Monday, February 29, 2016

I Put a Sony RX1RII on my Visa Card Last Night

Sony RX1RII (Image from Google Image Search)

I continue to use the phrase "I must be crazy" or "I should have my head examined" in reference to my camera purchases lately. Actually, this goes back about a year and half, back to when I started elevating the level of my gear and collecting film cameras of all sorts. But today, I find myself actually worried about my sanity. Just kidding, or am I?

You see, it wasn't but two days ago that I decided to up my game with the purchase of a Sony A7RII, arguably the best full-frame, digital camera in the world and not 24 hours later, I went ahead and ordered a Sony RX1RII as well. That's crazy right?

There's no hiding the fact that I just spent a large sum of money on two cameras this weekend. However, there is a justification and a counter-balance to the expenditure. Firstly, I am aiming to produce extremely high-quality images to be printed and framed in large sizes, therefore, the higher resolution will be of great benefit for that. And secondly, I either have already sold or will be selling some now expendable camera bodies to help offset the cost. 

I have already sold my A7R, which I was never entirely fond of to begin with. I sold that for $1,000 USD. I will be selling my A7II, which I actually really like a lot, in fact, it's my favorite camera in my entire collection, however, it is simply redundant to keep it now that I will have the A7RII and I will no longer need a second body with lower resolution, not even as a back up. And lastly, I have already listed my Fujifilm X100S on eBay.

I haven't owned the X100S for very long, and for the first few days I was using it, I thought I would never need something like the RX1RII. But after more shooting, I still don't like the look of Fuji cameras for some reason. I'll probably list the A7II for $1,300 and the Fuji is listed at $750 with a genuine Fuji EF-20 flash. You add those sales with my soon to post tax return and the expenditure on the new cameras is almost covered.

I want the best. The Sony RX1RII is the best full-frame, compact camera. Only the Leica Q can come close, but at nearly $5,000 USD, there was no way I could justify or come close to covering that cost without selling my Leica M3 and M6 which I currently have no desire to do.

I feel good about my new purchases, just as I do about turning the pages as I start the next chapter of my life, leaving Korea after 3 years and going back to the states. I want to trek through the hills and deserts of the Southwest United States and capture memorable images with incredible cameras. I am ready.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Felix Steps Up to the Sony A7RII

Well friends, I have taken a big step in my photography journey with the purchase (online order) yesterday of the top-of-the-line Sony A7RII.

The Sony A7RII is widely considered to be the best digital camera available today.

The question I had to ask myself is this: Why do I need a camera of this caliber and this price range?

The Sony A7RII comes in at a retail price of $3,199 USD. That's not peanuts. A purchase of this magnitude is not to be taken lightly, not by a guy earning E6 pay in the military. But it's a decision I did not enter into without giving it some serious thought and here are my reasons...

Ever since I started taking photos again full-time, I have been pleased to see a steady rise in the quality of my work and I have, and I think rightfully so, matched the increase in my abilities with an equal consideration for the quality of my equipment. I have always tried to do more with less and I was usually able to squeeze out high quality images with entry level DSLR's. But there reaches a point where the camera needs to be capable of matching what the artist wants to create. I had in my inventory a fantastic Sony A99, which is an extremely capable camera at 24mp. But it was large and bulky. I recently opted to switch exclusively to the Sony mirrorless line up of compact (RX100 IV) and A7 line. I had, until this weekend, a 36mp A7R, but I was never really entirely happy with the performance of that camera. Granted, the A7R takes AMAZING images, but the body was made up mostly of plastic and I had really become accustomed to the body styling and robust build of the Sony A7II.

Sony A7RII (Images from Google image search)

The camera I have enjoyed shooting with the most, and which has produced the best images for me has been the A7II. It comes in a 24mp and creates sharp images which often blow my mind. But the A7RII offers a BIG step up in resolution. And I want, I deserve, to have the absolute best camera that I can afford because I want to create memorable images for my friends and family. I want to be able to offer the highest quality prints when I roll out my online photograph store.

The prints I plan to offer will not be cheap, my fine art images will be offered in large sizes and will be meant to hang in homes as fine art would be. And for this end, I want to have the best equipment I can get my hands on. The Sony A7RII is that camera.

42 megapixels is entering into medium format territory, if not legitimately in that territory. And when you compare the price of the Sony A7RII at $3,199 USD to say, a Hasselblad 50 megapixel digital back at more than $10,000 USD, the price is a bargain. Heck, even a 39 megapixel Hasselblad digital back costs more than $7,000 USD, used! Other options at this resolution include medium formats like the Pentax 645Z, again, we're looking at $8,999 USD.

But what else does the A7RII offer that makes it so appealing to me? Well, let's talk video. The Sony A7RII shoots stunning 4k video as well as a Super 35mm mode. Why does that matter? Super 35mm offers a more cinematic look that other cameras cannot produce.

I could go on and on about a list of technical specifications that the Sony A7RII offers, but let me just conclude with this. The Sony A7RII is the best, I want the best. I am familiar with the Sony menus and button configuration. I have been using Sony's almost exclusively for the past 3 years and have never been let down. I have plans in mind for my imagery and the A7RII will help me bring my visions to life. I already sold my Sony A7R on eBay to help off set the cost but the final reason that I made this purchase is that there was an eBay seller who had a deal for a new Sony A7RII for $700 USD off, which dropped the price down to $2,499 USD. You can't find a used model for that cheap at the moment. After the sale of my Sony A7R, my net cost was $1,500 USD. Too good to pass up. By the way, there's a used RX1RII on Amazon I might snatch up as well. Uh oh, here we go again.

Sample images...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

First Impressions - Fujifilm X100S

I have been itching to purchase a high-end point and shoot camera such as the Leica Q or the Sony RX1RII, I mean, I have it real bad for either of those two cameras. But the Leica Q costs around $4,500 used and the RX1RII costs around $3,200 new, both cameras are out of my price range for the time being. Besides, I keep looking at my Sony A7R and A7II and wonder why I even need any other cameras. But there's something about a fixed lens point and shoot that captures my imagination, and having seem some amazing sample images, it just makes my mouth water even more.

My photography buddy, Turner, recently purchased the Fujifilm X100T for his soon to be ex-wife, and it's a fantastic camera. And as it so happens, it is also a fixed lens point and shoot, like the aforementioned Leica Q and Sony RX1RII, just not as expensive. I got to shoot with the X100T for half a day when we were shooting our final episode of and it made quite a good impression on me. The FujiX100T comes in around $1000 new, I still didn't want to spend THAT much on what was to be a fun camera that I was going to use for travel and street photography. So what else was out there?

Well, the predecessor to the X100T is the Fujifulm X100S, but what are the differences? Well, for starters, the X100S came out a couple years ago and is available for around $650-800 for a used model, ok, now we're getting into my ball park. Both cameras feature the same 16mp APS-C sensor so the only big differences are that the X100T has a third option for the viewfinder which is a hybrid optical and EVF option. One the X100S you get two choices for the viewfinder, either an optical OR an EVF. That feature is not really a big deal to me, as both the optical AND EVF viewfinder on the X100S are outstanding! Another difference is that the X100T is wifi enabled and the X100S is not, again, not a real deal breaker for me. With all that in mind, I made my mind up to add a Fujifilm X100S to my camera inventory as a stop-gap go-between until I have saved the 3 fricken grand for a Sony RX1RII. Hopefully prices will come down in a couple years, I'm sure there'll be some nice used models available in a few years as well.

But maybe I won't end up buying a Sony RX1RII after all? (Who am I kidding?) The Fujifilm X100S really knocked my socks off today. Today being my first time venturing out onto the streets of Seoul with it. I didn't buy the X100S, I traded for it. And it was a good, fair trade. I found a guy on one of the plethora of Facebook photography pages I belong to, that was willing to trade a nice Fujifilm X100S with lens hood and 2 extra batteries for my Leica 50mm Summicron f/2 DR lens with near focus goggles. It was a tough lens for me to part with but I recently purchased a brilliant Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 lens and I like it better which made the Leica 50mm expendable. 

The first thing I noticed about shooting with the X100S is just how quiet the shutter is, in fact, it makes almost no noise at all, which is great for street photography. The colors are brilliant and life like and the camera captures images with mixed lighting conditions quite well (see the sample photo below of the mother and child exiting the subway station into the sunlight). 

The X100S fits my hand quite nicely, the trade also included a thumb rest which helps with my grip on the camera. The camera starts up quite fast, so I am able to see a subject, turn the camera on and capture the image within a second or two, I found that I wasn't missing many shots throughout the course of the day.

The battery lasted all day and was still above 90% when I got home. I shot around 100 images.

The lens is really sharp, but don't take my word for it, check out the sample images below!

I really enjoyed my first day out with the Fujifilm X100S, I'm happy it's found a home on my shelf here and I am quite positive I will be reaching for it when I run out the door for whatever photography I happen to be engaged in.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Minolta 100mm Macro f/2.8 on Sony A7II with LA-EA4 Adapter

One of the few A mount lenses I kept to use on my E mount mirrorless cameras (having sold ALL of my A mount cameras) is Minolta 100mm Macro f/2.8 lens. Admittedly, I haven't shot very much macro photography, if at all, but I really want to shoot more. I know I have a lot to learn in this area of photography. But one of the things I do know, is that you either need some macro extension tubes OR a really good macro lens.

For those of you who don't know, macro lenses allow you to focus for extreme close up shots. This is used a lot to photography insects, flowers etc.

I sold nearly all of my A mount lenses when I switched over to mirrorless digital cameras exclusively, but this Minolta survived the cut.

I was watching "Das Boot" for about the 40th time tonight, had buried my sorrows in a tub of Baskin Robbins Chocolate Chip ice cream and was generally bored. One of the luxuries of owning a sizeable inventory of cameras, is that I am never at a loss for a photography subject. So, I grabbed one of the all time classic cameras, the Leica M3 and dropped a simple, one light set-up so I could capture some sample shots with the Minolta Macro lens.

As you can see below, the results are impressive. Consider this, all photos were taken HAND HELD using only one small LED light. Imagine the possibilities when it's done right, with a tripod and plenty of lighting!

Naturally, you'll want to use manual focus when shooting macro but just for your peace of mind, the auto focus works flawlessly with the LAE-EA4 adapter.

Sony A7II with Minolta 100mm Macro f/.28 lens and Sony LA-EA4 adapter

Close up of a Carl Zeiss Lens Hood on a Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2. lens.

Film advance lever and shutter speed selection dial close up.


The classic Leica M3 double stroke.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sorae Fish Market with Sony A7R and Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Lens

I recently spent an afternoon at the historic Sorae Fish Market in Incheon, South Korea. It's a lively and colorful place that seafood aficionados would thoroughly. I have been finding myself selecting my Sony A7R paired with the handy Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 lens for street photography. I can't ever see myself going back to a DSLR camera and bulky lenses. Mirrorless cameras such as the Sony A7R are just so convenient due to their light weight and smaller size. I recently traded a Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 lens for a Fuji X100s mirrorless camera, it should arrive in the next 7-10 days and I'll start shooting street photography with that as well. 

You can find an assortment of colorful characters and sights around the fish market and it's a treasure trove for street photographers, offering endless scenes and potential snap shots. I am not a huge fan of fish for my meals, save for good sushi, Chilaen Sea Bass or shell fish. I picked out a small lobster and medium sized King Crab for lunch. They are steamed and served along with a huge plate of raw seafood delicacies, oysters on the half shell, scallops, shrimp, clams and the like. It was a relatively expensive lunch but delicacies cost money don't they?

If you ever find yourself in the Incheon, South Korea area, I highly recommend paying a visit to the Sorae Fish Market.

Sony A7R with Zony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8