The sadness...loss of a camera lens

I'm very saddened by the damage taken to my lens over 4th of July holiday.  I speak to it in the vlog posted below, but the damage is seen in the pics following.  Hopefully Olympus can repair it as good as new, but no news yet.  

 RIP lens

RIP lens

 Ouch

Ouch

Review: Westcott 24" beauty dish for Elinchrom

I'm excited to test out this product. I don't see many reviews online but the ones I do seem very positive.  I have a beauty dish for studio from Elinchrom but it's an absolute pain to set up.  I'm hoping to acheive nice results with an easy to set up product in the field.

I love this product because it has a built in speedring and it unfolds in seconds like an umbrella.  Seems sturdy enough for shooting outdoors consistently, or using in studio in a pinch.  

Enjoy the video.

I'm converted

No, not like that.  Didn't join a cult, or new religion.  Converted my camera system from Sony full frame to micro 4/3.  I went in one day to Precision Camera to pick up some film and ended up speaking with the Olympus rep.  Super nice guy, checked out the prints he had at the store, and I was intrigued.  Then he started to show me the kit.  I was curious to the EM-5 as I had seen it hanging around the neck of some photographers I follow.  See Sean Archer, Juan Gonzalez, Jamie MacDonald

My curiousity led me to rent it from Borrowlenses.com.  They have a great selection and super speedy service so I grabbed the EM-5 and the 12-40 2.8 PRO M. Zuiko lens.   Immediately I could feel a weight difference between the Sony a7r II and the Oly.  

How does it feel?

Olympus equipment feels great.  Solid metal design, textured barrel, zoom, and focus rings.  Sealed bodies and lenses (PRO lenses) give me a comfort factor when travelling.  Virtually none of my Sony gear was weather sealed.  

Yes, but how does it feel?

Oh...weight.  Body weighs in at 410 grams, compared to 625 grams.  The 12-40 lens is really a 24-80 35mm equivalent, and comes in at 382 grams.  (Micro 4/3 has a 2x crop factor, unlike APS-C which is 1.5x).  Total net weight of 792 grams for camera and lens.  Sony 24-70 equivalent at 2.8 is a hefty 886 grams bringing the Sony 1 body and 1 lens to over 1500 grams.  1.5 kg for just one part of the kit.  I'd also be carrying the 70-200 (1480 grams) and the 16-35 F/4 (839 grams).  That's quite a kit and only 1 body/3 lenses.

My Olympus setup is as follows: 

  • 12-40 2.8 Pro (24-80mm equiv)
  • 45 1.8 (90mm equiv)
  • 75 1.8 (150mm equiv)
  • 40-150 (80-300mm equiv)
  • EM-5 Body

Total weight at:  2.03 Kg

I have a kit from 24-300mm, 2.8 aperture or less, and 1 body for the same as I would the 70-200 and a7r II.  That makes a huge difference.  

How much you got?

Next factor is price.  I sold the a7r II for a good price and was able to get 75% of the kit above at new retail price in turn.  The Sony selection is not only getting larger, but more cost prohibitive.  The 24-70 lens alone is more than the EM-5 and 12-40 put together.  Selling off 3 other lenses will net me enough to get the 40-150 and be fully recovered on the switch.  My range has extended from 35,55,14,85 to now having full coverage from 24-300 mm.  All with fast, pro glass.  

You're going to miss it

That's what I told myself.  "Don't do it, you already invested, it's great glass and superb mirrorless system."  I mulled this decision for the week I had the rental.  I looked at everything I could.  Here is what I will be giving up.

  • full size sensor (35mm)
  • small loss of depth of field (of which yet I can't find a noticeable difference)
  • Ergonomics - the EM-5 is smaller but I shoot with the Sony A6000, so i'm used to a smaller grip.  That is what my rapid strap is for :)
  • Internal 4K - didn't use this much at all, but it was beautiful
  • 42mp sensor - the files were big and lots of detail, but i haven't had any issues with the 16mp files from Olympus.  Plenty of detail still, little more noise if you pixel peep, but that is expected.  

Ok, so what do the shots look like?

Here are some shots I've taken thus far.  I've really enjoyed the flexibility of the kit.  

 

 

 

Does it shoot video?

You bet.  Here's a ttimelapse I shot the other morning.  I've also shot a couple of ad-hoc videos of the kids.  

Timelapse of morning sunrise

 

Verdict

Lightweight, compact, stunning photo and video.  I'm converted.  It is a rough feeling going thru a system change.  I changed to mirrorless the year before, moved over from Nikon.  I didn't get much gear when I moved to Sony.  Beautiful system but the move was mainly for me to get my gear moving.  Needed to be light, capable, and versatile.  I think I've found my system.  (watch me post a year later I'm with Fuji.....lmao)

Stay Focused

Vello autofocus adapter for Nikon to E mount coming soon

Here is a link to the B&H article with more detail.  The Vello autofocus adapter for Nikon to Sony E mount is coming soon! Looks like it's dropping in May 2016.  

 

After long wait, and selling almost all my Nikon lenses, we'll have an adapter soon that provides auto focus!  I'm sort of excited, a little upset, but mostly excited.  I sold all lenses but my Tamron 70-200 2.8 which I love.  I still use it manually at times, but a couple lenses I would have kept if they could have auto focus.  

This new adapter has a promise of bringing to life many lenses for folks that have made the swap to Sony E mount but have not yet sold off the old Nikon gear.  

Selling for $399, I'll be looking at some reviews from the testers on whether specifically the a7r2 can handle the autofocus with speed like the Metabones adapters do for Canon lenses.  

Look for more updates as I see testing come in.  

Said goodbye to an old friend

The first camera you really sink your teeth into is the hardest to let go.  Some readers may know I've been testing the Sony E mount series for a few months now.  I immediately fell in love with the size and weight of the camera, yet keeping the 35mm sensor.  So I kept looking for those projects where I'd go "Oh, I need the Nikon for that job"...days went by.  Weeks, now months.

The lucky young man on craigslist who inquired about it over the weekend walked away with it and 2 of the best lenses I had. 

Nikon D610 full frame 35mm sensor with 24.3 megapixels

The two lenses were the 85mm 1.8D and the 50mm 1.4G.  I bought the 85 first and the first picture I put on facebook got so much attention.  I hadn't shot at wide apertures with any camera before.  The picture was very silly, my wife holding our hairless dog with a toy in his mouth.  But it was so sharp and the falloff and bokeh were amazing.  I hope this kid loves it like I did.  The 50mm was a solid contender as well.  Sitting 1/3 stop faster at 1.4, I felt it was not very sharp until around f2 or 2.2.  That being said, you lose a little when you have to stop down a lens to effectively make it sharp, losing the edge of buying a faster lens.  (faster i.e. lower f stop or more light hitting the sensor)

Now on to the exciting news, I'm getting a new camera!!  The a7r II is out and I've had it on order for a couple months anxiously awaiting the ship date.  I've been watching the shipments follow the sun and with great excitement the US finally has dates!  Like..yesterday.  So...I may get batch #2 or 3 from B&H but it's going to ship soon.  Some Best Buy stores have them already and are selling out quick.  I may end up going to get it so I can use for my beach trip next week.

Sony a7R ii


Brian Smith has been posting some great images and new features on his blog.  He's one of the best sources when it comes to all things Sony.  Brian Matiash has been testing it out as well as the new highly acclaimed Batis lenses. He took the 25/2 to Iceland recently. 

Below are the product highlights: (Courtesy of B&H Photo)

Product Highlights

  • 42 MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • Internal UHD 4K Video & S-Log2 Gamma
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 399 Phase-Detect AF Points & 5 fps Burst
  • 0.5" 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
  • 3.0" 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
  • ISO 102,400 and Silent Shutter Mode
  • Durable Reduced-Vibration Shutter Design
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

The speed of the autofocus has been significantly increased.  5 axis stabilization in body means that you can use manual lenses or non optical stabilized ones and get up to 4.5 stops of shake correction.  That's incredible as I've used some old Minolta lenses down to 1/20 of a sec and not had shake. 

For landscape shooters like me, shooting bracketed is something we love to do and combine exposures to get the most out of the dynamic range of a scene.  The a7r II supports 9 brackets up to 1 stop in difference.  This will make for some amazing HDR. 

I've already come to realize that Wi-Fi is not a big feature to tout on a camera these days, but it's still standard as is NFC.  I like this because I can send an image to my phone for backup or to my ipad for larger viewing. 

Internal 4K recording is something I'm looking forward to.  I'm excited to work with video and without an external recorder, most cannot produce 4K to the card.  Sony has made this a feature in the new body so you can scale it directly to your SD card.  As monitors, content, and TV's all move to 4K, 8K, 16K and beyond, it's nice that Sony is keeping up and making a stills camera capable of shooting UHD formats. 

The sample images I've seen so far look amazing.  Very sharp, crisp, and detailed.  We are bordering on medium format in a compact package with a  35mm price tag.  With all the features and hype, the early release has indicated this camera will be one to beat this year. 

That's it for now.  Inspiration Tuesday resumes next week and then I'm off to vacation for a few days.  A little beach R&R.  And maybe an R ii :)

- Stay Focused -

Minolta ROKKOR-X 1.7 MD Lens review

Picked up my second Rokkor lens the other day and I'm loving it.  It's an excellent copy and has no haze, fungus, purple fringing, or other flaws that I can see.  

Buying lenses used you have to look for these things, as well as testing the aperture ring since that part is manual.  Look through the back of the barrel and check out the inside to see if you can spot anything on the glass.  Older glass may have some dust but if it wasn't kept in a cool, dry place for long then it will show signs of fungal growth, haze, and worse inside the barrel.  

I was very excited to get this from the local camera shop for $25.  Some of these go for $50-$100 on ebay and other resale sites.  The only thing needed is a MD-NEX mount adapter that you can get from Amazon.com for cheap.  Mine is the FOTGA MD-NEX as you can see from the picture.  

Some of the images I've taken are seen below in the gallery.  These are at f 1.7 and ISO 125 straight out of the a6000.  

I'm still working on nailing the manual focus.  At 1.7 you don't have much room to miss so a couple of these are not super sharp but it's my fault.  (You can really appreciate optical stabilization in the newer OSS lenses!) However, you can get the idea of the depth of field you can bring in with this lens.  Everything falls off beautifully in the background.  There is a nice circular bokeh as well.  I'm using these on a crop sensor and I get no vignetting even with the adapter which is a huge plus!

These lenses are a very cheap way to get into using your Sony camera as a walk about without having to spend $700-$1000 on lenses like the 24mm E mount or the 55 1.8.  Yes they are sharp, yes they are autofocus, and yes they are 50x the price of this lens :)

I am now just awaiting the a7rII so I can get a full frame and really see how much depth of field I can produce.  

Stay focused

ND Filter review: B&W 77mm .9 ND 8x filter

Hello folks!

Been a while since the last post.  Been busy with work and a few shoots that I can't post yet but will soon.  I got in a B&W ND filter today and thought I'd talk a little about it.  

The idea of this filter is to reduce exposure by 3 stops so when you are in the field and the sun is too bright you can throw this on to shoot at a slow shutter speed or more importantly, a wider aperture.  

In general, I'll be using these to reduce exposure to lower my aperture.  I just got in my Paul C Buff Vagabond mini lithium sine wave battery so I can take my studio lights on the road.  Cheaper method than just going out to by new Profoto B1's.  See the link below for what I mean.  

So when you are on location with lights you need to keep them under a shutter speed of 1/250 s for my Nikon in order to not have a black bar going across the shot.  Canon is generally under 1/200 s.  See this article for more details on sync speed and shutter curtain blocking the sensor.  

If you want to shoot at f/4 or even try f/2.8 and your camera meter is telling you to shoot at 1/800 of a second, then you have a problem.  Flash will go off, sensor will expose, but you'll get the black bar on the screen.  (easy fix, just stop down to f/8 or so to get the shutter speed down below 1/250)  But now you have much more in focus than you wanted.

The ND filter to the rescue.  See the shots below to compare them.  These are both out of camera with just a conversion to DNG in Lightroom CC.  You'll notice a blue shift on the one with the ND filter.  Not sure how bad this is compared to other brands, but it's simply there because the filter is really dark and your in camera meter shifted the color profile just a bit.  I have a really cheap 2-8 stop graduated ND filter and the shift is so bad I cannot color correct in software.  So far the color correction I'd have to do on the raw file is bump it up about 300 degrees Kelvin and adjust the tint from +10 to +1.  Easy fix.   

 with filter.  1/200, ISO 100, 2.8, 200mm

with filter.  1/200, ISO 100, 2.8, 200mm

 no filter.  1/200, ISO 100, f9, 200mm

no filter.  1/200, ISO 100, f9, 200mm

The shot with the filter does have a color cast to it, but it is small.  Easily fixed in Lightroom.   Being able to use the same lens at the same time of day and shoot at 2.8 instead of f9 makes a big difference in the depth of field.  More options at this point instead of stopping down to get a good exposure. 

If you grab a filter, I'll give you some tips for buying.  .9 means 3 stops of light.  So f11 can now be shot at f4  (f11, f8, f5.6, f4).  f8 can now be shot at 2.8, and so on.  The filter might say 8x on it as well, meaning 8 times less light is getting through to the sensor when this is on.  each stop is 2x more light.  3 stops is 2 cubed, or 8x.  

10 stops is fun for blurring water or trees/grass but it's also like shooting in the dark.  Don't skimp on them.  These .9 filters are not cheap, so a 3.0 will cost in the hundreds.  Make sure it's something you definitely need.  You'll need to pre-focus your scene, screw on the filter, then take the shot.  

Have fun with this tool.  It's an easy way to get creative when the light just isn't cutting it.  

Stay focused

Please visit our sponsor borrowlenses.com for some great deals on renting equipment.  Try before you buy is the way to go.  

Zeiss Loxia 35mm & 55mm f/2 Biogon T* Lens for Sony E Mount




Sony cameras for the light traveler

I've been using Sony for about 2 months now and I'm impressed with the quality and build of the cameras and lenses.  The system I have right now is the APS-C a6000 24MP small form factor camera with the 50mm OSS 1.8 Lens.  

The lens is sharp and autofocus is very accurate.  I primarily shoot wide open so primes with wide f-stops are very important.  I can let in more light and keep my ISO down.  I've not had any issues with the a6000 and high ISO though.  The Sony sensor not susceptible to noise and allows you to turn it up when needed.  

I have Nikon glass as well so I wanted to use that in my Sony camera.  Fotodiox makes a handy little adapter that attaches to the body of the camera and a Nikon G lens for a full manual experience with your existing glass.  On top of the adapter you'll find an aperture ring that allows you to dial it down for an "A" mode shooting experience. 

 All you need to do is adjust the ISO and shutter speed.  Doing so on a Sony EVF or Electronic Viewfinder is a simple task.  The back of the screen is WYSIWYG, in other words, you see the exposure you are going to make before you take the picture.  Similar to Live View on a Nikon or Canon.  All for around $59 USD you can keep using your existing glass from Sony/Nikon/Pentax/Voigtlander/etc

The folks at Borrowlenses.com have Sony kit and right now it's all 15% off your rental.  Just use the link below and add items to your cart then use BLEVERYTHING15

I'd recommend either the Sony a7r, a7II, or the a6000 and a light lens like the Zeiss Loxia 35/2

Save 15% on All Rentals - Two Days Only

hope you get a chance to try them out.  It's a really enjoyable experience.  

Learning from mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time.  Sometimes you lock your keys in the car.  Sometimes you leave the sandwich too close to the counter edge with furry burglar nearby.  Either way, we all do it.  

The other night I was shooting landscapes in one of my favorite spots on top of Austin at the Pennybacker bridge.  

The night was awesome.  Stars out, cool breeze, not too chilly for Texas winter.  I had my tripod setup, camera was locked down, shutter speed dialed in to about 8 seconds, perfect.  I was trying to catch some stars and light trails in the viewfinder since we have a new moon.  My setup was awesome, at least I thought.  

When I looked in the 3" LCD the pics were looking so awesome.  

 However upon inspection I noticed one crucial detail.  They were not in focus.  The bridge was ok, the side of the mountain too, but the stars and the background are all fuzzy.  Why are they fuzzy, I mean all I did really was just aim my camera and turn the focus ring to manual, put it on infinity, and press the shutter button.    Well my friends that is where the lesson comes in to play.  Always check your lenses to see where infinity focus is during the DAY!!  Yes, this is huge.  See, sometimes the focus ring on lenses can be different as to where "infinity" actually is.  It could be smack in the middle of the sign on the focus ring.  It could be off by 1mm left or right as well.  I just kinda...well...turned it close to infinity and said "it can't be that bad can it?"

However upon inspection I noticed one crucial detail.  They were not in focus.  The bridge was ok, the side of the mountain too, but the stars and the background are all fuzzy.  Why are they fuzzy, I mean all I did really was just aim my camera and turn the focus ring to manual, put it on infinity, and press the shutter button.  

Well my friends that is where the lesson comes in to play.  Always check your lenses to see where infinity focus is during the DAY!!  Yes, this is huge.  See, sometimes the focus ring on lenses can be different as to where "infinity" actually is.  It could be smack in the middle of the sign on the focus ring.  It could be off by 1mm left or right as well.  I just kinda...well...turned it close to infinity and said "it can't be that bad can it?"

 Example of focus set to infinity

Example of focus set to infinity

The answer is a resounding yes!  I did some testing just now and found out that even objects 15 to 20 ft away could have a different spot on the infinity symbol even though they are all more than 3 ft away.  (a common myth is that anything farther than 3ft away on a wide angle zoom you can just set the focus ring to infinity and it will be sharp)  

I found out my ring is dead center on the money for focus.  Everything farther than 3ft or for example in the picture above should have been focused dead on the infinity symbol.   The margin of error is so small that even .5 to 1 mm left or right made a fuzzy exposure.  See below.  

The moral of the story is this - Check the focusing on your wide angles in the daytime and make a mental note or keep something in your camera bag that shows where infinity focus is for that lens.