Personal gear review

Location
Cambridgeshire, UK.
Name
Charles
I think I'm coming out of my photography stagnation. At one point I was ready to sell all my gear and call it quits. My wife and my dad both talked me out of it. With my dad buying two of my lenses to hang on to in case I wanted them back later. I tried working with a 16-55 again, but that quickly didn't pan out. So I sold it and got my 33 1.4 back. Not long after I started getting my photo mojo going a bit. And now I have re acquired the 18mm 1.4 Just going to roll with the 18/33/50 kit for a while and try to focus just on shooting.
Congratulations Bobby. Sometimes it's hard. I know. Have you tried the XF18-55? It really is a superb lens, and so versatile. And I find OIS really useful.
 
Location
Switzerland
Name
Matt
The positive first impression I got from the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 made me think ... could this be the lens to finally supersede my oldest standard reportage zoom, the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8?

Here's a little size comparison, and yes, the Sigma is clearly smaller *and* lighter - quite a feat, considering that the Sigma covers the larger APS-C image circle.

DSC_3449.jpg
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However, the Olympus is a flagship lens (it has had a very long life and has recently been updated - the optical formula remained unchanged, testament to its quality) and has obvious advantages over the Sigma; not only does it offer a greater range on both ends of the spectrum (24mm-e to 80mm-e vs 27mm-e to 75mm-e), but it's also weather-sealed, with the term describing the impressive prowess of the lens in that regard accurately (it's not just "resistant"). And of course, the OM-D E-M5 III is one of the best small stabilised platforms out there, in fact, *the* best in my view - but I haven't compared it to the Fujifilm X-S10 directly, another impressively small and well-spec'd APS-C camera ... The Z 50 isn't stabilised, and neither is the Sigma zoom, so it'd have other clear advantages to offer; after all, having to use the Megadap ETZ-21 means that whatever limited weather resistance the body and the lens would offer is basically compromised.

I've already mentioned that the Sigma is indeed smaller and lighter, making for a really pleasant and well balanced combo, while the E-M5 III/12-40mm f/2.8 setup definitely feels front heavy, though not overly so, I posted yesterday about my preference for the 12-45mm f/4 because it balances so much better - and that little warrior is optically the equal of its more ambitious sibling (it's actually the better lens on the long end). Yet, the f/2.8 maximum aperture means quite a bit of additional flexibility, so I'll stick to the 12-40mm for now. Here's the test shot at 40mm, 80mm-e:

EM530054.jpg
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Looks good to me ... However, the eagle-eyed will notice a bit of harshness (as in: discernable edges) to the bokeh rendering ... Apart from the physics in play, this is also a consequence of the very high contrast the lens provides. Sharpness on the 20MP sensor is great.

Now, here comes the Sigma ... a lens half the price and just about three quarters the weight of the Olympus (sorry for the very noticable differences in framing - I was standing in the same spot, though).

Z50_3602.jpg
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Sharpness is no worse (but also no better) than what the Olympus offers, bokeh is definitely smoother (even though the field of view is a tad wider at 50mm, 75mm-e). For half the money, I think we can call this a win, even if not by a huge margin.

However, all the assets the Olympus brings to the table are missing on the Sigma (and the Z 50 is no competition when it comes to weather proofing, anyway). So, in the end, I'm still impressed enough by the performance of the venerable Olympus - it offers slightly better contrast, equal, if not better sharpness and very good overall image rendering - to keep it. But I feel that my favourable first impressions of the Sigma are vindicated by this assessment as well.

If Sigma get their act together and offer native versions of this lens for the current mounts (X, Z, RF), they'd have even more of a winner on their hands.

For the time being, I'm very happy with having created an opportunity for myself to test this lens, and apart from all the central findings, all this speaks to the value of the Megadap ETZ-21 for me: Having access to the E mount ecosystem is definitely worthwhile, and not having to own a Sony body to make it happen feels quite satisfying in itself (I have nothing against Sony as such, mind - I just decided to make Nikon Z my go-to system for AF and stop maintaining several systems).

Where to go from here? It's not as if I had any specific needs or gaps to fill at the moment - but a truely compact 24mm lens would be very interesting to own, and Nikon doesn't offer one (yet, if we look at DX/APS-C only). The E mount market, on the other hand, offers a dizzying number of options, but I've already narrowed it down to either the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 C (a lens that doubles as a pseudo macro option) or the Sony 24mm f/2.8 G because those two are really small, yet offer aperture rings as well, and I'd love to test Megadap's claim of them working on Nikon Z bodies via the adapter. Having said that, this'd mostly mean just playing around with gear - it's not as if I *needed* another 24mm option because my diverse zooms offer plenty ... So, I'm in no hurry to decide, and there are other things coming up that look a lot more appealing (the Voigtländer APO-Ultron 35mm f/2 should become available by the end of November ...).

Anyhow, kudos to Sigma - and Megadap :)

M.
 
Location
Switzerland
Name
Matt
Olympus f/2 12mm ... ? Just a thought.
No - because that's :mu43:, not usable on the Z system (see my post).

There are reasons for me to keep :mu43:, mostly centered around size, stabilisation and sealing. The 12mm f/2 doesn't offer the latter, so, apart from a tiny advantage in bulk, isn't more appealing than the FF 24mm lenses. However, the adapter basically kills sealing - that's why I'm dithering (and probably *won't* get one of the 24mm options, at least for now).

But here's the thing: After getting the Voigtländer 23mm f/1.2 for the Z fc, my desire to use the GX9 with 15mm f/1.7, one of my formerly favourite combos, has all but gone. I'm pretty sure that If I had a comparably small, comparably tactile *AF* lens for the Z system, I might finally be able to convince myself to move on the GX9. The GX9 isn't sealed, its I.B.I.S. is of limited use and its EVF a nuisance (the actual panel, not the design), so I'd not lose any key assets. There's something else, though: :mu43: is still a very good option for assignments: The E-M5 III with 12-40mm f/2.8 and the GX9 with 35-100mm II fit into my EDC bag! For the Z 7 II with Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, I need a special bag, or a huge one to also fit the D750 (or Z 6) with 70-200mm f/4G. The :mu43: combo does provide nice results in sufficient light, so is a real alternative in many cases. So, though rarely, it's really beneficial to have the small option around.

Overall, the GX9 is still a nice camera in use, but the Z DX bodies both handle a lot better (far less fiddly), and the Z fc fully covers the use case I see for the GX9 (though not the lenses I own for it - but the 28mm f/2.8 is a good start). But I guess I'll have to wait for Nikon to bring the 24mm DX and 26mm pancake to market to be able to fully judge things and move on.

Still, the benefit of the adapted 24mm would be that I'd be able to use it on the Z fx bodies as well. Both the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 and Sony 24mm f/2.8 are optically strong performers, on the level of the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and the compact Z lenses (at least!). So, I'd have a lens that could do double duty on my main system instead of one that'd limit me to a niche system (in *my* usage - not in general!).

It's a bit of a conundrum - but not a pressing one. The more I think about it, the more I think I really ought to wait ...

M.
 
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Location
Switzerland
Name
Matt
And now for something completely different ...

This had to wait for a couple of days, but I'd just like to report a quirky, but overall truely rewarding experience.

I backed the NONS SL660 and wrote about some positive early impressions right after it arrived, but last weekend, I finally had time to put it through its paces.

Something that occurred to me: The camera feels like 80%-the-size, 50%-the-weight version of the Pentacon Six TL; not only are the main controls in very similar places, but the whole setup feels very much alike - down to a viewfinder that only offers a restricted impression of the center of the frame (even though the Pentacon Six TL is a little better at about 71%(!) coverage; the NONS shoots square images but only offers a rectangular crop; I'd put it at roughly 55% coverage ... more on that below). The two cameras also share their shooting pace, with the NONS conveniently offering a built-in light meter that very much works like a handheld one (the display is on the top right shoulder of the camera), but with the added convenience of the controls being the aperture and shutter speed dials of the lens and camera.

Z60_4943.jpg
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In use, the similarties are quite striking and pleasing to me (I love the Pentacon Six TL). However, the NONS SL660's wooden grip is a stroke of genius; it's well made and transforms the handling of the camera without increasing the weight too much; furthermore, it allows for something you wouldn't expect to be important on a square format camera, but with this one, it is: "portrait" orientation. See, the slot for film ejection is on the right side of the camera; for the film to work (i.e. the chemicals being released on ejection in order to develop the image), the famous wide bottom border somewhat counter-intuitively ends up on the left side of the image in standard (landscape) orientation; if you choose portrait orientation with the grip on top (with the camera hanging easily from your fingertips, thanks to the grip), the frame will come out as expected. So, the visual clue (rectangle) in the viewfinder actually serves a purpose ... and you get pretty good at guesstimating the actual frame after a short while, anyway.

What's more, the NONS 50mm f/1.8 standard lens, while feeling quite generic (and being strangely oriented when mounted - the usual marks are slightly tilted to the right), is actually a solid performer that suits the camera perfectly. I think they use a formula similar to old Nikon 50mm f/1.8 designs, and at least stopped down a bit and at medium to far distances, results are fine. It's very difficult to focus the lens wide open, especially close up, though, but thanks to the ISO 800 film, at least under normal light, you rarely run out of usable shutter speeds. I went through a whole film, and eight of the ten frames, eight were usable, five of which were really good and among the best I ever created with an instant camera, at least IQ-wise, which is a fantastically high hit rate (I'm usually happy to get five usable frames out of ten). And again, that was achieved with the unassuming kit lens ... I'll scan (at least) the five frames you can see here (the fungus shot is pretty spectacular for an instant image - it's not that obvious in this image, though):

Z60_4944.jpg
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The light meter works pretty well for a simple non-TTL affair (the window is above the lens) - I checked it repeatedly against my Sekonic L-208, and the two showed meterings that only differed by a quarter of a stop at the most; the only thing that you need to take into account is a slight delay until the meter auto-refreshes (there's no button to press - the meter's live once you switch on the camera). In certain situations, it meters a little hot, so it usually pays to err on the side of underexposure (by a third to half a stop).

The mirror and shutter need to be cocked - just as with the Pentacon Six TL, there's no auto-return mirror; until you do that, you can neither use the viewfinder nor release the shutter, so you just have to wait with cocking the shutter to avoid losing any of the expensive frames. And since film ejection is manual too, multiple exposure is as simple as it gets. The button for frame ejection on the back of the camera (below the power switch) is very well thought through as well - it needs to be pressed for about two seconds before the frame is ejected, so accidental ejection is basically impossible unless you try something as unwise as holding the camera with just two fingers while placing one on the button ... not that I've tried (with film) ;)

Bottom line: This is the nicest current fully manual instant camera I've handled so far, and I've tried a few; it's big, but still fits into my EDC bag, and it's not at all heavy for its size while at the same time feeling nicely made, in spite of its plastic body. Shooting is straightforward, results are really good even with the inexpensive kit lens, and while the viewfinder was frankly a bit of a head-scratcher at first (I mean, why have a SLR if you can't really see anything approaching the correct framing?), it's actually workable. Furthermore, thanks to two mount adapters (Nikon F and Contax/Yashica), I have access to plenty of interesting lenses. I'm happy.

M.
 
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Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
And now for something completely different ...

This had to wait for a couple of days, but I'd just like to report a quirky, but overall truely rewarding experience.

I backed the NONS SL660 and wrote about some positive early impressions right after it arrived, but last weekend, I finally had time to put it through its paces.

Something that occurred to me: The camera feels like 80%-the-size, 50%-the-weight version of the Pentacon Six TL; not only are the main controls in very similar places, but the whole setup feels very much alike - down to a viewfinder that only offers a restricted impression of the center of the frame (even though the Pentacon Six TL is a little better at about 71%(!) coverage; the NONS shoots square images but only offers a rectangular crop; I'd put it at roughly 55% coverage ... more on that below). The two cameras also share their shooting pace, with the NONS conveniently offering a built-in light meter that very much works like a handheld one (the display is on the top right shoulder of the camera), but with the added convenience of the controls being the aperture and shutter speed dials of the lens and camera.

View attachment 344461

In use, the similarties are quite striking and pleasing to me (I love the Pentacon Six TL). However, the NONS SL660's wooden grip is a stroke of genius; it's well made and transforms the handling of the camera without increasing the weight too much; furthermore, it allows for something you wouldn't expect to be important on a square format camera, but with this one, it is: "portrait" orientation. See, the slot for film ejection is on the right side of the camera; for the film to work (i.e. the chemicals being released on ejection in order to develop the image), the famous wide bottom border somewhat counter-intuitively ends up on the left side of the image in standard (landscape) orientation; if you choose portrait orientation with the grip on top (with the camera hanging easily from your fingertips, thanks to the grip), the frame will come out as expected. So, the visual clue (rectangle) in the viewfinder actually serves a purpose ... and you get pretty good at guesstimating the actual frame after a short while, anyway.

What's more, the NONS 50mm f/1.8 standard lens, while feeling quite generic (and being strangly oriented when mounted - the usual marks are slightly tilted to the right), is actually a solid performer that suits the camera perfectly. I think they use a formula similar to old Nikon 50mm f/1.8 designs, and at least stopped down a bit and at medium to far distances, results are fine. It's very difficult to focus the lens wide open, especially close up, though, but thanks to the ISO 800 film, at least under normal light, you rarely run out of usable shutter speeds. I went through a whole film, and eight of the ten frames, eight were usable, five of which were really good and among the best I ever created with an instant camera, at least IQ-wise, which is a fantastically high hit rate (I'm usually happy to get five usable frames out of ten). And again, that was achieved with the unassuming kit lens ... I'll scan (at least) the five frames you can see here (the fungus shot is pretty spectacular for an instant image - it's not that obvious in this image, though):

View attachment 344462

The light meter works pretty well for a simple non-TTL affair (the window is above the lens) - I checked it repeatedly against my Sekonic L-208, and the two showed meterings that only differed by a quarter of a stop at the most; the only thing that you need to take into account is a slight delay until the meter auto-refreshes (there's no button to press - the meter's live once you switch on the camera). In certain situations, it meters a little hot, so it usually pays to err on the side of underexposure (by a third to half a stop).

The mirror and shutter need to be cocked - just as with the Pentacon Six TL, there's no auto-return mirror; until you do that, you can neither use the viewfinder nor release the shutter, so you just have to wait with cocking the shutter to avoid losing any of the expensive frames. And since film ejection is manual too, multiple exposure is as simple as it gets. The button for frame ejection on the back of the camera (below the power switch) is very well thought through as well - it needs to be pressed for about two seconds before the frame is ejected, so accidental ejection is basically impossible unless you try something as unwise as holding the camera with just two fingers while placing one on the button ... not that I've tried (with film) ;)

Bottom line: This is the nicest current fully manual instant camera I've handled so far, and I've tried a few; it's big, but still fits into my EDC bag, and it's not at all heavy for its size while at the same time feeling nicely made, in spite of its plastic body. Shooting is straightforward, results are really good even with the inexpensive kit lens, and while the viewfinder was frankly a bit of a head-scratcher at first (I mean, why have a SLR if you can't really see anything approaching the correct framing?), it's actually workable. Furthermore, thanks to two mount adapters (Nikon F and Contax/Yashica), I have access to plenty of interesting lenses. I'm happy.

M.

A great initial report and camera-in-progress review, Matt.
And.... damn! What a cool camera!!!
thank you for posting this
 
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