Aug 262015
 
SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 16

weddingmanual1

A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography

by Joao Medeiros

I’m not comfortable writing. Images, particularly photography are what drives me. Since very young Art was part of my life, I went from painting and waiting to be an architect to abandon everything for a life in the theatre, just to pursue a career in Jazz playing trumpet.

But at my twenties, I was struggling to make it and everyone was making sure I knew I had to earn money to be a successful individual. Money was never my interest, I’m passionate about Art, any form of it. But Photography had a degree of intimacy and control that I had never experienced.

I went to college to take a photography bachelor and complemented it with a bachelor in Fine Arts and a master’s degree in Visual Arts teaching, things went on for a while, drifting in teaching, corporate/event photography, restoration related jobs before I finally found the one area where I had complete creative freedom. A freedom that allows me to choose the gear that gives me pleasure while creating and expressing myself through Photography and eventually sharing my Vision.

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Weddings are something that has been with society since we had the need to express our love for our life companion. Happiness is something that needs to be shared and celebrated with our loved ones. And that’s what I like about them, it’s all about family and friends making the most of Life. When I was in college, I did the whole course with only an Olympus OM 1 and a 50mm, since then manual focus is second nature to me, even when I had top DSLR’s AF never grew on me. But when I used the first serious EVF (Panasonic GH2) I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to see while composing. Eventually, when I step up to weddings I needed the best dynamic range and colour I could get my hands on it, so I bought a Sony A99 and a Nikon D800e to figure out my needs. After a year the Sony won me, not because it was superior to the D800e, it was Sony’s approach to photography that made it. The fully articulated LCD, I. S and Minolta’s heritage all over the place made the A99 a superior tool in my hands.

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When the mirrorless Sony A7 appeared on the scene I had no doubts and bought one immediately with a set of Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with the VM close adapter. Since then, shooting has been a real pleasure. Nothing beats feeling your shots, even when we are capturing fleeting moments like kisses, exchanging vows/wedding rings or sharing a secret while on the dance floor at 4 am. Having a small, robust camera with the best glass in the industry makes me feel very confident and secure that when I get home, I have all I need to put together a body of work that reflect my vision. That’s the main lesson I learned, you really need to follow your own unique vision of things.

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We are all different, but you really need to push beyond the limits to reach for that inner voice. Recently I added the amazing sigma Art 35mm f 1.4 to my set, the only complain is its sheer size when compared to my little Zeiss ZM 35mm f2. My workflow is pretty straightforward, I use B&W mode to concentrate on composition and focus while having red peaking and magnify to guarantee that every moment is in focus. For 75% of all my work, I use the 35mm focal length with my Sony A7 and take advantage of the articulated LCD from the A99 to get more discrete and intimate portraits with the 85mm, also from Sigma. Just a little detail, I removed the slt mirror from the A99 and use it in manual focus, so it’s basically a big mirrorless camera. I’m more of a guest than a professional photographer, at least that’s how I’m perceived by my clients, family and friends. A friend who happens to make a living from photography. I really try to enjoy the wonderful day, conscious that I’m very fortunate to be at a private party while making a living. I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, it’s after all a body of work and not just a staged kiss with the golden hour moment. It’s people that drive me, the concept of family and friendship not staged moments.

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I’m looking forward to get the new Sony A7RII since it brings some new features like a new and stronger shutter that it’s better damped, the I. S, min. auto shutter, copyright embed info, better high ISO performance and even the silent shutter option although with some caveats.

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Thank you.

Regards

João de Medeiros

http://joaomedeirospamelaleite.tumblr.com/
https://instagram.com/joaomedeiros.pamelaleite/
https://www.facebook.com/MFotografia.JoaoMedeiros.PamelaLeite
http://www.joaomedeirospamelaleite.com/

Aug 252015
 

Fujifilm’s Professional F2.8 zooms take on nature

By Ben Cherry

About me

My name is Ben Cherry; I am an environmental photojournalist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. I’ve been using the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm alongside the X-T1 for most of the year now. During that time I’ve spent three months in Borneo and two months in Costa Rica, where I’ll be until mid-December for a conservation research role. It is fair to say that these lenses have been put through a tropical boot camp, pushing them to their humid and heat limits. You can find more of my work via: www.bencherryphotos.com

The Lenses

Both are weather sealed with constant F2.8 apertures, these zooms are built to last with superb image quality, making them up to the ever-increasing standard of photographers that need gear to work everyday, all day. Made to complement each other, this could be a two-lens set up for many photographers who want a lightweight system that covers a wide focal length. Indeed if you’re not after smaller F-Stops, then these offer prime quality optics.

I personally do prefer to use prime lenses as I feel that they encourage me to be creative, the likes of the XF16mm have pushed me to improve my compositions. But when on the move, in hot tropical environments, I couldn’t ignore the convenience of these two lenses. The XF50-140mm is a no-brainer for me as it is the longest F2.8 or faster lens currently available. In the rainforest I’ve found that I’ve craved light more than focal length, so this lens ticked a lot of boxes (not that I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat for the impending super telephoto zoom!..).

XF50-140mm-2.jpg (leaping proboscis monkey), XF50-140mm-5.jpg (play fighting pygmy elephants), XF50-140mm-26.jpg (scarlet macaw portrait), XF50-140mm-27.jpg (scarlet macaw in flight)

Certain things stand out in this 1st picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they’re not eating only have one thing on their mind.

Certain things stand out in this picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they're not eating on have one thing on their mind.

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-5

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-26

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-27

As for the XF16-55mm, this was a lens I took a little more time considering whenever it came to packing the bag light. The reason for that is it covers the same range as the XF16mm, XF23mm and XF56mm, three exceptional prime lenses with faster apertures. But again it comes back to one word, convenience. Stuck in a rather wet part of the world, whenever it does rain, it pours and the last thing I want to do is change lens. So more often than not the XF16-55mm gets the nod. Other than missing the faster apertures of the primes, I have no hesitation to use this zoom instead, especially as it is weather sealed. A lot of people are put off this lens by the lack of OIS, yes it would have been helpful… but at the same time I understand Fujifilm’s explanation, I’d rather have the brilliant image quality than compromise some for OIS.

XF16-55mm-5.jpg (Sunrise at Mt. Kinabalu), XF16-55mm-15.jpg (violet woodnymph pit stop), XF16-55mm-17.jpg (vivid Pacific sunset),  XF16-55mm-18.jpg (released baby turtles using red filtered flash so don’t distract babies.)

Mt. Kinabalu at Sunrise

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-15

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Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-18

Benefits

Other than the superb build and image quality, these two lenses have very snappy autofocus, especially when used with the X-T1 (the only camera which makes this a weather resistant system). I’ve captured monkeys leaping through the air, elephants fighting, and birds swooping through the rainforest. None of these were easy autofocus tasks. The X-T1 has been greatly improved by a series of firmware improvements. I am sure these two lenses will see a huge performance boost with the next generation cameras, which will have improved hardware instead of only updated firmware. To put it another way, if I was told I could only have access to two lenses then no doubt it would be these two, with the XF16-55mm just pushing out the superb XF10-24mm – please Fujifilm, make a F2.8 WR version!

What is rarely brought up is the effective focal length of the XF16-55mm, which is 24-85mm, that extra 15mm over the usual 24-70mm range is a big benefit. Expanding the uses of this lens, particular helpful for portrait photographers.

XF16-55mm-10.jpg (inquisitive young elephant)

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-10

Downsides

Because of all that lovely glass, range and build quality, these aren’t exactly light lenses when compared to the rest of the Fujifilm range. Not to say that they feel out of place though. If using the hand or battery grip with an X-T1 then even the XF50-140mm is nicely balanced. I feel like these lenses have more to give but are waiting for camera upgrades, this isn’t necessarily a bad point just one to think about. I have been in situations where I know the lenses can handle the moment but sometimes the X-T1 gets a little flustered. This occasional occurrence is massively outweighed by the general satisfaction I get from using this system over others I have tried.

XF50-140mm-6.jpg (tactile family members)

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-6

Conclusion

This system has been baked and soaked more than I’d ever admit to Fujifilm representatives… (awkward because they’ll probably read this… sorry!). But it is still working and producing images that I am very happy with. Certainly the products have more to give than I am currently demanding, this encourages me to push myself so I can reach the standard of these brilliant products. The camera market is incredibly competitive, a good thing as there are basically no bad systems out there. However, for me, this weather resistant X-Series is definitely my preferred choice. For anyone looking at camera system options, no matter your genre, I firmly believe that the X-Series at least warrants consideration, it is certainly producing the goods for me with nature photography.

Ben

Aug 242015
 

Leica M: Not perfect, but I love it.

By Steven Jermaine

Hey Brandon and Steve, first thank you for keeping up all the hard work over the years. It’s been a pleasure to read and see the growth. Over the years GAS has led me to and through many cameras, such as the fuji x100, sony nex 7, sony rx1, nikon df, Leica m8, canon 70d, and etc But with the blessing of my wife my GAS was abated with the purchase of a Leica M240 and Zeis 50mm f2 lens. It’s my daily camera and goes with me everywhere. I purchased mine certified used from popflash.com and verified the two-year warranty with Leica NJ.

This camera I am sure everyone knows is amazing so I won’t have to go there. And yet, I am sure everyone knows it has its issues and as a person who has experienced it, I’ll touch on it a little. This camera has been sent to NJ for repair early this year for two months. That wasn’t a fun time as the rangefinder was out of alignment amongst other things. I purchased a Sony A6000 to hold me over (Great little camera).

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Despite the issues I find myself still in love from day one. The camera inspires me to take it out everyday and attempt to create something. Some days I don’t make any images while others I shoot a whole lot. But it’s always with me and like you always say, that’s should be the camera you own.

Ok this is getting a little long but as for the images, these are test shoots and my daily musings around Washington D.C. I hope you enjoy them. Thank you everyone for your time. If you’re in D.C. and want to photo-walk around, don’t hesitate to email or dm on Instagram. I’m always looking for photo friends.

Best,

Steven Jermaine
@5amtoday
www.5amtoday.com

Aug 242015
 

User Report: My 1st Leica Q Shots

by Yoon-Chou Chong

Got the Q just a day before the family holidays which was just as well to test how easy it is to pick up and go. The early pictures in Sydney were mainly from JPEG and although I have heard of Leica’s limits it was ok and does give it the ‘look’ (vs say the RX1 which probably matches in sharpness). Funny thing is when I am defaulting to Program, it always starts with F1.7 which if you aren’t thinking too much of your shots (that is pretty much what happens if you are shuffling with a 5 year old). The EVF was wonderful, and it brought me back to looking into it (rather than lazily on the screen).

2015-06 Sydney (2 of 16)

2015-06 Sydney (5 of 16)

2015-06 Sydney (6 of 16)

2015-06 Sydney (8 of 16)

2015-07 singapore (4 of 6)

2015-07 singapore (5 of 6)

2015-07 singapore2 (16 of 43)

2015-07 singapore2 (36 of 43)

Aug 202015
 
fujix100s

From Canon to Fuji

by Stuart Cripps

Hi Steve,

Firstly can I congratulate you on your fantastic website. I love and appreciate your honesty and passion when telling us about the latest greatest stuff in the wonderful world of photography.
Real, honest hands on is so much more valuable than lab tests and pictures of book cases :)

Secondly, can I scold you for doing nothing to quell my longing for a Leica! (lol) I know I don’t ‘need’ one but I still romanticized about creating my work with one, and your site doesn’t help.

A bit about me. I’m a graphic designer by trade but my passion is photography, something that gives me a true sense of creativity and satisfaction. I started out with a Canon G9 but then made the ridiculous upgrade to a 5DmkIII about 3 years ago with the intention of improving my craft and trying to make it my career. Unfortunately 3 years later I am just getting to that point as I am held back by the most crippling of diseases… complete lack of self-confidence and belief.

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I learned a lot of my 5DmkIII but along the way my recreational/hobby work seemed to lose something. It could have been the way I approached shots, too critical on nailed focus etc, maybe it was the fact the camera drew too much attention? Who knows? Either way it really felt like although my photos technically improved they lost some of their personality along the way. Which leads me to my short user review of sorts below…

Back in June I had 3 weeks before I was due to shoot my first wedding, in Paris – a real baptism of fire for me, my first paid wedding, my first time flying alone and my first time in France. It was make or break time! For peace of mind I needed a sidekick camera to accompany my Canon 5DmkIII (you never know when the gremlins may strike). I needed something that would suit my documentary/reportage style that i could easily master within my short 21 day prep window.

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After much research and hair pulling I decided to avoid a second bulky DSLR or the risk (and expense) of buying into another lens system. Based on all the reviews and sample images the Fujifilm X100T seemed like the way to go. I have been following Fuji’s progress for some time and it seemed they had nailed it with this tiny bit or drool worthy retro skinned hardware.

Well what can I say, I was not disappointed. From the looks, to the handling to the image quality I think I may be falling in love with this new addition to my kit bag. This may be in part because it fills the gap I will never afford to fill (or indeed justify) with the holy grail of documentary, a Leica. Mainly though it’s because it is such a wonderful tool to work with.

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Stop

As much as I love my 5DmkIII I felt my photography lost a little of what pulled me in to begin with, the size, the attention it drew when I tried to shoot covert etc. The X100T rectifies all of that, it takes me back to when I started out with my trusty Canon G9. It allows me to be covert, creative and spontaneous with little to no impact on my surroundings. In essence it has brought some of the fun and magic back into the process of capturing life around me.

The-Passenger

Is it perfect? No, certainly not. Battery life is shocking especially next to the 5DmkIII. The focus can be hit and miss, especially in lower light and the menus take some getting used to, expect a few head scratching moments as you try to squeeze the best from this little gem. But with a little practice and effort you are soon rewarded and forgive the X100T it’s shortcomings and once more begin to fall in love with its raw retro charm.

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I have only just started my journey and I am looking forward to see what images this new partnership helps me to create. The magic is back.

If you like what you see then please feel free to visit me online to see my ongoing photographic journey:

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stumacher/albums
INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/nero.creative/
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/nero_creative

I hope this is of some use to you/your readers – and if it makes the cut I hope you enjoy my images.

Yours Sincerely,

Stu

Aug 142015
 
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titlewadsworthsony

A Sony A7RII Review

by Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Blasphemy be damned, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t all that excited about the Sony a7R II prior to its release.

I’m a simple stills guy so the 4k video is wasted on me; I also like my fat pixel 12mp a7S files just fine, thank you and I dreaded having to deal with both the processing and storage requirements of a 42mp image. Furthermore, I already enjoy the refreshed body style and IBIS on the a7 II and I’m not a switcher – been shooting Sony for a few years now and sold all my Canon L lenses long ago.

My prior detachment aside, the release of this camera is a watershed moment in the mirrorless epoch. The a7R II spec sheet reads like something out of the future, a no compromise piece of kit that is both evolutionary and revolutionary at the same time. Who wouldn’t be interested in this camera? As professionals or even enthusiasts, we desire the best and this camera promises to be that at a great many things. Even if it falls short in a single category like low light (little brother a7S still reigns supreme), its second best still trumps most everything else on the market.

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So yeah, I want the best and I want it compact and rugged and efficient and with a great compliment of lenses. I know it will eventually be eclipsed by something newer and greater but at this point in time, I can with a good conscience state that it is the best digital camera I have ever owned.

I’m not going to do a detailed review, many others are far better at that, but I can share some thoughts and photos that I hope will be helpful. All images have been edited from RAW to my personal taste.

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In the pro column, the camera is mature. Sony has had time since the release of the a7 (their first full frame mirrorless system camera) to evolve and improve on many aspects of the platform. The menu system is by now second nature to me but more importantly, with the release of the a7R II, Sony has vastly expanded the level of button configuration. Virtually every physical control on the camera has some level of customization. This means that for all but the most arcane settings, there are direct physical controls. We’ve all seen the comments labeling Sony products as computers or gadgets, compared to other brands’ “real cameras”. The truth is that all modern digital cameras, yes I’m looking at you too Leica, are electronic, computer controlled devices. With the a7R II, I can hide that electronic menu interface for 99% of the photography I do while still harnessing secondary features like IBIS, focus magnification or display options with physical buttons. The closest example of this type of physical control from the golden age of the 35mm film world was the Minolta Maxxum 7 (also known as the a-7!) which was laden with physical controls for every imaginable setting. For the uninitiated, Sony purchased Minolta’s camera and lens line in 2006 – check out this report from way back then – Farewell Konica Minolta.

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The a7R II is the second camera in the line to be blessed with IBIS or SteadyShot, also a Minolta invention. Once you’ve used IBIS there’s simply no going back. Hand holding a 135mm lens at 1/5th is doable with IBIS and good technique – amazing. For some of the photos here, I used the lovely Batis 85mm which has its own optical image stabilization that works in tandem with IBIS for even greater control. The jittery view of a long lens simply melts away to calm when IBIS kicks in. Sony saves battery life by engaging the IBIS function only when the shutter is half-depressed so you can see the effect in realtime, before and after you engage focus.

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The original a7R suffered a heavy shutter action that was quite loud. Having never owned that model, I can’t comment but I will say that the a7R II has one of the sweetest sounding shutters I have heard. It sounds something like this: shhtiiiickkk. Really, take my word, it is wonderful – quiet and refined. Some people have even confused the normal shutter sound with the silent shutter feature which is incorrect as the silent shutter is just that: silent. And on the topic of the Silent Shutter setting, yes there are some compromises such as a restriction to single shot mode but come on, the use cases for silent high speed shooting have got to be minuscule.

Another aspect of the camera that impresses me is the new EVF magnification. At .78 it is the largest magnification of any modern camera, DSLR or mirrorless (the Nikon D810 comes in at .70) which results in a large comfortable view of the scene with excellent eye relief. This feature did have me excited and I’ll have a hard time looking through a view with lesser magnification now.

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The autofocus speed seems on par with the a7 II but tracking looks to be improved thanks to the 399 on-sensor phase detect points. I’ll need to do more shooting to be sure and I also want to do some concerts in low light, but for now I’m very pleased. Using the gorgeous new Zeiss Batis lenses for these first shots in Ogunquit, Maine resulted in quick, sure focus on the 25mm, with the 85mm a bit slower (common for longer focal lengths moving more lens mass) but still speedy. I’m finding that the Batis 25mm truly shines on the a7R II – sharp, sharp, sharp right to the corners with manageable distortion and excellent color. The ability to dial in hyperfocal setting in 2 seconds using the OLED is a nice feature that I used often on some of these tourist landscape shots. If you are looking for a top quality standard wide for the a7 platform, this is your lens. Overall, I’m very pleased with this combination and look forward to more options in the Batis lineup.

One of the big features of the new camera is its claimed compatibility (with an adapter) to Canon EF lenses. The previous a7 models also had this compatibility but the AF speed left much to be desired. With the a7R II, Sony is taking a broad shot across Canon’s bow, claiming much improvement, approaching native AF speed using EF lenses. Since I don’t have any Canon lenses I can’t comment with any authority but there seems to be a consensus in early reviews that the performance claims are accurate. Since the a7R II will be the first Sony camera for many Canon switchers I can only implore them to enjoy the compatibility with their existing lenses but do not ignore some of the class leading native FE lenses that are now available.

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Back to the a7R II – what about all of those pixels? The good news is that I’m seeing nothing but sharpness, no shutter shock or blurred details – and my MacBook Pro seems to be chugging along just fine so far. I get a longer delay when rendering a 100% view but for standard editing I haven’t noticed any speed bumps. The level of clarity and detail from the combination of this 42mp sensor and the Batis lenses has been simply astounding and will eclipse the performance of many Medium Format systems. Dynamic range has also been top notch and I expect it to be measured in the 14+ stop range at base ISO.

Shadow boosting and highlight recovery is child’s play with these Sony sensors and the a7R II doesn’t look to be compromising dynamic range or low light performance for high resolution. Check out the before and after sample below illustrating shadow boost at base ISO.

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No camera is perfect and I expect there to be a few niggles here and there but as I mentioned earlier, the a7R II is remarkably mature. As a photographer with some manual focus rangefinder lenses I do find that the new larger EVF has an unfortunate downside that lessens the shimmering effect of the older displays. This effect was from edge artifacts and could help the photographer determine when they had manual focused accurately without relying on focus peaking. The extra EVF magnification eliminates those edge artifacts making it more challenging to determine manual focus accuracy without entering one of the focus magnification modes. Now to be clear, Sony never advertised or even hinted of this EVF shimmering effect as a tool for focus, this is simply a trick that I and others have used for our benefit so we can’t berate Sony for eliminating what some may have thought was an annoyance.

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Aside from my gripe about manual focusing with the new EVF, I’ve discovered no significant faults that impact operation or lessen my enjoyment of the camera. My initial impression is that Sony has set a new high bar with the a7R II – a camera that will suit many, but of course not all styles of photography. For those that specialize in landscape, architecture, wedding or portraits, as well as the run and gun videographer, this could well be the one and only camera that you need in your bag. And let’s not forget, that bag is going to be a lot lighter.

Chad Wadsworth

Aug 112015
 

The Olympus E-M5II goes to Israel

by Rob Willliams

I wanted to give back to the site because this is the #1 place I respect for reviews of new & innovative cameras and lenses. Your site helped me narrow down my camera search to the A7II and EM5II at the start of 2015. There are other great cameras out there, but I became hooked by in-body stabilization. After renting both and giving them a good run, I finally settled on the Olympus because of the ergonomics and controls. I felt like I could operate and switch my settings easier in the heat of the moment. Plus, I really appreciated the lens availability and compact size.

Photo 1: Tel Aviv Beach. 1/200 at f/10, ISO 200, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Tel Aviv Mediterranean Coast

I would recommend anyone trying to choose a new camera go out and rent a few – there’s no substitute for having it in your hands in real situations. I have to admit I really wanted full frame, but at the end of the day I chose the camera that I knew I would carry around with me. I’m happy to say I always have it with me, and I’ve been able to capture some nice moments because of that.

Many day trips and two long foreign trips into the new camera, and I can say I love it. I don’t find it limiting in any scenario. If it’s dark, I feel fine pushing to 3200 or even 5000 ISO and can hand-hold down to 1/4 second — and if that’s not enough, I have my 25mm/1.8 in the bag. If it’s super bright outside, the 1/16000 electronic shutter helps. If I’m in a sensitive area, that same electronic shutter can shoot silently. If I want shallow DOF, shooting up close with a telephoto gives me all I need. If there’s some cool moving visuals, I can capture some 60 fps 1080p video – not really my thing, but I like that I can.

Photo 2: Tel Aviv Residence. 1/1250 at f/4.0, ISO 200, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 32mm

Tel Aviv Residence

Photo 3: Cows in Megiddo. 1/640 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5II with 40-150mm @ 150mm

Megiddo Cows

Photo 4: Sea of Galilee. 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 1600, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 40mm

All around the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus spent 95% of his life.

I originally gravitated toward the excellent primes, but after trying the Olympus 12-40mm pro zoom, I can’t put it down. It has the exact range I want in almost every situation, and is sharp through the range when shot wide open at f/2.8. The weight is pretty hefty, but the camera body is light so it makes up for it. The combo is light enough where I don’t even have aches after 8+ hour days of shooting, when using the Black Rapid Metro strap system.

My kit is the Olympus EM5II, primary lens being the 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom. For longer reach, I carry the lightweight and ridiculously cheap Olympus 40-150 f/4.0-5.6 – it’s like $99 so an unbelievable deal. At night, after a long day, I usually switch over to the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 prime because it’s lightweight and has spectacular low light performance.

Photo 5: Jericho. 1/640 at f/8.0, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Jericho View from Roof of Restaurant

Photo 6: Masada Fortress by the Dead Sea. 1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 24mm

Masada Landscape

Today I wanted to share a few photos I captured in Israel last month. This is a great destination for travel or street photographers, and I highly recommend it. The Old City of Jerusalem alone is worth the plane ticket — never have I seen so many interesting sights within 1 square km. Everywhere is very photo friendly, and if you are concerned about safety, don’t be. I felt comfortable the entire trip, even in the “bad” areas. Tel Aviv is a modern metropolis with a lot of great places to eat, and in addition to the holy sites there is a surprising amount of history to see, like some of the largest remaining Roman bath houses and theaters. This wasn’t primarily a photo trip for me, but I was able to get a few decent shots. I hope you enjoy the photos below!

Photo 7: Old City Jerusalem Jewish Quarter. 1/640 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Old City Jerusalem Jewish Quarter

Photo 8: Man at museum. 1/15 at f/2.8, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 32mm.

Israel Museum

I’m just an amateur photography who does this for fun, but some day I may try to dip my toes into food and restaurant photography. You can check out some of my other recent work on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rwilliz/albums.

Thanks, and any feedback is welcome,

Rob Williams

Jul 302015
 

My First Impressions – Zeiss Batis 25/2

By Bob Israel

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Getting a new lens is always exciting. You read the reviews (including Steve’s), you ponder whether your excitement is from the hype from the previews of others. You ponder whether this is really a ‘need to have’ vs. ‘want to have’ lens. Finally, you make the decision and place your preorder. Then you wait . . . and read some more . . . and wait some more . . . and see some images . . . and wait . . . and then . . . it arrives.

First, it’s the unboxing, not like you see on you tube videos but the anticipation of holding the lens in your own hands for the very first time. Today I received the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. I’ve had a love affair with Zeiss for a long time shooting contax C/Y, Zeiss ZE and ZM lenses. But the Batis 25/2 is the first I’ve owned that will autofocus on the Sony A7 series. To say I was looking forward to this day is an understatement.

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The lens is a thing of beauty. It has a modern look and feel and the OLED display just seems cool (yes, I’m a techie). The lens is much lighter in weight than I expected but it feels perfect on my A7II. I went out at lunch today and took a few shots. Nothing earth shattering but an assortment of wide open, closed down and into the sun variety.

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Then I looked at the images on my laptop. I got the same feeling and excitement as when I first shot with the Zeiss ZE line. It was an OMG moment. The colors are rich and the lens is sharp even wide open. The lens is marvelous when shooting into the sun. OK, I realize I’ve only taken about 40 images, but so far, it’s an instant love affair with Zeiss . . . all over again.

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-Bob Israel

Bob Israel
RJI Photography

http://www.rjiphotography.com
http://​w​ww.facebook.com/rjiphotography​
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjiphotography

See Steve’s full review of the Batis 25 and 85 HERE

Jul 282015
 

User Report: A Nikon J5 Review

by Eyal Gurevitch

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What makes a small camera great?

When asked what camera is compact and excellent I have no straight answer. It’s complicated, I tell them. You must sacrifice zoom range, or the max apertures of the lens, or the price of the camera, or its controllability, or its size.

So what’s the best compromise, they ask. It depends, I say. Would you call yourself an advanced photographer? Do you enjoy controlling your camera? Change its settings much? Must you have a large zoom? Can you pay more? Can you carry more?

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How can you compete with a x30 zoom of a 240 gram camera, or a x83 in a camera the size of an entry-level DSLR? How can you challenge a 1” sensor in a 300 gram camera that also has a useful zoom range and an f/1.8-2.8 aperture range?

It’s tough for camera makers to keep pleasing us photographers. To keep surprising us. But somehow they keep it coming. Such is the Nikon 1 J5. No, it’s not a groundbreaking camera, it doesn’t bring anything entirely new to the market. What it does it to balance some really great qualities in a single, triumphant package.

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Size matters.

With its 10-30mm kit lens, the J5 is not any taller or wider than the implicitly aforementioned RX100 IV. It is thicker, due to the length of the lens, so it’s not pocketable and that’s a big difference, but in terms of conspicuousness, they are virtually the same.

So why even consider the J5 over the RX100IV if they have the same sensor size and body size, but a large difference in max apertures, in favour of the Sony? The first and most obvious argument would be the ability to switch lenses. However, most Nikon 1 lenses mounted on the J5 would render it cumbersome and unbalanced, so other than for a niche use of a large aperture prime or a long zoom here and there, the capital practical use of this camera would undisputedly be with the 10-30mm along with its f/3.5-5.6 apertures.

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The grip. The controls.

There are two significant changes the Nikon did with the J5 over the previous body. The first is the all new BSI-CMOS sensor that delivers 20.8 megapixels but much more importantly better image quality and richer colors. The second is a thought out design of dials, buttons and controls added to the camera body without adding to its size. There’s a new Fn button in the front, a new dial around the video button, PASM modes in the main control dial and there’s a new grip. I would never understand why all cameras don’t have a grip as deep as their smallest attachable lens. The new grip of the J5 makes it oh-so-much easier to hold, especially compared to J4’s bar-of-soap-like slippery body. All these additions turn the J5 into a camera that’s easy to use and easy to control.

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The Speed

Nikon take pride in the fast shooting abilities of the J5 and they have almost every right to do so. Just like the J4, it can shoot a max of 20 shots per second with AF at full resolution, or 60 shots per second with locked focus. It has an impressive variety of slow modes in video (but an unimpressive 15fps in 4K). The only caveat being its slow processing, taking long seconds and sometimes even minutes to save the large amount of photos taken during a quick burst.

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There’s also the cool best moment capture feature, which keeps buffering images as long as you half press the shutter, taking a batch of 20 shots when you fully press it, 10 out of which are from the second before you pressed it.

In this regard there’s no change at all from its predecessor – you’re sure to capture the decisive moment, but probably not the next one.

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The Bottom Line

The Nikon 1 J5 is a highly capable, intuitively controllable compact mirrorless camera. It’s a huge step up from the J4 in terms of body design and as well as in image quality, making it a viable competitor in the high-end, large-sensor compact camera market, standing against the likes of the Sony RX100 IV as well as the Panasonic GM5, and with a truly attractive price tag.

Check out the Nikon 1 J5 at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Jul 202015
 
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Getting a Grip on the Leica Q: The Match Technical Thumbs Up EP-SQ grip Review

By Ashwin Rao

Hi everyone,

I recently had a chance to test out a production proof of the Thumbs Up EP-SQ grip for the Leica Q. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Match Technical’ s Thumbs Up grips, they are mountable on a camera’s hot shoe and provide a nice firm rest upon which to rest the thumb. Many people who shoot Leica cameras, which can be slippery in hand at times, prefer to add these grips to the camera. They act similar to how the film-advance levers of days-gone-by work as thumb rests. I can honestly say that this is a great ergonomic addition to the already fantastic Leica Q, adding that little extra bit of purchase that makes Match Technical’s Thumbs Up grips so popular.

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One “criticism” of the Leica Q is that the thumb indent, which Leica astutely placed on the camera’s rear, is a bit too far off to the edge of the camera and creates hand fatigue if solely used for gripping. I definitely found this to be an issue and addressed the issue in part by adding Leica’s own baseplate/grip. The EP-SQ design uses the indent as a method for securing the grip in place, while adding a nice rest that places the photographer’s thumb in a more comfortable position for shooting.

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One important added benefit of this Thumbs Up is that its design limits inadvertently bumping the Diopter adjustment dial(adjacent to the EVF), which often does go out of whack without protection. The grip effectively limits access to this dial, which is a good thing, as it prevents shirts or other factors to bump the deal and cause your EVF to be thrown out of focus.

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Unfortunately, by mounting the Thumbs Up EP-SQ on your Leica Q, lose access to the hotshoe, but with the Q’s ISO capacities, a flash is rarely needed. This, to me, is a small price to play for the ergonomic benefit of having a better grip on the camera.As an owner of the Thumbs Up Grips for the Leica M8, M9, M240, M246, X1, and Fuji XPro-1, I can confidently say that that Thumbs Up EP-SQ does much of the same for the Leica Q as it does for those cameras….it adds a nice secure grip if one feels that they require more than the Leica’s own offerings.

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I personally use the Thumbs Up in conjunction with Leica’s baseplate grip, for a really firm grasp and a camera that’s well balanced for me (not front heavy). However, may prefer to use their cameras with just the Thumbs-Up Grip, and I can confirm that using the camera in this manner feels quite secure as well.

Below are a few more pictures of the grip. I have been a fan of the Match Technical’s Thumbs Up designs for nearly a decade, and I suspect that you too will enjoy the experience of using a Thumbs Up on the Leica Q.

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You can find pre-order options for the EP-SQ through Match Technical’s own site, or through many of Leica’s own authorized dealers.

http://www.matchtechnical.com/Pages/purchase.aspx

Steve’s Leica Q Review – HERE

Ashwin’s Leica Q Review – HERE

Jul 132015
 
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Fingers Crossed: Leica Q Landscape Impressions

By David Nash

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I have to come clean: despite happily sticking with the wonderful Nikon D800e since it came out – and having no wish to change it in the forseeable future – I’ve bought and sold so many “small” cameras over the years that I’ve never settled with. To rub it in they’re all still there to remind me, listed every time I open in my Lightroom metadata tabs. Mmm.

Then along comes the Leica Q and seems to tick so many boxes: weight, size, IQ, DNG, fast sharp lens, full frame, fast autofocus, real dials, build quality, and very important for me with varifocal glasses – a really good built-in EVF (not an ugly plastic one to stick on top!).

Oh, and there’s one more key requirement for a walkabout camera: I have to be able to take photos one-handed while holding leads for to 25kilo poodles in the other hand…….

But like many I was initially slightly put off by the 28mm as opposed to 35mm which seemed about right for a general purpose carry around camera – and also by the emphasis in reviews on street photography (Not my comfort zone. I prefer trees – they don’t move so readily). Then I thought it through – I can easily crop to 35mm and still easily print A3+ and larger, and I can zoom with my feet.

So I took the plunge. Below are some of my first shots. A little work in Lightroom for the black and white images, and I’ve included at the end a color landscape, more or less as shot.

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Touch wood, this really does seem to tick all the “small camera” boxes for me. Your needs might be different. Your dogs might be smaller and lighter than mine. You might not wear varifocals and be happy without a viewfinder.

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Yes there are quirks. I don’t get why there are no tabs on the menus so you have to scroll through them all, why you must have jpegs whether you want them or not. The auto white balance seemed strange at first (7500k in sunlit scenes??) but it does actually seem near enough right. And yes it is very, very expensive.

But the bottom line is so easy to use casually, and fantastic IQ from a fantastic lens. For once Leica seem ahead of the game and listening to potential users. So maybe, just maybe, this one won’t be going on eBay in a month or so…

Thanks for reading and thanks Steve for your great site!

David Nash
Edinburgh, UK

Jul 132015
 
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A Review of the Sony A7II from a Newbie to Photography

by Alex Foon

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Hi Steve!

First of all thanks for hosting such a wonderful, no-nonsense website that I’ve been religiously visiting every single day. The past six months had been a roller coaster ride for me (photographically speaking) and I just managed to find time, sit down and write a photography beginner’s review of the Sony A7 mark II.

Prior to 12 Dec 2014, my tool for photography had been limited to camera phone and then smartphones. Back then, I never understood why some of my friends were into this expensive hobby called “photography” – the hassle to carry DSLRs the size and weight of a bowling ball, lifting it up to your face, adjust the settings for what lasted like an eternity, and then fire in burst; when the simple action of whipping out the iPhone could seemingly produce similar results.

Fast forward to the fateful 12 Dec 2014, I touched down at the airport after a grueling business trip, in my mind I was thinking perhaps I could do a little shopping therapy and so I aimlessly walked into the Sony store. The storekeeper told me that their latest release was the Sony A7II (just launched that day) and 10 minutes later I walked out with the A7II kit bundle, not knowing better what I had gotten myself into.

Of course over the next few days I was quite excited about my new toy, I had absolutely zero idea about what was aperture, shutter speed, metering, exposure, depth of field and etc. (maybe I still don’t quite get it now). It was frustrating to have such a high-end camera and yet the images I captured were not up to my expectation. I started researching online about how to operate the camera and how to capture a photograph properly, and that’s when I chanced upon your review of the A7II. It was almost instinctive that I made another investment in a prime lens (FE Zeiss 55 1.8, still my favorite lens to date) instead of keeping the kit zoom 28-70 (not that it’s a bad lens either).

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And then things started to get very interesting.

I suppose I needed to justify my impulse purchase, hence I brought the A7II with me everywhere I went, from daily grind in the office, to Penang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing and many more locales to come. The delectable combo of the lightweight A7II body coupled with solidly build FE lenses means it’s possible for me to carry them in my backpack all the time, and this allowed me to shoot whenever I find pockets of time in between.

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The improved ergonomics of the second iteration of the A7 series body should not be underestimated. The grip is beefed up for a firmer one handed operations when needed, and coupled with the placement of the shutter button, this alone potentially allows an additional stop of stability over the corresponding mark I’s in the series. And you’ll be surprised that a 45 degrees slant of the C3 button (C2 in mark I’s) can really improve the functionality of the camera especially when using manual focus.

Speaking of focusing, having such a shallow depth of field in full frame bodies makes the autofocus unreliable at times, you thought you might have nailed the focus on the eyes but when you review it again the spectacles were in focus instead. So 90% of the time I opt to use manual focus. MF is made stupidly easy and some might even argue that it is faster than the AF on the A7ii, turn the focus ring and the image magnifies, press my assigned C3 button and the focus magnifier further zooms in for fine tuning.

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With the OLED EVF, what you see is what you get! No more worrying about whether you nailed the exposure or the focus. The in-body 5 axis image stabilizer further supports the notion of WYSIWYG because I could be having seizure and still manage to see through the EVF and get a shot in focus. (alright, I promise this would be my only attempt in over-exaggerating, but you guys get the idea ;-D)

The short flange distance of the full frame A7ii camera body, working in tandem with manual focus assist tools and the IBIS, enable users to mount possibly every single camera lens ever made, as long as there is an adapter made to mount it. From my current favorite and affordable Minoltas, to the wallet breaking but absolutely fantastic Leicas, there is a lens for A7 users on any level of budget.

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I understand that Sony had announced the lustrous A7RII, and how willing am I to sell a kidney for that one. Looking at it from another angle, I’m glad Sony had priced the A7II at almost half price of the A7RII. And for all the joy and memories it had brought me over past half a year, I think this was the best impulsive buy that I had ever made. Today, I hope I had at least learnt something about aperture, shutter speed and whatnots, and I might have found a lifelong passion in photography.

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I will check out for now with 10 photos I had taken over the past 6 months with the A7II. Hope to finish my first roll soon on the Minolta SRT Super so I can send some entries in for Film Friday ;)

Till then, keep shooting.
Alex

Flickr: alex.foon
Facebook: facebook.com/sotongball
Email: [email protected]

Jul 082015
 

The crazy colorful world of the LOMO LC-A Art lens

by Huss Hardan

Hello Huffsters!

Brad Husick wrote a nice initial impression piece on the new LOMO LC-A Art lens. A pancake lens, rangefinder coupled for M mount cameras. Which also means that with adapters it can be used on almost anything.

It’s the cheapest, new with full warranty (2 years) M lens currently available. The parts come from Russia (nothing like your Nikon D610), and the bits are assembled in China (just like your Nikon D610).

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Anyway, enough of the small talk. What’s it like? Well….it’s meant for use on film cameras which is what I really bought it for – to use on a Leica MDa (a Leica M4 without a rangefinder or viewfinder). So on a digital Leica like my M it will smear in the corners just like any wide-angle non Leica manufactured lens (think most Cosina Voigtlanders). It will give wild colour casts and deep saturations. It will give sharp results in the center, not so much away from it. It will give some hefty barrel distortion.

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Much of this – the colour casts, the distortion – can be fixed post. But that defeats the purpose of this lens, as if you are going to do that you will just be left with a mediocre boring lens. Instead of a mediocre interesting lens!

It is the flaws that what make it, and so should be embraced. Otherwise shop elsewhere.

Of note: In the images here I did not boost colour saturation. This is what the lens does. I also noticed that I had to increase exposure by one stop in auto mode on the M.

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All images were taken the day I got the lens, down the street from my gallery – www.huzgalleries.com – in San Pedro, CA. Come visit us, it’s lovely!

Peace out

Huss

Jul 022015
 
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A Tribute to the Leica X

by Oliver Angus

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I’m a 35 years old French man (so, I beg your pardon for my far from perfect English), and I’m fond of photography.

In January 2015, I went to my Leica Dealer, In Paris, Bd Beaumarchais, and I bought a Leica X, Typ 113 (who invented such a stupid name ? Hey, man, this is not a car, this is a camera !).

It’s a gorgeous camera, and I will show you, at the end of this post, my first pictures with it, but now, I would like to talk about my previous camera : the leica X1, and to pay tribute to it, in order to say « au revoir ».

I bought this tittle gem in september 2010, a week before the birth of my daughter (another gem, much more precious). Previously, I spend hours on the internet to choose the perfect camera for me.

At this prehistoric times, the choice was much more simple than today : I was looking for a light and silent camera, with a IQ as good as DSLR’s. And the X was the one. Quite expensive, that’s a fact, but similar to a DSLR, IQ speaking, with a good prime lens and much more desirable. 10 days after this purchase, my daughter joined us, and I started to take stills of all this precious moments which flew away so fast.

I took my X1 with me all the time, during holiday, of course, but also, during the week ends, when we went to a park or a playground, or even ay work. I’m not a materialist person, but each time it was a pleasure to open the leather bag of the camera, to turn the aperture ring and to shoot.

Steve recently talk about the X files « that no other camera has » and I can’t be agree more.

During all these years, I’ve read religiously Steve’s posts and reviews, but also Ming Thein’s ones, every day, and I’ve seen all these fantastic new cameras arrived on the market : the fuji X100, the Sony RX1R, the Nikon Df, the Sony A7s, and each time, I asked to myself, Isn’t it the moment to buy a new camera, faster and with a faster lens ? And each time, I answer to myself : yes, this is a nice camera, but I do prefer the ergonomic of the X, I do prefer the leica color rendition (than the fuji, for instance), I don’t need anything else than my 35mm, and even if it’s not able to shoot in the dark, this is not a real issue.

A lot of people talked about the lack of an OVF, but, to be honest, I don’t need one. I’ve learned to focus thanks to the screen, and for portraits, a lot of people are intimidated if they are shot through a VF whereas they are not if they see the eyes of the photographer.

In fact, it was not about reason, but about connection with the camera.

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So I kept my X1, month after month.

But, with the time, the lens took more and more time to protract when I turned the camera on, and, honestly, my G.A.S was stronger and stronger.

I was considering buying a Fuji, and suddenly, the X arrived.

I’ve red Steve Review and I’am agree with the marketing flaw about the 1.7 aperture, but, the truth is : I don’t care.

Post scriptum : after 6 months of use, I’m as fan of the X, than I used to be of the X1. Maybe more, if possible. It’s one million times faster, and this is a huge improvement. The manual focus is easier to make. It’s even more gorgeous thank the X1. Any cons ? It’s a little bigger than the X1 and the color rendition, ooc in raw, was perhaps better in the X1. But as you can see, I rarely use color because, when I take my camera, I see the world in black and white (and greys).

Few weeks ago, Leica announced it’s Leica Q, which is basically an X, with a full frame sensor. It must be a wonderful camera; i have no doubt on this. But, for now, I’ve cured may Gear Acquisition syndrome. Can’t promise I won’t have a relapse in the future, but, before that I will enjoy my damn good X.
So long life to the X’s !

Best regards

Olivier
Here are some pictures with my Leica X.

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A lot more in my Flickr : //www.flickr.com/photos/23366047@N07/

The Leica X is available at B&H Photo, Amazon, Ken Hansen or PopFlash!

Jun 302015
 
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Visiting CHERNOBYL. A Photo Diary

by Gary Mather

 

Here is some brief history –

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. The accident occurred when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase. This led to the core of the reactor exploding. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released into the atmosphere. This lit the combustable graphite moderator on fire. This fire greatened the release of radioactive material, which was carried by the smoke of the fire, into the environment and atmosphere.

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Radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 350,000 people needed to be evacuated and moved to other places where they could live after the accident.

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Once the seriousness of the situation was known, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the USSR at the time, quickly gathered the top physicists and nuclear experts at his disposal to assess the situation. Thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, these experts decided the residents of Pripyat must evacuate. Residents were given two hours to gather their belongings. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. Residents remember that everyone was in a hurry, but nobody was panicking.

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The residents of Pripyat were initially told they would be evacuated only for three days. However, to this day, the town is uninhabitable. Pripyat city was founded in the 1970s, when the nuclear power plant opened. The site today is practically a museum showing the late Soviet era. With entirely abandoned buildings, including abandoned apartment buildings (four of which were yet to be used), swimming pools and hospitals, everything inside remains, from records to papers to children’s toys and clothing. Prypiat and the surrounding area will not be safe for people to live there for several centuries. Scientists think that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to nine hundred years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe.
We were there for a total of 2 days and I can feel we only scratched the surface of what happened on that fateful day.

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I was 13 when this disaster accoured and my only fleeting memory was seeing clips on the news as a child. To me it was something that happened a long way away in a place I could not even pronounce. I have wanted to visit this site for quite some time now, and I was, for want of a better word, lucky to have had that privilage just a few months ago.

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It is only when you are actually there can you understand the impact of such a huge global disaster, the heroism of the firefighters and the people first on the scene. It will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time, It’s just a shame our time here was so fleeting.

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We explored hospitals, schools and the fairground where stands the almost iconic ferris wheel still waiting to be ridden to this very day. The piano still standing in the music hall and the 3 empty seats left in the burn out lecture room. In the hospital maternity dept room full of empty cots sit silent. Of the whole trip the most poignant moment was seeing the childrens gas masks littered all over the floor of the elementry school in the town of Pripyat.

Gary Mather

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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