Sony FE 50mm f1.8 vs Zeiss Loxia 50mm f2 Planar T*

The other day I stopped by my local camera shop to purchase a step up adapter and show off my new Batis 25mm f2 (they don't carry Zeiss lenses) and saw that they had the new $249 Sony FE 50 f1.8 in stock. They always let me try out lenses if I ask, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a brief, albeit very brief, test. Prior to this lenses release the only native autofocus 50ish lens was the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f1.8 which costs nearly $1000. Then there is the Zeiss Loxia which is manual focus only and costs nearly $1000. Adapters allow for the use of many other lenses, which have been a popular option for the FE system. My most popular blog article is a review of the Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 on the A7II due to demand for an affordable standard focal length lens on A7 cameras. 

Both Shots were taken on the A7II, ISO 800, f2, and 1/100 (the one with the Loxia pictured was taken with the Sony and vice versa). This is not meant to be a technical comparison, but rather a summary of my, again brief, experience.  

I own the Loxia 50mm and will not be trading it in for the new Sony option, but if this lens had been out when I first got my Sony I would definitely own it. Considering the price, the Sony performs impressively. The Loxia is sharper and produces a slightly more pleasing image, but the differences are slight. For most usages the Sony's autofocus will help you get the shot and negate the Zeiss lenses slight image quality advantages. 

(ISO 400, f1.8, 1/50)

In summary the Sony is cheaper, has autofocus, has good image quality, and is light weight. The Loxia has incredible build quality with a weather sealing gasket at the mount, metal lens hood, actual mechanical focus ring vs focus by wire, Zeiss T* coatings, and slightly better image quality. For most hobbyists the Sony FE 50mm will be the right choice, more serious photographers may be interested in either the Loxia or the FE 55 

Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS: Real World Review

Disclaimer: Macro is one of my favorite genres of photography, so this lens is a must have. 

When evaluating the FE 90mm one word comes to mind: versatile. This medium telephoto lens can be used for portrait, landscape, product, and of course macro photography. The 11” minimum focus distance allows for 1:1 reproduction with stunning levels of detail, but at any other distance it is just a sharp, image stabilized 90mm f2.8 lens. In short this lens is currently the only native FE autofocus macro lens available and it is a good one. The focus clutch feature allows for fast transition between autofocus and manual focus, which I find incredibly useful in a macro lens, the image stabilization allows for increased flexibility when capturing handheld images, and level of detail resolved allows for cropping when needed. Optically this lens seems to be completely resistant to flare and chromatic aberration.  

One thing this lens will not provide is all of the above functionality in a compact size. While many consider mirrorless a preferable option due to the smaller form, as I do as well, lens design must also account for the full frame sensor and short minimum focusing distance. This lens seems large, but balances comfortably on the A7II. During my brief time with the original A7 this lens felt unbalanced due to the smaller grip. This lens is also not the fastest focusing piece of glass, but neither was my Canon EF 100mm L IS Macro. The raw files produced with this lens are not as punchy as Zeiss lenses I have had the pleasure of using, but the amount of detail it produces is incredible. I really do not find this to be much of a negative as a quick trip to Lightroom and a little knowhow alleviates the issue and allows for more creative input. My two real complaints are the focus shift in macro ranges and the shaky image stabilization, but they are by no means deal breakers. When approaching minimum focusing distances the lens appears to become more telephoto, which changes framing. For still subjects this is not much of an issue, but when trying to capture moving subjects handheld it can be frustrating. I also find that the image stabilization is not nearly as smooth as I experienced when I was using Canon's premium macro lens. This lens is incredible and something I could not manage living without in my FE ecosystem, but it's not perfect.  

Below is a small gallery showcasing the versatility of FE 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS lens

Mirrorless: Fuji vs. Sony

I began my self-directed exploration into photography during the summer 2013. I then continued to immerse myself into learning and practicing both the technical and artistic skills related to photography. In the beginning I thought I would pick up a camera and use photography as a form of relaxation and as a distraction from my studies, (Master’s Degree in Adult Education) which I began at the same time. However, it quickly turned into what I would describe as a passion. I love everything about it, exploring beautiful locations, getting out into nature, the technical details, composition, editing, continuing the life long learning process, improving, how I appreciate the environment around me more, and the gear. 

Above are images created using the Fuji X-E2

Above are images created using the Sony A7II

I bought a Fuji X-E2 in April of 2015, so right around a year ago. The decision to experiment with mirrorless was spurred by a trip to Florida where I carried my Canon 6d and Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art around everywhere I went. I found this setup to be fairly unpleasant to lug around in the heat and humidity, as well as unnecessary for my style of shooting. Almost as soon as I returned to Buffalo I had sold my 50mm Art and had purchased the X-E2. I chose the X-E2 after comparing images made by several mirrorless cameras on social media. I really do like the images that are produced by the combination of the X Trans sensor and good Fuji glass. I primarily used the X-E2 with the XF 18mm f2 and the XF 35mm f1.4. The XF 35mm f1.4 is one of my favorite lenses I have ever used with a couple minor flaws. Let’s get those flaws out of the way first; it is not a fast focusing lens and it focuses externally. The rendering of the lens is beautiful, especially at the wider apertures. I had a love hate relationship with the XF 18mm and ended up selling it long before I made the decision to get rid of my X-E2. The 18mm is incredibly small, lightweight, and has an excellent minimum focusing distance. What drove me crazy about the lens was how it flared during night photography. While I would describe myself as a photographic generalist at this point in my learning, I have always enjoyed doing long exposures. This lens was virtually unusable for nighttime cityscapes because of the severity of the flaring and caused me to lose several shots that I was relying on it for. I also found that it was just a hair too tight for how I like to frame my wide shots. This really is not a ding to Fuji as they offer many great wide-angle prime lenses, and I have heard that Sony’s affordable 28mm f2 lens also has problems with flare. 

The above two images are to demonstrate the Xf 18mm f2's flare issues 

After using the Fuji almost exclusively it became time to sell off my Canon 6d and the rest of my Canon lenses. The ergonomics on the Canon were overall more comfortable, however the bulk was just not worth it to me. Naturally, as I love gear, I began to miss having a full frame camera. The extra low light performance, extra shallow depth of field, and the malleability of the files were all calling me back to full frame (plus I had the Canon funds to reinvest). About that time the Sony A7II was released and the in body image stabilization and the reported increase in dynamic range over Canon had me sold. I did manage to hold off making my purchase until I found a good deal on a gently used body lessening the blow. For the first few months of owning the Sony I still used the Fuji quite often, as I was still building my familiarity with the camera as well as my lens selection. Gradually the Sony became my go to camera and the Fuji fell into the category of the camera I used when I wanted to take pictures of my Sony. 

Now comes the Fuji’s turn for eBay, which really was a sad day as I loved that camera. Its styling made every non-photographer think that you were playing with a “toy” or some old film camera, instead of my experience carrying a DSLR when strangers stop you to take their picture with their camera phones. It was discrete, lightweight, and fun. The real catalyst to selling the camera was when I realized that the X-E2 plus the XF 35mm could buy me an original used A7 for my backup camera. The idea of having two Sony cameras had so many upsides that I had to make the hard decision to dump my Fuji for an all Sony system. The biggest convenience is now both my cameras share the same mount. So while the Fuji body is lighter, I do not have to have a separate lens (or adapter if you used adapted lenses that can be fitted to both Fuji, Sony, or any mirrorless camera). What this means for me is more space in my camera bag and that I am actually bringing my backup camera with me, as is the whole purpose of having a backup. When I pack my camera bag I attach my Zeiss Loxia 50mm to the A7 and the 90mm macro to my A7II and they fit nicely in my ONA Prince Street with a 25mm Zeiss in between. While the A7II has more features, real-world image quality is equal from what I have seen. This is another area where the Fuji fell short for me. I did love the rendering, however I also enjoy printing large and while the A7 and A7II are not megapixel monsters, they do have 50% more resolution. 

Unfortunately after writing the majority of this article, and after putting the A7 through its paces I uncovered a flaw that the eBay seller failed to disclose. The rear dial, which can be assigned to control aperture or shutter speed, does not work properly. I had not noticed this originally since I was using a manual aperture Zeiss Loxia. My Sony A7 is being returned to the seller and I am left somewhat conflicted on what I want to do. Definitely still all Sony, but possibly an a6000 or a 6300 or to go in a different direction, maybe even an original A7R. I do not think that I will be picking up another A7, as it does not really enhance the versatility of my kit.  

The Sony A7II above is currently the sole camera in my bag. 

ONA Prince Street Review: With Sony A7 Mirrorless System

The Leather Prince Street messenger bag by ONA in antique cognac is my current most used camera bag. The $389.00 price tag is far from inexpensive, but with the price comes quality, functionality, and style. 

My Prince Street is currently filled with Sony full frame mirrorless cameras. There are two bodies, an A7 and A7ii and three lenses, two of which are attached to the bodies. The lenses are a Zeiss Loxia 50mm, Sony 90mm Macro, and a Zeiss ZM 25mm f2.8 Biogon with adapter. In addition to the cameras and lenses are filters, cloths, cables, batteries, tripod plates, a rocket blower, and even a Manfrotto Pixi Mini tabletop tripod. As you can see in the photo below, the bag is pretty much at its capacity and takes a bit of Tetris skills to properly pack it and actually get it to close. Also, you can see that if you utilize a vertical battery grip this may not be the bag for you. 

In addition to the leather ONA offers the Prince Street in three waxed canvas versions for the approximately $100.00 less than the two leather versions. I owned the larger Brixton in waxed canvas and was quite happy with the material. If you plan to take a Laptop (13 inch) the Brixton will be the choice for you. I have found that the Prince Street is a more comfortable bag to carry even though I am a larger guy. I found that the extra width of the Brixton caused it to sway more and that I would bump in to more of my surroundings. This would increase the rate of fatigue and result in my shoulder being sorer quicker. I have gone on several longer hikes with my Prince Street with very little fatigue even with similar load outs. Again, the Brixton could hold my 13" laptop as well as my 3 Legged Thing Rick carbon fiber tripod when needed. I would still highly recommend both bags to the photographer looking for a bag that incorporates both functionality and style, however I did decide to sell my Brixton as the Prince Street had completely taken over the role of messenger bag in my kit. 

Adapting Manual Lenses to the Sony A7: End of the Road

When I switched to the Sony FE system, specifically the A7II, I used exclusively adapted lenses. The lenses I favored were M mount due to their compact size. While the Leica lenses were out of my price range I had Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses. Now I have one remaining adapted lens, the Carl Zeiss ZM 25mm f/2.8 Biogon. The build quality is fantastic, the size is perfect (that is to say it is compact), and I have produced some of my favorite images to date with it but it is currently listed on eBay along with my Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter.

The decision to sell this lens has me conflicted; on one hand I do not like some of the performance issues I encounter with the 25mm Biogon, and on the other hand I do not particularly like my alternatives that are available in native FE mount. The main points of dissatisfaction with the Biogon are the lack of a profile for distortion correction in Lightroom, which becomes a major issue when stitching together panoramas (and for that matter, the lack of metadata), some softness in the corners (which is often an issue with wide angle adapted lenses on full frame Sony cameras), and to a lesser extent the lack of autofocus and the mediocre maximum aperture for a prime. (I still love my Loxia 50mm and that is manual focus and has manual aperture control). Overall, I could live with some of the pitfalls of using a full manual adapted lens, but when combined together it is just too much for how I shoot.

To be fair, in addition to shooting panoramas where profile corrections become all but essential, I often use ND filters. Specifically, I like to use 10 stop ND filters, and sometimes even stack a 10 stop with a 3 stop and a CPL if I want a multi-minute exposure during the day. This is where the manual aperture control becomes and issue and adds an extra step to my workflow. In order to “see” so that focusing and composing are even possible, I need to open my aperture all the way, focus, and then stop down once again. If I were not using filters so often with my wide shots, I would probably be keeping this lens, as keeping the size of my system small is important to me.

Price, size, and versatility are my factors in determining which direction I will go in. I have determined that 25mm is wide enough for most of my shooting needs, I previously had the Canon EF 17-40mm when I was shooting with the full frame 6d and did go wider from time to time. My number one choice is the Carl Zeiss Batis 25m f/2. This lens has a faster maximum aperture, it’s the lightest of my considerations, DXO says it’s the sharpest, has a short minimum focus distance allowing for some creative compositions, has a weather sealing gasket, and carries the highest price tag. My next two choices are either the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 or 16-35 f/4. Both these lenses can be found used at great prices in comparison to the Batis (especially the 24-70) and offer greater flexibility being zooms. However, both are also two full stops slower, weigh more, sacrifice sharpness…enough about my indecision; it’s good to have choices. 

Who knows, if it does not sell for the my asking price I just might keep it. The small size and the Zeiss optics still make the ZM 25mm f/2.8 Biogon a very attractive option. 

Buffalo, NY: A Photography Destination

There are fantastic photographic opportunities in and around Buffalo, some world famous and others less known. While Iceland, New Zealand, Italy, Greece, and Hawaii are just a few of the destinations I would like to bring my camera, this list is comprised of locations within a 45 minute drive.

Niagara Falls

This iconic location can be viewed from either side of the border, maybe just maybe Canada has a better view, but my shots are from the U.S. side. Be prepared to encounter crowds, as it is a popular tourist destination.

Our Lady of Victory Basilica

The attention to detail inside and out offer the opportunity to capture fantastic imagery.

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Great for any flower/macro photography fan

Gallagher Pier/Grain Elevators

For sunsets over the water

Buffalo Lighthouse

Tucked away next to the Coast Guard Station you can find a small outdoor park focused on the history of Buffalo lighthouses

Akron Falls

Offers a variety of looks depending on the water levels. In addition to the waterfall, Akron Falls is located in an expansive park offering a variety of other photographic opportunities. 

Architecture throughout Buffalo

Whether you appreciate modern or classical design, take a stroll through the city. As you may be able to tell I prefer the older buildings. 

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f2

As is the case with many photographers, my first lens after the kit lens was a 50mm prime. The 50mm prime lens, for me the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II, helped me to fall in love with photography and expand my creative vision. Since that lens I have bought, shot with, and sold numerous lenses in the "standard" focal range including the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art, Canon 40mm f2.8 STM, Fuji 35mm f1.4 (52.5mm ff equivalent), and the Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. Now my fifty, okay I still have a couple, but my favorite fifty is the Zeiss Loxia 50 f2 Planar T*. 

Now let us just take a moment to admire the beauty that is a Zeiss lens. Now that we have gotten past the gear lust involved in anything carrying the Zeiss badge we can move on to the discussion portion. Why buy a fifty millimeter lens carrying a price tag of almost 1000 USD that does not autofocus and is "only" f2? This is a hard question to answer, and for me was helped by finding it on the used market for considerably less than the MSRP. The Loxia is a exquisitely manufactured piece of photographic gear and is the best that I have handled in terms of build quality. The manual focus ring is a pleasure to use, and the focus magnification that is engaged upon the rotation of the ring helps to compensate for the lack of autofocus. The metal lens hood is also a nice touch. The deciding design factor that pushed it over the top and into my camera bag over the Sony-Zeiss 55mm f1.8 was the weather sealing gasket. Anyone that has used a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera and shoots frequently above f11 knows the pain of removing sensor dust. While I tend to rotate between a few different primes, I wanted one lens that I could rely on in particularly challenging conditions such as windy days at the beach. 

Notice above that the Loxia extends as you focus towards the minimum focus distance and is most compact when focused to infinity (below).

The Loxia balances quite well on my Sony A7II weighing in at 320 grams. It is not a feather weight like the Canon 50mm f1.8, Canon 40mm pancake, or the Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 but it is not cumbersome to carry around like the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art. It was week long vacation with the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art that triggered my decision to switch to mirrorless cameras. This lens, along with the Zeiss ZM 25mm f2.8 (a lens created for the Ikon series or Lecia M mount cameras) spend the vast majority of the time mounted to my camera as they are enjoyable to use and carry, and at the same time deliver fantastic image quality. 

I will now provide you with a sampling of images that I have taken. All of the following photographs have been edited, some more than others, using Lightroom and in some cases Photoshop. When shooting at large apertures it is possible to experience some color fringing, all of which is very easy to remove in post. In other words you may notice it when editing your RAW files but you will no see it in my sample images. 

Obviously this lens is right for me, hence the decision to add it to my bag. Most of the time I do not miss the luxury of autofocus, however not everyone can so easily part with it. While photographers used manual lenses for decades, I could not imagine many event photographers to consider this lens for their professional work. At the same time, I use this lens off the tripod to photograph moving subjects and am able to nail focus with the aid of focus peaking and focus magnification. As someone who likes to change up their photography gear, I can not imagine parting with this lens.

What’s the most important piece of photography gear?

Considering our options we could say the camera, a favorite lens, or even the space between our ears; but let us consider accessories. This again is not so clear cut, and is also dependent on your goal(s) as a photographer. If you are a people photographer it might be a flash unit or a favorite light modifier. While I enjoy photographing a variety of subjects, my favorite piece(s) of equipment are my tripods. My main tripod, which falls under travel size, is a 3 Legged Thing Rick. This is a light-weight carbon fiber tripod. It seems to have been updated since I purchased it with a new ball head and is going for $250. Next in my lineup is the Joby Gorillapod Focus with BallHead X ($100). I utilize this tripod when there are railings to mount it on or to achieve a low perspective. Both the tripods mentioned above, or rather there ballheads allow for landscape or portrait orientation. The last tripod I own, and my most used is the  $25 Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod. While it only allows for landscape compositions, it is extremely small and lightweight. The form factor allows for me to throw it in any bag or even larger pockets. While it is a compromise in function, it is a piece of gear I always have with me, and therefore is frequently utilized. 

Watkins Glen: Favorite Place to Photography in New York

Watkins Glen State Park provides incredible opportunities for photography. The Gorge trail is is a photographic haven that is definitely worth a drive. 

Zeiss 25mm f2.8 Biogon ZM mount lens on Sony A7II

I have been in the search for a new wide-angle lens for my A7II after being dissatisfied with the bridge solution of using my Canon EF 17-40 f4L with an adapter. I recently came across a listing on ebay for this lens and the deal was too good to pass up and about an equal trade to my existing wide-angle setup. Having the 17-40, which I have used on the Canon 6d before my switch to Sony, has given me perspective on which focal lengths I enjoy utilizing in my photography. The Sony FE 28mm f2, which has received almost unanimously favorable reviews, was interesting to me, but I find that 28mm is just not quite wide enough. The other native FE mount lens that is available is the Zeiss Batis 25mm f2. This was an interesting option, but is currently hard to find, expensive, selling for a premium on the used market, and has a relatively large filter sized compared to my lens line up (it has a 67mm filter where my largest filter size is currently 52mm).

What drew me to the 25mm ZM Biogon? I like to think of my A7II as a poor mans Leica and am currently using rangefinder lenses mounted to it. Rangefinder lenses are attractive to me due to their small physical size, solid build quality, and the presence of a focusing scale on the lens. I have the Voigtlander close focus adapter (and extension tubes when necessary), so I already have a solution to the relatively long minimum focus distance of rangefinder lenses. Compared to most rangefinder lenses the Zeiss 25mm has a relatively short minimum focus distance of 0.5 meters. I have noticed with this adapter, closer focusing distances and therefore larger reproduction ratios are easier to obtain with wider focal lengths. Upon look at lens reviews and reviewing images on Flickr I decided that it was worth a try. Also, if I was unsatisfied with the lens I knew I could repost it on ebay for more that what I purchased it for (did I mention the deal was phenomenal for a mint condition lens specimen).

While I do not perform technical tests on my lenses, I do pixel peep when trying new glass and this lens performs quite favorably to other lenses I have shot on the Sony. One of the most apparent differences compared to my Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 and 75mm f1.8 is the color and contrast that the Zeiss lens produces. While I like the Voigtlander lenses, especially the 40mm, there is really no comparison to the Zeiss. I have not noticed any chromatic aberration, even when attempting to introduce it. Sharpness appears excellent and I have a feeling that the new A7RII would be a much better test of this lens than the 24mp sensor in my A7II because this lens is sharp.

To acknowledge the cons of this lens: It is manual focus, requires an adapter (and a helicoid adapter for close focusing), large new purchase price tag, vignetting at large apertures, lacks a Lightroom profile, and f2.8 maximum aperture compared to native f2 options. In most situations flare is well controlled, but can be introduced when pointing the lens at the sun. I have read that there can be a magenta color shift in the corners of adapter wide angle lenses on the Sony system, and I am glad to say that I have not noticed it with this lens, however the performance in the corners does not hold up to the excellent center image quality. There is a dramatic loss of sharpness in the corners even when stopped down to f8. 

After my first import I knew I had made the right decision. The files this lens renders are very much to my liking, that is to say they are sharp, contrasty, and offer great subject/background separation.  From what I can tell through my research, this lens has not been written about much in conjunction with the A7 series and that surprises me since it is such a great, compact performer. 

Landscape Photography: Depth of field

One of my greatest photographic challenges is achieving adequate depth of field in my landscape photography. I understand the concepts and techniques to overcome this challenge. In the upcoming post I will discuss why this challenge exists and methods of overcoming depth of field issues.

Manipulating depth of field is one of the primary reasons I enjoy using a full-frame camera. The larger sensor size allows for shallow depth of field to be achieved with greater ease, but at the same time creates a challenge when large amounts of depth of field is needed. What compounds the issue is that I enjoy creating photographs with close foreground subjects as well as an interesting mid-ground and background. To achieve maximum focus I set my focus 1/3rd of the way into the scene, as depth of field is 1/3rd in front and 2/3rds behind the focal plane. I use a small aperture, f/11-f/16, to maximize my depth of field. I try to avoid f/16 or f/22 when the lens allows for it, since the effects of diffraction will soften the image. Often when reviewing the images on the back of the camera it will appear that I have obtained adequate focus, but find that upon importing I have not achieved my goal.

Lens selection/focal length plays a role in how much depth of field I may achieve at a given aperture and distance from my subject. Wide-angle lenses will allow for greater depth of field at a given aperture and distance, but will change the perspective of my shot. While I enjoy using a wide-angle lens from time to time, I prefer the perspective of a more moderate focal length. When using my Voigtlander lenses on my Sony A7II I get the added benefit of having a distance scale so I can see exactly how much depth of field I will have without having to consult a depth of field calculator.

Compromise is the name of the game, which seems to be a reoccurring theme in all things photography. One of the most practical solutions is to composite images together to achieve necessary depth of field. I cannot consider this a viable option for many of my shots as I am often shooting multi-minute shots of moving water as light levels are quickly diminishing. Shooting wider as mentioned earlier will help obtain some extra depth of field, but will also change the photograph. Lastly, and I think my best solution for many of the photographs I create is to make certain that I achieve complete foreground focus and sacrifice some background focus. For example, the included photos show the rocks in the foreground slightly out of focus, but I would much rather that they are in sharp focus and the cliff in the background is less sharp. 

To increase the usability of these images where adequate depth of field was not achieved cropping to a more panoramic perspective to eliminate the out of focus rocks in the foreground becomes a decent option.

TriggerTrap: Long Term Review

G.A.S. or gear acquisition syndrome is something that I am plagued by. My justification is that I enjoy the learning process of becoming familiar with a new camera or lens. More importantly will the new piece of gear allow me to make a photograph that I would otherwise be incapable of creating? Regardless of what system I am shooting with, TriggerTrap has become an essential part of my workflow. The mobile dongle and associated app paired with my iPhone (also works with Android) expands the capabilities of my camera systems. Additional connection cables can be purchased separately for each system you are using. Spoiler alert: this review is extremely positive, and if you spend any time on a tripod I suggest ordering a TriggerTrap.

Long exposure photography has always been one of my favorite genres to explore, and lately I have been integrating TriggerTrap into my workflow to create multi-minute exposures. Why would I need to create such long exposures you ask? Long exposures, especially really long exposures, eliminate people in landscapes and show the movement in the clouds. Often when creating these images I am using a 10-stop ND filter and/or stacking filters. While the math is not exactly challenging, the apps ND calculator allows me to quickly determine the necessary shutter speed so I can spend my time worrying about my composition.

Creating HDR images is another photographic exercise that TriggerTrap simplifies. While I have used TriggerTrap with a variety of camera systems, the Fuji X-E2  (firmware version 3) has the most limiting options for HDR and therefore I will use it as my example. The X-E2 will only allow for a maximum of 1 stop exposure bracketing over 3 exposures, and often times this is not enough. The dynamic range of the sensor allows for similar results to be pulled out of a single, well-exposed RAW file. Also, if the exposures exceed 30 seconds, the camera will not go for longer in bracketing mode. So say your middle exposure is 30 seconds and your are set for one stop bracketing, your low file will be 15 seconds, middle will be 30, and high should be 1 minute however you will end up with (15, 30, 30). With TriggerTrap all you do is set you camera to Bulb mode, pick your middle exposure, pick number of shots from 3 to 19, and EV step from 1/3 to 2 hit the red button and wait for your files. This level of flexibility ensures that you are able to get the files that you need, again without the hassle of doing the calculations yourself.

The sound sensor feature combined with the flash adapter and a speedlight allows for the creation of some exciting high-speed photographs. The best part of using TriggerTrap is once you have your composition and settings down, your capture rate will be extraordinarily high. Compared to firing bursts and hoping you get the shot, while worrying about buffer size, culling hundreds of empty frames, flash recycle times, wasted material, and extra cleanup, TriggerTrap offers a much more elegant solution for your high-speed needs.

I also use TriggerTrap to create time lapses on occasion. While this is a feature I have only used a handful of times as I mainly shoot still images, I found it easy to use to capture the files I needed  to create some vacation time lapses.

TriggerTrap is one of those products that helps you to turn your creative vision into a reality, and has allowed me to expand the way I approach creating my images. I have only touched upon the functions of TriggerTrap, the ones I use personally, but there several more that may fulfill your photographic needs.

Suggested add-ons: A cold shoe phone holder and a USB battery charger (for your phone)

Sony A7II and Voigtlander’s 40mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic (multicoated): An interesting option for the Sony A7 series

This lens will not be appealing for everyone, especially those of you who enjoy the convenience of a zoom lens and/or autofocus capabilities. This review contains my thoughts from the viewpoint of a photographer and will only briefly touch upon video. The features of the A7II and the upcoming A7rII are especially well suited for adapting lenses due to the in-body-image-stabilization. All mirrorless cameras allow for lenses to be adapted to them due to the short flange distance as a result of not needing a mirror. Focus peaking and magnification allow for the ability to quickly and accurately manually focus on your subject, which greatly improves user experience.

Sony’s native prime selection is continually growing with several interesting options from Sony as well as third party manufacturers. I desired a lens in the range of 35mm-55mm for which Sony makes the 35mm f/2.8 and 55 f/1.8 natively with autofocus for approximately $800 and $1,000 USD respectively. There are also the recently released manual focus Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 and 50mm f/2 in Sony FE mount for $1300 and $1,000. Samyang/Rokinon also make lenses in FE mount, but held little appeal for me due to their large size, weight, and 77mm filter thread. The retail price of the Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 is $449 making it not only much cheaper than the Sony and Zeiss offerings but also with a faster maximum aperture. (Based on reviews, the Zeiss and Sony options are phenomenal).

As I stated earlier I was in the market for a slightly wide to standard lens with a fast aperture. Autofocus is of little importance to me as I normally shoot static subjects and am often on a tripod. The 40mm focal length is also familiar to me as I photographed with the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM and 17-40mm f/4L on a Canon 6d. The small physical size of the lens, even with the adapter, is one of the primary reasons I enjoy shooting with mirrorless cameras and chose M-mount lenses. Having the Voigtlander 75mm Heliar f1.8 and the VM-E close focus adapter also helped to make this lens an obvious choice for my needs.  My prime lens strategy when consider how to augment my kit involves either attempting to double or halve my focal length depending on if I want to go wider or more telephoto. Using this strategy left 35mm and 40mm as good options, and when it came down to it the 40mm was less expensive.

Pros:

Physical Traits

Voigtlander lenses are made for Leica M-mount - Leica M-mount lenses are physically smaller than other lenses with full frame coverage (Leica and Zeiss M-mount options are highly regarded, but can come with astronomical price tags). The 40mm is well balanced on the A7II and looks great. While mirrorless cameras allow users to adapt a variety of lenses to them, with various pros and cons, M-mount lenses require the smallest adapter.

Filter size – I debated whether I should list the 43mm filter size as a pro or con, as it is somewhat obscure. Ultimately I decided it is a pro as the small size means less expensive filters and the ability to use step-down rings.

Multi system compatibility – I can use this lens on the Sony A7II as well as my Fuji X-E2 (with an additional inexpensive adapter). Since this lens has full frame coverage it can be adapted to virtually any interchangeable lens mirrorless system whether it be full frame, APS-C, or Micro 4/3rds

Solid metal construction - feels of a higher quality than Canon L lenses that I have used

Fast aperture – Even though the performance at the maximum aperture is less than stellar, it is still one to two full stops faster than the lenses mentioned above than cost significantly more. Photographing at f/1.4 is difficult even on autofocus lenses since the depth of field is so shallow. Stopping down will not only improve image quality, but it will also be more forgiving.

Bokeh – The out of focus rendering from this lens suits my taste quite well. There are smooth transitions and the bokeh stays circular in many situations (natural settings), even upon stopping down due to the 10-blade aperture diaphragm. Stopping down in other situations will cause 10 sided bokeh. 

Chromatic aberrations seem to be fairly well controlled with lens, especially when compared to the 75mm, which exhibits strong purple and green fringing at large apertures. When trying to introduce CA by shooting at large apertures in high contrast situations I was only able to discern the slightest green fringing.

Cons:

Wide Open performance

It is common for lenses to vignette wide open, but it is quite pronounced on this lens.  Vignetting is correctable in post processing and improves greatly upon stopping down. Sharpness and contrast are also fairly poor wide open, and will again improve greatly when stopping down slightly. (Sharpness will be fine for many web applications, but I would not order a large print made with this lens shot wide open)

Files become clean and sharp when stopped down

Minimum focusing distance – Most modern rangefinder lenses, including this one have a minimum focusing distance of 0.7 meters which can be limiting for detail work. I enjoy getting close when shooting so to help combat the minimum focusing distance issue on M-mount lenses I purchased the Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter. This helicoid adaptor allows photographers to reduce the minimum focus distance and therefore achieve greater magnification. A more cumbersome, but more cost effective option for reducing minimum focusing distance is the use of extension tubes, which I also implement into my workflow when necessary.

Minimum Focusing Distance: (Following images are shot at ISO 2500 are merely provided to demonstrate MFD)

Minimum focusing distance with VM-E Close Focusing Adapter by Voigtlander:

Minimum Focusing Distance with close focusing adapter and 16mm extension tube:

Lens hood – Lens hood is not included, but can be purchased separately

Loss of Exif data - The lens contains no electronic connections, therefore focal length and aperture will not be embedded into the file 

Video – Exhibits focus breathing and focus shift. Aperture ring is also not optimized for video as it clicks in half stop increments.

Conclusion

Whether this lens works for you or not is dependent on your needs as a photographer. Ultimately the most significant reasons for purchasing this lens are the small physical size, large maximum aperture, and full frame coverage. Considering the current FE-mount line up, which contains some extremely well-received lenses, Voigtlander lenses offer a good value and make for interesting alternatives. 

How to Increase Instagram Followers and Likes

Instagram has a diverse group of users, and those who post “high quality” images only make up a fraction of the users. Companies can use Instagram for marketing purpose, some people use it to show off their children or pets, for others its selfies, food, or lifestyle images, and some people (like my roommate) will only post cigar photos. The point is there are many niches that you may explore.

Personally, I post images taken on DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, and forgo the square crop that is traditionally to Instagram to maintain the 2x3 aspect ratio using an app called Cropic.  I would not recommend using a rectangular format if you want to have your photos featured as curators of those accounts tend to prefer the square crop. Most of photos were captured in the RAW file format then edited in iPhoto (early on), Aperture, and now in Lightroom however I will occasionally use the FujiFilm in-camera film simulation and wirelessly transfer images to my cellphone and post to directly to Instagram or do a quick edit on the go in Snapseed.

Selectively like, comment, and follow

Build up your following over time, be patient, and consistently post good work that follows a specific theme or limit yourself to a few themes. Engage people with similar photos with likes, comments, and followers. People with hundreds of thousands of followers are unlikely to follow back, but are often a good source of inspiration. Watch out for people who follow, and unfollow you. This is a fairly common occurrence, yet it is unavoidable and can be frustrating.

Try to keep your follow ratio close to one to one or better. This may be hard in the beginning, but sustainable growth takes time.

*Some hastags have corresponding accounts that will feature your images if you are a follower and user of their hashtag. This can be a fun way to challenge yourself and grow as a photographer.

Tag your photos appropriately

Before using a hashtag, search and see if it is in use. Hashtags with very few photos will not draw viewers to your account. Also, using hastags with thousands upon thousands of post a day will likely result in your image getting fewer views as they will quickly get pushed down the page. Try to keep your tags relevant to the photo you are posting, people searching for macro photos most likely do not want to see your selfie mixed in. I will go through the hashtags I use regularly and like tons of photos in each of the categories. In turn I receive likes, comments, and follows. You may like many to get few in return, but by going through multitudes of photos you will improve you compositional eye and will in turn result in you creating more compelling images.

Also, when adding tags consider asking questions. One of my photos with the most comments was simply a picture of my camera on my bag with the question, "What's in your bag?"

Curate you gallery

Occasionally go back through your gallery and delete photos that you feel no longer belong in your gallery.

Posting tips

Post consistently and do not overwhelm your followers with too many posts at once. I generally post a couple times a week (more would be better), and no more than three posts a day with plenty of time in between.

In the two years that I have been using Instagram I have gained approximately 1300 followers while following about 450 and my most like photo has nearly 700 likes. While this numbers are not astonishing, I am happy with my growth and the feedback that I have received. Remember that it will take time, keep learning, growing, and posting. 

Update: The screenshot below reflects my growth in a little under a year from the time of this blog post. I changed my Instagram name to be the same as my website, as I believe it to appear more professional and make sense from a branding/marketing standpoint. 

ONA Brixton Review

Photography bags vary greatly in form and function. Sometimes the situation requires a photography bag to look less utilitarian and provide style as well as function. ONA bags do exactly this. Their line up messenger bags, backpacks, and straps are handcrafted from premium materials look great and protect your photography gear.

My experience with the Brixton messenger bag (Smoke Waxed Canvas edition) is extremely positive, and with a MSRP of $289 I would expect it to be. Quality and style does come with a high price tag, but relative to other photography gear or fashion items it is by no means exorbitant. ONA does offer the Brixton in two beautiful leather versions, I am partial to the Antique Cognac, for a MSRP of $439.

Features: The Brixton comes equipped with a laptop compartment capable of holding 13inch models, four removable Velcro dividers, two front pockets, two side pockets, and a magazine or tablet slot in the back. The bag is also water-resistant. The bag, like many of the ONA products, implements a secure antique brass tuck-clasp closure system, which is again another great implementation of form and function. I have used the Brixton as means of transport for both a Canon DSLR system and a Fuji X-mount system. This bag works extremely well for me as I purposely selected the Brixton based on my gear and have purchased other gear to work with the Brixton.

Living with the Brixton: Maxing the Brixton out I have loaded it with a 13inch MacBook Air, Canon 6D with EF 17-40mm f4L, Sigma 50mm f1.4A, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro, 430 ex II, filters flash triggers, spare batteries, cables, chargers, and a 3 Legged Thing Rick tripod (a nice carbon fiber travel tripod that folds down to 12.5inches).  Sure this involved a little familiarity with Tetris, but it worked. Even better, all of this still fit under the seat in front of me on an airplane. I would not suggest loading this much weight into any messenger bag if you care about your shoulder, but with this bag you have the room.

Equipping this bag with a mirrorless system really puts it in its element. The weight savings of these smaller systems really pair well with the messenger bag form. The Fuji X-mount system matches the bag beautifully and makes me dream about how some Leica gear would pair with an ONA bag? 

Why I Went Mirrorless: Fujifilm X-E2 Review

Bio:

This is a subjective review (this whole review is opinion oriented) based on my experiences using a DSLR and the much more enjoyable experience of transitioning to a mirrorless camera system. I would describe myself as a photography enthusiast whose favorite genres include long exposure and macro photography, however I like to practice a little bit of everything and view photography as an opportunity to engage in a life-long learning experience. I watch has many reviews and tutorials as possible during my free time and then practice the techniques. The act of taking photos is my hobby (or obsession) and my favorite method of relaxation. I enjoy viewing photos and sharing on social media, but my favorite medium to view photographs is in print where pixel peeping is not an option, however I do get caught up in this from time to time while in Lightroom. In print composition and subject matter make the difference.

Motivation for the switch:

For someone that does not shoot professionally, I began to realize that carrying around a full-frame DSLR and L lenses was not always a particularly enjoyable experience. Of course I enjoyed the results that they provide me the opportunity to achieve, but with trade-offs that I do not deem worth it. When using a messenger bag my shoulder would quickly become sore and fatigued, and I am not a small guy. Traveling with this gear basically meant that all of the room in my carry-on bag was dedicated to photography equipment. Another consideration is that is difficult to be discrete when photographing with a DSLR.

I did not forgo the DSLR completely, in my case a Canon 6D, but I did sell my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens to invest towards the Fuji system. The Art lens started to represent everything that made photography less than enjoyable for me. Sure it offered amazing image quality, but it is large and heavy. The main thing keeping me from selling off all of my Canon gear is the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro. Fuji’s X-mount option, the XF 60mm f/2.4, lacks image stabilization and only offers 1:2 magnification. Samyang/Rokinon just released a 100mm 1:1 manual focus option, and Zeiss make a 50mm 1:1 autofocus macro for X mount cameras. I frequently use my 1:1 macro lens in conjunction with extension tube to achieve even greater magnification and appreciate the image stabilization, so for now I will be keeping my Canon equipment. The day that Fuji creates a telephoto Macro lens that offers true 1:1 reproduction, has image stabilization, and is internal focus will be the day that I will happily part with the DSLR.

Review of the X-E2:

Pros

Focusing - The responsiveness and coverage of the 49 point autofocus system, manually focusing with the focus assist aides, in particularly focus peaking, is an enjoyable experience. I find the autofocus system to be better/more usable overall that the Canon 6D. The center focus point of the 6D has the edge, but the Fuji is impressive and the focus point coverage allows the user to achieve more consistent focus when needed compared to the focus and recompose method need on cameras with a limited number of focus points.

EVF – The OLED EVF is bright, clear, and easy to use on the X-E2. It is sharp and provides a customizable array of shooting aids with minimal lag. Being able to playback and review images in the viewfinder on bright days allows for a better experience and more accurate fine-tuning of settings for the next shot.

Noise performance at high ISO – I shoot in the raw file format and the maximum native ISO is 6400 on the X-E2, while this is not particularly high, but it performs very well at this setting. While noise is present, there does not seem to be any color noise just grain in files that I have shot in this range.

Wireless capabilities – Fairly capable wireless options, remote shooting allows control over settings. Transfer of images to a table or phone is speedy. Currently only JPEG transfer is supported which means that if you shoot in RAW you must use the in camera raw convertor. To my surprise I found the film simulations to be quite nice. I still will opt for editing raw files in Lightroom, but if I want to transfer a photo to send out for whatever reason I feel good about using the in camera convertor.

Auto white balance - Performs exceptionally well

Pop up flash - Can be tilted towards the ceiling to be used as a bounce flash

System – Firmware updates are substantial. When I purchased my X-E2 from a local camera shop the camera had version 1.2 and firmware 3.0 was available. The upgrade was substantial and included the addition of an interval timer, manual focus override, and red and blue focus peaking. Fuji is also committed to creating high quality lenses.

Ease of back button focusing - switch focus selector switch on the front of the camera to “M”  and use the AF-L button located on the back right.

Shooting experience – This may be where viewpoints will differ from mine, but for casual shooting I enjoy having the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on top. The playback buttons location on the left side of the LCD mean that operation of this camera is a two handed affair. I have had several friends ask me if I had bought a film camera when using the X-E2. While I never shot with film, I do like that people associate this camera with film.  I like that the viewfinder is located in the rangefinder location vs. the DSLR position. It is more comfortable shooting position than having the camera pressed against my nose. It is important to note that this is only appealing if you are right eye dominant, those who are left eye dominant may not appreciate the ergonomics of this camera. Manipulating photos with a DSLR is quicker experience, while using this camera forces the user to slow down and be more reflective with what they are doing. This is not to say that you cannot quickly manipulate the dials and buttons on the X-E2, but that using manual mode feels more manual and for me that is desirable and enjoyable.

Cons

Cost benefit analysis – Out performed by competitors A6000 and new Samsungs in many ways. Same sensor/image quality as the X-T1 for less money

Native ISO range limited – 200-6400 (with the 200 minimum it becomes more difficult to use fast primes at wide apertures on sunny days, long exposures, panning) For my needs I do not mind being limited to 6400 especially with the quality that I have experienced, but find myself missing 100

EVF – In poor light the digital gain will decrease the clarity of the viewfinder.

Video – Is capable of shooting video, but this is a stills camera

Tripod Mount Location - Impossible to change the memory card and battery with a tripod plate attached

Lack of articulating screen -X-T1 has a tilt screen

Lack of a touch screen

Lack of a small or medium raw option - Full size raw and JPEG options

Lack of weather sealing - Available on X-T1 and select Fujinon lenses

Bracketed shooting - Limited to a maximum of 1 stop range

XF 18mm, ISO 6400

Fujinon Lenses

I have personally tested the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS, XF 18mm f/2 R, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, and a brief chance to play with the XF 56mm f/1.2 R

The lack of a mirror and the APS-C sensor size allows for lenses to be much smaller than DSLR lenses. They feel nicely manufactured and are usable wide open, but are sharper stopped down. The 35mm is impressive at f/2 and is my personal favorite. Having this lens makes getting rid of the Sigma 50mm Art less painful, since it is approximately the equivalent focal length and produces great images. The 18mm is very nicely sized (small) and will fit in most jacket pockets when attached to the camera body. The kit lens offers a faster maximum aperture than DSLR as well as mirrorless competitor’s kit lenses, although it is still variable. The fly-by-wire manual focus ring takes some getting used to, and I am still partial to traditional lenses in regards to manual focus. This is not unique to Fuji and many newer lenses are focus-by-wire notably, Canon STM lenses, the 85 f/1.2L, and Sony E-mount lenses. The lenses all come with their hoods, which is something that DSLR shooters are often unaccustomed to unless purchasing premium glass. One small negative is the fit of the front lens caps, which tends to be looser than I would like, so much so that I have put UV/protection filters on all three lenses to guard against the possibility of scratching the front element. Luckily both primes are 52mm filter thread and the kit lens is 58mm so the filters are affordable. It is important to note that I am cautious and put protection filters on my DSLR lenses as well.

Taken with the 56mm f/1.2 at f/1.2

Conclusion

With all of the great options available in the smaller than DSLR market how did I arrive at the X-E2? Coming from full frame I was hesitant to go back to a smaller sensor, but I also did not want to invest in a system with large lenses designed for full frame coverage (Sony A7 series). The whole point of wanting a mirrorless option was for their compact size. Micro 4/3rds cameras have many interesting options including in-body image stabilization, 4k video recording, and a great ecosystem of lenses but I rarely shoot video and decided that the APS-C options were a better fit for me. Ultimately, I narrowed it down to the Sony A6000 and the X-E2. After hands on time with each model at my local camera shop I was sold on the X-E2 for aesthetics; it felt great and I appreciated the styling. The aperture range on the kit lens also helped in the decision making process. Ultimately the Chase Jarvis quote, “the best camera is the one you have with you,” came to mind. The X-E2 is something that I want to bring everywhere with me, and it is not a burden. The Fujifilm X-E2 offers a balance between performance and design. When considering a camera or a system there will always be compromises including but not limited to: cost, available accessories, lenses, size, weight, focus system, megapixels, ISO performance, sensor size, features, and styling (aesthetic and ergonomic). The X-E2 checked the right boxes for me.

The X-E2 is not the X-Pro1 or  the X-T1. The X-Pro1 has a hybrid viewfinder that is/was desirable to many, but this body is beginning to get old with a less robust focusing system. The X-T1 shares a sensor with the X-E2, but it is more feature packed. Notable features include a very well reviewed viewfinder and weather sealing.

Reviews of Fuji systems cameras often gush about the Fuji look much like Leica reviews. I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed with the files created by the 16 MP X-Trans sensor and the Fujinon lenses. As long as fast moving subjects, inclimate weather, and pixel peeping are not in your repertoire and you okay with the fact that the X-T1 exists the X-E2 might be the photographer's camera for you. As I have said I purchased this camera, and it is my first choice to take with me whenever I leave the house.


K&F: Variable ND on a Budget

K&F Concept 77mm Slim Variable ND Neutral Density Adjustable Fader ND2 to ND400 Lens Filter

20150316-IMG_0027.jpg

Price: $24.99

A variable neutral density filter allows you to adjust the amount of light reaching your sensor without having to carry around a bag full of screw-on filters, or expensive and time consuming filter holding systems. If you have been in the market for this type of filter you know that this one is on the budget end of the spectrum, and it has its drawbacks. When purchasing this filter you are agreeing to make a compromise, but as you will see in reviews of much more expensive models, that compromise is ubiquitous across the market on variable neutral density filters. I would also recommend that you consider standard screw on ND filters over variable options for still photography. 

 

My overall assessment is that this filter will be that it is completely adequate to all but the most demanding landscape photographers, offering good functionality at an affordable price. However, I am going to start with the negatives so that everyone is aware.

The problems associated with variable neutral density filters fundamentally arise due to how this filter functions. The filter is comprised of two polarizing filters, and by rotating the front filter you can increase or decrease the amount of light reaching your sensor. Now, at the most extreme setting this filter will exhibit the undesirable effects of this design in quite a pronounced fashion. The Black X:

20150316-IMG_9996.jpg

Now do not be too alarmed this effect is only present at the most extreme setting. When used at less extreme settings this filter exhibited a very slight loss of sharpness that is only apparent when zoomed in to 1:1 magnification and about a 150K shift in white balance towards yellow that is easy to correct for in post as long as you shoot in the raw file format. The only other negative I noticed is that it is that when you adjust the filter, the dimming effect is quite slow at the beginning of the range (stays at 1 2/3rds stops from minimum to about a third of the way through the rotation), but then dims at a much greater rate at the higher end of the range. It would be nice if the dots on the filter correlated to the effect it would have to reproduce desired results.

Methodology:

Now my testing methods would not hold up to scientific inquiry, but I made certain to follow certain procedures to ensure consistency between examples.

  • Images captured on a Canon EOS 6D

  • Lens used was a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art

  • Tripod used with center column down

  • Cable release

  • White balance set to 3200K

  • Raw file format

  • IS0 100, f/3.2

  • Base image shot at ISO 100, f/3.2, 0.5 seconds

  • White balance was corrected in Adobe Lightroom in the shots below

  • Some exposures have been adjusted for consistency (0.3 stops or less, unless otherwise noted as in the last image)

Base Image (0.5 Seconds):

2 Stops (2 Seconds):

3 Stops (4 Seconds):

Four Stops (8 Seconds):

Five Stops (15 Seconds):

6 Stops (30 Seconds):

7 Stops (in time value 60 Seconds): Adjust to 8.5 stops when considering post processing adjustments (150 seconds):

(Camera meter was thrown off at this level of darkening, exposure was pulled up in post by 1.5 stops)

So is this a highly recommended purchase? Of course not, it’s a compromise. Is this a purchase that has quite good performance for the price? Yes it is as long as you have realistic expectations and an understanding that you will get a black X in your frame if pushing the filter to stronger settings. So, I have covered that variable ND filters are an option if you do not want to carry around a rectangular drop-in filter system or a bunch of screw on filters, and I would argue that overall K&F’s iteration is worth far more than its selling point and a decent option for beginners to professionals on a budget that want to conveniently experiment with long exposure photography, or wide aperture photography/video in bright conditions. If you are serious about using filters, you will quickly replace this one. 

 

Setting up the Shot: TriggerTrap

Gear Used: Canon EOS 6D, EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, 430 EX II, TriggerTrap Mobile Kit and flash adapter, 3 Legged Thing Punks-Rick Carbon Fiber Tripod, diffuser panel from 5-in-1 reflector, light stand, iPhone 5s, airsoft gun

Camera Settings: Manual exposure (ISO 100, f/13, 4.0 seconds), raw, auto white balance

Flash Settings: Manual (1/16) power for short flash duration (The flash acts as the shutter and the faster the flash duration, the sharper the image will be as the motion will be better frozen)

Lighting Setup: Diffusion panel placed directly behind the wine glass, flash firing directly at the wine glass through the diffusion panel

TriggerTrap Settings: (Connected to the flash using the flash adapter) sound sensor mode, Sensor delay 0ms, Sensor reset delay 5.0s 0ms (make certain to set a reset delay so flash does not fire multiple times during a single exposure)

Editing: All edits done in Adobe Lightroom 

A "brief" outline of an all things photography lesson I have been working on: Work in progress

Light – The essential “element” captured in photography

·      Natural

o   Time of day

o   Golden hour

§  Hour after sunrise and before sunset

o   Blue hour

§  Hour after sunset

·      Artificial

o   Continuous lighting

o   Flash

§  ETTL vs. manual

§  On camera vs. off camera

·      Triggering options/multiple

§  Specialty flashes

·      Ring flash

§  Light modifiers

·      Quality

o   Harsh

o   Soft, Diffused

Composition – Best gear won’t matter if the photo is ill conceived

·      Rule of thirds

o   Power points

o   Horizon lines

§  Keep them level or deliberately crooked “Dutch tilt”

·      Rule of space

Components of Exposure – Taking control of your camera in manual mode

·      Balanced exposure

·      In camera meter

·      Reading the histogram

·      With each stop of exposure, the amount of light either doubles of halves

·      The Exposure triangle

o   Aperture – opening of the lens controlled by aperture blades

§  Measured in f/#

§  Fast lenses aperture f/2.8 or greater

§  As aperture increases (lets in more light) f # decrease f/2.8 lets in more light than f/4

§  Wide apertures = less depth of field, more apparent as distance between camera and subject decrease

§  Easier to blur out the background with longer focal lengths

§  f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

·      Lenses rarely perform best at the extremes. At small apertures ~f/16 and above they suffer from diffraction

·      Lenses with large maximum apertures tend to be much more expensive* Canon 50mm f/1.8 $125, Sigma f/1.4 A $950

·      Canon f/1.2L $1,550 ($1400 on rebate)

o   ISO

§  Digital sensitivity to light

§  As ISO increases, dynamic range and color depth decrease

§  As ISO increases, digital noise becomes apparent

·      Modern cameras are every increases performance at high ISO

§  ((100, 200, 400, 800, 1600), 3200, 6400, 12800), 25,600, 51,200

o   Shutter speed

§  Reciprocal rule for hand holding

·      Shutter speed equals 1/(focal length X crop factor)

§  Shutter speed should be matched to the subject or for creative effect.

·      Fast speeds necessary for birds and wildlife

·      Panning for cars, bikes, runners

o   Low keeper rate, pleasing final outcome

§  Tripod for long shutter speeds

·      Capturing motion in water, light trails, star trails

§  Image stabilization

·      Shoot at lower shutters speeds than stated by reciprocal rule

·      Subject must not be moving

Find light (may involve considerable waiting and/or planning), determine composition (test shots), what settings do you want to capture the image in your mind (What takes priority)?

……………Gear

Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax

·      Sensor size

o   Full frame, image sensor is the size of a 35mm piece of film

§  When camera generation is equal* Best dynamic range, best ability to handle high ISO, most expensive, requires expensive lenses

o   APSC 1.5x crop factor (Canon APSC 1.6x)

§  Most common DSLR owned by consumers

§  Very competitive offerings

§  More lens selection, less expensive

o   Micro Four Thirds 2x crop factor

§  Commonly found in mirrorless camera systems, however Fujifilm and Sony use APSC, Sony also has full frame

Lenses all state focal length in 35mm (full frame) format

 

Disclaimer: I shoot with a full frame Canon EOS 6D DSLR, I began learning on an APSC DSLR. I am interested in macro and landscape photography (especially long exposure). I am very into the gear.

·      Canon and Nikon have the greatest selection of lenses and available accessories

o   What usage, each level of DLSR has compromises between Megapixels, Sensor size, autofocusing system, build quality, and cost

·      Sony is doing very interesting things with their mirrorless cameras, both full frame and APSC. Full frame: A7r 36mp for ultimate low ISO image quality, A7s 12mp for ultimate lowlight handheld high ISO performance, A7ii with in body image stabilization. Great for shooting handheld at lower shutter speeds (given your subject is not moving) APSC: A6000 (IMHO one of the most interesting options for travel photography in the price range).

·      Panasonic GH4 micro four thirds that shoots 4k video.

Lenses – Lenses are extremely important for creating desired effects and achieving ultimate image quality

·      Important terminology and features

·      Mount type

o   (For Canon) EF lenses can be used on all modern Canon DSLRs, EF-S can only be used on APSC sensor size cameras

·      Focal length

·      Filter size

o   Important for use of circular polarizers (CPLs), neutral density, UV (protection filters, some times needed to complete weather sealing)

·      Maximum aperture

o   Aperture blades (more and rounded usually result in “better” rendering of specular highlights in out of focus parts of the photograph (bokeh)

·      Minimum focusing distance (MFD)

o   Maximum reproduction ration

§  Macro lenses can achieve 1:1 reproduction

·      IS, VR, OS – Image stabilization (most important on telephoto and when filming handheld video)

·      Manual focus override

·      Zoom vs. prime (fixed focal length)

o   Prime often allow for better image quality and larger maximum aperture

·      Weather sealing (usually only available on expensive premium lenses)

·      Lens types

o   Wide angle

o   Standard

o   Telephoto

o   Macro

o   Fisheye

o   Tilt shift

Editing – Finishing your images.

·      Raw vs. Jpeg file formats

o   Raw – if you plan on creating images with your photographic and artistic vision you shoot be shooting in raw.

o   Jpeg – cooked file that automatically “throws away” extra information useful in post processing

·      Software

o   Turn an ordinary picture into a finished photograph

o   Highly recommend Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Raw processing

§  Can be purchased out right for ~ $140 or as part of a creative cloud bundle with Adobe Photoshop for $9.99/month

“Necessary Accessories”

·      Photo bag

o   Sling, messenger bag, back pack

§  Form vs. function

§  Gear protection

§  Storage

§  Comfort

·      Gear quickly becomes heavy

·      Tripod

o   Many options and many price points. Quality tripod is an essential piece of gear and worth the price of admission over cheaper offerings

o   Should be used with a cable release to not introduce camera shake

·      Filters – Poor quality filters will degrade image quality, create color casts

·      Flash gun/speed light and flash triggers

o   Macro ring flash if serious about macro work

o   Light modifiers

§  Diffuser cap, Flash bender, umbrellas, soft boxes, snoots, grids

§  Light stands

Most importantly learn and be comfortable with your gear to take advantage of any photographic opportunity

Inspiration and education

·      Inspiration

o   Instagram, 500px, flickr, 1x

§  Join to post as well as view, get feedback from other photographers

·      Education

o   Plethora of quality free educational materials

§  Youtube

·      CameraRec Toby, Tony Northrup, Matt Granger, Jared Polin (Fro Knows Photo), SLR Lounge, B&H Event Space

·      Joe McNally

o   One of the most impressive photographic careers and an extraordinary educator. Very motivational to hear him speak