Jun 202014
 

Quick Test: Sony A7s and the Voigtlander 15 Heliar!

Well guys..I just found my next favorite camera, and one that is now up there with my fave of all times. In the same company for me as the Leica M and Olympus E-M1 and Sony RX1. In fact, the Sony A7s is one hell of a camera. I have been using it non stop since getting it in my hands and loving every moment of it. It is much more than just a video enthusiasts camera. It is much more than a low light shooters dream camera. It is actually both of those but much more because it is an amazingly capable and superb camera for ANY type of shooting. Even with its low 12MP output (same as the legendary Nikon D700) this Sony A7s has it all. Decent Speed, great build, a shutter that sounds quieter to me than the A7 and A7s and now, as I just found out, no real horrible issues with the Voigtlander 15 Heliar VM (Leica mount) lens. The camera also will AF in LOW light without the use of AF ASSIST. It is not blazing when no light is there but it does indeed AF and it does so accurately.

On the A7 and A7r this lens had some issues as it does on the Leica M. Magenta corners and edges. Most use it for B&W only because of this. On the A7s, after just a few quick test JPEG snaps in my backyard, I see no real issues and shooting this lens in color is now possible on a full frame digital without having to worry about colored edges. It is not perfect of course as it is a try 15mm lens. You will get some vignetting wide open and maybe some slight colored edges but nothing like it was on the previous cameras, or Leica M.

I have yet to try other wide angles on the A7s and I am aware that some have more issues than others but this is a good sign. The Voigtlander 15 is one of my all time fave lenses just for the fun factor and low-cost of $600. You can read about it here when I tested it on  a Leica M. My very old review on the M8 is here. Others have tested it on the A7, here is one of those articles. 

The test images below were shot about 10 minutes ago in my backyard and I haven’t yet used the lens anywhere else but plan to all next week in some situations. So far so good! You can buy the 15 Voigtlander from Cameraquest HERE or B&H Photo HERE. It is a fantastic wide-angle that when used on an A7 will give you a true 15mm FOV. It is quite an amazing lens for the $599 retail price.

SO FAR, THE SONY A7S IS THE FULL FRAME MIRRORLESS TO BEAT for what it offers. My pick SO FAR for Camera of the Year 2014. Order it at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Images below with the Voigtlander 15 VM lens..click for larger. ALL OOC JPEGS! I will have some “real” images with this combo in my review coming within 2 weeks.

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Feb 042014
 

The Sony A7 meets the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar – a match made in heaven or hell?

by Steven Norquist

The Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar is one of the most amazing wide-angle lenses ever created.

Why is this?

  • It has super high contrast.
  • It has super high color saturation.
  • It has super high acutance.
  • It is super, super sharp.
  • It has virtually infinite depth of field.
  • It has no distortion. (truly amazing for a 15mm wide-angle lens!)

And lastly but most importantly, it has an incredibly great dramatic wide-angle look that few lenses can equal. There is only one problem and it is not the Heliar’s fault.

This lens almost never works on digital cameras!

This lens was made in the film era for rangefinder cameras. Why doesn’t this lens work on digital cameras?

This lens is designed to place its rear nodal point almost directly on the film plane. Almost literally in contact with the film, that is how close it gets. This causes the light rays to have a very concentrated and sharp angle unto the film plane. This is also how this lens is so superior and achieves such amazing optical correction and also why it does not work on digital cameras.

This sharp angle of light is so sharp that the outside diameter of the exit pupil, the periphery if you will, is not able to be correctly perceived by a digital sensor. Again, the problem is not with this lens, it is with digital sensors in general.

Digital sensors were not designed to use film camera lenses. Think about that statement for a moment. Why would the industry try to replace film cameras with digital cameras and not design digital sensors to work with all normal film camera lenses already in existence? Duh, you would think this should have been their primary concern, to duplicate the superior light gathering ability of the chemical film plane in a digital sensor.

But alas that has not happened yet, or has it?

I decided to find out.

The Sony A7 is potentially one of the most revolutionary cameras to come out in the last couple of years but it is not potentially revolutionary because it puts a full frame sensor in a small body. It is potentially revolutionary because it is a full frame digital camera that will allow “any film lens” to be used on it!

This is its real selling point for most and why I would want this camera very, very much. You see, we have all these magnificent film lenses that simply will not work very well on any digital cameras to date. Tons of beautiful artistic lenses designed over decades of film photography that may never be replicated in modern designs. Why should these wonderful lenses go to waste?

The hope was Sony had finally “done it” and provided the answer to our dreams.

So since no one has yet done a detailed review on the performance of the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar on the A7 I took it upon myself to do so. I rented an A7, bought an adapter on Amazon and mounted my Heliar on it and began the detailed tests. I have had the Heliar for a couple of years now and know exactly why and how it doesn’t work on digital cameras so my  tests were designed to see if these exact problems were resolved by the Sony A7.

The two main issues are:

1. The outside edge of the frame, especially the corners will have a magenta color shift to the natural fall off/vignetting that the lens produces.

2. The outside edge of the frame, especially the corners will be super blurry and smeared, basically not only not in focus, but weirdly stretched and just not right looking.

Before I present the results let me assure you that when this lens is mounted on a rangefinder film camera the corners are sharp even wide open. Also, on a film camera this lens will have a nice healthy vignetting effect so that the blue color of the sky will become darkened in the corners of the image. This is natural for wide-angle lenses of this type and is used in wide-angle photography as an artistic device for emphasizing a subject.

So on film the corners are sharp and the corners are darkened, but they should not be magenta and they should not be blurred.

Ok here we go.

The Magenta Test

Parameters of test:

· White balance was set for daylight to assure no variation in color hue due to automatic white balance adjustment.

· Pictures were taken in raw on a full sunny day and processed without any fancy tweaks, just plain old conversion from raw to retain what the camera sensor saw.

 

Magenta Corners Test Sample 1

01_Magenta

Magenta Corners Test Sample 2

02_Magenta

Conclusion:

The corners will suffer from Magenta cast in very bright high contrast situations. But of the hundreds of pics I took in the sun, these two pics represented the worst case scenario under sunny conditions. I did not go out of my way to evoke magenta cast. I simply took the pics I wanted to and later found some with this issue. Many pics did not even show any magenta cast. In my opinion this magenta effect is subject specific and will show up only under these types of specific lighting conditions.

The Corner Blur Test

Parameters of test:

· Pictures were taken to test the ability of the lens to focus on both close and far subjects simultaneously (hyperfocal) and of the lens to resolve a flat plane at infinity. (The entire area of the image should have equal focus and sharpness at infinity)

· To prevent subtle shift in the flatness of the focus plane causing false results in the infinity test, I used the classic get on top of a mountain and shoot down technique. This assures that everything the lens sees is of equal distance from it.

· The full image was processed normally and the corner images processed to lighten the corners so that critical focus effects could be more easily seen and not lost in corner darkening.

· All pictures below were taken at F5.6 which on the Heliar is more than sufficient to sharpen the corners in hyperfocal situations. In fact stopping down to F8 will start to put the center of the image into diffraction even on full frame. On film even F4.5 is sharp in the corners.

Hyperfocal Test 1

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Left Corner 100% crop

03_Hyperfocal_Left Lower Corner

Right Corner 100% crop

03_Hyperfocal_Right Lower Corner

 

Hyperfocal Test 2

01_Hyperfocal_F5.6

Left corner crop

01_Hyperfocal_Left Lower Corner

Right corner crop

01_Hyperfocal_Right Lower Corner

 

Infinity Test

01_Infinity_F5.6

Upper Left Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Left Upper Corner

Upper Right Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Right Upper Corner

Lower Left Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Left Lower Corner

Lower Right Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Right Lower Corner

 

Conclusion:

The corners do suffer from blur on the A7 even at infinity. This is a product of the A7′s sensor. The blur effect, though present, is not real terrible. The smearing effect I have seen on other cameras was not present in any pics I took. So this is a definite improvement over other cameras.

Also, because of the heavy vignetting, the blur is almost always hidden in the shadows and is not distracting at normal viewing distance.

I also tested the 35mm F2 Biogon and the Contax/Yashica 28mm and these lenses also had corner blur on the A7 even though the Contax/Yashica is a telecentric SLR lens that sits pretty far from the sensor. On the Contax I was able to stop down to F11 and eliminate all blur and not really see any diffraction which was pretty amazing actually.

Final thoughts:

Sadly no digital camera has yet been made that will allow the exquisite Heliar to be used full frame on it without problems.

The A7 was a pleasure to shoot with and tt was so easy and compact to carry all day.  Battery life? I was able to leave the camera on all the time and it took six hours to deplete one battery.

My V1 was dying long before the A7!

Can the Heliar create powerful and rich photos on the A7 despite these flaws?

Here are some final fully processed Heliar/A7 samples for you to decide.

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Sep 012013
 

David and Goliath – The Nikon V1 vs. the Nikon D600 – Wide Angle

by Steven Norquist

Hello Steve,

You always have such interesting comparisons of lenses on your forum that I thought I would do a little test for your readers. I have really enjoyed using my V1 with the 6.7-13mm lens. The pictures the V1 produces with this lens have perfect sharpness edge to edge and corner to corner, seemingly an infinite depth of field which is perfect for my style of photography which is architecture and landscape.

Also this lens/camera combo has excellent contrast balanced with nice dynamic range so highlights don’t blow out and shadows don’t lose detail.

But how good is this combo really?

I decided to find out.

I borrowed my friend’s Nikon D600 and rented the Nikon 16-35mm wide-angle lens. This lens is Nikon’s newest and best full frame wide-angle.

I decided to compare it directly to the V1 with 6.7-13mm lens.

The V1 with 6.7-13mm is a $800 setup.

The D600 with 16-35mm is a $3300 setup.

UPDATE: In every test, the top image is from the Nikon V1 and the bottom image is from the D600!

As you can see below the D600 is a beast with this lens on it.
The V1 looks like a little toy by comparison.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The D600 with this lens is very, very heavy and I cannot even consider roving the country or the city with this thing for hours and doing the kinda of photography I do.

Just having the D600 and the V1 around my neck for the length of time it took to do these samples made my neck really hurt!

Here are the test parameters I used for this comparison:

  • Each photo was taken at the same time, hand held one right after the other.
  • Focus was automatic spot focus on the same exact target for each camera.
  • ISO used was the base of 100 for both cameras.
  • Exposure was Automatic Matrix metering.
  • No exposure compensation was used.
  • Focal length was 18mm and 35mm for the D600, and 6.7mm and 13mm for the V1.
  • This assured that the equivelnt focal lengths as far as composition area would be the same.
  • The D600 was shot at F11 and the V1 at F4. I tried to make the depth of field of both cameras as close as possible.
  • Everything was shot in raw and digital development and post processing (Adobe Raw and then Photoshop CS5) was the same process for both camera’s raw files.
  • Each image was then re-sized to 1200 pixels on the long side and layered into a single image for direct comparison on the web.

Here is the challenge for your readers: In each of the four tests, which camera is which???

Good luck!

For those readers that are interested, you can view my other V1 pics with the 6.7-13mm at this link.

TEST 1

Test 1

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TEST 2

Test 2

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TEST 3

Test 3

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TEST 4

Test 4

 

Nov 202009
 

ATTN: This is NOT my review for the lens! This is only my 1st impressions after a day with it. My full review for this lens is HERE!


As I posted yesterday Leica sent me the Wide Angle Tri Elmar lens (W.A.T.E) along with the external viewfinder (also known as THE FRANKENFINDER) and this is really a terrific lens. It is WIDE on the M9 and you can choose between 16, 18, or 21 mm. I am not used to shooting this wide so there seems to be a learning curve but I plan on really getting to know the lens over the next week or two and will have my full review up soon. As in usual Leica fashion it is a very expensive lens but if you want a super wide angle for your M camera, this is about as good as it gets. Here are some quick details, first impressions and some first samples: Continue reading »

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