Photo Plus Expo 2015: Tidbits from the Show

Wandered the PPE 2015 floor today at the Javitts Center in New York City, together with a multitude of other photography fans including all those bloggers and YouTubers we’ve grown accustomed to.

I’m getting a bit tired of gear news, as you might have noticed from the lack of it on this site recently, so I only focused on the stuff I’m personally interested in or intrigued by.

Before I share the stuff I can share, I must add that despite my sense that we’ve reached a plateau in the market, I’m still excited about some of the stuff that’s likely coming over the transom. But that was all eluded to off the record, so no specifics yet.

Here are the tidbits I can share:

  • the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 will tentatively be priced at around EUR4500, including VAT;
  • Zeiss will add a new Batis to its line in the spring of next year, no word yet on its focal length;
  • production of the Batis 25mm f/2 is expected to finally catch up with demand by the spring.

Moving to Olympus:

The upcoming 300mm f/4, which has a lot of people excited because it’s a 600mm f/4 equivalent in full frame, will apparently boost features that no other lens has. The rep refused to tell me anything more, leaving me as befuddled as you are what they could possibly be doing with this lens. All I hope for is that the OM-D E-M1 successor will be a camera to match the needs of the bird and wildlife photographers who would buy this lens.

To Sony:

The new Sony RX1R II is one sweet little camera. I’m not a fan of rangefinder style viewfinders, but the little pop-up EVF on the left side of the camera is a nice feature and altogether it’s one sweet package. A bit expensive. Also, the models they had on display were pre-production, so no sample images could be taken.

To Leica:

I had not yet made acquaintance with the Leica Q, the closest competitor to the above fixed-focal-lens Sony. In short, it’s another beautiful camera with a great lens, delivering crisp images. I prefer the Leica’s 28mm over the Sony’s 35mm and if it wasn’t for the price, the Q would be mine. I fear it never will be, though.

Then there’s the Leica SL, the new kid on the block. The camera by itself is large for a mirrorless camera, but not uncomfortably so. I found the grip to both look good and feel good, so while my initial impression was that form had trumped function, after holding it, I think the two mesh perfectly.

I can’t say the same thing about the first lens produced in this line, the 24-90mm f/2.8-4. It delivers great quality, but it’s one large piece of gear.

And handling the camera reminded me of stepping into an Ferrari Enzo at a car show some years ago. While I had driven cars since my late teens, that Ferrari left me dumbfounded with its Formula 1-style controls. Likewise, while I’ve handled cameras for even longer than I’ve driven cars, the SL left me utterly confused about how to change basic settings. Usually, I pick up a camera and can shoot with it at different settings. Here, a friendly Leica rep had to help me out every step of the way. In this case, form does seem to trump function.

Leica SL & 24-90mm Lens at 90mm f/4, 1/80s, ISO 2500, heavy crop, no other adjustments

I’m still not sure who Leica built the SL for. Their media materials emphasize it as a professional camera, which would take aim at the top Canon and Nikon bodies, but the Leica lenses aren’t there to make for a compelling case for a pro who usually would pick up a Canon 1D X and a few f/2.8 lenses. And while the SL shoots at 11 frames per second, that goes down to 7 fps if you use continuous focus. In short, while I think Canon and Nikon have a lot to worry about, this Leica ain’t it.

Punters say Leica is taking on the Sony A7-series, but if they did that, why would they build a so much better body than the A7-series but not offer a higher-megapixel sensor? And why price it at more than double of the most expensive Sony A7-series?

I’m sure true Leica aficionados with a range of R-lenses in the closet will like this camera, but I have no clue who else is going to buy this at $7,500. Hopefully Leica knows.

Finally, B&H is running a host of show specials. Some are worth real money, so check it out.

The show is on for two more days.

Packing Photo Gear for Barcelona, Spain, and the French Countryside

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Just when I have the most time for and interest in photography is when I’m most limited with the gear I can take. That’s the quandary facing me now that I’m about to leave for five weeks in Europe.

Part of the trip will be spent with my family in my hometown. The other part will be a road trip from Holland via France to Barcelona, Spain, and back. I’m spending about a week driving, with stops for photography, and a week in Barcelona.

So, it’s a great time to try new gear that doesn’t get much use at home.

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Kipon EOS – MFT AF Review: New Adapter Fails the Test

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Excitement quickly replaced disappointment a few days ago as I tested the eagerly anticipated Kipon EOS to Micro Four Thirds adapter that promised us fast autofocus performance with Canon lenses on MFT cameras.

I had ordered my copy from China on eBay and got it in the mail Saturday morning. A little later, I mounted my Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II via the adapter on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and headed out to the Hudson to give it a shot. Since the MFT system has plenty of good short glass, what I really want is to be able to use Canon’s long lenses on my MFT cameras.

At first, things looked okay. Focus wasn’t stellar, but it was acceptable at 400mm with the camera set at single AF and the large or small center point used.

Weird

But quickly weird things started happening:

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Impressions of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 II

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The Olympus OM-D EM-5 II launched as the successor to the EM-5, a camera that boosted micro-four thirds as a serious contender to DSLRs (and stoked my interest in MFT). The EM-5 was quickly overtaken by the flagship E-M1, which was faster and more robust.

The II edition took some of the original EM-5, added a dash of the EM-1 and introduced some features not seen so far in any Olympus, most notably a high-resolution mode that delivers 40-megapixel images of static subjects and video that doesn’t suck compared to the competition.

I used a rented EM-5 II for about a week, while I was spending most of my shooting time going after bald eagles at the Hudson river with my Canon DSLR and some rented lenses, about which more in another article.

To be honest, I don’t have much to say about the new Olympus. That’s actually a good thing, because I always thought the EM-5 ‘classic’ was already pretty good. The II is better, overall.

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My only major problem with it is the same one I had with the original model, which is that it’s too small to comfortably hold. When I still had the EM-5, I quickly bought the additional grip for better handholding and I dumped that camera the moment the larger EM-1 was announced. Despite the improved grip on the II, I still think it’s too small. I assume the grip would solve that problem, as it did for the ‘classic.’

I do like the adoption of the buttons, levels and dials of the EM-1. I don’t really care about the flip-out LCD, but it doesn’t hurt either. It’s handy for selfies, which I took abundantly in the early to late nineties, before the term ‘selfie’ was born, but which I stopped taking as I matured. An idea before its time, apparently.

Image quality is basically unchanged for stills, so I have nothing to add there. I do hope that Olympus will find a way to boost resolution of its sensors to 24 mp and improve noise capabilities, as these are the key drawbacks that make me not totally embrace MFT for all my photography. I hope that will come in the EM-2 or EM-1 II.

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I’m not going to comment on the video quality, as I don’t shoot video often enough to judge it.

Now, the high resolution mode intrigued me. I tried it with various subjects and it’s awesome. If the subject and the camera are truly static and you use the shutter delay to make sure the camera does indeed become motionless, the results are great. Looking at the files at 100% blew my mind, like it did with Sony A7R or Nikon D800e images.

If you do shoot still life, food or architecture, this is a great feature to have. Unfortunately, I don’t shoot any of that on a regular basis, so I’m just hoping that Olympus will succeed in speeding up the sensor-shift so it can be used for non-static subjects.

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All in all, I can recommend the EM-5 II. It’s a neat camera, delivering both a pleasant shooting experience and clean files. Like with all 16mp MFT cameras, the image quality is a bit lacking compared to the APS-C or full-frame sensors, especially noise-wise, but in reality for most uses, the quality is enough and the small high-quality Olympus lenses produce stunning files without overburdening the user with bulky or heavy gear.

 

Adobe Lightroom does not yet support the EM-5 II files, so images were imported into Olympus Viewer and then converted to JPGs. Further adjustments were made in LR.

The EM-5 II is available at B&H (affiliate links):

 

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 II – A Roundup of Previews & First Impressions

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On Thursday, Olympus announced its long-rumored successor to the OM-D E-M5 micro-four thirds mirrorless camera, the Mark II version. The new camera offers several small improvements and even better in-body image stabilization than its predecessor. The body is redesigned and adopted several pro features from the flagship E-M1 model. Headline news was the addition of a sensor-shift function that allows the 16-megapixel sensor to produce 40-megapixel images of static objects.

Several sites had access to early models and published their initial reviews, previews or first impressions of this camera. What follows is a roundup of those impressions.

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