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Sony SEL35F28Z Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA
Sony SEL35F28Z Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA
Price: $798.00
29 used & new from $669.91

36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performer with some caveats, December 10, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Using this lens on an A7 camera.

This is an initial assessment, as I've only owned the lens/camera combo for a few days now. But I feel I've taken enough shots to give a reasonable first impression.

First, I find the build quality quite high. The lens feels sturdy, and is made of metal. The fact that it's weather sealed is a bonus that cannot be ignored in this area as well. The focusing ring moves smoothly, and is just shy of being too stiff, which is to say the action is very good but not excellent (for me). Lens hood is well-designed, and its diminutive size keeps you from ever wanting to remove it.
On the A7, this lens is extremely compact, and the couple compares favorably to say, an Olympus E-M1 with the 17mm f1.8 lens. Given this fact, I don't mind that the widest aperture is only 2.8.

The autofocus of the lens is quite fast. While I don't have anything to compare it to on the A7, I will say that in congress, the couple makes quite the speedy pair, especially in good light. When things get dim, it tends to hunt just a bit more, but really not too much. Compared to an Oly E-M5 with the 17mm 1.8, the combo is a bit slow, but not so much that I'm particularly worried about it.

I find the resolution of the lens to be excellent. The center is already very, very good from 2.8, and stopping down to f4 brings it tack sharp. The edges are slightly behind, but not by much, and stopping down will yield very sharp images across the frame.

The vignetting characteristic of the lens is a little on the high side at f2.8 for a lens in this category for this cost, but this doesn't really bother me much, as it is easily corrected in post, and if you stop down the problem is significantly decreased by f4, and is no longer an issue at all by 5.6.

Overall, I would probably have considered giving this lens 5 stars were it not for a couple of things.

One is the price. I think it's a little high for this type of lens. If this were a 1.4, or even a 1.8, then I could stomach it a little easier. As it is, I'm certainly not sad I bought it because of this fact.

The other is that there is an issue with color shifting on this lens. It doesn't happen in every situation, and I have only experienced it a couple of times. This is not the same as normal CA, as it shows up as a larger swath, if you will. From what I can tell, it's a bit like a rainbow effect you might see in a water droplet. For me it showed up on the edges of some fluorescent lighting under which I was shooting. It's hard to explain, but I will try to update with more info as time goes on. If you are interested in more information about the issue, has a short article discussing the issue, which is where I first learned about it, and then I noticed the issue in some of the shots I took today.

NOW, this issue does not really affect me, as I am almost strictly a b&w shooter. However, this could be a HUGE issue for someone shooting in color (and honestly could cause issues with b&w conversion, if you raise saturation on a particular color type for your photographs), so I highly recommend looking up the issue before you buy.

Since the lens has this issue, there is no way in good conscience I could give it 5 stars. Realistically, I think if I didn't shoot strictly b&w, this would be a much larger issue for me and I might even drop the lens to 3 stars.

So be aware! Who knows if this is something that can be fixed with firmware, or if (god forbid) this is an issue with the sensor itself (which would suck).

In the end, for me, this is a 4 star lens from which I have already gotten some stellar images. Coupled with the A7, it creates a compact street photography monster, with incredible resolution and, I think, a wonderful character, along with being just an incredibly small and light kit (just astonishing that a ff cam/lens combo can be this small and light).

Again, I will update as time goes on. Thanks for reading!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2014 6:34 PM PST

Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 - Black
Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 - Black
Price: Click here to see our price
79 used & new from $9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic mouse for the price, November 16, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I recently purchased a Macbook, and posted a rating for the Apple magic mouse I subsequently bought (now returned).

As far as I can tell, so far, there are really no cons to this mouse, so here's the good stuff:

-Comfortable: Though the mouse is incredibly small, it's also a good shape, and fits my (size large) hands just fine. Very comfortable to use.
-Laser: This thing tracks on just about anything, which is really a boon when you take your laptop everywhere. I can't say enough about the tracking of this mouse. For the price, it's insanely good.
-Battery life: Is fantastic so far. I leave it on by accident all the time, and it's still going strong on the first battery after 2 months. Time will tell if it gets the battery life advertised here, but I will update if it suddenly dies or the battery life is somehow much different than advertised.
-Cheap: Really for the price, I feel like I got a great product. Unless it breaks suddenly in the next year, I don't feel I spent too much on this at all. In contrast, the Apple magic mouse (which this mouse won out against) is $70, and for me, doesn't work as well. So yeah, $16 feels pretty great.

All in all, I would highly recommend this mouse.

Apple Magic Mouse
Apple Magic Mouse
Offered by DataVision Computer Video
Price: $72.99
170 used & new from $29.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, but not for me, November 16, 2013
Having just bought a Mac, for the first time in my life, I was excited at all the new possibilities, what with accessories and a unified system. I was especially excited when I read about the magic mouse, and talked to people about it. It seemed like the ultimate mouse, really. So I happily picked one up at a local store and got to 'mousing around'. Sadly, after a couple of days, I decided it was not the mouse for me. The reason it still gets 4 stars from me is because obviously the design flaw (as I see it) is not going to affect everyone, and will affect everyone differently.
First let me say the good things:

-Bluetooth: I love this. Never had a bluetooth mouse before, and I love not having to mess with some dongle to get it going. Just turn it on, pair it and go. I can't speak to battery life, having not owned the mouse long, but I imagine it's reasonably good with 2 AA's. Thank god they are included at this price.
-Form factor: As everything else with Apple, this mouse is a thing of beauty. High style, minimalistic, beautiful.
-Intuitive: I love that you just move your finger along its 'spine' to scroll the page. The left and right click are separated well, and I rarely had an instance where I made a mistake by clicking too far over on either side (so that the mouse thought it was the wrong click), but it did happen.
-Accuracy: Really pretty darned accurate. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was more (or equally as) accurate than the mouse I ended up staying with (microsoft wireless mobile mouse 3500), but it works well enough.

Now the bad:

-Form factor: As gorgeous as the mouse is, I found it a little uncomfortable to use. I didn't really dock its score for this though, because I'm sure everyone feels differently based on their particular hand type, and no mouse is ever going to please everyone in this way. However I will say that if the mouse were humped more, I think it would be far more comfortable, and more comfortable for a greater variety of people.
-Design flaw: In my (very, very humble) opinion, the design of this mouse is flawed. What Apple has done is to place the optical sensor at the very front of the mouse, due to the battery compartment largely taking up the center of the mouse on the bottom. However, this (again, to ME) creates an annoying problem. I'm used to moving a mouse a certain way, and with the sensor at the front of the mouse, it didn't register my movements the way I was used to, as often I will move the mouse by the back end (with my whole hand still on the mouse, I move the back end, while the front stays relatively still). On this mouse, that creates an issue where I thought the mouse was going to move but it didn't. Again, for ME, this is a real issue that led to my decision to return it and continue to use the microsoft mouse (which works incredibly well, is more comfortable, and tracks better overall, not just because the laser is placed in a more reasonable position). It's hard to explain, but I hope I've done a reasonable job.

At any rate, I would probably give the mouse 3.5 stars if it were possible. But I feel comfortable going to 4 instead of 3, mostly because my main issue with the mouse may not be an issue at all for someone else.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ Lens V314040BU000
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ Lens V314040BU000
Offered by DavisMAX
Price: $374.95
35 used & new from $229.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A for functionality, C for IQ/Aperture, September 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
When this lens was first released, it kind of took a pounding from review sites, due to its optical limitations. While these critiques were certainly justified, I think it important to weigh these concerns with the usability that this lens provides for the casual user.

In my personal usage, I find the optics of this lens to be acceptable. At 12mm, optics are not bad. Right from 3.5 the lens is reasonably sharp, and only sharpens up a little on stopping down. This lens will not compare to the Oly 12mm prime, and as well it should not. In my personal opinion, I find the Oly 14-42 sharper at 14mm than this lens is at 12mm, which you can argue as a fault if you wish, but the fact remains that the 14-42 simply does not go to 12mm, so this comparison is relatively moot.
At 50mm, this lens is sub-par at best. I personally do not use the 50mm setting unless I feel I have to, to get a shot that otherwise I could not. For me this is the weakest point of the lens, and almost makes the extended range of the lens pointless. But I tend to shoot wider in general, so this doesn't bother me as much as it might some others. And it's there if you need it.
At the 43mm macro setting, optics are actually quite decent. Showing macro pics made with this lens to friends and family has yielded exclamations over the incredible sharpness. While any photographer worth his/her salt knows this to be only because certain people don't know any better, I think it's also a point for the lens in that it can produce images of high enough quality as to impress the casual viewer. Is it a bummer that your aperture starts at f6 when in macro mode? Yes, BUT often macro photogs are stopping down to at least f6 anyway, if not f8 or even f11. And it doesn't really get any sharper stopping down from f6, so it's nice that you're getting the best of the lens at its max aperture for that setting.
Other things like chromatic aberration and distortion are present, and I find the CA to be on the high side but nothing you can't fix in post. Perhaps you shouldn't have to fix things like that in post, but I think the manufacturing of m43 lenses in general is relying more on in-camera and post fixes, so you will often find these issues in much more expensive models that have very little of the capability of this lens. For me the distortion is acceptable.

Here is where the lens shines, and what pushes this 2.5-3-star lens into 4-star territory. First of all, the range. Where else can you get the range of this lens in the m43 selection (NOT including the 43 lens selection, as I am well aware of the excellent 12-60)? Nowhere. There is no equal to this lens in terms of focal range. None. This is a big deal for the walk-around photog who is not interested in selling their prints or being particularly serious with their work. As a travel photography lens, there simply is no equal. And it's not just the range that's important here. There are two other things that make this lens a necessity in the bag of the walk-around travel/enthusiast photog.
One is the weather sealing. You can get this lens and the E-M5 (or the new E-M1, or the Panasonic GH3), and have a fully weather sealed package for travel/basically everything. For 80% of situations, short of needing longer telephoto for birding/animal photography, this lens will be your go-to. And when you put it on a weather sealed camera, you really don't have to worry about anything either. I simply cannot overstate the advantage such a thing provides.
Two is the macro feature. Not only does the lens seem to perform at its best at the 43mm macro setting (certainly up for debate, just my opinion based on my experience), but the fact that it even has this setting at all sets it apart from every other lens in the kit/walk-around lens category. It is a wonderful boon to have a feature such as this in a lens with this range, and allows for a lens that really is the 'total package' for the general photographer.
So the sheer usability of this lens cannot be overstated.

Build quality of my copy is good, though not necessarily fantastic. The zoom ring isn't the smoothest, and feels a little 'grindy' on turning, but I've read others stating the same, so I think this is just the way it's built, which doesn't really bother me. The fact that the lens doesn't have a clear 'hard stop' at either end of the zoom range can be disconcerting, but once you get used to it, it's easy to notice by feel where the zoom stops at either end. The movement of the zoom ring for macro/power zoom modes (I've not used the power zoom on it) works quite well, and it's nice to be able to just snap it in to 43mm f6 macro quickly and easily whenever you see a macro target.

The size of the lens is really not an issue. Even though it's bigger than other kit lenses, and doesn't have a 'collapseable' mode, it really is relatively small and extremely lightweight.

As far as the price goes, I think it's high at $500. Even though this lens does *everything*, with the optical shortcomings, along with the rather slow aperture at the long end, I don't think it quite warrants that kind of price tag. Were it a 5.6 at the long end, and had slightly better performance there, I'd feel a little better about it. I personally bought the lens used, and couldn't be happier with the price I paid ($260 w/shipping). I think new, the lens would be much better priced at around $400 (or even $349), and it may go down to this price eventually. My suggestion though is to find a used one, as most people just read reviews and get rid of the lens before they even have the time to come to love it.

In conclusion, I don't really have a hesitation placing a 4-star rating on this lens. If I could give it a more detailed rating, I might end up with a 3.75, as the optics and aperture definitely hold it back. That said, the sheer usability, again, cannot be overstated, and if I had to rate the lens on usability, it would easily be a 5, if not a 6.
As long as you don't expect miracles from this lens, know what you're getting into when you buy it, and honestly give it a shot, I think you'll find its merits outweigh its shortcomings.

Shimano XT RD-M786-SGS Shadow Direct Mount Rear Derailleur, Silver
Shimano XT RD-M786-SGS Shadow Direct Mount Rear Derailleur, Silver
Price: $91.99
10 used & new from $91.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Shadow Plus is worth it, September 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've read people saying that a Shimano derailleur with Plus technology is pretty much a Sram derailleur. I've ridden both, and while I think this is funny and mildly accurate, I don't think it tells the whole story. I find the Plus technology exceptional. I've never ridden a derailleur that moves less than this one (including Sram x0). It's absolutely awesome. It's very confidence inspiring, and I personally don't use chain guides (nor do I want to), so this is a must.
Before I bought it I read all the complaints about how much more difficult the shifting is with Plus engaged. Seriously? Yes, it's a *little* more difficult. But come on people, get over it. While it's noticeable, it's anything but a burden. And it's more than worth it for the benefit.
As far as everything else goes, at $70 (the version I bought, long cage), like the XT front derailleur, there's really no reason you shouldn't own this derailleur. It's worth every penny, and will have you happier than you have been on the trail with very little investment.
Smooth shifting, Plus technology, great price, awesome buy.

Shimano XT FD-M785 10-speed Mountain Bike Front Derailleur (Double)
Shimano XT FD-M785 10-speed Mountain Bike Front Derailleur (Double)
Price: $43.22
22 used & new from $33.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Works great, reasonably priced, September 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
At $42 (at the time of this writing), there's really no reason to not buy this derailleur. It's absolutely solid, and is probably the best you'll get for the price. Not much to say other than it performs as it should, and is worth every penny.

Fox Racing Shox Float CTD Boost Valve w/ Trail Adjust Rear Shock 2014 (LV) (7.5 x 2.0)
Fox Racing Shox Float CTD Boost Valve w/ Trail Adjust Rear Shock 2014 (LV) (7.5 x 2.0)
Offered by Wholesale MX
Price: $450.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy upgrade, September 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My bike (GT Sensor 9r Comp) came with an X-Fusion rear shock. While I didn't mind it really, there is no comparison. Firstly this shock has multiple settings; the X-Fusion only one. Second the shock simply performs incredibly. It is as smooth as it gets, yet stiff enough to make climbing a breeze. I leave it in the 'Trail' setting for the majority of any particular ride, and it works for 90% of the terrain. If the climb gets really steep, or if I'm cruising up a fire road where it's smooth, I'll snap it into 'Climb' mode, which stiffens it up significantly. If the downhill I'm tackling is real rocky or has some larger drop-offs, I'll snap it into 'Descend', which plushes it up just perfectly.
As for the Kashima coating, I can't really say whether or not it's worth it. I've been riding for about 12 years, and I've ridden lots of different shocks on a variety of bikes in that time. I would say, if memory serves, that in comparison to the best shocks I've ridden (and Fox RP23 is one), this one is smoother. If I had to say whether or not it was worth it, I would say you'd have to make your own decision. If you have the money, then it's worth it. If you don't, then it probably doesn't matter enough to really save up for it.

Ride safe!

Walking Dead Season 3 [HD]
Walking Dead Season 3 [HD]
Price: $41.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just keeps getting worse, April 17, 2013
This show started out great, but has devolved into a melodramatic, intellectually vacant suck-fest. The writing has gone seriously downhill, and the show plods along at a ridiculous pace. Oh and by the way, who cares about the zombies anymore? They're not even taken seriously at this point. The finale of the 3rd season was so god awful that I don't know if I can even bring myself to give the 4th season a chance.
Read the graphic novel instead. Or, if you want a real show, with great acting and incredible script work, and run by people who understand pacing, climax, subtlety, flare, and dramatis, watch Game of Thrones. Not this drivel.

Pentax K-5 IIs 16.3 MP DSLR Body Only (Black)
Pentax K-5 IIs 16.3 MP DSLR Body Only (Black)
Offered by Sunset Electronics
Price: $694.83
20 used & new from $639.00

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I finally found love, April 6, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As silly as the title of this review may be, it's absolutely true.

I've been through quite a few cameras: Nikon D5000, D300s, D600. Canon T2i, 5d II. Panasonic G5, GX1. Olympus EP-2, E-PL2, OM-D. I've also owned various lenses for the above-mentioned cameras, many of them very nice. But all of those cameras and lenses are now gone. Selling and buying a new system can be very taxing, both financially and emotionally, and it was the same when I decided to try Pentax. I remember the day I found this camera online; I just wasn't satisfied with my setup (at the time using both the D600 and OM-D) for whatever reason. It's hard to explain. I have gone through various states of enjoyment in the usage of many of the mentioned cameras, and the D600 and OM-D are both great in their own right (I really did enjoy my OM-D). Absolutely. But I just didn't LOVE them.
So as I'm scouring the internet, searching for who knows what, I finally realize I've never given Pentax a chance. So I click on over to the Pentax website and see the K-5 II. Looks simplistic enough, but it's very small and looks as though it's got a good feel. Then I see the K-5 IIs, sans AA filter, and immediately go: SOLD. I then look at the lens line, and availability of lenses on Amazon and elsewhere and I'm not super impressed compared to other manufacturers (at least for the newer stuff). But I decide, to heck with it. I'm getting one.
Best decision about photography gear I've made in my life.

The first, and best, thing about this camera, and the thing I'll keep repeating is this: it just makes SENSE. From the button layout to the way it feels in your hand to the size to the menus, the camera just makes SENSE. I've had so many moments (more with certain manufacturers than others) that just made me go "Why in the heck did they do it that way instead of this other way??". How many times have I asked that of this camera? Zero. It's so easy and quick to change the settings I use most it's almost obscene. The best I can say about it is that it doesn't even feel like a camera. It feels like a companion, or an extension of myself; one that is working with me, helping me to accomplish my goal, which is simply to make great images and absolutely enjoy doing it. And I was able to have this experience right from jump. I picked it up, put a lens on it, and started shooting, and the camera answered all my questions. I don't think I looked at the manual one time.

#2 is that this camera takes fantastic images. The dynamic range is truly astounding, and I've taken shots that actually look like HDR shots without doing anything to them in post. I've recovered detail from absolutely BLACK portions of a shot, where I was flabbergasted to find that there was actually something there. It's amazing what you can pull out of these raw files, truly.
Obviously the images are very detailed as well, which is an effect of the missing AA filter, and a welcome one. In all the shots I've taken so far with it (I've yet to use it for a wedding, however), which is probably around 4k, I've yet to experience a hint of moire anywhere. So if that's what's stopping you from getting this camera, don't let it.
Don't believe me? Go on over to dxomark and compare this camera's sensor to ALL other Canon sensors and see what you get. Trust me, revelations are waiting. Nikon has some of the best sensors in digital right now, and this camera is right there with them.

#3 is that the AF system really isn't as bad as everyone makes it. I'd say it's better than my 5d II was, but not by a lot. I shot a hockey game in low light with a Sigma 50-150 2.8, and this camera did just fine. Is it a speed demon? Nope. But never during that event did I find myself wishing for a faster AF. And it will focus in EXTREMELY low light, which is a bonus if you ask me.

#4 is the portability factor. The size of this camera is fantastic. Perfect. Just verging on too small, but not jumping the line. I've got fairly large hands (large glove size), and I have no trouble with holding or using the camera. You can change pertinent settings with one hand if need be, and the camera is light enough that you can shoot with it all day and not worry about it. Sure, my OM-D trumped it for portability, but certainly not for ergonomics! This camera has the perfect combination of good ergonomics and portability. For me it was nice to get a camera that was somewhere between the D600 and OM-D that I had.

Negatives? Well, the newer Pentax lenses have lots of SDM problems, and in general aren't the fastest focusing lenses on the planet. That said, my Sigma lenses are great (the 50-150 focuses quite quickly). And Pentax does have some pretty stellar prime lenses to choose from. Their lenses are generally more contrasty than other manufacturers, which can make shots 'pop'. So while there are some issues with the lens lineup, there are various ways to fill these problem areas. And every manufacturer has issues somewhere in their lens lineup.
Also, 1/180 flash sync could be much better. This seems an odd thing to not address.
I don't believe the camera supports UHS-1 speed cards either, which is another oddity that makes very little sense.

However none of these negatives can overcome the sheer usability of the camera, and the absolutely fantastic level of enjoyment I get out of using it. I can't imagine anyone who truly loves photography being disappointed with this camera.

I'm certainly glad I took that pit stop on Pentax Imaging that day.

(Update May 25, 2013)

Well I've now been using this camera almost 4 months. Not much has changed from my original assessment, if anything. It remains an absolutely fabulous camera, with incredible image quality, that is just incredibly user friendly. I can't recommend this camera highly enough. While the lens situation can sometimes be odd (and Pentax just raised the price of a bunch of them, which sucks), Pentax still makes some of the best primes on the planet, and you can always get sdm motors repaired should they happen to fail on lenses like the 17-70mm f4. Or just buy Sigma like I did. Whatever lenses you choose to use, rest assured that the K-5 IIs will absolutely make the best of them. Still highly, highly recommended.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2013 8:26 AM PST

Stofen Omni-Bounce unit for the SB600 OM-600 flash diffuser
Stofen Omni-Bounce unit for the SB600 OM-600 flash diffuser
Offered by 17th Street Photo
Price: $9.99
12 used & new from $9.56

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, cheap, January 9, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This thing is super cheap, and works exactly as it should. Harsh shadows are evened out (enough to where it greatly improves your photos), and it slides easily onto the flash. Honestly, I have a Gary Fong diffuser which cost 10x the price and it doesn't work any better than this.

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