A7r and 50 Summicron, Long Bay, Auckland NZ

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Well I have had my Sony A7r for about 3 weeks now and I am loving it. This camera seems to have caused a bit of stir with the traditional Leica Fanboys. Me? I am certainly a Leica fanboy at heart but credit where credit is due, Sony have done an amazing job with this camera! Those who have read a few of my posts might remember I dropped my M9 in the Auckland harbour, not clever, and I decided not to re-up with the Leica M-240 and got the Sony RX-1 instead.

With the arrival of the A7r I couldn’t resist, sold my A99 and was first on the list with Photo Warehouse, and I haven’t been disappointed.

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Long exposure is my thing mainly and this camera is the perfect vehicle for it. Live view, articulated screen, magnified manual focus, accepts my Leica lenses, 36mp FF sensor and in a tiny body, which is a breeze to carry and mount on a tripod.

The 50 Summicron is superb on the A7r, the 28 Summicron a little less consistent with some red fringing but I often crop square so that is no real problem either.

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Same one below in colour.

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Not sure I would change anything with this camera. Do I miss my M9? Sometimes the answer would have to be yes, but I trust the Sony will keep working, the M9 not so much.

Will post some more soon with my Leica R PC 28 2.8 SA.

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My Long Exposure journey

Have recently been engaging in a little ‘navel gazing’ about the direction I wanted my hobby to take. Was it film or digital, medium format or 35mm, B&W or colour, landscapes or cityscapes and on and on it went. When I sat down and asked myself what I liked the look of most it generally came back to long exposure ,Black & White and in Square format.

So once I realised what I wanted to shoot, I then had to chose the medium. First off I had a month or so taking some LE shots with my Hasseblad Arcbody,  Linhof 612 and  Delta 100 combination and really enjoyed the process. There is a real learning curve with film and reciprocity effect and long exposure,  had to do a lot of reading but in the end come up with a combination that worked for me.

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Really liked the look and tones of film but feel that a lot of that advantage is lost when the negative is scanned. If I was a dark room guru I think I would be 100% film.

Next up give digital a go. Had two options my Sony SLT-A99 and Sony RX-1 (MF digital not it my budget yet). Have a couple of really nice landscape lens options for the A99, being Zeiss 15 2.8 ZF.2 and Leica PC 28 2.8R both converted to Sony A Mount. Have the Lee Big Stopper 10 stop ND filter for PC Lens and a 95mm B&W 10 stop for the Zeiss 15, yip you heard right, 95mm!

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Two above with A99 + Zeiss 15 2.8

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Two above A99 with Leica PC28 2.8R

Really like using the A99 for long exposure because of the articulated screen and the electronic view finder. Always find DSLRs are bulky and ugly but the results are superb.

The Sony RX-1 was an easy choice as well. Small and light, has 49mm thread so I already had ND filters from my Leica days. Has an old-fashioned cable release thread in the shutter release and superb resolution. Doesn’t have the width of the 15mm or shift functionality of the PC lens but did I mention how small and compact it is?

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A couple with RX-1.

You really can’t beat the RX-1 when it comes to portability. The think in all other respects then RX-1 and A99 are a tie. All this will change though with the advent of the Sony A7r. A body similar size to the RX-1, a 36mp sensor and the ability to mount both my favourite landscape lenses. Think the A99 will go and the RX-1 will be for those times when AF is beneficial and A7r the rest. Am first on the list with Photo Warehouse for A7r and really looking forward to it.

Think if long exposure landscapes is your ‘bag’ then digital is a no-brainer. Film is fun but with reciprocity effect you have to at least double the exposure times. The Sony’s have an electronic view finder so for normal under 30 sec exposures you can actually see the result in the EVF. Very cool.

Will post some long exposure shots from my recent visit to Taupo in next couple of days, and will be doing a printing project, with subject being the West Auckland beaches.

Hasselblad Arcbody, where have you been all my life?

Arcbodt actual

Those who know me are aware that I have a camera system fetish. Seems I have never really been satisfied with any system I own and am always looking for nirvana!

Well seems like I have found it. Have recently been looking to exit some digital gear to get one of my dream cameras, a Hasselblad SWC. A couple of weeks ago I listed a couple of my Sony Zeiss Zooms and my Rolleiflex 3.5F on Trademe, and have been scouring the world film camera sites looking for a deal on an SWC.  Last Thursday morning I was up early having a coffee and was looking at progress on Trademe, to see if anything had moved, and my search for Hasselblad systems identified a Hasselblad Arcbody with 35mm and 45mm lenses in Auckland. Cutting along story short, and after the suitable amount of grovelling at home, I bought it.

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Well over the weekend I put a few rolls through it and am stunned by the results. There is a lot to remember when you use this camera system and mistakes are plentiful in the early attempts, but when you get it right wow!

Taking photos of the dark slide, not setting camera back from the viewing aperture and not closing the shutter before I remove dark slide are my most common mistakes:)

I am primarily a tripod user so a system like this that requires  a tripod is right up my alley. It is not a fast camera to use by any stretch of the imagination and there lies the attraction for me. Being a Hasselblad it is an engineering master piece, not cheap, but you really do get what you pay for in this world.

The Rodenstock 35 4.5 is also a masterpiece. It is tiny, a little slow for most people’s taste, but not me because I shoot landscapes and cityscapes so I am never wide open anyway. Not sure there are to many lenses wider than this in Medium/Large format, I estimate it is in the 15-17mm range when compared to 35mm.

Arcbody Col-3

The ability to shift and tilt is not only useful around the city with ARChitecture but also very handy with landscape shots. I like a lot of foreground interest in my landscapes and often setup at ground level. So a little upward shift can remove distracting immediate foreground and straighten up whatever it is that I have as the foreground interest.

The system is incredibly small, basically a light box with a lens attached, filter holder and film back. Smaller than your average DSLR and because it all breaks down, it packs easily in a mid-sized bag. The Arcbody with 35 4.5 + Sony RX-1 + Nodal Ninja panorama head will be my kit of choice, especially when we are in Hawaii at end of July.

Arcbody Col

Have I mentioned yet this Rodenstock 35 4.5 lens is amazing:) I love wide angles and this darling is really wide and to my eye distortion free.

Well I will continue to add photos taken by the Arcbody.

Sony RX1 User Report

As per my previous posts I am not a technical reviewer, more an avid user of new and cool technology, and the Sony RX1 in my view is both.

As an owner of numerous cameras and camera systems there was no real need for me to buy the RX1.  But after dropping my M9 in Auckland harbour and loading the Sony A99 and lenses on my Rocket III each weekend I pined for something a little more compact.

Looked at the Fuji range (XP1, XE1 and X100S), Olympus OMD, Sony NEX and even the SIgma DP range but they all had one problem in my mind, they are not Full Frame! Once you use FF it is hard to go back to a crop sensor, just doesn’t feel right and doesn’t look right to me. Control of DOF is everything in my quest for the perfect frame.

Opahi Bay

The the RX1 appears on the scene, but $NZ4000? Without a EVF! How can that be? After using it for a week, and with some clear head space riding back from Mahurangi last weekend I think I got the pricing straight in my head.

The RX1 pretty much has all the functionality of the Sony A99 which costs around the same price here in NZ as the RX1 (NZ$3700) for the body alone. The same sensor as the A99, 24MP full-frame (24x36mm) CMOS sensor.  Add to that a stellar Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 2/35 to the package, this alone would be north of NZ$2500, and in a package can can fit easily into a winter jacket pocket, then the price appears to me to be a steal.

When I had my M9 I was never much of a ‘lens changer’. 90% of the time I had a 28 Summicron glued to the front, the balance would be a 50mm Summicron, so the fact that the RX1 has a fixed lens doesn’t really bother me. Would I prefer it to be 28mm? Sure but 35mm means I take a couple of steps back and then I have a similar view to a 28mm focal length anyway and this lens is as good or better than any of my Leica lenses. There is no perfect camera!

RX1 Mahurangi-4

Fixed lens cameras also mean that the lens  and sensor can be coupled in a way not possible for interchangeable lens camera systems. This has to help the end result in my mind.

The RX1 needs an EVF, or OVF if you prefer, but needs an external view finder to get the most out of it. I love the EVF because what you see is what you get. Sony EVF technology is superb in my view and that is the way I went. N$750 is a an investment though but if you want a RX1 then it is the price you need to pay.

The flexibility the RX1 offers amateur enthusiasts like me is incredible. Whenever I leave home I always leave with one digital and 1 film option. If the RX1 is the digital option then the bag I leave with can be a lot more compact than if I leave with A99. This helps the back a lot:)

My favorite  kit is a RX1 + my Linhof 612 and this all fits in a Crumpler $6 million dollar home. Brilliant! Rx1 meter is so good I also can leave my light meter at home and use RX1 spot function for metering with the Linhof.

RX1 Mahurangi-2

The price seems to upset most reviewers that I have seen. My way of looking at this is a little different. Leica was the only option if you wanted a portable full frame camera system and the RX1 is NZ$6000 cheaper in a body to body comparison. If you add the EVF it then is NZ$5250 cheaper. If you add the price of a Leica 35 Summicron at NZ$4000 things get a little silly:) Would I prefer the Leica M240 if the price were similar? Very hard question to answer because if the M240 was similar in price to RX1 I probably would have both:)

But as things stand I would rather have the Sony RX1, incredible FF sensor and lens package, with AF and all modern capabilities in a package 2/3rds the size of the M240 and the $5250 change thank you. I love the Leica system but the RX1 is a no brainer in my mind.

Photos on the post are from my ride up to Mahurangi region just north of Auckland and south of Warkworth.

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Sydneytown!

Last week my wife and I went to Australia for a day of business meetings. I have never been one to travel somewhere without being able to at least spend a day of leisure. So we added a day and I brought my kit.

My wife is not to interested in taking photos. Her logic is of a Swiss nature, that my photos are better than hers so why would she bother taking any at all. After all I have all the gear and the biggest camera she will carry around is a Fuji X10 or her iPhone. So the best way for her and I to be able to spend time together is to find local scenic walks when ever we visit somewhere. So rather than go shopping we decided to take a bus to the Spit bridge and do the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. Depending on what site you read online, it is about 10kms, well appointed and very scenic. We went around 8am after coffee and breakfast at Charlie Lovett. Great coffee, if you are in Sydney try them out they are great and soon to be in NZ if I can concentrate on work rather than photo blogs:).

Sydney is a City of 5 million so traffic wasn’t great so allow time to get there.

The walk was all that it was advertised as.  Traditional Aussie bush, then through very affluent suburbs, coastal walks through the rocks, throw in a few hills, it had it all. There are great views of the Sydney Heads, City views and especially good Panorama views of Manly Bay and surrounds.

For gear I decided if I couldn’t fit it in my Kata 2n1 then it wasn’t coming. So Sony SLT-A99, Zeiss 15/2.8 Zf.2 (modded to fit Sony A Mount), PC28/2.8 Super Angulon, a little Minolta 50/1.7 and my MeFOTO tripod.

After a kilometre or so I realised that there weren’t to many opportunities to shoot anything with dramatic foreground interest so I swapped out the Zeiss 15mm with the PC28/2.8SA and decided that I would shoot Panoramas with the shift lens. Any of you that have read my earlier post on this lens know how good it is.

So I could keep the bag light I didn’t bring any filters so I bracketed each shot +/-  2 stops combined each bracket in Nik HDR Pro and then stitched in Photoshop. I nice and easy workflow and as long as you pick a semi-realistic HDR setting in HDR Pro the results are always to my liking.

Once we got to Manly we sampled my wife’s favorite vice, Gelato @ Gelatissimo. After walking 10kms in 28c temperatures who was I to argue.

Anyway some sample photos below.

Sydney Heads

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Manly Bay below.

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Another from Manly Bay.

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It really is a nice walk. Keep an eye out because I have just bought a Linhof Technorama 612 and will post thoughts and samples soon.

Waitangi Day, 2013

Waitangi Day New Zealand, February 6th each year, is always an unusual day for me. Unlike 4th of July in the USA, or Australia day  for our western neighbours it isn’t a day that inspires great thoughts of patriotism for me. It really is just another holiday for most people I know.

This is probably because it commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi which effectively ended the Maori wars with the British invaders. Not the inception of a new country or signing of the Declaration of Independence. So it is always to me a non-event and more than anything a document that divides a population and focuses attention on the past, rather than bringing us together, so we can live in the present and work toward a brighter future.

Anyway enough of that, the great thing about W.Day for me is that it is in February and in most instances the weather is great. So as usual on holidays, when I am home, I got up early and went to find a nice spot to check out the rising sun.

Devonport offers a great view back to the CBD and also takes in the sun rising in the east. I love 3 to 1 Panoramas and as mentioned in my last post the Sony A99 + PC28/2.8 Super Angulon are my go to kit for these types of shots.

So while it is not the 4th of July or Australia Day, it was still a great day for photography. I even managed to get a round of golf in later in the day.

A few photos below. I also had my Rolleiflex 3.5f loaded with FP4 and will upload a few from that roll once they are scanned.

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Using Leica R PC28 F2.8 SA for 3 to 1 Panoramas on my Sony A99SLT

Bayswater Sunrise (1 of 1)

After recently exiting my Leica digital platform (dropped M9 in the harbour) and replacing it with  the superb Sony A99SLT and 3 Carl Zeiss zooms, I wondered how I could use my Leica R PC28/2.8 SA? After spending numerous hours reading through countless forums it became apparent that using PC/Tilt/Shift lenses on non legacy platforms is a question often asked.

A few years back when I left Canon to go the digital rangefinder route with the M9, I owned the Canon 24TSE and the 90TSE and both those lenses were superb and were the only two I ended up missing from the Canon platform. I used them extensively for shooting panoramas. It seems if you don’t use the Canon system there aren’t too many options available now. Nikon’s aren’t well-regarded, there is an old Carl Zeiss option, a couple of Olympus OM’s, the delayed Samyang and the Schneider PC28/2.8 of which I have the Leica R variant.

I thought this post might help others who don’t use the Canon system to see what my experience is with this lens on the Sony platform shooting panoramas. I am not a reviewer and this isn’t a review but just my experience and a few photos.

The Leica R bayonet mount obviously is incompatible with the Sony A mount, so after searching through many forums I identified and then purchased a Leitax adaptor from David from Leitax.com and on his recommendation a M42c-L1 chip from James Lao.

It was a very easy install because if I can do it then a chimpanzee can. Just make sure you have a quality philips screw driver.

The lens feels great on the camera and the chip from James Lao means all of the main functions like Steady Shot, focus confirmation etc. are useable. The camera has aperture set at F1.4 and you adjust aperture manually on the lens.

The A99 EVF is awesome for using this manual focus type of lens because what you see in the EVF is what you get. Have read with interest how many people wouldn’t look at A99 because it has EVF rather than OVF, can’t see the problem myself. As you can see with my example shots I shoot a lot in low light and I feel EVF works better for focusing than a standard OVF.

I have always used a light meter with my Leica M9 because you need a consistent exposure over the three photos or they won’t stitch properly and I felt light meter was easiest way to achieve that with the M9. With the Sony I just set it to manual, select F11 on the lens and adjust shutter speed to what I like on EVF. Couldn’t be simpler.

The other great function is the magnified focus view on the rear of the camera. Push the button, select area you wish to magnify, check focus and the push shutter. Superb. The articulated screen is also very handy when you can’t get behind the camera.

One function I haven’t tried yet is the AF range button. This could also be something I might use with pano shooting.

This lens appears to me to be super sharp, as you would expect from a Leica product. I understand that it is actually a Schnieder lens but Leica wouldn’t put their name to a lens that doesn’t meet their standards. While researching this lens I read that Leica were allowed to pick the best lens from each batch, not sure that is true or just somebody justifying the fact he/she paid more for the Leica branded example.

Anyway enough waffling, here are some early shots.

Bayswater @ Dawn
Bayswater Dawn

Bayswater Wharf & Fisherman
Bayswater Wharf (1 of 1)

Lorne Street, Auckland
Lorne Street (1 of 1)