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.
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
What a year 2017 turned out to be! Whether it be multiple and varied photowalks early on, three brand-new lens reviews, or even a first-shot at photoshop tutorials, I had a lot of photographs and accompanying edits to go through last year. In addition, the photographic world showed no signs of slowing down as company after company released new and exciting lenses and cameras to flesh out the industry. Sony E and FE mount continues to grow, Nikon is doing as well as ever with the d850, and Canon…well…they’re just doing their own thing. As I often write about in my monthly updates, I can’t imagine we are that far off from getting a full-frame sensor inside a NEX-7/a6500-style body. The technology is almost there, and if Sony can figure out the problem of heat dissipation in such a small product then I’ll finally take the full-frame plunge.
But what about stragglers? As I looked back on some of my previous catalogues from 2017 I found some photos I wanted to share that didn’t originally make the cut in their own posts. 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
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!