Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sony A7rII

f/4 1/30 ISO 160 (handheld)
FE24-70 @ 33mm
Sunrise at 7 AM
Sandy had been using a Canon 1DsIII until the winter of 2013 when she decided to try the new Sony A7r.  Part of the decision in changing systems stemmed from weight and size differences between the 1DsIII and A7r with the Sony being a fraction of both weight and size.  Additionally there was the size difference between Canon and Sony lenses; while both offer outstanding image quality the size (both size and weight) difference is substantial.  Sandy quickly found she enjoyed shooting a mirrorless camera and we sold the Canon gear.
As shared on Instagram
f/8 1/125 ISO 50 (handheld)
FE24-70 @ 24mm 8:22 AM
f/11 1/125 ISO 50
FE24-70 @ 24mm (handheld)
8:23 AM
Sony released the A7r towards the end of 2013 and we happened to get it while shooting in Jackson Hole WY which offered a great place to test.  The A7r offers a 36.6 megapixel full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor with no optical low pass filter.  Sony upped their game earlier this year with the new a7r II which boasts 42-megapixel full-frame Exmor R CMOS senor as well as 5-Axis steady shot stabilization.  The stabilization is worth the price of upgrade by itself. Sandy ended up upgrading her A7r to the A7r II June of this year.
f/11 1/160 ISO 50
FE16-35 @ 35mm (handheld)
7:46 AM
While we’ve had the newer A7r II for the past couple months we hadn’t really had the opportunity to try it out in extreme conditions thus we were looking forward to our Bryce Canyon trip a couple weeks ago.  We spent 4-days in Bryce shooting in extreme weather conditions ranging from very cold, very windy and low light.  We had wind gusts of over 40MPH (64KLM) and temperatures ranging from a low of 10 to a high of 35 (-10 to 1 C); the average wind chill was in the neighborhood of -14 (-25 C).  Suffice it to say it was very cold in the morning as we waited for sunrise and we did this 4-days in a row. 
As shared on Instagram
f/8 1/160 ISO 50
FE16-35 @ 16mm (handheld) 11:43 AM
Same shot as shared on Instagram
f/11 1/160 ISO 50
FE16-35 @ 35mm (handheld)
So the question to ask is just how well did the Sony A7r II do in these conditions.  The short answer is very well.  We were pleased in the overall performance of the camera as well as the lenses used on the trip.  Power consumption was as expected which was good and the lenses used were equally exceptional.  Sandy used a combination of the Sony FE 16-35 and 24-70.  All of the shots included here were taken handheld with shutter speeds as low as 1/15 (ISO 50) and as high as 1/400 (ISO 50).

The following is an example of just how well the 5-axis stabilization works.
f/5 1/15 ISO 50 6:50 AM
FE 24-70 @ 24mm (handheld)
Notice the shutter speed!
The red box shows the approximate area of the 100% crop
100% crop
The following are more samples from the trip.
f/8 1/60 ISO 50
FE24-70 @ 70mm (handheld)
7:07 AM
Bryce Point
f/8 1/125 ISO 50 8:22 AM
FE 24-70 @ 24mm (handheld)
Cropped to suite
multi-shot merged into a pano (handheld)
f/11 1/250 ISO 50
FE 24-70 @ 30mm 11:55 AM
Hopefully you can see from the samples provided here why we like the Sony A7r II so much.  Lightweight, full-frame 35mm camera with 5-axis stabilization in camera that allows for handheld shots in difficult conditions that other systems would not be able to achieve.
f/11 1/400 ISO 50
FE24-70 @ 27mm (handheld) 11:36 AM
F/11 1/400 ISO 50
FE 24-70 @ 68mm (handheld)
11:52 AM
Every image shown here was processed primarily in Capture One 9 before being sent to Photoshop CC and sometimes Nik Software.

We feel the upgrade was well worth it.
Sandy & Don
f/8 1/400 ISO 50
FE 90mm





Friday, December 4, 2015

Phase One XF Waist Level Viewfinder

When Phase One released news of the new XF body I kept bugging my camera dealer Capture Integration for specific information regarding the improvements.  What I was specifically interested in was the rumor of a waist level viewfinder.  I’m still surprised today months later that they still accept my phone calls.
To make a long story short I placed my order the day the XF was available for the body and waist level finder knowing the body would be released first with the waist level coming shortly afterwards; all I had to do is be patient (yeah sure I was). Having worked with Phase One products in the past I was well aware that they take their time to make the product right the first time so I knew I was in for a wait for the waist level; I also had faith in my dealer.
Phase One XF, IQ180, Schneider LS 40-80 and the new waist level finder opened
Instead of me reinventing the product description I’ll refer you to the following page that gives all the technical details just click here.
Couple of things to consider about the waist level finder …
First, since I’m not putting my eye up against the viewfinder I find little issue with the lack of a diopter adjustment and this is coming come a person wearing trifocal glasses.
Second, and much more importantly is the ability to see clearly in bright sunlight.  Living in the southwest I have abundant sunlight. I took the system outside in midday (which was very bright) and had no problem seeing the viewfinder; actually the LCD was a little washed out due to the bright light.
Third, and this is a first for me. “Will this make me a better photographer?” The short answer is yes and the reason I say this is that having this in my kit will allow me to get a slightly different/better perspective without the strain of bending over, or sitting in a pile of snow or other crap.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to become a contortionist in order to set the scene through the 90° viewfinder.  I oftentimes like to shoot low to the ground and have had to lay down behind the camera in order to see through the viewfinder. I’m not saying this will totally eliminate all this however it will reduce the effort.
The waist level might not be for everyone and I’m not suggesting it’ll replace the 90° prism; I do recommend at least looking at one.
Many thanks to Dave Gallagher and his staff at Capture Integration.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

More on the new Phase One XF body

As shared on Instagram
Schneider LS 40-80mm @ 50mm
f/8 1/125 ISO 100 (handheld) 11:52AM
As shared on Instagram
Mamiya 28D
f/8 1/15 ISO 35 (tripod) 7:09AM
There’s been a lot going on here at Iron Creek Photography® since I last wrote and even more on the way so here’s a fast update on all things concerning the new Phase One XF camera body.

First – I love this body, I could stop here however I guess I owe everyone a little more information. 
Natural Bridge
Schneider LS 40-80mm @ 40mm

f/10 1/200 ISO 100 (handheld) 11:42AM

Schneider LS 240mm
f/6.3 1/200 ISO 35 (handheld) 10:39AM

I continue to use my IQ180 digital back with the body having opted to keep it rather than upgrade to the new IQ380.  While I might not have all the bells and whistles that those who have the XF/380 combo have, I nevertheless have a great system.  I use the same batteries in both body and back and have found the back battery replacement is 2 to 1 for the XF. One button powers the system as well as turns it off. I have a nice bubble level on the XF LCD likewise the histogram shows up for each shot. With the press of an icon I have the ability to move the mirror up, likewise I can set the XF to delay the capture for 3-seconds as well as set it for vibration dampness; and these are just some of the functions I have using the XF/180 combination.  I almost forgot about the autofocus in the XF which has been vastly improved over my older Phase One DF body.

On The Edge
Schneider LS 40-80mm @ 40mm
f/5.6 1/125 ISO 100 (handheld) 11:29AM

Having a waist level viewfinder was on my wish list and Phase One didn’t disappoint; okay, maybe slightly due to the long wait.  I can’t say anything now about the waist level since I don’t have it yet however I will have it soon and if this hasn’t been published by then I’ll add some quick thoughts after I get it.


Schneider LS 75-150mm @ 150mm

f/5.6 1/80 ISO 35 (handheld) 10:31AM

Schneider LS 240mm
f/6.3 1/200  ISO 35 (handheld) 10:49AM

The last trip we took was to Bryce Canyon National Park Utah.  We visited Bryce in November experiencing a combination of snow, wind, ice, wind, blowing snow, gusts of over 30 MPH and temperatures ranging from zero to highs of 30 with wind chill factors of well below zero.  Most days were cloudy so all in all perfect conditions to capture landscape (if not pneumonia).
This trip turned out to be the most extreme weather conditions experienced while using the XF.  Shooting early morning sunrise in extreme cold and I can truthfully say that I gave out way before the system did.

 Schneider LS 75-150mm @ 100mm
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 35 (handheld) 11:02AM

Cropped for Instagram
Mamiya 28D
f/8 1/15 ISO 35 (tripod) 7:10AM
Uncropped version

This was also perfect conditions to put the XF through its paces testing every lens I had available which are the Mamiya 28D, Schneider Leaf Shutter 40-80, 75-150 and 240.  I’ve included samples from each lens which worked very well.  This trip actually pushed me over the ledge regarding the XF/180 and the above lens as they worked so well that I decided after 8-years of using my Cambo WRS technical camera to stop using it selling that system to order the new Schneider 35mm LS lens.
We shot 4-days in Bryce before leaving and samples of those images are included here.  We left Bryce for Bluff Utah taking our time traveling the back country roads along the way and have included a few sample here as well.
Schneider LS 240mm
f/8 1/100 ISO 35 (handheld) 11:17AM
Processed in Capture One Pro

Mamiya 28D
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 50 (handheld) 2:04PM
Processed in Capture One Pro

Mamiya 28D
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 50 (handheld) 2:06PM
Processed in Capture One Pro

Mamiya 28D
f/4.5 1/100 ISO 50 (handheld) 2:08PM
Processed in Capture One Pro

Mamiya 28D
f/4.5 1/100 ISO 50 (handheld) 2:08PM
Processed in Capture One Pro

There’s so much more to write about such as Sandy shooting handheld 1/15 of a second with her Sony A7r II and getting crisp images.  We have the new waist level coming and I’ve stopped using the Surface Pro 3 and instead began using the new Surface Book which has turned out to be very nice.
As shared on Instagram
Mamiya 28D
f/4.5 1/400 ISO 50 (handheld) 3:32PM
Processed in Capture One Pro

Black & White version

Stay tuned for more.


The Waist Level is "Out For Delivery" however due to other commitments I need to publish this before I receive it.  I will post a small review just as soon as possible.






Thursday, September 17, 2015

Phase One XF & Peak Design Strap

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the new Phase One XF camera.  Most of these discussions have centered around the overall performance of the camera; faster more accurate autofocus, the LCD screen on the camera, the interface between the camera and digital backs, etc.  There has been a limited discussion on the look and feel of the new XF; however I have not read or heard much about the (at least to me) crucial part.  How does one tame the camera?
Okay you’re asking what the heck do I mean by taming the camera…
One of the design changes is the method of installing a strap.  The new XF has a more streamlined design with smooth, rounded corners and sides.  This shows up in how the designers almost hid the three mounting points for a neck strap; almost as if it were an afterthought. 

The new mounting points on the XF are smaller and smoother than ever before which is both a good and bad thing.  The bad part is that it makes it much more difficult to find a neck strap that will actually fit the mounting points.  The neck strap I had been using with my older DF wouldn’t fit unless I trimmed the strap which I did.  And while I made it fit it nevertheless became a weak point and eventually slipped right out of one of the mounting points.  The good news is that even when I have the camera around my neck I’m still supporting the weight so no catastrophic damage was done other than a change of underwear.
This got me looking for a new solution which lead me to Peak Design and their “Slide”.  It appears that I’m not the only person who has had an issue with finding a strap.  Two people that I have a lot of faith in are Michael Reichmann and Kevin Raber of The Luminous Landscape.  Kevin notes in a video he and Michael recently released that he is using the Peak Design strap which reinforced my decision to have ordered it a couple days prior to me actually seeing the video.  
Close-up of the mounting end of the camera strap.

Long story cut short.  It works. And it’s so simple to use.  There’s a 2-part system that comprises of an anchor and the strap.  The anchor fits on the camera and the strap attaches to the anchor.  What’s even better is the strap can be removed using just one-hand.  The anchors are small and very lightweight however don’t let the size fool you.  There’s no getting around it, the XF is heavy.  Put the digital back and a lens like the Phase One 40-80 LS on it and it weighs even more.  The good news is that the anchors are built to withstand over 200 lbs (90kg) of absolute force. Instead of writing more on the anchors I suggest you click on this link that will address their construction.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear – I have no affiliation with Peak Design.  I don’t know any of the owners and I ordered and paid for my strap.  I also wasn’t asked to write this; instead I decided to share what I had learned in hopes of helping new XF owners who like to use a strap. These are available directly from Peak Design or through B&H Photo.  

Best way to show the size of the anchor point.

There is a little bit of bad news about my experience. I also ordered the Peak Design Clutch hand strap thinking I’d use it as a hand-strap much as I did while I shot with a Canon 1DsII only to find that either the XF is too large or the Clutch was too small.  Either way I couldn’t get it to work to my satisfaction.  This in no way diminishes my thought on the camera strap which I intend to keep using.
Once again, thank you for allowing me to share.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Mamiya 28mm D and Lee SW150 filters

Years ago I used a Mamiya 28mm lens with a Mamiya AFD body and Phase One P30+ digital back.  I used it so much it was almost like it was welded to the body.  As much as I used it, it was very much a love hate relationship.  I loved the wide angle field of view, likewise the sharp images.  I hated the fact that there was no real way of attaching/using any filter.  The lack of filters was due mainly to the front element and fixed lens hood; there just wasn’t any way to attach a filter to the lens.  I ended up selling the lens shortly after upgrading my system to a technical camera and hadn’t thought much of it since then.

This year I’ve begun using my Phase 645 camera body much more than the Cambo WRS technical camera.  The new improved Phase One XF body is light years beyond the older Mamiya AFD or the Phase One DF body I had been using; couple this with the advancement of lenses being offered by Phase One.  I recently began using a Phase One/Schneider 40-80 leaf shutter lens which got me thinking about the 28mm again. 

As much as I liked the 28mm focal length (equivalent to 17mm in full frame 35mm terms) I hated the fact that there were no filters for it.  Or so I thought.  Seems that Phase One partnered with Lee Filters and their SW150 filter system (150mm filters) to make a system that would work on the Phase One 28mm lens.  Sit a Mamiya 28mm D lens side-by-side to a Phase One 28mm LS lens and you cannot see any outward difference.  They are both the same size. 

I normally don’t shoot blank walls however I did with the above to get a feel for any issues. Each sample shows the end result of the test and while the third test shows a darker area, that area on the top is the result of the .6ND filter.

Based on my lens comparison and the fact I got a smoking hot deal on a Mamiya 28mm D lens I decided to go for it.  I now have the 28D and have successfully mounted the Lee SW150 filter system to it. 
f/11 1/250 ISO 100 Handheld at 4:18 PM using the .6 ND Grad filter. Processed in Capture One Pro using Mamiya 28mm D lens profile and setting of 7 on clarity and structure.
I do have to point out something here.  Following the instructions and watching a great video on the installation I ran into a problem.  At this point I’m uncertain if it was user error on my part or it just didn’t fit as it should.  In either case the adaptor ring is a three part system that consists of a ring that fits on the front of the lens and sits in the lens hood.  The second part is a compression ring that fits from the rear and a third ring that fits from the rear and attaches to the front ring compressing everything together to make a tight bond.  I’ve actually seen how this works on another lens.  What I encountered is not having as tight a fit as I felt necessary.  I kept installing and removing the three-rings until I got to the point I couldn’t unscrew then.  Talk about a tight fit! The only problem was the compression ring was wobbly.

f/11 1/250 ISO 100 Handheld at 4:18 PM using the .6 ND Grad filter. Processed in Capture One Pro using Mamiya 28mm D lens profile and setting of 7 on clarity and structure.
All’s not lost.  Figuring I’d keep the adaptor ring on the lens as a near permanent filter solution I went and made it permanent by using super glue.  Not to laugh because it works great.  I now have a perfect filter solution on a Mamiya 28mm D lens using a Lee SW150 filter kit.

f/11 1/250 ISO 100 Handheld at 4:18 PM using the .6 ND Grad filter. Processed in Capture One Pro using Mamiya 28mm D lens profile and setting of 7 on clarity and structure.
So the question to be asked is just how well does it work.  I’m very pleased to say it works great.  I have tested the lens using just the ring attachment and had no problems.  I’ve tested the lens using the filter attachment and likewise no problems and finally using the SW150 .6ND soft grad filter with no problems or concerns.  Simply put, if you have a Mamiya 28mm lens that you longed to put filters on; and you don’t mind thinking outside the box for installation then I can recommend the SW150 kit for the Phase One 28mm lens.
The retail cost on these is around $490 and while they are listed on B&H’s website they are always listed as “More Coming Soon”.  I got mine from Capture Integration and am told they have them in stock.