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
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
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
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!
Longtime followers of my website may know that the 105mm focal length is one I have gravitated towards for many years of my photography. From my beginnings with the classic Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AI-s, I enjoyed the pleasure of dabbling with other lenses such as the up-close Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8 AI-s and even the super-compact Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series-E. All three of these lenses provide a medium-long telephoto on the APS-c cameras I used them on, and they all served their uses in my photography. In fact, I still dust off the Micro 105mm f/2.8 for all of my product shots! However, until late last year, I had all but abandoned the focal length for general photography and transitioned to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s instead for my moderate telephoto needs. The 85mm has less chromatic aberration than the 105mm f/1.8 at equivalent apertures, focuses close enough for quasi-macro shots, and provides much more separation than the Series-E lens ever could.
At the same time, there was always a lens that intrigued me in the Sony lineup: the 135mm f/2.8 STF. With a special apodization element, the lens rendered out-of-focus backgrounds unbelievably smooth, giving “creamy bokeh” a whole new meaning. Even ignoring the current $1400 price tag, the lens wouldn’t make a lot of sense for my style of shooting on an APS-c camera. So for a while, the 85mm f/1.4 remained my go-to for low-light medium telephoto work. That is, until Venus Optics came onto the scene with their unique 105mm f/2 STF lens in mid-2016, promising the same kind of bokeh-smoothing effect with its own apodization element, all at a moderate price tag of $700! At this price point, and with these kinds of features, the obvious curiosity concerns its performance wide open as well as the effectiveness of its apodization element. Does it deliver? Read on to find out! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check out this post first! Continue Reading