Camera Update


It has been a whirlwind of adventure since I have lasted touch base on my blog with adventures to New Zealand, Southwest USA, The Columbia River Gorge, Toronto, London, Namibia, the Palouse, Iceland, Switzerland, France and now Germany where I’m writing this blog post to you from.

I have had some questions on camera gear lately, regarding the Olympus system, as well as questions on the new Canon megapixel monsters, the 5DS and 5DSR, and of course, the new Sony A7R II.

Here are some quick thoughts on each camera:

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II: My first Olympus mirrorless camera, I really enjoyed it overall. The lens selection is superb and I primarily used the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, both tack sharp lenses. I was super excited about the high-resolution mode but came away disappointed. Very few reviewers mentioned a rather obvious flaw (at least in my eyes), the fact the images come out soft. I mean very soft, especially compared to standard 16 megapixel images taken with the camera. Extreme sharpening has to be used to make a compelling image. Perhaps it has little effect on a printed image once sharpened, but there is something disturbing to me looking at images side by side in Lightroom, one taken at 16 megapixels and one at 64 megapixels with image shift and seeing a huge difference in sharpness out of the camera in RAW. Before you ask, all variables have been taken into effect in regards to stabilization and multiple tests have been done in different settings. I did find one other photographer who has mentioned this online, the popular blogger Ming Thein in his review:

Final takeaway from the Olympus – A fantastic camera with lots of cool tech and a great selection of lenses. There are 2 major flaws to the camera. It is terrible with long exposures and night photography due to the small micro four thirds sensor. Those are deal breakers for me. In addition, for me, someone who makes large prints, I prefer a larger sensor. For the majority of photographers out there, I would recommend the Olympus over most APS-C and full-frame DSLRs, which are overkill in most people’s internet based photography. If your needs require long exposure photography, night photography, or making large prints (larger than 20×30 inches), than the Olympus is probably not for you.

Canon 5DSR: Let’s look at the 5DSR as the 5DS is not going to be very popular. Nikon learned their lesson of not dividing the model into a D800 and D800E, and has simplified it to the D810. Apparently, Canon wasn’t paying attention to the market. The need for an AA filter is a rarity these days, especially with the advancements in software. I have not used the camera personally, but I have two good friends who have done a multitude of tests and I have read quite a few reviews. Their seems to be a clear consensus – a 5-year-old camera with a huge megapixel sensor. First, the positive – The resolution is astounding, a great tool for large prints. Banding has gone away and there is an improvement with detail in the shadows. The lens selection is phenomenal. Without question, there is no other system with a better selection of lenses. Next, the negative – There is no new tech in this camera. It really is just like using a 5D Mark III. The dynamic range of the aging Canon sensor is still miles behind Sony’s sensors, which are used in the Nikon D810 and the Sony A7R. It has a limited range of ISO and is best used in low ISO situations. It’s big and heavy. So are the lenses. It’s time to lighten the load, not increase it!

Final takeaway from the Canon – If you have a killer collection of Canon glass, make large prints, have learned to bracket, blend and compensate for poor dynamic range, don’t shoot in high ISO situations, and don’t mind the weight, the 5DSR could be the right camera for you.

The Sony A7R II: I took a lot of slack for writing a controversial blog post on the original A7R. What people didn’t seem to understand is that I think what Sony is doing is amazing. And yet, I still demand my cameras to work properly. The Sony A7R, especially with its shutter vibration issues, was not ready for prime time. This A7R II, while not out for another few weeks, appears to be everything we wanted from the original A7R and more. When you look at the specs of the camera, what more can you ask for really? This looks like the landscape photographer’s camera of the future, and I have mine on preorder. I cannot wait to use this bad boy. It’s hard to recommend something that hasn’t been released or tested, so I will definitely follow-up with more thoughts in mid October after having used it on a couple of trips.

There’s only one negative feature to address so far, and it’s not the camera itself, but the lens selection. Let’s take a deeper look at the issues and how to address it. Starting on the wide-angle side of things, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 is a fantastic lens made by Sony. So is the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4. This is great news! Two fantastic lenses, made by Sony, native for the e-mount system. This is what we need, and both lenses are a must own. As a landscape photographer, having f/4 instead of f/2.8 is of no consequence unless you are shooting at night. Fortunately, we have Rokinon making their excellent 14mm f/2.8 lens for the Sony system. This is a crucial for those that like to shoot the Aurora and night skies.

When I first tested the original A7R along with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4, the first zoom lens available, I was sorely disappointed. I have concluded that I had a bad copy of the lens, and I sure wasn’t the only one. Reviews for this lens were terrible. And then… they got better. I recently tested a newly purchased 24-70 and guess what, it was solid. I think what Sony did here was not acknowledge that they made a crappy lens, but they improved it in the manufacturing stage and hoped the problem would go away. I would have preferred a new addition of the lens so we can clearly know what we’re getting. If you do buy this lens, do extensive testing to make sure you have a good copy. As it stands, I ended up not purchasing one, but went with the excellent 55mm f/1.8 prime. Prime lenses are tough for landscape photographers as we are dealing with trying to be as light as possible, but the 24-70 range is my least used range in photography. By purchasing the 55mm f/1.8 I’ve ensured a high quality lens and I have the following focal lengths within the range – 24- 35, 55, and 70. Not bad!

As I write this on July 17th, the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 lens is being shipped in the States. I want this lens badly (it looks amazing) but how could I possibly justify it with the excellent 16-35mm in my possession? We will see how long I can resist:)
That’s it for lenses currently, but we have 7 new lenses to come before Spring of 2016. Sony knows how desperately we need these lenses and they are doing all they can to produce. The biggest hole for me is a 70-400 or 80-400. I do a lot of long lens landscape work and would love to push out beyond 200mm.

There is a niche lens from Canon that I’m holding on to, and that’s the 24mm TSE, the best tilt shift lens ever made. I love using tilt shift lenses and it appears Sony has no interest in producing them. I have a Metabones Canon Adapter Version IV attached to my 24mm TSE and use it for special situations. I have no interest in adding adapters to the Sony to use any lens I want as the addition of the adapter creates a bulky setup. The whole idea is to reduce weight, and that’s why it’s so important for Sony to flesh out their system. But it’s worth it to me for the tilt shift lens. In addition, the latest Metabones adapter has been designed to have less reflection and has more room to compensate for the large shifts. This is exactly what I needed as version III was a pain to use.

Final takeaway from the Sony: I hope it’s my camera system of choice going forward. I couldn’t be more excited for new tech and Sony had delivered in spades. More soon!


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