Gear for Sale

End of the year means “out with the old and in with the new”. As I downsize from big Nikons to the Sony Alphas and upsize from the NEX series, I’ve got some gear to sell.

  • Nikon D600 w/24-85mm lens $1,500 (original box, etc.)
  • Nikon 18-200mm G VR $325
  • Nikon 24mm f/2.8 D $200 (original box, etc.)
  • Nikon 35mm f/2 D $250 (original box, etc.)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D $75 (original box, etc.)
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G $425 (original box, etc.)
  • Nikon 135mm f/2 DC $950 (a very unique lens!)
  • Sony NEX-7 w/18-55mm lens $850 (original box, etc.)
  • Sony 50mm f.1.8 $200
  • Really Right Stuff D600 L-bracket $120
  • Really Right Stuff D000 L-bracket $100
  • Canon S95 $150 (original box, etc.)

Sony RX1R

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In episode #5 of All About the Gear, Frederick Van Johnson and I discuss the Sony RX1R.

 

The RX1R is an awesome little camera, which I very quickly learned to love. After the Leica M-series, it’s the second full-frame mirrorless digital camera on the market. Should you rush out and buy one? No, because I think Sony is about to release even better options. Let’s start with the basics.

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Sony NEX-6 Update

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A month ago I blogged about taking the Sony NEX-6 and four lenses on a trip to Turkey. At that time there were two unresolved issues. Here’s how they worked out.

LCD Shutoff: While in Turkey, this problem became progressively worse. I often used the rear LCD tipped up 90 degrees. This allowed me to shoot from very low without having to get down onto my knees. But as the camera warmed up, particularly with the LCD set to ‘Bright’ for exterior use, I found it would shut off whenever I tipped the camera up from horizontal. If I tipped the camera down to or beyond horizontal, it worked fine. I emailed B&H from Turkey who write back, “No problem,” and as soon as I returned home, I sent it to them in exchange for a new one.

Fast forward a few weeks. The replacement NEX-6 arrives and…it has the same problem. Not only that, but so does my NEX-7!! What’s going on? A design defect?

So here’s the embarrassing truth. It was user error all along. There’s a sensor on the rear of the camera that switches between the LCD and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) when you put your eye to the EVF. I was holding the camera up against my own (too large) body, and when I tipped the camera up just slightly, the camera said to itself, “Oh, there’s a very large mass close to the EVF. I’ll switch over to that mode.” Yup, it had nothing to do with brightness, heat, attitude, etc. All I’ve had to do to solve the problem is to hold the camera two inches away from my body, and everything works fine. Oops.

18-200mm Autofocus: Immediately before the trip I bought the SEL18200LE superzoom, one of the four lenses I took on the trip. One reason I took the NEX-6 instead of the -7 is that the NEX-6 has superior phase-detection autofocus. That is, so long as the lenses support it and have been upgraded with the latest firmware.

I was able to update the firmware in my other lenses myself, but for some reason Sony requires that you send your (brand new) 18-200mm zoom back to them for this upgrade, and it takes two weeks. Since I was about to leave on the trip, I decided to wait until I got back and to suffer with the inferior autofocus when using this lens.

Now the superzoom is back, so how much difference is there? Not as much as I’d hoped. The time it takes for the lens to rack from far out-of-focus to in-focus isn’t any less. It’s still slow. At 200mm, for example, it takes a full four seconds to focus from one extreme to the other, essentially the same as before the upgrade.

[Sidebar: I have to admit that I’m horribly spoiled by the ultra-fast autofocus on my big Nikons. Using the D3s, the equivalent 28-300mm zoom at 300mm focuses from one extreme to the other in about one second. The 85mm f/1.8 does this in about 1/2 second, and the killer 70-200mm at 200mm can rack from one extreme to the other in about 1/4 second. But, of course, the battery alone in the D3s weighs almost as much as the body of the NEX-6.]

There is one improvement, however. Because of the addition of the phase-detection autofocus sensor, the lens doesn’t have to “hunt” nearly as much when it focuses. It still takes a long time to go from one extreme to the other, but once it gets to the right focus it stops there fairly quickly. And if it starts fairly close to in-focus, it does a better job than previously. Before the firmware upgrade, it would overshoot, then correct and maybe correct again while it used only contrast to determine what’s in focus. The phase-detection sensors allow the camera to predict the in-focus point and therefore minimize the overshoot. It’s still not as good in this regard as the big Nikons. The NEX-6 still scratches its head a bit, whereas the D3s virtually jumps to the perfect focus.

[Note: In addition to the lens firmware, which must show as version 02, the NEX-6 body itself must be updated to version 1.01 or later. Luckily, you can do this yourself.]

All in all, I’m now happy with the NEX-6. I’ll probably sell the NEX-7 to fund something new. I prefer the controls on the NEX-6 — I’m tired of inadvertently changing things on the -7 — and who really needs 24MP for casual use? 16MP in the NEX-6 plus the better autofocus make it my favorite in this family.

Sony NEX: The Lenses

In the first part of my review I compared the bodies of the Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7. As I mentioned then, my motivation for these reviews is to find the best way to “travel light” for a non-photographer’s trip to Turkey in June. I already own an NEX-7 with two lenses, but I wanted to (a) check out the NEX-6, and (b) find the best suite of lenses for this non-assignment. This post is all about the lenses.

Here are the six lenses I’ve used for the past four days and my comments on each:

  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. It’s a good-enough general-purpose lens, which I purchased as the kit lens for my NEX-7. Not particularly sharp and certainly slow, but it’s helped me get some decent shots over the past year.
  • 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6. This is the newer kit lens for the less-expensive NEX bodies, and it’s weird. I wasn’t impressed. It’s a pancake-style zoom and takes about two seconds to expand after the camera is switched on. Seems like forever. It also has a fly-by-wire “power” zoom control, which is great for smooth zooms in video but it has an annoying lag for still images. If you’re buying an NEX camera, I suggest you not buy this lens with it unless you try it out first.
  • 50mm f/1.8. I’ve owned this lens for the better part of a year. Even though it overlaps the 18-55mm in focal length, it’s sharper and faster than the kit lens. I pop it on when I need to grab more light (3 stops faster than the zoom), want the shallower depth of field or have time to take a more-careful shot that would benefit from a sharper lens.
  • 16mm f/2.8. An inexpensive prime, but disappointing, particularly when compared to the alternatives. The interesting thing about this lens is that you can buy two adaptors for it. One converts it into an even wider-angle lens (about a 12mm) and the other gives you a fisheye. I didn’t test with either of these adaptors, but I may do so in the next month or so.
  • 24mm f/2.8 (Zeiss). By all others’ accounts this is the killer lens for the NEX E-mount cameras. Now that I’ve tried it, I agree. Expensive ($1,100) but gorgeous. Sharp, high-contrast, minimal chromatic aberration. At a 36mm full-frame equivalency, this is a terrific lens for both general and high-res use.
  • 10-18mm f/4. This one is my new discovery. I’ve started shooting more with wide and ultra-wide lenses and this really fits that niche. At a full-frame equivalence of 15mm-27mm, it’s reminiscent of my Nikon 14-24mm f.2.8. Well, not nearly as spectacular, but the 10-18mm does a pretty good job considering its size. Still, it’s a bit larger and more expensive ($850) than most other lenses listed here. But I do like it.

Two lenses (the 16-50mm and the 16mm) didn’t make the cut. Here’s the plan for what I’ll be taking to Turkey, at least as of now:

  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 10-18mm f/4 (rented)
  • 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss (rented)
  • 50mm f/1.8

Here’s my logic. The 18-55mm is fine as a walkaround casual lens when I’m outdoors in the daytime and not in my serious-photographer role.  The wide-angle 10-18mm zoom is a perfect compliment to the kit lens with the crossover between them at 18mm (27mm full-frame equivalent). But when I move indoors, need more light and don’t want to crank up the ISO, or when I simply want to spend more time on a subject, I find I switch to the 50mm or the Zeiss 24mm primes.

The only lens I’m missing in this set is something telephoto. The 18-200mm superzooms (11x) are just too large to meet my “travel light” criterion. But with a 24MP sensor on the NEX-7 I always have the option of cropping. If I shoot at 55mm and crop 2:1, it’s the same as though I had used a 110mm lens, which is the equivalent of 165mm on a full-frame camera. And I still end up with a 6MP image, which is fine for posting online and prints up to 8×10.

If you’re thinking of buying one of these bodies or lenses (or any others for that matter) I strongly recommend renting first. Personally, I use BorrowLenses.com, but LensRentals.com and even your local camera shop are good, too. For example, the two lenses I’m taking to Turkey that I don’t already own would cost me about $2,000 total to purchase. To rent the pair for four weeks will cost me only about $225.

There are always surprises with gear. There’s always something the reviews didn’t tell you or you just missed. Rent for a 3-day weekend and it won’t cost you much. I think you’ll be glad you did.