Review: The Canon 5DSR, part I – solo

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This is both the first extended review I’ve done in some time, and the first one of a Canon product. Regular readers will know that I only review things that are interesting, and to be interesting, they have to expand the envelope somehow. I am curious as to whether the 5DSR will do this –
I sold my 645Z a few months back because I could not justify ow ning a second system against the need for a larger home for my family; but I won’t deny that I missed its resolution and print flexibility, especially for making larger Ultraprints.

I come to this review as primarily a Nikon D810 shooter. I make no secret of the fact that I have not that much experience with Canon other than a serious evaluation period in 2007 where I decided if I should switch (pre D3); I didn’t because local support at the time left a lot to be desired. However, I also come to this review with an open mind: I’ve tried many other systems previously to expand my toolkit including Leica M, Pentax 645, Hasselblad V and M4/3. And I can guarantee you that I have no self-interest either way, since these experiments have come out of my own pocket. The 5DSR was also purchased at retail and is NOT a loaner. I don’t care what the name plate on my camera says: I care only that it lets me make the images I want to make and doesn’t get in the way, and my clients are the same. If anything, I am biased towards image quality. That said, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some forum keyboard warrior ‘expert’ asserts I’m now on the Canon payroll.

Note: I will present few full-size samples because I simply don’t have the bandwidth, nor do I trust that they won’t be reused without permission – it’s happened before. Given the limitations of web JPEGs, please go according to what I say and not what you see. Any perceived oversharpening is thanks to Flickr’s overzealous resizing algorithms and not blindness on my part. Read on if you have an open mind. Finally, a special thank you must go to my last client for allowing me to share some of the images from that assignment at the Crawick Multiverse and Garden of Cosmic Speculation. I literally collected the camera a few hours before heading to the airport and this was the first time I’d shot with it properly – no pressure…

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Fresh off the boat: Canon 5DSR and some early thoughts

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My Canon 5DSR arrived a couple of days ago. Surprise #1: it’s not a loaner. Surprise #2: I haven’t had time to shoot with it yet. For somebody who’s not known for having any particular interest in ‘the other side’, questions are bound to be asked. And I’m sure somebody will also mention the A7RII. But, there is a method to the madness – it’s not wanton equipment lust that I’ve fallen victim to, though my bank account will certainly need some time to recover from the shock of both a Leica Q and 5DSR within the space of a week. I would love to share images, but – see Surprise #2. Since early June, I’ve been back to back on assignments, the hanging, opening and related activities around my exhibition Connection in Hong Kong – during which we raised $2.4m for two charities in print sales, auctions and sponsorships – and I was back in Kuala Lumpur just long enough to attend the Q launch party, pick up the 5DSR and make sure my family still remembered me. Images will therefore continue to be forthcoming.

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Premiere and review: The 2015 Leica Q (Typ 116)

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It is refreshing to be surprised, for a change – and refreshing to have something that comes somewhat unexpectedly but scratches an itch that you didn’t really know existed. I have owned and reviewed many Leicas in the past, from Ms, to the S system, to the T, X/1/2/113/Vario, to various ahem…rebodies. All have excited me in some way or other, but also left me with the feeling ‘if only’. If only the M had a built in EVF…if only the S had more pixels…if only the T was a bit smoother operationally…if only the Xs had viewfinders (and were 28mm). I was disappointed I couldn’t get a M246 Monochrom to test, especially against the D810. Instead, I was offered the Q.

Images in this review were all shot with a final production Q Typ 116 running firmware 1.0. I wil be uploading additional images as time goes along with to this set on Flickr. As you can probably tell from the sample images, during the limited time I’ve had to shot with the camera, the weather/light quality has best been described as ‘hmmm, painterly’. And a big thank you must be given to the folks at Leica Malaysia for the loan camera. Images in this review were processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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Review: The Olympus E-M5 Mark II

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 My usual deployment: handheld video, with HLD-8 battery grip, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35 Distagon rin an adaptor, and a Zoom H5 audio recorder. I am working on fixing the hard/sharp/uncomfortable edges of the battery grip with a silicone putty compound called Sugru, and will post the results in a future post.

Better late than never (or, I finally get around to trying out the second coming): the Olympus’ E-M5 Mark II. Many of the long-suffering readers of this site will know that I had a period of enthusiasm for M4/3 gear (and specifically the original E-M5) before that abruptly came to a halt in early 2014. The reasons were simple: firstly, camera technology has moved on; what was an impressive size/quality ratio in 2012 is not in 2015. Secondly, my output requirements have changed; the cameras have never had sufficient resolution to make a meaningfully-sized Ultraprint. Thirdly, there was no real solution to the shutter shock problem of the E-M1, which produced unusable images under basically every shooting condition – from 1/90s to 1/350s*. We were amongst the first to use the original E-M5 for video because of its stabiliser, and continued to use the E-M1s for video (including all of the workshop videos after The Fundamentals), Olympus and I then parted ways, and it appears they found new champions less demanding of their equipment. But, why the change of heart for me?

*I demand critically sharp pixels and can achieve them with the same camera under other conditions. Different users may have different thresholds of acceptability and different levels of shot discipline and not see any problems. On top of that, I tested >80 E-M1 bodies including >70 at Olympus Malaysia HQ, all of which exhibited the problem. The initial review unit did not, because it was a preproduction unit with a shutter module from a different batch. A firmware update was subsequently released with EFC, but it only works in single shot mode.

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Long term lens review: the Nikon AF-S 24-120 f4 VR G

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Yes yes, I know I’m late to the party. Very late, in fact. The AFS 24-120 f4 VR G has been available for a good four years now, replacing the much-maligned AFS 24-120 f3.5-5.6 VR G. By a curious coincidence, I’ve actually owned and shot extensively with both versions. And even more curiously, my experiences have been fairly similar with both lenses. You could say you’d be glad you had them if you did, but you could also probably do without if you didn’t. And then there’s the 900-pound (or $1700 dollar) gorilla in the corner: why not just buy the 24-70/2.8 and be done with it?

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Long term review: The Nikon D810

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Cold forest I

It’s very easy to write a polarized review – positive or negative – about a new piece of equipment; it’s much harder to commit to really using and learning it inside out for months until you are intimately familiar with its peccadilloes and able to extract every last drop of performance from it. It’s obviously not practical to do this for everything; it’s clear that some bits of hardware just don’t quite make it as long term tools after a few days of use. But the ones that stick are probably the ones that are really interesting.

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Review of a rare bird: the Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar

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According to multiple sources, total production of this optic is somewhere between 700 and 1000 units in Nikon AI-S (unchipped F) mount; there were a few more made in Pentax K, and M42. The lens came out of the Cosina Voigtlander factory in the early 2000s, on the heels of the now-legendary 125/2.5 APO-Lanthar and more common 90/3.5 APO-Lanthar. All of these lenses had very short production runs, probably because it was right about the time the CV factory was switching over to produce the modern Zeiss lenses. This is a shame, because they’re relevant lenses more than ever. During my last trip to Tokyo in December, I found not one – but two of the very rare 180mm lenses. Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter says this is the first time he’s seen one for sale – let alone two. Naturally, it followed me home. The other lens found a home with one of the site regulars…

Samples were shot on a Nikon D750 and D810.

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The mystery camera, revealed

After seeing the slew of positive, curious, speculative, accurate* and sarcastic reactions to the review/preview of the mystery camera from last week, it’s time for the reveal.

*Congratulations: the clues were deliberate.

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Review: The mystery camera

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A question of orientation

Post-CP+, and in a stunning reversal of recent events, I’ve been given a camera to test. Not just any camera; one that is not even currently available. It is light, portable and sits in a class of its own amongst all cameras I have used. I can’t say yet what this camera is, but I was told I can post a review and images from it so long as I don’t reveal anything about appearance or specifications for the time being. This is obviously a rather unusual state of affairs, but I felt that there were some greater lessons to be learned from such restrictions, so here we go. I’ll start by saying that this is a singular device: it is a professional’s camera ne plus ultra. You must know what you’re doing to get a decent image out of it, and if you do, it’ll reward you in unexpected ways. Read on, if you’re curious.

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Review: The Sigma DP2 Quattro

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Normally, we  look at a camera from a holistic point of view and compare it to the competition or the class leader. This unfortunately doesn’t make sense for extreme outliers like the DP2Q; we’ll have to do something a bit different. This review will look primarily from the point of view of image quality, and whether we can live with everything else. This is the opposite from every other review I’ve written to date, and the reasons for this will become clear soon enough. The other big change will be considering workflow and software as part of the camera package: it’s impossible to do anything else, since unlike every other camera, there is no universal workflow we can apply. Those of you who do not like caveats, are unable to look at something objectively, or are not open minded, I suggest you save yourselves some angst and stop reading now.

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