May 272016
 
rp_DSC9366-680x432.jpg

_DSC9366

Friday Film: Mamiya RB67 Pro S

by Hafiz Kamsadi

Hi Steve & Brandon,

Firstly, thank you so much to you both for everything you’ve done for the photographic community so far! Such fantastic passion and commitment to all things photography has really made this my daily site to visit for inspiration and fresh ideas and opinions.

I am a 24-year-old Singaporean based in Perth, Western Australia and I started photography 8 years ago shooting for my school’s media club. Understandably, I started off with DSLRs (Canon) but it was never more than just a hobby at that point in time. Fast forward 8 years (and MANY cameras and lenses from GAS) and I recently started a side business 3 years ago, as my hobby turned into my passion and love for photography.

_DSC9389

My point is, after going through Canon, Fuji mirrorless, back to Canon, and then Sony A7r system, I felt that I needed a change from digital and decided to make the jump into FILM! I had ZERO experience with film cameras or different film types and it was all new to me. After a few weeks of reading and after finding a pretty sweet deal secondhand, I purchased my very first film camera, which also became my very first MEDIUM FORMAT camera – the Mamiya RB67.

All I could say was WOW! Addressing the common perception with this camera: Was it big and bulky, heavy, slow to use, hard to focus, not that many fast lenses? Yeap, all that and more. But there’s nothing you can’t do without PATIENCE and PRACTICE. Here was a 1970s camera used and abused by so many professionals from that period and here I was 40 years after production still learning how to make the most out of this wonderful beast.

The Mamiya RB67 shoots 10 images from a 120mm film in a 6×7 format which in itself was a big change from the 3×2 ratio that I was used to from Full frame digital. My deal came with 3 lenses, a 50mm f4.5, a 127mm f3.8 and a 180mm f4.5. In full frame 35mm terms, that’s roughly a 25mm f2.2, 64mm f1.9 and a 90mm f2.2.

delta3200_01_12800_001

delta3200_01_12800_002

ektar100_03_006-2

ektar100_03_008-3

The thing I enjoy most with the RB67 from the very first shot till now is still that HUGE mirror slap that probably causes tremors. Shaky photos? Yes sometimes but I practice good form and technique so it has improved tremendously. That bright and big viewfinder was like going to the movies every single time i look down into the waist-level viewfinder. The all mechanical machine with zero electronics meant that every single motion and action I did was all up to me. No autofocus, no metering, no auto film winding and I found it a JOY and a breath of fresh air from all the digital settings that we are all too accustomed too.

portra160_roll_01-039-3

portra160-EveShoot_140216-006-3

portra400_03_007-3

portra400_roll_05-005-2

With all the comparisons with different digital sensors from different manufacturers, have a look at the insane options of film! Each film stock has its own unique characteristics and strengths and weaknesses. It was wonderful to try various film to learn and experiment. The smooth tonal range of 120mm film, the grain (or lack thereof), and the HUGE latitude you get with film that is still unsurpassed with digital (Portra 400 has 19 stops of dynamic range!!).

Ultimately, it was the experience of re-learning photography from scratch that tugged my heart to film. Any error in the final photo was noone’s to blame but mine. I understood how to meter by looking at the quality and intensity of the lights and shadows and I appreciated composition and the quality of a scene more than anything since I only had 10 shots per roll. I purchased an Epson V700 scanner to minimise the high costs of lousy lab scans to maximise the beauty and quality of each roll I had. Till this day, NOTHING beats the feeling I have when I get back my film negatives and slides (especially my Fujifilm Velvia slides!) and popping it into my scanner, make adjustments and make the final test print as the final product.

portra400_roll_05-010-3

portra400_roll_05-101-3

portra400010-2

tmax100_03_001-2-3

velvia50_02_002-2

velvia50-roll-3-23032016lancelin004-3

velvia50-roll-3-23032016lancelin012-3

velvia100_JAPAN012-3

velvia100_JAPAN015-3

velvia100_roll_03-088-3

velvia100_roll_03-091-2

After 6 months with the camera, it felt like digital was too easy. Yes digital was convenient and efficient and I still use it mostly for my work. But every chance I get, I go analogue and I shoot film because it refreshes my soul.

I think I could go on and on about film so I shall stop here! xD

I am still new to film and am learning new things everyday. I normally use Kodak Portra 160, 400, Ektar 100 and Fujifilm Velvia 50 & 100.  I occasionally shoot TMAX 100 and Delta 3200.

I hope my story and my images below will be a source of ideas and inspiration to a few, just as the countless previous posts on this website have been an inspiration to many.

You can find more of my work on my online portfolio at hafizkamsadiphotography.com

Please also support me if you like my work:

Instagram: @hkamsadi

Facebook: Hafiz Kamsadi Photography

Thank you Steve for this avenue to express myself and happy clicking and snapping to you all :)

Your film photographer,

Hafiz: Mamiya

May 192016
 

howtour

How to submit a User Report or Daily Inspiration!

Hey guys! Happy Thursday! Many have been e-mailing me lately asking how to submit a review, report or daily inspiration. It’s easy!

If you want to share with a huge photo community right here on STEVEHUFFPHOTO, all you have to do is have your report written up, some images, and then to email them to me at [email protected] with the subject line of “USER REPORT”. You can include links to your website, social media or wherever. Images should be no larger than 1800 pixels wide and no smaller than 680 wide. You will get exposure for your website, blog, or social media. Your report can be on ANYTHING related to photography. A review, an essay, or a personal project. A gadget, gizmo or accessory. A story about your personal journey. What inspires you?

So if you want to submit a report or review email me HERE. 

For a Daily inspiration, just send three fave photos of yours, an explanation of them and what gear was used. Email those to [email protected] as well with the subject line “DAILY INSPIRATION”.

To read more details about submissions, see HERE for User Reports and HERE for Daily Inspirations! 

Thank you all!

May 172016
 

My thoughts on the Fuji X-Pro 2

by Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve,

I’ve been trying the Fuji Xpro2 for a couple of weeks and have real images with my final word that thought of sharing it with you.

MY WEBSITEhttp://www.hakemphotography.com  – FACEBOOK: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography INSTAGRAMhttp://Instagram.com/moh_hakem

I can now say that I’ve used the Xpro-2 in many situations: I’ve used it casually, for taking pictures of my friends and family, in professional photo sessions, under the rain and in the desert were it experienced hard dusty conditions,  What I can say is that it is the best fujifilm camera Out there. It is very responsive, fast and quick. As you have already noticed I didn’t speak much about the specs because I am not a fan of evaluating a camera by its numbers! great pictures are not taken by higher spec camera. If you understand the Fuji approach which is a camera that you will love to use and will reward you with excellent image quality rather than going into a pointless technical race. Now the Auto focus is on the DSLR level, not the pro ones but still very good, For me I will wish nothing more than that.

image5

The New Sensor is 24MP and this is in my opinion is the sweet spot in the MP counts. I’ve tried Higher than this (36MP and medium format) and I see no reason to have higher than 23MP. 16MP was very good and having a 24MP is the highest that I would want… for now.

I have used the camera in a photo session and the colors were absolutely amazing. the quality it produces really shortened my post processing time. Black and white out of the camera is beautiful! I bet if any one would ever retouch a black and white afterwards.

the ISO performance is fantastic, a little grainy but higher in details, it won’t give you the melted look of the extreme ISOs of the XT-1.

image4

image3

image1

for me this is the best camera and would be my primary one

image7

The Pros:

-Perfect Image Quality

-Very good Auto Focus

-Fantastic Buttons Layout

-Hybrid view finder is very good – still the X100T is better

-Dynamic Range is very ..very good

-The Camera is responsive – you won’t feel a difference if you are coming from a Pro DSLR

-JPEGs out of the camera are the best of all

-In Camera filters are very useful

-And of course the things that Fuji are already famous of (build quality/Size/looks/etc..)

The Cons:

– No tilting screen! the back LCD in the mirrorless world proved to be used by professionals! we were just not used to it due to the DSLR limitations. Now the tilting screen is being used in many applications. I personally use it in landscapes and sometimes in street like shooting from the hip technique.

-Battery life, mirrorless are known to have this drawback. in the XT-1 the camera made around 300 pictures per charge. with the XPRO2 the usage became more and it is around 250. To be on the safe side during assignments I usually have 4-7 batteries!

May 172016
 
x2t

x2t

The Fashionable X-Pro 2

by James Conley

Hi Steve and Brandon. I wanted to share a fashion editorial with you, and my experience using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in the studio.

For a few years now, I’ve relied on Fujifilm’s X-Series as my workhorse system for documentary, street, and travel photography. Originally working with an X100s and an X-E1, I’ve now added the X-Pro2 to the stable. (These days, the X-E1 is a backup body.) However, for studio work I’ve continued to rely on Canon.

Studio work involves different kinds of habits from those of the photojournalism I usually do. The thought process in working with lights, settings, models, and scenes is nearly quite the opposite kind of thinking required to capture unfolding moments on the street. Studio work is slower and more deliberate, and the distractions of the equipment cannot be avoided, with each shot requiring manual adjustments of light stands and strobe settings.

For studio thinking, I always found a Canon DSLR a good match. The studio is about controlling light, and it’s often a dim place to work. Seeing directly through the lens is not only easier in low light, but it also makes me feel more connected to the model. Fleeting expressions are easy to catch, and small framing adjustments are quickly comprehended when looking through an SLR.

The X-E1 was impossible to consider for the task. The slow refresh rate of the EVF is very frustrating in low light. The X100s was too limited with its lens options (even taking into account the WCL and TCL). Its EVF suffers the same problems as the X-E1, and the rangefinder is not an acceptable solution because of parallax issues. So it was Fuji on the streets, and Canon in the studio.

XPRO5459 XPRO5342 XPRO5326 XPRO5518

With time, however, the Canon system has shown its age. Not the least of the frustrations is a limited number of focus points. Especially when shooting with wide apertures, “focus and reframe” can introduce a host of issues. There are also issues with low light performance. Working with an SLR, it is much harder to tell if the focus is correct in low light, and many times it isn’t.

Newer Canon bodies have more focus points and better low light performance, but that necessitates buying a newer body. I have a substantial investment in Canon glass, but unfortunately the technology has left them behind and there are many frustrations with focus speed and lock on. What was a great L-series lens a few years ago is now a slow-focuser with a lot of chromatic aberration.

With the X-Pro2 in hand, I finally had an option. The EVF is fast enough not to be a distraction, and the low light performance is excellent. Faced with the choice of upgrading the Canon system or testing the X-Pro2, it was easy to decide to get the Fuji hooked up to the lights see what would happen.

XPRO5687 XPRO5750 XPRO5594 XPRO5766

My approach to studio light is very simple: one or two Paul Buff lights, with a variety of modifiers. The lights are on radio triggers, with a transceiver on the camera. I shoot the camera in manual, and make adjustments to the lights as needed to achieve the exposure I want.

The first problem came when the radio triggers wouldn’t trip the light. Investigation into the issue led to no satisfying answers. I’ve used Yongnuo 603Cs for years with no issues. My first fear was a hotshoe issue with the X-Pro2. (In the past, I’ve found that Canon studio accessories worked with the Fujis.) Forging ahead, though, I made the assumption that the issue was with the Yongnuos and not the X-Pro2, and purchased a set of RadioPopper receivers and a transmitter. They worked straight out of the box with not a single misfire, so I’ve concluded that the pins on the Yongnuo 603C’s aren’t correct for the X-Pro2.

Although a stressful one, the trigger issue turned out to be the only issue. The X-Pro2 is a delight to use in the studio. The EVF gets out of the way, and there were very few focus issues—and only when there were a lot of shadows. The sensor on the X-Pro2 is fantastic, and gives a very film-like quality to the images, with incredible amounts of latitude.

Getting the X-Pro2 set up for studio use is short work:

set the shutter speed to 1/250th
set the ISO to 200
turn Preview Pic Effect off
turn the flash mode to on

Manually set the aperture, and away I go.

I’m looking forward to continuing to use the X-Pro2 in the studio. Even more, I’m looking forward to not having to buy a new Canon!

More images can be seen on my website: http://f-eleven.com, and on Instagram: @philatawgrapher

May 122016
 

Blast from the past – Kodachrome 25 revisited

by Jerry Melcher

Brandon and Steve,

Believe it or not I have been playing around with a select set of Kodachrome ASA 25 slides from a series of vacations taken in 1984. The images that pop out at you in a small slide viewer or on the screen from a Leica projector are very difficult to capture in a display monitor much less print.

Little Yosemite_from Glasier Point

So about 10 years ago I began a journey to process my old pics. I cannot tell you how many articles I read, how many types of scanners I’ve tried and services I’ve paid for. On top of that every time a new piece of imaging processing software showed up I had to pull out the set of Keepers and rerun them. Anyway I hope you find these 3 shots from Yosemite enjoyable. I will also provide over the coming months examples from Ireland and England also from 1984.

Three Brothers Yosemite Valley Oct1984 Sentinel Dome Jeffrey Pine 1984

All shots taken with a 1982 Pentax ME Super with 28mm lens. The last two images scanned at West Coast Imaging on a Heidelberg Tango. Kudos to them.

” . . .Momma don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

Jerry Melcher

May 092016
 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The OLYMPUS PEN F Experience

PEN-F-SLV_left_M75mmF18_BLK_ECG4

By Thomas Ludwig of COSYSPEED

Thanks Steve for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the PEN F on your amazing blog. You are doing super great work and I feel inspired everyday!

It’s a sexy little camera, the PEN F. Many would use it as a street photography camera and that’s the way I wanted to review it. My focus was also on the way it fits into a CAMSLINGER bag and how this combo works on the streets.

JPGs out of cam are extremely good, so I didn’t touch the RAWs at all. All images in this review, except product images, are straight out of cam, shot in Monochrome Mode II with added grain and vignette. That’s the way I would have processed them in Lightroom.

FACES – The OLYMPUS PEN F in Lübeck/Germany

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The PEN F in the Streets

Some days ago I got the chance to test the new Olympus PEN F together with some Olympus prime lenses and I was curious to see how it performs. As many others like Steve have already mentioned all features of the PEN F in their reviews, I will only focus on street photography with the retro stylish micro 43 camera – of course to my personal needs and habits.

When shooting on the streets most important to me is image quality and focusing abilities. And so this review is mainly focused on these points. In fact it ended up being a PEN F / Monochrome Mode review, as I liked the JPGs right out of the cam.

For those of you who don’t like to read long texts: The PEN F is a timeless designed camera, that you will enjoy for many years. In my eyes it is already iconic, just like it’s forefather PEN F from the 70’s. I enjoyed using it every minute especially because of the JPGs that I could use without editing – this gave back HUGE fun to my style of street photography.

 OBSERVED

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The setup

Olympus PEN F | Olympus 12mm/F2 | Olympus 17mm/F1.8 | Olympus 45mm/F1.8 | Spare Battery | Olympus Macro Converter

All packed in a CAMSLINGER 160 with STUFFBAG 30

CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F

003 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F

BEAUTIFUL GRAIN and NICE LOOK – All images in this review are shot in Monochrome Mode II with Grain and Vigenette added. This was made all in cam.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TIRE and WOOD
NICE DETAILS and RICH TONALITY – The new sensor in the PEN F delivers plenty of detail. Tonality of the Out Of Cam JPGs is simply great!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image Quality

Actually I had only two full days of street shooting with the little Oly. So I went to Lübeck in my neighborhood, a city next to Hamburg/Germany. I shot in RAW and JPG, while for JPG I used the Monochrome II filter, added some vignette and grain – all IN cam which is absolutely great. I would have converted the RAWs this way in Lightroom and so I was keen to see how the JPGs would look like on the screen of my PC. And they looked great! That great, that I even didn’t touch the RAWs. So all the images in this review are out of cam without ANY editing. To me this worked 100% to my taste. High ISO? This is an overrated point IMHO, nevertheless the PEN F delivers very well images up to ISO 3200 and if used in Monochrome Mode with Grain, you can go higher without any problems.

Besides the cool design of the cam this is maybe the strongest point of the PEN F in my opinion – beeing free of editing and post processing and getting what I want right out of the cam.

SOMEDAY

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CHURCH

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OUT OF THE LIGHT

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

SPRING

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TUNNEL

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Handling

The PEN F handles very nicely. Due to a missing grip, it is maybe not as comfortable to hold as a SONY a6000 or LUMIX GX8, but there’s an optional grip available if you need it. To me it was absolutely fine. Especially because the PEN F feels very premium and it’s a pleasure just to hold it in your hand. All the dials feel durable and solidly made. The UI with so many physical controls needs some time to get used to, but as soon as you know where all functions are, it makes photographing much easier.

The design reminescense to the original PEN F from the 70ies is especially visible with the silver PEN F model. Look at these lovely curves and lines!

PEN F

011 PEN F

Focusing in the streets

I’m using mostly three focus methods when in the streets:

#1 – Single point auto focus
#2 – Continuous auto focus with subject tracking
#3 – Hyperfocal focusing

#1 – Single point auto focus

The auto focus of modern micro 43 cameras is so quick, that to focus and to trigger is almost one process. And so I was using single point auto focus most of the time and with moving subjects I had about 95% in focus, even when using the little 17mm/F1.8 wide open. The focus of the PEN F is insanely quick and accurate in single point mode. To me there was nothing left to desire.

WHAT DO YOU THINK – Single Point Auto Focus works amazingly quick and accurate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

#2 – Continuous auto focus with subject tracking

Actually this method seems to be the most charming. Set your focus point and the cam will track it until you press the shutter. However continuous auto focus with subject tracking turned out to be not very effective on the PEN F. I’d say that 50% of my shots were out of focus. I guess this is a firmware problem and can hopefully be fixed in the future. However focus is not all!

WELCOME TO THE GYM – Not in focus but I like it anyway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

#3 – Hyperfocal focusing

Set a distance in manual focus mode and just trigger, when you think your subject is in the frame as you like it. Sounds easy but in fact hyperfocal focusing is tricky if you like to get some DOF. The more you open the aperture, the thinner is the in focus area. The day in Lübeck all images where more or less out of focus, when using this method because I was shooting wide open all the time. If set to F10 I’d say 99% would have been in focus. I know now, that I have to improve my skills :-)

The OLYMPUS 17/1.8 and 12/2.0 are very well suited to this focusing method, as they have a manual mode with distance scale!

ROSARY, MISHABA or MALA – Hyperfocal focusing wide open is difficult

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The PEN F in a CAMSLINGER

A CAMSLINGER bag is all about quick, single-handed operation and designed to wear at the hip. I fixed the included FINGERCAMSTRAP to the cam and was able to grab the PEN F within a second out of my little bag. But the On/Off switch is on the left side of the PEN F and so one needs always a second-hand to turn it on. As soon as you have a coffee in your left hand or fix yourself while standing in a shaking subway with one hand, then you could of course access and draw the PEN F quickly out of the CAMSLINGER, but not take a photo. So I never switched the cam off and had it always in stand-by in my CAMSLINGER. This may cost a bit of battery power, but fixed my little problem easily.

CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F 015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (1)

015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (2)

015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (4)

015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (5)

Carrying the PEN F and gear in a CAMSLINGER at the hip, is extremely comfortable. As your upper body is free of belts and straps, your neck will never hurt. In fact it is almost as quick to grab your cam, as it would be with a sling strap – but the PEN F was always protected, when not in use. I prefered to use the slimmer CAMSLINGER 160 then the more space offering CAMSLINGER Streetomatic. The 160 is just perfect for rangefinder styled cameras like the PEN F.

THOMAS IN LÜBECK WITH CAMSLINGER AND PEN F

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Conclusion

The PEN F is a marvelous piece of camera design and delivers stunning images. It’s technology is up-to-date and will be for many years. I’m hoping a firmware update will lift the tracking abilities on the professional level of the OLYMPUS EM-1, because this is a feature that makes street photography much easier.

The possibility to get final results right out of the cam is pretty cool and gives a further kick to the fun I had with the PEN F. So just go out, shoot and come back with images that are simply ready – to some this is might be a game changing benefit!

The PEN F is one of these rare cameras that one will use for many years and so a good medicine against G.A.S. :-). The timeless design and great build qualty makes a camera that is simply gorgeous! If you are looking for a street photography camera – go for the PEN F!

 

Reference: COSYSPEED

B&H PHOTO: COSYSPEED BAGS

FROM STEVE: Thanks Thomas! Many of you may not realize I met Thomas in Las Vegas a couple of years back where we shot a Street Shooting video. Thomas is an amazing man and he has a great passion for photography, that was very clear when we met. Below is the video we shot while there, was a great memory I will never forget.

 

May 022016
 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mighty Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm Lens Review

By Bob Towery

panasonic_100_400mm_g_series_lens_1211984

I recently acquired the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens to go along with my Olympus OMD-M5 Mk II kit. I didn’t start off with the idea of writing a review but as I began getting to know this lens I thought it might be a nice addition to Steve’s excellent collection of resources for us enthusiasts. (From Steve: Thank you Bob)!

As background, I have been shooting digitally since 2001, with Canon bodies and a wide array of L lenses. I have had a number of 70-200’s, as well as 300mm and 400mm L primes.

About five years ago I wanted to get into a smaller kit for travel work. Partly with the excellent information I got here on Steve’s site, I got a Leica M9 setup and used this for quite a few trips. But I do enjoy telephoto work as well, and certainly that’s not the M9’s forte. And although I became pretty proficient at both manual focusing, there are still those instances where you have one second to get a shot and it’s lucky indeed to have pre-focused accurately. I found I was only using my M9 when going street shooting.

Fast forwarding, when the Fuji XT series came out I dove in. Somehow I just never warmed up to this system. It’s AF was exceedingly poor (since improved I’m told). The camera also failed on a trip, the first time that had ever happened to me. Although Fuji did a stellar job of repairing it quickly on their dime, this unnerved me and I sold that kit off.

Knowing Steve had always been an Olympus fan, I followed those reviews, and when the OMD M5 II was released I jumped into the Oly pool. Using the Olympus kit has been very rewarding. It’s a high performing camera, with the only limit (for my use) being the noise at higher ISO’s.

THE SCENE

Living where I do on an island near Seattle, I have a lot of opportunities to shoot interesting birds like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. The Fuji would nearly always miss. So the first paces I put the Oly through were to shoot these birds, and its AF performance was excellent. This was with the 40-150mm, so fully zoomed in we are at 300mm effective. But even these large specimens of the bird world are pretty small subjects. BTW, below I’ll do a few comparison shots with both the 100-400mm and the 40-150mm.

It’s spring time right now and there are a lot of beautiful flowers to shoot here. This will be a “real world” review. Some of the images are those subjects I enjoy shooting, and some are just for the review factor.

THE MIGHTY PANASONIC-LEICA 100-400mm

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.34.40 AM

Enter the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm! Image stabilized, effective focal length (long end) of 800mm. Before we get into the pictures, I want to state that I’m not a professional reviewer, or even photographer, just an enthusiast. I know many of you would do your own tests differently than mine. My testing was around the kinds of things I like to shoot, which don’t involve test patterns. And all of these are real world, no tripods involved (well, one exception). Also, to be practical when I give a focal length, it will be what LR reports and is on the lens body, i.e. in-between 100 and 400. If you want to double the focal lengths you see given the body’s crop factor that is fine by me.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW OLYMPUS 300mm?

We all know Olympus was building and releasing their 300mm prime at about the same time. I considered this for a short time, as I prefer Olympus products and given the price of this glass, it’s going to be a fine prime performer. I’d bet my 401k that the Oly 300mm will outperform the Panasonic 100-400mm handily at the same focal length. But for me, these primes are impractical. “Zoom with your feet” really doesn’t work when say you are standing on a beach looking out, or trying to catch a flying bird. There have been times where I approached a sitting bald eagle with my full frame body and 400mm, and by the time I got close enough to make them fly away for a glorious picture, I can’t get the whole bird in the frame – too close! At an effective 600mm, I just can’t count on being the right distance from my subject. So the Oly 300mm prime is out for me.

HOW’S YOUR STABILITY?

I’m sure most readers know the camera has IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) and the lens has its own IS. Unlike a Panasonic body mated to the lens, sadly the Oly IBIS and the lens IS do not speak the same language. From my reading, and brief testing on my own, the best option is to turn IBIS off and use the lens IS, so that is what I did.

IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW

Also, Steve told me to process as I normally would. In general, this means a few tweaks in Lightroom, 90% of the time less than one minute’s work. I’ll point out below when I did no post. All images were made with the Olympus OMD M5 Mk II and the Panasonic/Leica 100-400 unless otherwise indicated. Only one shot was with a tripod. Others are hand held, sometimes with me leaning against a post. Apologies in advance if I didn’t test something as you would have. I really wanted to include some people shots, seeing how it rendered faces, even if that isn’t a practical use for the lens, but I didn’t have an opportunity to work that out.

Also, all images were exported from Lightroom using Screen/Normal sharpening. I decided to number the images, as readers often comment by number.

All right, let’s hit the road.

THE SAPSUCKER STUDY

Shortly after the lens arrived, I had a lunch planned with a friend who happens to be a great and dedicated wildlife photographer. Our lunch date was to discuss an upcoming joint trip. I had thrown the Oly and the lens in the bag, basically just to show him. He’s a Canon shooter too, no M4/3 experience.

When we got back to his home I opened the trunk and zipped open the bag. I handed it to him and we were chatting, but noticed a loud woodpecker nearby. I said, “let’s go check this out” and he said “they usually fly away once you start staring at them.”

#1 – 264mm, f/5.5, 1/2000, iso 640

Before we get to the “good shots,” I want to share this one, to show you what we were up against. (And it turned out to be a red breasted sapsucker, not a woodpecker, but they still bang away on the tree.) The sapsucker is in constant motion, including jumping from one branch to another. The tree is filled with branches both in front of and behind the bird. But notice that even in this tangled mess, with center dot focus selected, the lens focused perfectly.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

So as I began shooting, I had to move both left and right around the tree, while waiting for him to get clear.

#2 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, iso 640

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

It was a pleasure to have the reach to fill the viewfinder with a bird that is just say six inches high. Here at 400mm and a distance of perhaps 20 feet, the bird and the branch are magnificently sharp.

Crop of #2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is a 1:1 crop from this frame. How long is that talon, 3/8”s of an inch?

#3 – 300mm, f/8.0, 1/500, iso 640

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moving along to bokeh, this certainly isn’t the finest I have ever seen. And I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the massive range of this lens, the f/6.3 aperture when fully zoomed, and the sub $2,000 price tag.

#3 with background smoothed in Lightroom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However here’s what I got in about a minute in Lightroom. I used the Adjustment Brush, with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders all the way to the left. Then I went around the birdie numerous times which did a nice job of softening up the background area. I then lightened up the bird’s back just a tad. Given the fact that I’d have no shot at all with most of my other lenses, I can live with this.

As I’m getting these shots and my friend and I are viewing them on the LCD, he begins getting jumpy and then dashes into the house. He returns with his amazing Canon 200-400mm, mounted on an older 1D Mk IV. I have serious lens envy, but that kind of size just isn’t practical for me.

#4 – Iphone

BT100-400-6

My wife got this shot of us with her iphone. Guess who can handhold longer?

#5 – Samsung S6

BT100-400-7

Here we have King Kong on top and Cheetah below. Interestingly, my rig is both wider and longer than his, focal length speaking. His is a 1.3 crop body, thus the “widest” is 260mm. The lens has a 1.4 teleconverter built in, so with that engaged, he’s at 728mm by my calculation.

Of course I would never expect the Panasonic to compete with this Canon in IQ. However it does cost six times as much and weighs eight pounds. (My apologies, my friend didn’t get any shots that he felt like sharing, so we could compare.)

IMAGE WITHIN AN IMAGE

Over the years I have found finding new compositions within my images to be very rewarding. View your image full size, set a crop, then drag the crop around in the Navigator window. It’s surprising how often you can get an additional image or two from one of your shots. Sometimes even more compelling than your in-camera composition. But of course there is a penalty in terms of resulting image size, due to the crop. Not a big deal for blog/facebook posting, but would come into play say if you intend to print.

#6 – 100mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I saw the scene above, my thought was that the child on the bike could be interesting. Looks like a beginner, the setting is quite nice, and so on.

#7 – 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500, iso 400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Look what happens zooming way into the scene. The rider is nicely isolated. Bonus points for my timing of an otter jumping into the scene, what do you say? Normally I’d crop that out but it’s so unusual I left it in just for the fun factor. If I cropped that deep into the original image, there just wouldn’t be enough pixels left for much use. I believe at the time I planned to wait for the rider to get into that sunny area, but the otter surprised me so much I lost track. (I scrambled down on to the beach to try to get him too, but he was long gone.)

#8 – 141mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I saw this sailboat going by, I wanted to get a couple shots just to see how clearly the lens would render the lettering and sailboat details. But thinking about this “image within an image” idea I zoomed all the way in and moved the lens around the boat.

#9 – 400mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I found this colorful and pleasing composition and grabbed a couple frames.

#10 – 400mm, f/8, 1/1250, iso 400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This kayak was WAY far away. I would estimate 300-400 yards. The piling and bird are about half way to the kayak. Thought it would be interesting to see how the foreground would be rendered when I focused on the kayak. This is about a one quarter frame crop!

MT. RAINIER STUDY

So I’m very fortunate to have a view of Mt. Rainier from my backyard. She’s only out one out of every three to four days. There are often clouds that completely obscure her.

#11 – 70mm on a Canon FF body

BT100-400-12

Google Earth says the summit is 60 miles from my house. I wanted to get a full frame shot at 50 mm to show you what that looks like in person. But the weather hasn’t cooperated, so here is an older image I shot at 70mm on full frame. What can we do with the Panasonic 100-400mm on a nice day?

#12 – 400mm f/9, 1/800, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here we are at 400mm. Handheld! Note that between our positions are Seattle’s southern suburbs, as well as the Sea-Tac airport. The sky is continually filled with jets. It takes a rare day to have completely clear air, and I didn’t have any while preparing this piece. So I believe some lack of sharpness here is because we are looking through 60 miles of air as opposed to lens performance.

#13 – 300mm f/8, 1/200, iso 200 – tripod mounted – 12 sec timer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I took this one at 300mm as it includes an island that provides a little context. Used a polarizer to cut through the haze.

GOING BOATING

#14 – 100mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is a continual parade of boats in front of my place. Including ferries, commercial, military and pleasure craft. Here is one that isn’t real attractive but serves our purpose of seeing what this lens can do. This is a small boat, 30 feet at most. Above is what it looked like at 100mm.

#15 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Full zoomed in. Keep in mind the boat is moving, I’m having to pan to keep up with it. Pretty acceptable detail.

#16 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Google Earth tells me this buoy is 735 yards from my location (that’s more than four-thirds of a mile).

Sea lions often jump up onto the buoy and boats and other passersby stop in for a look. In this case some kayakers. Previously I have only been able to see this kind of detail with my high powered binoculars.

#17 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I’m shooting this, a speedboat comes along. While I can’t make out the license numbers on the bow, I can clearly read the model letters on the side. See the faded “4” on the top right of the buoy? Not bad from this distance.

#17 – crop detail

BT-panny100400reviewcropboat-

FYI this shows the crop in the boat/buoy image.

#18 – 300mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This boat was much closer. This is the uncropped shot at 300mm. Boat is going perhaps 20 mph; I’m panning. Everything looks good to me.

#18 – crop detail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take a look at this crop. Look straight down from the second zero in “2000.” There are two openings there. The one to the right is most likely a drain from an ice chest compartment. We are talking two inches wide, at the max. I’d say that’s pretty amazing detail. One can see that the dye from the canvas is leaching out and staining the hull, and this is in a shaded spot!

#19 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/640, iso 640

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of small details to look at in this ferry shot. Note that these ferries really move – about 23mph. This is a bit of a crop. Full size, it is very sharp.

#20, 100mm, f/4, 1/80, iso 1600

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This shot amazes me. There had to be some luck involved with my panning here, given that I’m at 1/80th and the shot is very sharp. But look at that perfect focus, in the dark.

BUILDING STUDY

#21 – Panasonic 100-400 – 146mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let’s get into comparing the 100-400 vs the Olympus 40-150 PRO. I really didn’t expect the Panny to hold up well against this lens, but once again I am surprised, in a good way. These shots are about a minute apart. I’m standing in the exact same location, attempting to have the Panny at 150 but missing by a couple mm’s. I turned IBIS on for the Olympus lens. The shot is cropped just a bit to be identical.

#22 – 40-150mm Olympus Pro – 150mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There isn’t really much between these two, is there? When I look at them full screen in Lightroom’s compare mode, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Even the tonality is remarkably similar – the building, the sky and the grass. No post on these images by the way.

.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What happens if we examine crops to show us more detail? Here are crops of the same two images for closer comparison.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I can see the wording on the sign is a bit sharper with the 40-150 shot. The focus was on the center rectangle, so the building was the focus spot. Perhaps the result here would have been different had I focused on the sign? It’s a slight difference in any case.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here is the upper right corner, which I chose because of the tree branch.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once again, the 40-150 shows more definition, at least to my eye. But I don’t think there is much to complain about with the 100-400 version.

(This setting by the way is http://www.bloedelreserve.org )

FLOWER STUDIES

#23 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/200, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The wind was blowing these plants around, so the shots don’t look as identical as they could.

I focused on the center flower in both cases. I think both images are perfectly reasonable. Kind of like the bokeh on the 100-400 shot a bit better actually.

#24 – Olympus 40-150 Pro – 150mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But there is definitely more detail in the lightest part of the flower with the Oly 40-150 version.

#25 – 264mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The post for this image was +38 on Vibrance, +12 on Saturation and a touch of vignette. I didn’t mess with the background area at all. Gorgeous bokeh, I’m sure due to my distance to the blossoms, and then the distance to the background.

#26 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/1250, iso 1600

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just a touch of Vibrance.

#27 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250, iso 640

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I came across this tuilip in someone’s yard and thought it would be interesting to see what the lens did with the very busy background. I added Vibrance as well as a graduated filter at the bottom in post, but left the background alone. Using the adjustment brush with de-Clarity would fix that right up.

#28 – 100mm / f/5.6, 1/250, iso 500

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is the scene, from the exact same spot, minimum focal length.

#29 – 100mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 1600

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Another shot from someone’s yard.

#30 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/1250, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One more, just to show that a background doesn’t have to be completely blurred to add to the image.

BIRD STUDIES

#31 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have some spectacular birds in our area. On the larger side, we have Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. Wasn’t fortunate enough to get any Bald Eagles but Ms. Heron decided to join in the fun.

Herons are very aware. They are able to get airborne with one leap of those long legs. So they don’t fly off unless you get too close. Given their great size, in the past I have gotten some nice images with my full frame Canon and 400mm fixed, approaching very slowly.

#32 – 318mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These birds are a joy to see in flight. They are gorgeous and graceful. Unfortunately they will show their tails in nearly all shots. That is because if you approach from the side, they fly the opposite way. If you approach from the back, as I did here, no matter which way they go, you only see the back. I really need to try this from a kayak or boat.

They are also smart and often wait to fly off until you look down at your footing, back of your camera, etc. So you have a very small reaction time. To me the important thing about this shot was that I sensed the takeoff, raised the camera, framed, autofocus was instant, and I got a crystal clear shot.

There’s just no griping about autofocus with this lens.

#33 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is an even better test. I was out on my deck, which is about 75’ above the water. I believe I was shooting the Harlequin ducks when all of a sudden I see movement in the sky. I instinctively raise the camera, get focus and shoot. No time to play with any settings. And we have a crystal clear shot in glorious focus.

#34 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was very close to this tiny bird, about 15-20 feet. This bird is perhaps 6 or 7 inches beak to tail. There was a concrete half wall between the bird and I, perhaps that is why it didn’t fly off. At 200mm on a full frame, this wouldn’t be much of a shot as the bird would be too tiny for any usage. Very impressed with the lens in this situation. The definition in the feathers seems just about perfect to my eye.

#35 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Mallards are relatively large, but at this distance, only this sort of focal length will create any type of reasonable image. This is a crop – about one-third of the frame.

#36 – 300mm, f/8, 1/500, iso 800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

These harlequin ducks are regulars in my back yard every Winter/Spring. They are extremely shy and fly off basically as soon as they see you. I have never gotten a decent shot of them until now. This shot was taken from about 100 feet away. I’m far enough back that they don’t panic.

#37 – 318mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 500

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having this range leads to some compositions I have never been able to consider before.

TELEPHOTO-MACRO?

#38 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/800, iso 320

While shooting the ducks, walking back to my house, I ran into this lizard. Pretty good size, probably 9″ long. Why not give it a try? Minimum focusing distance is 1.3 meters, which is where I was (moved a bit back and forth until I got focus lock.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CONCLUSION

I like this lens a great deal. I have never had this kind of reach before, and for some of the subjects I like to shoot I feel it will be invaluable. I’m very impressed that the IQ compares “quite well” to the Olympus 40-150mm. If I was going on a trip where I wanted this extra reach, I’d have no problem leaving that Oly lens at home, maybe throwing in a couple of Olympus primes for the intermediate range.

All things considered, this is an effective 800mm lens that is 6.5” long (collapsed) – a modern marvel, in my book anyway.

Would really have been nice to compare my images with my friend’s, with his Canon bazooka. Especially since his older body is also a 16mp like the OMD M5 II. But I’m not trying to get into NatGeo with my images. I especially appreciate the size/weight/value proposition of this Panasonic lens. His outings with that lens are few and far between, whereas I can bring this lens along anytime I want.

Although I didn’t show these images, for a while it appeared to me that images at 300mm were superior to those at 400mm. I did some test shots and cropped the 300mm ones to see an equivalent. Upon review, my thoughts just didn’t seem to hold up. I didn’t see any significant degradation at 400mm vs 300mm.

#39 – 400mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you want to be able to shoot anything moving, quick AF is a must. This lens has it. I was down by the beach having a cocktail with my wife this evening. I noticed this heron feeding. I took some shots of her wading, but really she was just too far away, even at 800mm, to make an interesting composition. Somewhere between 100 and 150 yards. I didn’t even have the camera to my eye when I sensed the movement. Quickly raised, got focus, fired. I love this artistic rendering, with the sun more or less directly behind the heron.

Of course I wish Olympus and Panasonic would cooperate such that the body-lens combo would use both IS systems. But these results are plenty good IMHO. Every single body/lens combo is a compromise in one way or another. Even a brand new Leica SL with the 90-280 zoom could not get many of the shots on this page, not being able to reach out to an effective 800mm.

#40 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 1250

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m closing with this one last image. First, it is my favorite image in the review. The camera and lens performed perfectly, the lighting was favorable, and Mr. Heron contorted himself into this wild position. This is a crop, it’s about 60% of the frame. Imagine the FF Body/800mm lens it would take to get a shot like this? I could own one, but it is doubtful I would be all set up with it to capture this moment.

Which brings me to my very last thought (finally! You are thinking). Had it not been for needing to go shooting for this review, I wouldn’t have a lot of these shots. As I’m quite pleased with many of them, this is a reminder to us all to get off the computer and get shooting. It’s a beautiful world, and at least for me, this lens is going to help me capture that much more of it.

Thanks Steve once again for your site. Thank you to my fellow photographers for reading and I hope this is helpful.

Apr 132016
 

Photo trip to Peru

by Alec Fedorov

Hi Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSCF5966

DSCF5993

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

DSCF6291

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

DSCF6168

DSC01223

DSCF6143

DSCF6156

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

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

DSC01282

DSCF6551

 

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

DSC01426

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

DSCF6620

DSCF6707

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

DSCF6821

DSCF6840

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

DSC01762

Alec

Thanks,
Alec

Apr 092016
 

titles7ii

A Sony A7II long term review

By David Lintern

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

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

sonya7ii-1-1024x682

The practicalities – size and weight

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

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

Glen Etive – Sony 28-70 Kit Zoom

Glen Etive, Sony 28-70mm

Lenses

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

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

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 

40ona7

 

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

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

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

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

Body

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

Shelter on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

shelter on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

Camp at Creag Meagaidh, Sony 16-35mm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

The schoolhouse ridge, Sony 28-70mm

Silver birch on Loch Awe – Voigtlander 40mm

silver birch on Loch Awe - Voigtlander 40mm

The one camera to rule them all?

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

http://www.davidlintern.com

Mar 272016
 

Digital, Optical and Fixed. The Harinezumi 4.0

by Darek Meyer

Nothing changes here, in Indonesia, very much. Traffic also with no improvement, “horrible” is very polite expression to describe it. I`ll not make a deep dive into topic of safety, we all hear what is happening around, also in Europe. Unfortunately, Indonesia is not free from dangers, either. Rainy season is coming to an end, no serious flood this year in Jakarta. Bit of free time to refresh the webpage; update from Robert and me is already online, and as usually you can check it on http://where-were-we.com.

Luckily, camera manufacturers give us always something new to talk about. And, as result, to check how deep our pockets are. New gear from Fuji (oh, how tempting X70 is), Q (I treat it still as new camera, as availability is so poor), also lovers of DSLRs will have new beasts from Nikon and Canon very soon. As my trusted Ricoh GR died recently, there is new camera coming. But this is something for a post in future.

These days, digital camera with fixed lens, like 35mm, and optical viewfinder, does not sound any exciting anymore. Right??

Well…
Till time you realize, that among all these heavily branded cameras, with tons of functionalities and millions of ISO, you can also find tiny gem, which in addition will not force you to break the bank. I do not know whether you`ve already seen it, the tiny cam with hedgehog logo. You can be really surprised when you receive the box… Well, here it is: Harinezumi 4.0.

71Ay17RuwFL._SL1500_

One can ask: why the hell bother with a camera, which has 3 (yes, three) megapixels? if you happen to have 10 years old phone somewhere in the drawer, probably it will have better resolution.
The truth is, phones are for making calls, and cameras… just kidding.

I`m not really about to write an extensive review of this camera. All technical data you can find in the net. For the ones who would like to give it a try, couple of points to remember:

– it`s all plastic. As such, it is squeaking and cracking when you just keep it in your hand, pressing the shutter makes the sound even more interesting
– shutter lag is around 1 (one) second. So think before you frame and shoot, unless you are into slow mo, like continental drift
– battery / memory card cover is very weak. Rubber part covering USB got separated from the camera at first use. Bit of super glue keeps it in place; still possible to get to slots via plastic cover
– optical viewfinder – well, it`s just plastic frame. Unless you get experience, do not count on it to help you to frame
– rear screen: if I tell you that compared to it, Leica M9 has excellent screen, then you have the picture
– ISO 100 is great, other option available is 800, which , well, for BW can still be ok
– macro mode is great
– there is no flash
– BUT it does make movies, at 1, 8, and 30 frames per second! If you have seen a movie „Begotten”, then you can get very similar look for your productions
– there is no RAW… and 16GB memory card (micro SD) will hold for you almost 5,000 shots
– battery (installed and not possible to exchange) will last for about 100 shots; charging can be done from power bank and takes 2 hours.

After reading this, you can ask – why to bother? Answer is very short: FUN!

71xY+I+bSTL._SL1500_

81XHJ1v5I7L._SL1500_

This camera is tons of fun. Yes, it even brings attention when you try to use it on the street, BUT no one will have anything against. it simply does not look any serious. And the look of picture, already OOC, is, well, unique.

Below are some examples of what to expect. BW of course, as I`m this type of person. As a bonus, two in color, taken in small market in Jakarta. And especially here you can see, why some people call this camera “digital Lomo”.

bw1

bw2

bw3

bw4

bw5

bw6

bw7

bw8

bw9

bw10

bw11

color1

color2

Of course, it is not camera for everyone. But I`m not surprised, that it exists on the market, and have so many fans. Harinezumi 2+++ (older brother) has cult status among many people; and I can tell you – it can be addictive.

Enjoy the pics! Bit more from this camera on http://darekmeyer.com/LOFI.html

best regards
take care

Mar 212016
 

Shooting portraits with a Phase One IQ250

By Andrew Paquette

About three years ago I started getting serious about photography. At the time I didn’t know what I wanted to shoot, just that I wanted the shots I took to be better than they had been. My first attempts to improve my photos involved getting better equipment. I upgraded my Nikon D70 to a Nikon D5100, then to a D800, and then an A7r (though it isn’t technically an ‘upgrade’). At the same time, I improved the quality of my lenses, eventually acquiring a collection of Zeiss, Leica, and Nikon glass.

The equipment made a difference in a few ways. Technically, I had more pixels, better colour fidelity, and more control over how the pictures were taken. However, for quite a while I wasn’t sure what I wanted to shoot. I started with landscapes, macro nature shots, street shots, and sports. Of these subjects, I actually got a few paying gigs to shoot outdoor basketball (a regular gig, as it happens). Sports were fun to shoot, but I was still looking for better quality images. This led me to start renting studios so that I could work with studio lights. The difference in quality was a real revelation. At that point, though it was expensive, I started plotting ways to get studio time and access to medium format gear. Last year I picked up a Phase One IQ250, some ProFoto B1 units, and then proceeded to shoot everything in sight with the gear.

iq250

Although not made for sports, the colour produced by the IQ250 sensor was beautiful in the couple of basketball shoots I took it out on. It also excelled with the landscapes I tried it with. However, it really shines with portraits. I hadn’t shared those here to date because portrait shoots usually yield only one or two shots and it didn’t seem interesting enough to talk about such a small number of images. Now though, I have more—still not a lot—but enough to talk about. I am still working on making a portfolio, so these are not clients, but friends or acquaintances who have been kind enough to pose for me. All of the shots use between one and two ProFoto B1 units. Some also have a reflector or an in-shot light source. All but one of the portraits is taken with a Phase One IQ 250 back on a Phase One 645 DF+ camera. Lenses are either the SK 28mm LS or the SK 80mm LS. The sole exception to the Phase One group was taken yesterday with a backup camera (a Nikon D800 with a 15mm Zeiss Distagon) after I had a shutter failure with the 645 DF+. I was happy with the shot, but wished I’d had the Phase One because some of the shots from the shoot had to be discarded due to banding, something that would not have happened with the Phase One.

A comment on the lighting: I use the Nikon version of the ProFoto air remote but hardly ever use it on my Nikon. This is because I do almost all of my shoots with the Phase One now. When I have used it, I am usually annoyed with the TTL mode for ‘perfect exposure’. In practice, this usually means really bad lighting because it automatically adjusts the lights to get a nice histogram, but ignores every other factor in the shot. I much prefer shooting in manual mode with the lights so that I can make fine adjustments—even if the exposure isn’t ‘perfect’.

Below are some selected portraits:

Figure 1 Martijn, Nikon D800, Zeiss 15mm f/10, 1/250, ISO 100

Martijn

Figure 2 Bing (1), IQ250, SK 28mm, f/4.5, 1/160, ISO 800

HyperFocal: 0

Figure 3 Bing (2), IQ250, SK 28mm, f/7.1, 1/80, ISO 100

Bing-2

Figure 4 Neville the mad, IQ250, SK 28mm, f/7.1, 1/320, ISO 200

HyperFocal: 0

Figure 5 Neville the gentleman, IQ250, SK 80mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 400

HyperFocal: 0

Figure 6 Neville the gangster (1), IQ250, SK 28mm, f/4.5, 1/160, ISO 400

HyperFocal: 0

Figure 7 Neville the gangster (2), IQ250, SK 80mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 400

HyperFocal: 0

Figure 8 Martin, Sandy, and Les Paul, IQ250, SK 80mm, f/4, 1/80, ISO 200

Martin-Sandy-LesPaul

Figure 9 Martin with cycling goggles, IQ250, SK 80mm, f/6.3, 1/40, ISO 200

Martin with cycling goggles

Figure 10 Sally and Daisy, IQ250, SK 28mm, f/4.5, 1/160, ISO 200

Sally and Daisy

Figure 11 Parkour crew, IQ250, SK 28mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO 200

Parkour crew

Figure 12 Alex, IQ250, SK 28mm, f/7.1, 1/1600, ISO 200

Alex

Figure 13 Bulent, IQ250, SK 28mm, f/7.1, 1/1600, ISO 200

Bulent

Mar 142016
 

From Fuji to Sony and back again

By Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some images of the xpro 2

_DSF1545-2_Snapseed

_DSF1737_Snapseed

_DSF1281-2_Snapseed

Mar 082016
 

From iPhone to Sony A7RII

by Ryan Cole

Hello,

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

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

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

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

_DSC4493-2

_DSC4762

_DSC4568_HDR-2

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

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

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

Regards,

Ryan Cole
Manchester, UK

His 500px is HERE

Feb 242016
 

A shoot with my new Sony A7II & Contax Zeiss 50 1.7

by Fede Ranghino

Steve & Brandon!

I follow your blog for several years. Your reviews and your advice has been useful for the last shopping: I am extremely pleased with my new Sony A7II. (From Steve – Thank You!)

In the spring I have organized a photo shoot with some friends: the theme was the tradition of our land, the Po Valley in the North-West of Italy and the vast rice fields near Vercelli. The rice culture is present in our countryside for nearly a thousand years, you can imagine how deep and how strong this has shaped the land and the people. In the mid-eighteenth century, the farms became small villages, where dozens of families lived. In the spring the weeders arrived: women working in the sweltering heat of the rice fields.

Since 2004 Mr. Mario Donato has created a museum of rural culture and tradition in the farm “Colombara”: the workshops of the blacksmith and the saddler, the apartments of the farmers, the school, the old stables, the dormitory of weeders that we used as a set. As models we involved the local company of actors “The Camalli” who were dressed and made up in the style of the Po Valley countryside in the early twentieth century.

All photos were taken with my new Sony A7II and a good old Contax Zeiss 50mm f1.7.

01_Rice_weeders_having_lunch

02 Rice_weeder_tasting_the_soap

04_Rice_weeder_reading_newspaper

05_Housewife_preparing_lunch

07_The_teacher

08_The_teacher_and_the_student

10_The_student_at_the_desk

12_Blacksmiths_at_work

15_Rice_weeders_at_work

16_Rice_weeders_going_out_from_the_farm

You can see the photos on my dedicated 500px gallery https://500px.com/federanghino/galleries/italian-rice-fields-old-lifestyle

Thank you very much for your work ;-)

Fede Ranghino

https://www.facebook.com/fede.ranghino
https://500px.com/federanghino

Feb 102016
 
Return_to_Film-8

A Return to Film from the Leica Monochrom

by James Suojanen

Hey Steve!

I began making photographs in the 1960’s using a 35mm rangefinder and developing my own black and white film. I also made contact prints and did some enlargements. But I fell away from photography through college, professional training, career and early family life; no time, no money. And color photography eluded me. But when digital became affordable with the Nikon D70, I began again. Initially I went the SLR route, but as I got older I disliked the size and weight so I ended up back with rangefinders, eventually acquiring a Leica Monochrom to complete the return to my roots; or so I thought.

Using the Monochrom with just about any decent lens produced unbelievably sharp images.

This image was made using a 60+ year old 50mm Summarit during the Memorial Day Parade in my town (Summarit yellow filter, handheld) – Leica Monochrom

Return_to_Film-9

I made this image I made at the Military Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts. Normally the graves can have NO decoration. But the father of a posthumous Medal of Honor soldier buried there won the right to have flags placed at every grave site for the Veterans Day and Memorial Day weekends. An amazing event in which hundreds of volunteers appear, place the flags and then remove them. (Monochrom with a 21mm SEM on a tripod with a yellow filter) – Leica Monochrom

Return_to_Film-2

On a trip to my old stomping grounds in the South, I made this pic with the Monochrom and a 35mm Summilux FLE (UV filter).

Return_to_Film

I like all of these images. The prints have a medium-format acuity to them. But I just found/find them a bit sterile; they lack(ed) a certain “je ne sais pas” for me. So when I saw an announcement of a Leica Akademie workshop on film photography coincident with a trip to LA, I decided I’d take a second look at film. What I like about workshops is not only the focused time devoted to learning and practicing, but also the people the people I meet. I wasn’t disappointed by the cast of characters who assembled. And I was given 2 36-exposure rolls of Ilford XP2 for a sojourn through Chinatown and environs. Great fun, great instructor and a real adventure! Film DOES make you slow down and think about the images you’re making.

XP2 is a Black & White ISO 400 negative film developed using the C-41 process for color films. The images shown here were commercially scanned at the time of development with a 3,000 x 2,000 pixel resolution. All images were made with my Leica M7 and Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar, except for Bruce Lee – 90mm macro elmar. I used a yellow filter for about half of them. I post-processed in Lightroom and Nik. I think the color processing gives the files a good bit of latitude for digital post-procesing. The grain is very fine and uniform. For those do-it-yourselfers, I imagine that Kodak TMax would give similar results.

Peculiar – an open but very hostile gate.

Return_to_Film-5

Church in Hispanic neighborhood next to Chinatown

Return_to_Film-4

Building next to the Church. As I unloaded the second roll at the end of the day, I realized I had not rewound before I opened the camera. Steve can’t publish what I said at that moment, but I quickly closed the camera back up and hoped for the best. This bit of serendipity occurs with film and can make for some interesting images. The light from the sprocket holes provides celestial framing for this otherwise boring composition.

Return_to_Film-8

Return_to_Film-3

My favorite image of the day. Simple story within a complex image – maybe a metaphor for most of us seeking to find a path through the complicated thing we call life.

Return_to_Film-6

Statue of Bruce Lee. The sprocket light made a spotlight for his face. I had a very difficult time framing since I wanted to get his hand in-between the lanterns, like he was balancing them. I had to account for the lens/viewfinder parallax while I held the camera upside down.

Return_to_Film-7

A bench. The Voigtlander lens renders very nicely on film. It’s as sharp as a 35mm Summicron (had one a while back) with very nice bokeh. Small and light, I find it’s short focus throw terrific for street photography. I spent about $350 for the screw mount lens and adapter. It also looks great on both my M7 and my Leica IIIf.

For me, I saw these images and knew I was home again – at least for B&W. They just breath more that the Monochrom pictures. I don’t really know what it is. Certainly a lens will interact with a 20µ thick film emulsion differently than a 1µ micro prism at the top of a photocell in a digital sensor. It may also reflect an analog vs digital tonal range. Perhaps some/most of you reading this (thank you for taking the time to read this piece and look at the photographs), will think me deluded. That’s okay. Art is art, and a wise man once said, “There are as many paths to God as there are people on the Earth”. I’ll paraphrase him by saying that each of us has our own path (i.e. camera, lenses, etc.) to making THE PICTURE which we all seek.

Cheers and blessings,
JNSuojanen

P.S. Given the rapid depreciation of digital cameras, I don’t think there is any significant cost between film and digital for most of us amateurs (except if you shoot action stuff). My Leica IIIf is 60+ years old and works perfectly (I can’t say the same about myself).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: