Admiring Light http://admiringlight.com/blog Photography Reviews, Photos, News and Musings Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:37:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Review: Sony a6000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-a6000/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-sony-a6000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-a6000/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 02:25:33 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3718 Earlier this year, Sony abandoned the NEX nomenclature in its lineup of mirrorless cameras, bringing everything into the Alpha line.  The first enthusiast APS-C camera in this new lineup is the Sony Alpha a6000, which replaces the earlier NEX-6 in the Sony lineup, though it could also be argued that the a6000 takes the place …

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Earlier this year, Sony abandoned the NEX nomenclature in its lineup of mirrorless cameras, bringing everything into the Alpha line.  The first enthusiast APS-C camera in this new lineup is the Sony Alpha a6000, which replaces the earlier NEX-6 in the Sony lineup, though it could also be argued that the a6000 takes the place of the NEX-7 as well.  The new camera is aggressively priced at $649 for the body only, while including a built-in EVF, a new 24 megapixel sensor, Wi-Fi, blazing fast hybrid autofocus and a somewhat insane burst shooting rate of 11 frames per second.  Fitting that many features into a camera at this price point is a daunting proposition.  Let’s see if Sony pulled it off.

The Sony Alpha a6000

The Sony Alpha a6000

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool. I am not a videographer, so my reviews concentrate on the still imaging capabilities of a camera.

Body and Ergonomics

The a6000 is a compact mirrorless camera that takes most of its design cues from its predecessor, the NEX-6.  The camera is very nearly the same size as the NEX-6, and has a similar button layout, though as I’ll discuss in a moment, those controls have been improved dramatically in my opinion.  The a6000 is a composite (read: plastic) bodied camera that is simultaneously a step up and a step down from the NEX-6.  It’s a step up in that they have created a more sculpted hand grip that is, in my opinion, notably more comfortable to hold than the one on the NEX-6 (or the NEX-7).  While I think the grip is still a bit too close to the lens mount, it is one of the more comfortable Sony mirrorless cameras I’ve used.

The Sony NEX-6 (left) and the new a6000 (right)

The Sony NEX-6 (left) and the new a6000 (right)

On the down side, I think Sony has taken a small step back when it comes to construction.  While the camera is tightly assembled for the most part, and doesn’t experience any flex or creakiness, the finish on the plastic isn’t nearly as robust as the finish on the NEX-6.  Sony has opted for a flat smooth painted finish with the a6000, and the result is a body that is going to be a bit more prone to scratches than the pebbled durable finish of the NEX-6.  The camera comes in both silver and black versions, and I have the silver version.  The silver camera (which is a bit warm, so bordering on champagne in color) is quite attractive, but I can already tell that over time the paint will likely wear off on the corners of the camera, revealing the black plastic beneath.  I can already see some paint wear on the supporting nubs on the bottom of the camera.  Additionally, the rear screen isn’t nearly as rigid as the one on the NEX-6.  When the a6000′s screen is retracted flat against the camera body, there is still a slight bit of play if you touch the corners of the screen.  It’s not loose or poorly attached, but it does wobble, and it becomes apparent that this is the area where some of the cost corners were cut.

However, those concerns aside, the a6000 handles quite well for a small camera.  The dials and buttons fall under your thumb easily, and the corner mounted viewfinder is comfortable to use.  The camera is exceedingly lightweight and  the nice grip allows both smaller and larger lenses to handle well.  The hand grip rubber starts at the front of the grip and wraps completely around the side of the camera to the rear thumb rest, which is comfortable and provides a secure grip on the camera.

Controls and Operation

The top controls of the a6000, with the Mode dial, the main dial, shutter button and C1 button

The top controls of the a6000, with the Mode dial, the main dial, shutter button and C1 button

With the a6000, Sony has started to get away from the soft button paradigm that was used in earlier models in favor of dedicated control buttons, and I for one am thankful.  The NEX-6 was a powerful camera, but there were several usability issues that personally bothered me immensely.  I am happy to say that the a6000 has remedied almost all of them.  The camera utilizes a single top function dial in conjunction with a rear dial to control the imaging parameters.  When in aperture or shutter priority mode, the main dial controls the priority function.  While the rear dial is turned off by default, a quick settings change enables direct access to exposure compensation on the rear dial.  This is a welcome change.  Many people have complained that the position of the mode dial and the main dial should have been switched, and I’ll admit that this probably would have been the way to go, but as I am rather accustomed to reaching to the upper right to adjust a dial on other cameras, this wasn’t something that bothered me at all.

In addition to the dials, the a6000 features a total of seven programmable buttons: the left, right and down buttons on the four-way dial, two dedicated Custom buttons (C1 and C2) as well as the center button and the AEL button.  I have chosen to have most of these buttons perform their default functions and I’ve assigned face detection toggle to the C2 button, and focus magnification to the C1 button, which is located right next to the shutter button.  In addition to the programmable buttons, the a6000 features the same customizable function menu as the A7 and A7r, which allows for up to twelve different functions to be available simply by pressing the Fn button.  For me, this means easy access to settings like flash exposure compensation and turning SteadyShot on and off.  The end result is a camera that can be customized to how you shoot.  As such, it’s not hard to set up the camera to be a responsive and agile companion for photography.

The rear of the a6000, with the host of programmable buttons, the rear dial and the tilting rear screen.

The rear of the a6000, with the host of programmable buttons, the rear dial and the tilting rear screen.

In addition to the removal of the ‘soft buttons’ that the previous NEX cameras had, the a6000 gains another big part of the Alpha lineup: actually decent menus.  The menu system of the NEX line was among the worst in the industry in my opinion, with page after page of settings in a single list format that boggled the mind.

The a6000's menu system is much improved over its predecessor

The a6000′s menu system is much improved over its predecessor

The NEX-6 has 66 items in the ‘setup menu,’ in a single list.  Sixty-six! Thankfully, with the a6000, these options are now blissfully broken down into a well-organized set of six tabs, with multiple screens per tab and six items per screen.  It helps tremendously with organization.  While there are still a tremendous of options available in the menus, the organization makes it significantly easier to navigate and find what you are looking for.  The much expanded Fn menu I spoke about earlier also lets you select the more important functions and put them front and center rather than digging through the menu system.

As a result of these changes, I have found the a6000 to be a very enjoyable camera to use.  The annoyances that kept me from really enjoying shooting with a Sony body in the past have been rectified, and as a result, the a6000 is one of the first Sony cameras I’ve truly enjoyed shooting with right from the start.

The a6000 also has a small pop-up flash located directly next to the hotshoe.  This tiny flash, like many nowadays, can be bent back to provide some rudimentary bounce capability, though the low power often makes this impractical.  Exposure on the flash was good at most distances, but tended to overexpose closer subjects.  The flash isn’t powerful enough to rely on for typical shooting situations, but can make for a decent fill flash in the right circumstances.

Continue: Viewfinder and Performance

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Early Morning Skyline http://admiringlight.com/blog/early-morning-skyline/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=early-morning-skyline http://admiringlight.com/blog/early-morning-skyline/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 14:10:56 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3711 Last Thursday, I had an early meeting, and decided to wake up a bit earlier and take some shots of the Columbus skyline in the pre-dawn morning.  I’d been meaning for some time to try some shots from this vantage point, which is up near a bridge over the highway, to get some trails of the …

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Last Thursday, I had an early meeting, and decided to wake up a bit earlier and take some shots of the Columbus skyline in the pre-dawn morning.  I’d been meaning for some time to try some shots from this vantage point, which is up near a bridge over the highway, to get some trails of the highway traffic leading into the city.  So I arrived around 5:30 AM, as the first light of the day was starting to turn the sky purple, set up my camera and tripod and framed a few shots.  I ended up rather pleased with the results, though it made me wish I could construct a 100 foot tower on the spot to get an even better vantage point.  Click to enlarge the images.

The Morning Commute - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.5 OIS @ f/11, 40 seconds

The Morning Commute – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS @ 110mm, f/11, 30 seconds

Traffic in the City - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS @

Traffic in the City – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS @ 149mm, f/16, 15 seconds

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Review: Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar T* (Fuji X) http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-touit-50mm-f2-8-makro-planar-t-fuji-x-mount/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-zeiss-touit-50mm-f2-8-makro-planar-t-fuji-x-mount http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-touit-50mm-f2-8-makro-planar-t-fuji-x-mount/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 01:07:08 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3669 The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar, which fills out the trio of Touit lenses for mirrorless cameras, has finally arrived.  This line, for both Fuji X-mount and Sony E-mount, is separate from the lenses that Zeiss creates with Sony specifically for their E-Mount and A-mount cameras.  The Touit 50mm is a true 1:1 macro lens and …

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The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar, which fills out the trio of Touit lenses for mirrorless cameras, has finally arrived.  This line, for both Fuji X-mount and Sony E-mount, is separate from the lenses that Zeiss creates with Sony specifically for their E-Mount and A-mount cameras.  The Touit 50mm is a true 1:1 macro lens and with a short telephoto focal length can potentially pull double duty as a portrait and general purpose lens.  While the version reviewed here is for the Fuji X-Mount, the E-Mount version of the lens should be identical in every way, save for the absence of an aperture ring. This lens has been anticipated for quite some time, so let’s dive in.

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar T* on the Fujifilm X-T1

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar T* on the Fujifilm X-T1

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar with the included hood

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar with the included hood

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Macro is a solidly built lens with a sturdy metal barrel, a metal lens mount and grippy rubber aperture and focus rings. I am not really a fan of the rubber control rings, as I think it reduces the tactile feedback when using the lens, but it does provide for a nice grip.  The lens is fairly dense, and significantly larger than the Fuji 60mm f/2.4, though still small enough to handle well on the Fuji X-T1.  It would be a bit unwieldy on a smaller body such as the X-M1 or X-A1, but should handle well on all the other Fuji bodies.  The weight and metal build lend the Touit a feeling of extremely solid construction.  This feels like a premium lens.

The focus ring, as mentioned, has that thick rubber grip, which should provide good purchase in all weather.  While I am not a big fan of the rubber feel, the focus ring is damped quite well, with nice resistance and smooth focusing action for manual focus.  Given the less than stellar macro-range autofocus capabilities that I’ll talk about shortly, manual focus will get a fair bit of use with this lens when shooting near maximum magnification.

The lens also features an aperture ring for the Fuji X-mount, with 1/3 stop detents from f/2.8 to f/22 and the A setting for automatic aperture selection.  The aperture ring is nice and firm with very solid selection points.  It may even be slightly too firm, as there is some tendency to jump multiple steps when the ring gives, but overall, I would prefer it to be stiff like it is than loose.

Focus and Performance

The Touit 50mm has a split personality with regards to autofocus.  The lens features a focus motor that is significantly quieter than the motors in the other two Touit lenses, and for typical subjects in good light, focus is quite quick.  If there is adequate light and you’re using the phase-detect points on an X-E2 or X-T1, the focus will snap into place nearly instantly.  If phase detection doesn’t lock on, it’s still reasonably quick in good light.  In fact, the lens keeps up quite well in continuous autofocus on my X-T1.  Be sure to check out the samples of my daughter on her bike, both of which were taken as she rode directly at me while the X-T1 and Touit 50mm tracked her.  Overall focus accuracy in good light is excellent, as you’d expect from a hybrid AF system.

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar

However, once the light gets dim or you begin to focus closer up, the Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 starts to falter a fair bit.  When trying to get some candid shots of my son in my family room, the lens was very hit and miss.  Sometimes it would lock on fine, other times it would fail completely.  I would not recommend using AF in dimmer light for anything that requires quick response.  The speed slows down considerably and there’s a good chance you’ll miss your target entirely.

The same can be said when using AF at high magnifications. Once you begin focusing in the macro range, the lens becomes extremely slow to focus.  For some reason, even when the ‘macro’ mode is enabled, the Touit 50mm will very often have a preference for the background instead of your close-up subject. I missed a lot of shots when shooting butterflies at our local conservatory due to the lens suddenly switching from the butterfly in my view to the plants 20 feet behind it.  It was very frustrating.

The point of both of these main problems is that the Touit 50mm desperately needs a focus limiter.  Fuji cameras have a semi-limited ‘macro mode’ , but it doesn’t do much with this lens.  There is still far too much of the range that is accessible when Macro Mode is off.  As a result, if you’re in lower light and you do a full button press and the camera misses focus…the lens will go completely through the range and back before firing off a shot and allowing you to refocus.  It does this slowly, and in some cases, if I missed focus, it was two to three seconds before I could attempt to refocus again.

Things are worse when Macro Mode is enabled.  While this will allow the lens to focus right up to 1:1, there is nothing to keep the lens from focusing OUT of the macro range.  The result is that tendency to focus on the background, which can make it very difficult to get the lens to focus back in the range of your subject.  I can’t imagine why Zeiss would design a 1:1 macro lens and put no form of focus limiting switch on the lens.  In any case, when shooting in the macro range, you’re almost certainly going to want to use manual focus with this lens.  The good news is that it is very easy to see the focus point with a good EVF like the one on the X-T1, and manual focus is a breeze.

One other point about handling and focus.  Because this is an internally focusing macro lens, the real focal length will get shorter as you focus closer.  With the Touit 50mm, that results in an extremely short working distance at 1:2 and closer.  When comparing to the Fuji 60mm, which is nominally only 20% longer, you need to be almost half the distance to your subject at 1:2 than you need to be with the 60mm.  At 1:1, working distance is only about 2 inches (without the hood), making lighting difficult and potentially spooking insects.  With the hood attached, the lens focuses essentially to the edge of the hood at 1:1.

Continue: Image Quality

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Review: Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art (Sony E Mount) http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sigma-30mm-f2-8-dn-art-sony-e-mount/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-sigma-30mm-f2-8-dn-art-sony-e-mount http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sigma-30mm-f2-8-dn-art-sony-e-mount/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:41:17 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3630 Sigma first ventured into the mirrorless space with the release of two lenses for Sony E-Mount and Micro 4/3 in January of 2012 with the 19mm f/2.8 and 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lenses.  Around a year later, they released updated versions of these lenses with a new body style, and perhaps minor changes to coatings, …

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Sigma first ventured into the mirrorless space with the release of two lenses for Sony E-Mount and Micro 4/3 in January of 2012 with the 19mm f/2.8 and 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lenses.  Around a year later, they released updated versions of these lenses with a new body style, and perhaps minor changes to coatings, though officially no optical changes were made.  Today, I’m going to take a look at the newer version of the 30mm lens: The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art for Sony E-mount.  This lens is relatively small, incredibly inexpensive, and provides a normal focal length with a field of view equivalent to a 45mm lens on a full frame camera.  It also may be one of the better bargains in photography today.

The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art on the Sony A6000

The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art on the Sony A6000


If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.

Build Quality and Handling

The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art ditched the matte finish black plastic exterior of the earlier version of the lens and has received a new body that is available in either black or silver.  The version reviewed here is the silver version.  The lens is constructed of a combination of high-grade plastics with a metal clad barrel and a metal mount.  The bottom half of the lens barrel is covered in a thin metal (likely aluminum) and finished in a matte silver paint (along with an inset glossy ‘A’ for the ‘Art’ series of lenses).  The top half of the lens is the extremely shiny metal clad focus ring.  Having a perfectly smooth focus ring is a bit odd, but it works just fine.  The fine silver finish of the focus ring looks beautiful in person, but is also exceptionally prone to showing fingerprints and it also seems to scratch rather easily (though the scratches sort of blend in a bit since the scratch is the same color as the finish.  As a result, the lens normally doesn’t look as clean as it does when wiped down or when you first pull it out of the box.

Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art with Hood

Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art with Hood

The front of the lens has the engraved focal length, aperture, filter size, etc, though unlike most lenses, this information isn’t filled in with white, but rather kept as a black relief.  Overall, the lens feels tightly assembled, but falls short of feeling robust. You can tell there are a few corners cut to keep the cost down. Most noticeable is the fact that the focusing group for all of the Sigma DN lenses is a free-floating group controlled by electromagnets.  As such, when the lens doesn’t have power, the focus group will rattle around inside. This doesn’t seem to cause any issues at all, but it doesn’t sound reassuring.

The lens is small and the included reversible lens hood doesn’t add much to the size, ensuring that the 30mm will handle well on essentially any camera.  One thing to note with this lens (and all the Sigma DN lenses) is that boot up takes a bit longer when these lenses are attached, depending on the camera.  There’s an added 1-2 second delay upon turning on the camera before the lens is ready to go when shooting with the NEX-6.  However, this delay is all but gone when the lens is mounted on the new A6000.

Autofocus Performance

The 30mm f/2.8 DN Art features a focus mechanism that is generally very quiet, but not totally silent.  If you are focusing in a quiet room, you can hear a soft buzz when the focus motor is activated.  Autofocus accuracy is pretty good, hitting the target dead on in the majority of situations, though I did have a few times where there was some slight backfocus.  I’m not sure whether to blame the lens or the camera for that, though.  The speed of autofocus is a bit of a letdown.  It’s not particularly slow, but it certainly isn’t fast either, taking between a quarter and a half second to lock focus in most situations.

Continue: Image Quality

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Review: Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-panasonic-leica-15mm-f1-7-dg-summilux/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-panasonic-leica-15mm-f1-7-dg-summilux http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-panasonic-leica-15mm-f1-7-dg-summilux/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 22:24:11 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3595 Panasonic and Leica have had a long partnership in the photographic industry, and one of the bright spots in that arrangement is the excellent prime lenses that the pair have produced for the Micro 4/3 system.  The latest Panasonic Leica prime fills out the wide end of the range.  The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG …

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Panasonic and Leica have had a long partnership in the photographic industry, and one of the bright spots in that arrangement is the excellent prime lenses that the pair have produced for the Micro 4/3 system.  The latest Panasonic Leica prime fills out the wide end of the range.  The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux joins the 25mm f/1.4 Summilux, the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron and the 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit among Leica branded Micro 4/3 lenses.  The 15mm f/1.7 is a wide-angle lens with a field of view equivalent to a 30mm lens on a full frame camera.  Many have high hopes for this tiny lens, and in this 15mm f/1.7 review, we’ll see if those hopes are warranted.

Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux on the Panasonic Lumix GX1

Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux on the Panasonic Lumix GX1

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

The Leica 15mm f/1.7 takes its exterior design cues from its older brother, the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron (reviewed here), as well as more recent Leica M mount lenses.  The result is a very attractive little lens, that would look right at home among the Leica M series.  While the 15mm f/1.7 has an all-metal exterior and a similar design, it doesn’t have the same heft or sense of extreme quality that an M-mount Leica would have.  The metal used is very thin, so you would be forgiven for thinking the lens barrel is plastic.  I actually placed the lens in a cool area to be able to identify which parts were metal by touch, and was somewhat surprised to find it was entirely metal along the barrel, focus and aperture rings.  However, that’s not to say the lens is poorly built.  Despite the surprisingly light weight, the lens is quite solid and features smooth controls.

Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 Summilux

Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 Summilux

Like the 42.5mm Nocticron, the 15mm Summilux is the second of the Panasonic Leica series to feature a dedicated aperture ring.  The aperture ring features detents every 1/3 stop, plus a separate ‘A’ position, which essentially disables the aperture ring and moves control to the camera.  Like it’s older brother, the aperture ring doesn’t make a ton of sense in the Micro 4/3 world.  I’m a lover of aperture rings (it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Fuji X series), but here it sort of feels tacked on.  Part of the reason for that is the limited support in the Micro 4/3 system.  The aperture ring only works on Panasonic bodies, reverting to a decorative accent when used on an Olympus camera.  While the ring works well on a Panasonic camera I do wish the detents were more positive.  It’s quite easy to accidentally change the aperture.

The focus ring is small, but turns very smoothly and feels nice to use.  The very small size of the lens makes it a perfect companion for any Micro 4/3 body, from the super small GM1 to the larger cameras like the Olympus E-M1 or Panasonic GH4.  It really is a joy to have on the camera, while not as small as some of the Micro 4/3 pancake lenses, it is definitley small enough to make for a jacket-pocketable combo in conjunction with smaller bodies.

While the lens includes a round bayonet mount hood when purchased, I did not have the hood during my evaluation period.  A front decorative ring comes off to reveal the hood mounting flanges.

Autofocus Performance

The 15mm f/1.7 features a virtually silent and extremely fast autofocus motor.  Autofocus acquisition is nearly instantaneous, and accuracy was top-notch in all situations.  Even in dim light, focus speeds remained on a high level.

One great thing about the 15mm Summilux is the close focusing ability. The lens can focus down to about 7″, allowing for great closeup work with a wide angle (though falling short of macro). This can let you get some very interesting perspectives with the lens.

Continue: Image Quality

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Mini-Review: Vello RS-C1II Remote Release for your Fuji X-T1 http://admiringlight.com/blog/mini-review-vello-rs-c1ii-remote-release-fuji-x-t1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mini-review-vello-rs-c1ii-remote-release-fuji-x-t1 http://admiringlight.com/blog/mini-review-vello-rs-c1ii-remote-release-fuji-x-t1/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:38:23 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3583 One of the changes made in the name of weathersealing the Fuji X-T1 was the removal of the threaded shutter button.  The X-Pro 1 and the X-E series all contained this threaded shutter release.  As a result, those looking for a remote shutter release for these cameras could purchase the rather expensive Fuji electronic release, …

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One of the changes made in the name of weathersealing the Fuji X-T1 was the removal of the threaded shutter button.  The X-Pro 1 and the X-E series all contained this threaded shutter release.  As a result, those looking for a remote shutter release for these cameras could purchase the rather expensive Fuji electronic release, or one of the innumerable threaded cable releases.  Now that the X-T1 is here without that threaded release, an electronic remote is required if you want to use a remote shutter release.  Today, I’m reviewing a remote release that is not specifically made for Fuji cameras, the Vello RS-C1 II Wired Remote Switch.  This release is marketed as being for Canon cameras, as well as Samsung, Pentax and others, but it works just great on Fuji cameras as well.

Vellow RS-C1II Wired Remote Switch, plugged into the Fuji X-T1

Vellow RS-C1II Wired Remote Switch, plugged into the Fuji X-T1

Why do you need a remote release?

For most shooting where remote releases were essential, you often don’t need one nowadays to be honest.  For longer exposures on a tripod that are less than 30 seconds, setting the self timer to 2 seconds should do the trick of avoiding shake from the shutter press.

However, there are two major things that currently require a remote release if you want to do them on a Fuji camera. The first is Bulb exposures.  If you are taking exposures longer than 30 seconds, you have two options: Hold the button down for the entire exposure (which will almost certainly add vibration and softness to the image), or use a remote release.  You can lock the shutter down with your remote release, then unlock it when you want to complete the exposure.  Easy.

The second way is for doing star trails or any other multi-image sequence that requires the least amount of time possible between exposures.  The X-T1 has a built in intervalometer that will work great for time lapse and is passable for star trails, but there is a minimum delay of 1 second between images, and this can lead to very small gaps in the star trails.  With a remote release, you can simply set the camera to continuous shooting and lock the release closed, and there will be no delay between images.

The Vello RS-C1II

For the X-T1, there are a few options for electronic remote releases.  Fuji has their own RR-90 remote release, which consists simply of a button and a hold switch.  This plugs into the micro USB port on the camera.  There are two problems with the RR-90.  First, the Micro-USB port isn’t all that secure, and second, the RR-90 costs $45 for that simple functionality.  There are some much more advanced third party switches in the $50 range that allow for interval programming, etc, though this isn’t really needed on the X-T1 because it has a built in intervalometer.

Enter the Vello RS-C1II.  This release has the same basic functionality as the Fuji RR-90.  It has a shutter button (that you can half press for focus and full press to take the shot, just like the button on the camera), and a lock switch that you simply depress the shutter button, and slide the switch up to keep the shutter button depressed.  That’s it.  Simple, easy and effective.  The big advantages to the Vello?  It uses the 2.5mm Mic jack on the X-T1 (it will also work on the X-E cameras and I presume the X-Pro 1 as well), which is a much more secure connection.  Once the plug is inserted, it will stay there until you pull it out intentionally.  Most importantly, this remote release costs $7.50 at B&H.  Yup.  Less than 8 bucks.

The RS-C1II works flawlessly with the X-T1 and my other Fuji cameras with a mic jack. It’s also pretty well built and the cord is a nice thick gauge.  Considering you can purchase 5 of these Vello remotes for the price of one Fuji RR-90, it’s an absolute no-brainer.  Frankly, due to the more flexible cord, I think it’s a good idea for Fuji X-E1 and X-E2 owners to use this remote switch instead of a cable release as well.

Pros

  • Well built
  • Flawless operation for remotely operating the shutter, bulb exposures and continuous long exposures
  • Only $7.50
  • More secure mic plug won’t fall out.

Cons

  • For the price?  None

This is as close to a no-brainer accessory as you can get.  For less than 8 dollars you get a very nice wired remote release for your camera. It’s simple, but it works and works well.  If you have an X-T1, just get one.

 

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Review: Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-e-pz-18-105mm-f4-g-oss/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-sony-e-pz-18-105mm-f4-g-oss http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-e-pz-18-105mm-f4-g-oss/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 20:00:55 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3544 Last August, Sony announced not one, but two constant f/4 standard zoom lenses for their APS-C mirrorless cameras: The Carl Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 OSS (Reviewed Here) and Sony’s first G lens for the E-Mount: The PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS, which I’ll take a close look at today.  The 18-105mm f/4 covers a nearly 6x …

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Last August, Sony announced not one, but two constant f/4 standard zoom lenses for their APS-C mirrorless cameras: The Carl Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 OSS (Reviewed Here) and Sony’s first G lens for the E-Mount: The PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS, which I’ll take a close look at today.  The 18-105mm f/4 covers a nearly 6x zoom range from wide-angle to medium telephoto, all while maintaining a constant lens length and a constant f/4 aperture.  Sony also made this lens a power zoom lens, as a nod to videographers.  This ambitious design also is ambitiously priced.  The $599 price tag is a full $400 less than its Zeiss brother, which begs the question: Can this lens really live up to the G moniker at this price point?

Sony 18-105mm f/4 G OSS on the Sony NEX-6

Sony 18-105mm f/4 G OSS on the Sony NEX-6

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.

Around the Lens: Construction

To get the obvious out of the way after looking at the picture above, the Sony 18-105mm f/4 G OSS is a large lens for a mirrorless camera.  Given the large zoom range and the constant f/4 aperture, this is to be somewhat expected, but it does make the camera+lens combination less than ultra-compact.  However, if you’re packing this lens, it is likely as a single lens replacement for several other lenses, and in that context it’s really not too big.  What makes the lens manageable is that despite its size, it’s very lightweight.  Picking up the lens is almost bizarre, as the expected heft from a lens this size just isn’t there.

The Sony 18-105mm f/4 G OSS with hood

The Sony 18-105mm f/4 G OSS with hood

Despite the light weight, the lens is very solidly constructed, living up to the G moniker in this department.  The lens barrel is metal, with high quality plastics making up the zoom and focus rings. There are no creaks or wobbles anywhere in the construction.  It’s light, but it feels high quality.  Both the zoom and focus rings operate very smoothly, though I do wish for slightly more damping on the focus ring.

The one area on the lens that does feel slightly flimsy is the additional power zoom rocker, which operates smoothly, but with less resistance than I’d prefer.  Still, it’s not bad in any way.

Included with the lens is a reversible petal-type lens hood that locks solidly into place. With the hood attached, the lens looks truly massive, but it does a nice job at shielding the lens from sunlight.  The wide hood does make the lens very large in diameter when the hood is reversed for storage.

One more thing: for some reason, the front element on the 18-105mm is among the hardest to clean of any lens I have ever used.  I got a little bit of water spray on the front element, and usually that can be cleaned right off with a microfiber cloth or a lens pen.  I swear it took me nearly 10 minutes to get the water spots off the front element.  I am normally not a UV/protector filter kind of guy, preferring to use filters only when they have a photographic purpose, or if I’m shooting in extreme conditions with blowing sand or water, but I purchased a Hoya HD UV filter (which has extremely strong glass and exceptional coatings that are a breeze to clean) just so I don’t have to clean the front element on this lens.

Handling, Autofocus and Stabilization

As mentioned in the previous section, the 18-105mm f/4 G is a large lens, but its light weight means that it still handles relatively well on my NEX-6. The length dictates that you support the lens barrel for the best stability, though it can be shot one handed if needed.  The 18-105mm focal range, which has an equivalent field of view of a 27-158mm lens on a full frame camera, is an extremely useful range for a single walkaround lens.  While the wide end seems to be a bit longer than the marked 18mm (framing is similar to 19mm on the Zeiss 16-70mm and my Fuji 18-55mm), the ability to have everything from wide-angle to medium telephoto in a single lens with a constant f/4 aperture makes the lens extremely versatile.  If you only want to bring one camera and one lens, it’s a very handy optic to use.

Being a power zoom lens, there is no direct mechanical coupling to the zoom mechanism.  I was quite worried that this would be supremely annoying in use, as I have experienced some power zooms that can be frustrating in use.  However, Sony has done a great job with the power zoom implementation.  There are two methods to zoom the lens: a wide to telephoto rocker switch on the left side of the lens, and a traditional zoom ring in the middle of the lens.

The 18-105mm f/4 G OSS - The power zoom rocker can be seen on the side of the lens

The 18-105mm f/4 G OSS – The power zoom rocker can be seen on the side of the lens

The rocker switch is very useful for shooting video, as it allows for smooth control of zooming at a variety of speeds.  However, for still shooting, most photographers (myself included) prefer a twisting zoom ring.  The zoom ring allows the lens to zoom smoothly and quickly, and while there is a very small amount of lag, it reacts responsively and feels about as close to mechanically coupled as you could hope for a power zoom implementation.  Zooming is completely internal and almost completely silent.  I adjusted to the power zoom usage very quickly.  With no markings for focal length on the lens barrel due to the power zoom, the camera displays the current focal length in the viewfinder.  The one down side to the power zoom implementation is that it sets itself to a ‘park’ position (somewhere in the middle of the zoom range) when you turn off the camera, and then resets itself to 18mm when the camera is turned on.  It would be nice if the camera could remember the last zoom position and reset to that position when powering on.

The autofocus motor in the PZ 18-105mm f/4 G is relatively quick and silent.  Focus is achieved quite quickly in good light and even has passable speed in lower light.  Overall focus accuracy was very good, except when shooting in lower light at the long end of the zoom range.  For some reason in lower light, the lens had a tendency to miss focus just slightly when shot at 105mm, so it’s worth watching your focus point in dimmer light if you need the reach.

The 18-105mm features Sony’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilizer, and the OSS works as advertised, allowing for sharp shots at shutter speeds 2-3 stops slower than would otherwise be possible.  While not among the best stabilizers I’ve used, this is a competent performance.

Continue: Image Quality

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Fallsville Falls http://admiringlight.com/blog/fallsville-falls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fallsville-falls http://admiringlight.com/blog/fallsville-falls/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:37:21 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3535 Last week, I came upon a waterfall that is remotely located in southwest Ohio. The falls are somewhat pointedly named “Fallsville Falls,” after the now non-existent town of Fallsville, that I’m sure was originally named after the waterfall, so there’s some circular naming going on.  It’s really in the middle of nowhere, and no signs …

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Last week, I came upon a waterfall that is remotely located in southwest Ohio. The falls are somewhat pointedly named “Fallsville Falls,” after the now non-existent town of Fallsville, that I’m sure was originally named after the waterfall, so there’s some circular naming going on.  It’s really in the middle of nowhere, and no signs mark the path to the falls, but I had discovered a few references to the falls and decided to check them out.  When I first passed by, I didn’t have my tripod ready to go, so I had to rely on a few handheld test type shot, but the trip served as good scouting.

This past Saturday, I got up very early and made my way down to the falls, arriving just after dawn.  After hiking down the gorge, I took about two hours for photos, exploring several vantage points, but preferring to be a little ways down the gorge from the main falls, where the twisting and minor falls made for some nice compositions.  Overall, I was very pleased with the images I got from this little trip, and I’m sure I’ll head back from time to time to further explore this location.  I’d imagine the falls and the gorge will be rather beautiful in the autumn when the leaves change, so I’ll be able to get photos of Fallsville Falls in the Fall.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

Fallsville Falls - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 30mm, f/16, 40s

Fallsville Falls – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 30mm, f/16, 40s, ISO 200

Fallsville Falls - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 @ f/16,

Fallsville Falls – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 @ f/16, 15s, ISO 200

Fallsville Falls - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @

Fallsville Falls – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 48mm, f/13, 9s, ISO 200

Fallsville Falls - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @

Fallsville Falls – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 37mm, f/16, 28s, ISO 200

Fallsville Falls - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 @

Fallsville Falls – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 @ f/18, 40s, ISO 200

Fallsville Falls - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @

Fallsville Falls – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 30mm, f/16, 4.5s, ISO 200

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Review: Carl Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar T* ZA OSS http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-carl-zeiss-16-70mm-f4-vario-tessar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-carl-zeiss-16-70mm-f4-vario-tessar http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-carl-zeiss-16-70mm-f4-vario-tessar/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:29:43 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3509 Carl Zeiss has been making lenses for longer than most anyone in the industry, and while they still produce their own lens lines for a variety of camera mounts, they have a more intimate relationship with Sony, producing a variety of E and A mount exclusives.  Today’s review focuses on a somewhat recent release for …

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Carl Zeiss has been making lenses for longer than most anyone in the industry, and while they still produce their own lens lines for a variety of camera mounts, they have a more intimate relationship with Sony, producing a variety of E and A mount exclusives.  Today’s review focuses on a somewhat recent release for Sony’s E-mount mirrorless cameras, the 16-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar (Given the designation SEL1670Z in Sony land).  This standard zoom for APS-C cameras covers an extremely useful range of focal lengths, equivalent to 24-105mm on a full frame camera.  The lens’ constant f/4 aperture and relatively compact size makes this a very attractive offer for Sony shooters, though some will be put off by the $999 price tag.  Let’s dive in and see if it is worth the cost of admission.

The Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar on the Sony NEX-6

The Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar on the Sony NEX-6

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.

Around the Lens - Build Quality

The 16-70mm f/4 is a relatively compact lens considering the constant maximum aperture and relatively wide zoom range.  It is constructed predominantly of metal, with the main barrel, zoom and focus rings all having a rigid aluminum construction.  These parts feel very nice in the hand and solid.  The extending barrel of the lens, which protrudes as the focal length is increased, is constructed of plastic.  While the plastic extending tube doesn’t wobble and is sturdy enough, the feel of the plastic is a little underwhelming.  It has an almost cheap feel to it, which is the very opposite of the rest of the lens.

The zoom mechanism is smooth and the focus ring is silky, though I wish it had slightly more damping.  The review sample tested had a very small amount of play when operating the zoom ring, though in talking with other photographers, this appears to be a minor issue with this specific copy of the lens, and not a widespread concern.

The Zeiss 16-70mm at 16mm (left) and 70mm (right)

The Zeiss 16-70mm at 16mm (left) and 70mm (right)

Included with the lens is a plastic petal type lens hood that is well constructed and finished.  The hood clicks on to the recessed bayonet mount, providing a fluid appearance when the lens is set to 16mm.  The hood reverses for storage and doesn’t take up very much additional space.

Handling, Autofocus and Stabilization

Fallsville Falls, OH - Sony NEX-6 with Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 38mm, f/13, 1/8 second handheld

Fallsville Falls, OH – Sony NEX-6 with Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 38mm, f/13, 1/8 second handheld

The 16-70mm is small and light enough to handle quite well on my NEX-6.  The useful focal range makes it an ideal walkaround lens for street or event shooting, as well as convenient for landscape photography.

The autofocus motor on the Zeiss 16-70mm is rather quick and very quiet.  I had no issues with autofocus accuracy, and focus acquisition was generally quite quick and sure.  In dim light, focus can slow down a bit, but accuracy remained high.

The Vario-Tessar features Sony’s Optical SteadyShot stabilization (OSS) to allow for handholding at slower speeds than would otherwise be possible.  Given the modest f/4 maximum aperture, the OSS comes in quite handing for typical shooting. The 16-70′s OSS I found to be decently effective, though it falls short of the very best stabilization systems that I’ve used.  I found I could typically handhold the 16-70mm at speeds between two and three stops slower than I would otherwise be able to handhold.

The shot at the right was taken handheld.  I stopped by this waterfall on a whim last week, and I had forgotten to pack my tripod quick release plate for the camera (though I did have my tripod).  While I wasn’t going to be able to get great shots without my tripod here, I decided to use the visit as a scouting trip (I’ll post photos from the real trip, which I did this past Saturday, very soon).  Using only the image stabilizer and handholding, I was able to take this image at 38mm at only 1/8 second.  This is around 3 stops slower than the typical 1/(35mm equivalent focal length) rule that most people use.  Due to the angle I was holding the camera and my precarious positioning in the stream, I had to take several images at this speed to get one that was sharp, though the lens more consistently produced sharp results at 1/15 second.

Continue: Image Quality

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Review: Rokinon (Samyang) 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II (Fujifilm X-Mount) http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-rokinon-samyang-8mm-f2-8-fisheye-ii-fujifilm-x-mount/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-rokinon-samyang-8mm-f2-8-fisheye-ii-fujifilm-x-mount http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-rokinon-samyang-8mm-f2-8-fisheye-ii-fujifilm-x-mount/#comments Sat, 07 Jun 2014 19:13:56 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3491 Since mirrorless is still so early in its development, it’s rare that I get the opportunity to review a second version of the same lens.  That’s the case today, however, as I take a look at the Samyang 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II.  The second version of this fisheye lens for mirrorless cameras is not a …

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Since mirrorless is still so early in its development, it’s rare that I get the opportunity to review a second version of the same lens.  That’s the case today, however, as I take a look at the Samyang 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II.  The second version of this fisheye lens for mirrorless cameras is not a minor revision, at least not with regards to the lens design.  The lens has a completely new optical design to go with its slightly revised exterior.  I reviewed version I of this lens last year, and again the reviewed version of this lens falls under the Rokinon brand name.  Samyang also produces this lens under other brands such as Walimex and Bower. So is it worth it to go for the second version of this tiny wide gem?

The Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II on the Fujifilm X-T1

The Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II on the Fujifilm X-T1

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.

Around the Lens – Construction

The 8mm Fisheye II has a similar construction to the first version of the lens, though it appears that Samyang has upgraded things a bit as well.  The lens is constructed of metal and high quality plastics, and this new version feels a bit more robust than the original model.  The lens is tightly assembled and very solid.

Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II

Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II

It’s also gained about a half an inch of length due to the new optical design. The lens hood, which scratched if you looked at it wrong with the first version, appears to have a bit more hardness this time around.  While scuffs from the lens cap can and do still occur, they happen far less frequently.  My version II fisheye looks better after a month or two of shooting than my original version did after the first 3 days.

Above the metal mounting base sits the aperture ring, which is operable in 1/2 stop increments and is solid and features firm clicking detents.  There is little chance of accidentally moving the aperture ring.  The focus ring has been redesigned and has gone to a more pleasing ribbed design instead of the scalloped ring present on the first version.  The focus ring is also very well damped. For quick focusing, indeed it may be a little too stiff, but I believe that is likely by design, as a lens this wide is often set to the hyperfocal distance and left there for most shooting, so the stiff focus ring makes sure that focus stays where you set it.

The 8mm fisheye II is still a small lens, despite having grown a bit.  It is barely larger than the diameter of the Fuji X-Mount, and is about 2.5 inches in length.  As I mentioned earlier, the lack off autofocus is not really an issue with a fisheye lens, as you can generally set it to about 0.8m and f/8 and shoot to your heart’s content.

One thing Samyang did not update when revising the lens is the relatively long minimum focus distance, which limits the close-up ability of the lens.  Still, given the cost of this lens, I’m not complaining.

Continue: Image Quality

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