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.
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!
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.
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
After a full day of wandering around central Seoul, I was still pretty excited to get out and do it all over again the next day to see what else I could find. After all, in the megacity of Seoul you can just pick a direction to walk and eventually stumble across some cool sights! Being our last day, however, I headed out with a friend to hit as much as possible with the help of Seoul’s (incredibly cheap) metro. Continue Reading