Changes to joshmcleodphotography.com

Some of you may have noticed that I am in the process of making some changes to the Blog. I have setup a separate portfolio website (joshmcleodportfolio.com) and my plan for the Blog is for it to continue to develop into a more comprehensive photography resource, albeit with a bias toward Mirrorless cameras.

Sunrise over Botany Bay

The Blog passed 1 million visits 3 days ago and the amount of correspondence I am receiving from subscribers is steadily on the increase as well. I do my best to reply to everyone but if I do miss your email/comment/message I do apologise.

Moonrise

I will continue to review whatever gear I can het my hands on (that is of interest to me) and will also be posting “Tech Tips” as well. These will be short snippets of useful practical information and advice that everyone will hopefully find useful. If you have any requests please send them through.

Behind the Scenes footage (images and video) is something I have been wanting to do for a while but I just haven’t been able to make it happen. Part of the problem is that most of the work I do can’t be published for some time (if at all) due to restrictions placed on me by my clients. I am still playing with this idea to see how I can make it work.

I also have been approached by a quite a number of subscribers requesting the following:

Lighting Setup Diagrams
Coaching and mentoring
Workshops
Portfolio Reviews

These are all things I have thought about but it would have to make sense financially for me to put things in place. This Blog is not how I earn my living and already takes up a considerable amount of my time. I run the blog because I am passionate about photography and wish to share that passion. If you are interested in any of the above please drop me a line. It would good to know if any of the above ideas would be worth pursuing.

Sunrise at Botany Bay

Thanks again to everyone for their continued support. It’s always inspiring to receive words of encouragement and to know that people actually take the time to read what I write (even if you don’t agree with my opinions). I am always happy to receive constructive feedback, criticism and suggestions.

Rumours Rumours Rumours

People often ask me which are the websites that I like best and visit regularly. I don’t actually visit that many sites on a regular basis as I simply don’t have the time. There are however a few that I visit to get my daily fix and they help me to stay up to date with the latest news about what is relevant and of interest to me and what I do.

The sites are:

Sony Alpha Rumors

Fuji Rumors

4/3 Rumors

The guys who run these sites truly are dedicated enthusiasts and I don’t think any of us out there who enjoy their content truly appreciate how much time, effort and cost is involved in keeping these sites running.

I know from my experience with my blog what sort of time commitment is required to regularly put out relevant content, read and reply to emails and moderate comments.

I to am guilty of taking what these guys do for granted. They bring us content on a daily basis, keep us up to date and provide exciting news (and rumours) about up coming products, firmware upgrades, and special deals.

Kudos to the guys running these sites and a big thank you from Josh McLeod Photography.

I am especially looking forward to the updates during next months’ Photokina.

Keep up the good work!!!

Surflove and the Olympus OM-D E-M1

I received an email the other day from Sydney based professional surf photographer Chris Eyre-Walker of Surflove Photography seeking advice about changing to a mirrorless camera system, namely the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and whether I thought it would be suitable for his style of photography.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 & 2,8/12-40mm

Chris sent me some of his images to share and also to give me some idea of what he needs his camera gear to do. You can also check out his work on his Website, Facebook Page or on Instagram

Violence-01

TheSurfFeeling-01

Liquid Eye-01

Blue Infinity-01

Chris currently shoots with a Canon 1D Mark IV and with his Canon L lenses and Aquatech underwater housing his kit weighs over 18kg. It seems the reason he is looking for a light weight alternative is that Chris is planning on travelling the world in search of remote waves as well as following the ASP World Surfing Tour.

Here are a list of requirements Chris sent me:

  • Underwater housing compatibility with full control
  • Fast, reliable and accurate Auto-Focus
  • High frame rate
  • Image quality that allows for prints on large, high quality canvas and acrylic and for magazine publication
  • Weather sealing allowing Chris to shoot in any conditions from freezing cold to extremely humid to stormy conditions.

In his email Chris mentioned he is happy with the performance of his current setup but is looking for something with less bulk and weight. Here are his main concerns about changing to a mirrorless system:

After having done extensive research the Olympus OM-D E-M1 seems to be the only camera out there that could possibly fulfil my needs as an action sports photographer but I have a few questions that I hope you can answer:

  • Do you think the Olympus will be able to meet my needs?
  • Is the Image Quality comparable to that of my Canon 1D Mark IV? I don’t want to sacrifice Image Quality for weight.
  • Will I be taken seriously as a surf photographer by using a Compact Camera System?
  • Do you think the switch is worth considering?

Kudos to Chris for thinking outside the box and considering a mirrorless camera system as an option. It’s no secret that I am a strong advocate for mirrorless camera systems and shoot professionally with them. I don’t know of any surf photographers who shoot exclusively with mirrorless cameras but I do believe that California based surf photographer Chris Burkard shoots some of his work with a Sony A7 mirrorless camera.

My underwater experience is pretty much non-existent but the underwater housing from Olympus receive extremely strong reviews and also look as though they allow access all vital camera controls.

The lenses I would be recommending are the Olympus PRO series lenses. At this point in time the only lens available is the 2,8/12-40mm. The soon to be released 2,8/40-150 (80-300mm equivalent) and the 4/300mm (600mm equivalent) would make Chris’ kit extremely light weight and versatile and I am confident it would fulfil Chris’ needs.

In saying that I should probably clarify a few things. There is always going to be a trade-off when choosing a camera with a smaller sensor. All other things being equal, the camera with the larger sensor will generally win in terms of overall image quality and high ISO performance. I do not think that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 will necessarily match the performance of the Canon 1D Mark IV but it will come very close and make up for it in other areas. That may just be something that Chris will have to live with rather than lugging around 18kg of gear. To be honest I don’t think the difference between the Canon and Olympus will be that noticeable, except perhaps to the “pixel peepers” amongst us!

I truly hope Chris can makes the switch to Olympus and it would be inspiring to see another pro photographer, especially a sports photographer, make the move to mirrorless. It would be truly inspiring to see Olympus as a company offer support to Surflove, and perhaps in the near future we can add more sports and wildlife photographers to the mirrorless community.

It’s SALE time!!!

I have too much gear… time to rationalise and consolidate. If you are interested in any of the items listed feel free to send me message.

Fuji X-E1 + 35mm Lens

Both in perfect condition. I will separate, but prefer to sell as a kit. Includes a B+W lens filter & all original boxes and packaging.

Fuji X-E1

Olympus 2,8/12-40mm Pro Lens

As much I like this lens it is actually me least used lens. It is only 3 or 4 months old and I have the original box and packaging. I will will also include a B+W lens filter.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 & 2,8/12-40mm Pro Lens

Sigma 2,8/60mm Lens (MFT Mount)

This is an awesome lens but I own the Olympus 1,8/75mm lens and the Sigma lens simply doesn’t get used. Includes all original packaging.

Sigma 2,8/60mm

Olympus v. Fuji v. Sony (Part 4)

PART 4 – High ISO Comparison

The following images were shot in near darkness except for the light produced by the MacBook’s display. The Fuji X-T1 had difficulty locking focus so my options were to either focus manually or use the backlit keyboard as the focus point. I chose the keyboard as the focus point for each of the cameras. Incidentally both the Olympus and the Sony had no difficulty locking focus anywhere within the frame.

I also tried to keep the composition of the images as similar as possible by using similar equivalent focal lengths (Fuji X-T1 & Carl Zeiss Touit Planar T* 1,8/32mm, Olympus OM-D E-M1 & Olympus 2,8/12-40mm, Sony A7s & Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55mm). All images were shot with the camera on a tripod in Aperture Priority mode.

I know they are not the most exciting of images but at least you can seen the ISO performance of each camera under the exact same conditions. All of the images are straight of of camera with out any noise reduction applied

Below are the images from ISO 1600 up to each of the cameras’ maximum ISO. If you wish to see the same images at lower ISO’s click HERE to see the Flickr Set.

Here are links to Parts 1, 2 & 3 of this shoot-out:

PART 1 – Olympus OM-D E-M1

PART 2 – Fuji X-T1

PART 3 – Sony A7s

Sony A7s @ ISO 1600
Sony A7s @ ISO 1600

Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 1600
Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 1600

Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 1600
Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 1600

Sony A7s @ ISO 3200
Sony A7s @ ISO 3200

Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 3200
Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 3200

Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 3200
Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 3200

Sony A7s @ ISO 6400
Sony A7s @ ISO 6400

Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 6400
Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 6400

Sony A7s @ ISO 12800
Sony A7s @ ISO 12800

Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 12800
Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 12800

Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 12800
Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 12800

Sony A7s @ ISO 25600
Sony A7s @ ISO 25600

Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 25600
Fuji X-T1 @ ISO 25600

Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 25600
Olympus OM-D E-M1 @ ISO 25600

Sony A7s @ ISO 40000
Sony A7s @ ISO 40000

Sony A7s @ ISO 51200
Sony A7s @ ISO 51200

Sony A7s @ ISO 64000
Sony A7s @ ISO 64000

Sony A7s @ ISO 80000
Sony A7s @ ISO 80000

Sony A7s @ ISO 102400
Sony A7s @ ISO 102400

Sony A7s @ ISO 204800
Sony A7s @ ISO 204800

Sony A7s @ ISO 409600
Sony A7s @ ISO 409600

Olympus v. Fuji v. Sony (Part 3)

PART 3 – Sony A7s

Firstly let me apologise for taking longer than expected to get this part of the review on-line. I actually had a phone call today from a reader of my Blog who had been waiting for this review before deciding whether or not to buy one… So this is for you Peter!

Sony A7s & Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55

I have been extremely busy with work commitments lately, which also means I have had limited time to get out and shoot what I want with this camera. Unfortunately apart from being able to compare the test images with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Fuji X-T1 my commentary is going to be little less in depth than that of the other two cameras.

I mentioned in previous posts why I decided to add this camera to my kit, and it was probably more a case of WANT than NEED. There was something about the images that were special and with the low light capabilities of the Sony A7s I envisioned many creative opportunities presenting themselves that simply wouldn’t be possible with my other cameras. Time will tell whether or not this is actually the case or I am simply trying to justify my purchase. Either way from my short time with the Sony A7s I am very very impressed with this camera.

Images shot at ISO 3200 on this camera look like images shot at ISO 200 or 400 on most other cameras and never before have I been comfortable shooting at ISO 25600 and beyond. On the Fuji, ISO 3200 is acceptable and at a push ISO 6400 gets the job done. With the Olympus I generally wouldn’t shoot at anything over ISO 1600. The other amazing thing about the Sony is that even at high ISO’s the “noise” in the image looks more like film grain than noise, where as high ISO images shot with Fuji and the Olympus look more like digital noise. There is also much less of a colour shift with the Sony and far more detail is retained in the image.

Here are a couple of “behind the scenes” images taken at ISO 10000. Yes 10000! If you click on the black and white image below and view at full size, zoom into the LCD display on the camera to see how much detail is retained. It is nothing short of amazing.

Behind the Scenes with the Sony A7s @ ISO 10000

Behind the Scenes with the Sony A7s @ ISO 10000

I will do a high ISO comparison for Part 4 of this review to give you an idea of the real differences between the 3 cameras.

What is also impressive is the Sony’s ability to lock focus in near darkness. Where as the Olympus has blazing fast auto-focus, even in low light, there comes a point when the E-M1 starts to struggle.

The other appealing feature of this camera (for me) is Sony’s relationship with Carl Zeiss. It is one of the few things that I miss since giving up my Sony DSLR. I can now shoot with both native FE-mount Zeiss glass or with Sony A-mount (DLSR) Zeiss glass via a Sony adapter (and still retain full autofocus capabilities).

The Sony A7s also has enormous dynamic range. Sony claim over 14 stops of “useable” dynamic range which is up there with the best if the best. In video tests I have read online it ranked a close second to a $40,000 Arri Amira cinema camera for usable dynamic range.

This is Sony’s video showing the low light capabilities of the camera for those of you who are interested.

I am a “still” photographer, but for those of you out there who shoot video I should probably mention that the Sony A7s is capable of shooting 4K video as well. My knowledge of video formats, codecs, frame rates etc is extremely limited, but there is plenty of information out there in relation to the Sony’s video capabilities.

Sony’s lens line up at the moment is a little bit lacking, and based on my shooting requirements I decided to pick up the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55mm and the Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS. There are a couple of other lenses currently available (Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 2,8/35 & Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* 4/24-70 OSS) but these don’t really suit my shooting style. I am hoping Sony announce some new lenses at Photokina next month. What I am really hoping for is that they announce a release date of the rumoured Zeiss FE 85mm lens. If this turns out not to be true I will probably opt for the Sony A-mount Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/85 and/or the Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/135 (and use the Sony adapter)

When you buy this camera Sony offers you choice of adapters so you can use existing lenses from other systems. You can choose a Leica M, Nikon ZF, Canon ZE or Sony A-mount adapter. I chose the Sony A-Mount and I also have (from when I owned a Sony NEX-7) a Leica M-mount adapter. At the moment I don’t own any M-mount glass but given the fact that I am also able to adapt M-mount glass to the Olympus and Fuji I am considering experimenting with a few Voigtlander and Zeiss M-mount lenses.

When I first picked up the camera I immediately noticed the build quality was better than I expected. It was also heavier than expected. I thought it would be about the same weight as the Fuji but it feels a little heavier. The materials make the Sony A7s feel like a premium product, and not a plastic toy, like so many another cameras feel. Even some of the high-end DLSR’s feel cheaply made these days.

I also chose to add the vertical battery grip to the camera for a couple of reasons. One for battery life and the other for ease of handling. It actually makes the camera feel a little more comfortable (especially with the 70-200 lens) and although it increases its weight and bulk it fits my small girl-like hands perfectly.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55
The Zeiss Sonnar lens design is one of my favourite lens designs. It was designed in 1929 and the name “Sonnar” is derived from the German word “Sonne”, meaning sun. The sun association was used to emphasise the lens’ large aperture and that remains true today with modern Zeiss Sonnar lenses.

Sony A7s & Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55

Even though I haven’t had that much time to shoot with this camera, the 55mm Zeiss lens is astounding. I would have liked to see a F/1,4 or even a F/1,2 lens but the reality is the weight and size would have made this lens terribly impractical and I think the F/1,8 is a sensible compromise. The lens is lightweight, well built, and feels perfectly balanced on the Sony A7s. Optically it is superb… probably one of the best lenses I have ever used. I also like how the lens looks mounted to the camera (if that makes a difference). The autofocus is fast, accurate and silent and I really can’t find any fault with it. If anyone owns, or is considering buying any A7 variant this lens is highly recommended. I will also add that this lens does exhibit the classic Zeiss look.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55
Sony A7s & Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55

Sony A7s & Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55

Sony A7s & Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55

Sony A7s & Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS
As most of you know I am not a fan of zoom lenses and I have never really been a fan of Sony G lenses. The reason I picked up this lens was so I could have a camera that I could actually use. I thought sticking with one lens would be rather limiting given that I earn living with my cameras.

Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

I was a bit skeptical about outlaying my hard earned money for this lens but unfortunately there was not choice. It’s a zoom, its a G lens and it only has constant F/4 aperture. I do understand why Sony opted for an F/4 lens over an F/2,8 and I agree it was a sensible decision to keep the size and weight down. It’s actually comfortable to shoot with and with a camera that can shoot at high ISO levels, its very easy to make up that extra stop. I am actually very impressed with this lens. The stabilisation is pretty good, it has a focus limiting switch to increase the focus speed, which is already quick and the images it produces are far better than expected. I actually thought this lens would be a stop-gap measure until Sony release some more “desirable” lenses but I can actually see myself shooting with this lens regularly.

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS @85mm
Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS @135mm
Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS @200mm
Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS @200mm
Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS
Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS
Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

I am considering adding the Zeiss Sonnar T* 2,8/35mm to the kit. This is currently the widest prime lens Sony offers and while this is not a focal length I would normally shoot I do want something a bit wider. I am also extremely tempted because Sony Australia are offering some enormous rebates on selected cameras and lenses. I am just not sure whether to not I can justify the spend. I am almost hoping that when I phone the camera store tomorrow they tell me they are out of stock!

PART 4 – High ISO comparison (should be live this weekend)

PART 1 – Olympus OM-D E-M1

PART 2 – Fuji X-T1