low light. The EVF works great and stays out-of-the-way until you need it. It is not the largest thing ever but it works and works well. The design is genius! The RX100 III also has a built in ND filter which will automatically activate when needed. You have all of the Sony usual tricks here as well like panorama, color modes, art modes and intelligent auto modes. This camera can be used by amateur and pro alike. In other words, Sony makes it easy to either pick up and shoot in full auto or delve into the camera and use manual features.

All in all, this is indeed the best pocket camera ever made in the digital world. The price is steep at $798, but if you want the best P&S available and do not want to mess with lens swapping and larger bodies, this is one way to go that will leave you satisfied.

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

The Sony RX100 III gets my highest recommendation for this class of camera. Way to go Sony!

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

Wow. It is already mid 2014. Half of this year has whizzed by faster than ever and as always we have a ton of cameras that we can choose from when it comes to photography. If we want something small that packs a punch, we have that. If we want something for low light, we have that as well. If we want something that is a joy to shoot, hold and use, well, we also have that. Do we have it all in one single camera yet? Well, not really.

There are always new camera seeing released though maybe not as many as the years past. DSLR production, as in new models, has seemed to slow down some from the constant barrage of new models that we used to see. Well, at least it seems like it. Even mirrorless offerings seem to be lasting a little longer between releases these days, and this is GOOD as we are at the point now where almost any camera will give us better results than most of us even need.

So far in 2014 we have had some cool releases and there are still fantastic cameras that were released in the past that are still perfectly usable. The question you need to ask yourself when deciding on a new camera is “What will I be shooting with it”, also “Do I value usability more than overall versatility”? “Will I be shooting mostly low light or in good light”? “Does it need to fit in my pocket”?

Once you decide what it is you want to use the camera for, be it portraits, your kids, vacations, or just an everyday shooter then you need to decide if you want simplicity in a fixed lens model or something that will allow you to choose and change lenses. The choice is yours as there is something out there to fit your needs, and I am going to talk about the cameras I like as of July 2014 with the reasons WHY I really like, if not love them.

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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Micro 4/3, Olympus E-M and E-P series

My favorite camera for ALL OUT versatility as of today is still the Olympus E-M1 or even E-P5. These cameras are beautifully made with a solid feel and gorgeous looks (in the case of the E-P5). They have some of the best lenses made for any system next to Leica from fisheye to telephoto and everything in between including some super fast primes like the Nocticron f/1.2 that is one of the best lenses I have ever used. With Micro 4/3 you have speed, you have the lenses, you have the build, you have the amazing 5-AXIS Image Stabilization and you have a smaller size. The lenses are so good, and not so astronomically priced. The color reproduction is beautiful and the B&W is not too shabby either. A camera like the E-M1 has it all and the only real weakness of this camera is that the sensor is smaller than full frame and smaller than APS-C. For this reason you lose out on some shallow depth of field and the images will be a bit more noisy at high ISO than full frame cameras.

Even so, if you shoot mostly in good light and want one hell of a system with unlimited lens choice and an all around great experience with pro image quality results, the E-M1 is still a gorgeous camera. The E-M10 and E-M5 are as well. I reviewed them all and you can read my reviews of these models HERE, HERE and HERE. Yes, you can indeed get DSLR quality and beyond with these models.

You can buy the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from Micro 4/3 – Super versatile cameras that do it all. 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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My fave camera for Point & Shoot, Vacation and SMALL SIZE!

Sony takes it here for me with the new advanced pocket rocket, the RX100 III. 

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The new Sony RX100 III is a hell of a camera in almost every way. It is small, made very well, has a pop up EVF, tilt LCD and stellar IQ for a small pocket camera. It’s a handsome camera as well and gives us an f/1.8 to f/2.8 lens from 24-70 (ff equiv). What is not to like? The color is great. the files are nice and I have seen some do amazing work with the RX100 version 1 and now Version III improves on that model in every way. This is, hands down, the best pocket camera I have ever seen or used, ever. Video is good as well. It does it all but will not give you the all out versatility or IQ of something like a Micro 4/3 or full frame model. For what it is though, it is the perfect camera for every day shooting, vacation, kids, family, events, etc. Whoever buys an RX100 III will not be disappointed. It is the real deal. I have been able to use one for a but thanks to B&H Photo but have not had serious time yet with it. Will be doing that this week. You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo or Amazon.

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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The Leica M, any of them from film to the M 240 or Monochrom take this one for me in a huge way. These cameras are ones that you cherish and create an emotional bond with. For those who think that is nonsense, then you have never had that bond with a camera, and yes, it is real. The Leica M is a masterpiece of design, build, and usability. All manual focus using a rangefinder it is a very precision tool that actually can teach you a think or two about photography, framing and exposure. It is a tool one can use for a lifetime if you choose a film model, as they last forever. While the price is off-putting to many, think about it in a new way. This is a camera that will give you the most enjoyment from any camera ever..well, it has for me and not everyone is the same. From the moment you take it from its box all of your regrets of the money spent fade away.

The Leica M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, M240 and Mono will give you that Leica experience that no other camera will give you. As for IQ, others can meet or exceed the Leica in that area but nothing can beat it for usability or for creating that emotional connection. You can buy a Leica from many places these days but my faves have always been Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop and Leica Store Miami. These guys will treat you right.

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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You guys know how much I adore the Sony A7s and while it is not the most versatile (only due to lack of native lenses when compared to others such as Micro 4/3) camera it is indeed quite powerful. There is no low light situation that this camera can not tackle, period. When used with the 50 0.95 Mitakon I can see in the dark and when used with the native Sony lenses such as the 35 2.8 or 55 1.8 the camera will even AF in the dark. Amazing. The A7 also has better color performance than the A7 and A7r , better AWB, faster AF and better M mount lens compatibility. You can read my review here to see what it is all about but I now have one of these bad boys with a few lenses and love it to pieces. As I said in the review, the A7s is probably puns for pound, dollar for dollar my favorite camera that I have ever reviewed.

Low light shooters, this is a must try or own. The camera also is excellent in daytime shots and video. If more native lenses were around it would be unbeatable for me as of July 2014.

You can buy the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from the A7s, 1st one using the Voigtlander 35 1.2 wide open and a 100% OOC JPEG. 2nd one is from the Mitakon 50 0.95 and third and fourth is from the Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5. 

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Runner Ups

The Fuji X-T1 and Leica T are also very cool and very capable cameras. The Leica is different than other cameras in its interface and joy of use. It is a Leica and gives you the Leica style of IQ and pride of ownership. The Fuji is still a lightweight in the build but for Fuji fans, this is the best of the lot when it comes to Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

Of course these are not the only cameras I like, but they are my faves as of July 2014. The Sony, the Leica, the Olympus..all superb in so many ways and unlikely  to leave anyone disappointed as long as you use them with good glass. The key is to get out and use them (for me it has been tough since it has been 110-112 every day and me and extreme oven like heat do not jive well for more than 5-10 minutes) and have fun using what you do own. The key is you more than anything, not the gear..though I admit..it is very fun to test and try new cameras!

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J.B. Camera Designs wooden grip for the Sony RX100 III

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You are either going to really dig this or really hate it. Me, I think it is pretty damn sweet as it is different, and for me, different is always good. Amazon has a few left in stock (prime eligible) of this very cool and very affordable wooden grip designed by J.B. Camera Designs. I love J.B. stuff and this one is no exception. For the RX100 series the one thing that most people complain about is the grip, or lack of a grip. You can buy a cool half case like this one from Gariz, or you can just add a grip. Richard Franiec sells a black grip similar to the wooden one above (but it is not wood) and many love that one (as I did on the original RX100) as it is basic, simple and black so it blens in with the camera body and looks like it was built that way.

So you have options and this is just one of them.

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But if you want something cool, something unique and something that is an eye catcher and possibly a conversation starter, give the J.B. Wooden grip a try. At under $25, it will not break the bank and it will add some originality to your little powerhouse camera.

BTW, the RX100 III is one hell of a camera. Sony is going strong my friends, making all kinds of good decisions and the year is not over yet!

If you want to check out the J.B. Wooden Grip, you can see it or order it HERE on Amazon. 

Jul 092014
 

USER REPORT: The Sony RX100 III, a very quick first look

by Rob McKay

Hey Steve,

Picked up the Sony RX100 III (At B&H or Amazon) for my pocket/travel/biking digi rig and love it!

I mainly shoot Leica, and especially love shooting film through my MP and M3 but still need a small digi for quick docu shots and instant chimping satisfaction. My fav pocket digi has to be the Ricoh GR, but the smaller RX100 with its 21mm f/1.8 to 70mm f/2.8 zoom lens can be a bonus and a great range (for me). Unlike the 4/3rd or NEX setups that need the lenses to be taking off (zooms) before truly making them compact/pocketable, the RX100 III is almost flat when turned off.

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First impressions, love it, but time will tell.. Attached a few snaps of the bike trails I recently used the camera on.

Great site and keep up the great work!

Rob McKay

https://www.flickr.com/photos/caughtintheair/
http://bokehenstein.com

Click images for larger and better viewing

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Jun 182014
 

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The Sony A7s: 1st Look…Testing the limits.

Hello to all! Just to let you all know I received the Sony A7s just today, just about 9 hours ago. In the past few hours I have taken it out and tested it for the one thing that it is claimed to be so good at which is LOW LIGHT and high ISO. I also shot some normal ISO images as well. Armed with the Sony Zeiss 35 2.8, the Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 and the Mighty Mitakon 50 0.95 I gave the A7s a workout with some intensely low light scenarios..even one that needed iso 102,400 with f/0.95. YES, that dark. How about that for a torture test? I mean, if you need ISO 102,400 with an f/0.95 lens then you KNOW it is DARK.

The A7s is a beauty of a camera for many reasons. One of them is that the sensor is a fat full frame with only 12MP. This means the file sizes are small and the low light capability is better. The pixels are nice and fat and this is how I prefer it. I have always preferred UNDER 20MP for my full frame sensors but it seems that most are trying to push the limits of MP on a sensor. Sony decided to make an A7 series camera that will be amazing for video, photo, low light and good light all while allowing for file sizes that will not require a mega computer to process. The shutter is also more damped it seems (not sure if it is or just my imagination but the shutter seems a bit quieter and gentler than the A7 and A7r). There is also the new SILENT mode which means you can use the A7s in complete silence. No beeps, no shutter sound..nada. Silent. That is the beauty of mirrorless.

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The camera feels great (same as the A7 and A7r) and again, not sure if it was my imagination but the AF seemed quicker as well to me. I was able to shoot in near darkness, using AF (with AF assist OFF) and the camera would AF. I had no issues with speed or accuracy.

So far so good but take this for what it is. My 1st 8 hours with a Sony A7s. I will be shooting it much more over the next week for a full review that will come within 2 weeks. For now, enjoy the 1st snaps from my 1st day with the camera. For me, it is the most desirable A7 already due to the low light capabilities, the silent mode and the lower pixel count. It truly is the KING OF THE NIGHT TIME WORLD.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

Click HERE to see the 1st test with the Voigtlander 15 Heliar and click HERE to see a comparison with the Leica M 240.

The following images are all JPEG. What you see is what you get. ISO ranges from 100-102,400. Click images for larger view. Review within 2 weeks! These are just the 1st snaps I shot in the 8 hours I have had the camera, to wet your appetite. 

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1st shot, ISO 6,400 indoors. Sony 55 1.8 – click for larger

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ISO 320 from this afternoon with the 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8

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55 1.8 at ISO 100 – f/2

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VIVID mode, 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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ISO 100, f/3.5 with the 55 1.8

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55 1.8 – ISO 100

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ISO 8000 – 55 1.8

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ISO 400 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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Mitakon 50 0.95 wide open at ISO 5000

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ISO 32,000 with the 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 at f/0.95 with the Mitakon..insane!

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ISO 125

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ISO 125

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ISO 64,000!

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ISO 1600 – Mitakon 0.95

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ISO 1600 – 35 2.8

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FULL SIZE DIRECT FROM CAMERA – ISO 3200 – 55 1.8

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NEXT THREE – ISO 25,600  – 50 0.95 Mitakon

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and ISO 32,000

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ISO 80,000 – 55 1.8 NR OFF

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Mitakon FLARE – 102.400 ISO, 0.95

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