Category Archives: Gear

Objects of Lust

Renowned photo-journalist Isaac Pereira was visiting Hong Kong yesterday and asked me to bring him to places where he could find “analog” film and paper.  After scoring what he needed in Mong Kok, I suggested a visit to Champagne Court in Tsim Sha Tsui.  It’s one of those rare gems in Hong Kong, a one-floor shopping center that’s primarily devoted to used film cameras.  The selection in the shops there is truly mind-boggling.

 

Here’s something you won’t see every day – an 8mm Nikon lens.  (HK$12,000 is approximately US$1,500.)

 

 

 

 

Yeah, they have a few Rolleiflex’s.

 

 

More Hasselblad’s than you could shake a stick at (if that’s your idea of a good time).

 

 

Ever just look at a camera and wonder what it has seen in its lifetime?

 

 

Bonus photo – Isaac was shooting some Sony promo girls showing off Sony’s new tablet computer thingie.  I took the opportunity to get this photo of him.  (Okay, I did get some shots of the Sony girls too but I think this photo is more interesting.)

 

 

 

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If I Had The Money, I’d Buy the Sony RX1

Just a random thought.  The Olympus OMD is very nice indeed but I’m not going to invest money in buying lenses for a second camera system.  Also, with most of the available lenses attached, it’s not even a little bit pocket friendly.

The Sony RX-1, on the other hand …. Full frame sensor.  35mm fixed lens.  Would fit in a jacket pocket with ease.  At HK$24,000, it’s not even remotely cheap.

One might look at it by comparing it to the Nikon D600, which in all probability has the same sensor inside.  The Nikon costs around US$2,000 with no lens.  Add in the cost of a lens and then shrink it down so it’s pocket-sized and you’d get to that same price point.

That being said, the Sony has its flaws.  The 35mm lens is just F2.0 and for that price and for a fixed lens one would think they could have done F1.4.  That’s negligible.

The lack of a true EVF, the fact that you have to do all your framing and focusing on the rear LCD, really cripples the camera.  You can buy a bolt-on EVF but it’s expensive and increases the camera size.  Actually, I think that it was DigLloyd who decided that the true cost of the RX1 is closer to US$4,000 once one buys an EVF, a spare battery and some other accessories.

Still, a pocket-sized camera with a full frame sensor would work well for me.

I find the Sony RX100, with its APS-C sized senor, a bit quirky, based on what I’ve read.  It’s possible to pick one up used in HK for just a few thousand bucks.  I’m curious what Sony will change or improve with the RX200 or RX101 or whatever they choose to call the next model.  And curious about the RX2, whenever that’s going to happen.

For the time being, buying a new camera isn’t going to happen.  But I can still fantasize.

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Loads of New Cameras Announced

Second week of the new year and new camera announcements are coming fast and furious prior to the start of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.  Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, Pentax and Panasonic have all made announcements, and probably more are being made even as I’m typing this.

The question is, do you want to read about them here?  Here’s why I’m asking:

People searching in Google for camera info will often find their way to this site.  Which is nice.  High readership numbers, high Google Pagerank, all nice for the ego and all.

But:

  • Those people almost never look at my portfolio (and are probably not interested in it).
  • Those people don’t click on affiliate links, which might yield me a few extra bucks.
  • Those people almost never leave comments (not that I get a lot here, considering the number of page views I get).

So if that’s the case, why should I bother to grab some images, grab some specs and then try to be more than just a content troll by adding in my own impressions based on what I’ve read.  There’s lots of other stuff I could be spending my time on.  I’ve got two part time jobs as well as a photo studio and the occasional paid photo shoot, not to mention an attempt to have a life from time to time.  The effort/reward ratio seems way too low.

Well, this is your chance to speak up, if you so desire.  Would you like me to write about the Fuji X100s or X20?  Do you care about my thoughts on the latest mirrorless camera from Pentax?  Is this a site you would come to when you want to know about the Nikon 1 J3 or Nikon 1 S1 (and am I just doing a bit of SEO’ing by putting those names there?)?

I might write about cameras that seem unusually interesting or that I would consider buying myself, but I need to know that “regular” readers of this page are interested in reading that sort of thing from me.  If you are, please let me know.  If you’re not, no need to leave a comment informing me of that.

 

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Olympus OM-D E-M5

I don’t know if it will come as a big surprise to anyone that I sold off my Fuji X-Pro1 over the weekend.  I loved the look and feel of the camera.  I loved the controls.  But my frustration with it grew on an almost daily basis.  Despite all of the firmware updates to the camera body and lenses, I came to the conclusion that it’s good for shooting stationary objects.  The slow contrast detection auto focus, even slower in low light situations, became a deal breaker for me.  The ads went up, the offers came in, and when I went to meet someone to hand off the camera on Saturday, it was with a twinge of regret, tempered with the fact that I’d bought it used, used it for six months, and got a price that wasn’t too far off from what I paid for it.

The next task was getting a good deal on a used Olympus OM-D E-M5 (ugh! what a ridiculous name!).  Then I found a woman who only used it in church on Sundays bought one, used it lightly, then decided to replace it with a Nikon D600.  I bought it from her with the kit lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3.  I’d read that as kit lenses go, this one doesn’t suck, though there is that F6.3 on the tele end.

I didn’t have time to look at the manual.  I just went for a walk, everything in full automatic mode.

Everything is from JPEG here, with some retouching in Lightroom.

 

 

After walking around for awhile, it was time for me to meet the man selling me his used Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm F1.4 lens.  This in no small part was one of the reasons that I opted for this camera – there’s a relatively large selection of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds format (far more than for the Sony NEX series or the Fuji X mount).  I’ve got my eye on several other lenses including the Olympus 12mm F2 or 17mm F1.8, the Olympus 14-150 zoom, and then the Olympus 45mm F1.8 or 60mm F2.8 macro or 75mm F1.8.  But these will have to wait.

(The guy who sold me the lens was interesting.  He’s not a professional photographer, he said he just loved to buy every new camera, play around with it for a month or two, then sell it off and get something else.  He told me he currently has the Nikon D800, which he wants to swap for a D800E, as well as the Sony NEX-7, the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Olympus OM-D.  I gave him my card and asked him to contact me when he’s selling off more stuff.  )

Anyway, I didn’t have much time to shoot with the Pana/Leica lens, but enough that I know I’m going to like it.  (You thought I’d say, “I’m going to Leica it,” but even I won’t stoop that low. Well, not always, anyway.)

Here’s a crop from the above photo.

 

I discovered two things when dealing with the JPEGs in Lightroom.  The first was that I had to make adjustments to the white balance on almost every photo.  The second was that even though it was set to auto ISO and even though the camera is capable of going to 25,600, the auto seemed to max out at 1600 –  I need to figure out if and how to change that.

This is the first Olympus digital camera I’ve ever owned.  The menus are completely unfamiliar to me.  It will take some time to get used to them.

I love that the camera has a feature similar to the Fuji’s Q menu.  It’s slightly annoying that I have to press one button to bring up the menu and then another button to activate.

The electronic viewfinder is great – perhaps not as good as Sony’s but beyond my expectations.  The articulating touch screen is great.

The camera is just slightly small for my hands.  The only Olympus grip you can get comes in a set with the battery grip and I may have to get that if I can’t find a suitable third party option.  Some of the buttons are also a bit on the small side for my fat fingers.

But most important, the auto focus is fast.  Not as lightning fast as my D800 but noticeably faster than the Fuji, without any of that annoying hunting that the Fuji is so prone to do.

I’ve been reading through the manual today.  Tomorrow night I’ll be out with the camera shooting RAW in manual mode.

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Sony A99 and Fuji X-Pro1

Out with some friends last night in Wanchai, one of whom had just bought Sony’s latest full frame SLT camera, the Sony A99.

I had the chance to hold it and shoot a few shots and it seems like an extremely impressive camera.  That EVF is so bright and clear, so fast and detailed, that it felt as if it was an optical viewfinder and not an electronic one.  The control layout was intriguing, the high ISO performance (based on just looking at results on the LCD) also looks as if it could be outstanding.  I had a few moments of sitting there in the bar thinking to myself, “Hmmm, Nikon D800, focus issues, dust and oil on the sensor, sell off D800, sell off 9 lenses, sell off speedlight, battery pack, gps, start all over again with Sony …. ai ya!”   I know, totally insane.  But it was really sweet.

Fuji released another firmware update for their X-series lenses yesterday.  I didn’t have a chance to read what’s supposed to be improved because I downloaded from the Fuji Japan site.  I updated all 3 of the lenses and then went out with the X-Pro1 and 35mm 1.4 lens last night.  It was an exercise in pure frustration.  In a relatively dark space (a bar), in both S and C focus modes, shooting stationary objects, it still seemed like it took forever to find focus and take the picture.  Even if I just tried to go on faith, to just hit the shutter button all the way, I’d push the button, remove my finger and it seemed like it was 1 or 2 seconds after that until it actually took the picture.

The problem seemed even larger to me because I’d just done a few quick shots with the Sony, where focus and shooting even in that dark environment was practically instantaneous.  The only way for me to speed things up with the Fuji was to go to manual focus mode, but without focus peaking or any other sort of visual indicator, without my glasses on I could only do some best guesses, which ended up being wrong more often than they were right.

My friend, the one who’d just bought the Sony, asked me if I’d put my X-Pro1 up for sale on DCFever yet.  “If you didn’t, I’ll bet you do by tomorrow.”   Well, so far I haven’t.  But that’s more because I don’t know what I’d replace it with.  I hear that auto focus is the same with the Fuji X-E1.  I’m not interested in the Sony RX100.  The Olympus OM-D seems pretty amazing but the good lenses for it are too expensive for me.   Leica is far beyond my budget.

And then there’s this – the shots that I did get with the Fuji:

(All of the above are from JPG, not RAW, shooting in black & white mode.)

So despite all my frustrations, I think I should just stick with what I’ve got and wait for an X-Pro2 and hope for some major improvements.  Opinion subject to change, based on if I ever find a full time job again …

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