Saturday, November 17, 2012

The ups and downs of EVFs

I got up early to shoot the sunrise and some birds with my new Sony NEX-6. This is the first camera I've had that utilizes an electronic viewfinder.

Focusing has proven to be easy, even in the dark. That's a plus.

However, every time I take a photo, the viewfinder blacks out. There's a noticeable lag before it comes back on. That blackout makes it really hard to follow birds with a long zoom.

Guess you better compose each shot right the first time ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sony NEX-6 First Impressions

Since aquiring my M8 I've been waiting for a high quality mirrorless camera with a viewfinder that can utilize my Leica lenses and shoot video. (The new Leica M is that camera, but it's still MONTHS away.)

I almost jumped at the Sony NEX-7, but I heard it had issues with the sensor overheating during video. Then I almost jumped at the Fuji X-Pro1, but it still didn't seem like a fully developed camera.

I finally ordered the Sony NEX-6.

Sony NEX-6 with kit zoom

Initial setup was a little slow and not completely intuitive. It took me about an hour to get the wifi working with my iPhone and an iPad I borrowed. This required installing the Sony Play Memories Mobile app on the phone or tablet and then plugging the camera into my computer and installing the Remote Trigger and Photo Upload apps. There are several other apps on the Sony site I haven't loaded yet.

Pairing the devices is not fast. Sometimes it takes over a minute, and it still seems buggy, but once it is finally paired, it works well.

Sony NEX-6 wireless smart phone remote

However, if you use the remote device to trigger the camera, there is a noticeable delay.

The kit lens is sharp and autofocus is very fast. If you're shooting in manual mode, there is virtually no shutter lag.

I tested the camera with both my Leica 50mm Summilux and my Canon FD 200mm f4. Manually focusing them with the viewfinder was easy, especially with focus peaking turned on.

The high ISO quality is amazing. Even ISO 3200 is very usable with low noise. Here's a shot of Dixie Belle in a dim bedroom with the Summilux at f1.4, 1/60s, ISO 3200.


Things I love:

  • Clean high ISO capability
  • Fast autofocus
  • Macro capability
  • Great video
  • Uses my Leica and Canon lenses

Things I like:

  • The wifi apps are cool to play with but need work

Things I hate:
  • No mic plug or headphone out
  • No battery charger
  • No RAW file support from Adobe yet 

There is a crappy Sony mic available that plugs in via the Smart Shoe. I'm hoping there are Smart Shoe to mic plug adapters on the horizon. For interviews I need a way to connect lapel mics or I'm back to recording audio with a separate device and having to re-sync it. Waste of time.

I was really hesitant to sell the M8 because I was worried this camera wouldn't be easy to use with Leica lenses, but it just absolutely blows the M8 away. However, I am still craving the new M. We'll see if I still want it after a month with the NEX or if this little camera will keep me satisfied.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Fast Lens Shootout: Vintage Summilux vs New Nokton

For the past year or so my go-to lens has been a Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.1. It's a very fast but very large lens in the world of Leica M-mount glass.

It's been a great lens, but I just couldn't quell that desire for an authentic Leica lens. I wanted to know if I was missing something.

I had a 50mm Summicron DR f2 on my M3, but it wasn't getting much use and because of its design, the DR can't be used on digital Ms. That's a shame because the DR is really one of the most solid and beautifully engineered lenses I've ever handled. With a tear in my eye I traded it in on a vintage Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4. It was not only faster glass, but I could also use it on my M8.

You're probably thinking, shouldn't the Nokton be compared against Leica's Noctilux? Yes and no. Yes, it's more similar in design to the Noctilux. However, it's much closer to the price range of the Summilux, which is the biggest determining factor for poor photographers like myself. I spent $800 on the used Nokton, but then another $150 having the backfocus problem fixed by DAG. The used Summilux came in at $1500. (I previously owned the Nokton 40mm f1.4, which is a much cheaper lens but found the 50mm f1.1 to be a much better lens and sold the 40mm.)

So how does what could be considered an antique lens stack up against a modern apsherical lens like the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.1?

First, there's size.

Summilux vs Nokton size comparison

Although they weigh about the same, the Summilux is a good deal smaller than the Nokton and doesn't block the viewfinder. The Summilux also has a longer throw on the focus ring.

During back lit situations the Nokton has a tendency to put a purple fringe and a green fringe around the edges of the back lit objects, so my first shot before I decided to drop any money on the Summilux was to test it with some back light.

50 Summilux purple fringe

There was still some purple fringing around the door frame and window sticker, but there was no green fringing. Score one for the Summilux.

Once I decided I would trade in on the Summilux, I began some highly rigorous scientific tests. These included shooting a pirahna and a Diet Coke can with both lenses set to f1.4.

Summilux 100% Crop
50 Summilux fish crop

Nokton 100% Crop
50 Nokton fish crop

While the color rendering is almost the same, the Summilux proved to be noticeably sharper with better contrast.

Summilux 100% Crop
50 Summilux can crop

Nokton 100% Crop
50 Nokton can crop

With the backlit Diet Coke can the Summilux again came out on top when pixel peeping for a look at sharpness and contrast.

So the last question remained, what about the areas in a photo that are out of focus? I turned to a string of Christmas lights to answer that question.

Summilux Bokeh f1.4
50mm Summilux Bokeh

Nokton Bokeh f1.4
50mm Nokton Bokeh at f1point4

Nokton Bokeh f1.1
50mm Nokton Bokeh at f1

At f1.4 the Summilux bokeh tended to be oval shaped with an outline. It wasn't terrible, but it's not the prettiest I've ever seen. However, at f1.4 the Nokton's bokeh was octagonal, not good at all. Once again the pre-ASPH Summilux, despite having been designed in 1969, came out on top. BUT the Nokton had that extra stop, so I couldn't just act like it didn't exist. At f1.1 the Nokton had very pleasing bokeh, which I liked better than the Summilux.

I was pleased with the test results because I had already spent the money on the Summilux, but I was really expecting the ashperical design of the Nokton to be sharper. It turns out, I have been missing something. Those Leica engineers knew what they were doing even way back in the 1960s. I can't imagine how great the modern 50mm Summilux ASPH with a floating lens element must be, but it's still well out of my price range at $4,000.

So now the question remains, does that little edge in sharpness and constrast matter at all if you're not making large prints? Is it worth paying more for an old lens versus a new lens with a warranty?

To me, it's worth spending a little more to buy the Summilux, but I have a really nice Nokton for sale if you're interested.

Ninety Nine Years 99 Pages: Leica Jubilee Book

I came home from work to find a large box on my doorstep. I couldn't remember ordering anything, so I took a look at the label and realized it said JAS Forwarding GmbH c/o Leica Camera AG.

It was a rather large box, so my heart skipped for a moment as I thought, what if some wealthy benefactor sent me an M9!

No such luck, BUT it was my Leica Jubilee Book

My Leica Jubilee Book arrived

Ninety Nine Years 99 Pages.

It's a cool book with lots of photos and diagrams documenting the history of Leica cameras and Leica in pop culture.

I entered the Leica Jubilee Self Portrait contest back in the spring, and I was one of the lucky photographers selected for inclusion.

I'm on page 52.

Leica Jubilee Book

Yes, it's just a small photo, and yes, there's an S on my face, but hey, I'm in a book with Henri Cartier-Bresson. Never thought that would happen.

Guess it's a little late to sell all my M gear and switch over to Canon now.

Thanks, Leica.

If you want to order your own copy and virtually flip through the pages, they can be found here:

Unfortunately, they do cost 99 Euros.

Monday, November 05, 2012


No, it's not just about the mustache rides.


It's Movember, so I'm bringing back the classy stache as part of the Technip Stache Team, raising awareness and funds for prostate and testicular cancer research.

Frankly, the whole thing drives me a little crazy. I hate the name. It's a horrible, poorly contrived contraction, but some Australians made it up in 1999, and it just stuck. I also don't like the fact that most participants use it as an excuse not to shave at all and look super scruffy at work. However, it is for a good cause as it benefits the Prostate Cancer and the LiveStrong Foundations, so I am participating this year.

I also realized after darkening my normally blond lip hair for the above photo that I have a huge stache gap. It just doesn't grow in the middle. I don't know what that's about.

Please donate if you want, but if donating isn't your thing I am also donating all money made from print sales at during the month of November. 

Thank you from all the mo bros and mo sisters out there.