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!
I knew it was just a matter of time before I had to start learning to use Photoshop. For years, the free and open-source GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) served my limited graphics-producing needs well. In fact I still remember some tricks to make that program perform at a much higher level than it was originally designed for (thank you plug-ins!). As Adobe started adding more and more features into their Lightroom/Photoshop suite–in addition to the slow but inevitable march towards a dastardly subscription model–I shifted back to see what I was missing. Over the past year, I slowly introduced myself to this powerful program, and am still taking baby steps to learn the ins and outs. Continue Reading
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!
Slowly but surely I am upgrading the lenses in my kit to be full-frame compatible. Longtime readers of my site already know I sport a deep collection of Nikkor AI-s lenses, ones that I could easily adapt to a full-frame a9000 or the like. As time goes on, however, I begin to notice the problems the old optics exhibit almost universally: low sharpness/contrast wide-open, mediocre flare performance, and relatively pronounced chromatic aberrations at larger apertures. I’m starting to see the benefits that modern optical formulas can provide where vintage lenses can rarely match.
With the Laowa 15mm f/2, I have found my wide-angle option to cement itself as part of a full-frame-ready kit. Featuring a native E-mount optical design, the compact and fast lens feels right at home even on an a6500, and performs quite admirably all-around. Does the lens perform up to its steep price point compared to the competition? Let’s take a look! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check this post first! Continue Reading
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.
Every year when September rolls around, I have little to complain about. The weather starts cooling off from the oppressive heat of the summer, oceans are still warm to explore in, and various flora are still alive and kicking to add some greenery to photographs.
In spite of some great weather and photographic opportunity, however, September is also one of the busiest months of the year at work. In addition to last-minute preparation for Navy advancement exams, this marks the second year I’ve participated in Yokosuka’s annual “American Sound in Yokosuka” concert, as well as two other “Hojinkai” jazz concerts in Miura and Kawasaki. In fact, the weekend I’m posting this website update is one of the few times I have had a couple consecutive days off this month!
Day job aside, I’m still working on writing my Laowa 15mm f/2 review, and have already made all the necessary product and technical test shots. All that’s left now is to go out once or twice more to get more real world photographs! On my first outing with the lens, I returned to a sunny Yokohama and walked around the whole day to see what I could find. By sunset on Osanbashi Pier I captured the ever-colorful Cosmo Clock with my other trusty Laowa, the 105mm f/2 STF. Due to my attempt at a quick turnaround in reviewing the lens (by comparison, my recent review of the Rokinon 16mm f/2 has select photographs from three years of shooting), I’m hoping I can still run the lens properly through its paces. First impressions, however? It’s a fine wide-angle with few faults!
Otherwise, in the wide world of photography, there isn’t a whole lot to report back on. The awesome Nikon D850 has launched and is starting to become widely available, while Sony launched the RX10MkIV, another evolutionary upgrade to its great bridge camera line. The rumor mill is still stirring for Sony’s next “pro” camera, as the A7 (as well as the A7s/A7r) is well overdue for an update. Meanwhile, I’m still just sitting over here hoping for a full-frame a9000 in the NEX rangefinder-style body. Honestly, it’s just a matter of time. 🙂
That’s all for this September update, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! If all goes well I’ll have a couple days the next two weeks to take the Laowa 15mm f/2 out again to try and get some sample photos to do this compact optic justice. Until then, thanks for dropping by, and as always, have a great day!
Another summer month has come and gone, which means it’s time for a quick recap on the site! As briefly mentioned in my last review, this update comes a few days late due to a September return from a long vacation. Speaking of that review, in case you missed my Rokinon 16mm f/2 lens review, check it out if you need an affordable and decent-performing wide angle!
Regarding my trip the past couple weeks, I decided to forgo photography for a good part of it. Most of this stems from the fact I had already been to many of the locations before! Although it is hardly my first time doing this, it can be a very rewarding experience to live out adventures with ones eyes, instead of through lenses in front of a camera. That said, I did bring my a6500 along for the ride and still came back with a good number of shots from a few new places. Once I have time to look through them all and edit a good bunch up, I may either put them all in a post on this website or in a sequence on my Facebook page. Either way, stay tuned!
In other gear news, Venus Optics’ Laowa 15mm f/2 for E-mount cameras is in the process of launching worldwide! My early preorder shipped out about a week ago, so hopefully it’ll make its way back to Japan before too long. If you can’t wait for my review of this promising wide-angle and want to order yours today, check it out here on the company’s website. If you order through that link, you’ll help support this website for future reviews and other content!
In regards to Sony gear, however, a new RX camera announced caught my eye one week ago. Sony’s new RX0 is a curious device that mostly fits within the “action camera” market. Its feature set and sensor size really impress, however. The 24mm-equivalent rectilinear lens paired with a 1″-type sensor will easily crush any competition from the likes of GoPro and other action camera makers, especially in low-light and 4K. A shame the camera doesn’t throw in optical image stabilization like their FDR-X3000, though. With an already out-of-market $700 price, an extra $100 or so to add true stabilization wouldn’t have really hurt anything. With its sensor size and portability (among other cool multi-cam synchronization features), I’m pretty excited to see what pros do with multiple RX0’s for their work.
Otherwise, August has been relatively quiet, with no concrete rumors cropping up for future Sony lenses or cameras (still, still waiting on a full-frame a9000 in the rangefinder-style body…), but there’s still some time to go for new announcements before the holiday shopping season kicks off into full swing. That’s all for this post, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! I hope my USA readers enjoyed the Great American Eclipse a couple weeks ago, the photographs produced from the widely-enjoyed event have been great! As always, have a great day!
I knew it would happen eventually. As I gradually grew out of my telephoto lens bubble I was so happy to stay in for a few years, it came time to look around for a decent wide-angle lens for travel photography, wide street shots, and one-shot landscapes (constantly having to stitch together shots with my 32mm Touit anytime I wanted a wide shot got tedious fast). So, about three years ago I scrounged around for a deal on a used Rokinon 16mm f/2. Although it was APS-c only, 16mm is still decently wide and f/2 is a nice aperture for low-light handheld shots.
Unabashedly a “plastic-fantastic” lens, does the Rokinon 16mm f/2 hold up on the a6500? After three years of shooting, let’s find out! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check this post first! Continue Reading
Thanks to an even busier month than June this year, I can keep July’s site update pretty concise!
Most of my photography work in July came in the form of volunteer work (as linked in my last post) or for official duties while traveling. However, I did manage a bit of time for personal photography while traveling to brand new locations in China and South Korea. For almost two weeks I was working in Hong Kong and Busan, and the mornings or late evenings were about the only times one would want to head out for photos! Just as in Japan, these areas in Asia are still in their monsoon season, so if the daily spats of rain don’t get you, the heat and humidity definitely will! The massive humidity changes from inside to out caught me off guard while out shooting, as all my gear would fog up for at least 10 minutes before acclimating.
I still haven’t forgotten about the upcoming Rokinon 16mm f/2 review either, and from my last trip, I definitely have some good shots to look through as part of the lens test. Pretty much all that is left now is the “technical” shots of test charts, lens flares, bokeh, etc. etc. 🙂
In the wide world of photography, not a whole lot is stirring about. Nikon celebrated their 100th anniversary and announced the development of a d850. I’m sure just as the previous iterations of the high-resolution landscape camera were in high demand, the d850 will surely impress. Oddly enough they didn’t announce much in the way of technical details, which may put the actual release pretty far out. I can only hope it puts on a good show to help stir up more competition from Sony and others for better cameras for all us consumers (supposedly a Sony A7MKiii is long overdue). In the way of lenses, I managed to snag a pre-order for the upcoming Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D lens with Venus Optics, though there is still not much in the way of an exact release date this fall. As such, I can’t get too hyped quite yet, though early impressions of the pre-production copy sure are promising.
That’s all for this month’s update, guys and gals, thanks fro dropping by! Hope to crank out that Rokinon review in the next couple weeks, and after that, it’ll be time for some much-needed R&R with a special someone. As always, have a great day!