Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Another Camera Heads to the Shop

One of the pitfalls of buying vintage cameras on eBay is the likelihood that, although the listing states the camera is in working condition, a measurable percentage of the time, the camera is NOT in working condition. Of course, eBay offers buyer protection and I also have the option of sending the item back and requesting a refund. However, my camera repair guy here in Seoul is SO good, and SO affordable, that I usually just take the cameras to him for repair.

There's no way of knowing whether or not a particular camera is in good working order or not unless I put a roll of film through it. This Olympus 35 RD caught my eye on eBay recently, the price was right and I seemed to have grown quite fond of range finder film cameras. However, as you can see by the sample images from my first roll of film, it has a few issues. Looks like a light leak and bad exposure meter for starters. The light leaks are easy enough to fix, but this camera being a camera that uses auto exposure, the meter needs to be working. I have no idea if these are the issues, I'm not a repair expert, but my guy in Seoul IS an expert. I'll be stopping by to see him today and leave this baby with him knowing full well that I'll get it back as if it had just come off the assembly line.

Olympus 35 RD

5 Reasons Why I'm Shooting the A6000 on New Years Eve

***** UPDATE 31 December 2015 *****

I swapped out the Zeiss 16-70mm for the Sony 28-70mm for some of the reasons mentioned in this post. Too likely that a drunkard will bump into me and spill their beer all over my camera.

***** Original Post ****

I have a photography gig tomorrow night, New Years Eve, well, actually, I'll be wearing two hats tomorrow as I will also be DJing part of the evening as well. The party is a big "to do" put on by Good Times ROK at the Lotte World Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. More specifically, at the Kloud Beer Station located inside the hotel.

The rig I've chosen, of the many I have to choose from, is pictured below. I've decided on the Sony A6000 with a Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 lens and Sony HVL-F20M external flash.

Now, why would I select this as my rig for this gig when I could just as easily take my Sony A7II, A7R or A99? Scroll down and I'll give 5 good reasons...

Sony A6000 with Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 lens and Sony HVL-F20M external flash.

Reason # 1 -  The Spill Factor

There will be a lot of drinking going on at this party and even though it's taking place in a five star hotel it doesn't mean the New Years Eve revelers aren't going to be chocolate wasted drunk off their asses. And when you have several hundred drunk people walking around with drinks in their hands, there's a strong likely hood that many drinks will be spilled. There's no way I am going to put my A7II, A7R or A99 in harms way, that's just asking for something bad to happen. It's like buying a house on a cliff in Malibu, California and not buying mud slide or earthquake insurance. It's just stupid to take that kind of risk. Whereas, with my Sony A6000, I don't have as much dollar value at stake. Not to say that this rig isn't pricey, it is, relatively speaking. Let's call it $550 for the A6000 body, I paid $850 for the lens and $120 for the flash, so we're talking a total value of $1520 if my math is correct. Shit, maybe I'll leave that Zeiss lens at home and take the Sony 28-70mm. Haha.

Reason # 2 - Track Record

I have shot a number of events with my A6000 in the past, under similar conditions, and was extremely pleased with the results. It will be dimly lit with stage lighting for the DJs, I can shoot without the flash when I am shooting the DJs, as seen in the sample picture below. And then simply flip up the flash when I'm shooting people having a good time on the dance floor or sitting and drinking at their fancy schmancy VIP tables.

Sony A6000 with Sony 50mm f/1.8

Reason # 3 - Compact Size

The more I shoot with my E Mount cameras, the less I find myself wanting to shoot with my Sony A77 or A99 and the main reason for this is the size and weight difference. The Sony A6000 will deliver outstanding images, and at 24 megapixels, it's no slouch in the resolution wars, all in a remarkably compact body. I have to lug around my DJ gear and an overnight bag with my clothes etc, the last thing I want to take with me is an additional camera bag that's going to weigh me down (not with a bad back like mine). No sir, as a matter of fact, I'm not taking a camera bag at all, just the A6000 and a shoulder strap, that's it.

Reason # 4 - Battery Life

I can capture substantially more images on a single battery using the A6000 compared to either my A7R or A7II, both of which are battery hogs. Naturally, I will bring extra batteries with me, but if I can avoid having to change the battery, why not? Additionally, I will have to bring extra "AAA" batteries for the external flash. I'd prefer that my pockets not overflow with batteries.

Reason # 5 - I Love My Sony A6000

Since getting the Sony A7R, I don't take my A6000 out nearly as much as I should. It's been neglected, just sitting up on the shelf, lonely, yearning to be shot. This particular A6000 body has been up and down the length of the Korean peninsula with me and has never failed me.

Stay tuned for images from New Years Eve 2015.

Fun with Adapters - Part 1, Mamiya 645 to E Mount

One of the many reasons I enjoy shooting the Sony E Mount series of cameras, this includes the A7 line and A6000 as well as my NEX-VG30 video camera, is that there is no shortage of adapters that allow photographers to mount a wide variety of glass onto their cameras. Which is great because there are so many brilliant pieces of glass out there that deserve to be shot on the Sony E Mount line. 

The first such adapter that I bought and tried out was a Hasselblad to Sony E Mount. You can read about that and view some sample photos right here.  The results of this strange lens / camera combination were extremely impressive. So, I figured, why stop there? Let's go ahead and find as many adapters as possible because as it stands, I have an extremely wide variety of great glass that would be fun to mount and shoot on my Sony's. 

I have two Mamiya-Sekor C lenses for my Mamiya 645 1000S medium format film camera. Both the 45mm and the 55mm are marvelous lenses. I sent my Mamiya 645 1000S into the shop for a CLA, there's nothing wrong with it but I really like my repair guy here in Seoul, South Korea and I figured it was a good idea to give a nice CLA to as many of my film cameras as I can before I leave the country. I have high doubts about finding as good a repair guy as this guy for as reasonable a price as he charges me anywhere else in the world. That being said, the 55mm lens is on the camera, which is at the shop, but I do have the 45mm sitting on the shelf so I picked it up and mounted it to see how the pictures look. So far, I like what I see. 

Snapping the lens into place into the adapter took a little practice and for a while I was worried I have a bad product because the lens wasn't "snapping" into place. When I turned the focus ring the lens would come loose and I thought "That's not right". I kept at it for a minute and eventually, mind you, I still don't know what I did to get it to snap into place, but it did and it fits nice and snug. Take a look at the adapter, lens and camera and then check out the final image below which is a nice sample...

Mamiya-Sekor C 45mm f/2.8 lens mounted on Sony A7R

Below you see a nice sample image taken with this lens adapter / Mamiya-Sekor C 45mm f/4 lens mounted on my Sony A7R. Naturally, there's always a variety of camera laying around my room, so there's never a shortage of subjects for a quick photo sample. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sony RX100 IV

This blog post is dedicated to the amazing Sony RX100 IV.

It is a wonderful camera. I like it.

Here is a picture of the Sony RX100 IV.

And here is another picture of the Sony RX100 IV.

Sony RX100 IV.

Retail Prices for Sony in South Korea

When I first found out I was coming to South Korea, I just assumed that prices for electronics and cameras would be lower than in the West, since after all, the stuff is manufactured over here. Well, that opinion turned out to be entirely wrong, at least as far as retail prices are concerned.

There are several camera shopping districts at which you can sometimes find good bargains for used items (Chungmuro, Yongsan, Namdaemun and Gangbyeon), there's also a little wiggle room for haggling if you find a game seller, but retail prices are a different story. Across the board, retail prices are about the same as you would find in the West. As an example, I was walking through the Lotte Hi Mart, which is the electronics specialty store wing of the well known Korean retailer, Lotte Mart and happened upon their Sony selections. Below you can see some of their posted retail prices...

And for the one turd on the Sony RX100 Facebook group who commented that I didn't mention the Sony RX100 at least once in this post, here you go.

The Sony A7RII is listed for $200 less than the current asking price at B and H Photo, so that's a good deal I guess.

Sony A7RII retail price $2,992.27 USD and Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 - $940.70 USD

Sony A7 with kit lens 28-70mm - $1744.75 USD which is $400 more than the current asking price at B and H Photo.

I cut off the sale price of the Sony A6000 but I think they were asking around $650 USD and the retail price was $597.77 USD for the Sony PZ 18-105mm G lens.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mamiya 7 - The Best Camera Ever Made?

Of all the cameras in my modest collection, the Mamiya 7 is perhaps the best of the lot. In fact, many consider it the best camera ever made. The Mamiya 7 is a medium format, range finder, film camera that captures 6x7 images, in today's terms it would probably be equal to a 40-50 megapixel digital image in terms of resolution. In fact, according to the test shots in this article, the Mamiya 7 captures images comparable in resolution to an 80 megapixel Phase One digital camera! In additional, Ken Rockwell, a noted camera reviewer, calls the Mamiya 7 "the world's best camera."

This camera is priced anywhere between $1200 and $1900 roughly, depending on the overall condition of the camera body and lens. I got lucky and found an eBay listing for $770. The only blemish being a small chip on the bottom of the body which I was able to super glue and now you can hardly tell there was ever a blemish at all.

One of the most interesting things about this camera is the almost non-existent sound of the shutter. I thought there was something wrong with the camera when I shot my first roll of film because it just makes a very faint "click" sound. I was thought to myself, "Is that the shutter?" Yes, it was the shutter, and the lack of sound takes a little getting used to.

At the moment I only have one lens which is an 80mm and as you can see from the samples below, it is extremely sharp and clean. I would like to add a 65mm (35mm equivalent focal length = 32mm) or 50mm (35mm equivalent focal length = 24mm) to use for landscapes. The 65mm is about $200 cheaper than the 50mm so I will probably opt for the former.

Most other 6x7 medium format film cameras are big, bulky and heavy (i.e. Pentax 67, Mamiya RB67) but this Mamiya 7 is light and easy to carry and shoot hand held. 

I first became interested in the Mamiya 7 after watching a short documentary about the recently deceased Mary Ellen Mark, one of the greatest photographers of our time. I became curious about the camera I saw her using. After a little research, I discovered that she was shooting with a Mamiya 7II, but that model was a little out of my price range, so I opted for the earlier model, which ended up being the Mamiya 7. I don't presume to compare myself to someone of Mary Ellen's stature, but I certainly aspire to be!

Film photography is alive and well, and shooting on film helps me improve my skills overall, it certainly helps to have cameras such as the Mamiya 7. It's an absolute pleasure to shoot with it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Best Sushi in Korea - Koumi, Nowon-Gu (Sony A7R)

One must have equal trust and confidence in his doctor AND his sushi chef. There is a wide difference between a sushi restaurant and a sushi restaurant with a highly skilled and talented master sushi chef. Koumi Sushi in Nowon-Gu, South Korea has such a chef in Kim, Chong Hyun. He recently returned to South Korea to open Koumi Sushi after having spent the past 26 years in Virginia, USA where he also owned a sushi restaurant. His wealth of experience is manifest in his unique and tasty creations.

Prior to happening upon Koumi, which had it's grand opening two weeks ago, my favorite sushi restaurant in Korea was Sushi Town, located in Gangnam. However, after my second meal at Koumi, I'd have to say, there is no contest. KOUMI SUSHI IS HANDS DOWN THE BEST SUSHI RESTAURANT IN SEOUL.

Woah, all caps even.

They do not have menus in English however, Chef Kim speaks perfect English and besides, there's no better way to experience sushi than to have a conversation with the chef, let him know your likes and dislikes and he will create custom creations to suit your tastes!

Koumi offers a nice selection of Japanese beers and a fine sake menu as well. What's a round of sushi without sake? Kompai!

I live North of Seoul, finding Koumi Sushi is a god send, now I don't have to make the long drive or train ride to Gangnam for good sushi. It's right here close to home. And Nowon-Gu is an awesome suburb of Seoul, one of the hidden gems I think. One of those gems is Metropolis Bar, which is located on the other side of the train tracks from Koumi. I highly recommend a nice sushi dinner followed by drinks and darts at Metropolis.

The best sushi in Seoul deserves to be captured with the best camera on the planet, the Sony A7R. My new, 36 megapixel, mega-awesome mirrorless camera from Sony. I took it along with me and mounted the Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 prime lens, which is a great lens for street photography. The photos below are shot with only the available light in the restaurant (low light) even so, you can appreciate the resolution of the full frame 36 mp sensor, it's awesome.

I enjoyed my meals so much that I offered my videography services for free to Chef Kim and will go back and shoot a nice You Tube video commercial for him. I've only done this once before, for Coreanos in Itaewon. But I really enjoyed this restaurant and wish Chef Kim much success in his new restaurant venture. Hopefully my blog post and video will help others to discover this amazing sushi restaurant near Seoul!

Chec Kim prepares our tuna tataki. I like that he prepares each dish from scratch. A lot of places with sear the tuna before hand, and who knows how long it sits before being served. At Koumi, you watch the chef sear your tuna right before your eyes!

The tuna tataki was quite good as well. The tuna was extremely fresh and seared to perfection. The sauce was a little bland, however, that allowed for the taste of the fresh tuna to dominate my senses.

This was perhaps my favorite dish of the night, ask Chef Kim for an "S and S" which stands for shrimp and salmon, or salmon and shrimp, I'm not sure which comes first, either way it will delight your palate! Cooked shrimp wrapped in cooked salmon on top of thinly sliced cucumber.

Sliced avocado with sesame seeds and sauce. 

This wonderful roll is topped with crunchy pieces of fried sweet potato (Goguma), a very original way to use sweet potato on top of sushi. It was delectable! 

Chef Kim made us a pair of delicious hand rolls.

White Roll with incredible tasting white tuna on top. Very cool and fresh!

Located in central Nowon across the street from Nowon Station, Line 4

Sony A7R with Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 lens

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Latest Additions - Vintage Cameras

By definition, I do not have an addiction to collecting cameras, because an addiction implies that there are negative consequences to my habit, however, at this time, I only suffer from moments of pure bliss and joy whenever I make new additions to my growing vintage camera collection. Believe it or not, most of these vintage cameras are relatively low priced, and therefore, not causing me to go hungry, homeless or turn to a life of crime to feed my addiction.

That good news aside, let's take a look at my most recent acquisitions. Scroll down for sample photos from each camera.

Here we have a Mamiya C330 TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) medium format camera with view prism and waist level view finder. This awesome camera produces a 6x6 negative which results in extremely sharp, high resolution images. This is one of the only TLR cameras that has interchangeable lenses. 

I definitely have a soft spot for rangefinder film cameras. This Yashica Electro 35 comes is highly regarded and was considered one of the finest entry level rangefinders of its day. The lens is a fine Yashinon 45mm f/1.7. This camera features an Aperture priority mode whereby the user sets the desired aperture and the camera will automatically set the correct shutter speed. Cool!

The Mamiya brand is reknown for their medium format cameras with the Mamiya 7 being perhaps one of the finest ever made. But at one time they also made some great 35mm cameras as well, the Mamiya ZE-2 and Mamiya ZM are two fine examples with the Mamiya ZM being the last 35mm camera that the company made before shifting their focus entirely to medium format.

The Konica Auto S3 is another aperture priority auto 35mm rangefinder which comes with an outstanding, fixed 38mm f/1.8 Konica Hexanon lens. I have been wanting a Konica film camera for sometime and this rangefinder enjoys a fabulous reputation as one of the best cameras and lenses of its day. The lens alone makes this camera well worth it.

And finally, another rangefinder, the Olympus 35RD. This is a bit of a rare camera to find. Not sure why. This camera features a shutter priority with auto aperture. Basically, the flipside of the other two rangefinders mentioned in this post. The user sets the desired shutter speed and the camera selects the correct aperture, however, you can also shoot in full manual which I will probably do because I prefer to select my own aperture (depth of field).

Konica Auto S3 sample image

Mamiya C330 sample image

Olympus 35RD sample image

Yashica Electro 35 sample image

Mamiya ZE-2 sample image

Mamiya ZM sample image

Friday, November 27, 2015

"Grippie" - High Quality Grip for Sony RX100

There's no doubting that the Sony RX100 IV is the best compact digital camera available today. There are very few weaknesses to be found in this outstanding camera but if there was one worth mentioning, it would have to be that there is no grip surface to speak of, in fact, the RX100 is small (which is fine, it's a compact camera after all) but the right hand side of the camera is smooth, slick and straight. I don't really have a lot of confidence in my grip when I'm holding and shooting, until now.

(Review continued below, scroll down...)

Buy it now...

The "Grippie" for the Sony RX100 is extremely well made. It's machined CNC'd from aero grade aluminum and is custom made and designed specifically for the RX100. As you can see in the pictures, when it's attached it looks like it's an integral part of the camera. 

- Once attached, the grip can be pushed down, sliding so that it actually extends the grip for those with larger hands or for added comfort. 

- This grip in no way interferes with the memory card / battery compartment at the bottom of the camera.

There are other so-called grips available for the RX100 but they can't hold a candle to the "Grippie". Most of them are just a small rubber piece that doesn't give anywhere near the same comfort nor are they made nearly as well. This thing is SOLID. There's another aluminum grip on the market but the design is inferior in many ways. Most notably, it attaches to the bottom of the camera via the tripod screw mount and therefore blocks the battery / memory card compartment, which as I mentioned, the "Grippie" does not do. So be sure you are buying the "Grippie" if this is an issue for you.

How does it attach? The grip attaches via a sticky application surface made by 3M. You simply remove the thin cover from the sticky surface of the grip, align it on the surface of the camera and press down and hold. That's it. Be sure to wait before using the camera to give the grip time to adhere properly.

A word of caution when attaching your "Grippie" to your camera, be sure to clean the surface of the RX100 with the included alcohol swab, press down firmly and let the grip sit for an hour or two before using it. I made the mistake of trying to use it right away and was left scratching my head as to why the grip wasn't sticking. But then I read the instructions and it was all clear to me. Haha. The manufacturers could improve upon the packaging by bringing to the buyers attention to read the instructions before using the grip. Also, an alcohol cleaning swab and extra sticky piece are included, but it's not obvious because they are tucked in between the fold of the packaging which is difficult to tell because the packaging is so thin and there's nothing to indicate that it's there.

But I digress...

I was not originally intending to keep the grip on my camera as I wasn't sure how much I would like it. But after using it for a couple weeks, I can't see myself shooting my RX100 without it. It's THAT good. At $49 USD it does cost more than the other grip options, but you get what you pay for and what you get with the "Grippie" for your RX100 is by far, the best grip attachment for your compact camera, bar none. It's so good that I would even recommend to Sony that they include one of these with each camera!

The sticky portion of the grip is made by 3M and it provides a very firm attachment to the camera.

As you can see, the grip looks like it was made for the camera from the factory. 
Looks and feels great!

Top view.

Really looks great!


Grip can be extended downward for those with larger hands or simply for a different feel.

Buy it now...