Jan 232015
 

RX1TTH

6 Months With The Sony RX1

By Simi Tometi

Hello Steve, Brandon, and fellow site readers. My name is Simi Tometi, and I am a medical student from Dallas, Texas. School usually keeps me busy(and broke) for the most part but whenever I do have some spare time I indulge in photography.

Last summer I was presented with an opportunity to purchase the Sony RX1(with viewfinder) in immaculate condition for roughly 1/2 of its initial price. With the Fujifilm X100S selling on Amazon for as low as $850(used), I was a bit hesitant. After reading countless reviews and analyzing the specs sheets I went with the RX1. To be honest the deciding factor was that I didn’t want to look back months later wishing I would have just spent the extra cash on the RX1 instead of the X100s.

It’s been just over 6 months, and I’m glad to say I’m more than happy with my purchase. Though the camera as a whole isn’t perfect, it never ceases to amaze me.

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When I purchased the camera, the first thing I noticed was its cold utilitarian build. The whole camera is composed of metal, giving it a solid feel reminiscent of the Canon 5D Mark III(however I’m not completely sure if it’s made up of the same magnesium alloy). The buttons and dials are laid out logically, except for the record button, which is positioned between the rear and right side of the camera. I didn’t find this placement problematic until I added a Black label braided silk strap to the camera, which often presses the button activating the movie mode function.

The Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens, is nothing short of a masterpiece. From its buttery smooth focus ring, to its clickable aperture dial, it just does not disappoint. Wide open, it’s just a treat to use due to how jaw-droppingly sharp it is. Stopped down sharpness really doesn’t increase much, yet the increase in micro-contrast may make you think otherwise. Optical performance is just stunning; rarely do I find any traces of chromatic aberration.

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In regards to ISO performance, the camera once again doesn’t disappoint. At 6400, noise is present but very well controlled with files retaining plenty of detail and files still being remarkably flexible.

Together, the Carl Zeiss lens, functional camera body, and full frame 35mm sensor(from Sony’s flagship a99) make a formidable little camera that best nearly every other comparable option. When shooting the rear LCD screen only gives you a taste of the outstanding 16-bit raw files did this beast is able to capture.

Admittedly, the RX1 falls short in numerous areas that can’t ignored due to its initial price tag of $2800.

Most notably the auto focus of this camera just plain sucks. It really is hit or miss. I feel as if this issue could be resolved with a firmware update, but the RX1 hasn’t received any since launch. For this type of investment one would expect more than this sluggish contrast detection AF system.

Regarding accessories, they’re just too expensive. I understand this is a premium item, and should be surrounded by such, but seriously… Why would anyone pay $250 for the Sony leather case(with no access to the SD card or battery when attached), when the Gariz version can purchased for $125? The Sony brand lens hood sells for $120, while the third-party metal hood that looks and feels the same is being sold on amazon for $7. Really the only individuals I could see purchasing these accessories are those who’ve previously considered purchasing the Hasselblad Lunar(rebranded Sony Nex-7) for $5000.

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For my style of shooting the EVF($450) is a must have, and without it I probably would have went with the Fuji X100s. I really wish Sony included it with the camera or implemented the same way they did in the RX100 III.

Weather sealing is something I feel Sony could have added at this price point. When you own something of this value, you’d like to be assured its protected against the elements(e.g. Unexpected light drizzle).

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To sum it up, the Sony RX1 is stellar tool for few photographers. If you can tolerate the sluggish autofocus and the daunting price tag, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding build, superb high-ISO performance, and top tier image quality.

Simi Tometi

http://instagram.com/justsimi_

https://www.facebook.com/simi.tometi

https://www.flickr.com/photos/simitometi/

Jan 132015
 

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Italy, Transylvania, Austria with Sony A7s, Olympus E-M1 and Leica

by Neil Buchan-Grant – See all of his guest posts HERE

Hi Steve,

I thought it was about time to share with you some of the pictures I’ve been making over the last year. As ever my photography has been mostly made with the Olympus EM1 but following on from your enthusiastic response to the Sony A7s, I decided to trade in my A7 for one. I only use the Leica M 50mm Summilux ASPH on the A7s but its a combination that, although limited in application, has proved to be a great one.

I spent most of the summer at home in England enjoying the fine weather we had here, but I booked myself a week of shooting in a villa on Lake Como in northern Italy for the end of August. The village I stayed in was buzzing as George Clooney was in town shooting his latest coffee commercial just before his wedding in Venice. I then had a very fruitful week in the marvellous city of Sibiu in Transylvania. I was given backstage access to a fashion show there which led to some intimate low light shots made with both cameras.

This was made in the hotel Villa D’Este, in the games room, with a Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/160s, f1.4 ISO 1600 Model: Thorn

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s, f1.4 ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Another shot in the city of Sibiu made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Leica DG 25mm 1.4, 1/200, f1.4, ISO 200, available light. Model: Amalia Beksi

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In London this shot used only available light and was made with the OMD EM1 and the new 40-150mm 2.8 lens @ 45mm, 1/50s, f2.8, ISO 1600

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During a quick break in Vienna Austria, I was lucky to come across an exhibition featuring the work of a New York fashion photographer of the 1950’s called Lillian Bassman. I found her work incredibly beautiful. She was a contemporary of the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but for me she took things to new levels of artistic endeavour with her innovative printing techniques and her eye for elegance and drama. I’ve since bought her book “Women” and I now long to work with long-necked women and couture hats!

This was shot in the villa on Lake Como with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/200s f1.4 ISO 800, available light (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Donutella Viola

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This was made in the villa on Lake Como with some continuous lights I had brought with me. Shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Olympus 17mm 1.8, 1/80s, f2.8, ISO 800 (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Chiara Sgarbossa

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I made this shot in the garden in Como with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/80s, f1.4. ISO 100, available light Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Another shot of Jessica made at the edge of Lake Como. It was shot at dusk with an off camera flash through a mini softbox on the Olympus OMD EM1 and the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 lens @ 12mm, 1/250s, f3.5, ISO 200. The image is a composite of the original colour version and a black and white conversion, blended to give a dramatic effect. Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s f1.4, ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Finally the prospect of more dark winter skies was too much so I booked a week in the Spanish Canary Islands over Hogmanay. I had the new Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 PRO lens on loan, it just went back today..:( and I was dying to use it in good light. Its’s a lens which I would happily recommend to anyone with a micro four thirds camera, it’s bitingly sharp! By some ridiculously lucky chance encounter, I ended up shooting a UK model who was there on vacation. This gave me some great opportunities to test this new lens on something other than landscapes. Thanks again for the opportunity to share these pictures with your readers.

I took this shot backstage at the fashion show in Transylvania with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/60s, f1.8, ISO 3200 available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Raluca Mararu

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This was also made at the same event with the OMD EM1 + 17mm 1.8, 1/100s, f1.8, ISO 1000, available light (grain added later in Silver FX Model: Rosalinda Mihaela Zadaroinea

Behind the Catwalk

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This image was made in the changing rooms with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f 1.4, ISO 1000, available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Cucerzan Adelina

Behind the Catwalk

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During my stay in Sibiu I was lucky to work with some of the models on locations in the city. This was made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 12-40mm lens, 1/320, f2.8, ISO 200 using an off camera flash through a mini softbox (18”) Models: Amalia Beksi and Flavia Bodi

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Kind Regards
Neil

Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

A few more…

This landscape in Fuerteventura was made with the OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 40mm, 1/320s, f4, ISO 200 Polariser

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This image was made at sunrise in Fuerteventura with the OMD EM1 + 12-40 2.8 PRO @ 12mm, 1/2500s, f2.8, ISO 200, Polariser

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Another one in Fuerteventura this time with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 115mm, 1/1600s, f2.8, ISO 200 available light Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made in Fuerteventura in available light with the OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/3200s, f1.8, ISO 200 Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made during a rehearsal of the English National Opera’s Nutcracker at the Colosseum in London. It was made with the OMD EM1 + 75mm 1.8 lens, 1/400, f1.8, ISO 3200 (grain added in Silver FX)

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This photo of people watching a firework display in Winchester was made with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f1.4 ISO 25,600

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Jan 092015
 

How I managed to like my photos

By George Mastrokolias

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I’m George Mastro from Piraeus, Greece. I’m into photography about 10 years, but as a programmer I was actually only into the specs of cameras and not actually photography itself. I was hooked by reading reviews and I suppose I got addicted on reading all about the latest gear even though I didn’t understand all of the details at the beginning.

I had a small compact Sony at the time (2005-2008) and after a few years, dSLRs had matured enough so I thought that if I could buy one I would be able to take better photographs. So after a looooooot of reading I bought the Canon 40D with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 which was a super combo. But I wasn’t pleased with the results. I was very disappointed indeed. I only had taken about 3k photos and I put the camera on an auction as I was sure it wasn’t the right camera and maybe I needed a 5D or something. But the problem was not the camera. It was the weight of it. It was a heavy combo and I couldn’t take it with me everywhere, so after a whole year the counter was only 3k and those were from the first month only!

Then mirrorless came into play and I bought the nifty NEX-5. As a matter of fact I had better shots with this camera but it was only because I was shooting more and more with it. But again not so mush as I wanted. I had to carry a small case along with it. That meant that I didn’ t had a camera always with me.

Then the magic happened! I bought an iPhone 5. Yes a phone, I know. But I finally started to shoot everyday hundred of photos. I realized that I liked it a lot. Much more than just reading for camera specs and gear. I also took a part in a contest and won! Yes I know! With a phone!!! It came in the top 5 among 3500 participants. That’s the winning photograph:

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The contest was about photographing the public transportation of Athens. Winning the contest was the event that made me prouder that ever and then I became ever happier hearing that my photograph was all over the public metro stations and even in a gallery inside the biggest metro station of Athens!

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Then I was reading and searching everyday of the way I could buy myself a new camera that would be better from a phone but also I could carry it always with me and that brought me to your blog. It was the Ricoh GR. I was sure I made the perfect choice and I know that today because I have taken 10x more pictures with this camera than every camera that I had before combined! Here are some shots:

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Do you want to know what’s the funny part behind all the above photos? They are all taken on my way to work. Why? Because I have my camera always with me. I know it has became a cliché but “The best camera is the one you have with you” by far! I now like my photos more and more every day. I know that I have a lot of things to learn and I am not perfect but I own the GR for about 9 months and I think I’m moving towards the right direction. Enjoying photography as an experience!

My addiction about camera specs is now taken over by learning every day about film cameras. I bought myself a Yashica Electro 35 CC that got me my first Flickr Explore

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Can you image that? My most liked photo is from a camera 40 years old! What camera gear and specs are you talking about people? I stopped worrying about that for sure. Next thing is to be a red dot owner, but I live in Greece so I think an M2 would be just fine. Until then, cheers from Pireaus!

You can check my Flickr here ;) https://www.flickr.com/photos/georgemastro

Dec 302014
 

Readers chime in on the Sony A7II!

Before posting my own Sony A7II Review I asked if any readers had gotten their A7Ii yet and if so, send in some thoughts about it. A couple of you sent in your own thoughts after getting the camera, so here they are!

The A7II can be ordered at Amazon or B&H Photo

My full A7II review is HERE

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David Scott

Steve — I’m a long-time reader of your blog and solidly am with you on the Sony A7, A7s and A7II. I’ve all but abandoned Nikon, having sold everything save one D600 and a couple of lenses — but they never get used.

This message, however, is about the fabulous (in my opinion) combo of A7II and the Tamron 150-600mm for Sony (mounted with an LA-EA4 adapter). Below is one of the very first shots I’ve made using this duo. Top is the original, bottom a crop. So far, virtually every image I’ve captured at 600mm has been tack sharp. Autofocus seems very fast. However, I haven’t yet had a chance to try nailing birds in flight. At the moment, the hawks and buzzards that ordinarily circle the skies here are nowhere to be seen.

I literally have had the camera and lens for only a couple of days and December wildlife north of Atlanta has been, well, sparse. I don’t send this image as an example of fine art but, rather, a demonstration of the how well the A7II and Tamron get along.

I have become a thorough Sony A7-line fan and only wish the A7II had a silent shutter option like my beloved A7s. Still, it’s extra megapixels and stabilization feature mean I’ll be carrying both bodies on every shoot. Since most of my regular work is indoors under ordinary, daylight-balanced fluorescents, the A7s has been my go-to camera.

For me, smaller, lighter, quieter — and now steadier — rocks!

www.davidscottimages.com

Handheld at full tele (600mm), ISO 1000, 1/500th sec., f/6.3 (wide open); SteadyShot set manually at 600mm via the camera menu.

(Keep in mind this is at 600mm and HANDHELD! If you never tried this it is NOT easy and about impossible without good IS)

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David Fonseca

Hey Steve! You asked for A7II impressions and here are mine. Hopefully they are useful to you. You were the main reason why I purchased my EM1 and A7 so here is my help to you in return! I am including some test shots I took with my 2 Canon FD powerhouses, the 50mm 1.2L and 80-200 F4L. This is what I wrote on a forum site I contribute to, talkemount.com. The original post is here: http://www.talkemount.com/showthread.php?t=9372

So the A7II arrived today, a day later than I expected when I first put in the preorder but a day earlier then I expected from just a few days ago. I own the A7 and love it. It has become my go to camera. Reasons I felt the upgrade were important to me were, hated the original grip and button placements, no IBIS, a tad slow, poor video features. The A7II seemed to cover these very well. The things I wished for but didn’t make the cut was, silent shooting and a newer improved sensor.

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1st impression out of the box are pretty consistent with what we have seen from online reviewers. Noticeably heavier but the grip is fantastic. Very comfortable shooting without a strap with a heavy solid metal lens like the FD 50mm 1.2L that I have on it now. Overall construction is VERY good. Buttons, dials and screen. Very smooth but solid movement and actuations. Startup time is fast. Almost instant for me in most cases. Shutter is definitely quieter but not stealthy by any means.

Things I’m not sure about yet. The front dial on the grip is a little hard to get to with my fingers and I have to struggle a bit to get to it. Tilt screen is also hard to get to. Not a lot of edge to grab a hold of (Tip From Steve: On the right side of the LCD, underneath, is a lip to grab onto to pull out the LCD). The self-cleaning shutter-clang at power down still happens sometimes. Also when you turn it on and the SteadyShot is engaged there is a small vibration in the body right at boot-up. I tried it a few times and got it to do it fairly constantly. EVF is identical to the A7.

OK so now for a quick steady shot comparison. These are shot with the FD 50mm 1.2L. The steady shot ability with non electronic manual focus lenses was what I was most looking to get with this camera and so far I think its working really nice.

First set. Shot at 1/10 at f8 ISO 200 handheld with dim desk lamp as only source of light. I cropped in a lot. This figure stands at about 3.8″ tall

Without SSI (5 Axis)

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With SSI 

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This next one surprised me so much that I had to take it twice to be sure. Shot at 1/6 at f8 ISO 50. Same desk lamp

Without SSI

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With SSI

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So SteadyShot Inside is not too shabby on a 40+yo lens. Now I know some of us were wondering if the steady shot is engaged in the preview. Id say it is engaged with a shutter half press but using it on a 50mm lens is hard to tell. However when using the focus zoom feature, it doesn’t seem to engage as I couldn’t tell much movement change with it on/off. This weekend I plan on trying it on my 80-200mm and see how it fairs with the longer FL. So far so good though

And then here is a follow up with the 80-200mm f4L:

Ok so finally home and playing around with my 80-200mm. The steady shot is way more noticeable at 200 mm. Also it’s very comfortable holding the camera with this beast on it. A few other things I am noticing.

Menu and C3 buttons are much easier to get to than previously.

I was able to map the FL selection to C3. Very convenient for me to be able to make quick adjustments with a legacy zoom lens.

The higher resolution screen seems to allow you to magnify the image in review a lot closer than previously.

Wi-Fi access is much more reliable – A big plus for me as I use this feature often!

Emount is definitely more robust. I nice solid ‘click’ when you engage the lens

Not seeing steady shot when using focus magnification. Will have to check the manual to see if there is a way to engage it.

Here is two shots indoors and hand held.

200mm f4 ISO 100, 1/25, with and without steady shot

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Here is what the 80-200mm fdn looks like on it

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Mikee Catacutan

Wow, this things feels like a brick. Not a bad brick but just a really solid magnesium alloy framed brick. I like the weight of the original A7 but definitely like the feel of the mark II better and if I had to choose, I’d go with the more solid feel as I think it could withstand some serious traveling.

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Other physical difference include the finish. It’s way more premium looking and feeling over the original A7’s shiny plastic like finish. As we all know, the grip is also larger. It feels good but I also didn’t have a problem with the original, however the added real estate for the placement of the shutter button absolutely feels perfect.

On the original A7, there was a little movement between the body and lens. I’ve used the camera in light showers with no problems but the A7II has a much more improved lens mount. The click you hear when mounting a lens sounds confident and there’s absolutely no wiggle between body and lens.

All the button feel similar, with a few feeling more solid adding to the premium aspect of the camera. I thought the screen would be exactly the same however the black borders on the LCD are reversed with the thicker border being on the right of the LCD. That means the A7 screen protector won’t align with the A7II unless you flip it upside down resulting in an upside down Sony logo. I ended up leaving it on for the time being for protection and will change it out later, or maybe not. It doesn’t bother me. You can see it below:

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So without a doubt, the camera feels great. I will admit needing to get use to the added weight. It’s not heavy, it’s just different from the original A7, which I’ve been using extensively for a year.

As far as internal improvements go, I can already feel the auto focus has improved greatly in that I don’t feel it’s a concern anymore. We’ll see how it goes as I do more shooting but I’m super happy with it. Start up time is a bit faster. Not by a lot but it’s definitely less annoying.

And then there’s IBIS. This is why I decided to sell my A7 and upgrade. Any help in taking care of camera shake, I’m all for it and I think it’s definitely worth it for me. Especially when I’m shooting in constantly changing scenes/light and without the ability to set a minimum shutter speed but want to keep my lens wide open, the added image stabilization will give me more confidence that if it does go down to say 1/30th of a second, I’ll still be ok. I don’t venture too far below 1/80th for handheld shots because I absolutely hate blurry images, so now that I can feel more comfortable at lowers shutter speeds, I’ll worry less and focus more on composition.

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So there you have it. My first impressions of this beast. I have a shoot on Saturday so I’m excited to put this guy to work. I’m already a fan of the quality of the A7 so I’m sure I’ll be just as happy, if not more, with these files.

And some images from Mikee Catacutan

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Beau Reyes

Hello, Steve im a long time Sony alpha user and just received my A7II. The camera reminds me of my old a900 but shrunk down. I take pictures for an adult basketball league and was able to test out the camera this past weekend. While they say the af is 30% faster id say its 100% more accurate. Aside from having to shoot at high iso, the camera performed beautifully paired with the 70-200mm f4 G.

Thanks for running an amazing website.

Take Care,
Beau Reyes

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Richard M Poniarski

Steve;

I saw your page about people who got the A7mII recently and thought I would send you a couple of shots I took. I got mine last Friday and the next day headed into New York City to the International Motorcycle show, where two of the shots were taken, and then to a local car show on Long Island, where I took the blue Coupe de Ville picture. All were jpgs, as Lightroom didn’t have support for the new Sony, though the update now does and I am returning to shooting RAW.

As to the camera, it is really awesome. All the shots were taken with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE OSS lens and the combination of the lens’s stabilization and the IBIS is stunning. I have been able to take shots at much slower shutter speeds than I ever have, something very important to me as I have a familial neurological condition that causes my hands to shake. I love the deeper grip and the shutter button placement is perfect. Only thing making it less than perfect is that there still aren’t enough FE lenses to complete my kit. Once that is done, I will be a very happy camper.

Thanks a lot for all your work and keep it up!

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Dec 232014
 

Merry Christmas To All!

Hello and good morning to all! It’s just a day before Christmas Eve which means I will be taking it easy over the next couple of days so this means there may not be many posts between now and December 26th. I will still be here and will be working on my A7II review but I will be heading up to a log cabin in Northern Arizona for the next few days to enjoy the Holidays with family.

I hope everyone here is having a fantastic holiday week! I will be posting a couple of articles over the next 3 days and hope to have my full A7II review up by December 29th, 1st thing.

Below is a shot or two I snapped inside a bar last night that fills its interior and exterior with thousands of lights for Christmas. I felt it was the perfect opportunity for the Noctilux f/0.95. So what you see below is using the Noctilux wide open inside the bar, which was only lit with these lights.

Happy holidays to all and thanks for helping make 2014 another great year for SteveHuffPhoto.com!

Below, three shots OOC from the A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95. This lens turns reality into dreamland ;) Thanks to Ken Hansen for the lens!

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Dec 182014
 

Last Minute Photo Christmas Gift Ideas!

With only a week until Christmas day, I sure hope that most of you have completed your Christmas shopping! Me, I just started yesterday and finished today. Love shopping online as it is so easy these days  – avoiding the crowds, the parking lots, the stores…though I do find that to have some charm during this time of year. But this year I have been too busy to get to the mall and shop, so all of my shopping was done online at B&H Photo and Amazon.

If anyone out there is still looking for a nice camera gift for their Husband, Wife, Child or someone special, take a look at my list below of cool photo related items that would make for a fantastic Christmas gift this year! With the same day fast shipping from these online shops, getting the gift in time is not a problem.

How about a list of some cool small photo gifts that will put a smile on anyones face?

Tactile Feel? Check out these little buttons…

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I have a couple sets of these, one on my A7s and I love them. They provide a 100% tactile feel to the buttons and improve the feel and use. For $25 you can’t go wrong if you have been looking for something such as this!

Check out the website HERE.

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Want an awesome NON SCREW IN soft release for your Mirrorless? Artisan Obscura is the place to go!

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I have three of these and they STAY PUT. While I lost every screw in shutter soft release I have ever owned, these are the real deal and you will NOT lose them. Superb!

You can check them out HERE.

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How about a strap or two?

There are a couple that I like on Amazon and some are dirt cheap while being very well made and looking superb..

1. Vintage flower strap – wide – under $26

2. Street Strap LONG – I have three of these! 

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3. Braided Leather Barton strap! One of my all time faves!

4. The most amazing strap ever made for the serious photographer or working pro. The MONEYMAKER.

5. Also check out classicases.com as they have some cool new leather straps that I have on hand and LOVE

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How about small pocket cameras that are easy to use but give amazing image Quality?

B&H Photo has the Hasselblad Stellar’s in stock at 70% off

with the black carbon, white/white and orange in stock at $999. I own the Orange one and LOVE it. Been using it every day or two since getting it and it has gotten the most comments of any camera I have carried around with me to date. Plus, it’s a fantastic camera (Sony RX100) and made in Japan vs China of the Sony version. The style, looks, build, packaging and experience is top notch. Well worth the $1k for me as I have been enjoying it more than some $3k cameras I have had in the past.

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The Stellar is HERE at B&H Photo at 70% Blowout Pricing

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or if you want to save some cash, the Sony RX100 V1 is a tremendous value!

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You can buy the RX100 HERE at Amazon for just under $500

The resale of the Hasselblad Stellar will be much better than the Sony but they are basically the same camera (one made in Japan (stellar) and one in China (Sony) and have different cosmetics ad materials used in build. Still, IQ will be the same. RX100 Review is HERE.

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The Ricoh GR – A serious large sensor pocket camera for photographers

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The Ricoh GR is on blowout right now as well. This is a pro level IQ machine that fits in a pocket. Not as slick as the Sony but this is one that steps it up a notch with image quality due to the large sensor. With a fixed 28mm lens though, make sure the person who will be using it is OK with wide angle! My GR review is HERE!

Buy the Ricoh GR HERE at B&H while it is on special!

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Let’s take it up a notch..more performance but a bit larger..

Compact High Performance Cameras (Not quite pocketable)

The new Leica D-Lux (or Panasonic LX100)

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The new Leica D-Lux is actually a Panasonic LX100 in disguise. Much like the Hasselblad stellar situation, Leica places their outer shell on to the LX100 innards and call it their own. Same camera, same lens, same IQ as the cheaper LX100. With the Leica you get the Leica styling, packaging, red dot, better warranty and better software, so paying the extra $300 or so is worth it to many. Resale is also better with the Leica Panasonic versions and this  has been proven in the past.

The LX100 is under $900 HERE

The Leica D-Lux is $1200 HERE

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The Fuji X100T

The latest and (some will say) greatest X100 is the X100T. I have had one for 2-3 weeks and have been happy with it but to me it is pretty much like the previous S version with a new EVF feature that I actually do not like. In any case, it still uses the X Trans sensor which many love and it is a retro styled camera capable of beautiful images. If you have that retro vibe and want a camera to inspire, take a look at the X100T, prob my fave Fuji in production. Still small, and with a great 35m f/2 lens built right in. You can see my X100s review HERE.

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You can buy the X100T at Amazon, B&H Photo or PopFlash.com

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The Sony A6000

Probably the most bang for the buck APS-C large sensor mirrorless camera on the market today. The Sony A6000 is small, sleek, blazing fast (faster than most DSLRs) and can mount any Sony E mount lens or one of any THOUSANDS of lenses from almost any manufacturer using adapters. Great AF, great response, super video and an all around great camera for under $600 with lens. My review is HERE.

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You can buy the Sony A6000 at Amazon or B&H Photo

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..and finally, some more serious cameras for the real enthusiast…

The Sony A7s

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I LOVE this camera for quite a few reasons. You can read my review HERE if you like but the fact is that this guy is about as versatile as you can get.

1. Will shoot in ANY light. From light to dark. Will also AF in the dark with amazing accuracy. 

2. Best low light HIGH ISO camera made today in full frame 35mm.

3. Shoots fantastic video

4. File sizes stay small due to 12MP sensor. 

5. Can mount native E mount lenses or one of thousands of third-party lenses. M mount, S mount, Contax, Nikon, Canon, etc. 

6. Has a silent mode where you can not even tell it is being used or an image being taken, 100% silent.

7. Small and compact for a full frame camera. 

8 Again, did I say it can be used in ANY light?

This was my #1 camera and now is #2 ever since the next camera on the list showed up..

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo!

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The Sony A7 Mark II

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Now with 5 Axis image stabilization, tweaked and improved image quality, faster hybrid AF and fantastic pro level build and feel, the Sony A7II is a redesign and enhancement of one of 2014’s most popular cameras. I am finding the IQ to be better, the speed to be better, the IS to be amazing and the feel and build to be superb. It’s a beefy feeling camera. Solid.

The A7II is a versatile monster camera with stellar video and image performance. Again, mount some cool vintage RF glass for a unique experience and classic image quality results.

You can order the A7II at B&H Photo or Amazon

There are so many photo related items that would make superb gifts. NO way I can list them all but feel free to browse the online shops of Amazon, B&H Photo, PopFlash, Leica Store Miami, and the Pro Shop! All highly recommended dealers!

Dec 152014
 

Sony A7II Review on the way…until then…

Many have been asking “Steve, where is your Sony A7II review?!?!?” – Well, I have only had the camera for a week or so and I need a MINIMUM of two weeks to do a review, sometimes 3-4 weeks. So I am now shooting with it, testing it and trying out the 16-35 f/4 Zeiss with it as well as a few other lenses like the Sony 55 1.8, 35 2.8 and the Voigtlander 40 2.8 and others.

So far it is one hell of an amazing camera. Mark my words, this WILL be on many “Camera of the Year” lists as Sony just pushed it out for 2014.

The JPEG rendering is fantastic and the ergonomics, build, and 5 Axis IS have made this new A7II the “creme of the crop” in the mirrorless digital world. There is absolutely NOTHING like it available today. My video on the Sony A7II is HERE. AF is much better than it was with the previous A7 and is almost up there with the A7s in AF capabilities (The A7s can somehow see and AF in the dark).

My review will be up by the end of the month, but here are a couple of shots to check out until then. All JPEGS from camera.

B&H Photo has some in stock HERE with the 28-70 kit zoom. Amazon has some in stock body only from 3rd party vendors HERE.

A full size out of camera JPEG. Click it for full size. This was at 55mm and 1.8 (typo on the JPEG itself says 50 but it was shot with the 55 1.8 Zeiss). 

Brilliant color, sharpness and remember, this is at f/1.8 and an OOC JPEG!

**Right click and open in a new window to see it the way it should be**

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Here is one with the Voigtlander 40 2.8 – Again, a JPEG shot wide open at 2.8 – click it for larger

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The Zeiss 16-35 at f/5.6 – click it for larger

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Dec 122014
 

Did you receive your A7II? If so, send me your thoughts…

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I know many of you ordered the A7II and they started shipping this week, so many of you should have one in you hands by now. I am curious as to what your thoughts are on the camera because I know what mine are. I feel it is a special camera that ticks most of my boxes from the build and feel to the 5-Axis IS to the IQ and color to the video performance. I think Sony hit it out of the park with this release, as well as on the price.

I am planning to post my full review by the end of the month and thought it would be cool to get a few opinions and image samples from the readers here to include in the review, so there is more than my opinion. I feel this would make for a really interesting review with not only my thoughts, but YOURS as well.

If you ordered and received your Sony A7II camera (or will receive it in the next week or so) and would like to write up a paragraph or two on it and share 2-3 photos from it for my big review, then send this info and images to me (JPEGs no larger than 1500 pixels wide) at [email protected] 

Depending on how many replies I get, your images and text may end up at the end of my review in a special section called “Your thoughts on the A7II”.

I think this would be great and informative to have in the review so hope to hear from a few of you!

Thanks!

Steve Huff

Dec 102014
 

Ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 and the Sony A7r

by Dirk De Paepe

After ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 I thought it was a good idea, to share my findings.

This Loxia Planar, as you probably already know, is the first one of the new Loxia series, that was put in the market by Zeiss right after Photokina, where the first two Loxias were launched. Being thrilled by Zeiss coming up with those lenses, dedicated to mirrorless cameras, I ordered both the Planar 2/50 and the Biogon 2/35 immediately, but the latter probably won’t be available before the end of the year.

Well guys and gals, I can tell you right away that in several domains this Planar offers even more than I expected – and I had really high hopes! But at the same time, in a few other fields, I had pictured something different. Luckily those don’t concern essential issues, so all in all I’m absolutely thrilled with this Loxia, to the point that it quickly became my absolute favorite lens. It’s the one that I always have on my camera when traveling, as my “ready-to-shoot-in-all-circumstances” lens. Before this Loxia, the ZM Planar 2/50 played this role. No surprise, since those two Planars are very familiar lenses in concept (click here to read the ZM Planar 2/50 review on this website). Where the ZM Planar is without any doubt an exquisite lens, the Loxia Planar is even better.

Planar versus Planar

In a former article that Steve published here, right after Photokina, I wrote about the Loxias and already explained the main differences between Loxia and ZM. (Click here to read this article.) So I’ll resume the additional Loxia features here: transmission of Exif data, shorter minimal focal distance (45 versus 70cm), automatic enlargement in the VF when turning the focus ring, de-click possibility of the aperture ring and last but not least improved optical performance for mirrorless cameras.

Optically both Planars are pretty familiar – to my eye, the produced images have the same character, the same color signature, the same clarity, the same detail, etc… As a matter of fact, it’s hard to tell which Planar took which picture, unless you do an A/B comparison. Of course I didn’t perform any measurements, since I’m a user, not a professional photo journalist, but still, in a direct comparison, it was immediately clear that the Loxia performs better in the corners. Although the ZM Planar files remain detailed until pretty far in the corners, I’d say Loxia diminishes the (already small) “vague zones” with at least three-quarters and also the vignetting is less. I have been thinking of publishing A/B pictures here to illustrate the corner performance, but abandoned this idea, since it’s only visible looking at full size, and I really never experienced this matter as a problem with my ZM. Like I said, although the ZM performs excellent, the Loxia just performs quite a tad better. I expect that their will be some improvements measured on other domains as well – we’ll probably read about it soon in different reviews.

But fact is that Zeiss really reworked the optics for Loxia, so this is absolutely no “adapted ZM lens“. It also shows by the field of view, that’s a tiny bit narrower (I reckon some 4%) with the Loxia Planar, compared to the ZM.

Maybe you wonder if this is sufficient to switch from the ZM Planar to Loxia, since the ZM already works so terrificly well on the A7x. Well, I have been wondering about this as well. But I made the move to Loxia, because first of all the wide angles (like the Biogon 2/35 that I tried at Photokina) will perform better with my A7r than most of the M-mounts, but also because I truly believe in FE-mount and Loxia will be totally dedicated to FE. Further it will offer the most modern MF applications, which simply will make me perform better as a photographer, and will be optically 100% developed for mirrorless bodies. I also saw it as a kind of statement: “Loxia is the way to go for manual focus with FE bodies!”. Loxia is dedicated to mirrorless indeed, so to me it feels right being dedicated to Loxia. And the fact that it’s Zeiss (my first and lifelong love in photography) that comes with this modern, all manual lenses for mirrorless generates only one spontaneous reaction in my mind: yes!

Now that I really own and use the Loxia Planar 2/50, I’m feeling for 100% that this was the right choice, and this feeling is even a lot stronger than I expected. The satisfaction and joy to experience this fully dedicated lens, it’s extra features, IQ, styling, and ergonomics is simply bigger than I expected. Yes, some of my reasons are subjective, only based on feeling, but subjectivity is a reality in life, so it’s something that has value to me. Maybe you will feel it differently, because this is partly a personal matter, but still there’s a lot of really objective criteria here as well.

Improvements

I love the shorter minimal focal distance a lot. Combined with the A7r, with its 36MP and its cropping power, it enables “near to makro” pictures. “European Money” is an example hereof. When looking at the 100% crop in the second picture (please remember that you can enlarge all pictures by clicking on them and that you get the real colors only then), you can see that lens and sensor are absolutely keeping up, with no real visible loss of IQ when looking at 100%. I think this indicates that Loxia probably can deliver at resolutions that are even a lot higher. I was pretty flabbergasted, when I looked at this detail. What I see here reminds me of what I get with the Otus 55 (although the Otus delivers exceptional in virtually all circumstances, and the Loxia needs be used with greater care to deliver at this level, for instance regarding choice of aperture). On my monitor, the real world dimensions are enlarged by 7 (the surface by 49), revealing details that aren’t visible with the bare eye. IMO the detail that is rendered here, is simply top-notch.

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02European Monecrop

But apart from this detail power, shooting at smaller distances further narrows the DOF, significantly increasing the bokeh abilities. The bokeh character is pretty much comparable with that of the ZM Planar, but by enacting its formation, it becomes the more clear that this is really a very smooth bokeh, in hind as well as in front focus. Its character reminds me of the Otus again, although I find the latter producing even an a tad more creamy bokeh. But bokeh is a matter of personal taste, so I let you judge for yourself. I’ve shot some wide open pictures, specially for this report, because I know that many followers of this site care a lot about shallow dof and bokeh. The pictures show bokeh in different combinations – front and hind with close and further focus – all shot wide open at f/2. Here they come.

03. Red beauty

05. Jaguar emblem

04. Jaguar headlight

07. Austin Healey Cockpit

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07B Getting in the mood for Christmas

When street shooting wide open, one needs to focus fast. If you do this manually, the modern manual focusing features of this lens/body combination do a terrific job. The two following pictures illustrate this. In the first, I focused on the cigaret smoke and only had a time frame of around two seconds to frame and focus. IMO, this is a typical shot to benefit from those modern manual focus features. I used the automatic VF enlargement here.

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Personally I like the front bokeh yet a bit more than the hind one. IMO, the latter sometimes can get a bit nervous, especially when a very detailed background is involved, like leaves, while the front bokeh always remains super creamy in all circumstances.

All-around

Although this is only a f/2 lens, I find it usable in very divers light conditions. In the White Ochid picture the backlight from the bright white sky made the flower almost transparent. With the focal distance at 45cm, I set the aperture at f/4, in order to obtain the desired dof and a very slight but subtile blur in the hind part of the flower. To provide the right exposure, the setting of the shutter time was very delicate, because 1/3 step away killed the transparency effect.

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In “Watershow”, the exposure and processing was delicate as well, to combine the obscurity of the people with the clarity of the water. The EVF is a great tool for shooting that kind of pictures – if you read any of my former articles, you’ll probably remember that I’m a big EVF fan.

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The chiaroscuro was even pulled a bit further in the B&W “Evening at the Efteling”. And in “Compelling Show” I think I proved that also with the A7r and an f/2 lens, shooting in near dark environments is possible. This was of course shot wide open, at ISO8000 and 1/30sec. Here are some more low light pictures.

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15. Liège by night

This lens really is a high quality all-around piece of equipment – not that much a “specialised shallow dof lens”. IMO it specially shines, when you want to apply blur in a moderate, delicate and precisely controlled way or when you want to apply zone focusing and even hyperfocusing. It’ll capture light terrificly well. It’ll provide a color richness that allows you to work in post production with the colors in any way you want. On the Sony A7x this lens feels perfectly in balance, allowing very fast, spontaneous and precise shooting. Here are some different kinds of pictures to illustrate this.

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The Loxia Planar 2/50 is a very fine lens. It produces almost no barrel distortion (IMO the distortion is negligible), making it very useful for architectural shooting. And combined with the A7r, you get enough pixels to perform some “substitutional tilt/shift” work in post production. I went to the beautiful Liege Guillemins train station (Belgium) to live it up.

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Considerations

I guess you wonder if this Loxia has been a windfall to me for 100%. Well, no. In a few domains I had hoped for something slightly different.

First of all size and weight. This Loxia Planar is really a category larger than the ZM Planar (adapter included) and it simply weighs more (some 75gr – I use the Novoflex adpater for the ZM). I feel like it puts the lens/camera combination really in the next category, regarding size and weight, the more when carrying a few lenses in your bag (I will need a larger bag!). It feels like regarding size and weight it’s more to be compared now with the Leica M as a system, where in the past there was a real gain in this department for the Sony. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty comparable with my old Canon A1 with (latest generation) FD lenses. Strange how our perception changes, since at that time the A1/FD was regarded as a full size system. Although this Sony/Zeiss combination is still working fine for me, I’d say: this is the limit, guys – don’t make it grow any further!

Compared to the NEX bodies, like my NEX-7, this combination (A7x/Loxia) allows a bit less stealth shooting, particularly when the lens shade is mounted (although I believe stealth shooting is mainly a photographer’s attitude, as long you don’t use a large DSLR). Seen from a distance, the shade gives this lens the look of a medium zoom lens. When you really want to perform discrete shooting, you need to take away the shade, bringing the size “back to normal”. This is a massive lens shade, that does a great job in its own, but it’s large. For transportation, its size doesn’t pose a problem though, since you can mount it the other way round on the lens, so that it doesn’t take extra space in your bag, because it’s no longer sticking out. So all in all it’s a great working shade, that you only need to remove when you want to shoot discretely.

But every downside has its upside. I have to admit that the extra mass ads to the shooting control. In one of his articles, Steve mentioned that he felt like the size and weight of the M-system offered the ideal combination of compactness/weight and handyness and I wonder if I don’t need to share his opinion here, now that I feel the A7x/Loxia combination is playing in the same league…
The lens is bigger than the ZM, this mainly means thicker. Less stealth (a bit) and more weight on the downside, but more feeling from the focus ring at the upside. With its large (but not too large) swivel range, it allows very precise focusing. The smoothness/resistance is absolutely perfect for “one finger operation”.
The larger diameter of the barrel also makes for a bigger lens cap – less “wobbly” than the ZM caps. And as far as I heard, Zeiss has the plan to provide all Loxias with the same diameter, which would economize on the filter budget. I hope this doesn’t result in a limited lens offer, because then I’d prefer buying a few extra filters! I wonder though if this diameter will allow for a super fast 85mm. I guess and hope they’ll come at least with an f/2 which I reckon must be possible with this diameter – but wouldn’t an f/1.4 in time be nice!…

To conclude about size and weight, I initially had hoped for a lighter, more compact Loxia. But I guess, when able to choose between the two, eventually I’d probably agree with Zeiss’ choice, since it handles better. I think they had the perfect “manual focusing machine for out of hand shooting” in mind, and I have to agree that they both (Zeiss as well as Sony) have come pretty close. Furthermore, the Loxia sure looks absolutely beautiful on the Sony body.

The build quality is very good. The barrel is all metal, which gives confidence. Both the rings feel like they’ve been engineered with the finest precision. Their operation is super smooth with the perfect resistance to give you the right feedback about what you’re doing. The finish, with both rings being perfectly integrated in the barrel surface of the lens, is perfect. The look and feel is wonderful. With one consideration.

What initially disappointed me, was the design of the aperture ring. It’s placed close to the body, where on the ZM you’ll find it at the end of the lens. The placement is a matter of habit, of course, so no comments here. But because of the aperture ring being perfectly integrated in the surface of the lens barrel, I had it more difficult to feel it and thus to find it anyway. It took me a while to find my way here, missing it quite often at first. After a while however, I started using just my thumb (no second finger) at the underside of the lens to turn it. It’s really easy to find the aperture ring in this way, because the body is your guide. Both the aperture and focus rings have small knurls that provide excellent grip and both have a wonderfully smooth action, that make it easy to operate them with one finger. With my thumb on the aperture ring under the lens and my middle finger on the focus ring on top of the lens, I find it very easy and adequate to set both rings at quasi the same time, making the setting of focus and dof easier and faster then ever. Zeiss needed to place the aperture ring close to the body, to make this happen. In this position, my index finger is supporting the body in a quasi symmetric position to the right hand, which provides and equal pressure on both sides of the body, when relaxing both arms, and as such creates a perfect balans, that enables shooting out of hand with exceptionally long shutter speeds as well as allowing very fast setting and shooting. I have been shooting out of hand up till 1/15sec (the night shot with the Coca-Cola umbrellas), without really paying special attention (well, in fact, I always kind of pay special attention when pushing the button) and when looking at 100% (visible at my flickr page) you’ll see that even the fishnets are sharp.

I have been wondering if Zeiss had this way of shooting in mind when designing the lens, because it’s exactly this design that directed me to this way of handling, opening up the most effective way of shooting with manual focusing lenses that I experienced up till now. I wouldn’t be surprised of it, since Zeiss is primarly a specialist of manual lenses and Loxia is developed for mirrorless, which, due to it’s compact size, is the most handy option for manual shooting. Still, up till now, this new way of holding and setting has not yet become an automatism to me. I need to initially concentrate on the way I hold and handle camera and lens. But when I do, it’s really working excellent and faster than with any other lens I know. I’m sure, eventually, I’ll get used to it and it wìll become an automatism. But I also fear that quite some people, who are less keen on experimenting with different ways of handling, will find this recessed aperture ring to be less convenient in action than the one on the ZMs. Too bad, since it really can help you to perform better than ever.

To finish this of, a word about the price. Looking online at the Zeiss lens shop, this Loxia costs 849.00€, which is 100.00€ more expensive than the ZM. Regarding the extra functions, I’d say it’s more than worthwhile. And when you buy the ZM plus a good adapter, you’ll be spending even more money. (The Voigtländer adapter, with close focus ability, even costs a good 300€!)

*pre-order the Zeiss Loxia lenses HERE*

Conclusion

Well, I hope I elucidated the pro’s as well as the con’s of this new Loxia, as far as I could pinpoint them, that is. All in all, to me, it’s the pro’s that prevail. Largely. It asked for a period of adjustment, regarding the handling of the aperture ring, but once I did it right, it allowed for the greatest manual shooting experience that I ever had.

Regarding IQ, this Loxia offers exceptional value for money, it sometimes it even makes me think of my Otus 55, regarding IQ, not regardin budget :-), without the size and weight and without giving in that much on IQ as the price difference suggests.

My “old” ZM Planar is a great all-around lens. The new Loxia Planar improves this concept on all domains where improvements were possible. For all those manual shooting enthusiasts: IMO Loxia is absolutely the way to go with mirrorless bodies – Sony today, other brands to come really soon, for sure.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures that I added, many of them were specially shot for this user report. I also placed them in a dedicated folder on my flickr page, where you can look at some of them in full resolution, to even better illustrate the IQ in all detail and where you can check full exif data of all pictures. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157649262134498/)

All shots were taken out of hand, with the exception of the “European Money” and “White Orchid” pictures (tripod) and “Liege by Night (holding the camera against a tree). Of course shooting out of hand renders a bit less detail than when using a tripod. But I just love shooting out of hand, since this gives me more possibility to react to a moment’s. Some of the shots weren’t even possible to take with tripod, like the ones of the ceiling and tracks on the train station that I shot from a moving escalator.

Two pictures (Seagulls and Splashing Boat) actually were pretty heavy crops, to illustrate the A7r’s cropping power.

I leave you with a few extra shots now, taken at the beautiful Liege train station. Thanks for reading, guys! And I specially thank Steve and Brandon for their fabulous work on this site!

Dirk De Paepe

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Dec 052014
 

1STLOOK

The Sony A7II – First Look and Video!

Order the A7II at Amazon – Amazon says they start shipping on the 11th of December

Order the A7II at B&H Photo – B&H says shipping starts December 9th

Steve

The Sony A7II has arrived and is in my hands and I am much more impressed than I expected to be. I assumed it would be an A7 with 5-Axis IS but it is quite a bit more than that. At the price of $1698, this is THE full frame camera to have for any enthusiast, hobbyist or anyone who has the passion of photography and wants extraordinary results with their camera gear.

1st off, take a look at my video below where I talk about my 1st impressions of the Sony A7 II…

 

The camera feels awesome in the hand, so much better than the old A7, A7r or even A7s. The new button placements are just about perfect and the larger grip (that I thought I would hate) feels JUST right. The camera also looks nicer, and feels much better built  – more solid. Feels like a pro camera in my hand and the 5-Axis worked wonders during some test video footage I took today. Made it appear like I was using a steady cam. The AF is indeed faster than the old A7 and the IQ, just as Sony has claimed, has been improved. I now see the better color, AWB and punch of the A7s but with more detail..amazing detail..even when shooting plain old JPEG.

Three 1st snaps with the A7II in my house, which was dimly lit BTW – One with the Zeiss 35 2.8 and two with the Voigtlander 40 2.8 – you MUST click them for larger and true 100% crop. These are JPEG! AWB did well for all three with no odd color casts.

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Click the image below to see just how rich, deep, colorful and detailed an OOC JPEG is from the A7II using the 35 2.8

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and one in B&W at ISO 2500 – NR turned off – 35 2.8

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So my enthusiasm went sky-high after taking the A7II out of the package and putting it in my hand. My A7s can not be replaced by the A7II as the II can not do low light like the A7s but it will be the PERFECT companion to the A7s (which will be moved to low light status) as  the A7II now has stellar color and IQ.

Sony is kicking ass and I have yet to use a camera this year that feels as good, looks as nice and performs like this one. No Fuji, no Olympus, No Leica, No Nikon has done it. The A7II makes the Nikon Df feel like a toy in the hand, that is how much better it feels over the A7 Mark I. I love the Nikon Df, it is the only DSLR I would own (and did for a while) but the A7II has shown that Sony still means business and they are not backing down.

An OOC JPEG from the A7II and Voigtlander 15 (The A7s is on the table)

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and another shot of the A7II

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As you can tell, I am excited about this one..more so than the LX100 and X100T I have here to review as well (though I prefer the LX100 to the X100T).

I will be posting a full review of the A7 Mark II within 2-3 weeks. I need to make sure I get some quality time with it and snap all kinds of images in all kinds of situations to see just how well it behaves when pushed. 1st impressions are all positive so far!

Just some quick notes: This does NOT have a touch screen, it does not have the silent shutter and it will not perform as well as the A7s with Leica M ultra wide angle lenses. When using manual lenses the 5 Axis works well – you can assign what focal length you are using and the camera does the rest. Easy as pie. Buttons are all customizable..Sony has come a long way since the NEX series! The A&II also has a sturdier/beefier lens mount than the previous A7!

You can order your A7II at the links below, starts shipping December 9th! My order is in ;) 

Order at Amazon – Amazon says they start shipping on the 11th of December

Order at B&H Photo – B&H says shipping starts December 9th

Steve

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Dec 022014
 

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Hasselblad Stellar Special Edition Video & Samples!

**B&H Photo has a few of these left, blowing them out at 70% off at $999**

Many of you e-mailed me asking for an update once I had the Hasselblad Stellar SE in hand. Well, mine did arrive and it is a beautiful little camera. If course we all know it is a Sony RX100 V1 in a Hasselblad disguise but the cameras high end extras, design, wooden grip and sturdier controls as well as offering Adobe Lightroom software makes it stand out from the standard (now $500) RX100 V1. Much like the Leica D-Lux is the same camera as the LX100 yet $400 more expensive. Same concept.

My quick look video is below!

It has become the “thing to do” in the photo world to trash this Hasselblad, but this was well deserved as Hasselblad went insane with the pricing out of the gate at $3500 for this SE model. I will tell you now that this camera is in no way worth $3500. So since its launch it was laughed at, trash talked and made fun of (though not as much as the LUNAR which is even more insane with pricing and has an ugly design) ONLY due to price and the fact that it is an RX100 with some new cosmetics and sturdier dials, etc.

Leica has been doing this for years with Panasonic cameras and raising the price, but they kept it in check, sticking with a $400-$600 price premium, not a $3000 price premium as Hasselblad attempted. Now that we can obtain one for $999 instead of $4000, it makes it MUCH easier to swallow and the reality is that this camera is nothing to balk at , laugh at or out down. It is a VER capable and beautiful camera.

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After snapping some images with it I was reminded how lovely the original RX100 renders an image (slightly different and more organic than the II and III) and while the III has the most nag for the buck with the pop up EVF, the Stellar SE, now that it is 70% off ($2300 OFF) it makes for a special buy. B&H Photo have sold out of one color but have a few left of the others and once they are gone they are gone for good. Other shops did not reduce the cost of this camera so stores like Amazon are still selling it for $3500-$4200. Other shops who carry this camera are sticking with the $3500- price tag which means when B&H Sells out, there could be a possible resale on eBay profit so I will buy a couple more to do just that ;)

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In the flesh the camera looks killer (IMO) and I bought the orange as for me, it sticks out and screams “what the hell is that”?!?!? The main thing I prefer over the standard version is the wooden grip, it is perfectly placed for maximum gripe and comfort.

To those who say “you are buying old tech, and it is just GAS” well..I say those who chase the latest tech are the most guilty of gas! This camera, the RX100 V1 is highly capable of gorgeous and stunning results. Just see this post here for proof of that.

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It will take gorgeous images today and in 5 years it will as well. Cameras made in trees last 2-3 years are mostly all fantastic today just as they were years ago. Look at the Nikon DF using the old D4 sensor. Amazing camera.

Differences of the Stellar SE over the standard Sony RX100?

  • Different cosmetics
  • Hasselblad name
  • Italian Leather Strap & Wrist Strap included
  • Wooden Storage/Display box Included
  • Exotic Wooden Grip
  • Metal parts and sturdier dials
  • Adobe Lightroom Included

Now 2X the cost instead of 8X the cost of the RX100 V1 ;) 

In any case, I recommend either the RX100 V1 for under $500 or this Hasselblad version of it for $999. Either would make an awesome X-Mas gift for the special photo enthusiast in your life.  Other great options are the new Panasonic LX100 or even Fuji X100T. 

PS – Oh! Before I forget...For those of you who are angry, bitter, full of negativity and hate about me posting the deal on this camera, get over it. Your negative remarks will not be approved if that is what you decide to leave. Cameras are PERSONAL CHOICE and we buy what we enjoy, like, use and cameras that can be fun, inspirational and ones that get the job done. If someone wants to buy a Leica M for $8000, so be it! If someone wants a Canon Rebel, then good for them. If someone wants a Leica D-Lux over an LX100, more power to them. If someone wants a 70% off Stellar over an RX100 then that is cool as well. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me this camera is gorgeous. It was just insanely priced before and that is what made it the laughing stock that it was. At $999 it is a great buy, and again, one that can be resold later for more (mark my words), so nothing to lose :) I may buy 3 more just to sell later!

UPDATE Dec 3rd 2014: Some stats..over the past three days nearly 30 of these have been sold from my link to B&H Photo here. This means that 30 of you bought one after reading this. The interesting thing? Orange has been the top color with over 22 sold! White sold 5 and black sold 3. I figured most would go for the classic black but it appears many of you have the same taste as me  and went for the orange! My guess is that B&H has about 20 of each color and it started with two orange combos, one sold out. For those who asked, I will be doing a just for fun crazy compare between this camera, the X100T and the Lx100 soon! 

UPDATE Dec 5th 2014: I just re-read an article I wrote about the Stellar SE when it was announced and it is funny as I said “I would pay $1000 for one” and here we are, at $999. Priced just right. You can see that article here. 

 

You can buy the RX100 V1 HERE or the Hasselblad Stellar SE HERE. 

My 1st three snaps with the Hasselblad Stellar SE at home!

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For reference, Amazon has one listed for $4,250 as of December 2nd 2014 – $999 at BH is a great buy.

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Dec 012014
 

Cyber Monday Deals (Things I would Buy) – Sony, Cosyspeed and more!

Hey guys! It’s “Cyber Monday” and while every year stores and manufacturers try to get me to push their deals on things I would not personally ever buy, every year I do not post 95% of those deals simply because as I said…I would never buy or use these products. But sometimes there are deals that come along that I feel are special, or well worth the cost and sometimes, a downright NO BRAINER. Things I WOULD buy! Last week I posted a couple of deals..one on the Hasselblad Stellar SE at 70% off (and I ordered one myself), the deal on the Sigma DP Quattro, which is almost half off from $999 to $599. The Sigma is a unique camera and was not tempting to me at $999 but at $599 it is something that some will want for its unique IQ and capabilities for certain subjects.

Below are a few more deals on things that I feel are a great bang for the buck…

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Sony also has some AWESOME deals on the A6000 camera (which is FANTASTIC, see my review HERE)..

Sony A6000 with 16-50 Power Zoom lens – $598!

Sony A6000 Body only – $448!

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CosySpeed has a great deal on their Camslinger bags at $69 each! THIS BAG IS A STEAL FOR $69 and is one of the most useful camera carrying cases I have ever used. See my video on it HERE.

Buy the Cosyspeed Camslinger in BLACK for $69 HERE at B&H Photo. A $50 SAVINGS.

Their finger strap is something I actually prefer to a wrist strap, and it can be had for only $12.90. See it here. (Also used in the video at the above link) 

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How about a deal on the Fuji X100S?

$899 in black!

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Also, do not forget Leica has some cool discounts right now. $750 of an M 240 and $250 off of most lenses. You can buy Leica from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop or Leica Store Miami.

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NIKON!

There is a great Nikon Df deal over at Amazon (Through ONECALL) where you can get a Nikon Df and 50 1.8 for $600 off (in black) for a total of $2396 (20% off). Check it out HERE.

Nov 262014
 

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The New Sony A7 Mark II – Pricing and Ship Dates!

**Pre-Order the A7 II at B&H Photo NOW! – $1698 – Ships December 9th**

The KIT Lens version with the 28-70 Zoom is $1998 HERE

As many of you have seen, Sony Japan announced the new A7 Mark II with a slew of improvements. I had a meeting with Sony where I heard all about the new camera last week and wow, they really did their homework. The A7 Mark II is not only going to be just a full frame mirrorless, but a powerhouse of a photographic tool. Yes, I am excited. I fell in love with the A7 series a year ago and even more so when the A7s was released (My current #1 camera). With the A7II, Sony has struck a nerve and finally added the game changing 5 Axis Image Stabilization. YES. This is good.

There are a few improvements over the old A7 and the best news is that you can PRE-ORDER the A7II (links coming today) at $1699. yep, $1699. Sony did not gouge the price of the A7II, instead they kept it the same as the older A7 and have now lowered the price of the original A7 to $1299 (as of this weekend)! A full frame mirrorless that accepts ANY lens made (just about) for $1299.

Order the original A7 here. It will be lowered to $1299 by Friday. 

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But the A7II is the one I am lusting for just due to the fact that it is now even beefier in build with a new more robust mount, better weather sealing and now 5-Axis Image Stabilization. This is the best IS you can get in a digital camera, period. Better than ANY lens, or any in body IS. This is basically what we have in the Olympus E-M1 and it is AMAZING. The best news is that this 5-AXIS will work with ANY lens, even Leica M glass, Canon or Nikon. Sweet! You will gain 4.5 stops by using 5-Axis. This seems like a polished and very capable camera. The 5-Axis IS is what set apart the Olympus E-M1 from the pack, and now Sony has it.

Sony tells me IQ of the A7 II is improved from the A7 even though the A7II is using the same sensor as the A7. Yes, it is the SAME exact 24MP sensor, but the processing has been tweaked (hopefully to match the superb A7s).

The Af is now 30% faster than the A7, video has been improved to A7s specs, and the re-design places the shutter button in a much more comfy spot as well as adding a bit more grip to hold on to.

Sony is on fire yet again and I can not wait to see what else is coming down the road from them. Rumors of a PRO A9 series is making my mouth water and I can only imagine the possibilities.

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PRE-ORDER the SONY A7II for $1699 – Shipping starts December 9th!! Just in time for X-Mas!

Order at Amazon – – – – Order at B&H Photo

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  • Higher bitrate video – 50MBPS – same as Sony A7s, which is astounding
  • Same Sensor – No changes to sensor but A7II has improved IQ due to new processing
  • Worlds first 5 – Axis IS on a full frame camera model
  • IQ improved over A7
  • ALL lenses stabilized – even Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc
  • 30% faster AF, improved tracking
  • More robust mount
  • Body redesign, new shutter placement

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PRICING of the Sony A7 Mark II:

$1699 BODY ONLY – Ships December 9th 2014!

$1999 KIT lens  – Ships December 9th 2014!

AND YES, I will be doing a full “real world” review of this new Sony A7II as soon as I can one shipped to me for review, which should be less than a week from now!

 

PRE-ORDER the SONY A7II NOW for $1699 – Shipping starts December 9th!! Just in time for X-Mas!

Order at Amazon – – – – Order at B&H Photo

Nov 202014
 

The new Sony A7II! 5-Axis IS, Faster AF and more!

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Sony Japan has unveiled the latest and greatest from Sony in the form of the A7 II (Mark II). This is a pretty major release as it now includes the amazing 5-Axis Image Stabilization (as used in Olympus bodies) and marks the very 1st full frame camera with this technology. The 5-Axis IS is jaw dropping good and now  that it is inside a Sony full frame A7 body, the possibilities are endless. THIS IS HUGE, believe me. It will make this series THAT much better.

Of course, this is only one announcement so far and I am sure Sony has much more up their sleeve..as in a super high res “pro” version and maybe something else.

The A7II has a 30% AF speed increase as well as much improved AF tracking capabilities and a 40% quicker start up rate over the original A7. Video is beefed up with the A7II as well to the A7s specs.

The A7 body is improved as well with a beefier grip and a tilted shutter release for more comfort and ease of use. Buttons and dials have improved sealing to prevent water and dust from getting inside the camera. There is also a newly designed battery grip which is also weather sealed. The camera retains the same 24 MP sensor as the A7 as well as the same Bionz processor.

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This camera was announced in Japan and so far no announcement from Sony USA. No date of release or price as of yet but if I know Sony, this means more is on the way really soon :) This is not a rumor and you can read more about it at B&H Photo HERE.

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I can’t wait to slap the Leica 50 APO on this guy!

Steve

SPECS OF THE A7II:

Lens Mount Sony E (Full Frame)
Image Sensor Exmor CMOS; 35.8 x 23.9 mm
Effective Pixels 24.3MP
Total Pixels 24.7MP
Still Image File Format JPEG, RAW
Storage Media SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo/XC-HG Duo
Card Slot 1x memory card slot
Viewfinder Type XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder
Viewfinder Resolution 2,359,296 dot
Frame Coverage 100%
Magnification Approx. 0.71x
Shutter Type Electronic first curtain shutter available
Shutter Speed 30 to 1/8000 sec.
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 sec
Image Stabilization 5-axis in-body image stabilization equivalent to 4.5 stops
Drive Modes Single shot, Continuous High, Continuous Low
Top Continuous Shooting Rate Up to 5 fps in continuous high; 2.5 fps in continuous low
Exposure Metering System Advanced 1200-zone evaluative metering
Metering Method Multi-metering, center-weighted, spot
Metering Range -1 – +20 EV
Exposure Modes Aperture-Priority (A), Manual (M), Programmed auto (P), Shutter-Priority Auto (S)
ISO Sensitivity ISO 100-25600 (expandable to ISO 50-51200 with multi-shot NR)
Autofocus System Fast Hybrid AF
Number of Focus Points Phase detection: 117 / contrast-detection: 25
Autofocus Sensitivity -1 – +20 EV
Built-In Flash No; Multi-Interface Shoe to accept optional external flash
Movie Recording 1920 x 1080; 60p, 60i, 24p
File Format XAVC S, AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4 (YCbCr 4:2:2 8-bit, RGB 8-bit)
Video Data Rate XAVC S: 50 Mbps
AVCHD: 28 Mbps (60p, PS), 24 Mbps (60i & 24p, FX), 17 Mbps (60i & 24p, FH)
MP4: 12 Mbps (1440 x 1080, 30 fps), 3 Mbps (640 x 480, 30 fps)
Audio Recording Built-in stereo microphone, optional external stereo microphone
Audio File Format XAVC S: Linear PCM, 2 channel
AVCHD: Dolby Digital AC3 2 channel
MP4: MPEG-4 AAC-LC 2 channel
Maximum Recording Time 29 min.
Monitor 3.0″ 1.228.8k-dot TFT LCD monitor
Tilting Design 107° upward; 41° downward
Interface HDMI micro (type D), multi/micro USB, Multi-interface Shoe, 3.5mm stereo microphone jack, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Wi-Fi Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity (IEEE 802.11b/g/n, 2.4GHz band); NFC Forum Type 3 Tag
Power Source NP-FW50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Battery Life With Viewfinder: 270 shots
With LCD Screen: 330 shots
Operating Environment 32-104 °F / 0-40 °C
Dimensions 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4″ / 126.9 x 95.7 x 59.7mm
Weight 1.3lb / 599g (with battery and memory card)

 

Oct 292014
 

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SONY DIGITAL IMAGING ANNOUNCES “PRO SUPPORT” SERVICE PROGRAM FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

SAN DIEGO, CA (Oct. 29, 2014) – Sony, a worldwide leader in digital imaging, has announced the formal launch of their “PRO Support” service program, offering premium service, repair, support, equipment loans and more to working professional photographers.

“I’m very pleased to launch our PRO Support program here in the US” said Neal Manowitz, director of the interchangeable lens camera business at Sony. “We’ve seen such a strong response to Sony cameras from working pros, and are proud to offer this versatile program to cater to their demands. It’s a premium support experience that will ensure our pros are constantly ready for business and remain up-to-date with all of our leading innovations.”

Brian Smith, Sony Artisan of Imagery, added “As a professional photographer, my Sony cameras take a beating while they hold up to the rigors of the road. Yet it’s great to know that Sony PRO Support has my back – so I can finish the job even when shooting in the harshest conditions.”

The program, already in beta, will launch on October 30th at (www.sony.com/PROServices). A formal overview of its membership benefits and requirements is below:
PRO Support Program Benefits:

• Welcome Kit
• Dedicated phone support
• Expedited turnaround time for repair service
• Repair facilitation loans
• Access to loan equipment for evaluation purposes
• Free camera maintenance services
• No out-of-pocket shipping expenses
• Discounts on out-of-warranty repairs
Membership Eligibility requirements:
• Owner of two (2) Sony Alpha Full Frame Interchangeable Lens Cameras and three (3) Sony ZEISS™ and/or G-Series Lenses
• Apply through host URL (www.sony.com/PROServices) + receive official invitation from Sony
• $100 annual membership fee
• Active professional photographer (self-employed or member of professional imaging business)

For more information on Sony’s PRO Support Service program or to formally apply, please visit (www.sony.com/PROServices).

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