Life without a Mirror (continued)

As most of you have probably noticed my Mirrorless kit has grown once more. I now have a few more lenses in the arsenal as well as the new Sony A7s. When I announced that I bought the A7s I received dozens of messages asking why I had changed from Fuji and Olympus to Sony.

Sony A7s & Sony G 4/70-200 OSS

To clear this up I am not switching to Sony but rather adding the Sony to my kit.

So why did I buy a Sony A7s? Do remember prior to making the switch to Mirrorless I was shooting with Sony DSLR gear and I still have a soft spot for some of those amazing Zeiss lenses (and I particularly miss the Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/135ZA)

I have had a few commissions lately where I have needed extra resolution due to the size of prints being made from the images. For this type of work, which is a very very small percentage of what I do, I usually rent or borrow a Medium Format Camera. For my most recent job I borrowed a Phase One IQ250. I probably only shoot a handful of jobs each year that require such a camera so I find it hard to justify outlaying around $45K for a setup that gets used so infrequently.

When the Nikon D810 was announced a few months ago I began to reconsider my setup and thought that the Nikon may be a cost effective solution for when I did need the extra resolution.

When the D810 was released I went into my local camera store with the intention of walking away with that particular camera and a number of lenses. The prospect of owning a DSLR again didn’t excite me at all, but I convinced myself that it is simply a tool and serves a specific purpose.

That’s not what happened. So uninspired was I with the D810 (and don’t get me wrong, it is stellar camera), I started looking around the store at what else was new.

I ended up walking out with a Sony A7s and a couple of lenses (the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55mm and a Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS). I was so blown away by the camera that I couldn’t help myself. I had read the specs online when it was released but never really gave it a second thought. However, the way it felt in my hand, the size and weight, the build quality and amazing image quality (from the few frames I shot in the store) meant I had to have it. I was SOLD.

So here is a little bit about my current setup. (You can see a complete list of my Gear here).

The Olympus O-MD E-M1 is a great little camera. Small, compact, fully weather sealed (with the Olympus 2,8/12-40mm), has blazing fast AF, can shoot at 10FPS (with a 50 frame buffer), has a flash sync speed of 1/320s, and has the best image stabilisation I have ever used. Apart from the size of the sensor, the spec sheet reads very much like a Nikon D4s. I love the Image Quality and it is truly a joy to shoot with.

The other lens I have and love is the Olympus 1,8/75mm. This is probably my favourite Olympus lens and although it has an effective focal length of a 150mm, it’s perfect for portraits and many other applications. It actually reminds me of my old Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/135ZA Lens. I recently added a Battery Grip to the camera as I do shoot lots of portraits and its made the shooting experience just that little more comfortable.

The Olympus O-MD E-M1 is also a great travel camera, especially in combination with the Olympus 2,8/12-40mm lens. If Olympus do in fact build the rumoured 4/300mm telephoto lens (and I really hope they do) it will also make it a great sports/wildlife camera… and yes that lens will definitely be on my shopping list.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Battery Grip

The Fuji X-T1 is probably my favourite camera of all time. Sure the Fuji has its flaws, but there is something about the Fuji that I really like. The images have a unique look about them and the Fuji lenses are nothing short of superb. There are a couple of focal lengths missing from the line-up but Fuji is one company that seems to listen to its customers and acts accordingly.

Fuji X-T1 & Zeiss Planar T* 1,8/32My current lenses include the Fuji 2,8/14mm, Carl Zeiss Touit Planar T* 1,8/32mm, Fuji 1,4/35mm, Fuji 1,2/56mm and the Fuji 3,5-4,8/55-200mm. I also added a VG-XT1 Vertical Battery Grip to the X-T1, for the same reasons I mentioned above, but it especially makes a difference, in terms of balance, when using the heavier lenses such as the Fuji 1,2/56mm and Fuji 3,5-4,8/55-200mm.

The Sony A7s is a camera I had to have. A full frame 12MP sensor in a compact mirrorless body. As with my other 2 cameras it is lightweight and very easy to live with. The Sony sensor is a low-light monster. I have never used a camera before that can lock focus in almost complete darkness, shoot at ridiculously high ISO’s and produce not just usable, but stunning images. Images shot at ISO 3200 look like images shot at ISO 200 on most other cameras… it is that good!

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

I know this is very very subjective but there is something special about the look and feel of the images from the A7s. It’s not something that I can easily quantify but in my opinion the images look better than those of any other digital camera currently on the market.

Looking at the marketing it seems Sony has pretty much aimed this camera at video shooters as it is capable of recording 4K with all the bells and whistles, but to me its all about the stills… they are out of this world!

I currently have 2 lenses, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/55mm and the Sony G 4/70-200mm OSS. As with the Fuji system there are a couple of holes in the lens line up and I would like a fast 85mm and/or a 135mm prime lens, but at this stage the only way to make that happen is to buy Sony’s A-mount DSLR lenses (which are awesome BTW) and adapt them to the A7s. Not ideal from a size point of view, but I may just end up doing it.

I have organised to do an epic head to head shoot-out/comparo with all of my cameras and lenses later this week so keep an eye out for the images. My aim is for it to be real world and I hope compare cameras, sensors and lenses in both natural and artificial light. I will do my best to shoot with equivalent focal lengths to make it easier to see the differences between each camera/lens combo.

I honestly believe Mirrorless Cameras are the future and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the DSLR become all but extinct in the not too distant future. As mirrorless cameras get better and better I can see no logical reason why DLSR’s will continue to exist. It means companies like Canon and Nikon will have to start innovating which can only be good news for us photographers.

I earn my living and shoot 99% of my work with a mirrorless camera. The quality of the product that I deliver to my clients is as good, if not better, as its ever been. For me, there is no looking back, and life will, for the foreseeable, continue without a mirror!!!

WIN a FREE Lance Camera Strap

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “What is that camera strap and where do I get one?”

They are lance camera straps and you can buy them direct from www.lancecamerastraps.com

Sony a65 + Lance Camera Strap

They are absolutely awesome, relatively inexpensive, look amazing and are the perfect accessory to personalise your camera.

Check out their website and order yourself one (or two or three) of these amazing straps.

I am giving one lucky subscriber a chance to WIN a FREE Lance Camera Strap. All you need to do is send me a message telling me why you want a Lance Camera Strap for your Camera. You can enter from any corner of the Globe, must be a subscriber to my blog or like my Facebook Page, and the most create entry will win FREE Lance Camera Strap. The winner will be announced on 15 August 2014.

The Sony A7s – The KING of low-light!

I have just added the Sony A7s to my arsenal of Mirrorless cameras… The Sony A7s is a small, full-frame 12 megapixel mirrorless camera, which is also capable of shooting 4K video….Yes, that’s is correct… 12 megapixels!!!

SonyA7S

So is 12 megapixles really enough? YES!!!

In the case of the Sony A7s, megapixel count isn’t the be-all and end-all. There is something in the look of the A7s files that kind of reminds me of medium format files. I can’t really put my finger on it and it is difficult to quantify, but in my opinion, the Sony A7s produces some of the cleanest, most pleasant images I’ve seen this side of a medium format system and is why I felt the need to buy it over anything else (including Sony’s 24MP A7 and 36MP A7r).

The other advantage of the 12MP sensor, with its relatively large pixels, is that is has light gathering power that is truly phenomenal, especially when compared to sensors with a higher pixel density. The A7s is able to shoot at a ridiculously high ISO (409,200) and although you wouldn’t necessarily want to, what this also means is that it is capable of producing usable images at ISO levels far beyond what most photographers (myself included) would normally contemplate using. The light gathering ability of this camera is so good it can actually shoot in complete darkness and still produce amazing images.

As soon as I have spent some more time shooting with the A7s I will post some sample images from actual shoots, as well as as test shots demonstrating the low light/high ISO capabilities of this amazing little camera.

Save up to $400 on an Olympus OMD E-M1 Camera!

If your looking to buy a new mirrorless camera and want one of the best then check this out…

I just received an email from Adorama and they are running a 3-day promotion of an extra $100 off the following, already discounted, Olympus cameras:

1. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Camera (Body Only)

Regular Price $1,399

- $100 instant Rebate

- $100 using coupon code SUMMERSAVE at checkout

Final Price $1,199

2. Olympus OM-D E-M1 16.8MP Camera + Olympus 2,8/12-40mm Pro Zoom Lens 

Bundle also includes: SanDisk 16GB Class 10, Extreme Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Memory Card, Olympus Mini-Messenger Bag, Mini Multi-Card Reader, 6′ High Speed Micro HDMI to HDMI Cable, Tiffen Dfx Essentials Software, 62mm Multi Coated UV Ultra Violet Filter, & Cleaning Kit.

Regular Price $2,399.00

- $300 Instant Rebate

- $100 using coupon code SUMMERSAVE at checkout

Final Price $1,999

Fuji X-T1 + Fuji 56mm lens + WIN a Lance Camera Strap

Below are a few images from some of my recent shoots which were all shot with the Fuji X-T1 and Fuji 1,2/56mm lens.

The lighting set-ups were obviously different for each of the shoots but were all shot with my new Godox lighting equipment.

You can also WIN a Lance Camera Strap simply by describing the correct lighting setup used for any of the images below.

Here is a list of equipment used:

Fuji X-T1

Fuji 1,2/56mm

Godox ES600P & RS600P Strobes

Godox V850 Speedlights

Godox Wistro AD360/Flashpoint Streaklight 360

Elinchrom Rotalux 70cm Deep Octa

Elinchrom Rotalux 100cm Deep Octa

Elinchrom Rotalux 50x120cm Strip Box

Elinchrom High Performance 26cm Reflector

Elinchrom Maxi Spot 40cm Reflector

Lastolite Skylite Rapid 1.1 x 2m

To WIN a Lance Camera Strap all you have to do is describe the correct lighting setup for any of the above images. You can either post your answer as a comment on this blog, email me, or post a comment on my Facebook Page. It’s your choice which image you choose, and the first person to guess correctly wins!!!

Good Luck and enjoy the images.

Esther

Esther

Esther

Esther

Rafa

Rafa

Kitt

Bodyscapes

Bodyscapes

Why I switched to Godox Lighting

 I recently changed both the type of lighting equipment I have as well as the brand of the equipment.

Almost all of my shoots are now location based so it made sense to me to sell all of my Elinchrom Monobloc Studio Strobes and invest in a more portable and appropriate solution. This search began some months ago and although I already had an arsenal of speed lights at my disposal the thought of dealing with AA batteries didn’t excite me. That being said speedlights are still extremely versatile, lightweight, portable and compact, and extremely useful in many situations.

About 8 months ago I started using a Godox ES600P portable strobe. Basically it’s a 600ws strobe with a lithium-ion battery pack. It fast became my go-to light for location shoots and has been used relentlessly over the past 8 months. Up until now when I have needed multiple lights it was either speedlights or the Elinchrom Monoblocs with battery inverter packs (or both) that were called into service, but I felt it was time to look for a better solution.

If you have very deep pockets there is no shortage of options. The big brands all offer battery powered strobes. My first choice would have been Broncolor’s Move Pack, but it was way beyond what the budget allowed. Being an Elinchrom user I looked closely at the Ranger Quadra system and the Ranger RX system but both were a compromise given what the financial outlay was going to be. The Quadra’s are lightweight and are rated at 400ws, while the RX’s are much heavier (both the Battery Pack and the Head) but is rated at 1100ws. Entry Price for the Quadra is about $2000 and the RX is about $2500.

I had pretty much decided on the Elinchrom Quadra Ranger system when Godox announced the RS600P. This was an updated version of the ES600P I had been using for months. Same power pack, same power output but with a newly designed head which is much more rugged and built to take much heavier modifiers, plus it also has an LED modelling light. (The modelling light on the ES600P is pretty much useless). At around $600 it was an easy decision.

Godox RS600P

The Godox Battery gives around 500 full power pops and as I rarely shoot at full power one battery usually gets me through a day of shooting. As with the ES600P, the RS600P head conveniently takes standard Bowens s-mount modifiers, so I simply changed the speed rings on my Elinchrom Rotalux softboxes and Deep Octa’s and they now fit the Godox lights and work perfectly. However, to use my Elinchrom reflectors I have to use and adapter, which is no big deal.

I was so impressed with Godox’s products I looked into what else they had to offer…

The Godox V850 is a speedlight with its own lithium-ion battery (no AA’s) which give about twice the capacity of the Eneloop AA’s I had been using. These speedlights also used the same Godox trigger system as the ES600P and RS600P strobes, allowing for full control of all the lights from the one on camera transmitter. At around $150 each, I bought 4 V850’s (to add to my collection of 8 Yong Nuo YN560II’s). According to specs they put out about the same power as the top end units offered by Canon and Nikon (although I haven’t tested this yet)

Godox v850
A quick side note… for those on a budget and looking for affordable lighting it is worth considering the Yong Nuo speedlights. I have been using these for a number of years now and can’t really fault them. They are super cheap at around $80 and get the job done. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have never had one fail on me.

Now for my favourite Godox product of all… The Godox Wistro AD360/Flashpoint Streaklight 360

Godox Wistro AD360

The Godox Wistro AD360 is a 360ws bare bulb flash that kind of looks like a large Speedlight (it is also available as a 180ws version). It produces amazing light quality, fills all my softboxes and umbrellas evenly and with ease (and without hotspots), is relatively lightweight and very portable… and to make it even better, it uses the same trigger system as the rest of my Godox lights.

Sure it is a little on the expensive side, but when you consider that a similarly powered Elinchrom Quadra, which is much larger, costs around $2000, the $750 price tag doesn’t seem too bad. More importantly, there is nothing else on the market (that I know of) that comes close to the light quality produced by the Wistro.

It is powered by an external lithium-ion battery pack (Godox PB960) which gives about 500 full power pops. Godox also sell Canon, Nikon and Sony cables for the PB960 so you can also power your speedlights. I have run two Yong Nuo YN560II’s off the one PB960 battery pack and I estimate I got around 1000 full power pops with recycle times of around 1 second.

Godox PB960 Battery Pack
The Godox trigger system is able to control pretty much an unlimited number of lights in up to 16 groups. You can control the power of the lights in each of the group’s and switch the lights off and on (and for those with modelling lights also turn it off and on). The on camera transmitter may not win any beauty contests but is functional and so far has performed flawlessly. The only batteries required are two AA’s for the on camera transmitter. The receivers are powered by the lights they are attached to.
Godox Trigger

Another Godox product that I have found to be extremely useful is their S-type speedlight bracket. These funky looking clamps turn any speedlight including the Wistro into a Bowens mount light.

Godox S Mount

So, if you are on a budget or just want some great lighting gear, its definitely worth having a look at what Godox has on offer. They also have a large range of studio lighting and modifiers. I have recommended these to a number of photogs and all of them have been blown away by both the value for money and performance. Unless you have very specific requirements, such as ultra short flash durations, or are shooting moving objects and require a high “frame rate”, I believe the Godox lights offer more bang for buck than anything else currently on the market.

A Quick Update

The last month has been extremely busy and unfortunately I haven’t really had time to post to my blog. Here is a quick update on what’s been happening as well as a preview of the posts I am currently  working on that should be live over the next few weeks.

I have some new additions to my kit, so expect to see a few gear reviews:

Olympus 1,8/75mm Lens. I used to own this lens but regrettably sold it. I missed it so much I decided buy it again (I thought I might).

Carl Zeiss Touit Planar T* 1,8/32 Lens (Fuji X-mount). I have always been a fan of Zeiss glass and it is one of the few things I miss about my DSLR kit. Until now I have managed to talk myself out of this lens as I think Fuji 1,4/35mm Lens is brilliant. It will be interesting to see if the Zeiss lens is worth the extra money.

Fuji 55-200mm Lens. I sold my  last one of these after only 3 days of owning it because I was disappointed with its performance, but after seeing many more images taken by other photographers and reading more reviews I have decided to give it a second chance.

Olympus 2,8/12-40mm Pro Zoom Lens. As most of you know I am not a fan of zooms but I wanted a lens that is ideal for travel and one that is also weathersealed.

Godox RS600P Portable Strobe. I have been using the older ES600P version for a while now and I absolutely love it. This new version is even better!!!

Godox Wistro AD360/Flashpoint Streaklight 360 Flash. An amazing bare bulb flash… there is simply nothing else like it!!!

Godox v850 Speedlight. If you a sick an tired of stuffing around with AA batteries(I know I am) this speedlight is the answer.

Do keep an eye out as I am also working on a number of other Blog posts which some of you may find interesting:

Why I decided to switch from Elinchrom to Godox lighting.

A long term review of the Fuji X-T1.

Images and commentary from a number of my recent shoots

What I think makes a great image. It very much follows on from my post about “Sensor Size and Megapixels” and is in response to the increasing number of people asking me to critique their images. Sorry guys, but at the moment I simply don’t have the time to get back to everyone (although I do try to). This should, at the very least, give you an idea of what I look for in an image.

I am also working on a number of larger projects and commissions, which I will post more information about over the next couple of weeks.

There is a lot in the pipeline, so stay tuned, and as always any feedback or suggestions are very welcome.