Nov 082013
 

The Three Amigos in the Streets of New York:

Ricoh GR, Sony Rx1, Nikon V1 and 32mm Lens

By Joe Marquez – His website can be seen HERE

On a recent trip to New York, I took the Ricoh GR, Sony Rx1 and Nikon V1 (and 32mm lens) to do a little street photography on the side. The Ricoh GR is the smallest aps-c camera, the Sony RX1 is the smallest full frame camera and the Nikon V1 is most likely the fastest focusing mirrorless camera in the world. Walked around New York in my spare time carrying these three little cameras in a very nice ONA Bowery bag.

Here are my brief thoughts working with each of the cameras and I’ve included a plethora of images for your review.

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Ricoh GR

The diminutive Ricoh GR has the full frame equivalent of a 28mm f/2.8 lens and is widely touted as one of the best street cameras available. I consider its 16.2 MP aps-c sensor a sweet spot for street work. I’ve owned this camera for about a month and it took a few days to get comfortable with the menu system and features. I still have much to learn yet I was able to use the Ricoh effectively on the street.

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For the most part, I set the camera on TAv mode (manual setting of aperture and shutter speed and auto iso) and adjusted aperture and shutter speed as necessary. Very easy, intuitive and important because light in New York City changes often and significantly due to buildings, open avenues, cloud cover and more. I did blow out a couple of shots when I forgot to adjust shutter speed. However, other than my miscues, the camera seemed to consistently nail exposure.

Another feature I enjoyed was every time the camera turned on it would display the function buttons and the assigned customization. Such a small feature but so nice for a Ricoh novice such as myself. And of course the exposure compensation toggle was easily adjustable with my thumb and I used it with no problem.

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I really enjoyed the focusing options on the Ricoh – perhaps its strength. Primarily, I used snap focus between one to two meters but would often override by using the autofocus button. In general I stopped down as much as possible to maximize the DOF however there were situations when I had to shoot wide open at f/2.8.

Image quality from the Ricoh was outstanding. Colors looked accurate, black and white conversions were excellent and there’s plenty of detail in the 16.2 MP aps-c sensor.

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Oh and I really liked the small size of the Ricoh. One day while shooting the New York Halloween Parade (with a Nikon DSLR – my El Guapo) I carried the Ricoh in my pant pocket and used it for a few wide angle shots. Worked like a charm. Also, the camera is so small and discrete people pretty much ignored my picture taking. Thanks Ricoh for keeping the camera so nondescript. Well done.

Overall, the Ricoh was the smallest and most discrete of the three, but simply worked great – the Martin Short of the Three Amigos.

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Sony Rx1

The Sony Rx1 with the 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens is a superb camera and produces amazing images with its 24.3 MP full frame sensor. However, the Sony would be such a great street camera if it simply added a snap focus feature or would not revert to infinity every time the camera slept or was turned off. Of course shooting at f/8 or f/11 alleviates much of the focusing issues, but my intent was to shoot the Sony wide open to get that shallow DOF for a completely different street look than the Ricoh.

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To give me the focusing flexibility I assigned the C button to AF/MF Control Toggle and the AEL button to AF/MF Control Hold. This allowed me to alternate between autofocus and zone focusing. More often than not I would focus to a particular point by holding down the customized AEL button, then release to lock in the distance. This required some extra effort but worked reasonably well. I probably looked silly randomly aiming the camera at different things in different directions to get the zone focusing distance I wanted. And of course every time the RX1 went to sleep the distance would revert to infinity. Ugh.

Overall I was willing to sacrifice the percentage of keepers to get that shallow DOF and lovely out-of-focus rendering from the Sony – so most of my shots were taken at f/2. Occasionally a scene required a greater DOF and it was a treat to hear and feel those 1/3 incremental soft clicks when I turned the aperture ring. Sweet camera this RX1.

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I shot in manual mode (mostly f/2) and auto iso and adjusted shutter speed depending on light. The exposure compensation dial is readily accessible and allowed me to quickly tweak if needed.

Image quality was superb as one would expect from this camera and the shallow DOF shots were just what I wanted.

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If the Ricoh GR is Martin Short, the Sony Rx1 is Steve Martin – the most successful of the Three Amigos.

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 v1

Nikon V1 and 32mm Lens

That leaves Chevy Chase. I only took one lens with the Nikon V1 and that is the 32mm f/1.2. This gave me the equivalent of an 86mm super fast lens on a fast focusing camera – all in a package similar in size and weight to the RX1.

As you may be aware I am a fan of Nikon’s 1 System, primarily because it is the fastest focusing mirrorless system available. And despite the small CX sensor, the camera delivers more than adequate image quality for my street photography. Add the 32mm lens to the V1 and now I had a crazy quick rig and an entirely different look than the Ricoh and Sony.

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In many ways the Nikon is the easiest to shoot because it has the fewest bells and whistles. I set the camera to manual or aperture priority and auto iso. I love shooting at f/1.2 and the greater DOF with the small sensor hides many focusing errors. Focus is set to auto-area, face-priority AF is activated and I simply let the camera rip with its silent electronic shutter that reaches speeds of 1/16,000 sec. So different than the Ricoh and Sony.

Autofocusing is fast, accurate and tracks very well – although not perfectly. If someone walked toward me I raised the Nikon and pressed the shutter. Most of the time the camera found a focus point quickly, but occasionally it hunted before finding a subject or face. Sometimes it missed focus entirely, then latched on in the second or third shot of a continuous sequence.

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The Nikon was so fast I was able to get a considerable number of in-focus shots out the window of a fast moving New York taxi. It could see it trying to lock onto people’s faces standing or walking near an intersection. Incredible little camera and the 32 is just plain special IMHO.

Image quality may be the worse of the three cameras but is perfectly adequate. The metering system is top notch and the small 10 MP files convert beautifully to black and white. The out-of-focus rendering of the 32mm lens is a pleasant surprise and of the three cameras it produced subject isolation the best.

The Nikon with the 32 is larger than the Ricoh, but because of the longer focal length I was able to get some nice close-ups without being intrusive. People in the street generally ignored my shooting with the Nikon and 32 and I believe I was able to get the most natural looking candids of the three.

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Overall the Nikon did a great job on the street and I probably ended up with more keepers than with the Ricoh or Sony. I suspect this may change over time as I become more familiar with the Ricoh GR.

So the Nikon 1 system may not have the image quality of the Ricoh or Sony, but the one strength it has – incredible autofocusing – when coupled with the fast 32mm prime lens makes for a beautifully efficient street rig.

Final Thoughts

You may wonder why I took three cameras and didn’t just use the Nikon V1 and an all-in-one zoom lens (10-30mm) or a couple of primes (10/2.8 and 18.5/1.8). Well, the zoom lens is too slow and even with the 1 System primes, I really wanted a variety of looks and the image quality of the Ricoh GR and Sony Rx1.

I’m not a pixel peeper when it comes to image quality. In particular, street photography is less about image quality and much more about the moment and composition – and of course getting the subject in focus. But all else being equal it’s nice to have that little extra image quality or slightly different look if possible – and he Ricoh and Sony delivered.

Overall, the Ricoh GR is small, discrete and simply made for street photography. The Sony Rx1 is a bit temperamental as a street camera, but the images are so lovely and worth the extra effort. The Nikon V1 and 32mm lens kept producing surprisingly strong street images with the least amount of work.

Why else take all three? Kind of cool being on the streets of New York with the smallest aps-c, smallest full frame and fastest focusing mirrorless cameras in the world – and shooting like the wind. Cough.

 

Jul 272012
 

Have you entered your video yet in my YouTube Nikon V1 Give Away? 

Happy Friday! The weekend is here and what better time to enter my Nikon V1 YouTube Giveaway contest!

In case you missed it I am giving away a FULL NIKON V1 SETUP with three lenses, and it is super easy to win the camera. All you have to do is follow the instructions in this video on my YouTube channel!  Your chances to win the camera are superb as of today as the contest ends on August 15th and there are just over 100 entries, so basically a 1 out of 100 chance of winning right at this moment! Winner will be picked at random!

 

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Jul 242012
 

 

Quick “Just for Fun” Comparisons: Sony RX100, Olympus OM-D and Nikon V1 (With an X2 detail shot thrown in for fun)

Working on the Sony RX100 review but until then check out some quick comparisons I did between it and the Nikon V1 and Olympus OM-D. Since the Nikon and Sony use Zoom lenses, either kit or built-in, I used the 12-50 for the Olympus to be fair. BUT, in a shot or two the Olympus accidentally slipped into P mode from A mode so the test is not a fair one as the Oly lens was stopped down much more than the others in a couple of the test shots.

I will be doing new test shots for the RX100 review that are matched but thought some of you may enjoy seeing these, just for fun. 

I also took a detail shot that you can download in full size from the V1, OM-D, RX100 and Leica X2 and these are at the bottom.  Just for fun of course :)

Finally, these are all OOC JEGS ONLY! There is no RAW support for the RX100 yet from Adobe so to be fair, all were shot JPEG. So this test is a “just for fun” JPEG test :) Again, I will have more detailed tests in my RX100 review soon. For now, enjoy these and be sure to click the images for larger views and to see the true 100% crops!

Thank you!

Click images for large size with 100% crop – 1st shot is from the RX100 at f/4.5 – 2nd shot is form the Nikon V1 at f/4 and third is OM-D 

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Again, RX100, Nikon V1 and then OM-D – CLICK THEM FOR LARGER and 100% Crop! ALL JPEGS! But this one is not fair as the last shot (OM-D) was set to f/11 by accident. Still, you may find it useful for color, etc.

1st – RX100 – 2nd – Nikon V1 – 3rd – OM-D

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one more set – f/4 on all cameras this time! – ALL JPEGS!

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Now some high iso, tripod used, low light – ISO 3200 – JPEG only in this test (No RAW support for RX100 yet)

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and below are full size direct OOC JPEG  files from each camera just to test for detail and what you would get out of camera shooting JPEG. Click them for full size. Each camera was set to “Standard” color mode, same aperture. Camera chose exposure as this is how 95% of people use them. 

Jul 132012
 

Pimp Your Nikon V1! Quick and Easy stickers to make your camera look cooler.

Happy Friday to all! Te weekend is here and this morning I decided I wanted to post something fun to start the day off. Yesterday in my mailbox I found a small packet from Germany. “What is this”? I wondered. I know it was not any kind of camera or lens so I wasn’t too excited but when I opened it I found a set of stickers that go on top of a Nikon V1 to give it a “retro” feel and look. Almost Leica-ish if you will. There were different colors included so I sat there and tried all but the white one because the white was missing one of the cut out holes and would not fit. These decals came from a website called “pimpmydigicam.com” and they also sell stickers for other cameras like the Leica D-Lux series and the Nikon J1 as well.

You can see what they offer here at their site.

I ended up leaving the brown one on mine and will see how I like it for a while. This does nothing to improve your camera of course but you can look cooler when taking it out to shoot, and set yourself apart from the other Nikon V’s out there.  Here is a video they made to show how you apply the decals to a J1.

My only niggle with this is the cost 24.99 EURO is a bit pricey so you would have to be sure you really liked the results. I admit the silver J1 and black sticker looks really cool in the video above. As for grip purposes, it does in fact change the feel of the camera as it adds a bit of a grippy feel much like the Leica coverings do.  I liked all of the colors and I can see the black as being the most sensible but that brown and even red do give the camera different look that I like. So for all of you V1 owners, what do you think? Would you buy these to “pimp your digicam”?

Nov 232011
 

The Nikon V1 Black Friday Deals and more thoughts on this system…

By Steve Huff

Nikon seems to be picking up some steam with the The V1 which is now sold out at most online shops due to the special price reduction, which from what I understand is for a “Black Friday” special through November 26th. The dual lens kits sold out at Amazon (through Amazon) and B&H Photo but what many may not realize is that you can still get those special prices on the dual kit by ordering the V1 with the 10-30 and then adding one or both of the other lenses to your cart. This is possible at B&H anyway. The reduction will happen automatically when you add them to your cart at B&H which means you could get the V1 with all three lenses…the 10mm, 10-30 and 30-110 for $1140. Or even two lenses and the V1 for under a grand. I am not sure if Nikon is continuing this price reduction after the 26th but no one seems to know. It’s the holiday season so…

Contrary to what some are saying about the Nikon 1 system, particularly the V1, it is a very versatile system with great IQ and super speedy operation. The V1 is a camera I have been liking more and more for so many reasons and I still see some bashing it, but others have come around once they shot with the V1 themselves. This has been an interesting camera release for sure causing happiness, anger, stress and craziness, all at the same time. A couple people I know that shot with it still hated it, but they never had an open mind about it in the first place so I figured as much. Others seem to think that this was designed as a pro camera. It was not! The V1 is really aimed at the advanced hobbyist, or advanced family man, not the enthusiast. Even so, this enthusiast (and others that I see online) seem to be really enjoying the camera. At under a grand for the V1 with the 10-30 and 30-110 the price is right for what you get as I have been getting wonderful results that beat the Olympus E-P3 in most situations, a camera I have been enjoying for months, and the E-P3 is $829 right now with one lens and no EVF though there is a cool “street shooters set” coming soon at a great price for what you get.

Another guy that seems to be liking it, and a guy whose opinion I respect is Kirk Tuck. I have been enjoying his site for the last year and he also picked up a V1 and has been shooting with it over the past couple of weeks or so. You can check out his site here if you want to see his V1 posts.

Today I wanted to take a look at the V1 in a different way than I did in my review. I want to focus on one of the the negatives of this camera and see just how negative this is in real use. HIGH ISO/LOW LIGHT. Many have been complaining about low light performance, well… those who do not own the camera have anyway. But I have been finding that if you adjust your RAW files a bit even your low light high ISO shots can be great. The good thing with this system is that the V1 and all of the lenses available for it are incredibly sharp. Even at higher ISO you get a sharp detailed image, not a smeared image. This of course is if you turn off the Noise Reduction and shoot RAW. Check out this shot I took at 9:30PM at ISO 800 with the 10-30…

The image below was shot at ISO 800, at night with the V1 and 10-30 just to see how the noise would appear and to also see if the details were smeared. You can click on the image for the full size file. This was shot as RAW and converted with ACR. 10-30 at f/3.5.

To me, that file above at ISO 800 at NIGHT is pretty damn nice. Detail is there, noise is minimal and I used ZERO noise reduction. So low light high ISO beats other cameras I have tried in similar situations, and the sensor is smaller with the V1. This tells me technology has come a long way since the early days of digital. No longer is a huge sensor needed to get decent low light performance.

Sometimes though what you see in your higher ISO images noise wise depends on the exposure, the available light and how you process the images. The V1 CAN be noisy when shooting indoors. What I do is use that to my advantage because the V1 noise that is there has a nice grain to it. I do not want to say “film like” because no digital file is film like. But the noise that is there is not really bad or ugly like some cameras can give you. I also love the way black and white conversions look at higher ISO’s with this camera.

The next four images are ISO 400 (3rd image) – 560 (all the others), indoors with the 10-30. Getting in close will give you a teeny but of shallowness in the Depth of Field dept. Click the images for larger and better versions. I have no problem with the noise in these images and these were indoor. I used the light from his iPad to light his face.

My son (in the above photos)  is a huge Nikon fan. He hates Leica because he says it is WAY too expensive for what it is, lol. He says I am silly for liking Leica and that I should buy a D3s. Yes, he LOVES Nikon. So much so that he was asking me for a V1 for Xmas this year so he can have a smaller camera system than his current D2h and lenses. He has shot with the V1 and he has gone back and forth on it. One day he liked it and the next he wasn’t so sure sure due to the random out of focus shots he was getting. I spoke of this in my review HERE  but Nikon just released a firmware update to fix this issue, which stemmed from the VR. Well, the updates are for EACH lens, the 10-30, the 30-100 and the 10-100. I tested this with the 10-30 and the random OOF shots that stemmed from the VR are no longer happening. In fact, I can now shoot at really low shutter speeds as the VR is very good with all of the zooms. So my guess is it will be back on his Xmas list.

HIGHER ISO – 3200 and 6400

Here are a couple of shots I added to my review a few days ago. Taken at night in my kitchen at ISO 3200 and 6400, no direct light, just the overhead kitchen light that was to the left. Noise reduction OFF.

ISO 3200 – click image for full size

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ISO 6400 – Click image for full size

Future Lenses for the 1 System

Nikon has shown off some prototype lenses for the 1 system and two of these are rumored to be an 18 1.4 which would be a 50mm equivalent, and a 32 1.2, which would be an 85mm equivalent. There is also rumor that one is a 14mm 2.8 giving a 35mm equivalent. The 50 and 85 sound nice and should easily give the shallow depth of field many have been asking for. Hopefully Nikon releases these lenses soon as these cameras are in DESPERATE need of a fast prime! Even though they said this system was not designed for the serious enthusiast or pros, I see many of them shooting with the V1 due to the speed, accurate AF, EVF, and color. I think once the new fast primes arrive there will be more serious interest in the camera.

My five easy tips for V1 owners

1. Turn off the Active D-Lighting for better contrast. I always shoot with this off.

2. Turn off VR if you are shooting in good light or using a tripod

3. Turn off Noise Reduction in camera. In my opinion, the images look better with the noise than with smeared details.

4. Shoot in RAW for best quality

5. Don’t be afraid to customize your color settings!

So that is about all I will be writing on the V1 until new lenses come out for it or I do some street shooting with it. I have said all I can say about the V1 itself but I am still enjoying the camera and shooting almost daily with it. It’s solid, it’s well made, it feels like quality (I did not feel this way with the J1), it is small(ish), it is sharp and it is fast. I’ll be looking forward to the new lenses in 2012 for sure. Coming soon to the site – The Sony 50 1.8 lens review on the NEX-7, the Panasonic GX1 review and more including the Ricoh GRD IV and possibly a review of the Nikon 30-110 lens. As always, thanks for reading and stopping by!

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