Tag Archives: Leica

A Portrait Shoot with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8

A fast 85mm has long been a favorite among the portrait photographer’s toolbox. Slightly telephoto, this particular focal length lightly compresses the image so that models are comfortably nestled within the background. From a design perspective, large apertures like f/1.8 or even f/1.2 remain cost effective and practical because at longer focal lengths, glass elements necessarily become prohibitively expensive and oversized. Lastly, the 85mm’s working distance lets you stay close enough to the model yet provide a lot more depth-of-field (and bokeh) than your fast 50mm or 35mm.

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15 y/o Mikaila Storrs (left) and 19 y/o Peyton Lake (right) at Newport Beach. Makeup and hair by Jordan Takeda.

So what do we look for when choosing a 85mm portrait lens? Three things spring to mind. First, it has to be easy to handle because the last thing you’d want is a lens encumbering you after the models are made up and the studio is paid for. Try shooting with an EF 85mm f/1.2 all day and you’ll see what I mean.

Next, of course, is image quality but that is often a broad and nebulous term, and 85mms, in general, have been great performers. More specifically, a defining feature of the 85mm is its ability to throw the background out of focus, isolating the subject in a cocoon of soft blurriness. So a good portrait lens should have its own character.

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The girls riding and looking back in a Surrey, a four wheeled bicycle contraption available for rent all along the sunny coast of California.

Finally, since for large aperture primes we’ll be working with a narrow depth-of-field, fast and accurate autofocus is absolutely essential, much more so than for shorter focal lengths. I defy you to eye-focus with a manual lens, on a non-split prism focusing screen, at variable light and working distances. You just can’t do it, consistently, so professionals rely on quality AF at longer focal lengths.

So for this hands-on review, we are using the latest and greatest from Zeiss, their Batis 85mm f/1.8. We briefly looked at its technical specs when we first laid our hands on it, so rather than doing that again here, we’re going to jump straight into the good stuff. We called up Peyton and Mikaila, they drove to Newport Beach from Hollywood and San Diego respectively, and we rented a few bikes along the beach boardwalk. A fun Sunday afternoon in California.

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Who are the Professional Photographers who Switched to the Sony A7 Series?

We keep on hearing a lot about the A7 series and that many pros are leaving their beloved DSLRs for this new series of cameras. Especially with the latest announcement with the A7r mark II (7 game changing features of the A7rII) which, undeniably, is a breakthrough in the aging DSLR world. Seeing the A7 mark II (A7II Field test) and now the A7rII, I can’t help thinking that, excepted for the Nikon D810 and the D750, all other DSLRs are now a huge step behind considering the new possibilities and the versatility that this new camera offers.

Canon with its brand new 5Ds and 5Dsr did not really convince anybody. DxOLab said it is Canon’s best score ever but it is still ranked at the 21st position, far behind the Nikon D810 and the Sony A7r. Let’s imagine the score of the A7rII. Phenomenal. Don’t take me wrong though, the 5DIII is still a very good camera, but it needs a major overhaul to fight against the upcoming A7rII. That being said, some professionals have already made the switch seeing the great potential in these new kind of full frame cameras, probably even more once the A7rII will be available. So I wanted to provide an example of some great professional photographers that are pleased with their new system.

“I’ve got the greatest job in the world. My worst days as a photographer might be the greatest days in the lives of many people.” — Brian Smith

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Serge Ramelli (his 2 websites here: 1 / 2), Michael Shainblum,  Brian Smith and David Mclain are among these, respectively switching from the Canon 5DIII to the A7r and from the Canon 5DII to the A7s, Brian and David, as Sony Artisans, are using several Sony cameras. Trey Ratcliff is also a fantastic pro photographer shooting with the A7r and the A6000. I’m not talking about Jason Lanier switching from Nikon to the A7s as he is really not my favorite photographer, same for Gary Fong but I put the link and you can check it out for yourself. But besides them, amateurs and enthusiasts photographers switching to the A7 series, there are also more and more “common” professional photographers making the switch like wedding photographers. Will Chao is one of them. He has just switched from the Canon 5DIII, again, to the A7 mark II. Continue reading Who are the Professional Photographers who Switched to the Sony A7 Series?

The 6 Ultimate Street Fashion Photographers and Bloggers

Anytime I can combine both fashion and photography together I instantaneously become ecstatic. Fashion has been an immense passion of mine for as long as I can recall. Working in the fashion industry was what I was been doing most of my professional career before photography became an extensive part of my everyday life. I have always admired fashion photography from my early teenage years and shared some of my favorite fashion photographers in a previous blog post, My 7 All-Time Favorite Fashion & Celebrity Photographers. If I could, I would eat, sleep, and breathe fashion and combine it with my more recent admiration for photography to form the quintessential amalgamation of my two loves. Having worked in the fashion industry for most of my adulthood, I have always been captivated by street fashion photographers showcasing some of the most stylish people from across the globe. In my last weeks post, What I Learned Being Stuck At Home: Self Portraits – Part 1, I actually attempted to combine my love for both fashion and photography in a self-portrait/dress-up photoshoot for the first time.

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Image courtesy of Le 21eme |

Here is a list of some of my favorite street fashion photographer bloggers that have inspired me in umpteen ways to help bridge the gap between my two loves:

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10 Crazy Camera Co. & Designer Collaborations

Hello Kitty & Leica? Stella McCartney & Canon? Instagram & Polaroid? Collaborations between big name brands have been an innovative way to appeal to a broader market. Loyal consumers of one brand are also likely to own a product by the other, or they may at least be within the same target demographic. Therefore, as corporate synergy goes, advertisers can readily be enticed into this new market and the consumers will love the exclusivity of the particular item for sale.

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Your regular $1.50 can of Diet Coke. Slap on Karl Lagerfeld’s name, and they become collector’s items with a resale value at almost €50.

Usually, the joint venture is done by producing limited quantities and therefore, making the item more desirable and exclusive. To the consumer that seeks these specialty items, obtaining one of the limited edition items released can become a must-have obsession.

Often times, one of the brands participating in the collaboration can be extremely popular in the mainstream market while the other brand is a little more underground or haute couture. By creating such an unconventional union, this is generally the formula for a perfect marriage and can sequentially appeal to a mass number of the population.

Here are some great camera collaborations:


10) Leica & Paul Smith

Leica X2 Paul Smith

Paul Smith is a British fashion designer who has been in the clothing business for over 40 years. In late 2012, Leica approached Smith about joining together to design a camera that represents the Paul Smith brand. As a photography enthusiast Smith gladly accepted. The collaboration was for the limited edition X2 camera and releasing only 1500 cameras.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Camera Lens Design and Zeiss Nomenclature

The German optical systems manufacturer, Carl Zeiss, has had a 168 year legacy in creating some of the world’s best lenses. In 2011, H.H. Nasse wrote a series of technical papers for Carl Zeiss detailing their modern lens history and genealogy. In his three part series, he discussed 5 lens designed that changed the world. They are the Planar, the Tessar, the Biogon, the Distagon, and the Hologon (click on these links to download the original PDF files).

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Zeiss Planar 100mm f/2 (left); Zeiss Planar 85mm f/1.4 (center); Zeiss CP.2 25mm f/2.9 Cine Lens (right)

While very detailed and technical, it is a difficult read for your average Joe. That’s why, we have repackaged the information in a more reader friendly format and filled in some holes with our cited research (such as adding the missing Sonnar lens). That being said, I still recommend you read Nasse’s original papers after you read this article. They are filled with interesting tidbits about optics and engineering.


Zeiss Normal and Telephoto Designs

A normal/standard lens means its focal length is about the diagonal length of the image capturing area. For 35mm film and Full Frame cameras, that translates to 24x36mm with a diagonal of 43.3mm. This means, lenses with focal lengths near 43.3mm can be considered normal lenses. We usually consider lenses between 35mm – 60mm as normal lenses.

Planar (1896)
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The symmetrical design places the aperture (represented by the vertical line) between the two groups of elements, allowing for wider apertures than other designs. The 8 air-to-glass surfaces, unless effectively coated, reduce contrast and introduce flaring and ghosting.

This legendary Zeiss design trademarked Planar (also known as Biotar or Biometar in E. Germany’s Carl Zeiss Jena) is derived from, and suggests, a “plane/flat” field curvature. Most of the world’s fastest lenses today are derivatives of the Planar design, including:

  1. The $11,000 Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux
  2. The ultramodern Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4
  3. The fastest lens in the world, the Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 Stanley Kubrick used in the movie Barry Lyndon for its candlelit dinner table scene and NASA’s Apollo Program used to photograph the dark side of the moon.

In fact, every 50mm prime ever made by any manufacturer are essentially modified Planar designs.

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A cutaway of the Nikon F2 film SLR sporting a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 in classic Planar design.

Advantages

  1. The symmetrical grouping allows for large aperture designs (f/2 or larger).
  2. A very flat field curvature which leads to sharpness across the entire image plane.
  3. Well controlled chromatic aberrations

Disadvantages

  1. More expensive to produce and heavier than Tessar designs
  2. The many air-to-glass surfaces require effective lens coatings to reduce flaring, ghosting, and to improve contrast.
  3. Prone to astigmatisms.

Continue reading A Comprehensive Guide to Camera Lens Design and Zeiss Nomenclature