This summer, I have searched for some local photo-friendly spots that I can use to test out lenses and other gear. There are local parks, trails, and the like in North Chicago, but little to nothing that compares to the sprawling metropolis/park areas I saw on the daily in Japan. Some of the smaller areas and bike trails are great for getting out for an afternoon of fresh air, but they don’t offer much in the way of a bonafide picturesque and scenic location. Thankfully, I did not have to search too far to come across the excellent Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Housing 27 separate gardens and four nature areas on 385 acres of land, the “living museum” has so many great places to make some great photographs. As it should be no surprise to some of my readers, I’m very excited they house an extensive bonsai collection as well as a well-manicured Japanese-style garden (that I plan to visit on my next trip!). In a summer filled with Navy Weeks and other projects, here’s a few photos made during a day trip to help keep my photographic chops sharp.
Well…I’m finally doing it. After years of owning this 11-pound tank of a telephoto, it’s time to put together a review of “Big Papa”. I’ve shot with the lens for events and wildlife sparingly, in my time in Japan I couldn’t just drive anywhere with this optic in tow. All my photowalks consisted of train rides and lots…and lots…of walking. Now that I’m finally back in the States, and I have a high-performance full-frame camera to test on, I have the opportunity to really get out there with the lens and try some more wildlife shots, and perhaps some sports/events if I get the chance. Thankfully I do have at least a few shots over the years that will easily find their place in the review if needed. Continue Reading
For almost five years, I have restrained from hopping onto the full-frame bandwagon. Longtime readers of my site may remember my excitement with the launch of the original Sony A7, but also recall how I didn’t want to transfer my kit from an arguably more-capable NEX-7 to a full-frame camera that shot slower and had more issues with manual-focus. Camera revisions came and went, feature sets improved, ergonomics became more natural, and the years went on.
So, time and time again I had my reasons for staying patient. A7R? Didn’t need the high megapixels and worse shooting performance. A7S? Not a bad camera, but I wasn’t focused on video at the time. A7II? Hmm…getting better, but it still wasn’t performing like my NEX-7 in practice. A7RII? Now that’s a fine camera, but again, file sizes were too large and it shot at only 5fps like other A7 cameras. A7SII? Dang Sony, you’re really killing it, but I don’t need a dedicated video rig with only 12 megapixels. Alrighty then, A7RIII? Oh…okay this one is starting to look really, really nice. Ergonomics are getting better, the frame rate is increased, and even battery performance is improved. All good things aside, though, the high price ($3200!), unnecessarily-high resolution, and center viewfinder hump were still enough of a turn-off to have me stick with my a6500.
But then, February 26 happened. The days prior to me packing all of my things to move back to the States, Sony officially dropped the A7III. With the exception of the (incredibly stupid) center viewfinder hump, so many boxes were checked off for the full-frame camera of my dreams:
-Standard 24MP resolution (a.k.a. great high-ISO performance!)
-More on-sensor phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus points than I can shake a stick at
-10 fps shooting (throw some sports at me!)
-In-body image stabilization for any lens put on the camera
-Much larger NP-FZ100 battery cannibalized from the A9, doubling my battery life
–13 customizable buttons/dials, letting me recreate Tri-Navi!
I could go on and on about the feature set, but unless you’ve been under a rock the past couple months, you have likely been inundated with news on this camera. Where Sony really hit it out of the park is in the aggressive $2000 price. To put this number into perspective, consider the NEX-7. Seven years ago that camera was arguably the most advanced and compact APS-c camera on the market. I and many others paid a premium to get the best of the best, and at its selling price of $1350 I still to this day think it was a good buy that gave me years of reliable shooting. Fast-forward to today, and for only $650 more, you get almost all the things that made the NEX-7 great, but also a full-frame sensor and the feature set listed above.
It is very easy to draw a comparison to Nikon’s D750 when considering Sony’s strategy here. Back in 2014 Nikon wanted to open up the gates to the world of full-frame shooting by introducing a high-performing camera at an attainable price point. They cannibalized features from their upper-end DSLRs like the D4S and D810 and threw together a very capable camera for $2300. Three and a half years later, and for $300 less, Sony has released a camera that far surpasses almost every feature the D750 brought to the table. What this means is that more and more people are likely to buy into Sony’s ecosystem, and other third-party manufactures are going to get in on the same gravy train. If one can figure any conclusion from Tamron’s new 28-75mm f/2.8 for E-mount, it is that we’re likely to see some nice compact optics to shoot with than the usual Sony GM and Zeiss Batis/Loxia lineup in the near future.
Getting back to my usual site jargon, and to continue my point earlier, the past two months saw me move from one side of the planet to another and start a very different life. While transitioning from Yokosuka, Japan to the relatively small town of Great Lakes, Illinois, I have had a good amount of time to relax and take stock of where I want to go with photography. I no longer live in barracks, I have much more freedom to go about my business, and I’ll soon be working on downsizing a lot of my camera kit (as always, readers will get the first heads-up of eBay listings!). With a solid full-frame A7III and backup a6500 by my side, I really look forward to not only exploring the midwest for personal photography, but also to get back into freelance work in the area. With wedding season coming up soon, I definitely need to get out there and throw some business cards around!
That’s all for this rambling website catch-up, guys and gals. I wish I had more photos to share, but with the month of shipping my gear here combined with the necessary work of settling into a house, I have only been able to do official work so far with the A7III. Its time will come, I’m sure, as there are many great places to see within a short drive, including the big windy city of Chicago! As always, have a great day!
The shortest and often coldest month of the year thankfully provides great conditions for hitting the slopes on some skis or a snowboard. Just like in December and January, I skied about as much as possible throughout February to hone my skills in and to get my last tastes of the beautiful Japanese mountains before I transfer back the States. In fact, I can confidently say this past month was the one where I crossed the threshold into running as an advanced skier! Okay, okay, so I still fall every now and then in deep powder, and I often have to make slow descents on walls for my own safety, but I find myself going down and enjoying expert courses (successfully!) more than intermediate runs. A win in my book, for sure. What also set February apart from the past couple months, however, was that I brought my a6500 along in my coat pocket for every trip to get much cleaner photos than my iPhone could manage. Continue Reading
As it turns out, I got a bit lucky and found just enough time to briefly look through my last outing to Yokohama touring some of the winter illuminations downtown. Though the Red-Brick Warehouse had its own Christmas Market (more on that in a later post!), the tail-end of the night drew my friend and I outside Yokohama World Porters to catch the ever-colorful Cosmo Clock. Every 15 minutes after sunset the enormous ferris wheel gives a nice show, so it gave us many opportunities to attempt some time-lapse videos (and to grab a warm caramel drink from the vending machines in-between shows!) that I’ll piece together later.
As it’s that time of the season, I wanted to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays to whatever else you may celebrate in your neck of the woods. As I’m taking a break myself for the end of the year, it’ll be at least early January before I can write up my 2017 website recap, and boy will there be plenty of photographs to share! Until then, take care these next couple weeks, spend some time with friends and family, and ring in the start of a brand-new year. That’s all for this quick holiday post, guys and gals. Thanks for dropping by and as always, have a great day!
It looks like the days of comfortable sandal-wearing weather are just about finished for the year in Japan! With the chill, of course, comes the late and colorful Fall in the Tokyo region. I managed three great trips last year covering Kamakura, Yokohama, and the huge Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo. This year, due to factors outside my control–including a residence move and strong winds messing with a lot of the foliage–I could only get out once (and relatively late in the season). This year I gave Sankeien Garden another shot, as last year I toured around a bit too early in the season to capture any fall colors. A few photos from that day will likely make it into my end-of-year recap from other photo outings that didn’t make it into their own post. Until then, stay tuned!
Review-wise, I got my personally-anticipated Laowa 15mm f/2 review up and running earlier this month. The lens performs great, though it doesn’t quite measure up to its price point on APS-c. Much cheaper lenses like the newly-released Sigma 16mm f/1.4 will likely outperform it. When I happen upon a full-frame camera that suits my photography needs, though, the Laowa will surely shine. In the meantime, I am enjoying the increased corner sharpness thanks to the lack of field curvature. It’s just a matter of time before my trusty Rokinon 16mm f/2 goes up on eBay, and when it does, you all will be the first to know! Apart from that, I would love to review a couple more lenses from my kit before moving on to other new optics (my 400mm f/2.8 is begging for a review…if only I could lug it around with me more!).
Looking over other photography news in November, Panasonic announced what looks to be a challenge to Sony’s A9 in the form of their own G9. Honestly I’m not sure what the point is in spending so much on a small-sensor camera like that (diminishing returns have to kick in at a certain point), but I still hope it performs well and adds to the competition. Lens-wise, Leica decided to up their ultra-high priced (and usually very-high performing) game and announced the Noctilux 75mm f/1.25 ASPH. At $13,000, this crazy lens makes even high-quality medium-format lenses look cheap by comparison. Besides, if I was a collector, I’d go for a triple-lens set for even less, like the 100th Anniversary Nikon Kit for a much more “affordable” $8,000 (chump change, really!).
That about wraps up November’s update, guys and gals! I’ve got big plans to hit the ski slopes heavy this winter with camera in tow, and may even make a journey to the northern island of Hokkaido to check out some real heavy snowscapes in mid-winter. Much of this is up in the air as I eventually transition back to the States, but regardless of what gets thrown my way, I’ll try to always have my camera handy. As always, have a great day, and thanks for dropping by!
Hey there! With the spookiest of days now behind us, Fall has finally arrived even in the warm Tokyo bay area. Trees are starting to turn in the north, the temperature is gradually dropping (goodbye lazy T-shirt days…), and it’s only a matter of time before ski season opens in the mountains! In the meantime, I am still catching up with my photography projects, from an end-of-year compilation of random photo trips to my Laowa 15mm f/2 review. That write-up should be ready in just a week or so, so stay tuned!
Moving over to the wide world of photography, Sony’s answer to the heavily-backordered Nikon d850 speaks in the form of the newly announced A7R Mark III. The incredibly well-speced camera shares some awesome features from the flagship A9, while sporting insanely high megapixels like previous cameras in the series. Odd we’re seeing a Mk III on the R series, given that it is about half a year younger than the regular A7 series, but I don’t run Sony’s marketing team. I do know, however, many are still (im)patiently waiting for an A7 Mk III. As long as Sony keeps the same unnecessary DSLR-style body design on their “A” series cameras, I still don’t see myself getting into the full-frame game yet. Even after all these years, I still am clamoring for a NEX-style full-frame mirrorless camera. I’ve seen the patents, Sony! I know it’s possible and that you’re probably already working on one!
*Ahem…* But, company theories aside, the A7R Mk III really does look great, especially if it performs as well in the real world as it’s performing for early impressions reviewers. For the rest of us back in APS-c land, Sigma is slowly filling the gaps Sony has left in the APS-c lens lineup, their most recent announcement being a 16mm f/1.4. Giving the same field of view and feel as a 24mm f/2 would on full-frame, this may be yet another option for those like me using the Rokinon 16mm f/2 and Laowa 15mm f/2. Since I am eventually moving to full-frame, I don’t have a reason to permanently own the lens, but depending on its asking price I may temporarily buy the lens for review on the site!
Anyways, that’s all for this quick October update guys and gals, I hope everyone out there got some spooky photos to fit the season! As always, thank for dropping by and have a great day.