Nov 132013
 

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Burning Man Portrait Report

by Jordan Blackman – His website is HERE

I was riding shotgun in a pickup truck for twelve hours, biting my nails as we lumbered across the American West. Between the bed of the truck and the U-Haul trailer hitched up to it, there was easily a two bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff with us. But we weren’t headed to an apartment. We were going deep into the dust of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man 1

Now, you’ve probably heard about Burning Man, and maybe you’ve even been. But I never had, and I was anxious about going. I’d heard stories about dangerous dust storms, outrageous orgies, deviant witchcraft and more. Obviously, I’d need to bring a camera and the biggest memory card I could get my hands on.

Unfortunately, my OM-D EM5 had just been stolen. I had shot with that little Olympus for over a year, and paired with the Panny 20mm it really knocked my socks off. I love that camera. But still, I decided I’d try something different. After an obscene amount of internet “research” I picked up a Sony NEX-6. I liked the video quality and price, and I felt that it would be fun and educational to work a new sensor size. Burning Man was going to be my first chance to really use the Sony and I really wasn’t sure what to expect… from the event or from the camera.

Now, one of the big differences between the two cameras is the weather sealing. OMD has it, NEX doesn’t. Burning Man is famously dusty, and so I rigged a plastic bag to keep out those tiny sensor demons. It worked really well, especially with the EFV exposed, as you can see from the pic. The downside was that I was committed to a single lens for the entire week. I chose the Sony SEL35f18.

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Upon arrival at Black Rock City, the name of the temporary town erected in the desert each year for Burning man, I was completely overwhelmed. The expanse of light and art, the creativity on display, the diversity of color and costume… it was more than I could take in. Burning Man defeats one’s power’s of perception, let alone observation. I quickly decided to focus on portraiture for the following reasons:

1. It would keep me focused, preventing overwhelm.

2. It seemed a reasonable task for the 50mm equivalent lens I had.

3. Portraits could be gifts, and gifts are an important part of Burning Man culture.

4. Everyone else would be shooting the giant art installations anyway, and who needs another picture of the man burning?

And so, every day I walked across the dust and invited strangers to have their portraits taken. Here are some of those photos. Below the pictures, I’ll share some thoughts about the NEX-6, some 2000 captures later.

So, what did I think about the NEX-6 compared to the OM-D? They are both great cameras, and I recommend them both. With the NEX-6, when you nail the shot, you get an amazing RAW file, better than the OMD’s. But, it’s harder to nail the shot and then it takes more adjustments to get the image you want from the RAW. With the OMD I had more keepers and less work to do in Lightroom. I think the keepers come from the stabilization and the better focus system. The NEX-6 forces me to slow down and think more both during exposure and development phases. I consider this a good thing for my growth as a photographer. And when you take the time you get some remarkable results.

If you shoot video, the NEX-6 can produce absolutely stunning footage, albeit without the OMD’s excellent stabilization. I consider 60fps a must for video since the conformed footage looks so great at 24fps. If the community is interested I am happy to write up a long comparison with the pros of each as there is much more to be said on this. The short version is, I’m planning to stick shooting with the NEX-6 until a camera arrives with 5-axis stabilization and the video features I want.

As for Burning Man, I’m no longer nervous. I’ll be heading back whenever I have the chance. My overwhelmed feeling has turned to gratefulness. My anxiety into anticipation. I hope to continue my portrait project for many years to come.

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Oct 112012
 

The Sony NEX-6 1st Quick Look Review (more in depth coming soon)

You can pre-order the new Sony NEX-6 with the new Kit Zoom for $999 at B&H Photo HERE.

Amazon has the NEX-6 in stock HERE!

Hey hey hey! I know MANY of you have been waiting for samples from the brand spanking new Sony NEX-6. I can not do a full review on this one until I get one at home for 2 or 3 weeks as I just did not have the time this week to shoot ALL of the new Sony cameras thoroughly as I spent most of this week on the RX1 (HERE and HERE) but I did indeed get some cool shots with the NEX-6 and at the same time I have discovered that I like it more  than my beloved NEX-7 that I have had for well over a year now.

SO THIS IS NOT A FULL IN DEPTH REVIEW, just a quick 1st look review! I will have a full in-depth as soon as I can get a hold of one of these guys long-term. That is when I will have crops, details, noise tests, etc.

The NEX-6 and new 16-50 Kit Zoom is a powerful combo

Another NEX? 

The NEX-6 is the latest and greatest in the NEX line and while it comes in UNDER the NEX-7 with the number 6 name in many ways it is a much better camera. At least I think so.

The big improvement here is that Sony has added an all new AF system for fast and snappy performance. The NEX-6 has Phase detect and Contrast Detect focus, it has the same EVF as the NEX-7 and the same body design and shape. The build is pro and it has a matte finish instead of the 7′s glossy look. The LCD is still as awesome as ever though it is not a touch screen. Sony also added WiFi support and you can even trigger this camera and preview real-time on your smart phone via an App on the camera.

Today we took a drive through Carmel, CA and I snapped this shot with the NEX-6 and new kit zoom 16-50, which I like so much better than the old 18-55. The new 16-50 is small and of great quality. The image below is from RAW and I added a color filter in Lightroom to show what can be done with a shot from this camera in about 15 seconds of clicks in Lightroom (cold color filter). I also did some dodging to bring out the rocks. The result is that it has some noise that would not normally be there but I like it anyway :) Click image for larger view.

In real world use I find the NEX-6 to be much quicker to AF than the 7 and it just seems very snappy and responsive which is good! The 7 at times seemed a bit slow when compared to the new breed of mirrorless like the Olympus OM-D. Sony did not take a break and just say “deal with it”..nope! Instead they ramped things up by combining Contrast Detect AND Phase Detect focus ala Nikon V1 for a much improved AF experience. This means that in good light the AF is near instant. IN low light it is faster than it was before in past NEX cameras. This is a pretty big deal and I am happy that Sony made this move. The NEX-6 feels like a 100% fully polished product..finally.

Always love scenes like this and the kit zoom did great once again. Click for larger.

The NEX-6 also has a 16MP sensor which I feel is about what an APS-C should top out at for best quality, sharpness, dynamic range and image quality. The 24 MP of the NEX-7 pushed the sensor a little to far I think and the result was less than stellar ISO performance and in some cases muddy results. The 6 hits the sweet spot for sure.

So be sure to check back here for a full in-depth look and review of this new NEX. Again, this is just a quick 1st look to show those who have been waiting some quick samples. 

The NEX-6 with 35 1.8 at 1.8 and ISO 640- click image for larger!

This week I was able to shoot the NEX-6, the new 35 1.8 lens and the new 10-18 ultra wide zoom and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with all of them. Once again I am writing this at 1 AM and I have to be up at 6AM so I need sleep but I wanted to let everyone see some new samples from the NEX-6 as I know many have been waiting..even if it is just a few samples so I have posted some quick samples on this page for you to peruse.

Before we drove some very cool cars we got instruction on how to do so on the track. The other guys here shot the usual 400mm action shots but I stayed with the 10-18 and kit zoom. Being different that everyone else is good :)

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We had access to just about any Sony lens made for the A99 and the NEX system – pretty damn cool! – Shot with the 10-18 at 10mm (15mm equivalent on the NEX system)

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A quick landscape shot using the 16-50 Kit lens. JPEG

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Again, the 16-50. It is a great kit lens. I like it. 

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This one was shot with the new 35 1.8 in a very dark aquarium. Click image for larger and EXIF is embedded.

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In the helicopter some of had a chance to shoot with the A99, NEX-6 and RX1 – OOC JPEG

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Sweep Panormama is still here! – OOC JPEG

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Jellyfish with the 35 1.8

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A nice JPEG sunset with the 35 1.8 at f/7.1

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The 16-50 at f/8

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New Kit Zoom!

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Again, the kit zoom at 16mm and f/7.1

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Trying out the mini effect from the helicopter

For those wondering if the NEX-6 is an improvement over the NEX-7 I would say DEFINITELY. It is quicker, snappier, more responsive, does not seem to overheat (in my limited use so far),has sharp IQ, comes with a great new kit zoom and even feels better with its matte finish. You lose the highly touted “Tri Navi” control system but to be honest I almost prefer the new set up as you still have your control dials. You lose nothing but convenience of having both dials at the top. Instead you now have one dial with the mode dial stacked on top and the mode dial on the back.

The NEX-6 is the best NEX yet.

 

You can pre-order the new Sony NEX-6 with the new Kit Zoom for $999 at B&H Photo HERE.

You can buy the NEX-6 and new Kit Zoom at Amazon HERE

Oct 102012
 

Live from the Sony Event..more samples from RX1, NEX-6 and A99!

Hello again! I am still here with the Sony event in California and today we rode the bus in to Carmel, CA and I am sitting here in one of the nicest hotel rooms I have ever stayed in at Carmel Valley Ranch. Amazing location and the room is mine for the next three days..so cozy comfy and nice. Doesnt feel like work..in fact, I feel guilty!

But the days have been long and packed full of fun, adventure and excitement because those of us lucky enough to be here have been enjoying all kinds of shooting events and it is only getting better tomorrow and Thursday.

Today I shot with ALL of the new Sony still cameras. The NEX-6, A99 and more RX1 of course! You have seen my last two posts I am sure so you know I am really digging the RX1. It is like a Fuji X100 but much faster, a sharper lens, a full frame sensor and insane high ISO capability that really does defeat any camera made today. Any that I have seen anyway. Here is a bit more on the RX1 and I am proud to say that I have been providing the most RX1 coverage anywhere in the world and I thank you all for stopping by.

The RX1 – NOTE: ALL photos here are JPEG only..no RAW converter yet.

The RX1 is FANTASTIC and the results I have been getting from it have been nothing short of mind-boggling when you consider how small it really is. The RX1 has been getting loads of attention and with that attention comes those who understand what it is and those who DO NOT understand what it is. There are those who think it is overpriced and those who understand that it is priced where it is due to the fact there is NOTHING out there that can do what this camera does, especially in this size. I swear I am getting better results with this RX1 than I am with the A99 and premo lenses.

When I started shooting with this camera is when I understood what it is all about. Sure, I would have loved a built in VF..that would have been the icing on the cake. But these camera companies NEVER give us everything we want now do they? All I ask is a camera be fun to use, a joy to use, be of quality build and feel and have some bit of magic, mojo or soul. The RX1 has it all. More so than the Leica X2, more so than the Fuji X100, moreso than the Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35 1.4  (much more IMO), much more than any NEX or really…any camera I have used next to my Leica M’s.

Remember, I said Fun to use, Build, Feel, Magic, Mojo and Soul. The RX1 really delivers in all of these areas and I am technically using pre-production firmware and only shooting JPEG! Imagine what will happen with RAW and final firmware.

Overall though it is a superb tool and using the LCD in daylight is NO problem due to the white magic LCD. I have tried it with the new external EVF and OVF and prefer the EVF (which is BETTER than the NEX-7 EVF) in use and looks. Putting the RX1 to my eye was a treat and felt natural and I always prefer a VF to holding out my arms.

The RX1 at f/2 – some color tweaks – JPEG

So far I have realized the RX1 is high on my checklist of PROS and very low on the CONS. It is fast, it is silent, it has steady shot IS, it has a wonderful Zeiss 35 f/2 lens, it has a little bit of magic and soul and the ISO capability is the best on the market. It shoots great quality HD video as well. I have shot all major cameras that are out now and I have never seen ISO performance like what I see on the Sony RX1 and in fact I have been getting better results ISO wise than the A99. Not sure why.

Next two shots ISO 12,800 at f/2 – OOC JPEG – click for larger!

To those who have nothing but bad to say about the RX1…well, to be blunt…you have no clue about this camera. You have not held one, shot with one and have not seen what it can do in your own hands. It is a huge improvement over a NEX-7, NEX-6, etc. It is a full frame camera with what appears to be a truly amazing sensor. In fact Sony is one of the few companies pushing boundaries and I have much more respect for Sony than I do Canon or Nikon who are doing NOTHING revolutionary.

Sony also knows how to hold an event. I was told this would be Epic and so far am not let down. Sony knows what they are doing no doubt.

The RX1 is a finely built camera that is not going to be for everyone but the capabilities of this little guy are huge. BTW, for street it is quite the camera.

RX1 at f/2 – OOC JPEG

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Testing out the Selective Color mode – JPEG OOC

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and without… JPEG

I am hoping to make a video on the Rx1 with all accessories tomorrow but A: I need to find the time and B: I need to be able to swindle this RX1 for one more day. There are only 11 in the world right now and only 4 of them are at this event. Sony has been kind enough to let me hang on to it for a while so if I still have it tomorrow look for a full video showing it off as well as the menus.

NOTE: By default the RX1 has the Lens Distortion Correction turned OFF. My 1st samples showed some distortion due to this. I now have it turned on which eliminates all distortion. Also, these have all been JPEG’s and I expect the quality to get even better when I can process RAW files and have final firmware.

OOC JPEG

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SOME BOKEH – f/4

Tomorrow we will be racing cars, flying in helicopters, photographing bees (and we may have to wear bee suits) as well as eating dinner at an aquarium while we shoot jellyfish. Can not wait!

The NEX-6

I have had a NEX-6 for the past couple of days as well but admit I have not shot it as much as the RX1 but can say that I like it better than my NEX-7. Why? Well, it is faster. Faster to AF..and dare I say it feels VERY snappy and instant. It looks like a NEX-7 and feels a little better due to the new finish. The camera lost the tri-navi but the way it is set up is not a problem.It has the new AF system wich has contrast and phase detect and this is a huge deal for the NEX camera system. It also has Wi-fi and apps and so far I have had no issues shooting video like I did with the 7.

I will have a full review of the NEX-6 soon. I am still testing it out here and will shoot more with it tomorrow.

The Sony A99 DSLR

The Sony A99 is the new top flagship DSLR for Sony and it shares the same sensor as the RX1. Anyone who knows me knows I am NOT a DSLR guy but since Sony gave me one in a bag for the week I figure “why not try it”. Well, I have shot with it a bit today and it’s a lovely DSLR that gives up NOTHING to the Nikon and Canon big guns. At all. Even most the Sony glass is spectacular. Just because it does not have a N or C in the name doesn’t mean it is not just as capable, if not more than the other guys flagships.

The A99 with a 24-70 is LARGE. Well, I think so because I am used to my Leica and small mirrorless cameras but the this is a PRO BEAST of a camera. The video capabilities of the A99 are special as well and the samples I have seen knocked my socks off. I admit that over the past two days the A99 has not gotten much of my attention but from my limited use it has been blazing fast with beautiful JPEG’s out of the camera.

In fact, if I were buying a new DSLR for some reason I would have a HARD time choosing between the Nikon D800 and the Sony A99. The sensor in this camera is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and it is no wonder I also love my Olympus OM-D because Sony also makes the sensor for that camera. Sony sensor technology is getting so good that many will never realize they have outpaced the competition. So many close off the possibility of a Sony DSLR just because it has the name Sony.

But I have to say with 100% conviction that this is a serious pro tool and like I said before, it gives up nothing to the big guns from Canon and Nikon. While shooting it I had ZERO missed focus shots and ZERO problems. All of my shots were sharp and in focus. Low light and high ISO rocked and the detail and DR from what I have seen so far are on par with the best.

The only niggle I have with the A99 is that when I first grabbed it I was confused with all of the buttons and controls. I am used to and prefer “simple” and the A99 seems to have everything but the kitchen sink included so if you are a newbie to Sony or pro DSLR’s a quick manual read will benefit you.

Just a few JPEGS I snapped with the A99… – low ISO to high..EXIF is embedded in each photo. You can click any to see a larger and better version.

More to come this week! Tomorrow I will be shooting ALL COLOR with the Sony cams and we have quite a few things to shoot tomorrow. I will also be testing out the new ultra wide NEX mount lens and the 35 1.8 with more NEX-6 shooting.

These posts this week are on the short side due to me getting no sleep and being short on time so stick with me through Friday! I will also be posting a guest article or two this week sometime as well as some Leica Monochrom updates. I will also try to do the crazy comparison between the Monochrom and RX1 in B&W mode. Should be fun. :)

If you missed my 1st two Sony RX1 reports check them out HERE and HERE!

Sep 272012
 

Sony RX1, NEX-6, NEX-5R and A99 Previews and samples the week of the 8th!

Hello everyone! Happy Thursday! I hope everyone is having a great day wherever you may be at this moment..work, home, school, travel, hotel..wherever! I am EXCITED and the reason why is that the week the 8th-12th I will be posting LIVE updates from San Francisco and Carmel, CA at the Sony Media Event where I will be shooting with a Sony RX1, NEX-5, NEX-5R and A99. Even the new Action Cam and other new Sony products will be there for me to shoot all week. Upon checking into my hotel on Monday the 8th I will be handed a camera bag full of cameras and goodies so THIS is a big deal for me. I am thrilled to be shooting the RX1 especially..to see how it is in real use. Of course I will be posting updates and samples here from all of the cameras as I shoot them.

We will be going to some amazing scenic locations that week to put these new products through their paces and you guys get to read about all of it HERE. I will not be the only web guy there so I am sure there will be floods of samples available that week from many of the other photo bloggers and websites.

Sony seems to be on top of their game this year because if I was running things at ANY camera company I would do the same thing they are doing. Getting these new products in the hands of some of the top websites so they can report on them show they not only have confidence in what they are putting out but that they know how to promote these products as well. They have had media events before but this one is going to be HUGE and pretty special. Race cars, helicopter rides, Big Sur…I can not wait!

So stay tuned here the week of the 8th-12th and you will see all of my updates on the new Sony gear. 

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Oh…The Leica M RV Tour and Review

BTW, I have been toying with an idea to rent an RV that will hold up to 4-5 people to trek across route 66 testing the new Leica M and Monochrom. Would be myself and 3-4 others who would want to join in and share costs involved with the main goal of shooting the hell out of the new cameras along the Route for a week or two. At the end of the trip we would all combine our words and photos in to a massive review to be posted here. If this happens I would like to find 3-4 others who have experience with Leica and know how to use them. Having some great lenses would also help :)

This would be great press for Leica so now let us see if they agree to send me a camera or two for 2 weeks to see if it can happen. If not I will wait until my orders come in which would be sometime in 2013. Either way it will most likely happen..but stay tuned for details :)

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