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
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
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!