Wither the Best Camera?

As the year wind down to a close, here is one guy’s confession about the year of 2013 in cameras.

Christmas Eve countdown celebration at Orchard Road - the weather sealed Sony A7 and kit lens was severely tested in the foamy frenzy.
Christmas Eve countdown celebration at Orchard Road – the weather sealed Sony A7 and kit lens was severely tested in the foamy frenzy.

David: When I bought the Leica M9 sometime in August of 2012, I thought I’m done with cameras – this would be the ultimate rangefinder camera that will carry me for many more years, a culmination of my years of rangefinder experience with the venerable Leica M6 (and for a short while, the meter-less Leica M3), the pinnacle of photographic experience never reached since regrettably selling both my film Leicas thanks to the lure of digital photography. And even though in my history of photography since 2002 I have used quite a few digital cameras, the window finder way of seeing and shooting, along with the habit of using cameras only in manual exposure mode, remain with me even till today.

My Leica M9 setup - shot with a X100
My Leica M9 setup – shot with a X100

The M9 was supposed to set that straight – to restore parity to my photography with my own favoured and preferred way of seeing and shooting. And it did – over 15,000 exposures later. It’s much more than that in reality – my Lightroom crashed a few months ago and I didn’t backup the catalog, so I’m still rebuilding the catalog from past work, but even halfway through the rebuilding process, M9 exposures alone are more than 15,000…..

With the M9, I travelled to Japan and even had my own exhibition in 2012, and was also exhibited at the Leica Singapore gallery in a joint exhibition in 2013.

So even though I flirted with a succession of cameras since I bought the M9 – namely a Ricoh GXR, the Ricoh GR and briefly with the Olympus OMD E-M5, none came close to replacing the M9 as my main go-to camera, though I must say the Ricoh GR was a thoroughly enjoyable camera and excelled on the streets.

Japanese buskers performing along Orchard Road
Japanese buskers performing along Orchard Road – Sony A7 with CV 50 f1.5 ASPH II
I call this intersection, Singapore's own Shibuya Crossing
I call this intersection, Singapore’s own Shibuya Crossing
Double rainbow sighting after I bought my A7 - this was in fact the second rainbow occurrence I sighted after getting the A7. A sign?
Double rainbow sighting after I bought my A7 – this was in fact the second rainbow occurrence I sighted after getting the A7. A sign?

OK, here’s the confession: In November of 2013, I broke down and got the Sony A7 with 28-70 kit zoom, despite my reservations about the Sony brand, intrigued by the possibilities of mounting my Leica and Voigtlander rangefinder lenses on it as a second body. I’ve never been a person who likes to change lenses, and always preferred shooting with 2 bodies. The Sony A7 was an interesting proposition. I had not put my name anywhere nor placed any deposit but when I called MS Color in the initial frenzy of the launch – there was one set available. Someone had decided to let go of his reservation.

Migrant workers at Orchard Road instead of Little India after the riots of 8th Dec.
Migrant workers at Orchard Road instead of Little India after the riots of 8th Dec.

I had never owned a Sony camera personally, nor bought anything from MS Color in over 12 years. That day, both records were broken. And one month later, the M9 has hardly come out of the bag.

For a month my new Sony A7 went with me wherever I go, high ISO ready for any situation, including personal memories of favourite people like this one.
For a month my new Sony A7 went with me wherever I go, high ISO ready for any situation, including personal memories of favourite people like this one.
Dancing queen - manually focusing using peaking was no problem for the A7.
Dancing queen – manually focusing using peaking was no problem for the A7.
Off centre focusing using M mount rangefinder lenses on a full frame sensor since the M240 - it was a breeze on the A7, and a welcome capability to complement the M9
Off centre focusing using M mount rangefinder lenses on a full frame sensor since the M240 – it was a breeze on the A7, and a welcome capability to complement the M9

There will be a full review of this full frame tiny wonder at this site for sure, (and hopefully we can get our hands on the 36 megapixel A7R too for evaluation) but right now, I’ll say this – if I didn’t have any Leica, the A7 would be my main camera, such is the ease of adapting lenses, particularly Leica lenses to it. Yes I know there are still corner smearing and colour cast issues with wide and ultra wide angle lenses, but my widest M mount lens, my most used 35mm Summarit had no major problems with it, and to me, that’s enough. Curiously though, because of the fact I love shooting with 2 bodies, I have been using the excellent Cosina Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 ASPH version 2 lens on the A7 and I’ve gotten so used to the 50mm field of view that I miss the 35mm much less now.

Helping the kids - shot with the Sony A7 and CV 50 f1.5 ASPH
Helping the kids – shot with the Sony A7 and CV 50 f1.5 ASPH
The kit lens of the Sony A7 isn't too bad, and definitely handled most situations with aplomb.
The kit lens of the Sony A7 isn’t too bad, and definitely handled most situations with aplomb.
The A7 met the prime minister of Singapore and his wife strolling down Orchard Road in an impromptu visit.
The A7 met the prime minister of Singapore and his wife strolling down Orchard Road in an impromptu visit.

The Sony A7 is the Leica M240 that I couldn’t afford (not new, anyway. My M9 was a second hand unit too) – 24 megapixels capable of ISO up to 51200 and more, high resolution EVF with excellent peaking modes for manual focusing, off centre focus magnification placement, weather sealing, small, lightweight and more importantly, allows me to use my M mount lenses. In those respects, it is more than the M240, and a perfect complement to my M9. Not to mention the great wireless options on the A7 – the picture below was uploaded directly from the camera (at the time of writing, this image was shot about a hour ago) to Flickr by connecting to a wireless hotspot:

Cute Whisky - this image was uploaded directly to Flickr from the Sony A7.
Cute Whisky – this image was uploaded directly to Flickr from the Sony A7.

To be honest, I still focus faster with the rangefinder patch of the M9 compared to peaking and I do find the images of the M9 at base and low ISOs superior still due to the lack of the AA filter, but the A7 opens up new avenues (or re-open old ones to be precise) in the area of high ISO shooting, something I was used to with Japanese DSLRs all these years.

What's in my bag mostly now - the Sony A7 with the CV 50 f1.5 and the Leica M9 with the Summarit 35mm f2.5
What’s in my bag – the Sony A7 + CV 50 f1.5 and the Leica M9 + Summarit 35mm f2.5

I’m done with cameras with these two. I think.

 

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Samyang Announces 10mm f/2.8 APS-C Ultrawide Prime Lens

Samyang 10mm f/2.8

Well, it took SOMEONE long enough. Even though it lacks autofocus and is much larger and heavier than the Nikon 20mm f/2.8 I used back in the film days, at least there is an option for those on APS-C cameras to use. Since this is a lens designed first for SLRs, it will not quite have the compact size needed for mirrorless cameras however, as the very short focal length compared to a typical SLR’s flange distance means more extensive retrofocus design is required. If it lives up to the usual Samyang reputation, expect a good lens at a decent price – the current press release is from the UK, so it carries the higher-than-average price of £470 for the Nikon version, and £430 for the other mounts, including less popular mounts like the Canon EF-M and Samsung NX.

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