Saturday, January 30, 2016

Introducing Friends to Seoul with the Sony A7R and RX100 IV

I spent the day Saturday showing two friends around some good spots in Seoul for camera shopping and street photography. One of the things I enjoy best about photography is sharing what I know and when it comes to Korea, I know where the best places are for camera gear and accessories. And no matter how often I go there, it never gets old. I have probably been to Namdaemun and Chungmuro 20 or 30 times in the last 3 years, but there's always something new to see and even though I go shoot street photos in the same areas, the people and the faces are always different.

Caleb and Allen had never been to Namdaemun or Chungmuro, and both of them being photography enthusiasts, it seemed paramount to me to show them around. Especially Caleb who has only been in Korea for a few months. Check out his Facebook page and give it a "Like". Our first stop was Namdaemun, across the street from the Sungnyemun Gate (Great South Gate of Seoul). My camera repair shop is located there, and I had to pick up a vintage camera that was in for repair and drop off another. This routine has become somewhat of a ritual as nearly 50% of all the vintage cameras I buy on eBay are in need of some small repair or service (usually bad shutter curtains). There are also a number of camera shops and one in particular that specializes in Sony gear, which I love. We looked at a few shops and made some minor purchases; I bought a 72mm UV filter for my Zeiss 16-35, Allen bought a wrist strap and Caleb picked up a shutter release cable. From there we took a walk around the famous Namdaemun Street Market and spent about an hour shooting street photography. After that it was off to Chungmuro for a snack and a beer, the beer having been a long time coming since my army unit had been on a no alcohol order for a few weeks, it had been lifted just the day before, and boy did that cold beer go down nicely with a spicy Korean soup.

My favorite camera super store was closed but there were plenty of other shops open and as always, I went by the Leica store (AKA Bando Camera). They always treat me like a king when I go in there, even though the only money I've ever spent there was the $240 I spent having my Leica M3 serviced. Still, when you walk in the staff is attentive and courteous, always offering free coffee, water or energy drinks. We had a good time there, window shopping all the pricey Leica gear we wish he had the money for; like the Leica M Hermes edition with two lenses priced at $31,000 USD. There was one item I really wanted to take home, although I probably never will, that was the Hasselblad CFV-39 digital back for around $7,000 USD.

After drooling and browsing the shops it was time for more photography, so I took my two friends across the street to Namsangol Village, we were about to make our way back to the car when Allen reminded us that he wanted to check out Dongdaemun Design Plaza, another spot I had been to multiple times for photos, which never got old. And as it turned out, Allen showed me some new spots there that I didn't now about. 

I've been shooting quite a bit with my recently acquired Sony A7R lately, and with good reason. It's the best digital camera in my inventory. At 36 mp it is extremely sharp and detailed. I paired it with an outstanding Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 and Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 for wide angle shots. The results can be seen below.

We finished off our day with burgers, fries and soft drinks and I went to bed happy and content at another fine day of shooting on one of my final trips to Seoul.

Sony A7R with Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 ZM. Also pictured with Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 wide angle.

That's me shooting with the aforementioned rig. Photo credit: Caleb Cornish.

Caleb places a Polaroid that I just took of him in his bag.

Allen shooting with a Canon and Canon 24-70 lens.

I love the look of high contrast black and white photos using the Zeiss Planar 50mm lens.

Namdaemun Market


Ajummas stopped to pose for a photo.

Shoes, clothing and knock off designer hand bags are the main items that can be found at the Namdaemun Market. Bring cash.

People form up in long lines for some of the street food. Not sure the name but it's like a deep friend pancake filled with a meat and veggie mixture.

These two "ajummas" were not happy about having their photo taken.

Allen is not nearly as comfortable in front of the camera as Caleb is,

Namsangol Village

Seoul Tower in the background.

The Seoul time capsule was built in 1994 and contains a number of items representative of Korean culture. Not sure when they will dig it up and open it. 

Entrance gate to Namsangol Village.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

I did not pack a tripod, therefore, long exposure shots were not possible, which was ok because time was short and we were moving quiet rapidly.

The wide angle shots are all taken with the Zeiss FE16-35mm.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza never gets old no matter how many pictures I take there. 

I had a figurine made of myself like the ones pictured here. It's produced with a 3D printer based off an image captured with 100 cameras shooting simultaneously. I pick it up in a week. More photos below.


The other camera in my bag was the mighty little Sony RX100 IV. Shooting at 20mp with a Zeiss 24-70 f/1.8 lens, this camera is absolutely outstanding. I have always said, that if I was ever in a position in which I was forced to sell all my cameras and keep only one, it would be the RX100 IV. All the pictures below were taken with the RX100 IV.

Sony RX100 IV with aluminum grip and red leather trim.

Pictured above is the Hermes Edition Leica M priced at just $31,000 USD. Yes please.

Bando Camera, the Leica store in Chungmuro, always has some impressive cameras on display, some of them are not for sale, some of them are.

That's a $6,000 USD Rolleiflex TLR.

This is how the 3D figurine is produced. We counted 96-100 cameras, they are fired simultaneously, the resulting image is used to produce the little statue. I'll be sharing photos next week when I pick it up. I got it for my dad who I haven't seen in 3 years. Now he can put me in his pocket and take me everywhere. I just hope he doesn't start having conversations with it.

Making friends. I snapped a Polaroid for these nice folks we met on the street. Two of them are students from Spain, studying here in Seoul. The Korean was their friend who happened to speak perfect Spanish! Photo by: Caleb Cornish.