Apr 182016
 

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PIMP YOUR SONY RX1 MKII with these awesome accessories!

I have to say, I love my Sony RX1R MKII. I loved the original, then the R and now the MKII is what I feel is the smallest body on the market with the most serious IQ and capabilities, IF 35mm is your thing. In other words, there is no camera that is this size or smaller that packs this kind of IQ, low light and full on potential. The Sony RX1 series has sort of a cult following as the ones who own it and use it seem  to truly adore it, and those who never did bond with it just sold them. But no matter how you look at it, the RX1R MKII, or any of the RX1 series of cameras can produce stunning results in the right hands.

I often get asked “what strap do you use” or “what bag was that in your last video” or “hey, what shutter release is that” or even “what grip are you using”. I get these questions very often, and this post is going to tell all of you exactly what I did to my Sony RX1R II to make it my own, and make it much more comfy to use.

I will show you two grips I love and recommend, the best soft release I have found to date (for ANY camera), the sun shade I chose for my RX1RII that is much more affordable than the Sony version as well as what strap I use when I use one on this camera. Usually though, I have it in a small bag and without a strap.

First, check out the video to see it all

Then, below, , check out these two grips for the RX1R Mark II (NOTE: These will NOT fit the old Mark I versions as the MKII body has changed ever so slightly)

FROM METRO-CASE.COM 

This for fitting sleek and functional grip is quite nice. When I attached it to my RX1RII I was pleased with the design, looks, the way it keeps me from pressing the video/movie button and the fact that it is compatible with ARCA SWISS style plates. It also adds a nice grip to the camera while looking like it fits in with the design of the Sony itself. It has a solid feel and construction and for most, this would be the perfect grip. Click the stats below to see more or order. Price is $89 direct at METRO-CASE.COM

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FROM J.B. DESIGNS

I LOVE LOVE LOVE JB Grips! The wooden materials and nice design mean my cameras always look unique and cool when a JB Grip is rocking it. While this look is not for everyone (some will prefer the sleek design above from METRO-CASE, but some will also prefer this all natural wood look as it really gives off a nice vibe and makes the camera look a bit old school, a bit different and it feels great in the hand. I love this grip because of the look, design and the way it feels on the hand. It is easy to remove, lets me have full access to memory and battery and can mount on a tripod. This JB Grip is $85 and available at AMAZON HERE!

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LENS HOOD

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I looked for a nice lens hood for my RX1RII and ended up buying THIS ONE from Fotodiox on Amazon. It is all metal, is squared off and looks perfect on the camera. Not much else to say about this as its a lens hood but it does the job, looks great, is all metal and while not dirt cheap, it is well worth the cost. You can see it at Amazon HERE.

SHUTTER RELEASE – Best release I have ever found!

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WOW! I stopped buying shutter soft releases quite a while ago. WHY? They always fell off. The screw in models fell off almost daily, and they would be lost forever. Then there were even some stick ons that would always fall off as well. I gave up. UNTIL NOW. Check these out guys and see me attach one to my Sony A7RII in the video above. These come in all sizes and all shapes and are attractive with a clean design. You can go with concave or convex and 10mm or 13mm. All kinds of colors to choose from and they are not expensive coming in at $9-$15

Check them out HERE.

STRAPS?

I have to say, I do not use a NECK strap with my RX1RII often, but when I do it is this one. I always love smaller leather straps, and this one is affordable and nice ;)

 but I do use this WRIST strap from LV Designs more often.

BATTERIES – SPARES and EXTRAS

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I must have 12 batteries for the RX1/RX100’s around here but most of them are cheap spares I bought from Amazon, along with a cheap dual charger that works amazingly well. The batteries can be found cheap HERE (Two for $12) and the charger I use is HERE Highly recommended! 

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

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

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

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

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Apr 132016
 

Photo trip to Peru

by Alec Fedorov

Hi Steve,

I am an amateur photographer who has been an avid reader of your website for three years. Thanks for the great service you provide to the community of photographers.

Recently, my wife and I returned from an REI trip to Peru where we hiked the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and I would like to share our experiences with the readers of your site.

I brought two cameras on the trip: Fuji X100s and Sony RX100III, both of which are great for travel photography. My go-to camera was the Fuji because of excellent image quality and ease of use. The Sony was kept in my pants pocket and came in handy a few times.

We arrived in Cusco, where we spent three days acclimatizing to the altitude, since the Salkantay Pass is at 15,200 feet. Cusco has the population of about 450,000 and it was the historic capital of the Incan Empire until it was conquered by the Spanish in 1532. Nowadays, Cusco is a growing city, and it is a tourist hub for trips to Machu Picchu.

We arrived in Cusco a few days before the New Year and the city was full of tourists and holiday lights. The streets in the center of Cusco are cobblestone. Some intersections are so narrow that the cars have to back up half way through the turn in order to complete it!

One of the most noticeable aspects of Cusco are the stray dogs which are ubiquitous. Some of the dogs have owners but the majority of them live on the streets. This is often due to people purchasing the dogs as puppies and then losing interest as the dog gets older and the novelty wears off. In Peru, it is considered inhumane to neuter dogs, so the population of street dogs just grows exponentially.

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Cusco is a blend of ancient and modern. The food was excellent and some of the restaurants were very eccentric, the kind you would expect to find in Manhattan.

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One day, we hired a local driver to take us to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which encompasses the heartland of the Incan empire. The scenery was spectacular, with very few tourists. At the end of the day, we ran into many shepherds, bringing the sheep in. They live in primitive clay houses without electricity.

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After spending three days in Cusco, we hooked up with the REI group to begin the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. This trek is named among the 25 Best Treks in the World by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine. It is an ancient and remote footpath located in the same region as the Inca Trail. The first few days of the 6-day hike traverses through a landscape of scenic views of the snowcapped 20,574 ft Mt. Salkantay.

We spent the first two nights at Salkantay Lodge at 12,600, and hiked to the Glacier Lake at 14,500 feet to further acclimatize.

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The hike over the Salkantay Pass began on a beautiful sunny morning. As we ascended, the green valley and blue sky was replaced by the grey lifeless rock and a dense fog. Shortly after reaching the top of the pass, a lone white horse emerged out of the fog. It was a very surreal experience.

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Over the next few days, we continued our descent into the high jungle, where we took our repose at three more lodges. The only traffic on the trek consisted of occasional packs of mules and horses carrying the luggage and the food supplies. In six days, we only ran across two other hikers. Photos below are of the local man who followed behind our group with the water and medical supplies.

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On the last day, before reaching Machu Picchu, we hiked through coffee plantations, and we visited a local family business. Many of these families rely on selling coffee to the tourists as their only source of income.

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Machu Picchu, in itself, was spectacular, and the experience of getting there by foot was unforgettable!

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Alec

Thanks,
Alec

Apr 092016
 

5

Five Reasons why I prefer Mirrorless to a DSLR, ANY DSLR…

By Steve Huff

You know, ever since the humble beginnings of this website I have been drawn to smaller, sexier and cameras that have fun factor and mojo to them. I started this site with a Leica M8 review due to my love for what was at the time, IMO, the sexiest digital camera available. It was so different from the standard DSLR’s that flooded the digital camera market for so long. It was small, but had a serious heft, feeling like it was made out of a block of stone. The viewfinder on a Leica M has always been a tried and true old school rangefinder, which offered a much more challenging experience, at first. Soon, it became my favorite way of “seeing” with a camera viewfinder.

The Leica M8 had a good run, but when the full frame M9 hit, all hell broke loose. At the time, the only full frame digital cameras were things like the Canon 5D and Nikon D700. The M9 hit and there it was, a full frame camera that was much smaller than any DSLR. The M lenses were and are tiny in comparison to DSLR lenses (due to being manual focus) and the M9 made an amazing small, but very well made (better made than any DSLR) full frame powerhouse, with image quality that could no be matched, at the time, by any camera. Even today no camera can recreate the look of the old M9, not even the M 240 which is Leica’s latest M camera.

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But this article is not about Leica, I only mention the M8 and M9 as I feel, for me, these are the cameras that were very important at the time they were released, as there was simply no other full frame offerings that could come close to the build, size and performance (as long as we had decent light of course, those early Leica’s were not so hot in low light). The M9 was huge for Leica, they sold a ton of them and it was the M9 that had Leica selling out their entire stock of M glass for months at at time. Wait lists were long, and Leica was riding the new mirrorless wave. There was a reason for this, and it is called TIMING.

LEICA T AND NEW 35 SUMMILUX 1.4 T Click it for larger.

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Soon after the M8 and M9, other companies started releasing convincing mirrorless cameras that lived up to the promise of smaller size, and more fun factor but many of them were flawed with lack of lenses, slow AF or quirky performance. Many looked gorgeous, like the Olympus EP1, but it was so dog slow, had no EVF 0r OVF and it had only a couple good lenses to choose from. Panasonic made waves with the GF1 and soon, many were on the mirrorless train, but it was a slow road. Over the years these companies were releasing body after body but the lenses were taking time. This caused the DSLR crowd to predict the demise of mirrorless … “What good is a small body if you do not have good lenses”..

Then Olympus and Panasonic started kicking ass  by releasing amazing lenses that were small and performed incredibly well. Fast primes with attractive jewel like design and stunning performance. Lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8, 45 1.8 and the Panasonic 20 1.7 and the drool worthy Nocticron..today we have LOADS of lenses for the Micro 4/3 system, all we could ever want or need from ultra wide 7-14 or 8mm fisheye to 300mm fast pro primes and consumer zooms.

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Fuji was going full steam ahead as well, let us not forget about them! Fuji created TONS of excitement for mirrorless with the original Fuji X100. Many were saying “Now I can have my affordable Leica M style camera”..some were calling it a rangefinder, of which is most certainly was and is not, but it gave us the same kind of feeling as using one. Image quality was up there with the M9 even though the X100 was an APS-C camera and not full frame. Low light slaughtered the M9 and many feel the X100 was the start of Leica’s sales decline. See, Leica attracted the MASSES with the M9, unlike what they have done before (and after). The masses came out for the worlds first full frame mirrorless camera, which was the M9, there was nOTHING like it. I was getting THOUSANDS of emails over 6 months about the Leica M9 from normal joe’s who heard about it and was intrigued, even at the high price tag. When the X100 came out, that halted Leica’s mystique a bit as many saw the X100 as being like an M. While it was not, in any way – not in build, feel, shooting experience, or output, an M, it resembled one with its shape, and put out fantastic performance, so that was plenty good enough for the masses, at 1/6th the price.

Sony 24-70 G Master and Sony A7RII. Click for larger!

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When Sony hit the market with the original A7 series, I was excited by the possibilities. Attaching Leica M glass to it, shooting great full frame video, and having this full frame powerhouse taking up less space in my bag than a DSLR. While the A7 was larger than anything from Olympus, Panasonic or the other guys, it was indeed full frame. Much like the Leica M9, the Sony had the same benefits, but more of them. While the Sony was nowhere near as beautiful in design, build or feel as the Leica M9, the sensor inside the Sony was much more versatile. Able to capture scenes with massive Dynamic Range (the M9 did not have a huge DR) and even at night with low light high ISO performance that was cutting edge (unlike the Leica which suffered even at ISO 1250). Add swivel LCD’s and the EVF and video performance and you had an all in one powerhouse that was smaller than an APS-C DSLR yet full frame. Again, the weakness was LENSES. Sony had a 28-70 kit zoom that was average, and a couple of primes, the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss.

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I jumped in but over time realized the A7 series would need a lot of polishing to get up to speed and be better than most of what was out there. Soon we had more lenses, and more bodies. The A7 and A7R were replaced with the A7II, A7RII and A7S and A7SII. NOW we are talking! The MK II bodies improved the shape, build, and feel of the old A7 series. Also, the AF speed was improved quite a bit and we had a better EVF and better specs all the way around. Lenses I love for my A7RII are the Sony/Zeiss 16-35, Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, Loxia 50 and the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master which is just gorgeous. The new 70-300 looked very promising as well.

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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Today there are tons of lenses for Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony and always have been for Leica. The choice of high quality Mirrorless systems out there today is head spinning. Most looking to dive into mirrorless TODAY have a tough choice, and again, I get so many emails asking me “which one should I get” and I do not really answer those questions as a camera choice is personal, and should be made by the buyer, not me! With that said, I love them all but my faves, today are still Leica, Sony, Olympus and a couple Fuji models. After using them all, shooting with them all, for me, these brands make cameras that just fit “me”.

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Leica’s M 240 is a beautiful camera in every way but with so many other full frame offerings today (from Sony) the Leica M 240 did not sell as well as the M9. The Olympus E-M1 and PEN-F are fantastic as well, mature cameras that perform to a high standard, look and feel amazing and just “work”. Sony is on a roll with the RX1RII which I have not even mentioned yet! The RX1R for me, was a huge step forward for Sony as they created a SMALLER than Leica M full frame mirrorless with a Zeiss 35 f/2 that beat Leica’s own 35 Summicron (and the Leica lens cost more than the entire CAMERA and LENS from Sony). To me, one of the most magical cameras ever made was the RX1RII, for IQ. The new Mark II has slightly different image rendering and color but has improved the AF speed and performance. I own the RX1RII and adore it and use it for personal shots all the time.

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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With an RX1RII I could not even imagine wanting to replace it with a large bulky full frame DSLR and 35mm lens that would be 3X the size, 4X the weight and not even perform as well. The RX1RII is an amazing tool, if  you can handle 35mm. The Leica Q also rocks but is $1000 more, much larger and has a 28mm. I prefer the Sony in every way but many prefer the Leica. Personal pref, and both are two of the best most practical mirrorless cameras released in recent times with IQ that is tough to beat.

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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OH! I totally forgot this article was titled “Five reasons why I prefer mirrorless to DSLRs”..so before I start on another long ramble, lets get to that:

  • THEY ARE SMALLER, PERIOD. Even the larger mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 Mark II series, are smaller than even APS-C DSLR’s while providing performance that trounces them in many areas. Low light, Dynamic Range, Sharpness, EVF over small OVF, and very good AF performance. Add something like a Voigtlander 40 2.8 to an A7 series body and you have a small powerhouse (and you can not use this lens on a DSLR). Add a HUGE 24-70 G Master lens and the fight gets closer for size but even so, still smaller in the body, which is the part you HOLD. The part that must be comfy in your hands. The Sony wins in size over ANY FULL FRAME DSLR, to which it must be compared. Take a 5DII and 24-70 and it will be larger and heavier than the Sony yet we lose the EVF, swivel LCD, and that nice Sony sensor DR and ISO performance. There is a reason Sony leads in the sensor department, they make the best. So I will choose the Sony over any DSLR due to size, features (did I say 5 Axis IS inside)? Make no mistake, the Sony A7 Mark II series may have some large pro lenses but as a whole, it is still smaller and more enjoyable for me to use over a full frame DSLR and  those large pro lenses? For me they beat the Canon and Nikon equivalents in IQ and build, so why not use them on a smaller body? Hmmmm. Take on a Olympus PEN-F or Panasonic GX-8 or Fuji X100 and you are at a whole new level of small, light and with amazing IQ. Mirrorless wins the size game every time.

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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  • LENSES! There are now plenty of lenses to choose from! No excuses now! Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Leica all have great lenses available for their mirrorless systems. Some are tiny like the Sony full frame 28 f/2 and 50 1.8, some are large and some are small and incredible (almost any prime from Olympus).
  • FUNCTION! EVF, Tilt LCD and something like 5 AXIS IS inside are things you will not see in a mirrored DSLR. While I appreciate that MANY prefer a good OVF to a good EVF I think many OVF die hards have not shot through an incredible EVF yet. Something like the Leica SL offers an EVF experience that beats ANY OVF, hands down. It’s incredible. Using a Sony A7 or Olympus E-M1 or even a Fuji X-T1 offers more function and is more versatile than any DSLR I have ever shot with. Things with Olympus like Live Bulb, Live Time and Live composite is changing the way we shoot astro. Things like this we do not see in DSLR’s.
  • ABILITY TO USE 3rd PARTY LENSES: These new mirrorless cameras work very well with Leica M lenses these days, any M mount lens in fact. I can buy a used M lens for $300 and get amazing shots with character when mounted on a Sony, Fuji or even Olympus camera. Can’t do that on ANY DSLR (mount a Leica M mount lens to it). I love shooting my Sony with a 50 Jupiter or even 50 Noctilux. We can now use these incredible lenses on something other than a $7k Leica.
  • PROGRESSION: Never have I seen technology in digital imaging move so fast. Mirrorless is moving ahead with new innovations, new designs, and new tech. EVery year we have some kind of new progression in mirrorless while DSLR’s remain pretty much the same in looks, style, function and everything else. In my eyes, DSLR’s today are getting stale. Mirrorless today is energizing so many with the size, tech inside and the things we can do with them in a much easier way than ANY DSLR. (something like shooting the night and seeing your exposure develop in real time using Olympus’s LIVE TIME)

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There are more reasons like being able to pick up something like a Fuji X100 or Sony RX1 and just be UBER light. No lenses, no bag needed. But you will come back with impressive high quality shots. The mirrorless world is growing, and sales are strong for some, stronger than DSLR’s in some cases. I remember 10 years ago (or so) going to disneyland and seeing so many with big DSLR’s around their neck (I had a Leica M7 and 35 Lux) and thought “WHY would they do that”! Today if I go to Disneyland I see MANY with small mirrorless cameras, but mostly all use their phones or even iPads for their photo and video. THIS is why DSLR’s are also losing steam with the average Joe’s of the world. While Fuji and Sony helped slow Leica’s M sales, I see the phones slowing DSLR sales. See, the mass public used to walk into Best Buy and say “I want to look like a pro”, and they would buy a DSLR and then realize that simply buying one will not make them a pro! They end up using it for a few weeks and then sitting it on a shelf due to size and disappointment. These days, the masses use their smart phones so while a few still go to Best Buy and buy those DSLR’s they have on display, as they know their phone can not compete, that number is MUCH lower today than 10 or even 5 years ago.

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Today many have been trained by their phones (for small size and ease of use) and when they go to buy a real camera, they want something SMALLER, something FUN, not a huge DSLR. They see cameras from Sony and Fuji and think “WOW, this is smaller and looks great”, this is why the original Sony A6000 did SO WELL and sold in huge numbers. So for most of the public, the smart phone is the way to go. For most Enthusiasts and Hobbyists, Mirrorless is the choice. For most PROS who shoot weddings, Sports or wildlife, DSLR’s are still king but that is starting to also go the way of mirrorless. While many predicted the doom of Mirrorless years ago, I will say here now that I predict a continuing downward slide for the DSLR over the next few years. Eventually, Canon and Nikon are going to have to give in and create a kick ass mirrorless system. Otherwise they face the reality of even more shrinking sales over the long term. I guess time will tell but the way I see it is that mirrorless gives us smaller size, more function and features, an experience which is more fun that using a DSLR.. and today, IQ is no longer a compromise as it was a few years ago. We can have it all and then some with mirrorless today, and that is a good thing.

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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

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

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

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

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Apr 092016
 

titles7ii

A Sony A7II long term review

By David Lintern

I work as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor sector in the UK, mostly contributing words and pictures to magazines in print and online. I also work as an editor on 2 outdoor magazines, so a lot of pictures cross my desk – from terrible to exceptional and a lot in between. I’m a fan of everything from Instagram to fine art and documentary, but that doesn’t mean I like everything I see. I started my own photographic journey on a Zenit 35mm camera, and have used Pentax, Box Brownies, Polaroid, and more recently Canon, Panasonic and Fuji digital cameras. I’m not beholden to a particular brand, and I’m not sponsored.

I’ve been using the Sony A7II for about a year now, not long after it came out. I wasn’t convinced about the first generation, but the second seemed to tick a few more boxes – on paper at least – so I took the plunge. I recently read an article which damned the whole idea of the Alpha system, an article which I thought was unbalanced, so felt inspired to try and give a more accurate overview of the camera in real life use. I’ll try to keep it brief and to the point.

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The practicalities – size and weight

The smaller weight and size of the body is useful for someone who takes photos outdoors. I’m often in the mountains carrying food and camping equipment, so any saving is appreciated. Compared to my previous system, a Canon 5d3 running an f4 24-105mm lens, with a Sony AII with a f4 28-70mm, I get to carry around 600g less. Obviously, I also lose some reach in that equation (the 70-105mm range) which is annoying, but the reduced bulk and weight make the compromise worth it for me personally… most of the time. With a full frame sensor, I know I have plenty of crop-ability to call upon in post.

A small note about my choices here. Primes may provide the best image quality, but on the mountain a single medium zoom is often the most practical – both in terms of weight, and lens changes in inclement weather. I’m also on a budget!

Glen Etive – Sony 28-70 Kit Zoom

Glen Etive, Sony 28-70mm

Lenses

In my experience, it really is a mixed bag on the lens front. That stock 28-70mm kit lens is not a stellar performer by any means. Viewed at 100% images are blurred, and colour and contrast are (to me) a little flat and uninspiring. A little more work in Lightroom is needed to restore what I saw at the time, to the file. However, I’ve still managed to produce high quality shots for mags and won some merits in competition, so whilst I’m not impressed with my pixel peeper’s hat on, it works well enough – particularly at f5.6 and f13 – and is lightweight.

I was concerned my technique had gone out of the window without a heavy body to steady my hand, and wanted to try the camera with some other lenses. With Canon lenses on the front and an adaptor, the colour and contrast were great, and the blur vanished. The L glass seemed to really compliment the Sony sensor. It’s the stock kit lens that is at issue here. However, the AF using Canon lenses with current adaptor technology is incredibly slow – so slow, it’s far faster to manual focus. This is just fact, as much as I’d prefer it to be otherwise. The Voigtländer 40mm F2.8 performs just as well if not better on the colour and sharpness front – as a manual focus lens it’s certainly not quick to use, but produces lovely, three-dimensional results with the A7II at it’s back.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 

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This proved to me once again that any camera really is only as good as the glass you put in front of it. Who knew?

The FE mount has its critics and it’s true that some of the higher-grade, faster lenses that are entering the market now are as large or larger than DSLR competitors. I also have the Sony FE 16-35mm F4, which is a wonderful lens with colour and sharpness to rival the Canon equivalent, and AF as fast as I need. But on the front of the small A7II chassis it does feel like a big, heavy lens, even though it’s barely heavier than my old L16-35mm.

Maybe the critics have it right – we can’t (yet) cheat physics. What we take away from the body, we often see back in the lens. These new native lenses are also expensive for those of us who are paying… but then that’s true of a whole number of brands, not just Sony.

Since I’m focusing on…focus, C-AF on the A7II is still pretty horrible. I generally shoot landscape, walking, mountaineering, a little cycling and boating, but if I were shooting faster action sports, I’d still own or rent a DSLR. Regular AF with native lenses on the A7II is now (after firmware updates) every bit as good as my Canon 5d3 (which admittedly wasn’t the fastest). Low contrast is occasionally an issue, but it’s acceptable for my needs and any issues can be worked around with a little manual focussing. Focus peaking is obviously a huge boon here (although of course, that’s not Sony specific).

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Overall, the picture for me is a lot more positive here. The dynamic range on the Sony sensor is like night and day compared to my old Canon – in practise, an increase of about 3-4 stops. This is useful for landscape photography as it means I use grads a little less in the field, and as a result can react faster to changing light. This extra DR is quite a shock at first – images can feel less ‘solid’ because the shadows are more complex. Once again, in that regard it helps to have a good lens up front.

Shelter on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

shelter on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

I have a FujiX100T, which I like very much indeed, but no matter how much it’s advocates protest, an APS-C sensor is not a full frame sensor. The dynamic range of the X100T sensor is impressive, but is not comparable in any way to the A7II. Sorry… as I said, I love the Fuji, it produces wonderfully usable images very easily, and for me it’s a great machine for street, family and crag photography, but – the same as the lens issue above – physics is physics, and sensor size is sensor size. No more, no less.

Incidentally, don’t even try to continuous auto focus with the X100T – it hunts harder than Donald Trump for his conscience. Relax! We can all still take great pictures with either system, if we work with each machine, not against it.

Relating to DR in the field, the A7II p/review screen is not accurate as far as clipping is concerned, and live view is best checked with the histogram. Shots I thought blown to smithereens have been recoverable in post, which just goes to show how powerful the sensor is – even when used badly.

ISO performance is stellar, and I now rarely carry a remote timer into the mountains for night shots. I can shoot using the inbuilt timer under 30secs and get stars crisper, with less noise, than I could ever manage with the Canon.

Much has been made of poor battery performance in mirrorless cameras, but to be honest this is a non-issue. Performance in the A7II is probably a half to a third of a Canon DSLR battery, and has improved with firmware updates. At any rate, batteries are small and lightweight. I just carry a few more.

More of an annoyance is the poor performance of the internal battery in ‘extreme’ cold. Several times, I’ve been forced to reformat the entire camera with date and time whilst hanging from the side of a snowy mountain. This can lead to temporary memory card/file confusion. Images have always been recoverable in back at base, however – Lightroom finds them after you replug the camera. Sony need to look at this in a firmware update – it’s not good enough at the moment for professional use.

Personally, a lot of how well I use a camera depends on the ergonomics, and I very much appreciate the level of customisation available on the A7II. I always shoot fully manual, so having the ability to access aperture, shutter speed and ISO, as well as back button focus, feels like the best of both the analog machines I grew up with, and the convenience and speed of modern digital.

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

Silver birch on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

silver birch on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

The one camera to rule them all?

It’s the dream, but like most things… it’s a dream for a reason. We are losing some of the weight and size advantage with fast lenses up front, but it doesn’t stop this camera being incredibly powerful… and it’s still a little smaller and lighter than a trad DSLR. My older DSLR felt like a chunky, clunky toy after I’d used the A7II for a month. I sold my Canon body and, much more reluctantly, gave up the glass a few months later. I still kind of resent that, because they make excellent lenses that are field-practical. But anyway, don’t believe the hype, either way. Look more closely at whose writing good and bad things about different brands, and more often than not you’ll find they have a vested interest. I’ve tried to be objective here, because as an editor and sometime gear reviewer for magazines, that’s my job. The Sony Alpha system isn’t perfect, but at the moment the A7II is a great camera for my needs.

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Apr 012016
 

HANDS ON! First look and samples from the Sony 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 OSS FE Lens!

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Hey guys! It’s Friday and today I have more from the new Sony gear announcements this week. Yesterday I posted samples and thoughts from Sony’s new 50 1.8, the day before I posted thoughts and samples from the RX10 III. Today I have the third and final “first look” from the trip of new Sony products. Today I am showing just a few samples from the new 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 G OSS Lens. This lens is built much like the Sony 90 Macro and looks similar, feels similar and is balanced nicely on the camera.

Only four from the 70-300 but click them for better versions!

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I have memories of 70-300mm lenses from my old DSLR Days back when I shot a Canon 5D (Mark I) and my memories of the 70-300 I used back then were just “OK”. I think I owned the Canon 70-300 DO lens which was at the time, sort of a hot seller due to the size of the lens. It was small and compact for a 70-300 zoom, and performed pretty well but had many IQ issues as well. Many hated the lens, I liked it but sold it off after two years of using it when I realized there were much better solutions in that focal range. I ended up moving to mostly all primes and gave up on most zooms, but lately there have been some astonishing zoom lenses being produced.

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Leicas 24-90 for their new SL system is probably the highest quality zoom I have ever used as every focal length on that lens performs like a high quality prime. The Olympus 40-150 Pro is also one of the best Zooms I have ever used in IQ, build, feel and features. Both of the lenses I just mentioned are pretty expensive, coming in at $5k (Leica) and $1500 (Olympus) respectively. When I saw the Sony 70-300 I thought, at first, it would be a mediocre cheap kit style zoom. I soon realized it was more serious than this. The Sony comes in at $1200, and is a high quality telephoto zoom. While the aperture range is slower at 4.5-5.6, the IQ and color and AF speed was fantastic. The Bokeh is also very creamy and beautiful in most cases, from my limited time with it so far.

The IQ from the 70-300 is better than the 50 1.8 from what I can see (as it should be) and this is a lens for those who want the *reach* of 300mm for their full frame A7 series body (though this will work great with the APS-C A6000 and 6300 as well and give even more reach).

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While not giving you the 600mm reach of the new RX10 III, this is a lens not a camera and it is less expensive than the RX10 III by $300 (though you do not get a camera with the 70-300). Some would ask “why would I pay $1200 for a 70-300 when I can pay $1500 and get a full featured camera with a 24-600 zoom?”

Well, as I said in my 1st look of the RX10 III, the A7 series, which this lens was made for, is a full frame body. Full frame image quality will always beat image quality, noise, dynamic range, smoothness, depth and color of any 1″ sensor. So while the RX10 III will offer way more bang for the buck with its big range zoom the 70-300 on an A7 series body will always yield much nicer image quality results.

This is a great lens to add to the Sony E mount collection and Sony now has 20 lenses available for the A7 series (though I think Sony is counting the two teleconverters), all native (that is not including lenses like the Zeiss Batis range or Loxia range or other third-party options) so the Sony glass collection for these cameras has grown massively in just 2-3 years. I remember when everyone would complain about the lack of Sony lenses, which was warranted as in the beginning we only had 2-3 lenses. Now we have a ton to choose from, so life is good for Sony A7 and 600 series shooters and getting better every few months it seems.

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From my limited use of the new 70-300 G lens (maybe about 30 minutes) I found it to offer great build, feel, nice balance on an A7RII and the IQ was and is beautiful. No softness or focus issues from what I have seen. I feel this will be a very attractive lens to those looking for something in this focal length range, and it sure beats the hell out of my old Canon 70-300 DO (which now sells for $1400 these days).

YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THE NEW SONY 70-300 AT B&H PHOTO HERE. It will start shipping early May. 

Mar 302016
 

FIRSTLOOK

HANDS ON: Sony RX10 III. Some Samples & Thoughts

So yesterday myself and 20 other members of the digital imaging media world (DP Review, Imaging Resource, Popular Photography and others) met up with Sony in San Francisco for a very cool meeting where we learned of some of Sony’s future plans in the world of cameras, televisions,  and even some other innovations. We were able to check out the new Sony camera gear as well and we all had a chance to use the new camera and lenses for a few hours. Yep, the all new RX10 III and the $249 50 1.8 as well as the new 70-300 G lens. Both lenses for full frame FE mount.

I also posted a live stream video to my Facebook showing off the new gear (you can see that here) but that was before I gave the RX10 III and the new 70-300 G and 50 1.8 a try. I’ve never been a HUGE HUGE fan of the RX10 series but now that the Mark III has this new amazingly versatile Zeiss lens – yep a 24-600mm (but the kicker is you can shoot at f/4 at 600mm, and f/2.4 at the wider end) and at 600mm you can easily handhold if you have decent light due to the optical steady shot inside which offers up to 4.5 stops.

The RX10III is full of all kinds of tech. From the standard expected things like the 1″ imaging sensor from the RX100 MKIV to the swivel LCD screen to the manual controls. It’s quick and responsive and quiet as well thanks to its electronic shutter capable of 1/32,000 S. In addition to this the RX10 III has killer 4K video capabilities, in fact, Sony is saying it will put out the best 4K video of any camera as it captures in 6K and then down samples to 4 for less moire and sharper details. The RX10III has this very impressive zoom lens that is the most versatile I have ever seen. A 24-600mm equivalent, and yes, at 600mm it is sharp and looks simply amazing.

An OOC JPEG at 600mm…handheld..click it for larger

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The RX10 III opens up so many possibilities and it can do all of this wonderful stuff, like offer a 600mm equivalent lens thanks to the 1″ sensor. These days, 1″ sensors are VERY good. They have snap, pop, and the only weakness is for those who love shallow DOF, or massive Bokeh. This will never give you the DOF options of a full frame camera, but other than that, this camera ROCKS.

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CLICK ON ALL IMAGES FOR BETTER VERSIONS

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The RX10 Mark III also has some snazzy video features such as super slow motion capabilities that offer up to a 960 FPS capture. Of course, super slow motion is not available in 4K. But this slow motion is fantastic and used to only be seen in uber expensive video cameras. The RX10 MKIII has many strengths. In fact, some would say this could be the perfect all around one camera solution for serious amateurs, enthusiasts and pros.

Out of camera JPEGS from the RX1R III, click them for larger!

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While it offers a ton of great things, it’s not perfect. I found that cameras using these 1″ sensors will never have the Dynamic Range of the larger sensor cameras. Makes sense right? If shooting in harsh sun, it can be tricky to avoid blowing highlights and they are not recoverable if blown too much. This portrait below looks a tad harsh in the highlights to me…on her face and chest. I should have dialed back the EV comp to avoid this, and I could have, but I thought I was exposed correctly. So while this is not an issue, you do need to take a little caution with these 1″ sensor cameras in these kinds of bright direct lighting.

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Dynamic Range is not up to par with larger sensor cameras but still excellent for a 1″ sensor. Below is a shot with the RX10III in direct sunlight, the RX10III burned some highlights..but it could have been avoided if I dialed in some EV comp.

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In comparison, the A7RII with the new $249 50 1.8 had no DR issues, as is to be expected from a $3000+ camera.. The new 50 1.8 at $249 is a fantastic buy..and the A7RII is a DR monster.. (my full review here) No tweaks here, just the OOC rendering. 

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The power of the zoom. 

Take a look at what 24mm looks like, and then 600mm. This is the range of the f/2.4-f/4 Zeiss Zoom on the RX10 III..

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Same position at 600mm..

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With 600mm, you have a TON of reach.

So while I enjoyed the new Sony RX10III quite a bit, I also really enjoy the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 lenses. I will have a 1st look report on those later today or tomorrow morning. I can say for now though that the RX10III is the best of the RX10 series to date. No question. With the new stunning lens capabilities, the slightly refreshed body (better grip), the impressive 4K video options, the optical steady shot inside, the super slow motion, EVF and loads of other goodies in this camera it will be well with the $1500 cost to many who are itching for a superzoom of super quality. It comes in at a couple hundred more than the Mark II (which is staying in the Sony lineup) and well worth it IMO.

Even I am considering buying this one as I could use it for video (of which I do a ton of outside of this page), and all kinds of amazing things. Having a 600mm reach on hand, in this size, is pretty incredible and this would be the main reason I would consider it myself. It’s a powerful camera, no question.

Look for more on the RX10III soon. You can pre-order the RX10III at  B&H using the link below STARTING TOMORROW. It will be shipping in May, next month!

Pre Order the RX10 III at B&H HERE AT B&H PHOTO

A few more from the RX10 III. Enjoy! ALL are out of camera JPEGS

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Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

As I sit here in a Sony “Rountable” meting with all of Soy’s top people telling me about the past, present and future of their digital imaging business, things are looking very good for Sony. Sales are up, profits are solid and they are dedicated to releasing high quality premium digital imaging products to those like me and you, who love quality cameras, lenses and also camera that are fun to use, functional and provide us with the capability to create our own visions using a tool we enjoy and love.

Ever since Sony released the original NEX series, the 3 and 5 (my review here) I have been smitten with their unique out of the box thinking and while I have not loved or even liked every camera they have released (as I feel many have been a rehash of the same designs), I have adored a few of them and feel that Sony is now, without question, the one camera company that I feel is innovating and doing the most to push imaging tech forward. During  those early NEX 3 and 5 days, many dismissed mirrorless and for good reason. They were slow, sluggish and not very “user-friendly”  – but man how things have changed in a few short years.

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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While Sony IMO is the one doing the most innovating, this does not take away a thing from others who are also innovating. Companies like Olympus are doing great things with every camera release, and trust me, they have something really amazing planned for this year. I feel it in my gut!

Then we have companies like Leica who are trying very hard to release unique cameras that are different from anything else out there. Think the T, the SL and even the super popular Q (all have been reviewed here in detail). Sure, Fuji, Sigma and even Canon and Nikon who are also releasing amazing cameras but to be honest, what I see from them is more of the same..less innovation in every release and while something like a Fuji X Pro 2 is a beautiful camera (that I actually do indeed really like) it is Sony who just keeps pushing and creating cameras that can do more.

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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While I feel Sony could have a redesign of some of their bodies, and even be more aggressive in what they are doing, I think they are on the right path and honestly, I can see them leapfrogging over Nikon in the near future. Sony is on a roll, sales wise and their popularity in the camera business is growing quickly and steadily for them.

Look at the brand new just announced RX10 III. I did not even review the Mark II version as I felt it was pretty much just like the Mark I (though it did have upgrades). I did not feel it was worth an upgrade to the II from the I and did not even want to do a review as I like to spend my time on cameras that I feel are really great and worth a purchase. It has to excite me these days to get a full long review and as I look back at my recent reviews over the past two years, the largest ones have been from Sony, Leica and Olympus.

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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I will state right here, that these three camera companies above are my faves . Each of these are doing things that most others are not. Technology is getting quite amazing, even with something like the new Sony 4K HDR video, which looks so amazing. Yes, video in HDR 4K…think MASSIVE Dynamic Range instead of the cheesy HDR look of some images when they are overdone. But back to the new RX10 III. With its all new high quality 24-600mm f/2.4 – f/4 lens. Yes, f/2.4 at the wide end and f/4 at the long end, of 600MM. With this comes incredible opportunities for shooting. Macro, video, telephoto… it’s something that has never been done, which is what I am talking about here. I mean, who has made an all in one camera with a 24-600mm lens, a HIGH QUALITY lens no less, with a starting aperture of f/2.4? No one. Add to that the impressive video capabilities of this new offering. It will be a great solution for so many.

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While I was not a HUGE MASSIVE RX10 fan, I did enjoy the 1st one (see my review here) but this one changes the game of this series of camera. It could be an all in one for almost any personal, family or every day situation. So Sony is innovating constantly and this is what I love to see.

Some call me a “Sony Fan Boy”, Some call me an “Olympus Fanboy” and some even still call me a “Leica Fanboy”. I find these terms amusing as I am not a fanboy of anything, I just love quality. I love good build, consistent focus, smaller size, great lens choices, even is using a third party lens with adapter to get my vision out there.. and each of these brands offer all of that and more.

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With that, I am thrilled to see what is happening in digital imaging these days. It seems we are getting more and more QUALITY offerings for those of us who enjoy these things (ME AND YOU) and while most of the world already own a camera in their smart phones, there are some of us who want more..a real experience and you just can not get that from a phone. At least I can’t. The feeling of holding something like a Leica M or Olympus PEN-F or Sony RX1 and using them is so much more satisfying to me than using a phone, or any DSLR.

Today, in 2016 we have choices. We can go DSLR and get great results. We can go tiny and get great results (Sony RX100) and we can go enthusiast and get amazing results with something like a Leica M, SL or Sony A7RII or A7SII.

While the death of the point and shoot is upon us, or past..the mirrorless revolution has just begun, and it’s getting so so good. Stay tuned my friends, there is so much to come this year.

Steve

Mar 292016
 

New Sony RX10 III and Lenses Announced. 1st Look coming TODAY!

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Hey guys! I am in San Francisco today with Sony as they unveil the new RX10 Mark III camera. I know what you are thinking..didn’t they just recently release the RX10 Mark II?!?!? Yes but this one is an all new beast with all new capabilities. I was just briefed on it but in a few hours I will be out shooting the new camera and testing it all the way to its monster 24-600mm telephoto lens.

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I’m actually excited about this RX10III as it seems like it is so versatile for almost any need. Stay tuned for the hands on report and possibly a live stream over at my Facebook page today (UPDATE 1:45PM: already did the live stream, go there to check it out!) with the new Sony products. So if you have not been to my Facebook page in a while, go check it out!

You can already pre-order the RX10 III at B&H Photo HERE. 

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Below is the press release from Sony, but more coming today on this and the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 E mount lenses that were also announced today!

New RX10 III Model Boasts Versatile 24-600mm1 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar F2.4-F4 Lens, 20.1 MP2 1.0-type Stacked CMOS sensor, Internal 4K Video Recording, Super Slow Motion Capabilities and more

SAN FRANCISCO, Mar. 29, 2016 – Sony – a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer – has today announced an exciting new addition to its acclaimed Cyber-shot RX lineup, the high-zoom RX10 III camera.

Featuring a newly-developed 25x super-telephoto zoom lens with an extensive focal range of 24-600mm, the new RX10 III camera is able to produce high-quality content at a variety of focal lengths and camera settings that would require three or more large, heavy and expensive lenses for an interchangeable lens camera user. It’s an outstanding choice for a shooting anything from landscapes to distant wildlife and everything in between.

The RX10 III high zoom camera is equipped with a 1.0 type stacked 20.1 MP Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor with DRAM chip and advanced signal processing, along with a powerful BIONZ X™ image processor. These components work together to ensure the highest possible image quality throughout the entire zoom range of the 24-600mm lens. Additionally, they are responsible for a variety of standout professional-caliber features including 40x super slow motion video capture at up to 960 fps, an ultra-fast Anti-Distortion Shutter with a maximum speed of 1/32000 second, high resolution 4K movie shooting and more.

“By pairing the convenience of an ultra-telephoto lens with our innovative stacked CMOS image sensor design, we’ve created a whole new image experience unlike anything else in market today,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “The new RX10 III offers a true ‘all in one’ package that will appeal to a wide range of amateur, hobbyist and professional photographers and videographers.”

New ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* 24-600mm F2.4 – F4 Lens

The impressive 24-600mm ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* lens on the Cyber-shot RX10 III camera features a large maximum aperture of F2.4 – F4.0, helping it achieve outstanding image quality throughout the entire zoom range, all the way up to ultra-telephoto. This differentiates it from many other high-zoom lenses that often struggle with light-gathering at longer focal lengths. The aperture unit itself has nine blades that are designed to create a near perfect circle in the F2.4 – F11 range, enabling shooters to create content with beautiful bokeh, where the subject stands out against a softly defocused background.

In total, the extended zoom lens features eight ED glass elements including one super ED glass element, five ED glass elements and two ED aspherical lenses, which all work together to minimize chromatic aberration and deliver high-contrast, ultra-sharp image quality. It also has ZEISS® T* Coating for minimizing flare and ghosting and delivering accurate, faithful color reproduction.

The new lens has built-in Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization that helps to reduce camera shake and image blur, in particular when shooting at longer focal lengths. When active, the OSS is equivalent to shooting at a shutter speed approximately 4.5 stops3 faster than the current setting of the camera.

Additionally, with a minimum focusing distance of 72 cm (2.36 ft) and 0.49x maximum magnification at a fully extended 600mm, the new lens is capable of producing amazingly detailed tele-macro images.

High Quality Image Detail

The RX10 III features a back-illuminated 20.1 MP 1.0-type stacked CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine that allow the camera to achieves a wide sensitivity range of ISO 644 – ISO 12800 and produce images with exceptionally low noise, even at higher sensitivity settings.

Additionally, the rear of the sensor has a DRAM chip that allows it to read and process large volumes of data exceptionally fast, enabling the camera to shoot super slow motion video at up to 960 fps. The powerful DRAM chip also allows the RX10 III to shoot continuously at up to 14fps with minimal blackout.

With shutter speeds as fast as 1/32000 second, the electronic shutter on the RX10 III minimizes image distortion at faster shutter speeds. It also offers silent shooting at all settings and speeds, ensuring all content can be captured quietly without disrupting the subject, a powerful feature when combined with the wide-ranging zoom lens.

High Quality 4K Movie Recording

The new RX10III model becomes the latest and most versatile Cyber-shot RX camera to offer the advantages of 4K (QFHD 3840×2160) movie recording thanks to its far-reaching 24-600mm lens, which gives videographers the luxury of shooting high quality 4K video from extreme distances.

In 4K video mode, the RX10 III camera utilizes full pixel readout without pixel binning, capturing approximately 1.7x more information than is required for 4K movie output to enhance image detail and minimize moiré and jaggies. It achieves these high-quality results through use of the XAVC S codec, which records video at a high data rate of up to100 Mbps during 4K recording and up to 50 Mbps during full HD recording5.

The new camera also has a variety of other professional caliber video features including Picture Profile, S-Log2/S-Gamut, Gamma Display Assist, Time Code and more, as well as input for external microphone and output for headphone monitoring.

Super Slow Motion Video Recording

The new RX10 III also possesses the ability to record super slow-motion video at up to 40x slower than the standard rate, allowing users to capture and replay fleeting moments of action with incredible detail, resolution and clarity.

In “HFR” (high frame rate) setting, it offers the option to choose among 960fps, 480fps and 240 fps frame rates and among 60p, 30p and 24p playback formats4,5 with the option to use the movie record button as a ‘start trigger’ to begin recording once button is pressed or ‘end trigger’ to record footage up until the button is pressed.

High Speed Autofocus

The new RX10III camera is equipped with an impressive autofocus system with spatial object detection, allowing the camera to detect and predict motion of a subject before the shutter button is pressed, This helps the camera achieve an incredibly fast and efficient AF response when the shutter is halfway pressed, enabling it to lock on to a subject in as little as 0.09 seconds 8. This is a yet another compelling technology, especially when paired with a versatile, highly capable 25x zoom lens with a range up to 600mm.

Ergonomics and Design

Aesthetically, the new RX10 III features a number of upgrades compared to existing RX10 models including triple lens rings for focus, zoom and aperture for direct, precise control. The hand grip shape has also been optimized for the new high-magnification, large-aperture lens to enhance stability when holding the camera at eye level. There is a new focus hold button on the lens barrel as well, allowing the focus to be easily locked on a subject while the shooter reframes the image.

The new model features a high-contrast XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ with approximately 2.35 million dots of resolution, ensuring true-to-life image preview and playback functionality. The camera is also dust and moisture resistant and both Wi-Fi® and NFC™ compatible, with the ability and can access Sony’s growing range of PlayMemories Camera Applications. Learn more at www.sony.net/pmca. A dedicated LCJ-RXJ soft carrying case will also be available for the new camera.

Pricing and Availability

The new Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III extended zoom camera will be available this May for about $1,500 US and $2,000 CA, respectively. The new cameras and all compatible accessories will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.

Mar 252016
 

First Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 Sony E Mount Sample Pics!

Thanks to Stephen Gandy for sending these over…

The new Voigtlander lenses for Sony E Mount are almost here, and the new 10mm f/5.6 ULTRA Wide looks like it will do just fine on the Sony bodies! Some first samples below from this lens on a Sony A7RII body and without any issues that I can see, and this is the 10!

The new Voigtlander lenses are available for pre-order at cameraquest.com right HERE.  I am looking forward to the 15 myself!

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Mar 242016
 

The Sony A6300 is STUNNING. Small, fast, powerful. 1st Look. 

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I was going to wait to write about the new Sony A6300 until I did a full review. After using it for the past two days, I became excited by it and knew that I would be using this camera over the next few weeks more and more. I own the A6000 (see that review here), and have since it was launched. I have used it for video, I have used it for family snaps and even loaned it to others when they wanted a quick, and very nice camera. I will admit, when the A6300 was announced I thought it would be just another rehash and slight improvement.

But seeing that the Sony A6000 was the hottest selling mirrorless camera over $600, I knew I needed to drop my A7RII for a while and my other cameras to concentrate on the A6300, which comes in at under $1000. So I will be using and digging into the A6300 over the next 2-3 weeks and will be writing up a full review soon, using all  kinds of glass from Sony native to Zeiss to other surprises, even the TECHART adapter. For now, I just wanted to share some 1st thoughts on performance.

An Orangutan who was just staring into space, looking very very sad. I would be too if I were imprisoned. Click for larger.

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With its new sensor, new 4D focus, amazing focus speed and tracking abilities (that are still not perfect) and great low light performance, the A6300 is a very real alternative to the much more pricey and larger A7 series. It is smaller, but faster. It is very versatile with its EVF, 4K video, Swivel LCD and very hard to knock AF performance. IQ is up there with the best of APS-C and for many this is better than full frame as we do not have to worry about TOO SHALLOW depth of field with some of these fast lenses. The A6300 is small, sleek, built well, weather sealed, has a great EVF, swivel LCD and fast and accurate AF. All under a grand.

NEW SENSOR AND AF SYSTEM

*The a6300 has a new 24.2MP sensor with a top ISO sensitivity of 51,200. More importantly, the sensor’s hybrid autofocus system offers a whopping 425 phase-detect points for burst shooting at 11 fps with continuous autofocus. At 8 fps, a live feed makes it easier to follow fast action*

Yep, the A6300 has amazing specs, and is a camera that I feel will be relevant for many years. The IQ if the new sensor is stunning, both for color or B&W work.

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4K VIDEO WITH FULL SENSOR READOUT

The a6300 reads the entire sensor area to maximize the quality of its UHD 4K/24p videos. Videos use the XAVC S codec with a maximum bit rate of 100MBps. In addition to 4K, the a6300 can also capture 1080p video at 120 frames per second, which can be played back in slow motion.

Tilting LCD

The a6300 has a 3″ tilting LCD display with 921k dots and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Tilting displays are great for overhead and waist-level shooting.

A little girl as she looks at the captive Orangutan, staring into HIS sad eyes. Click for larger.

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Weather-resistant body

The a6300 is a well-built camera with a magnesium alloy body. Its various buttons, dials and ports are sealed against dust and moisture.

The Pink Flamingo. I shot this with the 85 1.4, used spot metering to meter for the very harsh and direct AZ sun that was on the Flamingo. Click the image to see it larger and crisper. 

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It seems the new A6300 is gearing up to be a worthy successor to the hottest selling mirrorless camera ever (over $600), the A6000. In APS-C land, I find it hard to find a camera, at this price, that offers more or even gets close to what this new Sony offering serves up. Look for my full review soon. I think this would make a great camera all by itself or for some, a backup to their A7 series body.

As for the 85 1.4 GM lens, it is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I must own this lens. My 1st look at the lens can be seen HERE. 

The TECHART Adapter with M lenses works very well on the A6300. This one is with the Jupiter 3+

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You can order the A6300 at Amazon or B&H Photo

REVIEW SOON!

Steve

 

Mar 212016
 

REVIEWS ON THE WAY: Sony A6300, 24-70 and 85 1.4 & Oberwerth Camera Bag

Sony Sony Sony! They are still on top of their game!

Just a note to let everyone know that I am receiving a load of goodies today via Fed Ex! The new Sony A6300, which I had a preview of two weeks ago. It is the successor to the hottest selling mirrorless camera over $600, the original A6000 (which I still own). The A6000 has been WILDLY popular and partly responsible for Sony’s huge growth over the past few years and can now be had for $498! The 6000 along with the hot A7 series has propelled Sony to the top of the Mirrorless heap for sales. Now with the new A6300, they expect to keep on track.

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The A6300 is fast, VERY fast. When I shot it in Miami a couple of weeks back it had some impressive AF tracking going on, but I knew I needed it at home for a while to really give it a fair review. I will be comparing it to the A6000, and testing some cool lenses on it as well. The inexpensive 28 f/2 from Sony which is an amazing lens, should be perfect on the A6000 giving a sort of 35mm equivalent. This would put a world class APS-C camera and fast 28mm f.2 lens in your hands for under $1500. Still a hunk of cash but I feel this combo would be blazing fast, accurate, and great in low light. Also, smaller and much less $$$ than a full bore A7RII setup.

I will also test the new 24-70 f/2.8 and 85 1.4 on the 6300 as well as the A7RII. See my earlier tests HERE and HERE

Loads of goodies to test and review makes me a happy man ;) So look for the Sony reviews SOON.

New Camera Bag. The Oberwerth Freiburg Bag. 

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I also just received this new lovely bag from Oberwerth. It is the Freiburg model and is gorgeous. Hand made in Germany, and expensive, but one of those with true quality. I love my Wotancraft bags and my Hold Fast Gear bags and my Tenba bag, but this one is a step up in “class” and in appearance, for those with not only discriminating taste but those who enjoy a spacious bag to hold their gear and goods. I will have a video up this week for the Freiburg bag, look for it by Thursday!

You can see more about Oberworth bags HERE. 

Mar 142016
 

From Fuji to Sony and back again

By Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

I have had the pleasure to be on your site a couple of times with my Fuji x100 and x100s.

2 Months ago I decided to jump over and buy the Sony Rx1rII. To make this possible I had to sell my camera’s and so I did. The specifications were great and I could not wait. Something I had to do because the delivery was postponed with 3 weeks in Holland. When it finally arrived I started making pictures. Almost right away I felt insecure about my skills.Not that I am a professional but I have experience.

I could not get a sharp image out of the camera.Not as sharp as I was used to with the Fuji’s .

After one month I returned the camera to Sony because I was sure the camera had a failure. 5 Weeks later the returned it and said it was completely ok and I could get pictures of the testing. I  was not interested.I wanted a camera that I was happy with for the 3500 euro. To make a story short.. I went to a store..returned the camera and exchanged it for the Fuji Xpro2. Financially a bad trade but happiness is all I have now.Beautifull images and the sharpness I really love.

Almost no need for raw shooting because the jpegs are so nice. Also the acros and monochrome settings are nice. I promised to my Fuji camera I will never try to fall in love with a different brand again ;)

Here are some images of the xpro 2

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Mar 082016
 

From iPhone to Sony A7RII

by Ryan Cole

Hello,

I have read your site now and again and used it as a good source of information before taking the plunge and buying a camera (Sony A7R2 and three manual Voightlander lens at 21mm, 35mm and 50mm) in November / December 2015. Before that I was using my iPhone for 4 months with the moment lens to make sure it was not just a passing fad.

Prior to August 2015 I was run down working two jobs totalling 55 hours a week in jobs I really didn’t enjoy. Circumstances panned out where I had a disposable lump sum of money and reverting to one job so I decided to use the opportunity of my new found free time and to buy a camera that I wanted (I know it’s not about the gear but if I went for an entry level camera, I would always be thinking would I be better with a better camera so instead I purchased the camera I was constantly looking at and I’m happy it will last me and only be added to if I ever get to the point where my hobby provided some income)

My three image submitted were from a day trip to Portmeirion, Wales, UK in February 2016 (first image was the road through Snowdonia national park on the way there).

Portmeirion is a weird little place in Wales and the creation of what most would deem a madman who commissioned all kinds of strange structures whilst limiting the impact on the natural surroundings. What it resulted in is a fairytale like village and whilst the images may be over-processed a little, they convey the sense of the place superbly (in my opinion but only been actively shooting for the last half a year or so)

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I think these three are in my top 5-10 images and I’m happy that I am making progress whilst also being critical and reviewing where I am and assessing where I would like to progress to (also happy that my best images seem to progress month on month as I develop)

I’d be more than happy for you to post an image, maybe it inspires someone or maybe I get constructive criticism but either way I’m happy to share.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I think I’ve followed the posting rules and apologies if I have not.

Regards,

Ryan Cole
Manchester, UK

His 500px is HERE

Mar 072016
 

pedro

Of People and Dreams – Portraits

By Pedro Amorim

Hello all! My name is Pedro Amorim and I have been a photographer in Brazil for a few years now. I am a street photographer and portraitist (with some incursions in landscape, when needed), and only use manual lenses. My camera of choice is the first A7. I’ve been following Steve Huff since ever, and he has helped me in many ways.

Lens reviews helped me pinpoint new possible acquisitions, while many articles offered me new photographic insights I hold dear to this day (Thanks, Steve!). 
The idea of creating an area so other photographers would be able to share their experiences was also great, and the user report session became a must visit. It is one of the coolest things out there when it comes to exotic lenses, and I’m very excited to be part of that.

This time, I’ll talk about one of those manual lenses you come across once in a lifetime, the kinoptik Apochromat 100/2, and the reason I took it as my go-to portrait lens. 
The images I picked up to go with this article were shot in three different situations: in a daytime session at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden; in a balcony, by the afternoon; and against a simple black backdrop, with a single light source in front of the model. There are very different situations, and that was on purpose. 
Last things first, let me put my opinion in the simplest of terms: if you see one of those for a reasonable price, buy it. 
Oh, you can also order one brand new, since Kinoptik still produces the lens today and sells it through their website (it is a little known fact).

Now, let us talk about why

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When I first started with portraits, I had in mind that the pictures I was going to produce didn’t have to be super sharp in that clinical way people praise nowadays. I was taking inspiration from the masters of old, so the lenses would have to be chosen accordingly.

I always wanted to bring that dreamlike atmosphere to my images. It is one of my aesthetical choices provenient of a bigger way of think. Looking at famous photographs by Dorothea Lange, Man Ray, Nan Goldin, Avedon and others, you’ll see that they are something else entirely. I am looking for this something else myself. 
So, the only rule is: no simple portraits.
people are no objects to be simply exposed in full make-up and hard light. Every time someone poses for a camera, he or she brings within his or her history, feelings, ideas, social and emotional context and the will to express them somehow. As a photographer, I want to show these elements as well, as if saying “hey, this image is about someone. Look and feel”.

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My choice for the job was the Kinoptik-Apochromat 100/2 in ALPA-reflex mount. 
Kinoptik is a French manufacturer specialized in high-end photography and cinema. Their lenses were used by many great directors, such as Kubrick, who used a 9.8 Tegea on both Clockwork Orange and The Shinning. 
It is also known that some of the nouvelle vague motion pictures were filmed with Kinoptik lenses. 
Their still photography objectives are rare nowadays, and became collectors’ items, hence the sky-high prices. 
But the images created with them are priceless. 
It has that cinematic feel you get while watching some of the 60’s and 70’s classics, and that’s something I love.

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It’s easy to understand why the 100/2 is one of kinoptik’s most sought after relics. It is an all-around portrait lens, giving you total artistic control over the situation despite its portrait-specific focal distance. Its sharp-but-not-that-sharp rendering and suitableness for both color and monochrome photography, as well as a super-shallow depth-of-field with non-distracting out of focus areas results in a polyvalent glass, good enough for most shooting possibilities and styles. 
Wanna go all expressionist and work on some old-school solarisation?

Worry not, we got your back

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No? you’re more like a film-noir kinda guy? Well that’s also cool:

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It is the perfect old lens. It has a classic 60’s optical design (6 elements, 4 groups; double gauss), is heavy, exaggerated, looks gargantuan on the tiny A7 and performs spectacularly wide open. It has a smashing black kinda-industrial-kinda-French-designed finish. If you imagine the design concept of a Summicron and turn it upside down, you’ll pretty much have this lens.

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It renders one of the most pleasant bokehs I have ever seen, while being quite sharp at f2. However, this is secondary. Really.

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This is a superb portrait lens, with its watercolor-like bokeh contrasting with popping lifelike colors that result from the outstanding color correction. This lens does deserve the “apochromatic” in its name.

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The skin tones are rendered in a natural way, and the images are contrasty but not aggressive. Shooting with only ambient illumination is a delight, and can deliver some very dramatic effects.

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Truth be told, it is not a perfect lens. The 100/2 is a true practical nightmare. As an old lens, the Kinoptik has all those downsides a tele had back in the day. Times ten: 
It is heavy. And I mean HEAVY. You can shoot it handheld, but focusing wide open is hard. 
Handling is also clumsy, since it is not one of the most ergonomically correct lenses out there. So find yourself a tripod and be happy. It’s not like you will be using one for street photography anyway (really, don’t. if you are an M shooter or a mirrorless guy, go get a summicron or a summarit. Even the elmarit or the old elmar 90. There are countless lighter street tele lenses more suitable for the job).

It is also prone to flare. Some say it is a coating issue not addressed by kinoptik, but the fact remains that you’ll have to use a hood while shooting around light sources (which is pretty much all the time).
And find yourself a big carrying pouch, because this beauty is bigger than half of Nikon’s professional-grade zooms.

That being said, I believe the pros (image quality, artistic versatility) easily outweigh the cons. It has character and quality, being a precise and classy instrument (despite its user unfriendliness and clumsiness when handheld). It remains a legend in its own right, even after fifty years from its original debut.

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Much like the right movie from decades past or the right portrait from the depression era, this lens is timeless.

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Thanks a lot for the opportunity, Steve. 

You can see some more of my work by clicking on the links below.


https://500px.com/pedroamorim

http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/310427/

Mar 072016
 

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PRESS RELEASE: New Sony HX80 Compact Camera and Wireless Flash System Announced

Sony has announced the new HX80 Compact camera which I had a small preview of last week while in Miami shooting the new 24-70 f/2.8 and 85 1.4 G Master lenses. It is a compact, smaller than the RX100 series and comes in at an affordable $349. Below is the press release and stats for the HX80 and the new Wireless Flash System for the Sony system..which has finally been created ;)

Sony Announces New HX80 Compact Camera with 30x Zoom and Electronic Viewfinder

New Model is World’s Smallest Camera with 30x Optical Zoom Lens1

SAN DIEGO, Mar. 7, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced the newest addition to their compact zoom camera lineup, the DSC-HX80 model.

The new camera features a variety of advanced imaging capabilities including 30x optical zoom, a high-resolution 18.2 MP2 Exmor R CMOS Sensor and a retractable OLED Tru-Finder in a class-leading compact body. Along with the DSC-HX90V model, the HX80 camera becomes the only compact high-zoom camera with a retractable electronic viewfinder, making it an extremely appealing and flexible solution for travel and family photography and video shooting. .

The HX80 also features a high-resolution, 921k dot LCD screen that tilts a full 180 degrees for comfortable arms-length portraits or “selfies” and is Wi-Fi / NFC compatible.

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Key features for the new model are included below:

Compact Hi-Zoom HX80 Camera w/ Built-in Retractable EVF

Available in April for about $350

· Premium 30x ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* optical zoom lens with 60x “Clear Image” digital zoom capability

· Built-in pop-up OLED Tru-Finder EVF w/ high contrast and vivid colors

· 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ X processor ensure the finest capture details for still images and Full HD videos in all lighting conditions

· Optical SteadyShot with 5-axis image stabilization minimizes effects of camera shake

· 921k dot, 3.0 type LCD screen that tilts a full 180 degrees

· Full HD movie shooting capabilities including high-speed XAVC S format at 50 Mbps

· Built-in ‘pop up’ flash for low-light shooting support

· Compatible with Wi-Fi / NFC for seamless wireless transfer of content and with select Sony PlayMemories™ Camera apps

A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with Sony imaging products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, Sony’s growing community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony imaging brand.

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Sony Announces Development of New Wireless Lighting Control System at WPPI 2016

LAS VEGAS, Mar. 7, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today announced plans to release a new wireless lighting control system to meet the growing demands of professional Sony photographers.

Designed for compatibility with their α interchangeable cameras and external flash units, the new lighting system will include the FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander as well as the FA-WRR1 wireless radio receiver. A prototype of the new system will be on display in Sony’s booth at WPPI 2016.

With a maximum range of 30m (approx. 98 feet), the new radio controlled system will allow for an extremely flexible wireless flash shooting experience with exceptional performance in all types of shooting conditions. In total, the system can control a maximum of 15 separate flash units in up to 5 groups of flashes. While using the system, photographers have the ability to control the exposure of connected flash units either manually or automatically depending on preference. Additionally, the new lighting control system will be capable of flash sync speeds of up to 1/250th of a second with high speed sync (HSS) available as well.

The new Wireless Lighting Control system will be available this summer at authorized retailers throughout the US and Canadian markets. Pricing and detailed specifications will be released at a later date.

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