May 242016
 

Awesomness: Zeiss Loxia Kit Bundle for Sony E Mount…

Take a look at what is for offer at B&H Photo. The full Zeiss Loxia set for Sony E Mount (A7, A6300, etc). These are GORGEOUS lenses. Small, built very well, manual focus and made for the Sony E moount, so no adapters or issues at all. I have reviewed all three of these lenses and found them all to be superb. My 21 review is here, my 35 review is here and my 50 review is here. If you want a set for your Sony, take a look at this:

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Even comes with a custom style pelican case for all three lenses. They have other Loxia kits there as well. 

May 242016
 

BATTLE OF THE RES! Sony RX1RII, A7RII, A6300, RX10III

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Was having some fun with the Sony cameras I have on hand here and wanted to see which one, between the RX1RII and A7RII would record the most detail, just for fun. As I drank my morning coffee I sat outside and snapped a few images of a pink water bottle. Nothing fancy or special, but it is revealing and shows the RX1RII, as Sony has said, is at the top of their IQ heap. I have been finding the RX1RII to record amazing detail without being analytical or harsh. It somehow balances between sharpness, creaminess and beauty in the way the 35 f/23 Zeiss lens renders ever so gently with this sensor.

I will be using the RX1RII more and more for personal work coming up soon, though I do recommend a 39mm ND filter as at f/2 you max out at 1/2000s. Check out these quick comparisons…

You must click these to see the real versions with 100% crop. But take a look closely on a good display at the crops. You will see the fine details in the RX1RII shot. They are still there, though less pronounced on the A7RII shot and they start to fade in the A6300 shot (same lens used on A7RII and A6300), and are gone by the time the RX10III gets the shot. 

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The Sony RX1RII is a gorgeous camera and bests the 1st version quite easily with its EVF, newer sensor, faster AF and all while retaining the size which is small, light and rugged. I love my RX1RII, one of the greats and while Leica has the Q which is serious competition for the Sony, I prefer the Sony’s gentle and organic way the sensor renders over the Q, which I also love for ITS color and pop. But at the end of the day, for me, the Sony wins in Dynamic Range, low light, resolution and versatility (swivel LCD, nice video, defeatable low pass filter, and the lens, which is a lens that beat the Leica 35 Summicron M for IQ (That lens is $3500 alone).

I will soon have a follow up report on the Sony RX1RII, showcasing its strengths, weaknesses and why it may or may not be the camera you have been looking for.

Steve

DR, DETAIL, COLOR, BOKEH is all TOP notch on the RX1RII

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May 122016
 

Zeiss 85 Batis Review

by Richard Pickup

I have been lucky enough to try out the new Zeiss Batis 85mm lens for Sony FE mount in recent weeks, and the other day it accompanied me on a trip to the Natural History Museum in Oxford. This seemed like a good occasion to use the Batis with some purpose and also to organise my thoughts on the lens so far.

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The Natural History Museum is a fine place to explore photographically. They have a relaxed and inclusive approach to their audience (photographing is not frowned upon as in so many venues now; they provide portable chairs so as to allow folks to sketch the collections; there is no entry fee), and light streams in from the fabulously ornate iron-clad roof. A stunning collection of specimens, including huge dinosaur skeletons and all kinds of stuffed animals, positively begs for a monochrome treatment. (This may just be me though: I can’t get the fabulous scene from the museum in Chris Marker’s film The Jetty out of my mind. Well worth checking out if you don’t know it, as it is made up of a sequence of beautiful stills put together to feel like a movie.)

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As is now well known in the industry, Zeiss has been putting considerable resources into its partnership with Sony and has produced some much lauded lenses for the Sony A7 camera range. I have used the Sony / Zeiss branded 55mm f1.8 quite extensively and it is a superb lens; small, light, built like a tank, and sharp wide open but still full of character (I evidently have a thing for Sonnar designs, see a previous post).

I was in for something of a culture shock when I attached the new Batis 85mm to my mirrorless A7 Mark II. It is not so much a heavy lens (at 475g), as a bulbous one. Immediately one begins to question whether the whole ethos of the mirrorless format has been compromised by adding such a form – inevitably this makes the setup seem much more DSLR-like. My take on this is that there is still a considerable advantage in size and weight over DSLR equivalents, although I expect some will see this differently. I am in the process of investigating 85mm as a focal length, and so cannot say definitively whether I am committed to it yet. I suspect that if I adopt 85mm fully, I could be quite happy accommodating a lens that is a little more bulky than I would like, especially if the results warrant it.

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The sun streamed in as I walked around the Museum and set about the task of putting the Batis through its paces. I attached the lens hood to guard against flare, something which approximately doubles the size of the lens. With my camera strap wrapped around my wrist, I could easily hold the A7II in one hand. When shooting, my left hand had a good deal to hold onto, making the whole setup feel very balanced, and this despite the fact that the camera is visually dwarfed by the lens. The Batis has a sleek and smooth shape with very comfortable ergonomics. It has a rubber focus ring which I really enjoyed using for fine focussing.

This is hardly a full and scientific lens review, however I did endeavour to use a range of apertures in typical shooting situations. The Batis is arguably designed as a portrait lens and f1.8 at close distances produces very smooth out of focus areas and gives nothing away in terms of sharpness at the centre. This is clearly an area where modern lenses now excell: the old advice to stop down an aperture or two to achieve full sharpness is less and less relevant (although generally one will have to pay for this privilege, and the Batis is not a budget lens).

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Utilising the reach of the 85mm and engaging middle apertures brings sharpness across the frame, as one would expect. I noticed some difference in critical sharpness between f9 and f11, so I would be inclined to use f9 as a limit for bigger prints. As ever, there are a number of variables at play here, so I do reserve judgment on this pending further tests and more accurate data. As ever, I found the viewfinder zoom facility on the A7II along with manual focussing to be a boon for getting focus spot on.

Examining my images from the Museum on Lightroom, it was immediately clear that this is a lens with significant edge distortion. Happily, Lightroom has a corrective profile, and so this is not an issue for me. I know that some people object to such apparent flaws in what is after all a high quality prime; my understanding is that lens designers work with a series of trade-offs to produce the qualities they desire for a specific lens. This is a lens with a distinctive (and to my eye pleasant) character, and as I have already mentioned the designers clearly have people shots in mind. I have made a very beautiful colour print of my son using Hanhnemuhle Photorag paper, which clearly show the strengths of this lens for portraiture. If I didn’t already own some top class portrait lenses, I would surely invest in a Batis for this alone.

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In summary, this is a very high quality metal lens which feels robust and has sound ergonomics. While my imagination gravitated towards black and white for my Museum trip, the Batis has a notably ‘Zeiss’ colour signature, with humming blues and intense reddish browns. At f1.8 the lens is already very sharp, and it produces sumptuous out of focus areas. The tonal transitions it produces are attractive to my eye, and while this may be entirely subjective, a little more analog-looking than those produced by some lenses for digital. This is a thoroughly modern lens with some traditional mores: when the camera is switched on a luxurious black and white LED glows a proud ‘ZEISS’, before displaying very accurate depth of field information. A boon to some users I’m sure, but perhaps not me.

As I mentioned above, I am still in the process of investigating the 85mm focal length. What I do now know is that if I settle on it, I will be very hard-pressed to give up the Batis. In any event, I for one am happy to see such a lens being added to the ever increasing options for Sony mirrorless.

 

Apr 112016
 
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Travel photography in India with a Nikon Df and Zeiss Otus 55

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

It’s always a great pleasure to be featured on your site so I’d like to share my experience on shooting a pretty unusual combo: a Nikon Df and a Zeiss Otus 55.

Why unusual? Simply because both camera and lens seem to follow really opposite paths:

– The Df is one of the smallest (if not smallest) and lightest Full Frame DSLR with a modest 16Mp resolution
– The Otus is the most gigantic and heavy 55mm ever produced for a DSLR and could certainly out-resolve a >50Mp sensor

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So, is it as a stupid pairing as it looks? I actually don’t think so, let’s look a bit further than Mp and weight metrics… Beside its fancy retro design the Df has a strong argument in how its sensor renders colors (brilliantly if you ask me J). And what is the best way to get 100% out of a sensor? Simply put it behind the best possible lens! The Otus is not only about sharpness, it’s also excellent with contrast and colors!

Let’s now forget the technicalities and focus on the user experience: I just came back from a 10 days trip to Varanasi (India) and shot from 6am to 8pm almost non-stop using the Df / Otus combo 90% of the time.

First thing I have to admit is yes, walking >12h a day with an Otus around your neck is painful, really painful. I even had a blister on the finger I use to support the weight of the camera while shooting… That said, travelling more than 12h in economy class from Zurich to Varanasi is also painful, so the Otus weight is just a small additional element of discomfort…

The only thing I really don’t like is the lack of weather sealing… Maybe we’re not so many to use them outside of a studio but still, that would be appreciated Mr Zeiss…

So yes, it’s not a trouble-free experience, but what you get in return is still worth the hassle: the haptic of both the Df and Otus are just pure pleasure and contribute a lot to the fun of shooting. The manual focus is butter smooth and the finishing of the lens is just perfect…. Even if I’m not a big fan of the rubber band on the focusing ring: it’s nice looking and very comfortable but does not go well with strong anti-mosquito sprays (the formula attacks rubber). I managed not to damage the lens but had to be extra careful.

Then of course having the best possible optical performance is also very enjoyable: aperture becomes irrelevant in terms of sharpness (f1.4 is as good as f16), you just chose it according to the depth of field you’re looking for. Manual focusing requires a bit of practice but after getting used to the camera / lens combo I easily achieved 70-80% spot on shots. Moving subjects are a bit more challenging but it’s more a question of shooting style: instead of running behind the subject trying to nail the focus you just chose a good spot, prepare your focus, and wait for something / somebody interesting to enter the frame for 100% success. I occasionally used a tripod but could probably have done without.

Actually beside gear the most important thing simply remains the “access”: I was very lucky to be with a local friend who knows everything (and almost everybody) in Varanasi so it made finding the right spots a lot easier… He’s occasionally offering his services as a guide so feel free to reach out to me via my facebook page if you want his contact.

Enough talks for now, here is the set titled “Varanasi dream” because as a friend said these images show Varanasi as you could see it in a dream.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM MUCH CRISPER, MORE COLORFUL and FOR AN OVERALL BETTER VERSION!

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You can find more of my work here: https://www.facebook.com/lumiere.exterieure

Thanks for reading,

Sebastien Bey-Haut

Feb 172016
 
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A Tale of Two Lenses: The Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1.5 ZM and the FujiXF 56mm f/1.2 – Fuji X-T1

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Hi Brandon & Steve!

You’ve kindly featured some of my photos here before, I thought it about time I shared something new with you.

Last year I sold my well used Olympus OM-D E-M5 to buy a Fuji X-T1, and I wanted to test out the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM (Leica Mount) alongside Fuji’s highly regarded XF 56mm f/1.2. Whilst the two offer a similar price point and focal length they deliver very different images and user experience. Both are superbly made, solid lenses with the manual focus Zeiss being far more compact even with an adapter.

The huge viewfinder in the X-T1 and innovative focusing aids make using manual focus lenses enjoyable, easy and accurate. With its 1.5x crop factor APS-C sensor, both lenses become short-telephoto portrait lenses (around 75mm and 84mm equivalent on a full-frame camera). I won’t get into technicalities, This is really a ‘just for fun’ comparison.

As for my own conclusions, I tend to like lenses that exhibit distinctive, interesting bokeh and falloff. To my eyes the Zeiss has the more unique patterned bokeh with the Fuji being smoother. The Zeiss just nicks it for me, but it’s subjective and everyone’s opinion will differ.

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Incidentally, the switch from Oly to Fuji was purely to try something new after several years. I loved the Micro 4/3 gear and feel it offers unrivaled quality at such a compact size. I was won over by the design of the X-T1 though and have not been disappointed at all… but that could fill another article! I’ll sign off here and leave you with some images, have a great day!

http://www.jpstevenson.co.uk/photography/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamespstevenson

Thanks – have a great weekend.

James Stevenson

Feb 042016
 

Visiting the European Motor Show in Brussels

by Dirk De Paepe

A different approach to a car show.

1902 was the first year of the Motor Show in Brussels.

It has been a big event in our country as far as my earliest memories go (and far beyond that). I remember the black and white TV reports, showing the new cars of the late fifties. I still treasure the remembrance of visiting the show as a little boy in the early sixties, together with my parents and my brother, exchanging thoughts about what would be our next car. I also remember visiting with the last class of high school, around 1970, and later a few times to get information for my own next car. The event gets much attention in the Belgian media and provokes lots of traffic jams in the area.

This year, I didn’t visit the show because I was into buying a new car. I visited it because, being such a big event for so many people, I find it an inspirational place to take pictures. Yet this isn’t a typical Motor Show report, with lots of new car models in the lead role. I even carefully avoided to make it too obvious what cars are in the picture. Instead, I wanted to show the visitors. Perhaps you remember from earlier articles of mine, that “people’s behavior” is my favorite subject. Therefor I like to visit places where people behave in a typical, specific or remarkable way.

It always strikes me how people behave in a particular way, when visiting a car show. Well, that’s precisely what I wanted to picture. I’m looking for scenes that stimulate my imagination, that make me wonder what people feel – how they experience the event. I fantasize about their mutual relationships, what there intentions might be, what makes them act as they do, etc…
I hope it’s not too big a disappointment, having to miss all those car pictures, but I’m sure, if you wanna see those typical motor show shots, that you’ll find it not difficult at all to get tons of them on the internet. :-)

First the picture

I invite you to first look at each picture, before reading its title and story. With the title, I try to nail the essence of my personal thoughts about the scene and my intent with the picture. If the title is not immediately clear, the short story will clarify, I hope. Like I said, what I write is just my personal thoughts that go with the scene. I’m not at all saying that those thoughts are all the absolute truth. They’re just the reflections of how my imagination was stimulated by the scene. They are the reason why I took the picture.

It’s clear that I have no part in the scene itself. I’m merely observing and registering. My part is limited to the scene selection, viewpoint, timing and framing. So I didn’t have any power over the light neither. Many consider the light the most essential element in photography. I tend to not share that opinion completely. I believe the most important power of photography is its ability to freeze moments out of reality, giving that moment “a life of its own”. IMO no other art form can do this as easily as photography does. That’s why, again IMO, registering typical and remarkable scenes out of human life, is one of the main “tasks” of photography. Of course, if the light conditions are optimal, that’s wonderful. But I find being there at the right place and the right moment, to be even more important. I believe, when registering, the occurrence outweighs the light.

So each picture is a small story on itself. But let me be clear. I’m not proclaiming that my stories are the absolute truth. Indeed, some of what I describe actually happened. On the other hand, much of it is my personal interpretation of the scene. Which is truth and which is fantasy is completely irrelevant, because I have no journalistic aspirations with this article, not in the least. It’s merely a painting of general human behavior, feelings, reflections. Anyway, I always try to interpret the scene in a way, that very well could have been what actually happened. My goal is to make viewers reflect on human behavior, and thus to induce a better understanding. You are very welcome to interpret those scenes in your personal, very different way. I even strongly invite you to do so. That’s why I prefer the title to be put under the picture, instead of above – like Claude Debussy did with his preludes for piano, putting the title at the end of each score, inviting us to listen and have our own fantasy first, and only afterwards suggesting the subject.

Zeiss Loxia and Batis

When registering, one is first looking for a place that offers opportunities. Then it’s a matter of feeling: moving oneself to a favorable viewpoint, and acting as fast as possible – which sometimes requires cropping/reframing afterwards in pp. To be able to act very fast, is why I often apply zone focusing (with lenses up to 50mm focal length). The Loxia MF lenses are absolutely perfect for this application, IMO – great for zone focusing, thanks to their straightforward DOF scale and fantastic to manually focus very fast thanks to their super smooth focusing ring. Although, for these series, I also used the Zeiss Batis 85 – my first AF lens. I thought it could make sense to have AF in a tele, since its DOF is a lot smaller by definition, which significantly reduces the possibilities for zone focusing. But I have to say that, as far as now, I’m a bit disappointed in AF. I’m just having a hard time, handing over the decision to the camera. And I can’t say I’m experiencing that much “extra comfort” from the AF, compared to using a MF 85mm. It’s different, but on the whole… it’s not that spectacularly focusing faster or better (sometimes the focusing is worse than when performed manually).
Like I said, the other lenses I used were both Loxia’s, 50 and 35 (mainly the 50 here). Those Loxia’s are IMO simply perfect for the A7RII. When Zeiss will make a Loxia tele, I guess I’ll sell the bulkier Batis and replace it with yet another Loxia. (BTW, while writing this, my Loxia 21mm just arrived. The first thing that struck me is that it’s absolutely very compact for a 2.8/21. And I’m also immediately blown away by its IQ.)

OK, enough introduction. Let’s go to the pictures. I hope you’ll enjoy.

 

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Sheer Delight

American cars with big V8 engines are still pretty exotic in Belgium. To experience this is a real joy for many guys, regardless of their age – even if it’s only in a static way and for just a few minutes… at the motor show.

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Still Dreaming

Although already of very respectable age, this man’s mind is in another place. He’s not considering how much he can use this car – how much convenience he can get from it in his professional activity. Instead he’s dreaming about how much he wànts this car – how much pleasure he can get from it for his leisure passion. At the motor show, the dreaming is served for all ages.

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Not Sure

I admire this stylish lady. She proves that women can age beautifully, while still remaining completely natural. I noticed how she came to the show, watching and judging the cars. She wasn’t carrying a paper bag to gather brochures of so many different brands. She was only holding one catalog, the show catalog. A representative was explaining her the specs of a specific model. She was eager for the information. But I think that not all new, modern car features were immediately clear to her, which made her unsure as yet about what to decide. It was the duality of her motivation on the one hand and dubiety on the other that made me wanna take her picture.

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Matters into her hands

This remarkable lady was really into a new car. A few things stroke me. She was on her own. She was visiting the booth of a pretty exclusive brand. She was getting very specific information from this representative for her next personal car. She was connecting very targeted and without any restraint with this young(er) man. I even wonder if he was not taken slightly discomfited by her pretty assertive approach, not looking towards her, while she was absolutely focusing on him. It made me wonder about her place on the social ladder. For sure, she made herself a great career. She seemed to be at the pinnacle of her performance ability – in the stage of her life that she’s 100% self confident, going straight to her goal, fully aware of her exceptional competence. Scenes like this make me realize that we live in an absolute wonderful society in Belgium, where women can make a difference.

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The changing of the guard

Fathers teach their sons. That’s how we believe it to be. But at a given age, this changes, although we usually don’t dwell on it. The son, that I pictured here, wanted to visit the big Motor Show, and has invited his father with him, as a kind of treat. Of course he remembers, as if it were yesterday, how his father took him to the same show as a little boy, more than four decades ago, giving him the best day of his life. Today, he is pleased to return the favor – so happy to demonstrate the marvels of modern car technology, even though his father is at that stage of his life where cars are merely a means of transportation and a lot less thrilling than they used to be. In this scene, the son demonstrates how the lid of this heavy SUV can simply be closed by pushing the button. It’s obvious that the father didn’t know this feature yet. He’s clearly watching in fascination, as if a kind of small miracle is about to happen. I absolutely love this scene. It’s probably my favorite picture of this series. The profound love between father and son screams from it and really moves me.

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Athletism

This man has made it. He’s getting a special VIP treatment. He’s trying out the flagship of a leading brand, a state-of-the-art sports coupé, with all thinkable features and comfort and stunning performance. But merely getting in and out apparently is kind of an ordeal. Although in great shape, training his body on a regular basis, it took quite some time to figure out how to get back on his feet. I took several shots of him – one even showing him with the tongue a bit between his teeth, thinking of the best way to accomplish this task. I even thought of putting those pics in a series of five, for better illustration, but finally reckoned that this one shows a perfect synthesis. It illustrates the required body strength and control. It proves how, once found out the right way to go, one can “dismount” in complete harmony with the lines of the car – as long as one is kind of an athlete. BTW, next picture shows his collaborator (who takes profit from his “boss” to enjoy many exclusive cars on the show), having more difficulties.

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Suction Force

With a less well-trained body and being not that limber as his boss, this guy has great trouble getting in the cockpit. His body just seems much too colossal to ever succeed. At this stage, I almost expect him to be sucked in with a loud “pwah!”, by a big vacuum-cleaner-like force in the car. Well,… he finally got in alright, but the getting back out was just problematic. He performed like a dozen different stages, taking a good twenty seconds to complete the process in the most inelegant way thinkable, before finally getting back on his feet with a big smile on his face – just to conceal the shame of his fumbling. This car clearly is worth every penny – a show within the show.

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A Job to Love

Years ago the girls, working at the booths of a motor show, had kind of a pinup role. Nowadays, there are still (young) women working, but they do a terrific job in informing the visitor. All of them, as far as I could observe, were perfectly multilingual (in Brussels that means at least Dutch, French and English) and were professional in their approach. The young lady in this picture is clearly loving what she does. I spoke to her afterwards, showing her this photo and asking if I should delete it. Of course I could keep it. But the way she communicated with me in an open, friendly and welcome way (like she did with all other people) was simply telling me that she absolutely loves working at the motor show. And she does a great job indeed!

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The Decisive Test

I took four shots of her, since she gave me so many nice poses. When she realized that I was really shooting her, she stopped, looked at me and said (with a big smile): “You are taking my picture, or what?!”. I answered: “Well, I find girls much more beautiful than cars.” “Oh”, she replied with an even bigger smile, “a normal guy!” I can tell you, she is a very beautiful girl, playing a nice role in this scene, kind of how a movie star often has to play expressive scenes. What is the value of a car anyway, when you can’t properly check you makeup…! Her brother, sitting in the passenger seat, is just checking the dashboard. The representative, standing next to her, doesn’t seem to get the relevance of her test and is just patient.

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Tresspassing

When an exhibitor places a barrier around a car, he indicates that this is a very expensive and exclusive model. He expects the visitor to be that tactful, to stay behind the barrier, unless he is invited to approach. The two guys in this scene visit the show together, since they work together (like is the case with many male duo’s visiting a motor show). One is the boss, the other a privileged employee. The employee feels the need to prove his initiative and dynamism to his boss, by stepping over the barrier and elucidate some technical specs of this exceptional automobile. The boss absolutely keeps his reservation, being able to get all the information that he wants, from the place where he is expected to be. In a very controlled and subdued way, he’s perfectly mastering every situation.

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Ultimate Specs

This male duo is young friends, and are staying well behind the barrier. They are reading the specs of a Formula 1 car. And it’s not just any bolide, it’s the one that became World Champion in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. It’s a car that, for 200% sure, they will never drive. Still they are absolutely fascinated about those specs. Totally unrealistic of course, but still the ultimate car fantasy for sure.

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Inspection

Yet another duo of friends. But those are apparently really into the technique. I guess they know what they’re looking at and that it’s not just an act for show. Future customizers?

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On Facebook in a Minute

I guess about half of the visitors is taking pictures. Many with a camera, even more with their smartphones. Those two cars are in an enclosed environment. I didn’t see how this young man was able to enter “the premises”, but I could see him perform the “I was here” act.

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Enlightened Admiration

The exhibitors spare no effort to draw the visitor’s attention to their booth. Here, they performed a quite impressive light show at the ceiling. This young man is clearly loving it.

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Design

Some visitors have a double purpose: watch and be watched. This young lady drew a lot of attention.

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Keeping it beautiful

Those booth workers, both male and female, have different assignments: informing the visitors and from time to time cleaning up the cars, wiping away the dust and possible finger prints. Like I said, those jobs are done by man and women alike – and I shot them both. But who can blame me that I selected this picture as the most beautiful one?! BTW, again, the professionalism of those workers is remarkable. I was very obviously aiming my camera at here for about maybe a minute to get the right frame. But this didn’t change her attitude or her facial expression one single bit. All the time she just kept on cleaning, just as if I wasn’t there, not specifically posing, but giving me all the time I wanted for my shot! Indeed, the exhibitors still engage beautiful girls, but they are so much more than just looking good.

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The Essence

I noticed this scene, because, although this is one of the smallest cars of the show, it brought the biggest smile on people’s faces – like if it made them realize that it’s the feel good factor that matters the most. This girl clearly enjoyed this particular one a lot. So I wanted to catch her happy face in the rearview mirror. But her face immediately changed in a kind of wondering expression. I didn’t notice that her boyfriend was in fact trying to get a beautiful picture from his love, sitting in the driver’s seat of her dream car. He was waiting for me to leave, because he didn’t want me in his picture. I, from my part, unaware of his presence, was waiting for her happy face again to appear in the mirror. After some five seconds, she understood what her friend was referring to. She looked in the mirror and gave me a beautiful smile. Only at that moment, I understood what was going on, noticing (part of) her boyfriend with his camera in the very corner of my frame, so I came half a step closer. I pushed the button and thanked them both for their open and welcoming spirit. I believe the boy took his shot ten seconds after mine.

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Today and Tomorrow

This is not a typical motor show picture, but rather one that shows our present world. Since Bataclan, also the Belgian government pickets protection at every event where lots of people gather. This is what we see today, and it’s not gonna change any time soon. The shot was taken, while standing in the cue at the cloakroom, just before getting back home.

See more on flickr

You can get more technical details about these pictures, via the exif data, that goes with them on my flickr pages . I gathered all these pictures in HR in a dedicated album, with the obvious title “Visiting The European Motor Show Brussels 2016” (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/albums/72157663992622111), where there will also be black and white versions of them.

And I’d like to conclude with thanking Steve and Brandon for keeping this unique site online. I insist on mentioning with every article, that the opportunity they give us, by publishing our articles, is flat-out fantastic. We have a really great community here, thanks to their effort. And having been in the publishing business myself for over 3 decades, I know that this is far from obvious. I love to read the articles of so many of you, I also hope you liked mine.

Dirk

Jan 192016
 

Nashville – Escape from Trade Conference with my A7RII

by Jim Idelson

Hello!

This image was captured during an afternoon escape from a convention I was attending in Nashville, Tennessee last week. Having never been to Nashville before, I really wanted to get a taste of the downtown area. From 2 to 4pm, I did a solo pub crawl, listening to some music, having a couple of beers and making a few new friends. As the sun was setting, I noticed it was just a bit over the horizon and in full view directly up the street. It was starting to bathe everything in gold and create some the beautiful long shadows. There were a few clouds in the sky. I had a feeling there would be something good to capture in this moment. I was also carrying a rented Zeiss Batis 85mm, and wanted to give it an opportunity, so I made sure that lens was in place.

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At first, I aimed the camera towards the sidewalk cafes, but facing away from the sun. That was an ok streetscape scene, but not very exciting . . . then I thought about shooting back into the sun. I got into a position on the sidewalk looking directly toward the sun. But, I really couldn’t see much in this direction by eye due to the brilliance of the setting sun. But, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to capture the whole scene before me . . . the busy street and sidewalk, the setting sun, those long shadows, and the eclectic mix of honky tonk signs – all somewhat compressed with the 85mm tele. So, I exposed simply by minimizing zebra to just a ring around the sun, making everything else in the frame go very dark . .. and hoped there would be enough DR to be able to bring it back in LR.

Camera and settings were A7RII, Batis 85mm, 1/2500 f2.5, ISO100. Processed in LR5. The primary edits were crushing highlights (a lot) and enhancing shadows (a lot). I also applied some vignette, a sprinkle of Clarity and Vibrance, and little NR. It was a pleasant surprise to see the yellow traffic light and the gold light shining through the windows of the clock tower in the distance on the left.

I’ve attached the before-processing version of the image, plus a google map snap to show where the image was shot, and another snap of some great musicians whose music I got to experience that afternoon. A fun break from work. I can definitely recommend a visit to Nashville.

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Jan 102016
 

Zeiss Sonnar C ZM Lens for sale, As new in box! $680!

SOLD!!! The Sonnar is SOLD!

1st come, 1st serve! This is a 2 week old Zeiss Sonnar C Zm lens (Leica Mount). Works amazing on any Sony A7 body, the Leica M or the Leica SL. You can see my recent report on it here.  This is a very unique lens, and so much different from just about any modern 50 out there. It has the creamy bokeh, 3D pop and creamy color that Zeiss is known for. The lens sells new for $1200, and I am selling it, as new in box, unregistered for $680 as a “reader appreciation” special. Every now and then when I sell a personal lens or camera I offer it at a much lower price than normal, so if you want this one, in black, in box, $680 via paypal will get it ($20 shipping).

If you want it, 1st one to email me and pay gets it. EMAIL ME HERE if interested. 

**I also have a Leica 50 Summicron (pre APO, no 6-bit) in leather Leica case (latest version before APO) for $1250 and a 90 Elmarit 2.8 (latest slide out hood version before it was discontinued) ASPH I am selling for a friend at $1250. I have them in hand and both are a 9 condition. Just no boxes or 6 bit coding. This is actually my 2nd fave 90mm lens next to the $3600 90 APO. $1250 is a steal for this guy**

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a few shots with this lens on the Sony A7RII and the Leica SL. 

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Jan 072016
 

NEW Zeiss Mobile Phone High Quality Lenses

Looks like Zeiss is entering the mobile phone market! Well, LENSES made for phones that is. Zeiss is promising new high quality lenses that will be above any other phone lens made. IT’S A ZEISS and they look pretty cool in the photo below. Zeiss says these will be available 2nd quarter of 2016, so soon. I look forward to testing these out, and I will as soon as I can get a set to test.

You can see and learn  much more on this system HERE.

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Dec 182015
 

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The Sony RX1R Mark II Review

by Steve Huff

If you are interested in the RX1R Mark II I recommend the dealers below 100%:

B&H Photo – Click here to order the camera or see more info on the B&H Page

Amazon – Order via Amazon Prime RIGHT HERE!

Here we are at the last edge of 2015 and about to head into 2016. YES! We are NOW in the future! Remember back in the 80’s? Well, if you are old enough you do..when many TV shows and movies would be set in the future..like 2010 or 2020 and the vision of earth was always full of either flying cars or spaceships or the world was already gone due to nuclear wars. One thing they always tried to predict was technology, and usually it was way over the top. In any case, as we launch into 2016 we have cameras that beat the pants off of cameras that were launched just 2 years ago. Technology is here, and it is good. While not “Buck Rogers” kind of good, this new Sony is beautiful, but I never doubted it would be anything but.

RX1RII – Also some PP work with this one ;) (Blur, Contrast, Smudge)

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Yep, but back in the day we would shoot film. Remember the cheap disc film or the 110 film? AWFUL quality but those cameras and film were had for cheap, and they fit in your pockets ;) Today top end cutting edge digital cameras are made for professionals, enthusiasts and serious hobbyists. They have to be as these things are costing more than they ever have it seems. A Leica SL for $7500 without a lens. A Leica M for $5600, no lens. A Sony A7RII for $3400, no lens. A Leica Q for $4300 which is a single fixed lens camera, and now this…ladies and gentleman…I give you the long-awaited…

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Enter the new Sony RX1R Mark II

When the original RX1 was released it quickly became my #1 favorite go to camera for SO MANY reasons. I put up with its faults simply due to the fact that it gave me the best image quality I have seen up until that point. Rich, creamy, full of life, detailed, sharp, gobs of micro contrast, nice bokeh and an overall character that approached the look of Medium Format. It was the 1st 35mm full frame digital that I felt this way about and it even beat out my then previous 3 year love affair, the Leica M9. I suggest reading or refreshing with that old review HERE to see the main character and feature set of the RX1R II as it is mainly the same as the old version with a host of new features, all of which I will talk about here.

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Somehow Sony created a 35mm full frame camera in that original RX1 as it gave and produced output VERY much like Medium Format but less sterile, as in, it was almost perfect but still had plenty of character. This was my view on it and it quickly became my all around take everywhere camera. After the RX1R (R stands for RESOLUTION as it had No Low Pass filter) was announced and I reviewed it, I then fell in love again even though the camera was the same, just without an AA/Low Pass filter for even MORE detail. It boosted the RX1 up a bit with more of everything that made it great.

Click this for a larger and detailed version of this. The file quality is amazing with this camera!

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Unfortunately it (The RX1R) also kept all of the things that frustrated most about the camera..AF speed was dog slow and the lens looked like a 90 lb weakling trying to push 300lbs. It was slow but most who loved the RX1 and RX1R loved it for what it rewarded their patience with. Some of the most beautiful IQ ever seen in 35mm. The original has sort of collected a cult like status with users who own them vowing to NEVER give it up.

All three image below are from the new RX1R Mark II. Click them to see them correctly.

Kurt Kamka – Lunch Meeting in Phx AZ

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My son Brandon sleeping in until noon..

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My beautiful Debby once again helping me test cameras ;) 

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Then there was the Q

In mid 2015 Leica announced and released the Q, which is a camera that aimed directly at the Sony RX1 and RX1R. It is sort of small (though the Sony is quite a bit smaller) has a 28mm f/1.7 lens instead of a 35 f/2 like the Sony and well, it is a Leica. It has the red dot and all and is assembled in Germany. Coming in at $4300 which is $1000 more than the Sony, many felt it would be a Sony killer, and to be honest, it was. It took on the original RX1 and upped the ante with a BUILT in damn good EVF of which the RX1 lacked. It also has a touch screen, a beautiful LCD and has VERY fast AF. It’s a snappy all in one camera that also manages CRAZY GOOD IQ. Now, I do not feel the IQ can match the medium format look of the Sony but it is up there with the best there is in 35mm.

Overall, the Q beat out the old Sony and many were quick to fork over $4300 for the Q, and many still are. It’s one of Leica’s more popular digital cameras of the last 3 years or so. The 24MP sensor in the Q is stunning, so much so that they use it in the new top end SL that comes in at $7,500 (and won my Camera of the Year for 2015, see my review HERE). You can read my Leica Q review HERE.

So how would Sony answer Leica’s RX1 clone, the Q? And would it beat it?

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Enter the Sony RX1R Mark II!

It’s HEEEEERRRREEE and BOY, were MANY waiting for it. This camera has made my  inbox explode more than any other camera in recent memory. Most of you know I am a HUGE fan of the original RX1. I consider it a legend already due to the IQ alone. Now that we have the Mark II version with a FEW new things, it’s closer to perfect that it has ever been, and for me, this new R2 beats the Q. This will not be a huge LONG review as this at its core is still an RX1. Same body design, same feel, same lens, same controls, etc. So this review will focus on real world use while sharing thoughts and images from my 3 weeks with the camera that I have had the pleasure of shooting for the past few weeks.

All images in this review should be clicked on so you are seeing the correct version

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The RX1RII and its 42 MP sensor deliver “delicate detail”. It’s never analytical in its rendering but instead it offers what I like to call an ‘Organic Flow” to the rendering. For example, in the boring image below look at the screws, the web, the areas between what IS and what is NOT in focus. It’s falloff is fantastic and that is thanks to the Zeiss 35 f/2. This is a powerful camera that fits in my coat. Wow.

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Color & Light

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Click on this one to see the beauty in the rendering. 

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Lovely Blues from the Sony Sensor…

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Sony did not rest and now RX1R Mark II is here. That’s a mouthful, so I will call it the R2 from now on this this review. 

The new RX1R 2 looks the same, feels the same and yes, even smells the same as the original RX1 and RX1R. Upon closer inspection you will see the built in flash has been removed (not many used the flash, including me as this kind of camera does not need a flash) and now we have a very nice and sleek built in EVF that at first glance looks like an afterthought but in reality is a very nice powerful EVF, slightly improved from the A7RII!

So we now have the camera with a built-in EVF and most importantly faster auto focus which was the main #1 complaint on the original RX1 from those who used it or owned it. The new R2 has 30% faster AF, and I believe it as it is much much snappier than the old one, and even competes head to head with the Leica Q in AF speed. Also, I had no AF issues with the camera.

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So what is new in the new R2? All of the below!

  • New backlit 42MP full frame sensor. Yes, the same sensor as the A7RII!
  • New built-in and pop up EVF that is slightly better  than the A7RII EVF!
  • The new Af is 30% faster than the old RX1 series. This is evident as soon as you use it. 399 Phase Detect Points.
  • Swivel LCD screen this time around
  • Adjustable or Defeat-able Low Pass/AA filter! This is now an RX1 and RX1R in one body!
  • Eye AF now in this model
  • WiFi and NFC inside
  • Uncompressed 14 Bit RAW
  • Multiple Aspect Ratio Support
  • Smart Zoom to crop in camera without losing quality..use this with Macro mode ;)

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The Sony RX1RII uses the same battery system as the old RX1 and RX100 line. It is one of the weaknesses of the camera so be sure to invest in 2-3 more batteries (you can get generic versions VERY cheap) to get you through the week.

The more I shot with the RX1R2 the more I was falling in love again, just as I did with the original. But at the same time, I have shot with the competition, THE competition that copied Sony and made a better camera than the old RX1 (Mark I). That would be the Leica Q.

The Leica Q vs the RX1RII

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While the mighty Q beat the old RX1 and RX1R in just about every way, how will the Q stack up against the latest and greatest from Sony? With this top of the heap technically advanced 42MP backlit sensor, how could the Q compete? Well, lets take a look..but 1st, see my video on the RX1R II vs the Leica Q:

NOTE: I incorrectly spoke at one point with the Leica Q in this video. I said it will stop down the lens automatically when closer than 1M. I was thinking of the X. The Q does not do this but will stop down when in Macro mode. 

So at the end of the day, for me, I prefer the new Sony but it’s VERY close. My main reason? The Sony is $1000 less expensive and gives me slightly superior IQ, or at least “different IQ”, and is smaller..and I prefer 35mm to 28mm… though I have no issue with the size of the Q. But do not take my word for it, let’s see some comparisons. Who knows, you may prefer the Q!

Away we go…

1st up. ISO

Let’s get this one out-of-the-way 1st. High ISO. Let’s face it, below these high ISO’s both cameras are comparable, but how do they stack up at 50,000 ISO? Let’s see…

Sony RX1RII – RAW – ISO 50k  – MUST CLICK IMAGE!

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LEICA Q – ISO 50K – RAW – MUST CLICK IMAGE!

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Sony wins, the Leica has banding at its max ISO, and Sony still has steam pushing along to ISO 102,000..Sony Wins the ISO here.

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Portrait? These are all good IMO. One is from the Leica Q, one from the RX12 and one from the Leica SL with 50 APO (which is easy to spot). Can you spot which is which? EXIF info is in the photos..

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Same shot. The 1st one is the RX1R 2 as you can tell from the longer focal length of 35mm over the Q’s 28mm. 

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Sony is handling the color better so far…also, bokeh effect will be more pronounced on the Sony due to the longer focal length.

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Boots…1st up, Sony

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Leica Q

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1st, Sony

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Coming in at $4300, the Q is expensive but hey, it’s a Leica. People love the idea of Leica and when they released the Q, and it exceeded expectations, well, the old RX1 kind of became forgotten. It was much slower than the Q and was dated in comparison. As you can see above the Sony delivers the goods. Some will prefer the Sony rendering, others the Leica. There is no wrong choice here but for me, the RX1R II delivers the goods in a bigger way while being smaller and less expensive by a grand.

Now there are areas of the Q that beat the Sony. For example:

  1. The Q has a 1/16,000 shutter speed so you can shoot wide open in full sun, Sony does not
  2. The Q is a bit snappier to AF but only by a little
  3. The Q menu is simpler than Sony’s
  4. The battery life is better on the Q
  5. The Q has a touch screen, not on the Sony.

With that out of the way, the Sony has some things to like over the Q…

  1. Latest sensor tech with the 42MP Backlit sensor from the A7RII Flagship delivers stunning results
  2. Swivel LCD which is NOT on the Leica
  3. Smaller size, can indeed fit in a coat pocket, Leica Q can not
  4. Better high ISO performance means better night time shooting
  5. files have more of a medium format look over the Q’s harder look
  6. More dynamic range from the Sony
  7. $1000 Less expensive than the Q
  8. You can turn on or off or adjust the AA filter. Want to avoid MOIRE? turn it ON. Want max detail, turn it OFF!

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What I tell everyone when they ask “Which should I get” I say “go with what you feel would make you the happiest and don’t look back”. There is no perfect camera but they are getting mighty close these days! The new Sony RX1RII is a stunning machine with power that you would never think could come from a camera this small. I had people looking at some of my sample shots telling me “did you use the Pentax 645”?!? It’s something that Sony is doing these days but the images that come from their latest cameras do indeed have a medium format feel to them.

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And the black and White conversions can be stunning!

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The Details…

Remember, this guy packs the 42 Megapixel sensor of the top of the heap FLAGSHIP Sony A7RII (See review HERE). That is FORTY TWO MILLION pixels in your coat pocket! That is the draw to this camera, not “Which one is better”. This is the smallest full frame camera you can buy as far as I know, and according to Sony, it offers the best IQ of any camera they currently produce. This is the top of the heap for IQ when it comes to Sony full frame. At the same time, it is not the best for video, and even Sony will tell you this. This camera was designed for the enthusiast and passionate shooter who wants a no compromise camera  – one they can shoot day, night or anywhere in between all the while getting top of the line quality that will beat just about any full frame camera around well past its price point.

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The camera also has an adjustable AA filter meaning if you want MAX RESOLUTION turn it OFF and you have an RX1RII. Turn it on and you have an RX1II. Adjust it and you can customize it to your needs. Me, I left it OFF at all times as I am ANTI AA filter. I RARELY EVER have Moire issues, so always leave it off.

But let’s see some shots with 100% crops to check details…

These bricks…this is a JPEG but click it to see the full 100% crop

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Again…

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…and again…

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OOC JPEG

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…you get the drift…

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corner to corner this camera is sharp..this is an OOC JPEG

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Any reports you may have heard about the Sony RX1RII’s image quality not being as stellar is it was hyped up to be..well, not sure what to make of those (must have had a stinker) as I think the camera is as good as it gets in this class of camera. It bests the old model easily in speed, usability, and image quality. It’s more versatile with the nice pop up EVF and delivers a fantastic experience. In all other ways it is the same as the 1st version. Same menu system, same size, same style, same lens, etc. So there is nothing to report on there.

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I did hear something about Sony stopping production for a few weeks but I have not confirmed this nor do I know what it is about (I do not go by rumors or “he said/she said”). If this is the case, and fact, then the issue is not in my camera that I have here. 


-For me, my three full frame references are the Leica SL, Sony RX1RII and the Sony A7RII. To me, these are as good as it gets in 2015, heading into 2016 for cameras that deliver the goods. Expensive? Yes, very. Worth it? Only you can answer that one.

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Is the Sony RX1R II for you? Maybe..maybe not! My Final Word.

Think about it like this. The Sony RX1R II is like having an A7RII and 35 Loxia with AF in your coat pocket. Tiny, small, but uber powerful. There is nothing not to like on the Sony RX1RII. It’s beautiful in build, feel, and the EVF is fanatstic, even besting the one in the A7RII and it easily hides away when you do not want it. It delivers the best IQ of the Sony line due to the matched lens to sensor (which I talk about in my original RX1 Review HERE). It’s as good as it gets in an all in one, with the Leica Q right on its heels.

I love this camera as I loved the original, and it has earned a place at the top of my “keeper heap” in the Huff Household.

But I have many cameras. Many here will be using this as their one and only camera, so if this is the case I would say to make sure you are OK with only shooting 35mm as that is all you will get. There is no zoom on this guy, but that is the beauty of it. In many ways, using only the 35mm focal length for a year can greatly improve your photography, so for many this could be a welcome change from those big huge DSLR’s.

If you like what you see here from the camera then you will love it when it is in your hands. It’s a superb upgrade to the Mark 1 and while not a huge revelation when compared to the old one, it is a very nice step in the right direction for this series.

One more detail shot using an OOC JPEG! Click it for the larger version with 100% crop.

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Where to Buy?

If you are interested in the RX1R Mark II I recommend the dealers below 100%:

B&H Photo – Click here to order the camera or see more info on the B&H Page

Amazon – Order via Amazon Prime RIGHT HERE!

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——————-

HLPHH

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dec 022015
 

UPDATE: Added a new comparison to my Leica SL Review with the Sony A7RII

By request I added a new comparison to the Leica SL review with the Sony A7RII! This time using the best E mount lens Sony makes (IMO)..the Zeiss 35 1.4. I added two new comparisons in the review, one of them can be seen below. The other is in the review HERE.

Using the Sony/Zeiss the results should fare much better for the Sony as the 16-35 fell behind the Leica 24-90 in the initial comparisons. 

Click each image below to see the larger size and full crop. Both were at 35mm, tripod mounted, ISO 100. 

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To see the other new comparison, check the review HERE. 

Nov 242015
 
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From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

by Ben Jacobsen – See more: http://www.benjacobsenphoto.com/ and his flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/benjacobsen

 

The Sony switch… As most of you know I’m a long time canon shooter that made the mirrorless switch to fuji last year. The majority of my photography business is based around shooting architecture with a UWA zoom. My switch to fuji happened as soon as their 10-24mm was available (as well as their XT1 promising fast AF). I shot with a complete fuji setup last year for weddings, architecture and landscape work as well as for my personal images. While I was happy with my switch away from canon (I wasn’t using my DSLR for anything but paid work because of it’s size) I wasn’t quite happy with the AF speed and files quality I was getting. They were good enough but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Then last year at photo expo in NYC I stumbled into the Sony booth and saw their brand new 16-35mm f/4. This lens paired with an a7r was practically the same size as my XT1 and 10-24mm but it had a full frame 36mp sensor… Then I walked over to their dark room focus torture test and saw how well the a7s could focus in ridiculously low light and I was sold…

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I got home and ordered an a7 thinking it’d be the best all around camera for me. I’d been more than happy with my 5DIII’s 24mp so it seemed like the best compromise with better AF over the a7r and more resolution than the a7s. When it arrived I noticed a flaw in the sensor and AA filter design that caused it to have what I call “green ghost flares” where the flare from a light source gets this very weird green flare. This is NOT lens flare and it is a huge issue for me with architectural images. So I tried the a7r next… and LOVED it’s sensor (and w/o an AA filter the green flare was gone) but it’s AF was far too slow to shoot people with for me. Next was the a7s which was great, crazy high ISOs, good enough AF and no ghost flares. But before a week was up with it the a7II was announced and I was hoping they’d fixed the green/ghost flare issue so I preordered it and waited… It came and is/was a GREAT camera. Middle of the road MP, great DR, good enough ISOs, and the best AF to date (the a7rii beats it but came out later). The reworked sensor and AA filter fixed the ghost flare issue. I was happy. Then the a7rII was announced and I knew that the combination of the best AF in the series in combination with the best sensor would be the best fit for me. Not only does the a7rII have the most MP but somehow it’s ISOs are cleaner up high -vs- the a7II. I’ve had it since August 6th (3 months, 7,517 shots taken) and I’m here to share my thoughts!

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That Sensor!

Let me start off by saying that I’m thrilled with the sensor in the a7rII and it’s AF has done nothing but impress me so far! While I’ve always said I don’t need more resolution -vs- what my canon or fuji have provided in the past, it does make for some GORGEOUS prints! I have a 32″x48″ canvas from the a7rII in my house and the added detail is noticeable if you look for it. You also get dynamic range that the canon couldn’t dream of touching and it’s ahead of the fuji as well. I’ve had some architectural shoots where I’ve bracketed a shot thinking I’d need to HDR it and in post I can +99 the shadows and blacks of the shot with the best detail in the highlights and get basically the same look! Sure there’s some noise in the shadows when you do this but it’s just insane as a former canon shooter that you can do this without seeing crazy patterned noise. Now the ISOs are also very good. I shoot up to 12,800 without a concern. There’s luminance noise at that point and you lose some of the pop from the colors but there’s zero chroma noise at all! On top of all that without an AA filter there’s no green or ghost flare issues with the a7rII.

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Now this can’t be a proper a7rII review without at least mentioning compression of the raw files! Personally I haven’t had a problem with the 14-bit compressed files we’ve had since the beginning. I know you have to shoot with the camera in single shot mode, no bulb, no long exposure noise reduction and no high ISO noise reduction to get true 14-bit files. This is how I shoot my landscapes. Sony has now released an uncompressed option that’s basically putting the 14-bits into a 16-bit file which means the files go from ~45mb to ~90mb… It’s up to you if you need it. I’m using 14-bit compressed for landscape and architectural work and then 12-bit for weddings. I don’t need the extra depth there and the files are smaller and faster to process in 12. I use either silent shooting mode or either L or H FPS modes to “force” the camera into 12-bit mode as needed.

Auto Focus

The auto focus on the a7rII is amazing. I know a lot of guys will say that it can’t keep up with a pro series DSLR but at this point it really makes me wonder. I’m not saying it’ll track a subject that’s moving quickly at 11fps because the body can only shoot 5fps. What I am saying is that in just about any light I’ve had very little problems with the AF with this camera and I’m coming home with much fewer out of focus shots. Even -vs- my old 5DIII! I remember shooting wedding receptions with my 5DIII (once we’d given up on ambient light and gone all flash) where I’d switch to my 16-35mm 2.8 only because it focused a lot quicker in low light -vs- my primes. With the sony I can shoot with my 25mm f/2, 55mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 and they all lock on and stay locked on during low light reception shots with little to no lag at all. I’ve been VERY impressed! I’m coming home from weddings with hardly any shots that are out of focus. I’m talking less than 5% (and some of that can be blamed on me pressing the shutter before it locked).

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That’s not to say it’s perfect though. Sony has added so many bells and whistles to it’s AF system it can be very confusing at first. Face detect, eye AF, center lock on AF, expandable flexible spot, the list goes on and on! While it’s taken a little getting used to and some manual reading (yes, I admit it) and I STILL don’t know all the functions of this AF system, I will say it works really well. The other odd thing I’ve noticed is out of focus shots when shooting architecture. With my canon and fuji setups I would manually focus the first image and basically leave the lens alone for the rest of the shoot and I’d be all set (focused about ~6′ into a scene stopped down to f/16 on full frame). With the sony I’ll AF the first shot and I’ve noticed every once in a while when I go to the next shot the focus will be way off (nothing in focus at all, even at f/16). This happens in both MF modes and AF modes. I’m not sure if I’m bumping the focus ring or if it’s refocusing on something at a bad distance or what. I’ve learned to just ALWAYS use the AF after each new shot to be sure and I’ve been fine since, but it’s worth mentioning…

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Manual Focus

Some of you need to just skip right past this section as you won’t all use manual focus. I manually focus a lot of my landscape and architecture shots. EVFs and LCDs have made this easier in some ways but the “focus by wire” design of the lenses make it much harder at times. If you’re coming from a canikon DSLR your lenses are not drive by wire. You physically move a ring that moves the elements inside the lens to make it focus. This works with the lens on or off a body (without power). With mirrorless cameras they use the camera’s power to move the parts inside the lens. The ring you move is just telling the computer in the camera to move the elements in the lens in a certain direction. It’s a bit slower and harder to get “perfect” vs the old way… I find myself getting really close to just right pretty quickly but then I go back and forth from too far to too close a few times before settling in on “good enough”. Peaking can help in a lot of situations but it can also hurt in others (it won’t work at all for stars). The camera also has a function called “bright monitoring” that basically uses a very slow frame rate so it can gather more light and show you a very dark scene better but it’s very laggy (due to the slow frame rate) which means it’s hard to see your focusing changes because there’s a much longer delay. This function is also only available on the full view (ie you can’t zoom in). I’ve since learned to focus stars accurately you need to turn peaking OFF (yes off), then zoom in on the brightest star in the frame and manually focus until it becomes the smallest point it can. Peaking needs to be off because it works by showing you points with good contrast because those tend to be in focus. Even with peaking set to the minimum it’ll tell you a star is in focus well before it is as well as long after it’s no longer sharp. Simply turning it off and zooming in will get you great results.

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My other complaint with manually focusing on the sony cameras is the information they show on the rear LCD is terrible. You get a gray bar on the back of the screen with head on the left end (for the close end) and a mountain on the right end (for far). There’s then a white bar that moves back and forth as you focus the lens and it tells you the distance you’re focused at. This bar is always the same thickness at all times. It should get wider if you stop down and it should also get wider as you focus further away! They also only tell you the distance you’ve got your lens focused at but they do not tell you the near or far limits of the DOF (and it’s in meters only with no way to change to feet that I’ve found?). If you’re focusing for a landscape image you want the most DOF possible. To get this you want the far end of your DOF at infinity. With sony’s display it’s impossible to know where this is without using a DOF calculator of some sort (app or website) which is a PITA. Colby Brown shared with me that setting the focus distance to the first number displayed that’s less than infinity seems to work pretty well for him (and I agree). If the lenses had a scale on them physically it would help a lot. Zeiss has OLED screens on their lenses that do this. Their display also shows you the near and far limits as well as the distance you’re set to. It’s as simple as focusing until infinity is on the long end and you’re done with one of the batis (I’d kill for them to remake the 16-35mm with sony and remove the OSS and add in the OLED!).

The body

The sony full frame cameras are built “good enough”. They’re strong and solid and great but not quiiiite as solid as my old 5Diii. They’re sealed though as are all their lenses and I’ve certainly had no issues with them. The II version have a much nicer grip on them as well as IBIS or in body stabilization. For a lot of you IBIS is probably a huge deal and crucial. Personally I’m either shooting people where I’m using a shutter speed well over 1/focal length or I’m using a tripod. That’s not to say I’m not a fan, I’ve just been happy with it in my lenses in the past. What really confuses me here is if all three of the current bodies have IBIS why’d they build OSS into a lot of their lenses (my 16-35mm, 24-240mm, and 85mm all have it)? It’s extra optics and cost and weight… I will say however that the fact that the sensor moves makes it a LOT harder or maybe just weirder to clean your sensor. It moves now! The SD door on the a7rii is also nice and firm now. I mention that because they changed it’s orientation on the II versions. The a7/a7s/a7r were rock solid, but the a7ii had a tendency to open on me. The a7rii’s door is a bit more solid now and I’ve yet to have an issue with it.

The viewfinder is bigger and better but it’s still not as nice as fuji’s. I’m a fan of EVFs but sony’s doesn’t have the tricks and display modes that fuji has baked into theirs. Remembering AF points for vertical -vs- horizontal compositions would be great! The eye cup on the a7rII also seems to be better built -vs- the a7II where the rubber liked to pull away from the frame. The tilt out screen is WONDERFUL for architectural and landscape shooters. I’ve gone from preferring the simple slide up/down style sony’s used on the a7 series to wanting one that flips out with a side hinge so it can work for vertical shots as well… One complaint with the EVF/rear LCD is the sensor for the automatic switch is far too sensitive on these cameras. When I’m backed into a corner of a room it’ll see my chest with the sensor and switch to EVF mode even though I’m ~6″+ away from it. I’ve assigned the viewfinder switch to C2 so I can cycle it back to the rear LCD but if the sensitivity was just turned down a bit (to fuji levels) it’d be great.

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The Customization options on this camera are almost perfect. There’s two custom buttons up top near the shutter (I have mine set to the brightness monitor and switching between the EVF, LCD and auto display modes). Then on the back there’s C3 (set to focus magnification), AF/MF (set to switch between AF and MF for me), AEL (hold to AF, release to stop AFing) and the C4 button (eye focus). I’ve got the 4 way buttons set as labeled but down is set to face detect for me. The center button is set to “default” which means pushing it allows me to then move the AF point with the 4-way which is great (and hitting delete short cuts to the center AF point). The reason this setup is NOT perfect is because the list of things you can assign to buttons is limited. You can not for example set the aps-c option to any button in the camera (it can’t even go on the Fn menu). This is something I use quite a bit and would LOVE to have on a button! You also have to OK the options once you hit the button. You should have an option to have them be quick changes where one button press changes the setting if it’s only got 2 options.

Menus

A lot of people like to say that the sony menus are a hot mess. While they’re certainly not as good as they could be I don’t really see them as a mess. I’ll add to this though that I’ve been a sony/NEX user since the very first NEX5… The old NEX menus were terrible… The new tabbed layout is very similar to canon and works quite well. I will say it’s missing a “my menu” option where I can pick a page worth of options for myself and to have that always be the first menu page that comes up when I hit menu. Sony will argue that the Fn menu handles this task but it only allows about half the options from the full menu to be put as options in it (and it’s crucially missing the option for APS-C/super 35 crop to be on or off!!!). I’ll add that I prefer sony’s menus over fujis. You can learn where everything is in either over time but I prefer sony’s. The Fn menu itself should allow you to set ANY function to it’s 12 spots (and I’d personally like an option for 1 2 or 3 rows, you’re locked into 2). Some of the options need some help as well. I have steady shot set to my top left spot so I can turn it off when needed. The next spot over is then the setting for automatic or manual focal length detection (if you’re using non E or FE or adapter A mount lenses you need manual), then the THIRD spot over is for the focal length if using the manual option…. Why all three of these functions couldn’t be part of the same steady shot menu I don’t know (steady shot options: off, on-auto FL, on-manual FL with a list).

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Necessary Accessories

There are always a few accessories that you need to complete your system but there are a few with mirrorless cameras in general and specifically the Sony system that I’d say are must haves. The first on the list would be a great battery charger and plenty of spares. I’ve had a watson dual desk charger since my fuji days and it’s a life saver. Charge a battery that’s close to full in the provided wall charger and it’ll be blinking full almost immediately. Toss it in the watson and it’ll tell you the % it’s at an actually top it off to full power. Before the watson I’d use 6~8 batteries at a wedding with my X-T1. With the watson this has gone down to 4. The sony now uses the same 4 batteries as I’d use with the fuji. The great thing with the watson is that it takes ~$2 plates to change it from a sony to fuji to ricoh to canon charger! Of course put extra batteries in this section as well. I have ~7 sony batteries at last count. I keep 1 in each camera (I also have an a6000) and 4 in my think tank photo battery holder. The dual battery wallet is also nice for family outings.

Second up for me would be grips and plates. When I shoot a wedding I use the neewer (mine says meike on it?) battery grip. I’ve never really been a grip user with DSLRs (I have always preferred smaller lighter cameras). With these mirrorless cameras getting as small as they are and shooting with it all day at a wedding the added grip is great but the fact it doubles the battery capacity is awesome. I have noticed though that my grip will change the aperture setting when in Av w/o me touching it… For this reason I generally leave it’s buttons switched off and I’m considering the $300 sony version… Switching the buttons off isn’t a deal breaker for me though as I’ve never really used a grip much so I’m not used to the second shutter button but the other very strange thing is once you get used to using the EV dial on the body it’s very odd not having it near the second shutter on the grip. Whenever I’m not shooting a wedding specifically I’ve got my neewer L-bracket on the camera. L-brackets have been on all my cameras for years now as it makes switching from a vertical to horizontal composition a snap with my tripod head. I’m using the neewer l-bracket that came in a kit with the grip for $85. It’s $63 for just the battery grip, and $22 for just the l-bracket.

The third accessory I’d call a “must have” if you use flash would be any flash with a “Multi-Interface Shoe”. This is what sony calls their hot shoe with the data connection at the front. The reason this is important is it tells the camera there’s a flash involved. You can use “dumb”/manual flashes without this shoe without an issue (I do with my neewers) but because they don’t have the data connection the camera doesn’t put itself into two crucial modes: Flash WB and “setting effects off” for the live view. The first should be pretty obvious. Without knowing you’re using a flash the camera will be in AWB mode and the flash results won’t be consistent. Yes it’s an easy fix in lightroom by syncing the images and telling LR they all need flash WB but it’s much easier when the camera does this for you. The second and much more important option is that the “setting effect off” means the camera will artificially boost the ISO so you can see through the EVF to compose the shot. If this is left on, when you dial in your flash exposure you’ll be looking at a very dark (black!) viewfinder. With a normal/dumb flash you have to switch this mode on/off every time you mount/remove your flash. But with a “smart” flash with the correct shoe it’s automatic. For me this makes the nissin i40 the obvious choice as it’s TINY! It’s slightly less powerful -vs- the big speedlights but I’ve found with 1/8th power (and 1/4 when needed) it keeps up recycle time wise and I don’t need to boost the ISOs too high.

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If you’re a landscape shooter or the thought of a flash just seems silly to you, then I’ve got a different option for you… Filters! I’ve got a full set of Lee filters I carry in my mindshift filter hive. I’m also using some great new filter adapters from “the filter dude” on amazon. They’re $20 and the same as the wide version of the lee adapters (that cost ~$68) with the exception that the filter dude rings also have a set of threads on the outside of the ring so you can mount a traditional filter to them once they’re on your lens. Let me explain it this way: you’re shooting a waterfall and your panel or 105mm CP gets spray on it as does the front element of your lens. If you’ve got a 77mm CP in your filter hive you can thread it onto the filter guy ring with the ring still on your lens and there won’t be any way from spray to get onto anything but the outside of the round filter! I use this trick all the time shooting waterfalls! Once you’ve got the ring on your lens, don’t bother ever taking it off. Get some of these Lens Coat medium lens caps and use them over your rings. Makes it much easier than dealing with lens caps and threading on a filter ring in the cold dark morning before your coffee has kicked in. For any of you who’ve made it this far into a section about filters, grab some gaffers tape and tape over the logos on the front of your lenses… Those obnoxious white logos will reflect back at your filters and you’ll be able to see the text in the images (bottom right corner in the rocks there’s an orangish semi circle that’s the reflection of the words on the lens)!!!

sensor cleaning supplies… If you’ve ever made the jump from an APS-C body to full frame before you know full frame sensors collect dust at a much faster rate. If you’ve ever made the jump from a DSLR to a mirrorless/EVIL body before you know that EVIL’s have their sensor hanging out in the open when you change lenses… Combine the two and it’s a recipe for dust! I’ve got three things I use to work on the dust issue: 1) Sensor pen and loupe, 2) rocket blower, 3)gel stick. The gel stick is new to me and so far it’s been amazing. Make sure you get the orange sony version. The rocket blower gets off the easy stuff but I’ve found if the camera’s sensor cleaning function can’t get it off the rocket air usually can’t either.

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Big and fast SD cards… 42mp files can chew through a lot of space in a hurry. With the new uncompressed option they’re now twice as big (~90mb now -vs- 45mb uncompressed). Make sure you get cards with a ~90mb/s read AND write time! A lot of the cards offer that as a read speed but not write which is what matters most to the camera. I wish sony had used the faster tech fuji has in the XT1’s SD slot (250mb/s). I’ve got three 64mb 90mb/s SD cards that I’m happy with so far. I keep them in a “lenscoat memory card wallet SD9” that can hold 9 SD cards. I used to be a big think tank pixel pocket rocket user in my CF card days but the lenscoat SD card option is much smaller so I prefer it. Whichever wallet you go with MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A FEW BUSINESS CARDS IN IT!!! If you ever lose it you’ll at least have a chance at getting it back. The think tank option does have a nice strap on it so you can secure it to your bag but it’s a velcro closure which I don’t like at weddings. The lenscoat wallet uses an elastic that just loops over the end so it’s dead silent.

While we’re on the subject of memory let me talk about importing these massive files into your computer! Having a fast card does you no good if you don’t have a fast card reader to go with it. I’m a mac guy and I’m using an older iMac with the original thunderbolt port and USB 2.0 ports (or maybe even originals). Thunderbolt is my fastest option. I have a drobo 5D running on a thunderbolt connection. I then have this awesome lexar workflow hub withthree SD card readers (which can be used on their own with their supplied USB cord when you’re away from your desk). I have three readers because there’s a lot of times when I end up with three cards to import from between the drone, the a7rii and the a6000.

I also use the trick Dan Carr taught me about importing from more than one card at a time in LR which is a LIFESAVER!!! The one problem I have is that the lexar hub is USB3.0 so in order to take advantage of it’s speed I need to adapter it to thunderbolt so I’m using this belkin dock. I know these parts aren’t cheap (it’s about $500 for the hub and reader before you get to my external storage) but even since I upgraded to this setup last year my import times have become comically fast. Even with three filled cards. Of course it still takes lightroom forever to build previews but that’s another story. LR is slow to work with these monster files so be ready to throw some money at your computer if it’s not up to the task… I’ll be getting a new machine in a few months (retina iMac) and can’t wait.

The last accessory I’ll talk about is how moving to a mirrorless system can change your whole system in terms of tripods and bags. I’ve added a small travel carbon fiber tripod to my kit since going mirrorless. The camera is enough lighter I get enough support from a much smaller tripod and it can now fit inside my camera bag! This has also meant (for me) that I’ve moved to larger camera bags. Not for the camera, but because it means I can use one bag to carry all my gear for non photography purposes as well as my photo kit in a single bag. So rethink your bags and support, going to a bigger bag with a smaller tripod might mean everything can now fit inside one stealth bag!

Some notes:

  • 42mp is OMG WHOA! resolution… Even if you use the 18mp aps-c mode it’s still an amazing file with plenty of detail.
  • The DR of this sensor is crazy. The a7ii I’d been using was good, better than canon and fuji (no pattern noise like canon) but the a7rii is a level above that easily.
  • ISOs are ALSO really good and easily beat my a7ii, 5Diii and the fujis.
  • For a full frame body this thing is amazing small. I switch to fuji because I never used my 5Diii unless I was on a paid shoot due to size. This body brings the best full frame sensor in the market (all around, MP, DR, ISOs) to a tiny body. It’s the same size with the 16-35mm as my old X-T1 was with fuji’s 10-24mm.
  • AF is very good even in low light at wedding receptions… Canon has the “red ring of fire”, well sony has the “green boxes of focus”. It just works.
  • AWB feels like it’s maybe not quite as good as the a7ii? I’ve never shot them side by side though but it’s a gut feeling I get…
  • My AF buttons setup has the AF turned off on the shutter button. AEL is my focus but only when held down. It’s the basic rear button AF from my DSLR.
    all custom buttons
  • Fn Menu row 1: SS on/off, SS Adjust (manual/Auto for non sony lenses), OSS FL (for non sony lenses), Focus Mode, Focus Area, Center Lock-on AF
  • Fn Menu row 2: Silent Shooting, Peaking Level, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Quality, Smile/Face Detect
  • Custom Keys: Shutter AF off, C1 = bright monitoring, C2 = Finder/Monitor Sel., C3 = focus magnifier, C4 = eye AF, Center button = standard (lets me choose AF point), left = drive, right = ISO, down = smile/face detect, AEL button = AF on, AF/MF Button = AF/MF control Hold
  • Battery grip is great for weddings, but the neewer version adjusts the aperture w/o touching buttons on me….
  • AEL button is hard to feel on the neewer grip. Awkward with EV dial only usable in horizontal mode…
  • you “need” to use a sony shoe capable flash. With a “dumb”/manual flash the flash doesn’t sit right in the shoe (too far back) but it also doesn’t auto switch the camera to flash WB and it also doesn’t change the viewfinder setting from
  • “live view display: setting effect on” to off for flash (setting is in the gear -> page 3, option 1). Using the nissin i40 does both automatically!
  • get a watson charger NOW!
  • get a nissin i40 for any on camera flash NOW! It’s tiny and light and perfect. Just don’t turn it up above 1/4 or the recycle time gets slow (but we have plenty of ISO on the a7rii). 1/8th is great.
  • magnification during replay is painfully slow!
  • buy a 90mb/s write speed SD card…
  • battery life is what it is but with a watson charger it’s 4 batteries for a wedding even at 2.5k+ images… You can also charge via the USB port WHILE SHOOTING for timelapse guys or if you’re hurting and out of normal sony batteries…
  • SD card door tighter -vs- a7ii where it opened on me quite a bit (but never on the a7/a7r/a7s because it opened the other direction).
  • eye cup rubber/shape is better than a7ii.
  • silent shutter is DEAD silent… subjects will actually keep posing after a shot because they’re waiting for the noise.
  • sigma and tamron need to start making their lenses in FE and E versions. They offer a mount conversion process for existing lenses which suggests the lenses are all the same and the mounts are the only difference. This makes me wonder if sony/minolta has some weird difference in their mount that makes it so making just the mount for the existing lenses doesn’t work? I’d prefer mirrorless specific versions anyway though (so they can be smaller/lighter).
  • Sony needs to make either the 70-300 or 70-400 in an FE mount. The longest FE lens right now is the 24-240mm (which has terrible sun stars but is a great travel all in one otherwise).
  • I’ve seen some very weird hunting with my zeiss batis 85mm in vertical/portrait mode that goes away instantly once the camera is horizontal but comes right back again when back to vertical. I’ve spoken with zeiss and sony about it and zeiss has been able to replicate the issue (only happens in super low light).

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Things to fix via a firmware:

  • APS-C mode (setting -> gear -> tab 6 -> option 4) should be allowed on the Fn menu or as a custom key. I use APS-C for weddings a lot as I don’t need more than 18mp there (I used mRAW on the 5Diii for 10mp).
  • mRAW options? You can force 18mp via the APS-C mode but there should also be smaller RAW options that use the full frame.
  • Add the option for a third row in the Fn menu (and also the option to drop to 1 for those who’d want that). There’s a LOT of menu options I use a lot and I need more space than the 2 rows provided for what I use regularly.
  • Add a “my menu” option similar to canon’s that gives me a traditional menu page where I choose everything on it but I get to choose from ANYTHING in the menus… Also, don’t limit it to a page (let it scroll if I want more than 6 options) and let me set it up so pressing menu always brings up this screen first.
  • EVF auto switch sensitivity is too high. I’ll be in a corner doing architecture work and it’ll see my body and switch to the EVF from the rear screen. EVF switch should NEVER activate when the rear LCD is opened either way (because if it’s open you’re using that and not the EVF).
  • The added 14-bit uncompressed option is great for those screaming for it (I never felt the compression caused any issues?). I’d love to see true 14-bit with lossless compression as well. Personally I’d also love to see an option for force 12-bit when you want it as well. For weddings I shoot RAW but don’t need 14 bit so I use the slow FPS mode to force 12 bits most of the day, then silent shutter mode during the ceremony (turning on long exposure noise reduction, high ISO noise reduction, bulb, any burst mode over single shot or silent shutter all force 12-bit mode).
  • During a long exposure the rear LCD is still powered on but black. This wastes power from a camera that uses a lot and uses small batteries already. Please turn OFF the screen during an exposure! -or- give the option to have it show a counter for the shutter length so I know when a 30s exposure is almost over. During bulb count up with that counter!
  • The manual focus distance scale display is terrible! It’s always a white line of a set width that doesn’t get thicker (showing more DOF) as you go wider with focal length, farther with focus or stop the lens down. It’s always the same size!
  • The zeiss batis lenses have GREAT OLED displays with GREAT info shown, copy that on the rear screen! Also make the white bar/line get thicker as you change settings accordingly (like fuji does).
  • allow the use of the manual focus assist view (magnified live view) to be used with “bright monitoring” (where it drags the shutter is super low light so you can focus) so you can use both and really nail MF in pitch black settings.
  • allow users to turn off the non whole stop ISOs for faster ISO selection… going from auto ISO (how I shoot wedding w/o flash) to ISO 800 (how I typically shoot reception shots) is 13 button presses when it would be 4 if the non whole ISOs were out of that list. Canon and fuji both allow this.
  • option for a quick delete w/o needing to “ok” anything…
  • Option to turn off some of the AF points. I always “watered down” my 5Diii to just the more sensitive points and the ones in the corners. Something like 25 (5×5 grid) would be perfect with the a7rii. But 399, especially when you use the small box makes it slow to move your selected AF point from one side to the other.
  • To go with the above, allow the user to “wrap” the AF point selection from one side of the frame to the other. IE if I’m using a point on the left side of the frame and I press left again it should “wrap” around to the point on the far right.
    allow customization of the dial directions. The shutter speeds on the rear dial in M are backwards for me… I’m re-learning but it’s taking a while!!!
    faster read and write speed. Feels like I’m waiting for the red light quite a bit. And the A7rii takes longer to write it’s 18mp aps-c files than the a6000 does to write it’s 24mp aps-c files… Use the UHS-I U3 cards that fuji put into it’s X-T1.
  • create a hyperfocal AF mode where the camera looks at the focal length and aperture and keeps the focus dialed into whatever distance puts infinity right at the far edge of the DOF. This would be a huge advantage for landscape shooters.
  • Allow the viewfinder to store which AF point is used for vertical and horizontal shots separately (canon and fuji do this).

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

I’m currently shooting with an a7rii with both the Meike/neewer battery grip (for weddings/events) and the Neewer L-Bracket for everything else. Lens wise the Sony (by Zeiss) 16-35mm is my go to wide angle zoom and what I shoot my architecture and landscape work with. I have the sony 24-240 as my light weight long reach lens and the tamron 150-600 as a no compromise I need reach lens with a Sony LAEA3 adapter. For wedding work I have the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, Sony (by Zeiss) 55mm 1.8 and the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8. I shoot weddings using the aps-c crop mode 95% of the time so this trio works out to be 35mm/85mm/135mm effective. I’ve basically added the Zeiss 85mm as a longer option -vs- what I shot with both canon (35/85) and fuji (23/56).

ILCE-7RM2-DSC00866

The other great thing with this setup is I can shoot the 25mm in full frame mode for those few shots where I “need” a wide prime and the 16-35mm becomes a pretty versatile mid range zoom for those reception flash shots at the end of the night. For flashes I still have my Neewer TT850s with their awesome Lion battery packs (that last for ~600 shots!) with their wireless transmitters but I only use those off camera now (they’re massive on this smaller platform). I picked up the nissin i40 for on camera (bounced) which is great because it automagically switches the camera’s WB setting to flash as well as setting the viewfinder mode to NOT reflect your settings (since the flash isn’t flashing as you compose you end up with a black view if settings are reflected). It’s also pint sized and light which is great, but also just powerful enough I can use 1/8 or 1/4 when needed to keep recycle rates fast enough and it’ll survive and entire reception with one set of AAs for me. I’ve also kept two aps-c wide angle lenses that play nice on full frame. The first is the sony 10-18mm f/4. It’s meant to be an effective 15-27mm f/4 lens but it also covers full frame from 12mm to 16mm and is nice and small! It’s a great lens for shooting milky way shots for me as I need the added width there. I’ve been toying with it on arch shoots where 16mm on full frame isn’t quite wide enough as well. The other aps-c wide lens I’m using is the rokinon 8mm fisheye. You’ll notice shots of the 12mm fisheye in the gallery below as well. I tried both and while the 12mm is slightly nicer optically (perfect sun stars) it’s just so much bigger and bulkier that it won’t get brought along as much and you can’t use a lens you don’t have! The 8mm is tiny and lives tucked away in a corner of my bag.

X100T-DSCF1014

Wrap Up…

Sony has a long way to go in terms of dialing in this camera to the extent that I have zero issues with it. BUT! The vast majority of these items are very minor details (which way dials turn etc). The camera is a great tool and the more I use it the more I learn and adapt to how it’s different and the less these issues matter. That’s not to say I don’t want them fixed (and please, via firmware so I don’t need to buy my sixth a7 body in a two year span!). It’s that I can work with what I have. The sensor and the AF are fantastic and will keep me in this system for the long haul. Sony is catching up with lenses (70-300 next please?!) and each new firmware update brings new features. It’s an exciting time to be photographer!

This camera finally delivers better image quality than what I had with my DSLR (5Diii) in terms of dynamic range, clean ISOs AND more resolution. It also gives me auto focus I can trust in pretty much any situation. I have more issues manually focusing thanks to the focus by wire design and the uninformative display. All in all I’m the happiest I’ve been with a camera since the 5Diii (my only complaint there was size/weight).

You can buy a Sony A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo 

Nov 082015
 

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.29.33 AM

Checked out PopFlash.com Lately? Deals everywhere…

I visit PopFlash.com every single day. Why? Well, sometimes I see some GREAT deals there and you never know when you will see something you have been waiting for a good price on. PopFlash.com has been around for A LONG time and Tony, the owner, is another long time Leica dealer that everyone and anyone in the Leica world knows well. If you want Leica, Fuji, Olympus or almost anything..be sure to check them out as their prices are very fair and they often have specials with great discounts.

My 1st order with PopFlash was many many years ago when the Leica Digilux 2 was new & hot. Remember that one? I believe I bought one, then bought a 2nd one a while later as I enjoyed it so much.

PopFlash currently has some cool deals, so go check them out! With the Holidays coming up you just might find that perfect gift for someone special :)

Sep 282015
 

USER REPORT: A7RII + Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE: A weekend in Connecticut

by Jesse Hsu

Hi Steve,

After falling in love with the A7s and using it extensively for the past year, I was curious about the A7RII’s low-light capabilities as well as its stabilization to see if it was worth the purchase. ​ Borrowed the A7RII for a weekend trip to Connecticut to assess its performance. I only used the Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE lens.

This shot was taken in the backseat of a car going 75mph on the highway. I wanted to test out the 5-axis stabilization and took a quick snap of the biker in the lane next to us. Not the sharpest obviously, but not bad for a handheld shot.

1 - Biker

Went out to the backyard and snapped this photo. After opening it up in Photoshop later, I was blown away by the clarity and level of detail. Leaves and tree trunks were sharp and I was able to recover some shadow with ease. Note: No additional sharpening in post.

2 - trees

Went grocery shopping at a local farm for dinner and snapped a sheep who was patiently posing for me. Again, impressed by the clarity of the blades of grass as well as the wool of the sheep when zoomed in.

3 - sheep

As night fell, my friends were getting the grill hot and ready on the porch outside. A great opportunity to test the low light capabilities. There was one light source, an overhead lamp but the sensor performed with no issues as it captured the flames in action and preserved the details of the charcoal piled high in the chimney starter.

4 - grill

I took the next shot as the branzino began to crisp. Notice the criss-cross pattern of the fish scales as well as the powdery soot all over the grill.

5 - fish

Cornish game hens slathered in miso and gochujang were next on the grill.

6 - hens

The next morning we heard some chirping and found some baby birds camped out in the backyard gazebo. The wonderful minimum focusing distance of the 35mm 1.4 allowed me to get pretty close to the subjects and shoot wide open at 1.4 for a heaping of creamy bokeh.

7 - birds

Few friends came by for a dip and the fast boot up time of the camera allowed me to quickly freeze a moment in time. Note the cascading water droplets as clear as day.

8 - swim

Water-skiing in the late afternoon meant another great opportunity to test stabilization. All of the shots were taken on a boat going pretty fast and I was happy that there wasn’t much blur. No tripod used, all handheld. I shot some 4k video but haven’t had a chance to check out the footage in Adobe Premiere.

9 - lake

Conclusion: After putting the A7RII through its paces, I was happy with the results. It preserved amazing detail in low-light scenes and situations where there was considerable movement. I will be ordering the A7RII soon!

More photos (mix of A7, A7s, A7rII) here: www.instagram.com/scrumphsus

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