Admiring Light http://admiringlight.com/blog Photography Reviews, Photos, News and Musings Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:24:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Review: Panasonic Lumix LX100 http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-panasonic-lumix-lx100/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-panasonic-lumix-lx100/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:37:54 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4224 Panasonic has had a long line of premium compact cameras in their LX lineup.  Previously, these cameras featured fast lenses, premium construction and fairly good image quality, considering the relatively small sensor.  However, with the rise of high-end compact cameras with large sensors, such as the Sony RX100 series and Canon’s G1X lineup, Panasonic felt …

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Panasonic has had a long line of premium compact cameras in their LX lineup.  Previously, these cameras featured fast lenses, premium construction and fairly good image quality, considering the relatively small sensor.  However, with the rise of high-end compact cameras with large sensors, such as the Sony RX100 series and Canon’s G1X lineup, Panasonic felt the pressure to up their game, and they’ve responded with their new LX100.  This premium compact camera features a Micro 4/3 sized sensor and a fast f/1.7 to f/2.8 zoom lens covering a range equivalent to 24-75mm on a 35mm camera.  In addition to the new innards, Panasonic has also revamped the controls, opting for direct control dials and a built-in corner EVF.  The LX100’s steep pricetag of $899 (available at B&H Photo Here) sets some lofty expectations, but can it meet them?

Panasonic Lumix LX100

Panasonic Lumix LX100

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.

Construction and Handling

The Lumix LX100 is a camera with a fast zoom lens and a large sensor, which makes achieving extremely small size rather difficult.  While the LX100 isn’t as small as the Sony RX100 III, it still manages a petite body given the innards.  The LX100 contains a 4/3 sized sensor, though a small part of that sensor is cropped, yielding a sensor with an approximately 2.2x crop factor.  However, the biggest reason for the larger size is coupling that larger image circle with the fast 10.9-34mm f/1.7-2.8 zoom lens.  The lens features 11 elements in 8 groups with a whopping 5 aspherical elements.  As a result, the lens protrudes about an inch from the camera body.

Panasonic Lumix LX100

Panasonic Lumix LX100

The LX100 isn’t super small, but it is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, though you can forget about fitting it in a typical jeans pocket.  While some have expressed disappointment with the chunky size, I found it to be quite nice in actual use.  While Panasonic makes an even smaller interchangeable lens camera in the GM1 and now the GM5, those cameras are so small that handling suffers a fair bit.  The LX100, on the other hand, features a small but comfortable grip, along with a nice thumb rest.  The camera nestles comfortably into your hand and shooting for long periods with the camera is likewise comfortable.  The larger size also makes room for a nice EVF without cramping your face against your hand while shooting.

The LX100 is constructed predominantly of high-grade aluminum, and it feels incredibly solid.  The dials, including the rather substantial aperture ring, are also made of metal and have a wonderful feel with positive clicks with the perfect amount of resistance.  Overall, the package exudes quality, and feels great in use.

Operation and Controls

The Top Controls of the LX100

The Top Controls of the LX100

With the LX100, Panasonic has taken a page out of Fujifilm’s book and created a camera with retro-style controls.  In fact, they’ve essentially exactly copied Fujifilm’s control scheme, at least for the major exposure parameters, as the top and front controls are essentially identical to the Fuji X100 series.  A nicely knurled aperture ring with firm detents and an A setting for autoaperture selection surround the front of the lens housing, while a multi-function ring sits behind it.  This ring can be set to a number of different functions, from zoom control to ISO and focusing.  I preferred to utilize the ring for controlling the zoom, as I naturally expect zoom controls to sit in that location.  Unfortunately, zoom speed is rather pokey, even when utilizing the ring on the lens barrel.  However, when in manual focus mode, this ring is naturally used for focusing, and here the speed and tactile feedback are essentially perfect.

Also located on the somewhat crowded, yet still functional lens barrel are two switches.  One controls focus operation, allowing you to choose from Autofocus, Autofocus with close focusing and Manual focus.  The switch on top of the lens barrel directly changes the aspect ratio of the image.  In the introduction, I noted that the LX100 doesn’t use the complete Micro 4/3 sensor, and it uses the extra area for true multi-aspect usage.  Instead of cropping the image circle for different aspect ratios, each aspect ratio uses the full image circle projected by the lens, which means 4:3 has a greater vertical field of view than the other ratios, while the 16:9 ratio gains significant horizontal field of view.

The switches are nice and firm, which will prevent you from accidentally changing the settings.  However, I found the two switches are located a bit too close to the body, which makes them somewhat awkward to operate.

On top of the camera sits a shutter speed dial with markings to 1/4000 second, along with a dedicated exposure compensation dial that sits at the upper right.  As someone who shoots Fujifilm cameras regularly, I fell right into familiarity with this control scheme.  The top also features the shutter button, which is surrounded by a typical zoom rocker switch if you choose to zoom this way.  Beside the shutter button sits a dedicated button for art filters.  While the Panasonic art filters are actually really well done, I was rather disappointed that they garnered their own dedicated button that can’t be reprogrammed.  I’d have much preferred this prime button position to be programmable for other functions.

The focus switch can be seen along the lens barrel.  This image shows the lens at full extension at 34mm

The focus switch can be seen along the lens barrel. This image shows the lens at full extension at 34mm

The rear of the camera features a typical four-way control pad with integral rear dial, which activates focus selection, ISO, drive mode and white balance.  There are two programmable function buttons and the movie record button as well, plus a dedicated display button for changing view modes.

Button operation is predominantly well done, though things can still be a bit cramped given the small size of the camera.  I fell into a nice routine with this camera quite quickly, with the controls feeling natural after only a few hours of shooting.

The only major issue I have with the controls on this camera is the inexplicable omission of a touch-sensitive rear screen, and I wouldn’t have minded some tilt capability as well.  Panasonic has been putting in touch screens on their Micro 4/3 cameras for years now, and so the lack of one here is particularly glaring.  While most functions are easily handled by the dials and buttons, selecting a focus point quickly was much more of a chore without a touch screen.  While the camera can be configured for direct focus point adjustment, there are simply so many fine steps where the point can be placed that it makes it a slow process to change the focus point.

The menu system for the LX100 is taken more or less directly from Panasonic’s recent Micro 4/3 cameras, so if you are familiar with that system, you’ll be right at home with the LX100.  The menus are clearly organized and easy to navigate.  I think Panasonic has one of the better menu systems around among the compact and mirrorless manufacturers.

Continue: Viewfinder and Performance

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First Impressions: Panasonic LX100 http://admiringlight.com/blog/first-impressions-panasonic-lx100/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/first-impressions-panasonic-lx100/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:23:26 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4215 I’ve got the Panasonic Lumix LX100 advanced compact in for review this week, and I’ve had a few days to play around with it so far.  The LX100 is Panasonic’s first real high end compact camera with a large sensor, packing a 16 Megapixel 4/3 sized sensor with a fast 24-75mm equivalent f/1.7-2.8 zoom lens. …

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I’ve got the Panasonic Lumix LX100 advanced compact in for review this week, and I’ve had a few days to play around with it so far.  The LX100 is Panasonic’s first real high end compact camera with a large sensor, packing a 16 Megapixel 4/3 sized sensor with a fast 24-75mm equivalent f/1.7-2.8 zoom lens. It retails for $899 and can be ordered from B&H here.  Due to the lens image circle, the full area of the 4/3 sensor isn’t used, so it acts as a 12 megapixel sensor that is slightly smaller than 4/3.  Instead of the typical 2x crop factor, the LX100 features a 2.2x crop factor.

Panasonic Lumix LX100

Panasonic Lumix LX100

The camera is a bit larger than some of the large sensor compact competitors, but I’ve found I really like the size.  It’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket (though forget your pants), but big enough to actually feel nice in the hand.  Overall ergonomics and controls are excellent, though there are definitely some improvements that could be made, such as the addition of a touch screen. In fact, the omission of a touch screen on this camera is perhaps its most glaring weakness, as moving the AF points around is a bit of a chore without the touch capabilities we’ve come to know on almost all other Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras.  AF is blisteringly fast and the EVF is quite nice for a camera this small.  Image quality is a small step behind the 16MP m4/3 cameras, due to the cropping of the sensor, but it produces rather nice images overall.

Unfortunately, the big RAW converters don’t have support for the LX100, so I’ve been processing RAW files using Photo Ninja, which can demosaic most any file.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the lens profile corrections since it’s not officially supported, and as you’ll see in my review in the coming week, this camera needs lens profile correction, especially at the wide angle end of the zoom range.

I’ll get much more in-depth with the camera in my full review, which is coming up in the next week!  Stay tuned!

First Snow, Columbus, OH - Panasonic Lumix LX100 @ 10.9mm, f/8

First Snow, Columbus, OH – Panasonic Lumix LX100 @ 10.9mm, f/8, ISO 200

Snowy Trail - Panasonic Lumix LX100 @ 10.9mm, f/1.7, ISO 200

Snowy Trail – Panasonic Lumix LX100 @ 10.9mm, f/1.7, ISO 200

 

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Review: Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art (Sony E-Mount) http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sigma-19mm-f2-8-dn-art-sony-e-mount/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sigma-19mm-f2-8-dn-art-sony-e-mount/#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 22:00:47 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4183 Sigma’s mirrorless lens lineup at the moment consists of a trinity of prime lenses, from wide-angle to short telephoto. We take a look at the widest of the current Sigma DN lenses for mirrorless lenses, the 19mm f/2.8 DN Art. The Sigma 19mm has been around for a little while, but, along with the 30mm …

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Sigma’s mirrorless lens lineup at the moment consists of a trinity of prime lenses, from wide-angle to short telephoto. We take a look at the widest of the current Sigma DN lenses for mirrorless lenses, the 19mm f/2.8 DN Art. The Sigma 19mm has been around for a little while, but, along with the 30mm f/2.8, received an overhaul in the past year when the lens was added to the ‘Art’ lineup. The lens is available for Sony E-Mount and Micro 4/3. I reviewed the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 for Micro 4/3 in January 2013, though it was obvious it was designed with the larger APS-C Sensor in mind. Sigma has made some updates with the Art version of this lens, so let’s see how this newer version fares. The Sigma 19mm retails for $199, and can be purchased at B&H Photo here.

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art on the Sony A6000

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art on the Sony A6000

Build Quality and Handling

Like the other two Sigma DN Art series lenses, the 19mm f/2.8 DN Art is a compact lens finished with a two-tone metal body. The lens comes in both silver and black, and the black version is reviewed here.

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art

The Sigma 19mm is a well constructed lens built with high quality plastics, a metal mount and metal lens body. The rear ring of the lens is metal clad and finished with a matte black finish, while the front of the lens features the broad focus ring, which is a high gloss black metal. While the lens isn’t particularly dense, it still feels very nicely built, especially given the price. The only down side is that the focus group does rattle around in the lens body when the camera is powered down.

The lens is lightweight and relatively compact, allowing for easy handling and storage. A short bayonet mount lens hood is included, and is the same hood that comes with the Sigma 30mm and 60mm lenses.

The focus ring is prone to fingerprints, but the black finish fares better than the silver in this regard. The ring is well damped and easy to operate, but the smooth finish can be a bit slippery if you’re wearing wool gloves or the like. While it doesn’t offer great grip, the focus ring is still rather pleasant to use when manual focus is needed.

Autofocus Performance

The 19mm f/2.8 focuses quickly and surely. While there are faster focusing lenses around, there’s nothing to complain about with regards to speed. I found accuracy to be quite good. One down side is that it is not compatible with the phase-detect autofocus available in most of the modern Sony camera bodies, so tracking autofocus isn’t going to be particularly amazing.

Continue: Image Quality

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Fall Reflections http://admiringlight.com/blog/fall-reflections-2/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/fall-reflections-2/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 00:43:00 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4172 I stopped by one of my new favorite locations, Fallsville Falls, in order to try to capture the beautiful waterfall surrounded by fall colors.  Unfortunately, despite somewhat steady rain off and on the past few weeks, the waterfall was essentially dry.  Only a trickle of water dripped off the edge of the highest ledge, though …

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I stopped by one of my new favorite locations, Fallsville Falls, in order to try to capture the beautiful waterfall surrounded by fall colors.  Unfortunately, despite somewhat steady rain off and on the past few weeks, the waterfall was essentially dry.  Only a trickle of water dripped off the edge of the highest ledge, though still pools of water were everywhere.  However, as is often the case, there’s usually something else interesting to shoot, and indeed, the lower part of the gorge stream well below the waterfall had filled up somewhat and the still water with rich fall colors presented some excellent opportunities for capturing some great images.

Key here is one thing: don’t forget to turn around.  A lot of times when you get to a location, you get fixated on the ‘main feature’ of a location, and turning around can often get you some excellent images, and even better: more unique images.

Autumn Stream - Sony a6000 with Rokinon 12mm f/2 @ f/16

Autumn Stream – Sony a6000 with Rokinon 12mm f/2 @ f/16

Fall Reflections - Sony a6000 with Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art @ f/11

Fall Reflections – Sony a6000 with Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art @ f/11

Golden Reflections - Sony a6000 with Carl Zeiss 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar (Contax G) @ f/11

Golden Reflections – Sony a6000 with Carl Zeiss 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar (Contax G) @ f/11

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Review: Fujifilm VG-XT1 Vertical Battery Grip http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-vg-xt1-vertical-battery-grip/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-vg-xt1-vertical-battery-grip/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:37:24 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4159 One accessory that is common among most manufacturers is an add-on vertical grip with duplicated controls and space for one or two extra batteries. Fuji didn’t provide one of these vertical grips for any of the rangefinder-styled X-series cameras, but with the SLR-styled X-T1, the vertical grip has followed. I’ve had the VG-XT1 vertical battery …

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One accessory that is common among most manufacturers is an add-on vertical grip with duplicated controls and space for one or two extra batteries. Fuji didn’t provide one of these vertical grips for any of the rangefinder-styled X-series cameras, but with the SLR-styled X-T1, the vertical grip has followed. I’ve had the VG-XT1 vertical battery grip for my X-T1 for a few months now, and I thought I’d share the pros and cons of this important accessory.

The Fujifilm X-T1 with battery grip VG-XT1 and the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2

The Fujifilm X-T1 with battery grip VG-XT1 and the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2

Battery grips for mirrorless cameras are often met with one of two different schools of thought.  Some view them as essential to add better handling to cameras that are a bit too small for their hands, while others wonder why you would intentionally make a camera larger that is designed to be small.

Well, the reasons for a grip such as this are twofold: First, the grip does allow for better handling, especially with larger lenses.  It extends the regular hand grip, but more importantly adds a vertical grip allowing you to shoot much more comfortably with the camera in the portrait orientation.  Second, the grip contains a slot for a spare battery, which will allow you to shoot longer without stopping for more power.  This can be crucial when you’re shooting events.  So how well did Fuji make the VG-XT1?

Construction and Handling

The grip, detached from the camera body

The grip, detached from the camera body

The VG-XT1 is a single piece accessory that screws into the bottom of your Fuji X-T1.  The grip is constructed predominantly of high-grade plastics with a slightly textured finish that matches the magnesium body of the X-T1 fairly well.  The grip is covered on all sides by grippy rubber of the same style and texture as the main camera grip.  Like the X-T1 body, the VG-XT1 is sealed against dust and moisture.  When the grip doesn’t contain an extra battery, it’s very lightweight, and adding that spare battery actually helps make the camera balance a bit better.

To attach the grip to the camera, you must first remove the rubber cover on the base of the camera to reveal the grip contacts.  Fuji has added a recess in the grip to store the rubber cover so that you won’t lose it. You then simply screw the grip into the tripod socket using the locking wheel.  Two metal posts insert into the base of the camera to prevent any twisting or flexing.  Indeed, with the grip attached, there is no movement or twisting at all, and the VG-XT1 simply feels like part of the camera. Fuji has provided a lug on the bottom of the grip to attach a wrist strap to, which is the best attachment point when using the grip, as the strap works equally well for both camera orientations.

Fuji did a great job with the ergonomics of the grip, with a nice contour to the vertical grip and a comfortable finger notch near the vertical shutter release.  In fact, it’s good enough that the vertical grip is actually a fair bit more comfortable than the main grip of the camera.  It simply feels great in the hand, and when shooting vertically, it’s significantly easier on your arms, and allows for a more steady shooting position.

Operation and Controls

The rear grip controls

The rear grip controls

The Fuji VG-XT1 duplicates most of the main controls operated by the right hand for use in the vertical orientation.  The most important of these is the shutter release, which sits on top of the grip (when shooting vertically) in essentially the same position as the main release.  While a little shorter in travel, Fuji has done a good job in replicating the pressure for half and full press on the vertical shutter release.

Also present on the grip are the Focus Assist button, the AE-L and AF-L buttons and both front and rear dials.  The dials feel a little less robust than their main camera counterparts, but they operate with similar resistance and fall in generally the same spots as on the camera. The buttons feel the same too, but unfortunately, due to layout restrictions, they are not placed in the same spots.  While this doesn’t bother me too much with the AE-L and AF-L buttons, as I don’t use them all that often, I don’t like how they’ve arranged the buttons with regards to Focus Assist.  I use the focus assist button quite often, especially when manually focusing, and the FA button sits higher than it does on the camera.  In fact, the AE-L button sits in roughly the same position on the vertical grip as the FA button is on the camera, which leads to a lot of accidental AE-L pressing in my case.  In my opinion, the AE-L and FA buttons should swap positions.

It would have been very nice to have a duplicate exposure compensation dial on the vertical grip as well, but I understand the difficulty in properly implementing this. While I eventually adjusted to reaching left for EC when shooting vertical shots, it took some getting used to.

Because of how it attaches to the camera, the grip prevents quick changing of the battery in the camera body, but you can, of course, change the battery in the grip when it’s depleted.  Because of this, the camera is programmed to use the battery in the grip before using the battery in the camera.

In all, the grip worked very well in real world usage.  I shot a Bar Mitzvah using my X-T1 with the VG-XT1 attached, and the extra battery life and comfort in portrait orientation were very welcome, especially as I was wearing a suit jacket throughout the ceremony, which is awkward to wear when shooting vertical shots without the vertical grip.

The VG-XT1 from the back, attached to the camera

The VG-XT1 from the back, attached to the camera

Conclusion

The Fuji VG-XT1 vertical battery grip is an accessory that will certainly not be required for most shooters, but is something that is worth checking out if you shoot a lot of events or do other long shoots, both for added comfort as well as a doubling of battery life.  It’s a well made accessory that fits beautifully on the camera and operates well, though a few of the design decisions with regards to button placement could be better thought out.  

If you need extra battery life or think you might need a vertical grip for your X-T1, the VG-XT1 is a well executed addition.  If you prefer to keep the camera as small as possible, however, you’ll want to give it a pass.  While the grip is off my camera most of the time, when I need it, I’m very glad that it’s in my kit.  Recommended!

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Planning the Eclipse Shoot http://admiringlight.com/blog/planning-eclipse-shoot/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/planning-eclipse-shoot/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 01:41:50 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4149 One of the keys of successful outdoor photography is planning.  While many great shots have been made simply by ending up in a good spot by chance, and then having a great composition catch your eye, for many types of shoots, especially with landscapes, prior planning can make the difference between coming back with a …

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One of the keys of successful outdoor photography is planning.  While many great shots have been made simply by ending up in a good spot by chance, and then having a great composition catch your eye, for many types of shoots, especially with landscapes, prior planning can make the difference between coming back with a good shot, and coming back with nothing.

Shooting a scene with a lunar eclipse in it is one of those things that really requires prior planning to make the best of the situation.  Today we had a total lunar eclipse over a large portion of the earth.  It so happens that in the Eastern United States, the eclipse was to happen near moonset.  A few days prior to the eclipse I saw that it would just after 5 AM, with total eclipse beginning around 6:25.  I pulled out the Photographer’s Ephemeris (a fantastic app, which is available as a web app, and as standalone apps that you can get here on iOS and here for Android), and began looking at potential angles.  If you don’t know about The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE), it allows you to do a multitude of research on conditions at specific locations and times.  The most useful for me is the ability to pinpoint a location, then see how the sun and moon will move across the sky for a specific time and date.  I plugged in today’s date, and played with the time slider around the time of the eclipse.  It turned out that the moon would be aligned with one of the major roadways in my city (Columbus, Ohio), just before the total eclipse, and would be at approximately 18 degrees of elevation around that time.  Knowing the three prominent skyscrapers in the city are approximately 500 feet tall, I did some quick trigonometry to figure out how far from the buildings I’d need to be to have the moon situated below the peak of the buildings but still somewhat high in the frame.

This gave me an intersection in the city from which to shoot, and allowed me to contemplate compositions knowing where the moon would be in advance. I went downtown this morning and looked to park near that spot, so I’d be the right distance back to get the framing I was after.  There was a public garage right near the intersection I had planned in advance, and I parked my car.  As luck would have it, the garage itself turned out to have a better vantage point than my original street level location, though it all came about because of the initial planning to determine the proper distance and knowing the framing of the moon between the buildings.  After taking a few shots from my original location, I went back to the garage, taking the elevator all the way to the roof, 11 stories up, for an excellent city vantage point, with the moon placed right between two of the larger skyscrapers in the city.  Good planning and advance timing let me get the shot, and no time was wasted walking up and down the blocks hoping for the right angle or the right distance to frame the moon vertically.

Of course, I also took a handful of shots of the moon itself, close up, but frankly those shots are ones that millions of people took today.

Lunar Eclipse over Columbus – 10 Image Stitch, Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Canon FD 50-300mm f/4.5L

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A Look Back at Photokina 2014 http://admiringlight.com/blog/look-back-photokina-2014/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/look-back-photokina-2014/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 00:05:38 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4136 It’s been two weeks since Photokina came to an end, and the over 180,000 visitors, press and exhibitors have headed home. It was a big show with a lot of news, and I hope I was able to give you some insight into the latest in the camera industry, specifically for mirrorless cameras.  If you …

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photokinaIt’s been two weeks since Photokina came to an end, and the over 180,000 visitors, press and exhibitors have headed home. It was a big show with a lot of news, and I hope I was able to give you some insight into the latest in the camera industry, specifically for mirrorless cameras.  If you missed any of my coverage from Photokina, catch up here:

While there weren’t any earth-shattering announcements from the big mirrorless players, there were a lot of good things that help improve each of the main mirrorless systems, as well as a big move by Samsung to enter the conversation among the other three main mirrorless systems. Let’s begin there:

Best of Show

I wouldn’t have thought this going into Photokina, but my Best of Show goes to Samsung with the introduction of their new NX1.  Samsung has taken a unique approach in the mirrorless world by specifically targeting sports and action photographers with the NX1.  While all the manufacturers have added competent continuous autofocus over the past year, with special note going to Sony with their 11 frame per second tracking wonder in the a6000, Samsung is the first to truly target this segment of the system, and they seem positioned to make a run.

The new Samsung NX1 (with their 85mm f/1.4)

The new Samsung NX1 (with their 85mm f/1.4)

The NX1 is not a small camera, but focuses on handling and performance. It’s a body roughly the size of the Panasonic GH3 or GH4, with a large comfortable grip, good viewfinder and ample controls.  It packs promising continuous autofocus and a high-speed drive mode that can rattle off an impressive 15 frames per second with a very large buffer.  Oh, did I mention it shoots 4K video too?

Not only did the NX1 feel quite impressive when I did a hands on, but they’ve also begun leveraging their lens lineup for sports as well.  They introduced a nice and quite compact 50-150mm f/2.8 lens along side the NX1, while also showing off their prototype 300mm f/2.8 lens.   Samsung seems to be going all-in on this system.

The NX1 with Samsung's prototype 300mm f/2.8 OIS (which looked beautiful through the viewfinder)

The NX1 with Samsung’s prototype 300mm f/2.8 OIS (which looked beautiful through the viewfinder)

Samsung hasn’t been on my radar before this show, and judging by sales and market share, they haven’t been on many other people’s minds either.  However, the NX1 was a wake-up call to the industry, and I certainly took notice.  I hope to receive an NX1 for testing in the next few months, and will put it through its paces to find out if it’s as impressive in real world use as it was on the show floor.

The year of the f/2.8 telephoto zoom

Fuji's new 50-140mm f/2.8

Fuji’s new 50-140mm f/2.8

This year appeared to be the year that the manufacturers started loading up on f/2.8 telephoto zooms.  As mentioned above, Samsung released a 50-150mm f/2.8, Fujifilm released a 50-140mm f/2.8, and Olympus released their 40-150mm f/2.8.  All of these lenses are high-end professional grade zooms with internal zooming, constant f/2.8 apertures and lens ranges that are quite similar (with the lone exception being the Olympus, which is a fair bit longer on the Micro 4/3 system than the other two lenses are for their APS-C systems. )

In addition to the f/2.8 zooms, it seems that this year has been about building up high-end glass for the mirrorless companies.  While Micro 4/3 has already had quite a selection of very high quality lenses, and Fuji started out targeting this market, all the makers expanded their top shelf lineups.

Sony released their 16-35mm f/4 ultra-wide angle zoom for the FE mount, while announcing several more high-end lenses on the roadmap, including a 35mm f/1.4 and a 90mm f/2.8 OIS Macro lens.

Zeiss continued to add to their mirrorless resume as well, producing two beautiful new manual focus prime lenses for Sony E-Mount cameras in the 35mm and 50mm Loxia lenses.

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2

Fujifilm not only showed off the 50-140mm, but revealed mockups of their 16-55mm f/2.8 standard zoom, as well as the new 90mm f/2, 16mm f/1.4 and 140-400mm supertelephoto.

While Panasonic didn’t announce anything remarkable in the high-end interchangeable lens space, they did produce a beautiful top shelf compact camera with a fast lens and 4/3 sized sensor in the LX100.

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8

Olympus added mockups of their upcoming 300mm f/4 PRO and 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lenses.  All of these companies are seeing the same thing I’m seeing: The mirrorless market isn’t selling to those casual shooters wanting a bit better image quality.  They’re selling to the enthusiast and professional who want to have very high quality gear without the cumbersome bulk and weight of a high-end DSLR kit.  This is where mirrorless is profitable, and it’s also the way to get the casual consumer interested in the gear as well.  When mirrorless cameras start being seen as professional grade gear by the average consumer, then that is what they will look to get when they want to step up from their camera phones.  That brings me to one of my biggest observations about Photokina this year.

Continue: Observations on Photokina

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Photokina Tidbits – Kowa m4/3 Lenses, Sigma DP1 Quattro, Zeiss 85mm Otus, Leica S and more http://admiringlight.com/blog/photokina-tidbits-kowa-m43-lenses-sigma-dp1-quattro-zeiss-85mm-otus-leica-s/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/photokina-tidbits-kowa-m43-lenses-sigma-dp1-quattro-zeiss-85mm-otus-leica-s/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 19:31:19 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4114 Well, my time at Photokina 2014 is at an end.  I’ve had a great time, and even took some time for myself to do some sightseeing and enjoy being in German culture again.  I lived in Germany for 3.5 years, between 2002 and 2006, and this is my first trip back since I returned to …

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Well, my time at Photokina 2014 is at an end.  I’ve had a great time, and even took some time for myself to do some sightseeing and enjoy being in German culture again.  I lived in Germany for 3.5 years, between 2002 and 2006, and this is my first trip back since I returned to the US.  It’s been great reconnecting with this country.  Anyway, I’ll have a Photokina recap coming soon with some very interesting observations concerning the visitors to Photokina, and how it relates to the current camera market.  Today, I’m going over a bunch of different things.  Sigma’s APS-C compact camera line, some new Micro 4/3 lenses, and some big stuff: The Zeiss Otus 85mm, the Leica S medium format camera and the Canon 400mm f/4 DO II.

If you’ve missed my previous articles covering all the new camera news here at Photokina, check out the links below:

So why am I lumping all this other stuff into one big article? Well, the rest of these items are cool things…but there’s not pages of discussion to be had at this time on each individual item.  So let’s dive into some of the remainder of my Photokina testing.

Sigma DP1 Quattro

Sigma certainly grabbed headlines with their bizarrely shaped new line of ‘compact’ cameras when they were announced last year, and the DP1 Quattro is the wide-angle version of this multi-camera line.  The DP1 Quattro features an APS-C Foveon X3 Quattro sensor with a 19mm f/2.8 lens and a bizarre body shape.  Now, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the DP1Q’s most essential feature: that 19 megapixel Foveon sensor, which should produce insane amounts of detail due to the three layer sensor arrangement.  I did, however get to test out handling, operational speed, focusing and so on.

The Sigma DP1 Quattro

The Sigma DP1 Quattro

If I had to sum up the DP1 Quattro in one word, that word would be ‘slow.’  If I had two words, it would be ‘slow, awkward.’  Yes, I found the DP1 Quattro to handle almost as poorly as it looks like it handles.  The balance is actually rather nice, but the overly long body is not going to fit into many small camera bags, and it certainly won’t fit in a pocket.  The grip is also quite awkward and uncomfortable to hold, at least to me.  I’m not quite sure what Sigma is thinking here.  I’m OK with strange-looking designs if they confer a benefit on the user, but the Quattro line doesn’t, at least on first impression, appear to do that.

I also found the change in depth from the four-way controller on the rear of the grip to the buttons next to the touch screen to be incredibly jarring to go between.  It’s only about a half inch, but these controls might as well be on different sides of the camera, as they simply don’t feel like one interface due to that depth gap.  It’s not good.  On the plus side, the quality of the rear screen is quite good.

The rear of the DP1 Quattro

The rear of the DP1 Quattro

I also mentioned slow, and indeed, it’s a slow camera.  It’s slow to start up, slow to autofocus (though not terrible), slow to take the picture, slow to write to the card, and, most infuriatingly of all, slow to allow you to take another picture.  Now, if you’re using this camera for landscape or other such work, those issues won’t pose a problem, but this is not a ‘decisive moment’ camera.  Still, Sigma has been making some excellent lenses as of late, and the Foveon sensor is known for its excellent low ISO image quality, so if the speed issues aren’t a bother and you can find a place to put this camera, it may still be worth a look.

Kowa Prominar Lenses for Micro 4/3

The Kowa 8.5mm f/2.8 on the Olympus E-M5

The Kowa 8.5mm f/2.8 on the Olympus E-M5

I stumbled upon the Kowa booth on day 2 of Photokina and had a quick look at the three lenses they recently announced.  These are fully manual lenses, including an 8.5mm f/2.8, a 12mm f/1.8 and a 25mm f/1.8.  These lenses are solidly built of metal and glass and operate very smoothly. They also come in multiple colors, including green! They are also rather large lenses (for Micro 4/3…they’re quite compact in the grand scheme of things).  The 12mm f/1.8 and 25mm f/1.8 are both notably larger than the similar specification autofocus lenses from Olympus.

However, the 8.5m f/2.8 is the most interesting of the three lenses, as it’s one of the widest primes available for the system, with a focal length equivalent to a 17mm lens on full frame.  This lens is large for Micro 4/3, but provides a nice angle of view and comes with a beautiful metal petal lens hood, which you can see on the image to the right with the OM-D E-M5.  The camera they had there with the lens didn’t have a card in it, so I couldn’t judge image quality on the rear LCD. These may be worth the look if you’re after a budget wide-angle or normal lens but still want excellent build quality.

The Kowa 25mm f/1.8

The Kowa 25mm f/1.8

Tamron 14-150mm for Micro 4/3

Tamron’s 14-150mm f/3.5-5.8 has been out for a little while now, and offers a competitor to Olympus’ own 14-150mm.  The two lenses are quite similar and size, and the Tamron is a typical plastic super-zoom when it comes to build quality, though I have to say, they’ve done a great job with the zoom action, which was extremely smooth and simply felt great to use.  Early reports show tis lens to be pretty good optically, and it’s a good option for those ‘all-in-one’ types of shoots.

Tamron 14-150mm on an Olympus E-M5

Tamron 14-150mm on an Olympus E-M5

Photo Clam

I also passed by the Photo Clam booth.  If you don’t know of Photo Clam, they make a line of Arca-Swiss quick release compatible ballheads.  I’ve actually owned a Photo Clam PC-36 for about 3-4 years, and it’s been a fantastic head for my main tripod.  I started talking with them and I noted that my PC-36 had been great, though I hadn’t’ stressed it with a bunch of weight over time since I switched to mirrorless (though it’s held my 1Ds II + Canon 70-200/2.8L IS II). They then showed me their new Mirrorless Camera universal quick-release plate.

Why am I spending time talking about a QR Plate?  Because this is the first universal plate that I’ve seen that actually makes sense on mirrorless cameras.  It’s very thin, about half the depth of a standard QR plate (the dovetails are sideways).  This fits the body of my X-E2 very well (though since it’s universal, it obviously doesn’t have a cutout for the X-E2 battery door), and should work very well on most any mirrorless body.  I’ve been using a Really Right Stuff universal plate when I test new cameras, but this Photo Clam will replace it for me, as it just works better on the smaller bodies (I do own RRS custom plates for my X-T1, NEX-6 and a6000).  If you don’t want to shell out for a custom plate, but still want something that will fit your slimmer mirrorless camera, this is worth a look.  Photo Clam was nice enough to provide me with one, so thanks, Photo Clam!  They don’t have the new mirrorless plate on their website yet, but it should be up soon! (http://www.photoclam.com)

Photo Clam Mirrorless quick release plate

Photo Clam Mirrorless quick release plate

THe plate is narrow enough to fit most mirrorless camera bodies

THe plate is narrow enough to fit most mirrorless camera bodies

Now on to the big boys:

Continue: Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus, Leica S and Canon 400m f/4 DO II

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Hands On: Leica T http://admiringlight.com/blog/hands-leica-t/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/hands-leica-t/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:39:54 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4105 Yesterday was a sort of catch-all day for me at Photokina.  I’d hit the major focus for my readers on the first two days of the show, and spent yesterday going from booth to booth, trying out some interesting things here and there.  Tomorrow, I’ll have a catch-all article detailing those things.  Among them are the Sigma …

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Yesterday was a sort of catch-all day for me at Photokina.  I’d hit the major focus for my readers on the first two days of the show, and spent yesterday going from booth to booth, trying out some interesting things here and there.  Tomorrow, I’ll have a catch-all article detailing those things.  Among them are the Sigma DP1, some third-party lenses for Micro 4/3, a run with the new Canon 400mm DO, and some additional fun with Leica and Zeiss.   However, in the mirrorless world, the one major stop I did was at Leica’s large center, to lay my hands on the Leica T.

The Leica T - with 23mm f/2 Summicron

The Leica T – with 23mm f/2 Summicron

The Leica T has been out for a few months now, and some of you may have tried it, or even own it, but it is still a relatively new product, and a relative rarity for Leica: a new lens mount and lens lineup.  Leica did announce two new lense for the Leica T:  An 11-23mm ultra-wide and a 55-135mm telephoto, both with variable aperture ranges of f/3.5-4.5.  I had a chance to try both lenses and the 23mm f/2 Summicron.

First off, the body: The single milled block of aluminum that makes up the Leica T body does feel extremely high-end and solid.  There’s no doubt about that.  And despite the hardness, the camera is generally nice to hold, though I still prefer many other cameras to it in that department.  The edges are sculpted well and fit my hand fine, but they are a bit sharp, and so long-term ergonomics are a question mark.

The minimal controls of the Leica T - Two dials, a power switch and a move record button

The minimal controls of the Leica T – Two dials, a power switch and a move record button

The interface, as you may know, is configured with two dials on top and a touch screen.  That’s pretty much it.  No buttons (aside from the shutter button and a movie record button), no switches (aside from power), nothing.  When I first heard about this interface, I was very much put off by it, but having used it in practice, it’s actually very well engineered and quite smooth to operate.  If you need to change a parameter that isn’t on the dial, press the icon on the side of the screen, and select the parameter to adjust.  Mode is handled this way as well.  It does amount to multiple screen presses, but they’re quick and fluid and simple.  While I’d still prefer dedicated buttons for most things, this interface does work quite well.  It’s simply something quite different from what I’m used to.

One thing about the Leica T that isn’t so great, however, is speed. It takes a little while to start up, and the autofocus, especially with the new 55-135mm, is rather slow.  I also noticed a slight tendency for the focus to be slightly behind where I put it, but that’s something that is hard to pin down as part of the camera, or user error with such a small window of usage.

The rear touch screen of the Leica T

The rear touch screen of the Leica T

Overall, the camera is fairly nice.  It’s beautifully built and works fairly well.  The rear screen is clear and sharp, and image quality, at least looking on the back, appeared to be quite nice.  The two new zoom lenses are quite small and well-built, with the 55-135mm being particularly compact for the focal and aperture range.  It’s quite a nice tiny kit.  However, these lenses don’t feel quite as solid as Leica’s M or S mount offerings.  Then again, they also don’t cost what those M and S mount lenses cost.  One thing sorely missing from these lenses, especially on the telephoto zoom, is image stabilization.  Leica has moved into the modern camera world with the Leica T, and in this market, a telephoto zoom lens without stabilization of any kind is a big letdown.

Is the Leica T worth the huge premium?  I’d have to work with it quite a bit more to be sure, though on paper it looks to be quite expensive for what you get.  However, the build quality is excellent, especially on the body, and it does provide a nice small autofocus capable kit.  I’m going to try to get a review sample of the Leica T at some point in the next few months to give it a more thorough run-through.

 

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Capturing the Postcard Photo http://admiringlight.com/blog/capturing-postcard-photo/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/capturing-postcard-photo/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:40:29 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=4091 With Cologne’s great cathedral stretching high into the sky, any shot that represents the city typically features this well-known (and quite beautiful) landmark.  There is, however, one spot where the ‘quintessential’ photo of Cologne is typically made: across the river to the left of the bridge at sunset. There have been tens of thousands of …

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With Cologne’s great cathedral stretching high into the sky, any shot that represents the city typically features this well-known (and quite beautiful) landmark.  There is, however, one spot where the ‘quintessential’ photo of Cologne is typically made: across the river to the left of the bridge at sunset. There have been tens of thousands of photos made from this spot, and for good reason: the bridge with the cathedral and the light behind the cathedral at sunset or just after makes for a fantastic composition.  Of course, it’s been done before.  Over, and over and over.  If you go to a souvenir stand, you’ll likely find multiple post cards with slightly different variations of the same photo, depending on framing, light on that particular day, etc.

Cologne at Night – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 @ 48mm, f/9, 6 sec

So naturally, last night I went to go make the same photo.  Why?  Because it IS a beautiful spot to get a photo of the city.  And frankly, I didn’t care that it wasn’t great ‘art’ since it’s an extremely cliché view: I wanted my own version of that shot…well, just because.  With Photokina in town, thousands upon thousands of photographers are here in the city, and, of course, quite a lot made the same trek for the same shot. I’m sure the results will be different, as people will frame things differently, or go in close on the cathedral, or go super wide, and so on, but we were generally congregated in a similar area.  I took several different framings and several different focal lengths throughout the hour I was sitting there.  I also had a great chat with another photographer.  I got the shot I was after, above, but just as interesting was watching the people take pictures.  There were far more photographers here than are shown…some above on the plaza up and to the right, some below and behind me on the steps where I was. All capturing the same shot.  And why not?  It’s a beautiful city.

Photographers Shooting the Cologne Cathedral – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 40mm, f/14, 20sec

Photographers Shooting the Cologne Cathedral – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 @ 24mm, f/9, 8 seconds

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