3 weeks with the Sony A7MII - A Brief Comparison with Fuji XT1, Nikon D610, Sony RX100MIII

Well it has been just over three weeks since I got my paws on the Sony A7MII and I am very very pleased with this little camera! Over the last few years I have had numerous camera(s) and setups and I currently have 3 (4 including the RX100MIII) different systems that I am alternating through.. I really do not like this and I am going to have to par down the gear and get more use out of the gear that really clicks for me. As of now, I am invested in Nikon FX with one body left (D610) and a handful of my favourite glass. I also am into Fuji with a XT1 and a few Fuji lenses right now. Now I have my A7MII and the 35mm 2.8 as well as the kit 28-70 lens.

This review is not a regular review of just the camera (there are dozens of great product reviews online), it is about how it works for me and compares to my other systems. The camera industry is going through some major changes with the onset of the mirror-less or compact systems making huge headway against the DSLR’s. When I am selecting a camera the first thing that is important to me is the image quality, then the build and quality of the product and last is the feel or inspiration that the product gives me to want to go make pictures. So basically for me there are 3 very simple categories to take into account.

Image Quality from camera bodies only (with comparable lenses mounted): My Nikon D610 wins this one only marginally over the Sony a7MII followed by the Fuji XT1 and then the Sony RX100MIII. Now do make note that both the Nikon and the Sony have a full frame sensor and the Fuji is a aps-c sized sensor while the Sony RX100MIII is a even smaller 1in type sensor. So this is no surprise. The only complaint I have with any of the gear I have is Adobe Lightroom’s ability to support the Fuji X Trans files. It is a big enough issue that is effecting enough people that I think Adobe really needs to step up and fix the issue.

Build Quality: Hmmm this is a tough one. In reality all 4 of the cameras are very well built and seem to share good design and similar quality. Getting nit picky I think that the Fuji actually seems the most well built minus the silly SD card door. The Nikon looks and feels the toughest, while the Sony A7MII would probably take third place in this one. I haven’t had a chance to really get the Sony into some nasty environments yet so maybe it will step up to what I have put the Nikon or even the Fuji through. All three cameras really do well in this category and there is really nothing that stands out to put one above or below the other. The only complaint I have with all 4 of the cameras is on the RX100MIII and that is it is almost to small for my big fingers, which goes against what it is designed for (to be small).

Inspiration: The Fuji XT1 crushes this one then the Sony A7MII then the Nikon D610 and the Sony RX100MIII in last. There is something about the Fuji that just makes you want to get creative and make wonderful pictures and I am not sure how to explain that other it feels better then all my other systems.

Sony a7MII
- Great image quality (2nd to D610)
- Small, light and easy to take everywhere
- Well built

- Lack of lenses
- Noisiest cheapest sounding shutter smack

Fuji XT1
- Good image quality (3rd place)
- Small and light
- Very well built and inspiring to use

- Adobe Lightroom lack of support for x trans files
- SD card door seems like weakest point in the camera (cheap)

Nikon D610
- Best image quality (1st place)
- Tough and robust
- Tons of lenses to chose from

- Bigger and heavier
- Not stealthy (stands out)

Sony RX100MIII
- Small and light (smallest by far)
- Okay image quality for a P+S

- Almost to small (especially with gloves on)

I started out writing a A7MII review and really ended up just comparing it to my other systems, which is what I am currently doing. I think one system needs to go….

Here are a few images from the Sony A7MII over the last few weeks:-)

Book One

I have finally finished my first photo book! It has been a long process starting with selecting the images to getting it finished up and published. I am super excited to offer both a hard copy coffee table book as well as a more modern ebook. The price for the ebook is less then 25% the cost of the coffee table book. You can order the book directly from the link below. When you place your order the book is then printed on demand. It is much better then having a large inventory of books. See the link in the side panel to the store as well as the link below:-)
Here is the link for the ebook version: http://store.blurb.ca/ebooks/515999-book-one

Another Year

Wow! I cannot believe how fast this past year has gone. With work, travel and regular life, it has seemed to fly by faster then I would of liked. With a start of a New Year most people sum up their highlights from this past year with things or achievements they are proud of. Then once you have figured out all the things you have done you then set upon looking to new goals for the next year, which you can present the following year and so on and so on. In other words “do do do, buy, do some more, buy some more, do do do”. Most of us live a busy life and I am equally busy as I cannot help that I am passionate about so many things. I feel that as we age, this routine will only get worse as the years will all seem to blend and blur together and I fear that.

I can easily get into a fast paced routine of pounding through the everyday life always looking to whats next and looking ahead. I did a lot of stuff this past year, all of which I am proud of. My business grew substantially, I travelled, I exercised, I photographed and most importantly, I lived. Looking back I would not change or add anything and for next year my goal is only to do what I do, but do it BETTER. I do not need to do more, work more or exercise more, but what I do need to do is to do it better than I have this past year. I am going to make a strong effort to be who I am and to be more committed to the task or thing that I am doing at that time rather then having 27 things on my mind and thinking ahead to what may be next.

I also need to absorb more of the things I do. With a fast paced “do, do, do” life you never seem to absorb more than a small percent of whatever you are doing. For me, there are two things that help me not only slow down but help me take in all that is in the moment, Photography and my wife. Photography has taught me that is hard to take pictures whilst running (unless you are going for a blurry effect, in which case it is still relevant). You need to slow down your movement and be in the moment to press that into a frame. My wife has one of the best “be in the moment” personalities of any person that I have ever met. She has and still is teaching me how to un plug from my life and be in that moment in time. It is not something I find easy to do, but I need to work at.

I leave you with a best wish for the new year!

2014 December Rockies Trip

From December 1st to the 11th I spent everyday in the Rocky Mountains climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, exploring and immersing myself into the landscape around me. We filled every single day with early mornings and beautiful views, although it is hard to get a bad view of the Rockies.. :-)

Here is a outline with photos of my trip with photos below.

Day 1 - Arrive in Calgary and drive to the first mountain the you really get to see on route to the Bow Valley, Yamnuska. The area had just received a good amount of snow and the temperatures were matching standard winter temps, so we didn’t know what to expect other then be prepared for everything. We left the car around 3pm and hiked up the standard route on the SE side of Yam. The going was good as snowshoe tracks had already been up to the tree line. Leaving the tree line we ditched the Snowshoes and with Ice axes in hand made our way up the talus and scree slopes towards the summit. We were chasing the last bit of light in the sky and really needed to just stretch our legs after a day of flying and traveling. We made it back to the car with only about 30 min of headlamp time, so that was good. Dinner was well deserved and at the Grizzly Paw.

Day 2 - The first few days we were lucky to stay at Ryan Atkins girlfriends sisters fiancee’s house (wow thats a mouthful). I am very thankful for them to offer up their spare bedroom for a few nights:-).
Today we decided to head towards Lake Louise and figured we could spend the day exploring my old stomping ground. We pointed our snowshoes towards Mt. St Piran and once we got to tree line we were stopped quickly as the Avalanche hazard was very high. With all of the fresh snow that the area had received over the past weekend and onto a weak layer of hoar frost from Nov. 6th, the snow was sliding very easily. We did a quick snow pit test and given the conditions we decided to turn around and go somewhere else. We ended up traversing over to the Plain of the Six Glaciers where we were greeted to close up views of Ptarmigans and Mountain Goats. We also witnessed a very large avalanche rip down the face on Mt. Lefroy. We ended doing about 18km in total of shoeing today.

Day 3 - With all the deep snow around and the avalanche hazards very high we were somewhat uneasy travelling in serious avalanche terrain as there were still natural slides happening and very high potential for human triggered slides. We headed up the Ice Fields parkway to Helen Lake and ultimately Cirque Peak. We knew that there was a good chance we would’t make it to the top of the peak, but with all the fresh snow it was magnificent just being out there! Again we were lucky to have some snowshoe tracks 5km of the way in and up to tree line. After that we had to traverse some avalanche terrain towards Helen Lake. Most of the potential slides had already slid and that was a relief as the going was tough and the snow was very deep. We took turns breaking trail for 400m sections in waist deep powder. We made it just above Helen Lake and once again were turned around as we would of had to cross a heavily loaded slope to gain the summit ridge. Never the less the views were unreal and was worth the effort to just be the only ones out here. We made it back to the car after roughly 6hrs and 17km.

Day 4 - We met up with a new friend, Simon Donato. We went for a full day of fat biking and did a tour of Mt Rundle. We rode to Banff for lunch and back to Canmore. It was super fun riding a 5 inch tire in the snow! We did roughly 60km before we had to return the rental bikes at sundown.

Day 5 - After yesterday’s big ride and a week filled with kcals burned we opted for a close and easy day before we headed into the backcountry of Yoho tomorrow. We did a quick hike/run up Ha Ling and were treated to wonderful views of Canmore and the Bow Valley.

Day 6 - Today we headed into Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Lake O’Hara is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Canadian Rockies, anytime of the year. It is so beautiful that in the summer they have a bus service that goes the 12km into the lake from the highway to control the amount of people that visit it. In the winter the road is closed and is mainly used by skiers. We skied into the Lake with our packs loaded for the night. We set camp and began exploring the area until sundown. We were sound asleep by 7pm and fell into a sleep that would last 13hrs!

Day 7 - We awoke to world class views of the Lake O’Hara region. We made breakfast and went for a ski across the lake hoping for a beautiful sunrise and it was worth the scurry hurry to get out because it was gorgeous! We did a bit of exploring before breaking camp and heading back to the car. The ski out was fast and fun. When we got to the car we made a quick drive into Lake Louise for coffee, sandwich and a treat. After that we headed to the parking lot for Takakaw Falls as this was our next destination. We skied the 14km into the campground in around 3hrs taking turn breaking trail for most of it. There was no sign of anyone and we had the entire area to ourself. We set up camp in the cook shelter, got a fire going and as soon as the cabin warmed up the roof started to leak a nasty brown water that was melting from the roof. It was super gross and was staining our gear and covering everything. I quickly opted to go step up the tent in the event that the dripping did not stop and almost exactly after I got the tent set up, Ryan announced that the dripping stopped… Never the less it was a great sleep in a warm cabin, especially in a -29 sleeping bag. Although most of the day was cloudy, the stars managed to come out for a bit before we went to bed and I got out to grab a few photos pf the moonlit sky before it clouded in again.

Day 8 - We awoke to grey skies and warmer temps. We made the quick 2 hr ski back to the car, which was made much much easier because we had broke the trail the day before. We again drove Lake Louise and had grabbed some good food and coffee before heading back down towards Canmore. We had a few hours of daylight left and decided to make a quick run up Heart Mountain. With the warmer days some of the snow had started to melt and especially the mountains in the front ranges, which made the going much easier. We hit the top of ridge as the sun had already gone over the range to the West and took a couple quick pics before the fun run down. The next few nights we were again lucky to have a friend offer up their place for us to stay at, as they were out of town (thanks Simon!).

Day 9 - Hmmm what did we do today…? Oh ya, we made our way down to Kananaskis Country. We decided to head towards Mt Fortulent, which is across Spray Lake and accessed from Shark Mountain. We walked across the frozen ice to the base of the mountain and made our way up the South ridge towards the first summit (Mt Fortune) and in 80km/hr winds continued up to the summit of Fortulent. This peak was uber rad as I never had been here before which made it that much cooler! It was awesome. On the decent we ran into a group of Big Horned Sheep that were wondering what the heck we were doing out there.

Day 10 - Today was Ryan’s last day here and he had to be at the airport for 5pm. We again headed down to K - Country and this time hoped for good going and safe terrain on Grizzly Peak. After 500m of ascent and just above tree line we were once again turned around due to sketchy terrain and loaded slopes that were just waiting for a trigger. We enjoyed the view at our turn around point and made our way back down to the car. After dropping Ryan off at the airport I had a great visit with friends in Calgary.

Day 11 - This was now my last day of the trip and I wanted to fill it with as much as possible. I woke up early and headed up the Ice Fields Parkway to Peyto Lake hoping to catch the morning light rays hitting the peaks and instead I was greeted to snowy skies and 20cm of fresh snow. I did a quick snowshoe before heading back down to the clear skies over the town of Banff. With only a couple hours before I was due at the airport I decided to make a quick run up Sulphur Mountain and upon reaching the top I was greeted with blue skies. The trail up Sulphur is a great 6km one way route up to a great view of the peaks around. After a brief visit at observation station for a bit I made it back to the car in roughly 90mins (car to car). I finished stuffing my bags in the Canmore visitor centre’s parking lot (it was the only dry ground I could find to lay the duffel bags out) I was tired and excited to see my wife Eden and dog Rambo that were back home.

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