Jul 242014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Out of the Box impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dramatic color and tones…JPEG

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

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TECH SPECS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoyed having 24mm for the wide end…

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Do you dislike larger and heavier cameras?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Pros and Cons of the RX100 III

Pros

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

cons

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

 

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My final conclusion on the RX100 III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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

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

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

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

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

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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

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

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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

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

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

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

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Runner Ups

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

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

Jul 112014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 092014
 

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

by Rob McKay

Hey Steve,

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

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

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

Great site and keep up the great work!

Rob McKay

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

Click images for larger and better viewing

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Jun 182014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ISO 320 from this afternoon with the 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8

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55 1.8 at ISO 100 – f/2

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VIVID mode, 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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ISO 100, f/3.5 with the 55 1.8

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55 1.8 – ISO 100

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ISO 8000 – 55 1.8

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ISO 400 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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Mitakon 50 0.95 wide open at ISO 5000

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ISO 32,000 with the 55 1.8

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

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ISO 125

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ISO 64,000!

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ISO 1600 – Mitakon 0.95

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ISO 1600 – 35 2.8

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FULL SIZE DIRECT FROM CAMERA – ISO 3200 – 55 1.8

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NEXT THREE – ISO 25,600  - 50 0.95 Mitakon

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and ISO 32,000

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ISO 80,000 – 55 1.8 NR OFF

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Mitakon FLARE – 102.400 ISO, 0.95

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

Jun 152014
 

The Sony A7s and Silent Shutter mode!

I just might have the Sony A7s THIS WEEK but check out this video showing the Silent Shutter mode. The #1 complaint of the A7 series, the loud shutter, seems to have been remedied in the new insanely low light capable Sony A7s. Take a look at the video below:


The focus confirm beep should be able to be turned off for a fully silent mode, so this is pretty cool. I should have the A7s any day now for review, hoping to get it before my big road trip. If I get it this week I will do a first look video the day I get it. You can pre-order the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo. 

Jun 132014
 

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(From Steve: So I received this email the other day from Allan and really enjoyed the article and the photos. Allan has submitted a daily inspiration before that you can see HERE but this post really struck a chord with me as I get this question constantly! “What camera should I buy”. I was asked about 18 times last week and 11 out of those 18 times I said “Sony RX100″, and there are many reasons for this. First, price. At $500 it is a GREAT buy. Second, it is very versatile and does so much so right. THIRD, it shoots decent video. It fits in your pocket, looks nice, feels nice and does good even in lower light. For most who are looking for an every day camera..those who are not complete photo nerds and enthusiasts and those who want a great all around family or vacation or even semi serious camera, the RX100 is fantastic. Yes, the RX100 III is out any day now and you get even more but it also comes in at $300 more. Then you have the Stellar, which is a pimped out RX100 V1 for $2k. ;) Any way you slice it, the RX100 is a great little camera and Allan’s shots below are some of my fave I have seen from this camera. Enjoy his article and be sure to visit his blog HERE or his Flickr HERE to see more from him!)

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What camera should I buy? Why, the RX100 of course!

by Allan Mcleod Roney – His website is HERE

A question I receive regularly, and one I always give a dishonest answer to.

It’s not that it’s my intention to obfuscate. It’s just that the right answer is invariably the one the requestor doesn’t want to hear. A good example of this was one of the more recent “what camera should I buy” questions I received.

“Hi Al, I love your Flickr (always a good start), and I was wondering, should I get a Nikon DXXX or a Canon XXXD?”

“Well, what are you wanting to do with the new camera?”

“I’m wanting to shoot pictures of my pals on holiday, maybe take it hillwalking etc. And if I like that, maybe teach myself photography”

So usually at this point, I will go into my usual spiel about “well, you know, these cameras are ‘much of a muchness’, it’s really based on preferences”. Those preferences usually relate to functionalities of the type a novice really won’t understand. Essentially, they’re the same. This time, I thought I’d try giving them my honest answer;

“You know, there’s another option. Buy yourself a quality compact. Not one of those ‘useless after a hot day’ compacts, but one of the top quality ‘premium’ compacts”

“yeah, but I want a DSLR”

I could regale you of a myriad of people who have taken my advice to buy a Nikon or Canon DSLR, who subsequently had a honeymoon period with said camera, then left it on a shelf to gather dust. The problem is that DSLR’s are big cameras. They’re not made to keep on your person. They only tend to be taken anywhere when your primary motive is to take photos, and given that most times we leave the house is for reasons other than photography, it gets left on the shelf.

I suggest a compact for a very simple reason – it will go most places with you. You don’t need a reason to take it. You just stick it in a bag or pocket, and it’s there with you wherever you go. Of course there’s a natural counter argument that is “I have an 8MP phone”. Yes, you do. But it doesn’t have an optical zoom, it doesn’t quite have the picture quality if you’re ‘thinking of taking it seriously’, and you can’t take photos in less than ideal light.

So for the price of a cheap DSLR kit, you can get yourself a quality compact. My favourite (and most used) camera is my wee compact, a Sony RX100 (now available for about £300 or $500 US) – I’ve added photos below taken with this camera where I wouldn’t have got the shot if I had a DSLR – it simply would not have been on me at the time. You’ll take on your holidays, you’ll take it on your hill walks and if you’re serious about taking photos as a hobby, you’ll concentrate on the basics of light & composition with a camera that will serve you better that a DSLR will. And that’s my honest advice.

As always, click-through for larger pictures:

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Jun 022014
 

Zeiss Touit Deals BACK IN STOCK NOW! ACT FAST!

 

See the bundle deal for Sony - The Zeiss 12mm and 32 1.8 for $919!

See the bundle deal for Fuji - The Zeiss 12 and 32 1.8 for $919!

BACK IN STOCK NOW BUT WILL GO FAST!!! 

Both of these lenses are superb and are a steal of a deal at $919 for the set. Deals like this one rarely come around, so if you have been wanting a sweet lens for your Sony or Fuji X, these are both fantastic. But do not wait too long…

The Zeiss 32 1.8 on the Sony A6000 is one hell of a lens (my review here). B&H also has the 12mm Zeiss at a special price as well. Details and direct links below on these new in box lenses!

Click here to see all of the Zeiss Touit Deals at B&H Photo NOW!

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B&H PHOTO IS also advertising this INSANE deal of the two tout lenses, the 32 1.8 and 12 2.8 for Sony or Fuji for $919 TOTAL. That is $800 off the normal price. 

See the bundle deal for Sony

See the bundle deal for Fuji

IN STOCK NOW!

May 272014
 

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The Sony A6000 Digital Camera Review by Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

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The A6000. What are the specs?

The best of the  A6000 specs are below:

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

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

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

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

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

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

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

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

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My First thought on the A6000 after it arrived

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

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

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

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

Oops, they did it again! But no biggie. 

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

The Kit Zoom is pretty nice. 

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

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

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

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The need for MORE speed!

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

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

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

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

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Overall Image Quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Test Image

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The Crops

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

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

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

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Things I did not like about the A6000?

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

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

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Pros and Cons of the Sony A6000

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

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

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

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My Bottom Line conclusion of the A6000 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where to Buy?

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

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

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

B&H PhotoAll variations of the A6000 are HERE!

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

SMILE!

eric

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

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May 182014
 

The new Sony RX100III may be the hit of the year!

The new Sony RX100III was announced a couple of days ago and it looks like the best of the series to date, by far. The original RX100 was a killer camera that offered best in class IQ and speed and performance for a great price. The RX100 was a special camera, unlike any other at the time. The only issue with it was that there was not an EVF or viewfinder. The RX100II changed this by allowing the use of the Sony external EVF. They also added a backlit sensor for increased performance. Overall though, it was more of a refresh (which I am not a fan of) than a full-blown new camera.

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So now the RX100III is announced and it appears to be a stunner. What is super cool about this one is that Sony has added a POP UP EVF! Press a button and have an instant EVF of you want it. If you do not want it, keep it embedded in the body and used the LCD. Genius. They also kept the built-in flash that also hides in the camera when not in use. They also added a type of 3 Axis IS.

The camera looks the same, is still tiny and pocketable and has a Zeiss lens that will give you an f/1.8-2.8 aperture (a true 1.8 to 2.8 for light gathering) while zooming from 24-70 in 35mm equivalent terms. The sensor is a backlit 20.1 MP 1″ sized monster capable of ISO 12,800. It is said to have much better noise reduction techniques as well over the RX100II and I. The camera also has the Bionz X processor for fast operation and fast AF. The camera also has a built-in ND filter for those times you want to shoot in full sun while keeping the aperture wide open.

IMG_392241 IMG_392242The RX100 was a HUGE hit for Sony. A massive seller. The RX100II was a big hit, but not as huge as the RX100 I. The new RX100III may be the runaway hit of the summer for its small size, fast performance, stellar IQ and cool features. For me, having that pop up EVF nails it. With the RX100 II you needed the $500 external which made the cost of a nice RX100II system well over $1200! The new RX100III is $798 and if it performs as well as the other two will be well worth it. With that said, I have yet to handle one so I hope it does indeed live up to the reputation of the previous two RX100 offerings. But this one is all about take anywhere, front pocket, and quality. I will be reviewing this one, so stay tuned.

You can pre-order the RX100III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE. Price is $798.

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Details:

20.1MP 1″ Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor

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

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

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens

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

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

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

Camera Design

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

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

Full HD Video Recording

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

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

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

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

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

Other Camera Features

A contrast-detection autofocus system works to acquire precise focus using single-shot or continuous AF modes. When working with moving subjects, Lock-on AF, with wide, center, and flexible spots, adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame. Face detection and face registration technologies can be used to base focus on recognized faces and Eye AF is also available, which is a detail-oriented focusing function that prioritizes and dedicates focusing performance on a subject’s pupil for sharply-rendered portraits.

For manual focus control, DMF (Direct Manual Focus) and standard manual focus options are available. Benefitting precise manual focus, focus peaking can be used, which highlights edges of contrast within the frame for a more objective means of determining critical sharpness, or MF Assist is available, which enlarges the image for a better view of important details.

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

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

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

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

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

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.
Picture Effect modes allow you to apply creative settings and emphasize certain facets of individual images for a richer, more aesthetic picture quality. Posterization (Color/B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration modes are available.

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

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

In-camera creation of 4K slide shows is possible for rich playback to ultra high definition televisions. An HDMI port is incorporated into the camera’s design, too, to enable direct connection to HDTVs.
TRILUMINOS Color support is supported to produce rich, natural colors when imagery is viewed on a TRILUMINOS Display.

May 072014
 

The Sony A7r & 55 1.8 along with the M9 & Noctiluxf1

By Julien Ducenne

Hi Steve and Brandon,

My Name is Julien Ducenne, I am a filmmaker living in London and working on images for about 12 years now.

Since long time my dream was to have a Leica M and couple years ago I bought the M9 with a CV 35f1.2, I was amazed by the quality of both and quickly bought a Noctilux f1 to continue my personal learning and exploration on images. I really love shallow depth of field, and the bokeh was great…
Until the day when the Sony A7r was available, I bought it with the FE55mm 1.8 and with a bokeh result really close to the Noctilux ( at equal aperture), I had more details and Sharpness on my pictures. I did not regret the Noctilux at all and I will continue to Buy M mount lenses but I will use both…

…At the end gear is only gear and the result only matter…

Have a great day.

Julien Ducenne

My Flicker : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ducenne/

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May 052014
 

masterlight

The Mitakon 50 f/0.95 Lens is up for Pre-Order!

I promised that I would post the order info for the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens as soon as it went up, so here you go! You can see my 1st look of the Mitakon HERE if you missed it. This is a full frame 50mm 0.95 lens with super high build quality, sharp performance even wider open with some very interesting and unique bokeh that you may love or you may hate but one thing is for sure, at $799 this lens is priced right.

You can now pre-order the lens HERE for a June delivery. This lens works well on the Sony A7, A7r and I assume it will be an amazing match to teh new A7s. It also works well on APS-C Sony E- Mount cameras such as the A6000..as is or with the lens turbo attachment (giving a full frame look).

Official Announcement:

Today, Mitakon is pleased to introduce the SpeedMaster Series FE 50mm f/0.95 Ultra-fast standard lens. Operate with Sony A7 full frame mirror-less camera;
all the A7 family users can enjoy the extreme performance from f/0.95. Step-less aperture control and Silence Manual focus design, perfect for cinema and video shooting.

More detail:
http://mxcamera.com/mitakon/en/mitakon50mm095.html

We are now accepting pre-orders  and the date of shipment will be the 1st week of June 2014
Thank you so much.

Best regards
Lau
MX Camera

Apr 192014
 

Crunching Sony Jpeg in the French Countryside

By Peter Pulp

Last winter I enjoyed walking though the early morning fog, trying to capture the grim ambience surrounding me.
Lately I have been shooting Jpeg again, and I’ve discovered that if I pushed the limits of Jpeg in Lightroom, I would achieve a digital crunch that I really liked. The photograph of the house is something I could have shot with my Diana Mini!
I still enjoy shooting my father’s old sony Alpha, especially with the big consumer zooms he has. On that camera I don’t worry about image quality and just have fun looking for shots. The flapping mirror gives a nice reassuring clack that yes, you have taken the picture. Timeless.

I am still planning to share a few photos and thoughts, to talk about my new camera the X100s and what I’ve been doing with it, but that will come with a substantial amount of words, and I’ll leave it for another day.
I hope you enjoy the photographs.

I am a 24 year old parent of one and producer of polymorphic psychedelic music. Feel free to hear a glimpse of my coming release here (http://soundcloud.com/arthurmaslo/some-wine-for-your-whining) and come connect on Facebook here ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Ur/157155172205?ref=br_tf ) if you like what’s happening! I have been working at this album for the past 2 years and you will here more about it as we near the release date.

Thanks for reading me, have a super day, and I hope you enjoy these shots of the Orleans forest in the fog. There are taken right on the break of the forest which stretches accross a 100km of the region called Le Loiret. Regarded by the ancient Gaul Druids as a place of mystical energies, and dubbed by them “the belly button of the world”, the forest was also refuge to the french resistance during World War II, and saw the blood of many decisive battles. A place full of history, which remains in evolution to this day.

Arthur Maslo

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Apr 162014
 

The Sony RX1r meets the Olympus E-M1 in Iceland

By Chris Bakker

My website - http://www.chrisbakkerphoto.com

Hi Steve and readers of SteveHuffPhoto.com!

My name is Chris Bakker, a free time photographer from the Netherlands. I began to do photography around Christmas of 2012. I started off with a Sony RX100 by taking photos from all kinds of subjects what surrounded me and It didn’t took me long to really get caught by the beauty of photography . Right from the start I tried to read as many (e)books on photography as I could, follow on a daily basis the online forums and practice the acquired knowledge in the field. I am also a frequent reader of this site and let me tell you this site has giving me so much that I thought it would be time to give a little bit of my contribution in return.

Because I was so into photography I decided in the summer of 2013 to trade in my trusty RX100 for his bigger brother the RX1r. This indeed is a magical powerhouse and capable of delivering some stunning photo’s. This camera has got me even more into photography. Later that year, in November the Olympus OMD E-M1 came out and because I wanted to do different things in photography which needed faster auto focus and different focal length than 35mm, I decided to buy the E-M1 alongside my beloved RX1r and step into the world of micro 4/3.  I can say I have no regrets at all. This camera is so well designed and thought out, it works so well, it just makes you want to go out and shoot.

I often attend workshops and like to learn from the pros. So when the opportunity came by to go to Iceland for 11 days with a pro landscape photographer from the Netherlands, to learn in the field, I decided to go. So on February the 22 I went off to Iceland to return 11 days later home with an overwhelming experience by the beauty of Iceland. Not only did I came home with a lot of photos but also with a lot of acquired knowledge and practical experience.

So l’ll stop the twaddle, let’s get to the photo’s!

E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Kirkjufellsfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Going to Iceland in the winter takes some planning in advance. Although the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t too cold the wind can be really extreme. And the combination of those two makes it cold. Proper clothing, like multi layers, warm hand cloves and a fur cap is not a luxury. A good windbreaker can be a rain suit. Because of the hard wind, I can advise to take a big and sturdy tripod with you. I have come to situations where I definitely had to hold on to my MEFOTO Globetrotter tripod preventing it from falling over. A tripod can allow you to shoot at times of day when the light is unlike any other. If you want to shoot at sunrise or sunset, and you want to keep the ISO down, you need that long exposure. when you want to work with HDR you need a tripod for sure. Light is everything, don’t miss some of the best light of the day because you didn’t want to carry a tripod. What also comes in handy is to wear knee-pads. The ground is often stony and wet.

Snaefellsjoekull – RX1r

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E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Brúarfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Shining stones in river – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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While I was out making photos in the field I did quite often use my filters. There are many people that think in digital photography you don’t need filters anymore. Many think that this is also possible in post processing. When you need a slower shutter speed to blur motion, like with waterfalls, or polarizing light to reduce glare, do it with filters. Filters still enable an aesthetic that’s not possible through simple post-production, and in some cases not possible at all, even in Photoshop. Everybody has his own way of working but we people often work in sequence. We start off with 1 go to 2 than react to 3 to get to 4 or so. While this is a quite similar process as in post-production, like Lightroom, it is also a good process at point of capture. When experimenting with filters in the field you see the result immediately and that gives you the change to react to it. So it can definitely be a good thing for creativity. I used mostly a 3 stop ND filter from Singh-Ray and a Big stopper from Hoya the NX400. In a few occasions I used graduated and reverse grad filters, mostly at sunrise or sunset. For Polarizer’s, Singh-Ray Color Combo and the Gold ‘n Blue.

Skógafoss – RX1r

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Northern Lights near Vik – RX1r

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Vik Beach – E-M1 pana 35-100f2.8

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – RX1r

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunset JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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What really fascinates me is that you can learn infinitely, it’s an ongoing process. Photography has become an essential part of my life. It’s so much fun, it’s a way of living. I hope you enjoy watching these photos as much as I did making them.

Chris Bakker

A few more…

Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Vik Beach – RX1r

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Old Turf Farm House – RX1r

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Icelandic Horse – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Apr 102014
 

On safari with the Sony A7+LAEA4+SAL70-300G

By Wim Arys

Hi Steve and Brandon,

My name is Wim Arys, I’m a music producer from Belgium. I’ve been an avid reader of your excellent site for some time now, and enjoy reading your hands on tests of new cameras and equipment. I was very interested in photography as a teenager, but strayed towards music production after high school. My teenage passion was rekindled some years ago when I bought an Iphone 3S, and started taking pictures again.

After a while I became dissatisfied with the image quality and bought myself an EPL5, then an EP-5, a Fuji X100S, a Sony RX1 and earlier this year an Sony A7. My girlfriend and I have a non-profit travel blog www.freeasbirds.com, so we travel as much as possible, exploring the world whilst sharing our mutual passion for photography. For our latest trip to Kenya, I wanted to try out the A7 with a zoom lens on safari. Since there was no E-mount full frame zoom available, I decided to go for the Sony SAL 70300G f4.5-5.6 SSM A-mount with the Sony LA-EA4 converter. Not the fastest zoom, but designed to a high standard, as the G mark indicates and available at a reasonable price point.

I’ve read comments about a zoom lens on an A7, saying that this defeats the purpose of a small(er) mirror-less full frame camera, but this combo is very light and surprisingly easy to handle. I had no problems carrying it around all day and it balances well in hand. Photography on safari has many challenges: the savannah is very dusty, the roads are bumpy and the drivers hardly give you time to frame and focus your shots.

Everything in Africa is supposed to go Polé Polé (take it easy) but these drivers race around the parks like madmen. The SAL70300G with LAEA4 adapter luckily has contrast AF and phase AF on the A7 and our driver John quickly became used the sound of cameras snapping away. The AF is very fast, the only quibble I have is that all the focus points are in the centre of the frame. So if I wanted to focus off-centre, I had to set focus and reframe, which was almost impossible in these conditions. Another problem is the lack of image stabilisation on all A-mount lenses (because the Alpha range of cameras have in camera IS). All my pictures came out a bit bland too (perhaps due to all the dust in the air), but I always shoot in RAW, so with the nice A7 full frame sensor, it was no problem boosting the colours/shadows in post. I normally use Capture One for this, but it seems not to be a good match with the A7. Lightroom did the trick.

I always carry my trusted Olympus E-P5 too, preferably with the fantastic 75mm f1.8 or Panasonic/Leica 25mm. This is still my favourite street camera, although the A7 with 35mm allowed me to take different kinds of pictures when we visited a Masai tribe. After going through my 4000+ pictures at home, I started missing the image quality of my RX1. The sensor and lens combo on this little gem are amazing. It is off course a fixed lens combo, so I never could have gotten these shots with that camera.

The SAL70300G, although a descent lens in good to average lighting, does have its limitations, especially at 300mm. I like the ergonomics and styling of the Sony A7, the ‘loud’ shutter sound does not bother me at all. I think the idea of a stealth camera has become obsolete nowadays, you are fooling yourself if you think people don’t know what you are doing. The autofocus could be faster, compared to the E-P5 but I would not consider it slow. Perhaps just a bit faster than the Fuji X100s. This camera is not a DSLR killer either, I’m guessing in will take a few more versions until Sony (or another brand) gets there.

What the A7 delivers is top image quality in a compact size, though I might return this one and go for the A7r for the added resolution.

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If you would like to submit your own guest article, review, or just talk about your experience with anything photographic, send your idea to Steve HERE. You can also read how to do it HERE. 

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