Tiny Second Hand Camera Smackdown: Ricoh GR vs. Sony RX100 IV

Recently I exchanged the Sony 20mm f/2.8 that I bought when I purchased my a6000 not that long ago for the Rokinon 35mm f/2.8. My thinking was that the two lenses were redundant since 35mm (50-ish in full frame terms) was my preferred focal length and the Rokinon seemed barely larger than the 20mm {2.43 x 1.30″ (61.8 x 33 mm) vs 2.46 x 0.80″ vs (62.6 x 20.4 mm)} while gaining another full frame lens in my quiver. No brainer, right? Nope. I really like the Rokinon, but it was not a suitable replacement for the 20mm. Why? Glad you asked:

  • Despite its tiny profile the Rokinon better marries with the full frame Sonys in operation. Where focus speed seems adequate on the A7Rii it is less so on the a6000. No idea why. While not awful on the a6000 it is nowhere near as fast as the 20mm on the a6000. Had no idea how good that lens was until I no longer had it… The framework for an R&B or Country song right there.
  • 0.5″ (12.6mm) does not seem like a huge difference in theory, but in application that turns a very pocketable camera into a somewhat pocketable camera. Also the slightly rounded front edge and metal build of the 20mm meant it went in and out of pocket far easier than the square cornered and plastic Rokinon.

Simple fix. Buy the 20mm again. One problem. Southeastern Camera had two tempting full-blown second-hand cameras (ones I always thought about buying) that barely cost more than the 20mm lens new that would be even smaller than the already petite a6000. The thinking was that for a little more spend than a lens ($350-ish) I could potentially have a whole camera ($500-ish).

 

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What to do? Continue reading “Tiny Second Hand Camera Smackdown: Ricoh GR vs. Sony RX100 IV”

I like wide. The Sony G FE 12-24mm f/4 does wide well.

If you ask my conscious self to rank the order of my wide, normal, and tele lens preferences it would be normal, then tele followed by wide. My flickr galleries and blog posts would back this up if you only considered the number of photos posted and the type of lenses written about respectively. For this reason it is the one AF, name brand lens type I did not really budget for once returning to Sony with a vengeance. Thought the vintage K-Mount Vivitar 17-28mm

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would suffice adapted to a full frame Sony technically, but I never used it. Why? Continue reading “I like wide. The Sony G FE 12-24mm f/4 does wide well.”

The kit lens that could. Another Sony FE 28-70mm lens post.

Recently considered replacing my Sony FE 28-70mm w/ an f/4 or f/2.8 lens once again. I say once again because I have been here before. Makes sense right. Humble variable aperture kit lens is just a stop-gap measure until I can get a ‘real’ normal lens. That has always been the case since kit lenses are usually just passable before. But in all honesty when I ask what more I want from a lens I come up empty with the 28-70mm.

Know what I am losing.  A good chunk of my bank account. Losing a lens so small and light it is barely noticed in my bag. Losing the invisibility of a mortal sized lens. Continue reading “The kit lens that could. Another Sony FE 28-70mm lens post.”

A tale of 3 Sigmas. Part 2: Wiiiiide Sigma 8-16mm Lens

In part 1 of this series I dealt with the long end of my lens family, the 600mm mirror lens. With that done let’s look at the wide end.

Classic ‘did not know I wanted this lens until I found out it existed’. On my way out of Southeastern Camera after picking up (or dropping off) some film I asked if they had any interesting K Mount lenses. Dennis pointed me to the Pentax selection. Initially I thought it better that I leave without looking, lest I put myself on the hook for another lens, and then at the door my legs took a left and I was rummaging. Read the numbers 8-16mm on the side in disbelief honestly. Even with it being a crop APS-C DC lens that still worked out to an effective 12-24mm FF field of view, or way wider than my widest at the time. A legacy 35mm film Vivitar 17-28mm lens. If 17mm is good 12mm must be great. Further research revealing great reviews and sample photos sealed the deal. I could only identify one down side.

  • Slowish variable aperture range at f/4.5 to f/5.6.

That is about it for downsides. Now for upshots.

  • Firstly the relatively narrow aperture range turns out not to be that much of a hindrance.
    1. With a lens this wide half the fun is capturing as much as possible deep as wide.
    2. In body IS does a lot to offset a narrow aperture.
  • This lens is fun. It makes near anything look interesting.
  • Has nothing to do with image quality but it is built like a tank, has a quality feel and is quite an attractive lens.
  • Sharp. Sharp. Sharp. Alarmingly, wonderfully sharp.
  • Silent AF. While AF is not strictly needed for a lens so wide since infinity focus happens after a few feet it is great to have. And silent HSM focus is yet another bonus added in top.
  • It defies filters, but look at the business end of this thing. Purely an aesthetic of the lens itself rather than the images it can produce, but an admittedly superficial  plus in my book nonetheless.

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  • Relatively affordable given how wide it goes. No lens VR may be an issue from some (non Pentax versions), but even still this is great value in my opinion.
  • Amazingly nowhere near as distorted as one would think given it’s almost fisheye focal length.

Note: Neither good or bad and true of all wide lenses be careful tilting this lens up or down as it will distort verticals. Great if this is the look you are looking for, but if you are not Lightroom does a decent job at straightening things up with one click.

If you have an APS-C camera and need a little wide angle action this lens is a great option. Enough talk. Here are some sample images and an ongoing gallery.

-ELW

 

Yongnuo YN360: Buy one.

I am likely getting one or two more also for a portable cordless two or three light set up.

A little background. Recently I have become a lighting obsessed noob. Having practiced at home for months I had success during a recent family reunion with my first real world outing armed only with a $59 budget 3 light kit I picked up from Amazon .

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I was hooked. I then used the proceeds to upgrade my kit by replacing the lightbulbs included with a proper speedlite/trigger set from Yongnuo.

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Yongnuo speedlite/trigger test shots with Pumpkinhead VonWorkoutball.

Lovely. What next? While the lightbulbs had limitations (needs an outlet, not much light, fragile, a bit toasty, etc…) I did grow to like the simplicity. I love my speedlites for their power and versatility and portability, but the experience left me drawn to a solution I could not afford, the Wescott Ice Light. Great product, but at twice what I paid for 3 speedlites and a trigger combined for one it was clearly beyond my reach financially as an occasional semi-pro photographer. I considered a well regarded knock off option, but Yongnuo YN360’s offering added some interesting features neither of the other products, including the original, offered:

  • RGB colors and those in between (purple shown as an example) by allowing each to be adjusted individually.

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  • 5500K and 3200K options individually, but adjustment between the two simultaneously and maximum lighting power made available when both are turned all the way up.

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  • Included yellow modifier snaps on back when not in use via magnets.
  • I also liked that even though the concept was influenced they did not just copy, but actually added real, beneficial design changes.
  • Standard issue tripod mount on the bottom and a carrying case.
  • There is an app available, but the link to access it is broken as of this writing.

It must be noted that there is one downside:

The portability and relative power make for some really cool options. Having no patience once I received the batteries I swung by the house then charged one battery a bit using the included car charger adapter on the way to pick up dinner. While waiting for the food I could wait no longer and gave it a shot. Right away it showed that there was enough power to overtake daylight in some quick test shots I took of my Pentax 645 with my humble little orphan NX300 (The Pentax K-1 is off on an extended warranty spa visit, but more on that when it returns next month.Sigh.Meanwhile I soldier on with the orphan digital and many sundry film cameras.) in the front seat of the thunder wagon aka Dadmobile 3000 (Honda Odyssey) in early evening sun:

With the obvious options of using it resting anywhere, outside and handheld I also had some fun in house with my vintage bridge girder Manfrotto Bogen tripod. Here are some test shots of the Hasselblad with a shot of the simple set up used to achieve them:

Here is another Pumpkinhead Von Workoutball portrait session test with using the YN360 above and angled down about 45 degrees using the Bogen and out of shot is a silver reflector underneath angled up for a bootleg clam shell lighting effect. This was done during the day in a room that gets a good amount of sunlight. For reference I took all shots using aperture priority to see what the relative shutter speeds would be with and without the YN360 and one reflector.

While this is no replacement for a proper speedlite set up there are great advantages also. Between the portability, colors, handheld, easily adjusted intensity, and more I have already conceived of many, many ideas I want to try out when my big boy DSLR returns. Although it is early it does seem an added bonus that battery life is quite good. During regular testing I drained the batteries of my Yongnuo speedlites a couple of times (to be expected), but I have yet to come anywhere near running down a YN360 battery yet. Seeing as two come with the battery set I linked above this means I should get some good battery life in the field.

Once again well done Yongnuo.

-ELW

 

Legacy film Pentax 80-320mm: Silver, a solid value, and silver…

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Ok, I will admit it. I am a sucker for silver lenses, even plastic ones. Especially plastic ones that cost $150 and perform solidly like the Pentax 80-320mm. This lens has been on my radar for awhile and a video from Lee Haze prompted me to hunt one down on ebay:

Received it today and I can already say that this is a keeper. The K-1 has been great on it’s own merits performance wise, but a secret weapon for it that somewhat offsets a common ding (lack of new glass) has been the many legacy glass options. Here are some quick first impression thoughts about this lens and sample photos below.

  • Some have noted slow focusing on older digital bodies, but (like the 50mm AF f/1.7) I have to say that I have been pleased. I have briefly tested the focusing at every focal length, various lighting conditions inside, and out and even tracking a Fire Truck passing by and I have no complaints.
  • It is silver.
  • Very compact and lightweight given it’s focal length. At it’s most closed down it is only about an inch longer than the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 which is already a very compact lens. Granted at 320mm it’s length increases by almost half, but it is no longer than my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8, smaller in diameter and much lighter.
  • Very nice colors. Outside and in it seems to render colors accurately with the K-1. From a passing fire truck in daylight to skin tones inside it performs very well.
  • Very reasonable price wise. Prices seem to range between $100-150.
  • Produces very nice bokeh to my eyes and at 320mm backgrounds are very well blown out.
  • It is silver.

I have heard some say that it is no professional lens, but I think that misses the point considering the price point. For starters while I would admit that it would not be a professionals first choice, an enthusiast with a mortal budget could produce some stunning work with this lens.  It also has it’s advantages. I can already see that in ample light I would prefer this lens over the larger aperture of the 70-200mm if extra reach was desired. And in a pinch this lens holds it’s own surprisingly well in interior conditions even though the f/2.8 would be the lens of choice. Another solid vintage entry. More to come when the manual focus vintage film Vivitar 17-28mm arrives.

-ELW