Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Oh dear. Got a puncture already

 Very disappointed to find that I had a puncture and several holes in the inflatable kayak only four weeks after buying it. I don't think I've been treating it that roughly. Yes I have been dragging it up on sandy beaches, but only on smooth sand. And the holes are not on the bottom of the kayak but two on the side, and the puncture is on the top of the air chamber right under where I paddle. I can only guess that I must have clipped it accidentally with the paddle or a fingernail - which is odd because it was fine when I took it out of the water, but had a puncture when I unpacked if to hose it down after we got home. The puncture and some other cracks are in places where I fold the boat to put it in the bag. Maybe that's what's happened. Anyhow I've patched it up with a tiny coin-size bit of PVC from the repair kit - but probably should have used a much larger credit vard sized patch after seeing an official video on how to repair these things.

To test it out I took the KXOne Slider out to Rose Bay by public transport - on the train to Circular Quay then ferry. Paddled out to Milk Beach on a grey windy day then over to Shark Island - not very far. Was terrified that I'd spring a puncture, even though I was never too far from the shore - and the harbour was pretty calm. Explored the island for a bit then headed back to Miulk Beach and round to Nielsen Park again. Finished off by paddling over to Watsons Bay. Got some bemused looks from the diners at Doyles when I beached in front of them and deflated the kayak. Packed up and ready to board the ferry withing 15 minutes!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Kayaking to Cockatoo Island on the KXOne Slider 410

 Perfect conditions for paddling today - at least in the morning. Sunny, 25 degrees and hardly a breath of wind. I took the kayak down to Leichardt Park, which is only 10 minutes drive away and on the shore of the harbour (Iron Cove to be precise). After a coffee at Le Montage, I set the ZXOne Slider 410 up in about 10 minutes on a jetty. As you'll see on the video, I've done  a few 'mods' - I attach my waterproof bag and the paddle to the boat by bunjee clips. I also have an iPhone holder, though I don;t use it much as the clear plastic is a bit foggy.

So on a typical day out like today I bring the following: 2 bottles of water, sunscreen, a towel, spare clothes in case I get soaked, wallet, phone, GoPro (with head attachment) - and some snax. That's about it, really, apart from the obvious stuff - wide brimmed hat, sunnies on a cord, waterproof watch...

So I set off about ten, and it was perfect conditions - the bay like a millpond. Paddled round Rodd Island but didn't land as there was no boat ramp, only a jetty. Looked like there wasn't much there anyway apart from an empty government building. The website says a landing fee of $7 is payable. Hmmm, maybe next time.  Lots of jellyfish in the bay around the island - I paddled on along the western side at about the same speed as the many walkers doing the bay circuit - and under Iron Cove Bridge. Past the busy Birkenhead Point shopping mall (I'd rather be on the water, thanks) and also past a marina with its own marine gas station. Not many boaties about though. The hop over to Cockatoo Island wasn't that far - only took me 10 minutes or so in these ideal quiet conditions. A couple of motorboats and yachts passing by but no big ferries and their wash to worry about.

I passed Snapper Island on the way to Cockatoo - another government facility but the single building there looks run down and decrepit. I had been thinking of visiting the nearby  Spectacle Island, a former naval base, but that's still a navy storage facility and off limits.

And so to Cockatoo Island - the south side is a boatyard, with boats big and small in storage - they even have a massive fork lift truck to pick up motorboats and stack them on shelves. I paddled round clockwise to the western side, where there were a couple of boat ramps. One is off limits and looks very neglected - it 'houses' an old wooden junk being renovated. The left hand ramp is operational, and I went in there, thankful to see there were few oyster shell encrusted rocks or walls.  I beached the kayak alongside two others and slipping on the slimy concrete, and went off to explore the island - and its many shipbuilding relics. 

One unexpected problem I encountered with an inflatable kayak - at least in Australia - is how to leave it out in the direct sun when you want to go off exploring. As any car owner knows, in the harsh antipodean sun it doesn't take long for surfaces to heat up to cooking point and there is a danger of excess pressure and bursting a chamber. At Cockatoo Island I was able to drag the kayak into the shade of a wall, but I think this could be a problem on an exposed shoreline, so next time I might pack a light sheet  - or even a silver 'space blanket' to cover the boat with. 

I won't go into detail about all the Cockatoo Island attractions, you can read about them in the guidebooks. Needless to say, it's an interesting historic site that only stopped building boats in the late 80s. There are still some nice houses and buildings there, as well as all the tourist facilities - campsite, two nice cafes, visitor centres - and LOTS of aggressive screechy seagulls.

I had a BLT with a great view of the harbour bridge in the distance, then pushed off again to paddle first over to Greenwich wharf and baths, then back cross to Birchgrove. By this time it was mid afternoon and the wind had got up. Instead of a millpond, I was now faced with very choppy waters. I splashed my way against the wind and waves to get round Birchgrove jetty and in to Snails Bay. Had a rest at the tiny beach, then on again through the choppy water, to skirt the coastline (and some beautiful waterfront homes) to round Ballast point and enter Mort Bay. I didn't stop, but bypassed the ferry 'car park' and went directly across to the colourful marine repair shops at Simmons Point. BY now the water was very choppy, but I ploughed on, being very wary about ferries, to skirt the Balmain East shoreline and enter Darling Harbour. Got a few funny looks from people sitting in the parks, but I carried on, bouncing over the waves created by ferries and many other small boats, to turn the corner of Peacock Point and head south west towards White Bay.

The final stretch was across Darling Harbour and Johnston Bay, following the shoreline of Pyrmont where I've ridden my bike so much in the past. There was a lot of swell and waves here, despite it being sheletered, but the wind was behind me and I did bouts of 'surfing' towards my final destination of Glebe Island Bridge and Anzac Bridge. As I passed under these two landmarks, I saw a couple of other canoes going the opposite way - good luck at this time of day and in this wind!

I was now on 'home ground of Blackwattle Bay and paddled the last bit over to the jetty at Jubilee Park - at the bottom of Johnston St Annandale - only 10 minutes from where I live.

A couple of  notes about the ZXONE Slider - it goes really fast and straight in these calm conditions. I tried a small skeg but found it made the boat a bit more tippy, so haven't used it since. I also have a couple of worrying puncture like scratched on the top and sides of the boat. I patched up two bad ones on the black hull, but suspect two others are letting in a bit of water to the floor area. Otherwise, all good.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

KXOne Slider Review for Australia. Part 3 - first impressions in the water

For the first outing of the KXone Slider I decided to go to Middle Harbour on Sydney's north shore because it is somewhere I'm familiar with and has a mix of sheltered sections of water and also opportunities to go a bit further afield into more open water. Not that I was planning anything too adventurous on the first trip. 

So on Saturday morning I got the wife to drop me off at the car park next to the Spit Bridge. There's a marina here, and it's suitability for kayaks is apparent from the fact that there's a kayak hire place just over the raod, where they launch from a small section of beach. I'd been there a week earlier for a pre-purchase familiarisation kayak trip - ($60 for two hours) and found the sea kayaks to a bit too tippy for my liking.

For the maiden voyage of the Slider we marked the occasion with coffees from the cafe over the road, then got to work at 9am on a nice sunny spring morning. The wheeled bag came into its own as I pulled it out of the boot and rolled along to the waterside. Setting up was quick and easy, and didn't attract much attention from the passing joggers and dog walkers. It took only five minutes to inflate the three chambers with the pump, then another five to add in all the other bits - the seat, foot rest, spray deck support, and finally the skeg.

I hadn't brought much along with on this first trip - and had no idea about dry bags or putting things on leashes or cords to stop then being lost. I just put my iPhone in a ziploc sandwich bag and chucked a few other bits in a Coles plastic bag. I was expecting to get wet, so wore some old shorts, sandals (taken off and slung in back of boat) and a long sleeve Patagonia running smock that I'd never used much because it was too airy and cold for running/walking - not at all windproof. Other essentials - a broad brimmed hat, sunnies, and plenty of sunscreen, even this early in the year. Some water, oh and of course a life jacket or whatever they call them now - PFD? I'd bought a couple of nearly-new Sea to Summit ones on Gumtree for $40 each.

We carried the Slider on to the beach - it was quite awkward and heavy to handle even for two people - this is where carry handles would be an improvement.

And so to sea ...  once it was floating, getting in the boat was a bit of an ungraceful manouevre for a pot-bellied old fogey like me, but I managed it without falling in - and I was floating! I said a quick farewell to the wife, who was off to work and I pushed off, into the fairly still waters of the inner harbour.

My first impressions were that the Slider  was quite stable - certainly compared to the wobbly sea kayak of the previous week. It was not 'tippy', but there again, not exactly rock solid. Despite its flat bottom, it could rock quite a way, and I'm sure you could tip out if you tried or did some excessive leaning to one side. But sitting in the centre and tentatively paddling, it felt  stable enough to me. I paddled out past the many moored yachts and boats, to pass under the Spit Bridge. I soon realised that I would have to adjust the seat to make myself more comfortable and get the backrest and distance from the footrest right. So I paddled over to Clontarf beach about ten minutes away and slid up on to the beach to do a few adjustments. So far so good. 

Back in the boat, it was exhilarating to be paddling through the clear waters, able to see the bottom and realise how fast I was going. The Slider could certainly move - even with my terrible paddling technique. And it tracked well - not deviating from side to side at all, presumably thanks to its narrow profile and the skeg.

So I spent the rest of the morning beach hopping en route to Balmoral , around the other side of a small headland, stopping first at Chinaman's Beach to rest my arms, unused to this kind of exercise. The boat was comfortable to ride in and the water was pretty placid in this part of the harbour - a few waves from passing boats, but no big swell so far. One of my worries had been that the Slider's sides would be too low and would not keep out waves (the customised Bay Sports version had raised the side about 4cm, saying it gave better splash protection)  - but I found this just wasn't a problem.

 I pottered along towards Balmoral, enjoying seeing the harbour from a totally new perspective. There were a few other serious sea kayakers out on the water, and they gave my inflatable Slider a few funny looks, but I had nothing to feel embarrassed about. As I approached Balmoral, I steered clear of some exposed rocks, worried about the possibility of scraping against oyster shells or other sharp nasties. The Slider might be made of drop stitch material but it was still inflatable. I wasn't taking any chances.

After sliding on to the sands of Balmoral beach through tranquil breakers, I had a pleasant interlude, resting, sipping juice and just chilling out. 


I then thought I might try heading a bit further out to see what the kayak would be like in bigger waves and stronger winds. I headed straight out towards Middle Head, and into a brisk headwind, blowing from the east. It was harder work now, paddling directly into  regular small waves that splashed over the spray deck. I was getting wet. The bow of the kayak slapped into each wave and I seemed to be making little headway - though this was an illusion.

After plugging away for about 20 minutes and getting as far as Cobblers (nudist) Beach, I decided this was enough for a first try-out. I turned around 90 degrees and tried to head back towards Clontarf. However I now found that the Slider didn't like being side on to the wind, which was pushing me noticeably back towards Balmoral. I found I had to paddle almost continually with my left hand to keep on track. Being beam on to the waves wasn't much fun either, the rocking motion got stronger. It didn't feel like I was going to capsize, but I didn't want to risk anything on this first trip. So I ended up pointing back to the sheltered waters of Balmoral, where I slewed round and aimed at Grotto Point lighthouse across the other side of the harbour. This was more like 45 degrees to the wind, but was manageable. I had to dodge a few big yachts and motor cruisers on the way across, and cope with their wash as well. It took me about half an hour to get across at a leisurely pace, and it was nice to reach the sheltered lee shore, where the waters were like a millpond compared to the middle of the channel.

I pottered around here for a while, stopping off at a couple of idyllic un-named small beaches near castle Rock Beach, which I shared with just a handful of other sunbathers who had trekked along the Manly-Spit walk. While exiting one such beach which had some bigger breaking waves, to the bemusement of the sunbakers, I found myself tipped out of the kayak when I pushed off because the boat went beam on to the waves. It took on quite a bit of water that swilled around, wetting my  my plastic bag and sandals and also - annoyingly, I got some big globs of wet sand in the boat. I returned to the beach and emptied most the water out by simply turning it upside down. But the sand had gone down under the floor, to be dealt with later.

Second time lucky, I got myself off the beach through the small breakers by jumping in the wobbling boat and paddling furiously backwards beyond the 'surf'. This was to be the weak point of my kayaking technique - getting in and pushing off from a beach with waves.

I paddled slowly and serenely back to Clontarf, where I stopped for a nice takeaway sandwich lunch from the cafe. There's an indefinably different feeling about being in a place where you've arrived by boat as compared to a car. Maybe just smug self satisfaction, or a slight sense of moral superiority about being a boatie, I don't know. But sitting under the shade of a tree enjoying a nice lunch and not a care in the world for a while, knowing that you're leaving by boat and don't have to worry about car parking or legging it to the bus stop ... quite nice.

I paddled back to the Spit Bridge to be picked up by the wife at 2pm. Getting the Slider out of the water proved slightly more problematic than it had getting it in. The tide had come in and there was no longer much 'beach' next to the Spit Reserve car park. I had to wade knee high  in water and be grateful for the helping hands of a couple of young guys who were passing to lifer the dripping kayal back on to the sea wall.

Deflating and packing up wasn't too difficult. After removing the seat and footrest etc, it's a simple matter of just twisting the yellow valve knobs anticlockwise, to get a loud hiss of escaping air. And unlike an airbed, the air escapes easily, so there's no frustrating squeezing out the last 10% of air.

 Rolling up the Slider to get it back in the bag was also fairly straightforward. It's just a case of knowing that you have to ensure you fold the kayak in half lengthways - ie down the centre line, and then making the four sideways folds in the right places so the dimensions are right to fit in the bag. Doing this on grass was OK - but I would later find that doing it on a sandy beach or anywhere with grit and dirt - is problematic.

And so the verdict after my first try out of the ZXOne Slider? Excellent. It more than lived up to my high expectations. A great fun kayak to paddle in the more sheltered parts of Sydney harbour and in mild weather. Being a novice, I have nothing to compare it with, but it certainly felt right to me. The 410 model was just the right size to allow solo paddling while also having the option of two seats. 

I learned a few newbie lessons - wearing a broad brimmed hat also stops the splashes from the oars. Take more water/cordial to drink, paddling is thirsty work. Apply sunscreen regularly - I felt the effects of the sun even with sunscreen slapped on twice during the day. Oh and another lesson - check you've got all the bits of the kayak when you pack up. I almost lost one of the seat clips that slipped off into the grass while packing up.

The other thing I learned is that there's a bit of work to be done afterwards - when I got home I hosed down the kayak with fresh water, and found there was quite a bit of sand in the bottom. Took a bit of time and effort to work out how to flush it out through the 'drain plughole'  in the stern of the boat - had to reinflate the kayak so we could stand it upright to drain the water. Phew!

KXone Slider inflatable kayak review - Part 2: unboxing and setting up

 I don't want to duplicate what many others have already done on Youtube videos, showing what you get in the box with a KXOne Slider kayak. Suffice to say the box is heavy - about 18kg - and we wished we'd brought some trolley wheel to get it from the car to the house. This is not a lightweight item.

As you can see from the photos, starring our curious cat Benjy, the box was opened to reveal the blue carry case for the KXone kayak and a few other bits and pieces. 


 The 'carry backpack' is good quality and has wheels, which you will need. The backpack straps may help for carrying short distances from carpark to waterside, but I don't see anyone hiking with this on their back. I don't think the pack would survive the strain, anyway.

The other essential items are a good quality hand pump with a dial that shows when you have reached the correct inflation pressure of 8PSI. There's also a slide-in skeg (keel fin to a nautical know nothing like me), two standard seats, two footrest straps and two fairly basic aluminium paddles. Oh and a repair kit and a one sided pamphlet of instructions. That's all you need really.

So first impressions on setting up? First of all, it took only a few minutes to inflate - about 50 pumps for each of the three chambers. For someone who has gasped till blue in the face when inflating camping air beds, the pump is a great bit of kit. The valves are neat: they have a clockwise twist/pull out action that is important otherwise all your pumping goes to waste.

The only other things to install are the seat - which clips on with four attachment points. I set up just a single seat to start with. There's also the foot rests, which arepadded, and then you have to insert a bendy bit of white plastic into the front spray deck to make it concave and to deflect water. That's it. Apart from the skeg, which will come later.

Once the thing was up - in the living room, the other main thing you notice is how rigid it is - feels like a car tyre. I wouldn't say it was rock hard, but pretty solid - no pool toy, this one. There isn't much else you can do in the living room. so the next step was to take it out for a spin on the harbour. And so to part 3 ..

KxOne Slider 410 inflatable kayak review - Part 1

 Sorry Leica fans, the cameras are having a rest. I'm parking this kayak review here as I don't have another blog to publish it on.

Why buy an inflatable canoe?

First some background:  I'm a 57 year old British guy living in Sydney. I have no experience in kayaks apart from the occasional hire of one at beaches/rivers around Sydney when the kids were younger. My main outdoor interests are hiking/bushwalking and cycle touring. So why suddenly out of the blue buy a kayak - and an inflatable one at that?

Well a few things. We're empty nesters, so I now have  a bit more time on my hands. I live in Sydney, which  has one of the best harbours in the world and a multitude of other waterways - lakes, rivers etc nearby. But the main reason for me getting a kayak is simply as a substitute for my usual summer holiday, which I usually take two weeks off to visit Tibet or some part of south west China to do some hiking or cycling. With the coronavirus pandemic going full blast and Australians banned from travelling overseas, that's obviously not going to happen this year.

I got the idea for a portable kayak many years ago from reading Paul Theroux's travel book  Happy Isles of Oceania - aka paddling round the Pacific. I liked the idea of having a fold up kayak that you could take with you anywhere on the plane or train and set up in some new location. I had a vague daydream of taking one with me on my next trip to China and paddling down one of the big rivers such as the Salween or Mekong. But also, in more down-to-earth practical terms it would be great to have a kayak that does not need to be stored (we have a small house & garden) and doesn't need to go on the roof rack (we only have one small car, that my wife uses for much of the time on the weekend).

I was musing about getting the same kind of kayak that Theroux had - a collapsible Klepper Aerius - but they proved to be a)  expensive ($5000+), b) not available in Australia and c) quite heavy - about 20kg.  Ditto for the Folbot collapsible kayaks.

I then started looking at inflatable kayaks, after seeing some of the Itiwit ones in Decathlon. They looked OK, but once I started googling for inflatable and collapsible kayaks I saw there was a large range of everything from cheap Intex and Selyvor kayaks to inflatable packrafts and expensive 'origami' fold up Oru Kayaks. Baffling! At first I liked the look of the Advanced Elements models, especially the Advanced Frame. I like to idea of something tougher and more rigid - and this was said to have a kind of aluminium backbone frame as well as the tough drop stitch fabric floor.

But again, I was just idly browsing and hadn't really thought about what I wanted a kayak for - which would be for touring and exploring the rivers and lakes, perhaps with wife or one of the grown up kids, and maybe doing some overnight trips. So really I needed to be looking at a two person kayak, and one with some space for our gear.

It was then that I came across the range of 100% drop stitch kayaks such as those marketed by KXOne in Europe (and Australia). Very similar ones are sold in the US as Sea Eagle Razorlite, while in the UK they seem to be called Blue Wave Glider. They're all basically the same model of kayak, maybe even built in the same Korean or Chinese factory. I won't go into all the details of the drop stitch technology and the production sites as this is all explained very well on other blogs.

After reading so many positive reviews about the KXOne type drop stitch kayaks, I decided I liked the idea of their pseudo-rigid build which gives them good handling, stability and speed characteristics. They seemed to be available in solo and two person models of 3.85m and 4.85m length and I was initially attracted to the duel version. Locally, a couple of outlets in Sydney were selling them for about $1400-1500 for the dual. But when I inquired further, I found that they were on 'back order', with the next delivery expected in about six weeks - a lot of demand from people with time on their hands during the lockdown!

While comparing the two models, I noticed there was an intermediate one of 4.1m length - a dual, but not as big as the 485model. I like the sound of this because a few reviews had said the 485 was a bit large for a single person. I reckoned I would be using mine solo most of the time, but doing the occasional joy ride with a passenger- so the 410 sounded like a good compromise. The other good news was that these were in stock with Bay Sports.

After thinking it over for a couple of days, I plonked down my $1500 and ordered the 410 model from Bay Sports. I was tempted to go for their attractive package for their own branded dual kayak, Air Glide, which were slightly wider and had higher sides than the KXones - and had carry handles. BUt again it came down to the compromise of wanting a 410 size.

The service at Bay Sports was great. I ordered the kayak on Wednesday and was able to pick it up from their western Sydney warehouse on Friday. I could have had free delivery, but preferred the certainty of picking the thing up in person - and it was only 20 minutes away down the motorway from us in the inner west.

And so, to the unboxing ... see part 2.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Carrara house gardens

Monday, April 10, 2017

Greycliffe House, Nielsen Park

Greycliffe HoNielsen Park, Sydney

Contax IIa, Biogon 21mm, Ilford Pan 100

Greycliffe House, Vaucluse

Strickland House, Vaucluse

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Carrara, Vaucluse

Taken with Contax IIa and 21mm lens

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Centennial Park cafe

May be reversed!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

St George's Head

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bottle and Glass Rocks, Vaucluse

Leica 35mm Summicron

Centennial Park

Leica M2,+ 35mm Summicron


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Nielesen Park

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dobroyd Point

by Rolleicord and Fuji Neopan Acros ...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Naval Waters buoys, Nielsen Park

Leica M2 and Ilford Pan 100 film

Elizabeth Bay

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Carrara, Strickland House, Vaucluse

 Leica M2 Ilford Pan 100

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cowper St, Glebe

Leica M2, Shanghai 100 film.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bondi to Tamara walk

Taken with my Leica M2 and Summicron 35mm lens - Shanghai 100 film developed in LC29 dilution 1+19, 7 minutes

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I'm back ... with the Leica M3

in 2015 I did much of my photography with the Sony A7 digital. Looking back I find that most of the images I took with it are technically OK - but I just don't like them. I don't like the look. So this year i have vowed to return to film and using the Leica, Contax and Rolleiflex again. This weekend I waled and biked around Sydney taking a few ics with the Leica M3 using some old Ilford 100 Pan film. Here are some of the results, developed by myself in LC29 (1+19) for 6 minutes, then scanned in using my Plustek 7500i.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Back to using film! From the Rolleiflex 3.5F ...

Just trying out a roll of Fuji Acros 100 with LC29 1+19 for 4.5 minutes. Here's the new park at Barangaroo:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Taronga sea lions

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bronte beach by Sony A7 and Zeiss 35mm lens

I love this reflection of the beach in the mirror window of the Surf Lifesavers Club - who knows if they were watching while I snapped the pic!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sony A7 review

I'm not giving up on my Leica and Rolleiflex cameras - I still intend to keep shooting film. However, I've been wanting to use my Leitz lenses on a digital camera for some time. Last year I bought an Olympus E-PM1 and an adapter to use the Leica lenses on it, but I was never really satisfied with the results - mostly because the 4/3 sensor format turned my 50mm Summicron into something like a 80mm telephoto lens. I also found the Olympus to be fiddly, and I hated having to use a screen rather than a viewfinder. What I really wanted was a camera with a viewfinder that could accept my lenses for what they are. A Leica M9 would be nice, but they are ludicrously priced. Then I heard about the Sony A7 and really wanted to get my hands on one after reading about its features. It has a full frame sensor, a viewfinder - and according to all the reviews, great image quality. And you can use it with Leica lenses via an adapter.
So last week I took the plunge and splashed down about $1700 for the camera body at DigiDirect in Sydney. I could probably have got an A7 cheaper online, but the retailer was offering a free Metabones Leica M to Sony E adapter, worth around $150. And also I wanted to have the thing in my hands right there and then, not fretting for two weeks for a delivery from a grey market outlet in Hong Kong.
When I picked up the camera I took it home and decided I couldn't wait the extra week until I got the adapter via a Sony redemption offer - so I went straight back to the shop and bought the Zeiss 35mm lens as well!
My first impressions?
Well, with the Zeiss lens it is a great camera. I can't really compare it with DSLRs because I've never been a digital user. But I was quite impressed with the camera and the images I got from it in the first couple of days walking round Sydney.
It's a compact camera that sits well in the hand with the grip, and it feels solid and well built. It's not quite small enough to slip in a pocket, but it fits neatly into my Crumpler bag as I cycle round Sydney. In terms of useability, I'd rate is as good - once you get to know how to use it. My main problem with switching to a digital camera was trying to work my way through the crazy number of features in the menu. There are about six different sub-menus, each with up to six further pages of menu options. With my Leica M2 I just go out and only have to think about adjusting the speed, aperture and focus - that's it! I can concentrate on thinking about the scene and composition. With the Sony A7 there were so many features and some that I didn't even have a clue about - 'DRO Auto', for example. What the hell is that all about? The user manual wasn't much help. It gives only the basics, and in a technical, few-words-as-possible reference list and menu format that seems designed for  engineers rather than idiots like me.
After a lot of twiddling through the menus I managed to sort out the basics - such as programming the three 'spare' function buttons with shortcuts to do what I thought would be most useful, namely switching ISO, magnifying the focus and changing between focusing modes.
The buttons and dials on the camera are some help - the exposure compensation, for example, but others I still have to work out - like what is AEL?
Once I had a basic idea of how to operate the thing, I went out with the aim of making the most of this camera's full frame sensor and its depth of field. I set it on to fixed aperture f2.8, ie as wide open as possible, and started shooting pictures with objects in focus in the foreground, and the background blurred. They came up really well, with nice out of focus areas ('bokeh').
Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm
When shooting, I liked using the viewfinder and found the camera well laid out and easy to handle. The auto-focus worked well for me, and my only dislike was the loud shutter noise. I soon got rid of the neck strap and started using it carried around in my hand. The next day I went out and bought a wrist strap.
So it worked really well with the 35mm prime lens - super sharp pictures with nice colours, and without those horrible cyan skies that many digital cameras seem to produce. I shot in both black and white and colour, but found that it didn't make any difference when I downloaded the raw images, which all came out in colour!
So I was happy with the Sony-Zeiss lens - what about the legacy lenses? My adapter arrived within a couple of days from Sony and I was soon excitedly fixing on my 50mm Summicron DR lens. I found the Metabones adapter to be a bit stiff - and almost panicked when I first tried to switch lenses and found the lens wouldn't twist out. After being accustomed to reassuring Leica smoothness and 'fit', the adapter didn't feel like very high quality workmanship.
I tried shooting a few images with the Leica lenses and initially felt it quite odd to be using my familiar lenses on an unfamiliar camera. I found myself instinctively looking for the square rangefinder window in the viewfinder - and then remembering that I had to focus manually by sight only, like on an SLR camera. Of course there was the 'focus peaking' function, which helped by showing vivid red outlines around an object that was in focus. I'd also programmed the 'C1' button to magnify the viewfinder, and thus to help me with the fine manual focusing. For some reason I had to click this twice - first time getting a moveable square. I also found that the magnified view only lasted for an annoyingly brief second, then reverted to the normal view. I'm sure there's a way to program round this, but I have yet to find it.
Sony A7 with 90mmTele-Elmarit-M
Once I got used to the new setup, the images I got were great.  I took a few self portraits and a few around the house, and found the legacy lenses to have a more 'natural' look than the Zeiss. The Summicron seems to have a warmer look and also had that Leica 'soft but sharp' feel.
The battery life seems OK to me - I've read a lot of reviews saying it is poor - but my battery lasted all day, although I must admit I only took about 100 pictures. For me that's twice as many as I would take with a film camera - maybe I will turn into a digital shooter snapping hundreds of pictures in the hope of getting a good one.
So my overall verdict is that the Sony A7 is a great camera, with a few small drawbacks - the shutter noise and the complex menu and programming. My only other gripe would be that it is aesthetically dull - verging on ugly. After enjoying the classic lines of the M2 for so long, the Sony A7 seems like a functional ugly duckling.
I intend to be using it a lot more from now on, and this blog may have to change its title to "In Sydney With An Old Leica lens".

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Redleaf, Feb 2014

Redleaf Bessa R2, Summicron 35mm, Lucky film developed in 1+19 LC29

Redleaf Feb 2014

Redleaf Feb 2014, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Paul by Summmicron

Paul, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Chatswood from Cammeray

Chatswood from Cammeray, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Subway tunnel under Harbour Bridge

Bessa R2, Summicron 35mm

Macquarie St

Macquarie St, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Macquarie St NSW Parliament

Macquarie St NSW Parliament, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Macquarie St Hyde Park Barracks

Macquarie St Hyde Park Barracks, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Macquarie St Sydney Hospital

Macquarie St Sydney Hospital, originally uploaded by jiulong.

NSW Art Gallery

NSW Art Gallery, originally uploaded by jiulong.