Aug 182014
 

titlequ

Got IQ? The Sigma DP2 Quattro Review. 

Here I am again with yet another Sigma DP body. This time, the newest super funky DP2 Quattro model. I have never seen ANYTHING quite like the design of this Quattro and after using it and shooting with it I can state up front that I actually adore the style and design. For my hands, it feels superb when out shooting and when held correctly it really is easy to shoot with, and a joy. The last time I was with a Sigma camera it was when I reviewed the DP2 Merrill. I loved the Merrill for its amazing image quality, which was the best I have seen in any small camera. Very much like Medium Format and in some ways even better.  Now the Quattro has taken that image quality, improved the AF speed and other aspects and then jammed it into an all new body that is worthy of a whole conversation in itself.

Out of camera JPEG of my Fiancee’ Debby. This is complete OOC. Just resized to 1800 pixels wide and no sharpening. You can see the larger size if you click the image. For me, this is gorgeous out of camera color and IQ. From detail to color to bokeh. It looks fabulous. 

SDIM0189

So what is the Quattro?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a super funky designed camera that houses a new Foveon sensor and it will give you some of the best image quality you have ever seen, period. Even when shooting JPEGS. IN fact, I much preferred shooting the enhanced resolution JPEG’s over shooting RAW as shooting RAW is a process. Why you ask? Well, shooting RAW means you have to process those files in the Sigma Slow Photo Pro software as the files from the Foveon chip are not compatible with any other software. This means, no using lightroom for your Sigma DP2 files.

The Quattro has a 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS image sensor which will give you 5424X3616 files. The color and detail in these files is absolutely beautiful. Some of the best I have ever seen.

08

The Quattro has a unique design as well and does not look like any other camera I have seen or used. It is long, oddball and with a strange reverse grip. When I first held it I was saying “OH NO! What have they done? The grip does not feel right”!. Then after  few hours of use I was saying “This feels great! Shooting with two hands feels natural and easy”.

My Quattro Video Overview

Basically, the design..while odd..is very effective for me. I have small hands but the camera fits me well and the buttons and dials are easily within reach.

Image quality is through the roof and when browsing over images I took, which were mainly quick snapshots, I was continually blown away by the complete lack of adjusting the photos. No need for changing or adjusting color, no need to sharpen, no need to fix exposure and no need to change ANYTHING. Out of camera JPEGS were just so pleasing with a rich file and crisp 3D feeling images. The Quattro, IMO, offers the most pleasing IQ from any DP camera to date though I have found the Dynamic Range to be on the lower side when compared to other cameras like the E-M1, A7, etc. When you blow a highlight you will not be able to bring back the detail if it is severely blown.

05

The lens is a 30mm f/2.8 that gives us the equivalent of a 40mm 2.8 with the APS-C sized sensor. The lens is sharp and with great color and rendering. The Bokeh is smooth and pleasing and there is plenty of detail to be found here. No complaints on the lens at all.

Build quality is also fantastic and a step up from the previous versions. It feels solid and well made but I do have one major complaint. I feel it is a big one. The door that houses the SD card is not a door at all but a rubber flap that has to be pulled out and moved to the side to access the SD card. Over time this rubber will break off and this will mean that the SD card compartment will be exposed to the elements of dust, dirt and moisture. Horrible design on the SD card part. Sigma should actually fix this in the current production and replace it with a legit door. Not sure who designed that or who approved of it but it is the worst design SD card compartment cover I have seen.

03

The Sigma is also missing any kind of EVF or OVF and the LCD does not tilt or swivel. If Sigma would have added these two things they would have had a serious camera that would be tough to pass up for those who love their image quality. The brand spanking new Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is quite a bit different from the previous Foveon sensor due to a new top layer with a higher res. This should now give more detailed results with faster image processing and overall speed. So Sigma has reworked their sensor tech and the 29MP Quattro is said to give the results and resolution of a 39 MP normal sensor. Pretty cool.

Here is what Sigma says about their creation:

“Unique and without peer among image sensors, the Foveon direct image sensor is similar to traditional color film in that its multiple layers capture all of the information that visible light transmits. Vertical color separation technology produces incredibly rich color gradations, which in turn make possible texture and expressive power that are immediately apparent to the eye. Even when you are photographing an object with a single color, the sensor captures the full gradation perfectly, with no discordant jumps between lighter and darker areas. Proof that capturing color accurately one pixel at a time really makes a difference, these perfect gradations are at the heart of what we call “full-bodied image quality.”

While delivering this rich, colorful, ultra-high resolution that optimally replicates what you see in the real world, the new dp offers image files of a reasonable size in an easy-to-process format. To achieve this combination, we thoroughly rethought and redesigned every aspect of the camera, including the sensor, engine, lens, body, and interior layout. The result is a camera that carries on the dp tradition and gives you unprecedented image quality.

To a radical degree, the new-generation dp series embodies SIGMA’s philosophy of creating cameras that produce works of art. Featuring the highest level of fundamental performance, this series unites artistic expression and daily experience as no other cameras can.”

As it stands, the camera produces some of the most gorgeous colors and files I have seen…comparable to real medium format files but are the weaknesses enough to put you off from buying it? Let us take a look at everything in a little bit more detail.

My son Brandon and my Nephew John while visiting the domes of Casa Grande, AZ. Sigma Sp2 Quattro at 2.8. This is from RAW. Click it for larger!

SDIM0129p

The Auto Focus speed of the Quattro

With the DP2 Merrill the AF speed is what killed it for me. Even the write times to the card were horrible. I wanted to love the DP2 Merrill and buy one as I started to get addicted to the image quality. At the end of the day I could not do it as when it launched it was $999 and for me to spend a grand I need a camera that will not frustrate the hell out of me to get a shot. The DP2 Merrill with its quirks and annoyances put me off from buying one, even at the current price of $699. It is just too slow and doesn’t feel right in the hand to me. You can read my review of that camera HERE.

With the Quattro I had hoped that Sigma improved the Auto Focus speed. If not, it would be the same thing for me and the design would not have saved it.

After shooting the Quattro in many different conditions I have found the AF to be much better this time around but still on the slow side of the tracks. It will not compete in AF speed with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the Fuji X-T1 or the Nikon 1 series. It is nowhere near DSLR Focus speeds either, but it is much better than the old DP2 Merrill. The camera is full of flaws but IQ is not one of them.

When shooting in decent light it is quick enough to get a grab shot though not fast enough to catch a super quick moment. Even with the speed increase, which also is seen in write times, it does not even come close to making the Quattro any sort of action camera. I still say that this camera is best for static subjects. Portraits, scenes, landscapes, urban decay, etc. This is where the camera will excel. I have found the images to have a medium format feel in color and details. In fact, the IQ is so special with this camera that I feel the speed increases seen, while still slow, make the camera worth a purchase for those who value superb color and IQ. For portraits this camera just gets it right and if used from ISO 100-800 you will not be let down by the IQ. If coming from a Merrill of even older DP2 you will find the speed increases very welcome indeed. Just do not expect a speed demon, as it is in NO WAY a speedy camera in operation.

The next three images..all OOC JPEG

SDIM0167

SDIM0168

wallco

SDIM0179

What the DP2 Quattro is missing, in my opinion

While I have been enjoying my time with the little Quattro I have been wishing that it has a few things that it does not, and if it did, it would make it complete IMO. For one, I love the fact that it is so simple. It is a device built for one thing, all out image quality without any stress of color, sharpness or quality. In this regard, it just works. Image after image, even of plain old mundane subjects looked superb, reminding me of the old Leica M9 in many ways with the crisp yet pleasing details and slide like film color. Add in some medium format smoothness and you have a camera that REALLY delivers in the IQ department. I know I said this already but for me, the IQ is almost worth the asking price alone here. Add in the funky design (which I love) and the ease of use and you have a real camera that photo geeks and enthusiasts will really enjoy when shooting in good light.

But the DP2 is not perfect, far from it.

For starters, there is no EVF  here. An EVF embedded into the body would have just added so much to the experience. When out in bright light the LCD gets hard to see and framing your shot is basically not possible. It turns into a guessing game for everything. An EVF would have solved this and made it more enjoyable to shoot. Sigma is releasing an OVF (Optical View Finder) for the Quattro but there are issues to using an OVF with a digital camera.  For starters, let’s say you shot with the LCD off (which is as easy as a button press away) and wanted to frame with the OVF. You will not get an exact framing nor will you know where the camera focused. If you want precise focus you will need to use the LCD. An EVF would have been perfect.

Also, the LCD does not swivel and while I appreciate this being done to keep clean lines and save on thickness, it hurts the usability because without the EVF or a tilt LCD it takes away points for versatility. Then we have the shoddy high ISO performance. I have been using the Sony A7s as my main camera for months now and have become quite spoiled with the ability to shoot anywhere and at anytime. With the DP2 Quattro forget low light interior shots or ISO above 800. After ISO 800 the noise gets nasty and even with color I would prefer to stop at ISO 400. This is one area where the Foveon sensors just have not been able to improve upon. At base ISO and up to 400 the file quality is outstanding in color or B&W. After 400-800 you will want to go B&W only, and yes, you can get good results at ISO 3200 with B&W. OOC B&W mode looks great.

So while the IQ and design is beautiful (for me and my tastes) the camera still lacks due to not having an EVF, swivel LCD and not so great high ISO performance.

With that out-of-the-way, if one wants a camera for certain subjects like portraits, landscape or scenic type of stuff then the Quattro will deliver better than almost any other camera. I feel it has better IQ than the Leica M9 that came in at $7k. From color to detail, it is stupendous. If we treat it like a “Mini Medium Format” then it is understandable  that it is lacking in many ways but up there with the best of the best in other ways.

As long as you know what you are getting with the Quattro then it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed with it. I recently saw a YouTube video review of this camera and the guy concluded with “It’s a piece of crap”. I have never seen such a horrible review as the guy had no idea how to use it to its potential. The Quattro is far from a piece of crap and is highly capable when it comes to making/creating an image. From the color to the detail to the rich file. You just have to realize what it is and what it is not!

The NONO’s: No action shots, no low light interior or night shots, no easy framing in harsh sun. Battery life is below average but camera comes with two of them.

The WOW’s!: Gorgeous MF like IQ & color, unique design and simple menu setup. OOC JPEGS look fantastic.

There more OOC JPEGS…

SDIM0147

katie

baby1

wallco4

The Shooting experience with the Quattro

The DP2 Quattro, as previously stated, is a unique design. I am a HUGE fan of those companies that go outside of the box when it does to design and features. I love to see companies push the envelope and do or try things that no one else does. When I saw the design of the Quattro before it was released I was very excited about it because it was something different from the normal ho hum camera shape. I found the DP2 Merrill to have an awful body design. The Quattro, while odd at first while holding it soon becomes comfy and natural. I had zero issues using the body, holding the body or controlling the camera. The magnesium alloy body feels solid and secure and everything is top quality (besides the dumb rubber SD card cover).

Brandon getting the shot with his Diana camera. OOC JPEG. Blown highlights outside in the sun. 

bb

Using Auto Focus with the Quattro is a much nicer experience over the DP2 Merrill, which was borderline unusable for most situations. At least now we have a somewhat snappy AF and while it will hunt in low light, it is not bad at all. I expected worse, so it exceeded my expectations in the Auto Focus speed department. The Quattro does not do the fancy tricks that other cameras do. Video? Nope. Fancy built-in effects? Nope. No panorama, no smile detect, etc. It is a simple camera with a simple design and button layout.

The Menu system is superb. Clean, elegant and easy to browse. I wish all were like this. It reminds me of a Leica menu in its simplicity and the quick menu is so clean, so easy to navigate and make changes. I love it.

When I washout shooting with the DP2 Quattro I always loved taking it out of my bag to shoot and I even had a few people ask me what it was I was taking pictures with. It is a conversation starter and stare getter for sure, so forget about being stealth with the Quattro. Never once did I have an issue with anything and it always delivered the goods. I had a wonderful time shooting with it unlike the previous DP2 Merrill.

SDIM0217

sprite

SDIM0232

It’s all in the details

Even when shooting JPEG you can see the immense detail in the image. Below are three images with 100% crops embedded. You must click the image to see it with the crop. Remember, these are from JPEG!

SDIM0024

blinds56

SDIM0209

High ISO Test and Crops

The Sigma DP2 Quattro, or any DP camera for that matter is NOT a camera made for low light shooting. In fact, for best IQ keep this camera set to ISO 100-400 and no more than that. Yes, very low on the ISO scale but there are always trade offs as there are no perfect cameras. The DP2 Quattro is a camera to pull out of the bag when there is good light available. Then it will reward you with beautiful colors and results.

I am posting a few high ISO files below starting with base ISO 100. I them move on to 400, 800. 1600, 3200 and 6400. The best are 100 and 400 but see for yourself. Once you get to ISO 1600 problems start to creep in including odd color shifts and reduced DR. Stick from 100-800 and you will be just fine.

For best viewing experience, right-click and open each image in a new window. These are full size files from the camera, OOC JPEG

iso100full

iso400full

iso800full

iso1600full

iso3200full

iso6400full

JPEG vs RAW comparison

I have found that shooting the Quattro in JPEG  to be quite good. In fact, with all of the hassles of processing the RAW files of the DP2 Quattro I would just shoot JPEG for 95% of what I shoot. If I was shooting something very special that I was going to print large t hen I would process the RAW file for sure. Below are two images, one out of camera JPEG and one processed from RAW.

JPEG is up top, RAW underneath. Right click and open in a new window to see the files in their full size. 

oocjpegdebby

rawdebby

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding Medium Format image quality!
  • Unique design and shape that works well for my hands
  • Conversation starter
  • Detail, color and 3D feel is all here
  • Camera ships with two batteries and full charger
  • 30mm f/2.8 lens is sharp corner to corner
  • Sigma’s best DP to date
  • Faster Af and processing over previous DP cameras
  • Great JPEG engine
  • Super JPEG size:  7,680×5,120
  • Superb for B&W shooting
  • OVF is available for those that want one
  • Good Dynamic Range up to ISO 800
  • Menu system is simple, clean and elegant
  • Most Unique camera of 2014!
  • IQ puts most other cameras to shame…really.

Cons

  • Still slow to AF compared to other (non DP) cameras
  • No swivel LCD
  • Must get exposure correct as it is tough to recover highlights
  • SD Card rubber “door” will break eventually
  • No kind of EVF even possible
  • Shape may be trouble for some
  • Battery life is not the best, sucks down quick.
  • Fixed lens means only 40mm equivalent
  • Limited ISO use, best from 100-400
  • Dynamic Range suffers after ISO 800+
  • RAW files can only be opened and processed by Sigma Software, which is SLOW as molasses.

SDIM0188

Who is this camera for?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a camera for camera pros, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It is not a P&S for a new camera buyer or for someone without any knowledge of how a camera works. It is for those who crave detail, rich color and unreal micro contrast. It is for those who want a Medium Format look and feel in a camera that is much smaller and lighter, as well as cheaper. It is a camera for portraits, landscapes or still life. It is not for someone who wants to shoot running kids inside the house. No way, no how. If you shoot outdoor scenes, landscape or people and you want a camera that will deliver some of the most beautiful files you have seen, the this may be your camera. I find it works great as a 2nd camera for special situations or those moments when something like this will work for you.

SDIM0126

SDIM0128

SDIM0155

SDIM0158

Final Word

As I sit here and think about my time with the DP2 Quattro I am extremely pleased and happy with the image quality. It exceeded every expectation and beats out some much more expensive cameras when shooting in the iSO 100-400 range. For IQ, this is one of those camera that just scream out with it. It doesn’t get better in IQ even in the 3K range! It was reminding me of such cameras as the Leica M9, Sony RX1R and even a few Medium Format cameras when it comes to IQ. That is some pretty impressive company, especially when you consider that the camera sells for $999. Well under the others I mentioned.

But will the IQ be enough for most of you who are in the market for a new camera? Probably not. The Sigma DP Quattro would not make for a good “one camera” to own because it limits your shooting to daytime or good light, ISO 100-800 for color shooting and it does not offer an EVF or swivel LCD. The Battery life is tough (but it does ship with two) and the camera does not do video or the gimmicky tricks that some other cameras do so well.

The DP Quattro is about one thing and one thing only…making memories in decent light with the best quality possible in this size and format for under $1000.

The Auto Focus has improved greatly from the DP2 Merrill I tested but it is still lacking in speed when compared to other cameras. I never found it unusable or missing the shot, not at all, but again…it is only good for still shots, NOT action or moving subjects and in low light it slows down and hunts. The DP2 Quattro has the all new sensor that delivers faster speed and better performance across the board and the 29 MP Foveon sensor is said to give the same results as a standard 39MP sensor. I would not argue that point. The battery life has improved from the Merril’s 50-60 shots per charge and now I can get about 120-140 shots per charge The two batteries supplied should be good for a day of shooting as long as you are not a speed demon machine gun shooter (if so, this is NOT your camera).

Shooting the Quattro is something you will either LOVE or HATE. If you can get along with the funkytown design then you will enjoy shooting with the Quattro. If you find the grip odd or off, then forget it.

Me, I love the design. I think it is the loveliest camera design of 2014.

So will I buy one? When B&H Photo sent me this camera to review I assumed I would “like” it but not “love” it. Well, I fell hard for the special image quality which does have some magic embedded in it. I also enjoyed the faster AF and write times and beefier design. I hate the flimsy rubber SD card “door” but overall enjoyed my time with the camera. I feel it is worth the $999 if you are after IQ for landscapes or portraits and as a 2nd camera for those times when you want the Foveon Look. So I have to ask myself if I would use it enough. I have a Leica, I have a Sony A7s and still have an Olympus E-M1 lying around. Do I need this one? NO, not at all. Do I want it? Sure, I would love to own it just for the IQ, color and design. I feel one day this camera will sit in a museum for its unique yet oddball design! It may be a flop sales wise but it sure is unique ;)

So would I buy one? Yes indeed, if I had the spare $1k to spend, without hesitation. If I can save some cash I may just go for it. I passed on all previous DP models but this one is my favorite without question. I can not image ANYONE being disappointed with the image quality. Just beware that you will need light because after ISO 400 or 800 the IQ degrades fast.

I would love to test this camera and the upcoming DP1 (28mm equivalent)  during my upcoming Southwest workshop as it would create some breathtaking images I am sure. I may have to buy one just for that trip :)

WHEN YOU SIT AND THINK ABOUT IT…the Sigma DP Quattro beats the Leica M 240, Sony A7 and others for Image Quality, has Auto Focus (the Leica does not) and comes in at $6k less (than the Leica) but includes a lens where the Leica does not. When you look at it in this way then it is a no brainer and worth the cost if you value high image quality above all. Just be ready for what this camera does NOT do well (low light, action, etc).

Overall it gets a recommendation from me, and a high one..but only if your main concern is image quality and you do not need a camera for low light or for fast moving subjects.

SDIM0148r

Where to Buy

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is available at the links below from my recommended dealers:

B&H Photo – You can see or buy the Dp2 Quattro at B&H Photo HERE

Amazon – Buy the Quattro at Amazon by using my link HERE

Outside the USA? Use my Amazon UK, Germany and Canada links HERE.

SDIM0214r

blueblue

SDIM0163

bwrain

SDIM0162

wallco2

redred

SDIM0066

iso3200

boofull

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.

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

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

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

Aug 072014
 

My quick interview with Olympus on the E-M1

EM1

When I was in Ireland with Olympus they sat down with a few of us at Castle Leslie and asked us a few questions about the fabulous and game changing E-M1 camera. Below is my short but sweet interview. Of course you can see my full E-M1 review HERE and my visit to Castle Leslie in Ireland to shoot the E-M1 HERE. I feel the same about the E-M1 today as I did the 1st week it was launched. Best Micro 4/3 made today!  Thanks Olympus!

May 272014
 

 L1000985

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. 

katiecolor

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.

L1000983

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. 

DSC00791

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:

P1030668

DSC00029

DSC00454

DSC0004l

DSC00199

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. 

DSC00370

DSC00386

DSC00356

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.

L1000975

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!

DSC00790

DSC00773

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. 

DSC00797

DSC00730s

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

picture

-

The Crops

iso1600crop

iso3200

iso6400

iso12800

iso25600

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. 

a6000moachines

leicamachines

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.

DSC00435

DSC00698

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. 

DSC00699

-

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

DSC00714

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.

DSC00787

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 Photo – All 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!

-

katiebw

katiebw2

DSC00830

DSC00822

DSC00747

DSC00703

DSC00294

 

Nov 072013
 

Ten reasons to like the Nikon Df

by Steve Huff

Wowzers..it’s just after mid-week and I feel like I have worked 70 hours this week (and probably have) already due to the buzz, excitement and amazing camera announcements. From the Sony A7 and A7r to the Sony RX10 to the Nikon Df, it has been a wild past two weeks. When the Nikon Df rumors surfaced I knew it would not be for me because I just do not use DSLR’s long-term because I get tired of the size, weight and large lenses.

Ever since moving to small high quality cameras, I have never once looked back to DSLR’s except the week I reviewed the excellent Canon 6D. I really liked the 6D as the quality was outstanding but after a few days in NYC with it, I knew I could/would never buy it due to the weight of the body and lenses combined, let alone the size. My bag had to be bigger and my back hurt more than ever at the end of the day. That experience made me really appreciate my small cameras such as the Leica M and Olympus E-M1 :)

IMG_348161

So when the Nikon Df was official, and the images popped up and we saw what it really was, A DSLR in disguise, I was let down even though I KNEW it would be large and bulky and yes, a DSLR.

Many originally thought it would be mirrorless and be a competing camera to the Sony A7 and A7r or Leica M. Many thought it would be slim and trim and house an EVF. But nope..just a reshaped DSLR with great external dials and controls and a retro design. So upon official announcement 75% of comments were people who were bashing the camera and complaining about the cost, price, size, buttons, cramped controls, etc.

I predicted a week ago that the cost would be $2800 for the Nikon Df body so I expected the cost. I expected it to be DSLR sized and it almost is. I expected it to accept new and old Nikon lenses, and it does. Because of the size and cost, and the fact that I pre-ordered the Sony A7r I decided I would pre-order the Nikon Df so I could review it immediately (I do not have a Nikon contact) and then sell it afterwards. I felt that this camera was something I really needed to review.

But over the past day or two I have been reading and watching more on the Nikon and realized that this camera body makes sense for many shooters and since all of my pre release predictions were 100% spot on, I will stick by my 4th prediction and say that this will be a very popular model for Nikon (pre-orders have been strong for the Df). Many are bickering over the cost…but why? Let me point out a few key points;

  1. The $2800 Nikon Df houses the amazing D4 sensor. The D4 is $6000 and HUGE, HEAVY and BEASTLY.
  2. The Nikon Df is weather sealed in a solid magnesium body.
  3. The Nikon Df has a cool retro look and manual controls that MANY have been asking for.
  4. The low light capabilities of this camera will be about the best you can get in full frame. Shoot anywhere, anytime.
  5. It is attractive in an odd ugly kind of way, but me, I like it.
  6. It can accept all Nikon F lenses. Modern, AIS, Ai and pre Ai.
  7. 16Mp means better low light, smaller files and plenty of resolution for 99% of needs.
  8. Worlds smallest full frame DSLR. 
  9. The Viewfinder is in reality sufficient for manually focusing classic lenses.
  10. NO VIDEO! To me, this is a plus! There are many others that do video well, we do not need it in this camera. It represents PHOTOGRAPHY.

Of course I can list the cons as well:

  1. Why only 1/4000th second?
  2. Why so FAT and THICK?
  3. Using modern Nikon lenses would look ridiculous with this body and should be illegal to use on it :)
  4. The D610 is $2000, $750 cheaper. 
  5. The Sony A7 and A7r are almost here :)

To those that are bickering over it not having dual memory slots, or faster USB or VIDEO or a million focus points..you are MISSING the ENTIRE point of this camera! To those that want that, you already have MANY choices (D800). Someone like me who uses and has ALWAYS used center point only focus, no flash at all, no video, and wants simplicity then this camera is it in DSLR land. Some complain that you can get a D800 for $3k but again, I would never ever buy a D800 due to size, bulk, and the fact that it looks like a typical large DSLR that will break my back. Not everyone wants flash, dual slots, etc. Did the F cameras from the 70’s have dual film slots? :)

For me, after really taking a serious look at the Df, for the 1st time in 6 years  it is giving me that itch to go for a DSLR again! But this is not your traditional DSLR and if I end up with one it will only be used with small primes, probably 2 old classic lenses and maybe even the still in production 50 1.2 AIS. It may be ugly to some but it is sort of “attractive ugly”. It looks rough and tough. It looks like it can and will inspire confidence. It looks like it would survive a war (not sure it would though).

Df2

Yes, the look has grown on me and while it would have been so much cooler if it were thinner, and had a few things like 1/8000th second, it will be just fine..I expect. It is true..you cannot please all of the people all of the time. No one has been able to do that just yet because there is ALWAYS a give and take. Want world class low light performance? You need less megapixels. Want super high res? Expect to give up high ISO performance a bit.

From looking at traffic to this site and outgoing clicks to check out these cameras the Nikon has created HUGE buzz everywhere just as the Sony A7 series did last week (and I suppose is why Nikon did their announcement a week later). The Df is perfect for Nikon shooters who have load of glass, especially old classic lenses. I would never personally buy a D800, D600 or any DSLR due to the fact I use my cameras every day for every day things..but the Df? Yes, because it does indeed take me back to a time when photography was about “photography” and it looks the part. If it feels and shoots the part I am in. If not, it will go to a good home I am sure.

So I will be a busy guy here with the Sony A7r, Nikon Df, Olympus E-M1, Leica M 240 and possibly the Fuji X-E2...man I love my job! Just hope nothing else new and exciting come out before the end of the year..not sure I could handle it :)

Steve

Order the Nikon Df

You can Pre-Order the Nikon Df at B&H Photo HERE 

You can Pre-Order the Nikon Df at Amazon HERE

—–

And now, a quick guest post and image from Brad Husick. For myself and many others, as stated above, we feel the Df is to bulky and thick. In a perfect world the camera Brad describes and shows below would be superb and it is doable, especially from Someone such as Nikon.

My idea for a “Pure Photography” Nikon digital basic

By Brad Husick

Steve, I was so excited to read about the upcoming “Pure Photography” Nikon digital, but when it was announced and shown I was disappointed to see it’s basically a D610 dressed up with a square body and some extra dials (too many in fact).

So here’s my visual concept for a Nikon Dfb (b for basic) that sticks more closely with the idea of a digital F3. No need for an ISO dial or mode dial (how often do we switch them?). No need for most of the buttons. Just set aperture and shutter speed and take pictures. And make it as thin as physically possible.

I hope you like it. I hope they build it.

Brad

 df2

Jul 262013
 

The Samsung NX300..my thoughts and a Guest User Report!

DSC00534

1st up…

The Samsung NX300, my thoughts, a continued 1st look

by Steve Huff

I have had a Samsung NX300 with me for a while now. 1st with the 18-55 OIS Kit Lens and then a 30mm f/2 lens was sent to me by Samsung. They asked me to try out the camera and lenses to see what I thought as Samsung was extremely proud of what they have created with the NX300, which they feel is their best NX to date, by far. I ADMIT, I have never been a huge Samsung NX fan BUT NOT because of anything that has been lacking in quality. Rather, I have just been having too much fun with the other cameras that have come through the house. Samsung has always struck me as a jack of all trades kind of company. Phones, tablets, TV’s and everything Electronic, even more so than Sony so I do not see them as a “Camera Company” but an electronics Giant who wants to compete in the Camera market. Sony does the same but Sony purchased Minolta a few years back so they have that on their site..a real camera company from years past.

As for Samsung, I have shot with one or two of them in the past and enjoyed their ergonomics, build and even responsiveness but for some reason, not sure what it was, I never came back or actually bought one. When Samsung approached me about becoming a part of a program they were launching to help promote the camera, and offered me a free NX300 for doing so, I hesitated. I told them that I would happily review the camera if they sent me one but I could not keep the camera in exchange for constant posts or tweets about it. So I declined the offer but told them I would review the camera.

NX300 and 30 f/2 at f/2 – JPEG – ISO 200

debby6

In the end I told them I would review it and then send it back to them when I was done. With it being so busy for me over the past 3 months I have had some use of the NX300 but not as much as I have liked because the newer cameras were my priority. With that said, I have to say that when I do pick up the NX300 it is a JOY to shoot and use. The build is really nice, the design is retro but modern and beats the Sony NEX series in the looks department for me hands down. The IQ is nice, and the dials are all solid and feel great. It is a well made machine. As I shoot I wonder why this  thing is not on the minds of more shooters.

DSC00535

The LCD is a nice 3.3″ display and touch screen and is gorgeous. The camera focuses fast and speedy and with the APS-C sensor inside, offers APS-C quality. So with all of this, why does Samsung struggle with sales? It seems that Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon and almost everyone else sells more cameras than Samsung. There are also many Samsung haters out there who seem to have a mission to trash talk them, for no good reason. The NX300 is a great camera. Lenses like the 30 f/offer a fast 50 equivalent and I hear that the 85 1.4 is stellar. No, not Hasselblad Stellar :)

ISO 1600 – JPEG

SAM_0130bw

I am starting to shoot the NX300 more and more now that I have the other reviews done but I can say my only real complaint is the fact that there is no EVF built-in or even available for the camera. I love my EVF’s :) So with that being my only real niggle so far, I look at the price of the NX300 with a lens included. $798 WITH 18-55 OIS Zoom lens. Not cheap but not expensive for an APS-C camera of this quality and build. The 30mm f/2 lens that gives an almost 50mm FOV is only $299, and is a great lens that seems to give better performance than most of the Sony NEX lenses.

The 30 f/2

SAMSUNG CSC

The NX300 has a 20MP APS-C sensor, Full HD video capability, Hybrid and FAST AF with Phase and Contrast detect, WiFi, Touch AF and control, and includes Adobe Lightroom software. It is just as capable as other APS-C sensor cameras though will not give you the Sony colors or Fuji colors. Instead it will give you a neutral color rendering that many may enjoy. I still have more testing to do with the NX300 but will enjoy getting out and using it more. So stay tuned for more from ME on this one.

Until then, check out a reader report on the NX300 below by Jon Seymour. 

————————————————————————————————————–

928279

USER REPORT: Samsung NX300 – A Novice’s Point Of View

By Jon Seymour

I have owned this camera for just a few weeks now, and for me it arrived at exactly the right time. I was looking to make the switch from compact to DSLR, as I wanted to take photography a little more seriously than I had been the past few years, as I have started writing about music, and often travel to concerts for live reviews. It makes perfect sense then that I should want a better camera to get some better shots for my own articles. With the sheer amount of equipment available, I quickly found myself out of my depth, as I had absolutely no clue where to start. Enter the NX300, which I was lucky enough to receive as a competition prize, along with the 18 – 55mm F3.5 – 5.6 kit lens that’s bundled with it.

Pigeons Smart Mode Action Freeze 18-55mm

The first thing I was impressed with was the build quality. It looks the part, and feels weighty in your hand, and I really like the retro styling. What impressed me the most though, was how amazingly simple it was to assemble the camera and take photos straight out of the box. It’s billed as a smart camera, and it is exactly that. As a complete novice, you can switch it to auto, and obtain great results almost all of the time. The user interface is intuitive, and the built-in help menus display the various functions when you highlight them, so you know what each one does.

The camera is far cleverer than most amateur photographers, and I would wager could get better results than if you tried using it on manual, unless you had at least some idea of what you were doing. There is also a “smart mode” where you can select the type of subject you wish to photograph, and the camera optimizes the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and pretty much everything else, so all you need to do is just point it and shoot. Another really great feature is “Touch AF” whereby you tell the camera what you want it to focus on, just by touching the correct portion on the AMOLED screen.

Notre Dam 60mm Macro

As well as the auto modes, there are of course several manual modes that allow you to have more control over your photos. There are basically two kinds of manual modes. The assisted manual modes set up various values automatically, based on your selection of the manual function, and there are 4 of these, and there is the completely manual mode, so you can set the camera up exactly as you want it, without any help from the built-in computer.

The camera comes with several guide books, one of which is a comprehensive guide to photography explaining what all of the functions actually do, and what effect these will have on the finished photo if you change them. It’s a welcome addition to the package, and I have been able to explore the camera’s functionality in-depth, and gain some understanding of how to use it more effectively. The auto mode is great, but doesn’t always produce the results you want. This is where the manual modes really come in useful.

The AMOLED touch screen is clear, and you can select functions from that directly, or use the more traditional buttons placed on the rear of the camera. It’s this dual functionality that really makes the camera attractive, and anyone used to working a smart phone will be instantly at home with it, whereas those who are more used to the traditional control methods are also catered for. The only problem with the screen is that in bright sunlight, it’s really difficult to see it. It would be nice if there were some sort of hood or sunshield available, as this would make things a lot easier. Not having a view finder only adds to this problem, as quite often you are unable to see whether you’re getting the photo you want. There is a digital viewfinder available, but it’s an expensive add on.

The picture quality is really good, and it’s only when you go over ISO3200 that you really begin to notice some noise creeping in to the pictures. At lower ISO though, the pictures are great. It also sees colours quite well, even reds, so that’s a bonus. Also, with a 20.3mp sensor, it makes the images large enough to crop out any unwanted bits, and still be left with a reasonably sized picture.

High Jump 200mm 50mm-200mm Smart Mode Action Freeze

As an introduction to the more advanced world of photography, this is a very good product. It’s intuitive, easy to use, less cumbersome than a full fat DSLR, and will allow you to learn at your own pace, and it’s still fairly forgiving, even on the assisted manual modes. While there are many DSLRs on the market that may be able to produce better results than the NX300, they will cost considerably more. The NX300 though should be thought of as an extremely advanced compact camera, rather than a fully functional DSLR. There are a wide variety of lenses available, some of which I had the opportunity to use, and even in the hands of an idiot such as myself, produced some great photos.

I have spoken to a great many professional photographers who have used the NX300, and most of them have adopted it as a secondary camera, for occasions when a DSLR isn’t practical. A select few also said that they would use it as their primary camera, as even some of the higher end DSLRs will struggle to outperform it. As for me, well, it’s just begging to be explored. I have started to look at the world in a different way. I used to use a camera because I wanted to take pictures of things, but the NX300 has switched that on its head. I now want to take photographs, simply because I want to use the camera.

Spider Macro 18-55mm

The WiFi feature is also extremely useful, as you can link the camera to your smart phone via the free app available, and instantly transfer pictures from your camera to your phone. If you have an Android phone, you can also make further use of it, as there’s also a remote viewfinder app, which lets you operate the shutter remotely too, although only for photos at the moment, not video, it does come in very useful in bright sunlight when you can’t see the camera’s screen though. Speaking of video too, the recording quality is very good and it is true 1080p HD. The microphone is prone to a little wind noise, but of course, they usually are. It would be nice for an option to plug-in an external mic though.

The camera supports both JPEG and RAW formats, and both are very high quality. There are also many picture sizes to choose from, including square pictures for things like Instagram etc. The camera does suffer somewhat on burst mode and continuous shooting in RAW mode though, and it can render the camera unusable for several minutes while it empties the buffer onto the memory card. If you really must use the burst mode or continuous modes, you’re much better off with JPEG to be honest.

Eiffel Tower 18-55mm

It’s not a cheap camera by any means, but it does come with the full version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, which is a very good piece of editing software. This is also something I’d not used before, and for the novices out there, it’s a lot less confusing than the full version of Photoshop. That said, this camera is an investment. If you want a point and click camera, then there are cheaper ones out there, but if like me, you’d like to get a more advanced camera and learn how to use it properly, but are confused by the world of the DSLRs then this is a camera that you should seriously consider. Personally, I think it’s an great piece of technology, and while it might not perform well enough for some professional photographers, it’s certainly good enough to outperform the DSLRs at the lower end of the market, and even many of the more expensive ones.

 Jon Seymour

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

Jul 112013
 

craziness

Camera Craziness! Why it really doesn’t matter because it is all about YOU!

Man of man oh man! It seems that in the 1st half  of 2013 we have had some pretty cool camera releases already and all of these cameras are causing all kinds of controversies in the world of the internet. Cameras like the Ricoh GR, Nikon Coolpix A, Sony RX1R, Leica M 240, Leica X Vario, Olympus PEN E-P5, Samsung NX300 and others. Anytime a review is posted on a new camera here on my site, especially a comparison that pits camera A against camera B there is usually a firestorm of comments, many from owners of Camera A who feel slighted that camera B slightly gave more detail, better color or better bokeh. When you sit and think about it, that is sort of ridiculous. I do comparisons because I get asked to do them all of the time, and I have been doing them for years, since day one of this site! They always bring the most traffic on any given day, so it would be silly to NOT do them. SO I do. Below are links to just a slight few of my past “Crazy Comparisons”:

Crazy Comparison Random Sample  1

Crazy Comparison Random Sample 2

Crazy Comparison Random Sample 3

Crazy Comparison Random Sample 4

There are MANY more going back to the 1st weeks of this site to just yesterday and they are always fun to do but as I will say a few times in this article, it does not really matter what the results are in these comparisons.

Sony RX100 II

DSC00038

To those who scream: “This is not fair” that is not true. The fact is, any comparison I do is 100% fair because all I am doing is pitting one camera against another in a certain situation. It is to see how one camera does next to another, regardless of price. Mainly to see the character and color differences. Detail is nice to have but seriously, all cameras today offer plenty of detail!

Fast Fact: Did you know that the majority of digital camera users today share their work via….the internet? Yep, resized images, even from 40MP medium format backs is not uncommon at all. The majority of Leica M users share their work via the internet! So any way you look at it, any camera today can give us plenty of detail for our needs. What does matter is the character of the sensor and lens..the bokeh, the micro contrast, the “look” of camera A vs Camera B. But these things are all going to come down to YOUR tastes for what YOU like! Some like perfection and a modern look, others like a classic look, something that is possible with a camera like the Leica M.

Leica M and 50 Summarit 1.5 (Vintage)

L1002115

Scientific Studies…

If a comparison is made using the same focal length, same aperture, same shutter speed, same subject and tripod mounted, well, that is about as scientific as it gets short of me throwing on a lab coat yet I have guys telling me “This test is not scientific”. Again, same settings, same focal length, same sensor size, same aperture, same shutter speed = scientific. Just wanted to clarify that.

If Camera B shows 5% less detail than camera A, then so what? The key thing with photography is that in reality, none of this matters. Then why do I write about it? Because everyone likes to see it anyway! Can I get 90% of a Leica Monochrom from a camera that half or 1/3 the price? Sure, but those who own and adore it and paid in full for it would never agree to that. What I do not get is the “Experience” though, as there is a unique experience when shooting a Leica RF. This leads me to why choosing a camera is all a personal experience.

Leica MM

cowboy3

It’s a personal thing!

Choosing a camera should always be a personal experience. Much like buying a car, or a shirt, or a pair of shoes. Look at what is available, see what pulls at your strings, read a review or two  to see what the camera does well and if it fits your needs, then it is YOUR camera! For me, it has been the Leica M in one incarnation or another for the last 12 years. From the M7, to the M8, to the M6, to the MP to the M9 and now the M 240 I have always had the most fun shooting with an M. At the same time, I have had moments of frustrations with the M as well because when the RF goes out it is NO FUN at all to shoot. But even so, its fixable if that happens and as of today there is still nothing like shooting a Leica M. It is a beautiful camera and one that I hope lives on and on. Doest that mean no other camera can come close to it in IQ? Well, not really.

Sony RX1

manandcar

-

Leica Monochrom and Nikkor 35

manwithhistruck

 

Now for a story that may go off topic for a bit, but it is important to show that I tell it like it is, regardless of brand. 

While the M is my tool of choice, I am not stuck to it for the name “Leica” like some Leica owners may be. Not at all. I shoot it for what it does and how it feels and what it gives me in return for the work I put into it. Since I get to use just about everything else out there and play with all of these exciting toys, many times before anyone even knows about them, I feel I have an inside scoop of sorts. I use everything that looks interesting to me and when I come across something that is special, I could care less if the brand name was “TURD”..I would use it. For example. When SLR Magic released the Hyperprime M mount 50mm T 0.95 I was blown away with it, I shot the lens well before anyone else and gave feedback to the company and they tweaked it for months until it gave me results that bettered the Leica Noctilux 0.95 at a fraction of the price. It was a masterpiece as it offered Noctilux 0.95 quality while being a tad sharper, less CA and at the expense of being LARGER and HEAVIER, which was the downside. Even so, it was much cheaper, rangefinder coupled, full on M mount and built like a tank, literally.

Leica M9 and 50 Hyperprime T 0.95

L9997944

L9997931

When the pre production lens was offered up for use at one of my workshops all who tried it wanted one on the spot. Many were sold there at a deep discount and that group was the 1st to receive the official production lens. It started to gain some steam and the internet was buzzing about it, mostly in positive ways. Image sample comparison between it and the Noct were showing just what I have said about it and IMO, but some did not like this at all. Leica found out, saw the lens and one higher up at Leica told me while holding my SLR Magic “I am going to have to talk with this SLR Magic, it looks like our lens”. That was the beginning of the end. I shot the lens on a Leica Monochrom in Berlin and everyone asked me what lens I was shooting with for those images. When I would tell them they would ask me how to get one. SLR Magic started pre selling loads of lenses not because of me, but because they had a quality product that competed with the best of the German lenses.

Leica M9 with Hyperprime at ISO 2500 and T 0.95

L10007112

Well it did not take long until the owner of SLR Magic was having issues with some individuals. I will not get into it here but to me it seemed like an attack on a small company trying to get their quality product out. It was not long before these stories got around and others wanted a refund of their deposits. This forced SLR Magic to withdraw the lens from sale. Pretty sad. After that all went down I knew of 6 guys who still had their lenses and loved them but were worried about values dropping due to the negative press. They sold them even though all said it was an incredible lens without issues, mine included.

These days this lens has gone up in value due to the rarity of it. Not many made it out of the factory.

Honest is the only way  to be in life, even if it hurts

My point of this whole story is this: many come here telling me I am paid off by Leica, paid off by Sony, or paid off by Olympus simply because when I like a camera, I say it, no matter WHO makes it. If I get overly excited about a Leica M or Sony RX it is for good reason, not because I am paid off. If I say a Leica or Fuji doesnt live up to the hype, it is not because I am bashing them for no reason, it is because that is only my honest opinion.

I am an equal opportunity reviewer which is why when I thought the Leica X Vario fell short, I said so. When the M did not offer up the detail of the Sony RX1R, I showed it. When Sony released the lackluster refresh of the NEX 3, I said it was basically a lackluster re-release. When you read my site and reviews you will always get my 100% honest opinion on the gear I use and review. I can say that because of this honesty I have had two camera manufacturers STOP sending me cameras for review as they no longer want my opinion. Why? Well one company did not like one of my reviews of their product (even though I praised other models of their cameras) and the other did not like my comparisons. That is perfectly OK with me as I have many other ways to get a hold of new gear, and always do. I just feel it is sort of off that there is punishment for being honest. I have also had one company tell me if I cant give their camera a positive review they would rather I NOT review it. Crazy.

Bottom line: I have no bias whatsoever and those who think I do, then so be it. If your camera falls short in a comparison, do not get cranky, just go out and use your camera more, be happy and enjoy your photos. Spend time trying to find ways to get better..improve your eye and techniques. This is what makes it so enjoyable, at least for me it does.

Leica X Vario

1048992_566379690081119_1858192581_o

It doesn’t really matter!

So with all of this Camera Craziness around these days just remember..have fun with it as this is what it is all about for many of us. Use what you have and enjoy it knowing that it is just as capable to take a great shot as just about anything else out there. What matters is what YOU feel for your camera, as it is a tool, a personal tool. When you enjoy it and it inspires you then the sky is the limit!

So have fun, stay positive and enjoy life!

Steve

Jun 262013
 

L1010604sm

The Palouse Road Trip concludes! Day 2 through 4 – My photos and memories

So the Road Trip has concluded! As I sit here in my room at Ashwin Rao’s house I realize that many special memories have just been made over the past few days during this road trip. I want to say 1st and foremost that it was a pleasure to hang with this amazing group of guys. There were 14-15 of us depending on the day but from Friday to Tuesday we hung out, shot some amazing scenics, ate some  great food, saw gorgeous and almost unreal landscapes, shared a few beers and many of us on this trip made brand new lifelong friendships. To me, that makes this whole thing worth it and what I enjoy so much from these events.

This one went so well that we will be doing another in 2014 but it will be changed up a bit. It seems every workshop or event I do just gets better and better, and this one was my favorite of all the ones that I have done to date.

I posted about day one HERE so this post will be all about Days 2-4, starting in reverse from Day 4 :) Enjoy, and THANKS TO ALL WHO attended and thanks to all who helped out with driving. Also, a HUGE thanks to Ryan McGinty, our guide who did one hell of a job..he oozed with passion while in the Palouse and it was clear that this was more than a job for him, it was something he LOVED doing. Another big thanks to Victor for everything.

Of course none of this would have even come together without the help of Ashwin Rao!

So without further ado, onto the wrap up of the Palouse Road Trip starting from Day 4 to Day 2. Day one is HERE.

Day 4 (the last day), Top Pot Donuts, a boat ride and some street shooting in Seattle. 

Me and Mark Klebeck, founder and owner of Top Pot Doughnuts, based in Seattle

1039785_10150308117784984_1521268903_o

After four consecutive days of a three SUV caravan driving all over The Palouse and then onto a day in Seattle… it was just today the entire group was treated to a great start of the day when the owner and creator of world-famous Top Pot donuts, Mark Klebeck allowed us into their flagship store in downtown Seattle and then treated us with dozens of donuts and all of the coffee we could drink, on the house! Soon after that we took a tour of the facility and the bakery to see how these donuts were made. Mark is a huge Leica fan (and a fan of this site) and we chatted about cameras for a while and I can tell he was truly passionate about Leica and photography. Super nice guy and we had a blast at breakfast. He even gave me and Ashwin a signed book and personalized Apron with our name, how cool is that?

Me, Mark and Ashwin

1009422_10150308117849984_5230128_o

Sailing the Seas!

Soon after, Leica user Brad Husick who also occasionally writes for this site, brought us out on his electric boat and gave us a cool boat ride/tour. This was extremely cool of Brad and nice surprise. Some of stayed back but many of us enjoyed the trip. So the morning of day 4 was starting off incredibly well thanks to Mark and Brad.

NOTE: The photos from Top Pot were taken by Ashwin with his RX1. The shot above of the three of us was taken by Chuck Wolfe using Ashwin’s RX1 :)

TOP POST 1

TOPPOT2

We had a great lunch and then embarked for some shooting in Seattle before the final edit and dinner.

Street Shooting Session

Street shooting in the tourist areas is usually full of life, color and energy which leads to photo opps, but it is very touristy..as in, these shots have been taken a million times by every person that strolls through with a camera. Still, it can be fun and some members of the group never did any street style shooting so we walked through Pikes Place Market at around 10AM and had some fun tasting hot sauces and shooting the people/artists of the area. I was shooting with my M 240 and Ashwin’s MINT like brand new copy of the 50 Summarit f/1.5, which as you know if you have read my previous reports on this lens..it is CRAZY with softness, glow, bokeh and classic character. It is about as “classic” as you can get.

L1002151

L1002138

L1002178

So I was shooting this crazy lens and then realized I was shooting JPEG only because I had to reset my M 240 after it would not come out of live view mode! After reset it defaulted to JPEG only so the images below are all JPEGS and I forgot that the camera has this as the default! It took me about 30 shots before I knew I was not shooting RAW, which is very important with any M. You must ALWAYS shoot RAW for best quality as the JPEGs lack.

We soon went down to the “Gum Wall” down below the Market. What is the Gum Wall you ask? That is what I wanted to know as well as I have never seen it, let alone heard of it. I was soon to find out what it was though as the stench of chewed up bubble gum filled my nose as we ventured down this very interesting looking street.

The Gum Wall is basically an alleyway where the walls are filled with chewed gum. It’s insanely cool to shoot but pretty nasty to think about. As we walked I saw this kid eating an apple and snapped his image. I was hoping he would not decide he wanted some gum :)

The Gum Wall in Seattle with the insanely character and flaw filled 50 Summarit 1.5 – weird colors, weird Bokeh, glow..this one has all of the classic ingredients :)

L1002164

-

Ryan McGinty our Guide in the Palouse also joined us in Seattle

L1002184

-

Sarf Niazi – An amazing man, in fact, the most interesting man in the world! No joke!

L1002185

-

Chuck Wolfe who shot with an OM-D 645! (inside joke)

L1002182

After the Gum wall  where we basically all shot portraits of each other we trekked on and shot a little bit more. I saw this city worker who looked so friendly and was chatting with Vincent, one our group members. I asked her for her portrait after telling her she had the friendliest face I had seen that day. She gave me a huge smile so I snapped and she was 100% cool with it.

That Summarit Magic…sharp in the center and nuts everywhere else

L1002236

In the Market..you can see the dreamy quality of the classic Summarit wide open. Many hate this look and some like it. I love it every now and again, but not every day.

L1002140

After that we went back to Ashwin’s house and edited and chatted about the previous few days before splitting off, saying goodbyes and heading to a final dinner with some who stayed for the dinner at a local neighborhood pizza restaurant.

But what about those previous few days..noticed I started this with Day 4? This road trip to Palouse was huge fun and so jammed packed with photo opps it was quite magical at certain moments and for me, quite special. If you saw my 1st post the other day you would have seen the amazing sights were seeing. But let’s move on and see what day 3 brought for us…

The Previous Days – The Chicken Farm, Palouse Falls and the trek back home. 

Day 3 – The Chicken Farm and Palouse Falls

The previous two days went well as we traveled through more of the Palouse and then took a trek home while making stops along the way when a photo opp arose. One of those was at a chicken farm and even though it was a rainy day, we all have a great time shooting the barns, the animals and for me, the owner. I asked him for a portrait while we were there and he did not want me to take it but the reason why is he told me that no one ever found him interesting enough to take a photo of! He was flattered that I asked so I snapped one shot with the M and 50 Nokton 1.5.

L1002030

The photo above was shot with my M 240 and the Voigtlander 50 1.5. A great combo that works very well on the M. The farm was nice even though it was raining a bit, but that was OK as I loved the rain. I did not hide my M from it though as we all know it is wheather sealed :) I wanted to put it to the test and it passed the water test OK. Then again, Murphy (seen below) had his M9 out in the rain as well without issues. He was sporting the awesome SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95.

L1002040

L1002017

L1002034

Palouse Falls

So the farm was fantastic even with the wet weather we had and we all had a great time with everyone there. On this day we also visited Palouse Falls and WOW…blown away again.

This one was shot with the Leica M 240 and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 – click for larger

DSCF3103

-

This one is a full size file from the Leica X Vario – click it for full size

*fullL1050292-

The image below was shot by me with Ashwin’s Pentax 645 D – Digital Medium Format

In the image: Ryan, Ashwin and Bob ready to fall off the falls

9140247544_fb837c7251_o

-

Ryan framing his shot

L1002065

-

Day 2 – More of The Palouse

Day two of the trip was much like day one with one thing being different! We did not have the beautiful light of day 1, but that did not stop us from getting some shots. I will finish off this post with a slew of photos that I liked from the trip. If anyone ever wants to see this area I can highly recommend it and if you want a good guide, contact Ryan. He’s the real deal.

Of course, if you want to join in with me and Ashwin next year, let us know and I can put you on an interest list. It will likely be limited to 15 as it was this time. You can email me HERE if you are interested. We are guessing it will happen sometime in mid 2014.

Thanks!

L1001816

L1001815

L1001994

L1001982

L1001988

colorfulbarnsm

L1001796

L1001873

L1001889

L1001965

L1001888

1053478_10150308117684984_2120356367_o

L1002204

L1001842

L1001953

L1001895

L1001550

L1001543

L1001790

BPL1001569

May 072013
 

 DSC02932

The Nikon Coolpix A Quick Review – Amazing quality in the palm of your hand

You can buy the Coolpix A at

B&H Photo  – Black – Silver

Amazon – Black – Silver

Hello to all! Welcome yet again to another one of my “Quick Reviews”. What is a “Quick Review”? Well, basically it means that I have only had the camera less than one week, and in the case of the Nikon Coolpix A, 5 days with 4 days of use. When I only have this small amount of time with a camera I do not pretend to be an expert on it and write a 5000 word review (only a 3700 word review, lol), instead I will give you my thoughts after a few days of use. I feel it takes 2-4 weeks to really use a camera and get to know it fully so for that reason this is a quick review. I can indeed tell you that this camera review could have easily been called “The Camera I Expected to Hate PART 2″ because yes, like the Nikon V1 I reviewed a while back I expected to dislike the A, which is why I was not going to review it in the 1st place. I have to stop doing that because guess what? I really like the Coolpix A:)

I originally saw the Coolpix A when it was just freshly released and someone let me handle it for a few minutes. I walked away with the impression that the AF was very sluggish (I did not know it then, but the camera I tested was in Macro mode which slows down the AF dramatically) and the fact that the camera did not have a built in Viewfinder made me feel it was not worth the $1098 asking price. After using it for 4-5 days I can state that my mind has somewhat been changed on this little guy, almost to the point where I prefer it in some ways to the Fuji X100s (but not in every way). I am about to tell you why and how that happened so read on, I promise it will not be too long.

Click the image for a larger view. This one is at f/2.8, ISO 100

I was in the grocery store when I saw this smiling boy who appeared to be the happiest kid on the planet. I pulled the Coolpix A from my pocket and snapped the picture. Even at 28mm I was able to capture the scene and the moment, thanks to me having a camera on me.

DSC_0219

What is the Nikon Coolpix A?

DSC02922

So what is the Coolpix A? It is a damn small and damn cool little 28mm camera that puts out quality MUCH bigger than the size of the body suggests! But really…

The Nikon Coolpix A is Nikon’s answer to the APS-C sized sensor cameras like the Fuji X100s, Canon EOS-M (which I was NOT a fan of AT ALL), etc. The Fuji X100s is $1299 and has an amazing built in OVF/EVF as well as a sleek retro style with beautiful output. The X100s feels like a serious camera. The Nikon Coolpix A looks toy like on the outside at 1st glance but on the inside it is filled with an amazing and large APS-C Sensor and a fixed built in prime 28mm f/2.8 “equivalent” lens that is indeed quite special for a camera of this size.

The build of the Coolpix A is SOLID and feels very nice in the hand. In other words, it does not feel like a cheap point and shoot though it may have a cheap-ish looking P&S design. Below you can see it is pretty much a boxy slim shape. I included shots of the top, back and front. It is sure not ugly and many will love  the boxy shape. Others will feel that it looks like a Point and Shoot. I am in between. I kind of like it though admit it could pass for a $400 Coolpix in looks.

DSC02935

DSC02934

DSC02925

The main draw to this camera is not only its 16MP APS-C sensor, but the fact that it can fit in your pocket. This is truly a supercharged high power pocket cam to challenge the much smaller sensor (but fantastic) Sony RX100. What I also like about the Coolpix A is the controls. You have your mode dial up top, another dial to change aperture of the included 28mm f/2.8 prime built in lens and plenty of buttons and another dial on the back to control whatever else you need to control.

When I 1st took the camera out of the package and installed the battery I immediately turned off Noise Reduction and set the camera to JPEG and RAW to see how it did with each. I soon discovered that shooting at f/2.8 using the macro mode (which is activated on the left side of the camera via a button/switch) I was able to get some decent out of focus rendering and yes, to me, the Bokeh is quite pleasant. I turn off all NR on every camera I use as I feel Noise Reduction only smears the details and makes your images look like MUSH, and the Coolpix A was no exception in the test shot I took at ISO 1600-3200. I feel the output looks much nicer without any noise reduction added. Today’s sensors can do quite well in just about all lighting situations. Low light is no longer a DSLR game and neither is gorgeous colors and shallow DOF. Nikon seem to always be on their game when it comes to color and auto white balance.

ISO 100, f/2.8, Macro Mode

DSC_0255

The camera is pretty much loaded with everything you could ask for. Below are the full specs of the Coolpix A:

DX-Format CMOS Sensor – This is the big deal..a pocket camera with a huge sensor!

Large APS-C size sensor–the same one used in Nikon D-SLR cameras–features a resolution of 16.2MP. It works with the EXPEED 2 image-processing engine to produce sharp image quality, high ISO sensitivity up to 25,600 equivalent, and low noise. The processor manages image data with high speed and accuracy while preventing the generation of excess heat. With the removal of the optical low-pass filter, the COOLPIX A is able to capture images with exceptional sharpness and extremely fine detail. Micro-lenses located above the sensor are arranged to produce natural, edge-to-edge sharpness

28mm f/2.8 NIKKOR Prime Lens – I found the lens to be insanely sharp, even wide open and with superb colors straight from camera

Despite its small size, the fine optics of this ultra-compact 18.5mm (35mm equivalent: 28mm) f/2.8 wide-angle NIKKOR lens are specially designed to deliver exceptional edge-to-edge sharpness, smooth tonal gradation, highly effective spherical aberration and coma correction–for consistent quality throughout the entire frame. Capture images comparable to those taken with D-SLR interchangeable lenses. The lens has an ultra-compact configuration of seven elements in five groups, as well as a seven-blade iris diaphragm for sharp detail at the focus points and pleasing background blur in the out-of-focus regions of the image

3.0″ LCD – LCD is beautiful, easy to use and I was able to frame and shoot in sunlight

Featuring an integrated panel and glass structure, the large 3.0-inch, 921k-pixel TFT LCD monitor remains viewable even in bright sunlight. The structure minimizes reflections and decreases light loss for clearer visibility, while providing a wide viewing angle. The LCD features 9-level brightness adjustment and offers approximately 100% horizontal and vertical coverage

Comfort and Control – When shooting it feels and looks like a Point and Shoot, nothing fancy. I wish it were slightly longer for my use.

The buttons, dials and switches on the camera have been designed and arranged to afford maximum comfort. Manual options like focus ring adjustment allow you to wield precision control over your compositions. Most of the operation system and the GUI are consistent with Nikon DSLRs. The camera features a tough aluminum alloy frame with a top surface covered by magnesium alloy for greater durability.

DSC_0245

Exposure Control – Mode dial makes it easy to control manual features

You can control the COOLPIX A exposure options with the same operating system used by Nikon DSLR cameras. The Mode dial makes it easy to choose from AUTO, P (with Program shift), S, A and M exposure control modes, as well as two of your own personalized setting configurations: U1 and U2. For still photos, exposure compensation is +5 to -5 in 1/3 steps, while for videos, it’s +2 to -2. AE lock, AE bracketing and manual with exposure bracketing are also available

Autofocus – I found the AF to be a teeny bit on the slow side. Not horrible, but not Olympus OM-D fast. No Phase detect.

Contrast-detect AF with the following focus-area selections: Face-priority, normal area, wide area and subject-tracking AF

Manual Focus Operation

In addition to autofocus operation, the COOLPIX A has a manual focus ring for when you want to take creative control DSLR-style, with the ability to alter the focus plane slightly forward or backward. This can be especially helpful in macro work

Full HD Movie Recording

Capture Full HD 1080p videos at 30fps with stereo sound. The subject-tracking AF feature keeps even moving subjects in clear focus. By connecting an HDMI cable to the camera’s HDMI mini port, you can output the movie to an HDTV for playback. The HDMI output provides the following resolution options: Auto, 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080i

Continuous Shooting at 4fps

To help capture fast-moving action, the camera can perform continuous capture of full-resolution (16MP) images at up to 4 frames per second, for a maximum of 26 shots (when image quality is set to NORMAL)

Picture Control – The typical color settings, all worked well but shoot RAW for best performance

Choose from six settings: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Landscape and Portrait. When you desire further fine-tuning, you can manually adjust the sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. The settings can be saved for future use

Auto White Balance – The AWB of the Coolpix A was excellent, beating the new Leica M easily

In order to determine an ideal white balance, this feature precisely analyzes scene color and brightness information. Select normal to render white as pure white, or choose to render the warmth of ambient, incandescent lighting. White balance bracketing is also available

Virtual Horizon – always nice to have this feature as you will know when you are 100% level

The in-camera virtual horizon feature can detect and display horizontal inclination on the LCD monitor. This function is especially useful when shooting subjects such as still lifes, landscapes and architecture

Wi-Fi via Optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter

With the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter connected, you can wirelessly transmit images taken by the COOLPIX A to a smart device with Wireless Mobile Utility installed, allowing you to share your photos and videos via email or social networking services (SNS). Additionally, you can use your compatible smartphone or tablet as a remote shutter release for the camera while using the device screen as a monitor

ISO 100 f/2.8, straight from camera colors, which Nikon is always good at.

I went to a pet store to pick up some food for my dog. They were having adoptions of homeless and unwanted dogs. This poor little guy..hope he ended up getting a home.

DSC_0236

So tell me about the image quality, focus speed and high ISO! 

With a camera as small as the Nikon Coolpix A you have to wonder if it can actually give you DSLR or even Fuji X100s output. Coming in at $200 less than a Fuji X100s you are losing the EVF/OVF, Retro Style, and you swap a 35mm equivalent f/2 lens for a 28mm f/2.8 so your field or view will be on the wide end of the spectrum. Before spending $1100 on a camera such as the “A” make sure you are comfortable only having a 28mm equivalent lens on board. If you are comfy with that then you are in for a real treat as the only weakness I have found is the whole “no EVF/OVF” problem and the AF being slower than most other cameras in the mirrorless segment.

The Image Quality – Details/Sharpness

This can not be faulted. While I only had 4 days of shooting with it (and not full days either) I can state with 100% fact that the lens/sensor combo on the A is FANTASTIC, in fact, I give the Coolpix A and “A” in this area. The quality, even wide open, challenges what I have seen coming from a Leica M9 and 28mm Elmarit in regards to sharpness and color. No, this is not full frame but in the 28mm (or equivalent) world this is about as good as it gets. Take a look at the shot below which was taken at f/4 on a full sunny day in Scottsdale AZ. You can click it for the full size but I have also put a crop below it.

Click image for the full size from RAW file – it is insanely sharp. I have put two 100% crops below the image as well. 

fullsize1

-

Razor sharpness – really too sharp!

cropfromfull1

-

A crop from the bottom left corner

cornercropfromfull1

-

Also, at f/2.8 this lens/sensor combo can give you some nice color and depth as well as sharpness and micro-contrast. Image below at 2.8 in very contrasty conditions with a crop below it

depyth

cropimagw2

So this lens has the goods, even wide open unlike the Fuji X100s which is soft at f/2 and sharp starting at 2/8 but razor sharp by f/4. The Nikon lens here fantastic.

Focus Speed

The AF of the Nikon Coolpix A is decent but not blazing. It is about on par with the old X100 and the latest firmware updates. The Olympus OM-D is quicker, the Sony RX100 is quicker and the X100s is quicker. The “A” is on par with the full frame Sony RX1 when it comes to AF speed. Not bad, but not amazingly fast. One thing that irked me before I realized there was a dedicated Macro button the camera was the minimum focus distance in standard mode. I could not get any kind of close focus whatsoever so make sure you set it to Macro when you want to shoot up close. IN fact, they should not call it “Macro” mode as you can not do really close up shooting. It should be called “Close Up” mode. Still, I am happy they have this mode as it allows me to get pretty close to my subject about 4″. Normal mode has about a 20″ limitation for close up. 

Auto focus in low light is a bit slower than the day of course. I have had it hunt and miss focus. If Nikon had put in an EVF and had super fast and accurate AF this could have been a game changer of a camera.

High ISO Capabilities

The Nikon Coolpix A is up there with competing cameras when it comes to higher ISO. If you stay at 3200 or under you will be just fine shooting just about anything. After 3200 you may object to the noise, or you may not. Still, these days most APS-C cameras provide such good low light and high ISO shooting capabilities that we need not worry about these things anymore. I rarely go over 1600 and I shoot in all kinds of light. WIth the wide angle of the “A” and an f/2.8 aperture we can get away with hand holding the camera at a slower shutter speed than even a Fuji X100. No issues. Below are a few high ISO samples without any Noise Reduction added. The 1st image is a B&W from the camera. When you click on them you will see the ISO they were shot at embedded on the photo and I go up to 6400.

DSC_0172

DSC_0158

iso1800

iso2500jpeg

and below is a full size file at ISO 1250 which was taken in my kitchen at night

fullsizeiso1250

and one more below at ISO 6400. This is an OOC JPEG

DSC_0308

If I had the camera for more than 4 days I would have done a full ISO crop test but in reality, those tests are no good anymore as all of these modern cameras can do high ISO very well. As I said above, we really should not worry about ISO anymore but instead worry about using a camera we can get along with and bond with. While all cameras have some sort of limitation, we can learn to work around them. That is what helps to create and make an artist, using the tool one has on hand to create something beautiful.

Pros and Cons of the Nikon Coolpix A

Pros

  • Large APS-C Sensor delivers the goods
  • Great color out of camera
  • Small size can indeed fit in your pocket
  • Black or Silver, no extra cost for black
  • Image quality is superb!
  • Best Auto White Balance I have seen in a mirrorless
  • Lens is very sharp, even wide open
  • Macro mode is useful for getting in closer
  • Controls are all on the outside so no menu diving required
  • Built in flash
  • Build is SOLID
  • No lens cap to lose
  • ON/OFF is quick
  • HD video on board

Cons:

  • AF can be sluggish at times, not as  fast as other cameras on the market
  • Macro mode focus is even slower while not really being Macro
  • No built in EVF or VF at all. Boo.
  • No focus peaking in Manual Focus mode
  • Not as much charm as the Fuji X100s

Next to the Leica Monochrom

DSC02927-

My final thoughts to wrap up this quick look review of the Nikon Coolpix A, and where I prefer it to the X100s

So as you can see this was indeed a quick review. After four days of use I found that I really enjoyed using the camera as well as the output it has given me. I usually do not shoot the 28mm focal length often so I am not a wide angle guy, but yea, it was starting to grow on me. If I had more interesting things to photograph while I had it I feel it would have easily been able to take on any task. The build is solid. The controls are superb. The Menu system is great. The LCD is very nice and the output is awesome with rich colors, some of the best AWB I have experienced and high ISO that is up there with the best of them. In comparison to the X100s I prefer the Nikon Coolpix A’s Image Quality. There is no flatness to be found with the Nikon. I also prefer lens on the Nikon as it is much sharper wide open and is just about as sharp as what comes from a Leica M9 and 28 Elmarit lens, a $8k + combo.

Where I prefer the X100s over the “A” is the fact that the Fuji has that gorgeous EVF/OVF, the retro and solid design and the new Phase Detect AF speed. It also has more charm and fun factor but if Nikon had put these three things in the Coolpix A and kept it at $1100 this would have easily been my #1 pick for a mirrorless camera. It would have had it all, but with the limitations of a 28mm equivalent lens of course, but many of you LOVE the 28mm focal length and that is a great one for some up close street shooting as well.

Before going to buy a Nikon Coolpix A you must make sure you enjoy the 28mm focal length as that is all you get here. It is not quite 35 and not quite 21 so it is not ultra wide but an in between.

The Nikon is great for all kinds of shooting as you can get as close as 4″ to your subject when activating Macro Mode so it even works for portraits if you wanted it to.

There are things I did not even touch on in this quick review like the built in flash, the hot shoe for adding accessories, and the HD Video, which I did not get to test. Maybe if I can get a hold of one for longer I can add to this review at a later date but even so, I know the flash is decent for snapshots and some fill, and I know I would not use the WiFi add on, but some would and the video is probably just as good as modern day mirrorless cameras, but probably even better than the Fuji X100s video. The Nikon V1 had some fantastic video capabilities.

For now, I do recommend the Nikon Coolpix A if image quality is important as well as small size, and a wider angle 28mm lens.

With the new Ricoh GR coming soon it will be taking on the Nikon head on and the GR series has MANY fans because it is known as a “Photographers Camera” with the right mix of design, features, settings and quality. The new GR will have an APS-C sensor as well so it will be interesting  to see how it compares and if it can match the IQ of the Nikon.

At $1100 the Coolpix A is not cheap but when you look at cameras like the Sony RX1 at $2700, the Fuji X100s at $1299 and even a used Leica M8 and 24mm lens at about $4500+, the Coolpix looks quite affordable.

To me, the IQ can beat the X100s, the RX100, the Nikon V1/V2 and the Leica M8 with 24mm Lens (which will be closest to a 28mm focal length) but it does not beat the RX100, X100s and M8 in usability simply due to the fact it has no viewfinder installed.

I enjoyed my four little days with the “A” and if I wanted a 28mm solution I would probably buy one. As with the Nikon V1, I expect the prices to drop on the Coolpix A eventually but even at $1098 it is a great buy for those who appreciate quality and tiny size.

I expected to hate it but ended up really enjoying it and appreciating it for what it is, one hell of a 28mm shooter that will feel right at home at home, on vacation or on the street. Just wish I had more time with it to extract more memories from the little box :)

DSC_0263

DSC_0240

You can buy the Coolpix A at:

B&H Photo  – BlackSilver

Amazon – BlackSilver

-

A few more images from the Nikon Coolpix A

Exif is embedded in all photos! Thanks for reading this quick review of the Nikon Coolpix A! On to the next :)

DSC_0259

DSC_0258

DSC_0261

DSC_0277

DSC_0127

DSC_0129

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Apr 032013
 

One57445766822_a2244aec99_o

SOLD OUT!

The Ultimate Seattle-to-Palouse 4 day Road Trip Experience with Steve Huff and Ashwin Rao!

4 days from Saturday June 22nd to Tuesday June 25th, 2013. MARK YOUR CALENDAR! 

 

SOLD OUT! NO MORE SEATS!

Ok..This is going to be wayyyyy cool.

Anyone out there just buy a Leica M or Leica MM and want to get out and make use of them with some amazing shooting experiences? Have ANY other camera you want to make use of with some of the most amazing scenery you may ever see? Want to hang out with a select few like-minded individuals as we take a road trip from Seattle to Palouse, WA (a 5 hour trip one way) and really USE our cameras for what they were meant to be used for? Want to do some street shooting in Seattle and partake in some great food, fun and even some editing and critique?

If so, then you will not want to miss my only meet up/workshop of 2013 and I am holding this one with Ashwin Rao, much like we did in Seattle in 2011 and we are calling it “The Ultimate Seattle-to-Palouse 4 Day Road Trip Experience”! 

Yep, I am cutting my workshops down to 1-2 a year and this may be it for 2013. We are limiting attendees to 10!

This 4 day workshop is going to be jammed with fun and if you want to shoot some gorgeous scenery, believe me, you do not want to mis this! To read about past workshops I put on, click here.

197418190994_b9170c5599_b

Here is the itinerary:

Steve Huff’s Ultimate Seattle-to-Palouse Road Trip

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 through Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Four full days of Shooting in the beautiful Pacific Northwest

Co-Host: Ashwin Rao – Guide: Ryan McGinty

 

1. Meet for informal drinks and snacks on the night of Friday, 6/21 (around 8 pm) for attendees who have arrived in town. Location to be determined. Accommodations will not be included for that night. This is so we can get to know each other and just relax and have a good time.

2. Meet at 6 am at Ashwin’s place on Sat, 6/22. Light breakfast will be available before departing.

3. Time for the road trip! Leave Seattle at 6:30 AM on Saturday AM, and arrive in the Palouse for lunch (included)

4. Shoot the Palouse with our local guide, Ryan McGinty, through the afternoon, evening, sunset, and dusk. He knows his stuff and the best locations for shooting. Magical shots will happen :)

5. Dinner (not included in price)

6. Return to hotel for photo editing and critique. Likely to stay in either Pullman, WA or Moscow, ID. Lodging is included in price with two to a room while here. 

7. Shoot all day on Sunday 6/23 throughout the Palouse, including Steptoe Butte, and various sites in the area. Ryan McGinty will join us for the afternoon and evening. Time for relaxing, photo editing, will be factored in. Breakfast and lunch will be included.

8. Dinner after a full day of shooting (not included)

9. Monday, 6/24: The leisurely road trip back to Seattle, visiting Palouse Falls, dusty cities, and a detour through Walla Walla Wine Country if timing and weather cooperate for more shooting and fun. Breakfast and lunch included.

10. Return to Seattle on the evening/night of 6/24. Dinner together (not included)

11. Tues, 6/25: Shoot Seattle (street and city life shoot, with detours through the library, Discovery Park, waterfront vistas, and other fun settings around town. Return to Ashwin’s place in the late afternoon for photo editing and sharing. Breakfast and lunch included.

12. Departure dinner (not included).

 palouse1

Keep in mind that lodging while in Seattle is not included. Lodging is included while in Palouse with two to a room. Breakfast and lunches are included. Dinner’s are not. Transportation is included as we will have a THREE SUV’s to hold us and drive us all.

This is limited to TEN attendees plus myself and Ashwin. Price is $1500 for the entire 4 day experience. This will be a blast and I am very excited for this one. If you are not familiar with the Palouse, check out Ashwin’s article HERE and HERE where he shares his experience from the last time he was there.

If there are any new M or MM owners attending and you have any questions myself or Ashwin will be happy to share tips on how to get the most from these cameras. But we welcome ANYONE. No need to shoot Leica. You can shoot with whatever camera you love to shoot with! We may also throw in some fun surprises as well along the way. I will be shooting with the new M and Monochrom and Sony RX1. Ashwin may be shooting with the same.

You will need to bring a laptop as we will have editing time as well where we can share tips and tricks as well.

17476799028_ecfc1a176e_o

This will be an intimate close-knit group and will be a memorable experience for all. I will be recording video of the event to edit into a small 15-20 minute documentary type film to show on this site after we return. I will also post our favorite shots from the event on this site in a dedicated post about the trip.

SOLD OUT!

All photos in this post were shot by Ashwin. Hope to see some of you in June!

Dec 032012
 

The Sony RX1 Camera Review Part 2. The amazing full frame compact and my pick for Camera of the year 2012!

Now shipping! Order the RX1 at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE

See part 1 of my RX1 review HERE

Hello once again to all of the great and loyal readers here! I am back once again and this time with part 2 of my full Sony RX1 Camera review and I have to say I am pretty excited about it. As you recall, part 1 contained the “meat” of the review with loads of thoughts and JPEG samples. I have still been shooting this camera almost non stop and even though I have had a Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 here with me I have been spoiled by the RX1’s gorgeous image quality and it has been making it tough to go back to using APS-C sensors after shooting this camera so much. You do indeed notice the difference in quality between those cameras when you shoot them together and what has really hooked me is the gorgeous full frame sensor qualities as well as the qualities of the Zeiss 35 f/2 lens that is attached to the RX1 body.

The video showing why I call this my “Camera of the Year for 2012″ as well as showing the OVF and EVF with my thoughts on them. Keep in mind the close focus minimum is .2 meters not 2 meters :) 

To be totally honest, there has not been any camera that I have tested or owned  in recent times that has given me the visual rewards like the RX1 has. What I mean by this can be explained with a few reasons..1st one is ease of use. The ease in which it gives you beautiful quality and rich images huge in Dynamic Range is pretty sweet to have. I also say this due to the size of the camera. No camera of this size can give you results like this. Period. You can get it with a Nikon D800 and Zeiss 35 f/2 but that combo would be much much larger, much much heavier and much much more expensive! After shooting with the RX1 for a few weeks I have grown to appreciate what it does and I seriously do not want to be without it! With most cameras, after I review them I am fine with sending them back to the manufacturer but not this time! :)

Even taking a portrait of an old cowboy in afternoon AZ light and f/2 was not a problem. The camera/sensor has the dynamic range to tackle it and the lens has the 3D quality that will give you details without looking harsh or crude. Yes my friends…the RX1 is the  real deal and it can even provide a “timeless” quality to your photos as long as the ingredients are all there. When I snapped this shot the mans eyes were in a dark shadow from his hat. In the RAW file I was able to pull that detail out without any problem whatsoever.  This was not the ideal light for a street portrait but it still worked and I was able to get a great image of this old cowboy. 

The Sony RX1 at f/2  – ISO 100 – 1/1600s – click it for larger – from RAW – Standard Color Mode

and it can do black and white as well. This one is a JPEG, ISO 1600 at night. Plenty of DR.

Anyone who knows me or knows this site well will know one thing. I LOVE SMALL CAMERAS THAT PUMP OUT HIGH QUALITY! I also love cameras that give you a great user experience. I touched on all of this in Part 1 of this review HERE (so go read it before you read this one if you have not yet done so). I also posted some low light B&W JPEGS HERE. Bottom line is that this Sony RX1 gives me what I always wanted. Small size, great lens, amazing full frame sensor, good auto focus and manual focus, superb HD video and solid build quality that goes toe to toe with Leica. This is a camera that could have had the Zeiss logo on it and put on the shelves for $3995, and it would have sold very well. They could have called it the “Zeiss ZX-1″ and I bet it would have done very well at a premium price.

-

From RAW – at f/2 this lens is insanely good and I get the feeling this is where it wants to be shot the most. Shallow DOF fans will be happy.  This has the Zeiss Look and Feel for sure!

-

In fact, Some have been put off by the name “Sony”. Let’s face it, Sony is a relative newcomer to the serious enthusiast photo world. Sure they have had a ton of cyber shot cameras and point and shoot cameras but never have they tackled the serious market until just a couple of years ago with the NEX 7 camera. Now with their A99 DSLR hitting the pro market and this RX1 for all of us crazy quality starved enthusiasts they are starting to get many people to take notice, including me and not only are they talking the talk, they are walking the walk.

The Zeiss lens on this RX1 is a beauty when it comes to Bokeh. Smooth, buttery, and delicious. Just like the beer in the image below. :)

The best tasting beer in the world (imo)  at f/2 and ISO 1250 and 1/80s – from RAW. 

-

and this one too and BTW, no problem locking focus here in a dimly lit bar which was lit only by Xmas lights.

-

So with that long intro out of the way let us get started into part two which will consist of everything part one did not get into. Things such as shooting in RAW, high ISO, FULL SIZE files, Video, EVF/OVF and even what I do NOT like about the RX1. So sit back, relax, and hide your wallets because once you are done reading this you just may have the urge to whip out that credit card and order one of these beautiful and sexy cameras. Don’t say I did not warn you!

RAW Conversions – RAW is good. Always.

In part one just about EVERY image was shot as a JPEG as I did not yet download the Sony software to convert the RAW files. At the time of this writing the RX1’s are just now starting to ship in the USA and RAW support from Adobe is not yet available so we are stuck with the slow Sony converter. It works but I am much more speedy and comfortable with Adobe Lightroom or Camera Raw. In any case, in this part of the review 90% of the images will be from RAW conversions.

In case you are a newbie to RAW files, shooting in RAW is always better as you can tweak anything you desire AFTER the fact. Exposure, White Balance, Black Level, Color Style, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, etc. This means you can “perfect” your shot and create what you intended to create in the 1st place.

Here are four full size files converted with the Sony software from RAW. You can click each for full size. That 1st spiderweb shot is at f/2, wide open where I find the lens to be at its most unique.

Shooting in RAW is always recommended but as I stated in part 1, the JPEG files coming from the RX1 are sublime. Best I have ever seen from any serious mirrorless digital camera. I would not hesitate to shoot in JPEG for street shots, even using the high contrast B&W JPEG setting but remember, JPEG’s are sharp and clean but you can get better color by shooting RAW.

High Contrast B&W Mode – JPEG

-

High ISO shooting with the RX1 – Hangs with the best but AF hunts in really low light

The RX1 promised many things when it was announced, including amazing low light performance along with best in class high ISO performance. After using this camera extensively I can mostly agree with these statements. The low light and high ISO quality is up there with the very best. The only thing that lacks when you are in very low light is the AF. It does indeed hunt as it needs contrast to find and lock focus. If you are shooting a dark area without contrast the camera will have a hard time. The good thing is that focus peaking is here and available so you can whip it in to manual focus and keep going if you are having issues locking it in.

But let me get a little more into this. The RX1 has contrast detect AF. This means, like I already mentioned, that the camera needs to see something with contrast in it to achieve and lock focus. If it is really dark without any light then you will have a hard time locking focus. This is true for ANY contrast detect AF camera. Cameras like the X100, X-Pro 1, NEX-5, 6, 7 and OM-D are all contrast detect AF cameras. The RX1 performs somewhere between the NEX-6 and OM-D in my experience with the camera.

As for high ISO..

I did a quick comparison with the cameras I had laying around the house. The new NEX-6, NEX-5R, OM-D and the NEX-7 at a high ISO of 6400 just to test the extremes. Take a look below at the results of this test.

ISO 6400 – pretty rough test as it is an ISO that no one usually will use. There was NO Noise Reduction applied to ANY of these files. What surprised me was how bad the NEX-7 did and how good the OM-D did. Most true to color? RX1

The image above says it all. The RX1 wins and  the NEX-7 looks outdated already in regards to high ISO performance. Remember, these had no noise reduction applied. The OM-D looks damn good though the color is off. After shooting the RX1 I have not only been spoiled by the amazing files but also the nice high ISO performance.

Anytime I shoot ANY digital camera at night I turn off noise reduction as I hate the way it smears images and details. So in my samples you will see more noise than in other samples just due to this fact.

-

With and Without NR (Noise Reduction)

Some have asked me to post samples with and without Noise Reduction so ask and you shall receive!

click on the image for a larger version with 100% crops of a section with and without NR so you can see the effect it has on the image. Keep in mind this was shot late night and the only light was from my headlights. ISO 6400.

-

and full ISO testing with the RX1 with and without NR (using Sony RAW converter)

 

-

and now with Standard Noise Reduction applied by the Sony RAW converter

I always prefer shooting digital with noise reduction turned OFF. I always prefer noise and grain to smudgy details and soft blobs.

More real world. high ISO samples.. click for larger

-

This one is a JPEG – again, no problem focusing in this light

-

Tough lighting here but ISO 5000 at night – the camera makes it look much brighter than it really was. The camera hunted twice and then locked AF.

-

ISO 6400 indoor, no flash, f/2, from RAW. B&W Conversion using Alien Skin Exposure – AF locked on no problem, 1st time.

DSC01187bw

High ISO shooting is quite amazing with the RX1. Just as good as any camera I have tested (besides the high ISO KING, Nikon D3s and even then it is close). I remember when performance at high ISO like this was just a dream and now it is a reality and to top it off it is in a small camera body with a full frame sensor. Technology rocks.

LOW ISO. The RX1 has an ISO 50 Setting as well!

With the 1/2000s shutter speed limitation when using the camera wide open at f/2 it could run into a problem if shooting in full sunlight where you want to get that creamy f/2 shallow DOF. To combat that Sony has added an ISO 50 mode which will help out with that. Below are two test shots. One at ISO 50 and the other at ISO 100. These are slightly cropped but you can see they look identical. The RX1 also has an ISO 64, ISO 80 and ISO 160 setting.

 - 

HD Video – Full uncompressed through HDMI? Yep.

The video capabilities of  the RX1 are good but I have used better. When I say this I mean I have used better for video in regards to AF speed, Image Stabilization and overall versatility. For example, I love the video from my Olympus OM-D and 12mm f/2 or 75 1.8. The RX1 takes great quality video but it has electronic IS and it does not work as good as some dedicated lenses for other systems. In low light the AF is slow when shooting video so I would recommend using manual focus when indoors. Other cameras never gave me a problem in the low light aquarium I test video in but the RX1 had a hard time keeping up with the AF and many of the shots I took were out of focus.

With that said, the sensor in the RX1 is able to record some pretty nice quality video and the camera also has a dedicated mic input for  those that want to use an outboard mic. Sony will be releasing a slew of accessories for the camera including their own mic that will attach to the hot shoe with no cable needed. Below you will see a sample of the video I shot with the RX1. It is similar to what I test all cameras with so will give you an idea of what it can do. The video below is short and sweet and will upload a longer one with a better sample of video soon.

BTW, I have been asked if this puts out uncompressed video through HDMI and i have confirmed through Sony that yes, it does.

I am happy Sony included video on the RX1 but the slow AF when using video in low light is sort of a hit or miss.

-

The Sony RX1 Viewfinder Choice – EVF vs OVF

The Sony RX1 gives you two options for a viewfinder.  You can either go with an Electronic Viewfinder at $449, which is pretty sweet and works very well, or you can go with the Zeiss 35mm Optical View Finder which is even more expensive at $599. My choice 100% is the EVF. It is big and the best quality EVF I have used on any camera to date. Also, It does indeed have a diopter for those who have asked. With the EVF you can see what you are shooting and get an idea of just how your photo is going to look. With the Optical you can not see what the camera is focusing on nor any settings. I do have one issue with the EVF though..you can not “lock” it on. It slides on without a way to lock it down so it is possible it could slide off. It did slide off on me once while in my bag and when I lifted it to my eye and did not come on I realized it was 1/4 of the way off of the shoe. Sony should have created a way to lock it in.

It does come with a nice case so you can store it when not using it though. I would say the EVF makes the user experience much better with this camera. Bringing a camera to the eye just feels so much better than holding it out at arms length. The RX1 deserves the EVF and the looks have even grown on me quite a bit :) See my video at the top of this page for more on both view finders. You can order the EVF at Amazon HERE and the Optical is also at Amazon HERE.

Shot in RAW but used VIVID mode which is why the sky is such a deep blue. VIVID adds contrast and deep color. I prefer Standard or Neutral for most shooting.

 -

Pro’s & Cons of the RX1

Pros

  • Small but built well
  • Fast f/2 Zeiss 35mm lens matched to the sensor for optimal quality
  • Manual Aperture control on the lens
  • Extremely good IQ in low light/high ISO
  • Nice quality LCD on the back – can be seen in sunlight
  • Comparable with the top dog DSLRS like Nikon D4, D800, 5DIII
  • No dusty sensor hassles
  • Close focus as close as .2 meters (Zeiss 35 on Leica M is .7 meters)
  • HD video with full uncompressed through HDMI
  • Crop mode gives you a 50mm and 75mm equivalent shot in JPEG mode
  • EVF is best I have ever used (if you buy it extra of course)
  • Manual focus works well and is smooth and silky
  • Focus Peaking!
Cons
  • At the price of $2799 a real charger should have been included in the box!
  • EVF is pricey at $449
  • AF hunts in low light and can have trouble in really low light.
  • Focus peaking only works with focus assist magnification on.
  • Battery life is not the best (250 shots or so) so get a few more.
  • Lens seems optimized for close distances. Seems sharpest up close and at mid distance.
  • Video AF is slow as molasses in low light. Had trouble finding focus so manual focus is recommended if shooting video indoor.
  • If you forget to turn on lens distortion correction and shoot JPEG your shots will have lens distortion.
-
The most popular shot I took from Part 1 of my RX1 review :)

Which Camera should I get? HELP!

Sony RX1 – This is expensive at $2799 and it is small and limited with just a 35mm lens. If you can not imagine only having one focal length in a camera then it is not for you. But if you can, and you want sublime IQ and the ability to shoot in any light without fear of noise killing your shots then you may want to seriously look at this camera. It is small but well made and the sensor/lens combo rocks. Think about what you shoot and if you feel the RX1 would help you with that. Cons? No built in EVF and the charger it comes with is the USB type that requires the battery be in the camera to charge.

OM-D – Olympus hit it out of the park with the OM-D and they have been on a roll with their lens releases. The OM-D is my 2nd camera pick for Camera of the Year 2012 and for good reason. It is like a min DSLR with amazing lenses and delivers superb image quality with 1/3 of the weight and size of a DSLR. You lose some shallow DOF effects but IQ is there and the video is super as well. Better overall video capabilities  than the RX1 IMO due to the lenses you can slap on. The OM-D is priced right at $1000 with kit lens. You will not get the silky smooth files of the RX1 nor the high ISO performance but it is also much cheaper. If you cant spend $2800 then you may want to look at the OM-D.

Fuji X – The X cameras have the IQ no doubt but what about the othetr good stuff? The X-Pro 1 was a bit of a let down for me (IMO) and I still prefer the X100. The X-Pro 1 build feels cheap, AF is slow and clunky, lenses feel hollow. I was turned off when they released it mainly due to the AF mis-focusing and slowness. It frustrated the hell out of me. It is now much better though with the latest firmware and you can not fault the IQ, which has that Fuji signature all the way. In comparison to the RX1, for me, the RX1 takes it all the way. The files from the RX1 are richer, have better Dynamic Range and the Zeiss lens beats the Fuji lenses for me. The full frame of the RX1 beats the APS-C of the Fuji, again MY OPINION. The Fuji takes incredible quality shots but the user experience is not quite there yet. The X-E1 may be better. Still, the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 is a cheaper option but you do not have the FF sensor nor that Zeiss lens. At the time of this writing a Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35 1.4 would set you back $1700, still $1000 less than the RX1 without an EVF. Something to think about.

NEX – The new NEX-6 is great. At $999 with 16-50 it is a great deal for such an advanced camera. Sony has improved things but I found the AF to still be lacking. The AF has mis-focused for me on many occasions where the camera will focus on what is behind my subject (The 7 did the same). It is frustrating but I also find it lens dependent. Some lenses focus blazing fast and with accuracy, others have been hit or miss. Still, the NEX-6 can deliver beautiful quality though it can appear to be a little flat when looking at files side by side with an RX1 or full frame sensor camera. Still, at $999 it is $1700 less than the RX1 and a beautiful machine in its own right. The NEX-6 is the best NEX yet when you factor use, price, quality and sensor. 

Leica – Leica has the X2 and D-Lux 6 but neither can beat the RX1 files.  The X2 is a beauty no doubt (my review is here) but the RX1 gives me a richer and deeper file to work with as well as having more DR, better high ISO, faster AF, smoother operation and the Zeiss f/2 character. Also focuses much closer than the Leica X2. The X2 with EVF is about $2500. The RX1 with EVF is $3150 so the Leica is actually LESS expensive but you lose the FF sensor, lose ISO ability, lose HD video, lose an f/2 aperture, lose close focus and yes, even lose some build quality. If you love Leica like I do then the X2 make you a very happy shooter. It is indeed  a Leica and has that timeless quality to the design and feel but I have to give credit where it is due and to me the RX1 is the better camera with more capability though it is more expensive as well.

-

A B&W conversion using Alien Skin Exposure – click for larger

-

The RX1 – My final bottom line conclusion

I have now written over 11,000 words in part 1 and part 2 of my review of this camera. Bottom line? The RX1 is a beauty. Like you have already read in the title, I have chosen it for my “Camera of the Year 2012″. My 2nd place choice  is the Olympus OM-D and 3rd place is the Leica Monochrom. The RX1 takes the top spot though because I have never used a camera that has just given me gorgeous results like this so easily. It is almost like the camera knows what I want..like it is reading my mind. Of course this is not actually a true statement  but the main reason I enjoy the RX1 so much is probably due to two things. The Sensor and the Lens. These make up the heart of the camera and with these two thing matched and combined it delivers the image quality that is flat out gorgeous with that Zeiss 3D color and quality we know and love. Dynamic Range even in the Harsh AZ sunshine was fantastic and this is a camera that can motivate.

If you have the cash to spend and want a serious compact and can live with a 35mm only focal length then this is a camera you will most likely cherish and adore. It is not perfect though! Be sure to read through my “cons list” above because it does have a few things that could have been improved upon. The AF is fast but not super speedy. In low light it will hunt because you need something with contrast for it to lock on to. It does not have phase detect AF, only contrast detect AF. So when the lights get low be prepared for it to hunt somewhat. If there is some light around it will lock on an AF just fine. If it is dark you need to switch to manual focus for best results. Video and AF in low light is worse and it is locks focus VERY slowly so I recommend manual focus for video.

Battery life is not the best but luckily you can find batteries on Amazon for $8 a pop that are actually more powerful than the included Sony battery. I bought 3 extras.

When this camera was 1st shown to me months ago and I was told the price I thought deep inside my brain that Sony was nuts. $2700 for a small compact SONY. Ummm. No way. But after using it, shooting it, and making memories with it I can say that I feel this camera is indeed worth the money for me. The image quality has its own special look and it is spectacular. It may not beat out a Leica M for landscape detail shots or overall joy of use but for almost any kind of image you want to take it has a special quality and character that is so unlike “Sony”. It has the magic..the mojo..and the rendering that was once only attainable with expensive Zeiss glass or Leica lenses. Some will not agree with me of course but I call it like I see it, and I have used EVERYTHING. Being a reviewer gives me the chance to try anything I want. The RX1 is hands down my favorite camera of 2012 and one of my favorites of all time and this is only with just over 3 weeks of use.

The build is solid, the lens feels great, the manual control of aperture on the lens is a godsend and the silent shutter means that for street shooters this camera will be just what they have been looking for. High ISO is superb as well.

I think I have said all I can say but for me the pros far outweigh the cons because when you see those results on your big screen or in print you will sit there with a huge grin. If you like the Zeiss look you will love the Sony RX1. It is not for everyone though so be sure to weigh your own pros and cons before taking that $2700 plunge!

TIP: BE SURE TO TURN ON LENS CORRECTION BEFORE USING THE RX1! It ships with it turned OFF, which is silly as the lens will give you some barrel distortion in JPEGS is it is off. 

-

Order it at B&H PhotoOrder it at Amazon

Where To Buy the Sony RX1 and Accessories?

I would buy this camera from ONLY a reputable source such as Amazon or B&H Photo.

Direct Links: AMAZONB&H PHOTO

Optical VF - AMAZON

EVFAMAZON

Great Batteries for less - AMAZON

 

December 6th 2012: UPDATE: I will be adding to this review in the next 2-3 weeks with more samples shot at smaller apertures. I will include full size files as well as tripod mounted shots. There will also be a comparison with the NEX-6 with the same images, etc. Check back here over the next few days. Thanks!

-

My open letter to the few who feel I am too “enthusiastic” in my reviews 

After I posted part 1 of my review I had 1 lonely email from a rather bitter individual who felt I was lying about the RX1 for some reason..or was possibly “on the take” as he said. This person felt I was too “in love” with the camera and that I should not be so enthusiastic because I run a review site. This guy demanded I remove my Amazon review I posted there as well..yes, demanded I remove my own review on Amazon (which was posted to offset a fake 1 star review from someone who never even held the RX1)! This was from an individual who called himself a “Journalist” and said I was obviously being paid off by Sony to write a gushing review and when I replied back that I was not paid off he said I was indeed paid off! Why? He said just by going to the Sony Event in CA where they launched the camera was a pay off  and he told me I should re-imburse them for that week long trip. Sort of ridiculous. Guess some people have nothing better to do than be bitter, angry and stressed. I guess I should have refused that invite because as he said “David Pougue would have never accepted it”. Well, not me..! I’d go every year if I was invited. No doubt.

I guess these type of individuals do not know me very well or have not been reading this site for very long. From day one this website has been about inspiration, enthusiasm, excitement, sharing of images, stories and experiences and not just about me, but about all of  YOU who come here as well. When I review something that is THIS good, you guys will know about it as I never hold back. It is in my writing. It oozes out of me like honey from a squeeze honey bear bottle.  When I merely “like” a camera you can also tell by the way I write. For example, I had a Nikon D4 here for a month. I did not like (for my use) it so I did not even review it. I could have hyped it up like everyone else and made some $$ with affiliate sales for sure but why would I when I did not like it myself? When I loved the Nikon V1 I was attacked on that one as well. When I raved on the Leica M9 I was accused of being paid off by Leica. To those accusing me of hyping this camera by lying about it all I can say is either TRY the camera and see for yourself, or if it bothers you that much then go to the other review sites for your reviews and do not come here. I would not go to a site that I did not enjoy. Period.

The fact is that this Sony RX1 is a superb camera. I love it, for ME. I have tried to write down my feelings, emotions and share my enthusiasm like I always do when I talk about something I really love and hell, if Sony decided to give me a free camera to use long term…then I say “HELL YEA”. In fact, I will invite them to do so right now! Hint, hint.

I used to be called Leica “fanboy” all of the time because I enjoy my Leica M’s so much. I would respond with “I guess I am a Leica fanboy, because I adore my M’s”. I just find it quite ridiculous when someone emails me and demands I tone down or take down my reviews. Makes me chuckle. To those individuals, nothing is changing here, I will keep doing what I have always done for the past 3 1/2 years. I am not about doing what other sites do..that is the whole reason I created this one!

Oh and I do not consider myself a “Journalist”..my grammar is too horrible to ever be one, but I do consider myself to be a normal guy who likes to write passionately about the things I love..and my passion is right here and right now on this very website each every day and I thank YOU for coming here and reading, no matter who you are or what you believe. The fact that even the haters come here and read what I write is sort of a compliment. BTW, part one of my RX1 review had over 130,000 views in the 1st day, a record for this site!

With that said, I will leave you with a few more RX1 samples :) ENJOY!!! OH! and if you want even more of  the RX1, take a look at this Tumblr page with a collection of some of the best RX1 shots on the internet!

KEEP IN MIND THE IMAGES BELOW ARE ALL SHOT IN RAW AND CONVERTED WITH THE SONY SOFTWARE. Some have different color modes applied such as “Vivid”, “Standard”, “Neutral”, “Portrait”, etc.

click these samples to see them how they should be seen

-

and next to it’s excellent baby brother, the Sony RX100

 More images here in my “RX1 files”

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Sep 212012
 

How to create a successful blog.. 10 things you ABSOLUTELY NEED to do to be a success!

Something different today for the many who have asked me how to start a blog and get it to be known. I do not proclaim to be any kind of expert on this matter, not even close, but I do know a few things about blogging as I have been doing it every day for the past 3+ years (Now 5+ in 2014).  So this is for those who have asked me about it..here are my thoughts.

BTW, photos in this post were shot with a Fuji X-Pro 1 and Konica Hexanon 60 1.2 Leica M mount Lens. 

Over the past 3+ years I have been working every day of the week on this very web site/blog that you are now sitting down and reading. It has come a long way since the humble beginnings with my iWeb hosted and very basic site and today it hosts thousands of articles, hundreds of guest and user reports, hundreds of reviews of cameras, lenses and accessories. It started out costing me $10 a month to keep up and maintain and today costs me more than $900 a month to just keep it live (not counting all of the additional money I have to spend to run it and provide content for it).

It started out with 10-15 views per day and today enjoys anywhere from 90,000 to 180,000 views a day. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this blog would be one of the well-known spots/hang outs for photography enthusiasts nor would I ever dream that I would get yearly visits from Sony to show me their new gear in my home. Never did I dream I would travel the world and be invited to Berlin from Leica to witness their new product unveilings, and I surely never thought I would make so many new friends from all over the world. THAT is the best part IMO..getting to know so many of you who read this very site.

Over these past three years I have noticed that Leica based sites went from about TWO to TWO HUNDRED. Some have been exact copies of mine, many have already disappeared and some are doing well, which I think is absolutely amazing. The more passion and excitement we all share the better off we all are. It can be infectious and what better way to be in life than to be happy, positive and full of life and energy and most of all ENJOY our lives by doing something we LOVE to do!

I get many e-mails asking me “How can I start a blog and get people to see it”..or “I want to be like you and start a blog about photography, can you tell me how to do it”..or “I put up a blog but not many people are finding it, how do I get the word out”??

Usually those e-mails go unanswered because the answer is not a simple one. It is not a short one either and there is not something that I can just say that will bring someone instant blogging success. Since I have just today received my 100th email on this topic I decided to write a post about it..so those who are interested in blogging can get an idea of where to start, how to go about it and most of all what to expect if you are trying to do this as a way  to make money because in my opinion that is never a smart reason to start a blog!

Know that this is a highly competitive area and in the last 3-4 years it seems that everyone and their mother has been starting blogs. I do not mean just Photo blogs…there are thousands of blogs about everything from photography to ghost hunting to fish bait and the internet is so full of information it is pretty incredible when you think about what we have today compared to what we had just 15 years ago. Information is like gold and today we have full access to just about anything we want to know.

To stand out from the field of “blogging” you need many things but one of them is PASSION. I have said this before and when I say “passion is needed” I am not really only talking about passion for what you are writing about, but a passion for life, success, and happiness. You must truly live, breath, eat and sleep what you want to blog about if you want it to be a rip-roaring success. These things are key. For example, if someone is only out to make a quick buck..starting a blog will not make you an overnight money bags..even after years you may find yourself asking “is this all worth it for such little financial reward”? If what you write about is filled with true passion then it will be worth it no matter what you earn from the site as money is not the concern. If you have no passion then no one will want to read your blurbs and popularity will be low. Doing this for the money is not a way to go about it as it is rare for a blog to make any real serious cash. Maybe 3-5% of blogs do.

I will try to keep this as simple as I can, sharing my experiences along the way. This blog is surely not one of the top 3 photography related blogs in regards to traffic, but it is in the top 10 somewhere and it took about 3 (2014 – now 5) years to get there. Sites that came out in the 90’s are the ones that have the rock solid reader base…sites like DPreview, Luminous Landscape, and the oh so popular and controversial Ken Rockwell. All of these sites register quite highly on the Alexa scale for popularity and traffic, as they should. They are very well established and just a few years ago DP Review was so popular that Amazon (supposedly) paid MILLIONS to buy the website from Phil Askey, the previous owner and originator of the site. Pretty amazing. But why did Amazon do this and why was DPReview so popular? Well, Phil started it at a time when there was zero competition. He was a pioneer. An originator. He worked his ass of for years and had the passion, the desire and the mental capacity to sit at a desk for 14 hours a day writing and testing cameras 7 days a week. He created the largest photography site online and his success was well deserved. Over 7 million visitors a month. Pretty impressive. I manage about 2 million here on this site so I can only image in the work it would take to handle 7 million.

So what do you need TODAY to start a blog that can break out from the sea of sites on the internet? I am no guru but here are 10 things to keep in mind…

1. PASSION

Numero UNO! If you do not have this you do not have squat! Do not start a blog for money otherwise you will be losing money and time. Period. Start a blog of something you are passionate about and you will not only enjoy what you do but you will most likely gain popularity as well.

2. DESIRE

You have to WANT to write and you will have to do it daily so having the DESIRE to go with the passion is a must.

3. LOVE

This one goes right along with the top two. You must have the passion, desire and LOVE for what you intend to write about because if you do not it will show in your writing and it will get old quickly.

4. POSITIVITY

Readers will flock to you if you are yourself and share your enthusiasm and positivity. If you are a negative person and just rant, bitch and moan then people will not want to read what you write. Be positive, be energetic and be fun. Most of all, be YOU. If you are a cocky type that is a turn off for many readers. Most people do not like to read the words of “know it alls” because the know it all rarely does indeed know it all. Just be yourself and if you are genuine and have an enjoyable personality things will flow very well. 

5. TREAT OTHERS AS THEY TREAT YOU

If you have someone helping you out in the beginning then PLEASE be nice to them and do what you can in return for them. If you have someone who is out for you or jealous and attacking you then that is a GOOD thing because it shows you are getting some attention. Best thing to do about those people is to ignore them as they do not deserve the attention. As your blog grows you will gain people who like you and you will find others who for some reason or another dislike you but always be grateful and kind to those who help and respect you. 

One man I insanely respect is Ken Hansen. He helped me from day one by loaning me lenses that Leica wouldn’t. When I started Leica ignored me and for good reason! I had no readers! Ken believed in me and loaned me lenses and cameras and in return I linked to his e-mail. Turned out he is not only one of the nicest guys I have met in this business but he is also one of the absolute best Leica dealers on the planet. It’s not just me  that says so, there are thousands of others who say the same. This site is mine but I didn’t build it alone..others have indeed helped me along the way, in one way or another as they do with any venture but I have also helped then in return. It’s the right thing t o do.

6. STAY  TRUE TO YOURSELF AND STICK WITH IT

Be you and only you. Don’t try to copy other sites or personalities as it will show and people will see that. Copying will not help anyone gain success in blogging. You can take ideas of others but be yourself all the time.

7. DEDICATION

When this site started I worked 12-14 hours a day on it..and I did this for at least 2 1/2 years. These days I work 8-9 hours a day, 6 days a week. I am dedicated and I love what I do. I do not wake up and say “Damn, I have to go write an article or answer email”..instead I say “I am blessed to be able to do what I love to do”. So I am dedicated because I love what i do! Dedication and hard work will pay off over time. TIP: Update your blog daily but do not burn out!

8. CREATIVITY

To create, design and maintain a website does require some creativity. So be sure you know the basics and every day could be a new learning experience. Be creative and do not be afraid to explore things outside of the box.

9. ORIGINALITY

BE ORIGINAL!! Ties in with being yourself but if I have to repeat it I will. Do not copy others..pave your own way. When I started my site 3 1/2 years ago NO ONE was doing real world reviews. They were ALL technical and boring. ALL OF THEM. Some love the tech reviews but I could never sit through all of them and read every word. I started this site because it was what I WANTED to see in a photography site. It has since morphed into exactly what I wanted from the get go..a site created by me and by all of you with a community that participates not only in comments but in guest articles as well. I remember posting guest articles and months later DPReview, the head honcho of all photo sites started to do the same and then other sites joined in doing it as well. Other sites would even e-mail guys who wrote for me to try to get them to write for them. Lol. Community is key and this site does not even have a forum yet most major articles get hundreds of comments. I think this is awesome and is a testament to positivity, energy and real world reports as well as the amazing people who come here to visit and hang. Awesome.

10. NEVER FEAR and JUST DO IT!

It may be scary starting a blog from scratch but never fear! Go forward and do what you feel. Don’t be afraid to write what is really on your mind. Don’t be afraid to make someone mad if it is warranted and do not be afraid to tell the truth all of the time. Push the envelope and always create but the most important 1st step after having the passion is getting of your behind and MAKING the blog. Once you get it started it will flow like water…just have to make it over the initial hump. 

Follow those ten points and your blogging adventure will be off to a great start. There is much more of course to the whole big picture but most of it can be figured out as you go. I am still learning and imagine I will still be 5 more years from now, just as I am doing with Photography. Blogging can be fun, fill up spare time for hobbyists, make some extra cash for those who want to do something they love at the same time and it can also be a life changing experience. It’s not and never is easy but for me, I wouldn’t dream of doing much of anything else right now.

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21