Apr 222015
 

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Uluru: Photographing an Icon

When you first hear of Uluru, you most likely imagine desert, Indigenous Australians, tourists and a very big rock. Conceptually you know that this is a spiritual place and that there is some pretty deep cultural significance when it comes to the land here. You may even realise that The Rock is one of Australia’s biggest (literally!) draw cards, hosting more than a quarter of a million people each year (amazing, considering how isolated it is).

What you may not be able to truly comprehend is the fact that big doesn’t even begin to describe this thing. Nor the fact that its spirituality will affect you, even if you are not a religious person – it is just that kind of place. So come on a walk with me as I share my (regrettably too short) visit to this magical, mysterious marvel.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/40sec; iso 200; 40mm

At nearly 350m high and almost 10km in circumference, this truly is a big rock!

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/40sec; iso 100; 38mm

The Red Centre is just that – red and right at the geographical heart of Australia.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 10 iso 100; 40mm

OM-D E-M5 with 45mm at f1.8; 1/3200 sec; iso 200; 45mm

One of the first things you will most likely do (assuming you arrive later in the day, as we did) is to run up to the nearest lookout so you can get your first glimpse of Uluru – and a selfie, of course!

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When you arrive at the visitor centre, you will get a shadowed view of the rock face – if it’s morning – and the amazing colour will not yet be apparent. It is when you finally see the surface bathed in sunlight that you first understand how vibrant this rock really is. Red doesn’t quite describe it, but orange is too lurid a word. These pictures come close but, like the Grand Canyon, different light makes for different experiences.

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f6.4; 1/200 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f7.1; 1/40sec; iso 100; 37mm

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f4.5; 1/2500 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/50sec; iso 100; 40mm

One of the next things you will notice will affect you in one of three ways. Seeing people climbing the face of Uluru can make you hunger for the thrill of bagging another unique peak. The sight may mean nothing to you – people can do what they want. Or you may feel a form of anger at people who so willingly decline to accede to the wishes of the traditional custodians of the land. As photographers we are asked not to record images showing this activity, however I feel that the image shows that individuals will always make their own decisions.

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For me and my wife the walk around the base was a revelation. As you start the circumnavigation, you are blown away by the height, more than anything else. At 348m at its highest point, Uluru is more than double the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza and even just pips the Eiffel Tower. Once you get over the height (you never really do) you begin to notice the textures and colours. Weathering from wind and rain and sand have left patterns in the surface – some of which are just pretty, but many of which are considered to be a form of scripture to the Anangu People who have lived in this region of Australia for at least 30 000 years. The patterns act as visual aids in the oral traditions of the Anangu and photography of many of the eroded areas of the rock is prohibited. Signage lets you know what you can and cannot shoot, but erring on the side of caution is recommended.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f7.1; 1/80sec; iso 100; 17mm

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f8; 1/200 sec; iso 200; 75mm

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One of the next things you may notice is how still and quiet the air is around Uluru. Yes, I do mean the atmosphere in more than one sense – on the day we were there it was perfectly windless (I am unsure how normal this is) but mostly I refer to the sense of peace and solitude that exists. We were there just before the peak tourism period begins and maybe that had something to do with it, but I doubt that was the only reason. Standing before this chunk of weather-beaten arkose, it is easy to understand why it is held sacred by the Indigenous people. There is an eerie sense that you are both alone and at the same time, not alone. Again, like the colours, it is more easily experienced than described.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f8; 1/40sec; iso 100; 17mm

Finally, the light and the way it interacts with the rock and trees. As photographers we are always chasing light and you will not be disappointed on your visit to Uluru. Be it harsh midday sun or soft pastel light and the edge of the day, Uluru’s grandeur absorbs the light and throws it back at you in myriad ways.

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f5; 1/250 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f16; 1/15sec; iso 125; 17mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 1/30sec; iso 400; 40mm

This iconic landmark was on my wishlist for many years before my wife and I finally visited. We always wondered whether the reality would live up to the hype. Now we know that reality’s shadow leaves the hype’s glitter just a little dull. The only thing left to do now is to visit again. And again…

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f11; 1/60sec; iso 100; 17mm

A short list of things to remember:

May is a great time to go – fine weather and less tourists. Rent a 4×4 – you’ll see more places at your own pace. If you plan on using any of your images for commercial purposes (if you want to sell the images) you will need a permit. It’s a pain, but worth it – and you get park entry included for yourself and an assistant (my wife was my assistant!) so cost works out similar to if you just visited.
Some sites and viewpoints are restricted for cultural and religious reasons – respect these rules. Driving in the outback after dark is hazardous – hitting a kangaroo or cow at speed is potentially deadly. Be careful! Put the camera away for a least part of your trip – really experience this amazingly spiritual place for its own sake.

By Wesley Walker

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I am an Amateur photographer who dabbles in stock photography. Mostly I take images while hiking (particularly on holidays!) but I do occasionally set out to make specific images – still working on that!

SmugMug: http://walkerpodimages.smugmug.com/

Blog: https://walkerpodimages.wordpress.com/

Apr 162015
 

Artistic vs. Technical Perfection

By Olaf Sztaba

When browsing photography on the Internet it appears to be one huge quest for technical perfection. Message boards are groaning with perpetual arguments about the superiority of one camera system over another.

Then, there are thousands of photos so immaculately processed and photo-shopped that their technical perfection creates awe and envy in aspiring photographers. But many of the photos remind us of others we have seen before. They somehow feel plastic, artificial and cold. They lack emotion and authenticity.

In contrast, when you look at the images from the masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastiao Salgado and others, you find thoughtful compositions, subtle moments and moods. Are they the most technically perfect photographs and the sharpest images you have ever seen? I don’t think so but somehow your eye feels content, your brain slows down and your visual emotions are elevated.

What strikes us is that those who produce a body of great work often don’t consider themselves photographers. They grab any camera and create art – they are artists. When Cartier-Bresson started shooting with the 35mm camera, other photographers of his time dismissed his new tool as a toy (back then only large format cameras were considered serious). But we should learn from artists. They see way beyond pixels and MTF charts. For them technical augmentation is just a distraction.

So why are we so occupied with a litany of technical do’s and don’ts? Why do we ask the wrong questions so many times: Which camera should I buy? How do I sharpen photos? How do I apply layers? Which software should I use? and so on.

Don’t get us wrong – we like photo gear and are well aware of our ‘contribution’ to this plaque. However, each time we put everything technical in the back seat and let our emotions and inner artistic self rule our photographic process the results always astound us.

Sure, it’s not easy. But the next time you think your photo is not sharp enough, your images are grainy or your camera doesn’t have elephant resolution this may be the best thing that has happened to you. Maybe it is the right moment to stop and re-focus on seeing.

All images were taken with the Fuji X100S/T, Fuji X-T1 paired with XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 50-140 F2.8.

Regards,
Olaf Sztaba

www.olafphotoblog.com
www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

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Apr 022015
 

There is no “I” in Team

by John Tuckey

Team Efforts

I wouldn’t advise anyone to overload a shoot with unnecessary bodies. The fewer people cluttering your space, the better. The less people to organise the better. It’s an absolute if you’re trying to create a sense of intimacy or intrigue and a simple practicality when you’re working to a budget or a tight time scale as most of us are. But ‘one man and his lens’ is not always enough – indeed, modern professional work is hardly ever created so. It’s a creative collaboration between the photographer, an art director, a stylist, a make up artist, a hair stylist, a lighting technician and possibly a set dresser. That amazing image in magazine ‘X’ is usually the result of a tight team who have a good working dynamic – not ‘one man and his lens’.

If you’re thinking about crossing this river and working your shots with a team it can be daunting at first. My advice is to keep it simple and pick your team carefully, don’t waste your resources and know who you can and can’t live without. I get my moments, but I’m still no pro – so I won’t worry about an assistant until i try a complicated location set-up. And a stylist isn’t even on my list unless I get involved in a commercial fashion shoot and the client specifically requests one – and even then they will probably be chosen by the art director.

So I’d suggest that for an amateur or hobbyist, the bodies to make sure you have covered on a model orientated shoot are the make up artist and the hair stylist. Sometimes the model can cover this off herself, but indispensable doesn’t even come close to describing the best I’ve worked with. And without even thinking I can give you three very good reasons why they’re always worth stretching the budget for.

Transformation

A skilled makeup artist can simply transform a face. Try these two of Emily, one with ‘normal’ self done makeup and the Next from a Make Up artist.

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The Devil is in the Detail

Much of my work revolves around vintage themes. Having the right make up or a particular hair style makes the world of difference. In these portraits of Olivia, the lighting may well have achieved the look on its own, but the work of the hair stylist in those thirties style fingerwaves added the polish – making the vintage feel of the final image effortless and complete.

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Tricks, Shortcuts and FX

These Lonsdale shots aren’t just about beauty and boxing, but also strength, character and control. The make up artist on this shoot pulled the FX off with ease: Jammy the model was engaged with the concept and we got some great shots as a result.

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Saving Time in Post

Doesn’t digital mean make up artists are a waste of money? If you don’t think of the hours you’ll spend in post-production as money, then I’ll grant you that a hair or make up artist might not be your best use of budget. But I’d rather get it right for real on the day and trade that time in front of a screen for more time with a camera thanks – a good MUA allows that.

If you are interested in my images or my workshops you can follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook/jrtvintage, on twitter where I’m @jrtvintage, at my own site at http://john.tuckey.photography or on my gallery page at Saatchi Art http://www.saatchiart.com/jrtvintage

Credits:

Models: Emily, Olivia Harriett, and Jammy Lou
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/oliviaharriet/
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/raspberryjam/

Emily and Jammys Make Up: James Minahan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Minahan-Makeup-artist/482722908502345?pnref=lhc

Olivia’s Hair: Le Keux Salon
http://www.lekeuxvintagesalon.co.uk/
Best regards

John Tuckey

Mar 282015
 

A Small Pit Bull with Balloons, an A7II User Report

By Brandon Labbe

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Much like Godzilla in the 2014 movie “Godzilla,” I recently strolled through the streets of downtown San Francisco. Unlike Mr. Zilla, however, instead of being met with giant moth creatures that blew blue fire, I was met with dragons. Yes, you read that right, dragons! Monstrous creatures that breathe fire and eat every person they come across; at least, that is how one would describe wild dragons. Amazingly, unlike their wild counterparts, the dragons of San Francisco are very well-trained, as they simply stood in place waiting their turn to delight the crowds gathered for the Chinese New Year parade that San Francisco hosts every year a full two weeks after the actual lunar new year day passed, which is like seeing New Year fireworks on the 14th or celebrating St Patrick’s Day on Easter, and trust me, you do not want to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Easter.

Heavy drinking and easter egg hunts are not a good combination. Of course, when one comes upon a dragon in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in America, the logical course of action is not to grab your children and run, but instead to take out your A7II and take a picture. I know, we San Franciscans are a strange bunch, but I’d like to think that’s what most people would do if they saw a dragon, as opposed to follow Harry Potter’s lead and jump on its back, but enough dragon jokes, on with the A7II!

If the A7II were an animal, it’d be a lion, because it’s the king of cameras. Unlike a lion, however, it takes amazing pictures and instead of eating zebras it eats batteries. I know what you’re thinking, “please, no more animal jokes!” but this comparison is actually Sony-approved, because I’ve seen ads for the A7 series with a roaring lion behind the cameras, and I must say, an advertisement must be amazing to make someone describe it in detail in a camera review. Sony’s got some geniuses in their ad department. In all seriousness, yes, it eats batteries, in that I used to only need one where as now I need a second one in my pocket if I want the camera to be on all day. You see, I was expecting a horrific battery life based on reviews I’d read of the other A7 models, so the first thing I did with my II, straight out of the box, was put it in airplane mode, and two batteries lasts me an entire day. Battery life aside (and, again, even that isn’t bad), there is absolutely nothing wrong with this camera. Now, it’s not a perfect camera, because, as experts have echoed a thousand times, there is no perfect camera, but I believe you can only get so close to perfection. Can I drop the II out of a plane and expect to recover it without a scratch? Of course not, because whoever was passing by when it fell would snatch it up in an instant because it’s a perfect camera!

I’m not one who is well-versed in camera lingo, I just know a good camera when I see and use it. I could say it’s got a good build, a good sensor, weather sealing, nice grip. Hell, it can probably do your taxes for you. I didn’t really notice these things, though, because they just worked well. When something works well, you don’t really notice. That might seem like an odd statement, but to try to let you see it from my perspective, think of it like this: in movies, you know immediately when someone’s a bad actor because they make certain mistakes or are just all-around unconvincing. However when someone’s a good or even great actor, you almost don’t notice because you’re so subconsciously convinced by their performance that you forget they’re acting. If that was confusing, let me put it this way: you know when a camera is bad because you have a lot of complaints over it. However, if a camera is perfect or near perfect, you don’t really notice. It just works the way you want it to. It complements your style, it doesn’t get in the way when you’re not using it, it doesn’t disturb your or anyone’s experience with a loud shutter at a quiet moment. It doesn’t freeze, crash, miss autofocus, explode in your hand, etc. It really is easier to say what a camera doesn’t do than what it does. That doesn’t just apply to cameras, but anything. If something works well, you don’t really notice. It’s only when something doesn’t work the way it should that you notice. To apply this way of thinking to the II and other cameras and technology in general that I’ve owned, the II is the only thing I’ve never felt the desire to throw against a wall. Though that may seem like a silly thing to say, I assure you that is extremely high praise.

The thing about the body that did stand out, however, was the viewfinder. Though I don’t use the viewfinder to take pictures (see my reason here: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/03/11/what-i-learned-from-trading-a-dslr-for-a-phone-by-brandon-labbe/), I find it incredible. Looking through your pictures with your eye to the viewfinder is like seeing your pictures in 3-d. Have you ever looked through a stereoscope (one of those old-timey 3-d viewers where you have a card with the same image printed twice and you look through the viewer and it looks 3-dimensional)? The viewfinder is like that, but in color and high-quality, and even though I don’t use it to take pictures, I look through pictures with it because it is just a phenomenal viewer. I wish it were detachable so I could plug it into my computer and view all my photos with it because it is just so incredible.

Then there’s the iso. The beautiful, amazing, incredible iso. 10000! Ten-freaking-thousand, and I still got a pic that I could print as large as I’d like. How many cameras can you say that about? And if you can’t tell which one of these I took at 10000, that just proves my point. Okay, I’ll just tell you because it actually looks cleaner than some pictures. It’s the photo of the with the clock tower in the distance.
For a review of the lens, the Zeiss 35/2.8, which may as well be welded to my II, I could sum up my feelings for it by comparing the pictures I take with it to balloons. They’re all colorful and pretty, but when the lens is especially sharp, the pictures pop. Just look at the pictures above to see what I mean.

Also, compared to other cameras I’ve used, pictures I’ve taken with this camera, not all, but some, seem to glow. I think this is a combination of the lens and sensor. I’m sure this sounds like a very amateurish observation, but it’s true. With the right light and shadows, some pictures seem to glow. I like the look so much, I try to find the right conditions to get that glowing effect in as many pictures as I can. I don’t have a very good example of this effect from the parade, but I’ve run into the effect several times in daily shooting around the neighborhood when the sun is just right. I don’t think I’m explaining myself well enough. When I say they glow, I don’t mean some of the pictures look smudged or that blown out highlights somehow look pleasing. What I mean is the way light is reflected and dissipates into shadows is like nothing I’ve ever seen in any camera I’ve used before. Perhaps this is just a full-frame thing – a light sensitivity that smaller sensors couldn’t hope to achieve, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think there’s something really special here, in the II, or maybe even the whole A7 series; something you can’t just be told about, but you have to experience for yourself.

The one flaw that I found was, as good as the auto white balance is in the day, at night it seems to favor a blue tint. This isn’t noticeable a lot of times, because night is rather blue anyway, but, looking back through photos now, and even at the parade itself, I noticed that the live view display and the resulting picture looked noticeably more blue than the scene before me. No great fault if you shoot in raw, but if you shoot in jpeg, I’d recommend going manual on white balance at night, or at least, only if it’s noticeable, because it only happened to me twice.

If you’re curious as to what settings I use, I have it in manual mode, and that includes iso. 95% of pictures are with autofocus, and the autofocus might miss only once in 200 photos, and even when it does, I don’t complain because the photo still looks good. I’ve heard some people have had a bigger problem with autofocus, that it ‘hunts’ sometimes, especially at night. I constantly have the lens in center focus mode so the lens always knows what I want it to focus on  I have the lens at a constant /5.6 because that’s the lens’ sharpest aperture. I only go wider at night or in close-ups.

Another thing I love about the II is how unassuming it is. I was surrounded by guys with fat dslrs and lenses thicker than my arm, and I actually enjoyed the condescending looks they were giving me, as if I brought a chihuahua to a pit bull fight. If only they knew.

To recap: my II is a pit bull the size of a chihuahua, and my pictures are balloons. I think that sums up the A7II/Zeiss 35 combo very well, a small pit bull with balloons.

Also I should note that the parade isn’t this unorganized. Most of the pics were taken before the parade actually started.

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Mar 242015
 

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LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

This is my second user report I’ve written for your great site but this one is quite different from my last one (An Englishman in New York).

I’ve been a Canon user for years having had a 5DMK II, a 7DMK I and the camera I shot for part of this review the excellent Canon 5D MKIII. I have a little Olympus E-PL 1 and a Canon G11 too but my pride and joy is my Leica M240. That camera is the second M I have owned having upgraded from an M9 about 18 months ago. And what an upgrade! I really can’t understand those who prefer the M9, the colours, the noise, the dynamic range – all much better on the M240 to my mind, with live view to boot with EVF support (this is important for this article).

I’m not exaggerating when I say the Leica M240 is the camera I had hoped the M9 would have been, but whenever I shot with the M9 I found the images a little muddy in their tones – like the files were missing some information – not so with the M240.

After bumping along happily with both the 5D MKIII and the Leica M240, I realised the Canon was mostly staying in its foam-lined drawer in my study, I preferred to shoot with the M240. This wasn’t something that had happened with the M9 – the 5D MKIII gave me better images, but not so when compared to the M240. So, I began to wonder whether I actually needed the 5D MKIII… Of course letting go of the body was one thing but letting go of the lenses was quite another. At this point in time I owned a 300mm f/2.8L (easy to get rid of, I seldom shoot long), a 24-105 f/4L – a nice enough lens but not one that I actually used that much, a 16-35mm f/2.8L II – a lens I was nervous to lose (the widest I had for the Leica was 28mm) and a 85mm f/1.2L II – a gem of a lens that I loved. These two lenses were the anchor of my Canon system – they were preventing me from moving on.

However, when I sat down and worked out how much I would get by selling the Canon kit new possibilities opened up, but first I needed to see whether I could fill the niches of my Canon anchor lenses with a couple of Leica compatible lenses. Here’s what I bought: For the wide end a Voigtlander 21mm f/1.9 and for the fast portrait niche a Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R (with a Novoflex R to M adaptor) – my EVF for my little Olympus would be put to good use! These two lenses complemented my existing M lenses – a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, a Jupiter 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 (calibrated to f/1.5) and a Jupiter 85mm f/2. To be honest, I never really used the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 that much – too long for street work and for portraits I found it to have too much contrast for my taste.

Once I’d secured the lenses I thought I would do a comparison shoot before I made a decision whether I could/should divest myself of the Canon kit (although by this point the 300mm had already gone). So, I booked a model that I’d worked with on previous occasions and set to work. Some notes first though… I’d never done a lens test before so apologies for any errors in the process I may have made, also – the M240 doesn’t record lens data from my non-coded lenses and estimates the aperture based on the exposure settings. In some of the pictures my model Holly is holding up fingers to help me record the aperture I was shooting at.

Long end first – the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/2.8 at 21mm (TOP) vs the Voigtlander 21mm @ f/2.8 (Bottom) – click images for larger!

Canon21mmf2.8

Voigt21mmf2.8

Of course with all of the camera and lens changes, I forgot to let Holly know that the Canon would collect its own data! Indeed the EXIF data let me know that I was actually at 22mm, not 21mm.

I don’t think there is that much in it in terms of sharpness but the Canon lens shows less divergence of vertical. Nonetheless I prefer the tones from the Leica. I also think more shadow detail is captured, look at the purple sofa and Holly’s dress in the Leica/Voigt. combination. Unsurprisingly, both lenses show some chromatic aberration in the window frame.

At f/5.6 both lenses now have the chromatic aberration broadly under control:

Top is Canon, bottom is Voigtlander. Click images for larger!

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Differences in colour balance / colour rendering aside, the Leica/Voigt. combination seems to hold much more detail now and is much sharper at the edges of the frame, look at the green Tibetan chair-bed bottom left.

Peripheral sharpness picks up on the Canon at f/8 (TOP) but it is still outperformed by the Voigtlander (BOTTOM):

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Voigt21mmf8

This was enough to convince me that despite the 16mm to 21mm wide end variance, the Leica and Voigtlander would look after me. And…. The Voigtlander could shoot at f/1.9:

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I then went a little longer and compared the mid-range of the Canon with my Zeiss 28mm f/2.8. First, wide open. TOP is CANON, bottom is ZEISS, both at f/2.8:

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Here, it’s a mixed picture, more chromatic aberration in the window frame with the Canon but it is giving better shadow detail (look at the front of the cabinet) and it is sharper in the peripheries of the frame. The Zeiss is sharper in the middle and could be said to have greater contrast (the flip side of the lower shadow detail). I prefer the colours with the Leica/Zeiss combo though.

At f/5.6, the Canon looks really good, the chromatic aberration is under control , central sharpness is higher too. Slight exposure differences aside, the Canon is still showing less contrast than the Zeiss – which is now showing sharpness to rival the Canon right across the frame.

At f/8, it’s really only the higher contrast of the Zeiss that is separating them:

Canon28mmf5.6

Zeiss28mmf5.6

So, after all that I felt I was OK at medium wide – especially give the relative sizes of the two setups!

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the long end of the Canon 16-35mm with my diminutive vintage Soviet – the Jupiter 35mm f/2.8 – I was not expecting comparable images and the differences were clear at f/2.8. Canon on top, Jupiter and M on the bottom:

Canon35mmf2.8

Jupiter35mmf2.8

The Canon, even wide open at the long end of its zoom range, seems to control chromatic aberration well and is offering significantly more contrast than when zoomed out. It’s pretty sharp right across the frame too. The Jupiter is another story altogether, unable to control the bright window light, the veiling flare lowers the contrast significantly and although centre sharpness is at least as high as with the Canon, it drops off drastically as we move away from the centre. Look at the candle on the left and even Holly’s feet on the right. I do like that vintage look though, it’s why I bought the lens.

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Jupiter35mmf5.6

As shown above, at f/5.6 there’s little to complain about with the Canon and it is significantly sharper than the Jupiter everywhere, including in the centre of the frame. And although contrast and sharpness is better with the Jupiter than it was at f/2.8 it can’t keep up with the Canon. This is the same for f/8 too, as shown below. Canon is the 1st image, the Jupiter is the 2nd.

Canon35mmf8

Jupiter35mmf8

Of course, the Jupiter was never going to be the equivalent of the Canon, but it is a fun little lens to have nonetheless. However, I may need to get myself a higher fidelity M lens if I want to shoot with precision at that focal length.

Now for what I think is probably the main event of this head-to-head review – a comparison of portrait lenses. Mainly, it’s about comparing the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II with the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. But, I’m going to throw in the Soviet 85mm f/2 for good measure too.

First of all, at the widest common aperture of f/2, they really are quite different. The Canon is sharp and exhibits high contrast – it is crisp, as one might expect. But when you cast your eye from that image to the clearly softer and lower contrast Leica image, the Canon begins to look a little ‘crunchy’ – I wonder if others would agree? Then comes the Jupiter, like its 35mm cousin it is low in contrast, but nonetheless it does appear to be pretty sharp:

TOP: Canon 85 L at f/2, MIDDLE: Leica R 80mm at f/2, BOTTOM: Jupiter 85 at f/2

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Jupiter85mmf2

At f/2.8 things aren’t particularly changed – same differences, perhaps just a little less extreme:

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

Canon85mmf2.8

leica80mmf2.8

Jupiter85mmf2.8

Of course, one really buys these lenses to shoot wide open – we’ve seen the Jupiter wide open but what about the other two? Firstly, both at f/1.4:

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

Canon85mmf1.4

leica80mmf1.4

I don’t believe the Canon is any sharper now – look at Holly’s eyes on both. The Canon still has more contrast, but I am struck by the sophistication of the Leica image – sharp and soft and the same time. Also, look at the decoration on the wall and the edge of the sunlight, the Canon is exhibiting some chromatic aberration. OK, let’s see the Canon at f/1.2 – that aperture is the reason for buying this lens after all:

Canon85mmf1.2

To me, on the eyes – this looks a bit sharper that the f/1.4 shot. I was shooting from a tripod but perhaps this is just the difference between hitting the eyeball with the focus point rather than the eyelashes. I just don’t know – although Holly’s mouth is sharper too.

All this out of camera comparison is a bit artificial though isn’t it? I’m never going to shoot models (or any portraits for that matter) without editing – I pretty much edit everything. So, given that – if I had to work on the three wide open images from each lens (I pretty much always shoot portraits wide open), what do I get? I’ve deliberately over-edited a little – particularly the eyes (using a detail extractor) because I wanted to see what information was there to be had and to share it with you. They are all edited slightly differently but with the aim of them bringing the best out of the lenses while getting them to a fairly similar end point:

1st CANON, 2nd LEICA, 3rd JUPITER – all wide open

Canon85mmf1.2Edited

leica80mmf1.4Edited

Jupiter85mmf2Edited

I found the results surprising. The ‘crunchiness’ of the Canon (something I’d have never attributed to it prior to putting it against the Leica) was difficult to overcome. Transitions between light and shade seemed to accentuate really easily in the edit and I found the highlights difficult to control too (perhaps related to the sensor rather than the lens). The Leica on the other hand is, I think, quite beautiful – I’ve been able to reveal the sharpness of the lens (look at the eyes) but the softness and smoothness puts the Canon to shame – at least in my view. Then there’s the Jupiter – a dark horse: with a careful edit, it performs really well. Given that it cost me less than 5% of either the Canon (new) or Leica (used) that’s remarkable. I should say I used the EVF for both the Jupiter and the Leica. The Leica isn’t coupled so that was a must, but my Jupiter was designed for another camera and can be a bit focus shifted on an M.

For me the quality of the Leica has surprised me and shows that sharpness on its own can leave you wanting. This test allowed me to be happy to let the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II go, and with it the 5D III and the other lenses too. That’s allowed me to buy a Sony A7 II, a Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, a Voigtlander close focus M to E adaptor and a Canon 50mm f/0.95 rangefinder coupled lens, which I will get back in a few days when its conversion to M mount is done. I’ve also bought a dinky Nippon Kogaku (Nikkor) 5cm f/1.4 SC for a bit of fun after having let my Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar go too. I’m finding I’m preferring a more classic low contrast look nowadays. So with those bits of kit and some LTM to M adapter rings, I can use all but the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 on both cameras and I’ve kept some autofocus capability for shooting moving targets too. Additionally, I think the A7 II with its in-body stabilisation might be useful for some low light work when the need calls.

Altogether I feel I have gained flexibility from making the change.

A final word on the Leica 80mm f/1.4 though… It might not stay. I love how it looks, I’ve included a couple of real (non-test) shots below, but as an R lens it is a bit of a pain to use. Shooting it wide open requires precise focus and it doesn’t exhibit enough contrast for focus peaking to be effective so focusing through the EVF (it can’t be done any other way) needs to be done in zoom. Since there is no coupling, this requires the button on the front of the camera to be pressed, the eyes located, precise focus found (without peaking), the button pressed again to de-zoom, and the frame recomposed. By which time your subject is frustrated. As am I.

So there you have it, a long and rambling lens comparison posting that started out as an exercise for me to inform myself. I hope sharing it will be of interest to others too. I’m not sure how many comparisons between those particular portrait lenses are out there – I haven’t come across any.

At the moment then, I’m really looking forward to getting the 0.95 Canon back, something I wouldn’t have been able to justify buying without selling on the Canon SLR kit and I do feel broadly happy with the lenses I have. I may yet get a stronger 35mm and I may yet swap out the Leica R too.

So, thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a couple of shots that I made with the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. After all, I may not be keeping it for long…

Canal1

Canal2

I hope this reads alright Steve. I’ll send the images on in following emails – it might take two or three.

I hope you will be able to let me know whether you think it is suitable – I hope it is!

Cheers

Paul

—–

From Steve: As always, for your Leica needs I recommend Ken Hanson, PopFlash.com and LeicaStoreMiami.com

Mar 182015
 

P1000509

Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Yashica Makro-Planar in the Punjab

by Ibraar Hussain

I took a two-week trip to the Western Punjab (the real Punjab) in Pakistan and have just returned.  Most of my 14 days were rained off so I couldn’t go to where I had planned and use my Rolleiflex with my Rollienars. What I did do was shoot with my new Panasonic LUMIX GX7. I had initially decided upon the Fuji XE2 but I couldn’t justify the price difference.

IMG_7713

I actually bought it after much research as something to compliment my Rolleiflex and Contax G2. I could also use my Yashica AF lenses with it and could use it to photograph birdlife too. I find the use of adaptors exceedingly useful, and decided to buy one to fit my Yashica AF lenses.

I chose this over the Olympus OMD series as:

a) It’s cheaper
b) Handling was more to my liking – the OMD EM-5 and 10 have a terrible grip and I wasn’t too keen on the overall design.
c) love the tilting EVF and LCD so I sometimes use it like I do my Rolleiflex – with a waist level finder.
d) it’s made in Japan rather than China

Took me a day of playing around at home to get used to it and I managed to set it according to my requirements, I set the Function buttons to what I want, with 1 focus point and Centre Weighted metering.

My weapons of choice were my Yashica AF 60mm Makro Planar f2.8 (this lens, I have been informed by many reliable sources, is a rebranded Contax Zeiss 60mm Makro Planar so Sshh… don’t tell anyone and pick up a bargain – superb lens which doubles as a nice short tele and portrait lens) the Fotodiox adaptor has the aperture control on the barrel which I am so happy with as another niggly hindrance is the jog dial to change the F stop which is cumbersome and slow.

My other weapons were the compact metal, Made in Japan 30mm Sigma AF fit and the Yashica AF 210mm f4 zoom . I left my other Yashica lenses including the 24mm Distagon type at home as I didn’t think I’d need a standard lens as I was aiming to shoot portraits and Birdlife.

Anyway I shoot mostly in the 1:1 square format and I shot some portraits of Punjabi people, young and old, rich and poor, in villages, town bazaars and shrines and enjoyed the experience.  I visited the colonial city of Sargodha, and took a long train ride on the 5’6” Indian wide gauge Railway. Trekked around the villages and fields near Sarai Alamgir near the City of Jhelum by the Jhelum River. And visited the Shrine of the Muslim Saint Pir-e-Shah Ghazi, Dhamrian wall Sarkar, Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.

In a two-week trip I only shot 260 odd exposures with it and most were keepers.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Beggar Kids, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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THOUGHTS

This is an excellent camera, and bar some niggles I will explain later, almost perfect in many ways. It looks great, the flip LED and EVF are excellent ideas and so useful. Lovely size and feel, and very quick to start up. Excellent picture quality and very good smooth ISO 800 speed for portraits of people indoors with natural light. Function buttons can be set, so the advanced user can have all at his disposal. 1:1 square ratio mode Takes good video too. Can use other lenses with adaptors. Focus peaking is very effective for MF.

A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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DRAWBACKS

I find the constant computerised settings messing around annoying and it tends to get in the way, and things keep happening if I accidentally touch the screen which is sensitive.
Having too much is a hindrance too – sometimes I’d rather just make do with a certain ISO speed and work around this, rather than spend ages pondering what speed to set it at.
This needed dedicated buttons for most things, the Function buttons were ok though.

I find the lack of a dedicated concise Exposure Compensation dial a hindrance, I was constantly having to press the appropriate F button, push one of the toggle dials in and then change – whereas a dedicated compensation DIAL would’ve been perfect.

Changing aperture using the toggle Dial is very annoying and lacks the precise feel and involvement a lens barrel mounted aperture ring gives.
and I think the EVF is a tad small though it is bright.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt Villager saluting, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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OVERALL

I prefer the use and feel of my Contax G2 for this type of portrait and people photography and the look and feel of 35mm E6 is way beyond what this M43 can achieve, but even so,Great camera with great results and the 1:1 ratio coupled with smooth ISO 800 are great to have.

I cannot see any reason to buy a budget APS sized DSLR or other camera any more, the picture quality is about the same, with the advantages of being compact, well-built and very quick.
All my images were JPEG fine and resized with border added in Photoshop – I don’t shoot Raw.

Some photos are soft, this is because focus is manual with the 60mm and focus peaking though very helpful isn’t flawless and I’m also in my 40ies so half blind!

The Yashica 60mm lens by the way is stellar – wonderful rendering and contrast and pin sharp if focussed correctly.

The 210mm is soft wide open and the 30mm Sigma is a tad long to be a standard lens but wonderfully sharp.

Ultimately though, pictures are as good as the person behind the lens, and I think I would’ve got more or less the same results with any Digital Camera with any sized sensor.

You can see some of the others I shot at my Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/

Rail passenger. Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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View from the Guards window, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Mr Shahid, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Deaf Lad, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Hijra’s, Eunuchs at Sargodha Station.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A portrait.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village Girl, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village Boy, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A ‘Sain’ boy, respected as divinely gifted, at a Cigarette and Pan stall
Sarai alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Jatt Village children at play, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Nain village Child, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Mar 172015
 

titlebjarke

2014 in Twelve images

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Hi Steve,

Another year has passed, and at least from my perspective 2014 was extremely busy. I fulfilled a dream of mine and opened a rock bar, Zeppelin (www.zeppelincph.dk), + my very own photographic haven/store, One Of Many Cameras (www.oneofmanycameras.com), here in Copenhagen, where I live. The camera store, which deals with both new and 2nd hand stuff gave me even further possibilities to explore the photographic medium and although it hasn’t exactly cured my GAS, it helps that I can just borrow stuff from the shelves now and then :-)

I only shoot manual lenses as they fit my shooting style the best, and I spend most of my photography time on celluloid, expired chemistry and especially large format portraits, but that ol’ Leica M9-P of mine is still my favourite digital camera (since I can’t afford or justify a Monochrome, hehe), but I also adore the little MicroFourThirds camera which was given to me as a x-mas present by my One Of Many Cameras partner Daniel because of its portability, since the large format cameras are a bit bulky to drag around. My work can be seen here: www.oneofmany.dk and www.polaroid.com

Anyways, here goes — once again — 12 images, 12 cameras, 12 months – this time for the year 2014.

***

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photograhic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

2014_01_8x10_scan_deardorff v2_270mm_boyer saphir paris f63_iso3_after

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photographic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

I’ve been working on a book/exhibition the last couple of years. It’s gonna be called “After” and will feature 130+ portraits of my girlfriend, all shot immediately after we’ve had sex. There will be no pornographic content or nudity but “raw” portraits that try to capture that very special moment just “after”… I went about it in a dogmatic way, so I decided that all had to be shot within a five minute time span and I would max make 3 exposures. It was very challenging as many of the shoots were rather trivial when it comes subject, and location of course, but I managed to use a great variety of cameras and now in the final editing stages of the book, I believe it turned out okay. The book will be published around May/June if everything goes as planned. For this particular shot, Katja laid still for 8 seconds while I captured the light.

***

February · Leica M9 · 50mm Summilux Asph @ f/2.8 · ISO200

2014_02_LeicaM9_50summilux_iso200_Lucer

Still love the Leica, still love rock ’n roll, and I still have a record label, so I actually managed to shoot quite a few album covers in 2014, this being one of them. With vinyl making a serious comeback it’s a joy to shoot band pictures again. The band is called Lucer and they play high-octane rock. Be sure to check them out on Spotify –– or even better, on vinyl.

***

March · Goecker Studio Camera · 270mm Dallmeyer 3B Petzval · Expired Ilford Multigrade photographic paper used as paper negative · ISO3

2014_03_8x10_paper negative scan__Goecker Studio Kamera_Dallmeyer 3B_iso3_Street

I bought an old wooden large format studio camera, dating back to 1913 and it came with a wonderful Dallmeyer Petzval from the 1860s’ so I decided to drag it outside our little camera store (which is also a studio) and test it out. Two teenagers were walking down the street, but I convinced to them to stand still for 1 second while I used my hand as a shutter. Notice the Petzval curve, it’s absolutely wonderful. Oh yeah, the logo of One Of Many Cameras is actually the Petzval lens design from 1840 – both my partner Daniel and I even got it tattooed, so I guess that lens is rather special to me.

***

April · Fuji GX680III · 125mm GX f/3.2 · Ilford Delta 100

Picture 521

Even though I love large format and the creative possibilities it gives regarding perspective and focus, it’s not exactly portable. Enter the Fuji GX680III, a high-end medium format camera from the final days of the professional analog era. It has a small bellow and therefore tilt-shit capabilities and you can cram 8 images on a 120-roll film, so economically speaking, it’s quite okay (compared to large format). You can shoot the camera handheld – and those Fujinon lenses — whauh. This one in particular, it’s perfect. My youngest clone was shot wide open at f/3.2. Love the bokeh.

***

May · Kodak DCS PRO SLR N · 55mm Nikkor f/1.2 · ISO160

2014_05_Kodak DCS PRO SLR N_55mm Nikkor f12_iso160_Mikkel Munch Fals

I don’t want to (re-)start the whole CCD vs. CMOS war, I’ll just conclude that you’ll find on the CCD-side when photographic civil war begins. I haven’t owned a DSLR since I sold my 5D Mark III and I swore I’d never go down that road again… But then I was presented with this Kodak beauty, the first full frame pro digital camera, which cost a fortune back when it was introduced, and having never shot Nikon glass before (!) I couldn’t resent the 55mm Nikkor f/1.2. The 3 included batteries last only 5 minutes each, the camera breaks down constantly, has many quirks and is hardly usable above ISO400… But that Kodak CCD sensor is absolutely wonderful… I get the same feeling as when I look at images from my Leica M9-P and Hasselblad H3D-39. If I’m working digital (and not doing video), I’ll definitely go for a CCD-camera.

***

June · Leica Monochrome · 50mm Apo-Summicron f/2 Asph · ISO320

2014_06_LeicaMonochrome_50apo Summicron_iso320_beach

Had the chance to spend a day with the APO-Summicron. Took it to the beach along with a Monochrome. Nice combo. Stupid price tag, though.

***

July · Leica M9–P · 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE · ISO160

2014_07_LeicaM9P_35mm Summilux_ISO160_Barcelona

Took my two clones to Barcelona for our summer vacation, alongside a couple of Leica’s and the Fuji GX680 monster. I keep coming back to the Leica, it’s “like home” every time I shoot it. The swimming pool was nice, too.

***

August · Sinar P2 · 36cm Voigtländer f/4.5 · Impossible Silver Shade 8×10” Polaroid

2014_08_8x10_Polaroid_sinar_p2_36cm_heliar_iso640_herod

Having a record label is nice because you get to meet some really cool people, in this case the Swiss noise-rockers Herod who performed here in Copenhagen, and stayed at my place for a couple of days. I dragged the boys to my attic alongside my Swiss 8×10” large format Sinar camera, and shot an 8×10” Polaroid polaroid. The lens was stopped down at f/5.6 (which is like f/1.4 in 35mm terms regarding depth of field), but with the help of the movements of the camera, I was able to get all 4 members (relatively) sharp.

***

September · Kodak Master View 8×10” · Rodenstock 210mm Sironar f/5.6 · Ilford Direct Positive Paper · ISO6

2014_09_8x10_directpositivepaper_Kodak master view_210_mm_sironar s_iso5_undergang

Another band photo, this time around it was the death metal act Undergang, who were about to embark on a 5 week US tour and needed a band photo for their upcoming LP, so of course we went to a cemetery. I brought an antique Kodak Master View 8×10” large format camera and some Direct Postive Paper, and I snapped this ghoulish portrait with the Rodenstock lens shot wide open. Again with the gigantic negatives (1 x 8×10″ negative = 1 roll of 35mm film), the depth of field is extremely shallow, only a couple of millimeters but that old Kodak large format camera with its bellowsmovements made it possible to get them all “pretty sharp”. I made the vocalist only show the white in his eyes for the second I exposed the Direct Positive Paper, which indeed is a fantastic medium when working with the large format, since it’s like a Polaroid (positive) and you can handle it under red/safe light which makes it much easier than the negatives.

***

October · Sinar P2 5×7” – 21cm Voigtlander Petzval · Expired Ilford photo paper

2014_10_5x7_Sinarp2_21cm_Voigtlander_iso2_when the silver runs dry

One Of Many portraits of my favourite subject(s) – my clone, Hjalte. Almost 16 years old, he looks nothing like the child I’ve been documenting for many years now, as he’s growing rapidly, physically as well as mentally. Teenagers are hard to shoot since they’re pretty demanding, and pretty pimple ridden, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with expired analog materials and decided to try to drag the absolutely last silver out of some photographic paper which expired the year Hjalte was born (1999). He sat still for around 4 seconds while I underexposed and then the negative laid in the (also expired) chemistry for around half and hour before it was fully developed. I love it, one of my favourite portraits of 2014.

****

November · Sony A7S · Leica 75mm Summilux f/1.4 · ISO1600

2014_11_SonyA7S_75 Summilux_iso1600_Ruth Storm

Yes, I love old cameras (and especially lenses) but of course I also embrace new technological wonders –– like the Sony A7S. Most of my work is shot at extremely low ISOs, but the A7S opened new doors for me with its extreme low light capabilities. I’ve shot portraits for record covers at ISO 100.000 (!) which look fine on print – and my Leica lenses all perform wonderful on that little Sony. And the ones that can be hard to focus on a rangefinder are easy to nail spot on with the focus peaking turned on. Sometimes I wish the A7S had just a few more pixels as 12mp isn’t a lot for print/pro work, but I use it mostly for videos anyway, and there it reigns supreme.

****

December · Panasonic DMC-GF5 · 1″ Taylor-Hobson f/1.9 · ISO1600

2014_12_Panasonic DMC-GF5_1inch Taylor-Hobson f19_iso1600_trine tree

Yeah, I prefer large format and medium format, and full frame digital sensors. But lately, I’ve come to love a small, not-very-special little Panasonic pocket camera (DMC-GF5) – due to one fact: its MicroFourThirds sensor and the c-mount adapter that came along the little x-mas presents. That combo opens totally new doors when it comes to lenses and look. Old 16mm film lenses (c-mount) shine on that little digital sensor (the ones that cover it that is) and since the camera is very cheap (and lenses, too) I bring it everywhere for snapshots that otherwise were reserved for my iPhone. Here you see the newest member of the Ahlstrand-clan, Trine The Cat, climbing unto a x-mas tree. Nothing fancy, just one of those “family shots”, but I really dig the look of that tiny 1960s 16mm film camera lens, which I just had CLA’ed by my friend, Professor Olsen (repair-guy at One Of Many Cameras).

That’s it. Enjoy.

Mar 112015
 

What I learned from trading a DSLR for a phone.

By Brandon Labbe

NOTE: All images in this post are phone images. 

It is expected that a photographer wouldn’t revert to a lesser camera once they’ve used a professional one, however my experience has proven otherwise, and while I did indeed go back to using a professional camera in the end, I learned a lot along the way.

I could go into painstaking detail on the cameras I’ve owned, how they compared with each other and with other brands, but that would take much too long. I’ll at least name what I was planning on upgrading to, the Canon 6D, because for subconscious psychological reasons I don’t have the time or credentials to delve into, I am one who normally practices a sort of brand loyalty that could be described as borderline religious. That being said, in the year 2014 I had not shied away from photography itself, but from dslrs. In the years before, I’d taken a dslr nearly everywhere with me, but I’d noticed something in 2014 about my camera that I hadn’t noticed before. There was dust on it. Without even being aware of it, so much time passed between the few times I used it that a noticeable amount of dust gathered on it like one would expect to find on a book. An even bigger surprise met me at the end of the year: I had only taken the camera out of the house 4 times, as opposed to 40 times in 2013. When I was trying to think of what could explain the dramatic decline in my photography between the two years, it hit me: at the end of 2013, and I mean quite literally the very end of 2013 (it came in the mail late in the afternoon on December 31st), I had bought my first smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S (not an S5 or S4, just a plain old S).

2014-05-30 15.28.45 1500

 

I’d owned phones with cameras before, but as anyone who ever used those would know, flip-phone cameras are pathetic. They took pictures that were never really meant to leave the phone, as on a computer they only looked good when viewed at the size of a thumbnail, but I digress. On the night I received the phone, I was heading out to view the New Year fireworks, and even though I hadn’t had the phone for more than 3 hours, and I used the camera on it only once to test the quality, when it came time to leave, I made a last-minute decision to just take my phone and leave my dslr behind. I didn’t know why I did it. I’d never done it before, but it just felt right to leave it. I just knew I wouldn’t miss it. I think you can see where this is going. Throughout the year there were many times I felt comfortable enough with my phone to leave my dslr behind, and after some months there wasn’t even a question about it. I just packed my dslr into its never-used camera bag to keep it from getting dustier, and I practically forgot I even owned it. Sure enough, by the end of the year I’d amassed 1500 photos on my phone. Not nearly as many as I took with my dslr the year before, but still quite a lot.

2014-05-30 15.34.53 1500

Why did I do this? I didn’t think about it at the time, but it was the weight and size of the dslr that I apparently found repulsive compared to the phone. That much was obvious, but the amount of photos was a curious thing. Why did I take much fewer photos with my go-to camera (the phone) in 2014 than with my go-to camera (the dslr) in 2013? Two reasons: first, my phone has a short battery life, limiting the amount of pictures I could take. Second: my phone was pocketable while my dslr was always in my hand. I went rather photo-crazy with my dslr, taking multiple photos a minute, where as with my phone I thought about each picture, sometimes reaching for it, pausing, and putting my hand back down when I realized the image before me wasn’t special enough. I should note that while I can’t pocket the A7II, it’s light enough that it can hang from my neck as opposed to my constantly having to hold the heavier dslr that would give me neck pains if I let go of it. The limited battery of the A7II also keeps me in check, just like the phone. Like countless experts have said, limiting the amount of pictures you can take makes you more selective with taking pictures and that makes you better at thinking about pictures before you take them. This is the argument as to why you should learn photography with film, but a limited battery gives you the same discipline without the anxiety of not knowing if a picture came out well. Also, hanging a camera from your neck as opposed to always holding it in your hand makes you less of a shutter bug. I know these are tips that have been echoed a thousand times before, but what made them so meaningful in this situation is that I learned them without even realizing I was learning them.

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Since it wasn’t till the end of October that I realized it wasn’t photography I was tired of, but dslrs, and the A7II was to be released in just 2 months, I held out on buying a new camera till the A7II came out. It wasn’t until I went lens shopping online that I partially realized another valuable lesson I apparently learned while using my phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year. I was torn between 2 options: the Zeiss 24-70mm 4 and, for reasons I didn’t even know at the time, the 35mm 2.8.

While I luckily never went through a ‘carry everything’ phase that some photographers go through when they’re starting out, from the time I bought my first dslr I always had a zoom lens, an 18-55mm (28-90 full frame) and I’d heard of prime lenses, but I was convinced that I’d die without a zoom lens. With that same mentality, I told myself, when shopping for lenses, “obviously I’m getting the zoom,” but when I saw the size of the lens, I cringed because it would make the A7II as long and nearly as heavy as one of my older, cheaper dslrs, which was still too big, and then I saw the 35mm, and it was like hearing angels singing, because it was a small lens that was rated very well and it hardly added mass to the body. There was just the little problem of “I’d die without a zoom lens,” but when I thought about it, I realized that for the last year with the phone I’d basically been using a prime lens (because I certainly didn’t use the ghastly digital zoom) and I even remembered in the first month wishing I could zoom with it but by the end of the year I never thought that and I was content with the phone’s fixed focal length (and sure enough, when looking up the phone’s specs, the phone’s lens’ focal length was equal to a 35mm full frame lens). I’d wanted to switch to using a prime lens before, because experts say it makes you a better photographer, making you visualize a picture before you take it, but what always held me back was the thought that It would be too limiting for me and I’d miss all sorts of shots, but in using my phone, I made the change I was scared to make without even realizing I made it!

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I was still nervous when I bought the lens that I’d hate it and think it was too limiting, but in the 2 months I’ve owned the A7II I’ve already taken it out of the house more than I took the dslr out in 2014 and not only did I not feel the need for a zoom lens, but I actually felt better without it. With a zoom lens, I’d always find myself stopping and seeing which focal length would make a certain shot perfect, and that took time, perhaps not a lot of time, but seconds add up, and ultimately it just takes you out of the moment more. Well, that and holding the camera in your hand and taking a hundred photos where a dozen or even fewer would suffice, and what’s the point of capturing a moment when you’re detached from it?

If you make all of the mistakes that I made before quitting dslrs (taking too many pictures, using a zoom lens, using gear that’s too big, etc), I wouldn’t tell you to use a phone, but you can skip that step and learn all of the things I did by getting one of the Sony A7 models (with your best bet being the A7II) and a prime lens that suits you’re style of photography. For example, I like 35mm where some people like Henri Cartier Bresson think anything wider than 50mm is blasphemy. To each their own, Mr. Bresson.

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This isn’t really related, but one thing I found myself doing with the A7II from day 1 is using the fully manual mode. I don’t know about Nikon, but manual mode looked so complicated on Canon dslrs that the very sight of the ‘M’ on the mode dial gave me chills. I always had it in automatic, but that wasn’t always a good thing because while I got most of the shots I wanted, I missed some because they were over or underexposed to a degree that I couldn’t do much for them even in photoshop or lightroom.

One final note. Be warned, though, the following isn’t for the faint of heart. Having used a phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year, I grew so used to looking at the screen to compose pictures, as there was no viewfinder, that I find myself only using the lcd screen of the A7II and even find myself wishing it didn’t have the viewfinder, as I feel it’s just unneeded bulk. I know, I’m probably the only person who’s used an A7II and thought that, but it’s true. I’d buy the RX1, but the tech is older and it doesn’t have a grip. If the RX2 is a fixed prime lens (I’ve heard rumors that it might be a zoom; I hope that’s not true) and it has a grip like the A7II, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe I’ll warm up to the viewfinder eventually, but right now the live view on the screen is an appealing reminder of a phone where as the viewfinder is like an ugly reminder of my dslr days.

Brandon Labbe

Feb 202015
 

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II

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The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens

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The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 

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The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.

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The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 

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The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 

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The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 

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Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240

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Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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Noctilux

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As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

Jan 282015
 

Dirt Cheap Mirrorless Fun

By Ben Bird

As many of the guest contributors before me have done I want to thank Steve and Brandon for a chance to share my experiences with all of the other readers of Steve’s website. I hope you will find it as enjoyable to read as I have many of your reviews! (Thanks Ben!! – Steve)

I don’t have any exotic gear to review for you, no ultra-rare vintage glass that has been found in an attic and saved from the brink of extinction… nothing terribly exciting… what I do have for you all is a review of a dirt cheap and very fun mirrorless setup that I have been beating around with a lot of average and common legacy glass on some adapters.

Let me back up a bit and give you some context…

(I can assure you it isn’t anything special. You could probably guess the next few paragraphs and be spot on!)
I have been a Canon DSLR shooter for 12 years. I started out with a Rebel XT then moved on to a 20D, a 40D, a 5D Classic and recently a 6D.

I take pictures of anything and everything. I have photographed weddings as a Primary and a second shooter off and on over the last 6 years. I also did portraits, families shoots, seniors and events, but have since retired from those pursuits. I shoot a lot of candid portrait work and spend a lot of my shutter time with family and friends socially.

I also work part-time photographing an amazing local motorcycle shop here in Lincoln Nebraska called Great Plains Cycle Supply. I document the employees, customers, and events for their social media and websites. (Check them out!)

My current full-time day job allows me to work outdoors and I attempt to take my camera with me at all times, never going anywhere without it tagging along… but as we all have experienced, that isn’t always possible.

Eventually the hassle got to me and I started to leave the DSLR at home more and more often.

While I have enjoyed the image quality of my DSLR’s I have long been pining for something smaller and more discreet. The heartbreak of missing a really amazing photo because I simply didn’t want to take my big DSLR along was really taking it’s toll on me. And of course… who doesn’t want to get closer and be ignored more when taking candid photographs of people?

Tou Five Star 1

Ultron 4

As you have no doubt realized, it’s going to be another one of “those” reviews… DSLR to mirrorless… we’ve all read them, and everyone is doing it these days… so I will try to hurry past some of the more cliché parts and spend a little more time on what I can offer that is unique.

I really wanted to try a mirrorless system and see if I could make it work for me… but I was concerned that being a full frame DSLR shooter for so long I would never be able to “let go” of my obsession with full frame “look” and embrace the crop sensor files.

Fortunately I have the internet… and if there is one thing I know how to do well; its kill hours of my life while looking at photographs on the web!

I spent a lot of time enjoying thousands of photos taken with mirrorless cameras and at some point I realized I had forgotten that I was supposed to be analyzing the image quality of the photos and had just been enjoying the photographs! The image quality has ceased to be that big of an issue for me… and I also had realized that no matter how amazing the full frame files looked… if that full frame camera wasn’t with me when the photo presented itself… the photos would never be taken at all… and all that sexy full frame goodness was going to waste at home in the camera bag.

Finally I came to the conclusion I had to try for myself. In my circle of friends the only mirrorless cameras were a couple of Fuji’s. So I borrowed an X100 from my friend and took it for a couple of test drives.

And I was disgusted.

I couldn’t get the camera to cooperate with me; I couldn’t take a decent photo to save my life. I worked and worked and was constantly frustrated. But worst of all… I couldn’t seem to do anything to the Fuji files to make them work for me. I was crushed. I was so ready to be on board… I had seen loads of beautiful Fuji photos, so I knew that the system COULD work… but I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it.

I threw up my hands in disgust and went back to my DSLR’s and said I would never switch over to Fuji.

But, the years went by… and I saw more and more beautiful photos taken not only with Fuji, but also with the other mirrorless systems.

I forgot my disgust and frustration and started to daydream of the day I could carry a tiny discreet camera around my neck all the time.

I tried other systems in the camera stores. I lusted after the RX1 and RX1R, the OMD’s the A7’s and thought that maybe they could work for me but everything was out of reach financially.

A friend of mine had recently left Canon and bought a used X100s and an X Pro 1 for not a lot of money and was making beautiful photos with them on a regular basis. He encouraged me that working with the Fuji files was indeed different and that I should be patient and give it some time before I ruled out Fuji entirely.

I would look at the work done by so many of the great photographers on the web and all of the great reader reviews on this site and say to myself:

“Clearly it can be done right. Why can’t I do that? It has got to be me and not the cameras fault. “

Finally I’d had enough… I decided I had to jump in and actually put the hours into learning the system and stop blaming the equipment. After all… that IS what I preach day in and day out: It’s the photographer… not the camera that makes great photos. I was being a hypocrite.

So it was way past time for me to put my money where my mouth was!

It just so happened that my bank account and I weren’t on speaking terms at the time, so I couldn’t just rush out and snatch up a new system.

So, I looked for the cheapest possible way to start shooting Fuji… and I found a mint condition used XE-1 for 300$. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford glass for a long time, but I had some old manual lenses In the house… some M42, some Nikon and even an old Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7 Ultron that I could use on the Fuji with some adapters.

So I pulled the trigger and got the XE-1 and an adapter for the Voigtlander.

Well… I wish I could say it was a match made in heaven… but it wasn’t.

There were a lot of teething problems and I spent most of my time cussing the Ultron and trying to get the hang of the incredibly bad minimum focusing distance of the lens (somewhere around 2-2.5 feet!) I am so used to being able to shoot closer that it really threw me off. I could never tell if the lens was just a little soft or if I was just always blowing my focus.

Eventually I got a few shots I liked, and started to get the hang of the XE-1… but my poor manual focusing ability and the Ultron butted heads constantly.

Ultron 3

Super Takumar 50 4

Nikkor 50mm 3

Perhaps I should say a word about the XE-1’s focus peaking here:

While I am grateful for the focusing aid, and it does indeed help me some days… it’s not as fool-proof or precise as it was made out to be to me by some. Perhaps I haven’t gotten it set up right, or am missing something but I can also say there is a HUGE difference on my XE-1 on how the focus peaking works in the viewfinder and the rear LCD. It is MUCH easier to see on the rear LCD and it feels as though it is barely working in the viewfinder. It also seems to work better with some of the other lenses I ended up using on the XE-1 later on down the road.

And for whatever reason… my copy of the Ultron doesn’t seem to play well with the focus peaking. It’s a shame… because the Ultron is the smallest , lightest and the fastest focusing lens I have and I really thought it would be my favorite lens for the Fuji… but it has turned to be a bear for me to nail focus with.

I have a few good shots from the Ultron to share, but let me say it was a LOT of work to get those few shots! My hit rate was terrible!

So, as I was struggling so much I borrowed some adapters from a friend for my M42 and Nikon lenses to see if they would work any better.

At this point I was also still struggling greatly with the Fuji files, and not really able to consistently make photos that I liked.

Part of it was me still trying to learn how the camera “read the light” and where it’s sweet spots were. And another part of it was not finding a look in post that made me happy.

I was very frustrated again and starting to doubt my decision all over again. At this point I was only shooting RAW and bumbling around in Lightroom with every shot.

I decided it was time to try the famous Fuji Jpegs that I had read so much about… so I switched the XE-1 over to Jpeg, fiddled with the settings, put my Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 onto the Fuji and started playing again.

Well, right away I felt better about the purchase… the Takumar was sharp, as well as having a buttery smooth focus ring. Focus peaking seemed to show up a little better than with the Ultron. However… on the down side… the Takumar was much heavier, and the focusing while being more precise… was much slower and the focus ring has a much longer throw from stop to stop.

So, I had found a lens that started to work well, and I made a little progress with the Jpeg settings. However, I decided I really needed to buckle down and sort out the Jpegs before I went any further.

I spent about a week of hardcore testing with all the jpeg settings in camera. Shooting, comparing and pixel peeping to try to figure out what I liked and how they all worked for me in post.

Eventually I found a setup that allowed me a good starting point with the Jpegs that would allow me to process them in any direction I liked… for the most part.

The color was mostly there and I liked the way they converted to black and white after the fact in Lightroom.

So I started to work with just a single default Jpeg setup that allowed me a consistent baseline to try the various lenses in all sorts of lighting situations so I could learn the sensor and lenses personalities better.

This alone made such a huge difference in my Fuji learning curve… just having a stable baseline to always work off of.

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Micro Nikkor 3

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These are the settings I finally settled on:

ISO Auto 200-6400 range

DR 100

WB auto

NR -2

Fine Jpegs

Astia film simulation

Highlight Tone +1

Shadow Tone +2

Color +2

Sharp -2

Obviously, settings are very personal and this may not work for anyone else, but this is where I start from with every one of my photographs now.

After I got that sorted out I went back to my lens experiments.

Next up was my Super Takumar 35mm F/2. A beautiful looking lens, that is really quite large and heavy. I really thought this lens was going to knock me out of the park. Out of all my legacy lenses this tank has highest quality FEEL to it, and a fairly stiffly dampened focus ring. I also wrongly assumed that at F/2 it would be very sharp wide open.

Well… it’s not. It’s a little soft all over and only a little sharper in the middle. I was disappointed by how much the stiff dampening slowed down my manual focusing on moving subjects and frequently missed shots.

I struggled to find a good way to use this lens and was about to give up and put it back on the shelf when one early morning I took a few flower shots to stay busy and I checked the screen and OH MY GOSH!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!

The out of focus rendering when wide open on this lens in AMAZING with the right background, light and distance to your background.
I know this sort of rendering isn’t for everyone… but WOW… this lens has some serious character in the right situations!

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See for yourself… I can’t say much for the weight or the handling as it adds a LOT of weight and size to the little Fuji, but I pull this guy out whenever I want to take some photos where sharpness isn’t critical with some interesting bokeh in the background. I haven’t even come close to exploring this lenses potential but I am most certainly not going to be selling this one anytime soon.

Around this time I realized that I was really getting to enjoy the EVF a lot on the XE-1 when the light was nice. Lots have been written about both Fuji’s EVF’s in general and the lagging of the older models viewfinders and/or LCD screens in low light so I won’t try to quantify it for you in this review but I can say that:

a) (The older models) They leave a lot to be desired in low light.

b) They can be really great to use regardless of the shortcomings.

In nice light it’s really fun and relaxing to use. What you see is what you get. Quite a nice change of pace from the chimping we have come to assume is mandatory with our OVF’s of old.

(Like I said, all of this is old news these days and every “DSLR to mirrorless” review has already broke ground with all these points so I don’t have any shocking revelations for you!)

The camera’s ergonomics were growing on me as well. While using my legacy lenses really makes the XE-1 quite unbalanced and “nose heavy” at times, it is still pretty fun to use and hold. After spending some time with my Super Takumars, I pulled out my Nikkor 50mm F/2 AI and mounted it up.

First impressions were that it was a pretty light lens compared to the Super Takumars and it was quite enjoyable to focus with as well!

The Nikkor has a very lightly dampened focus ring and a very fast action with a pretty short throw stop to stop that makes it very quick to focus and to date is my favorite legacy lens to focus out of my small collection.

The focus peaking seemed to be a bit easier to see with this Nikkor as well, and it really makes an easy to use lens if you like this 75mm equivalent focal length.

I enjoy shooting this lens wide open or stopped down to F/2.8 from time to time as a candid portrait lens, or just a general do everything lens with a little more reach. I’m not an expert in this area but I can say it was plenty sharp wide open for me and I never found a problem with the image quality from this lens. Another keeper for me!

Next up was an old Micro Nikkor 55mm F/2.8 macro lens that I use as my primary macro lens on my Canon DSLR’s.

I am already fond of this lens from my years spent with it, so I can tell you with great confidence that it is slow focusing and precise and it gets nice and close just like you want with a good manual macro. I am not sure what else you need to know! It works, it’s cheap, and it allows the Fuji to really get in there!

If that is your thing, then it’s a great cheap way to go! (Sorry… but that’s the bottom line for me. It works well for me, but I am not a hardcore macro user… so your mileage may vary!) I would love to give you more details but that’s really all I have!

Around this time I realized that I was really feeling a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders… I could shoot in Jpeg and not worry about larger memory cards, filling up my precious hard drive space with monster RAW files, Lightroom was working faster (my CPU is getting a little long in the tooth) and I found that I was less concerned with blowing shots.

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I was trying harder to get the shot exposed and composed the way I wanted it in camera, but if I couldn’t, or I was too slow, or the shot had way too much motion blur… I wasn’t nearly as upset at myself for screwing up a shot… I simply said “oh well” and moved on.

I was clearly relaxing and enjoying photography more now.

But, the flipside was that because I had a hard time confirming that I nailed focus … I ended up taking a LOT more shots to make sure that I got SOMETHING that day. (Thank goodness I was shooting Jpeg!)

I was hedging my bet… which seemed very counterproductive and a little silly to me.

So my time with the XE-1 was being spent wrestling with my desire to nail every shot, get it right… but also to not freak out if I missed something and try to relax and let it go.

It was a confusing time. But slowly I was enjoying it more and more.

I was feeling more and more comfortable with the Fuji files as well. Where they Full Frame Canon files? No. Did they have to be? No.

I haven’t sold my Canon’s yet, and I and I don’t know if I will… but not because I think that one sensor is superior to the other anymore… it’s because I realize they are merely two different ways to render a photo.

Cameras are paintbrushes. Tools. You use different paintbrushes to render a work of art in different ways. You use different tools to do different jobs.

I like the very disparate painting styles of Monet, Davinci, Robert Williams, Salvador Dali, Frank Frazzetta, H.R. Giger, Gil Elvgren, Phil Noto, Simon Bisley, and Alphonse Mucha.

I love the photos of dozens of photographers with very disparate styles like Diado Moriyama, Henri Cartier- Bresson, Joe McNally, Patrick LaRoque, Magdalena Switek, Thierry Nguyen, Gabe Mcclintock, Laurent Nivalle, and Gordon Chalmers just to name a FEW!

All the artists that I love and appreciate use different “brushes” and utilize them in very different ways.

Is one better than another? No. They are merely different… not better.

I had come to realize that I while I hadn’t nailed down the way I preferred to process the Fuji files and they seemed a little mushy to me at times, and I WAS frustrated by the details I was losing here or there compared to my full frame files… I really was becoming quite fond of the way this first generation X Trans sensor rendered photos. It was a look all by itself and I had really grown to love them.

Steve has talked before about how the second generation Fuji sensors can absolutely sing with the right light and the right settings… and he is right… but he is ALSO right that when the ISO’s climb… they can get mushy, muddy and flat looking.

I can say now that I agree with Steve and I prefer the look of the first Gen X-Trans to the high ISO rendering of the second Gen X-trans… but like I said, I had come to find a little charm in the files regardless of the flaws. I am POSITIVE that if I spent more time with a second Gen Fuji sensor I would come to love that look as well… different… not better.

So, as I worked to become more comfortable with my lenses and the new sensor, I was enjoying the learning process more all the time and leaving the DSLR at home pretty often now.

Then one day I realized what was missing from my Fuji experiment: One good do-everything, universal lens.  I really wanted to leave the house with one lens that would do everything (if possible) and have a Fuji setup that worked something like the X100 was designed to be: practical and useful for almost every situation.

I was digging around the web, and hoping to find a cheap option when I checked the back room on a whim… and low and behold… I found an old Minolta XGA that I had forgotten about, with a Tou/Five Star 28mm f/2.8 macro lens attached. Hmm…. That would be about a 42mm equivalent and kind of fast at 2.8. And the close focusing ability would certainly be appreciated.

So I got myself an adapter ordered and crossed my fingers. Well, the day came… I slapped the adapter and lens on the Fuji and took it out for a spin. And it did not disappoint. I can honestly say this is the most practical and enjoyable legacy lens I have ever used. Not flashy, not fancy, not sexy, not rare, it doesn’t have tons of character… it is just really handy for all kinds of photos.

It’s a little heavy, and focuses slower than my 50mm Nikkor, but it’s not terrible. The focal length helps with moving targets, and the macro focusing ability makes it really versatile and quite fun no matter what you are doing. It even will take a decent portrait if you are careful as it doesn’t have a lot of distortion. It’s sharp, has great contrast, nice color rendering and can be purchased for very little money. Yes, it is still a little front heavy, and when it is cold the grease gets sluggish in the action and the focusing can be even more dampened.

There is lots of lens flare with no hood, and it’s not blazing fast at only f/2.8… But it is a really great daily companion for the little Fuji if you want to keep costs down and have a lot of fun like I did. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was ready to commit to using a Fuji most or perhaps even all of the time. I had come to love the Fuji first Gen X Trans sensor and the small body of the XE-1.

I had realized that I could have fun and take nice pics even with slower manual lenses. The Fuji was coming along with me everywhere, was fairly quiet, and fairly unobtrusive and I decided that if I could enjoy my time with the older lenses, then the Fuji autofocus lenses might be alright for me as well.

Three days ago I managed to scrape up enough money to buy my first AF Fuji lens, the XF27mm F/2.8 pancake lens.

Initial impressions are great and I love having such a feather light lens on the XE-1 after a lot of the heavy legacy lenses. It’s not a blazing fast autofocus camera, but I have already been working around that slower speed so it was actually quite an upgrade for me!

In conclusion, I think that if any of you readers out there would like to give Fuji a try, but don’t want to invest huge amounts of money into a system that you might not like… give the old XE-1 or X-Pro 1 a long hard look. Start with a few cheap adapters and beg, borrow or steal some old legacy lenses to try.

And please… give yourself a while to get use to the system and to learn how to work with the files… I am almost 4 months into this experiment now… and I was really struggling until about my 3rdmonth.

Have some patience and invest some time into getting the camera set up like you want and see what you can do with it.

The final word for me is this… I am absolutely certain I can nail my photos 90% of my time with my Canons. I am confident I will get my shot, I will make it work, and I will be able to process it the way I want 90% of the time.

Why? Is it the sensor? Is it the camera?

It’s neither. It’s the 12 years of practice and one million photos I took with that same system.

I’ve been using a Fuji for just a few months… come back and see me in 12 years and I am certain I will say the same thing about my Fuji’s.

If you would like to see more of my Fuji experiments you can see them on my Tumblr that I set up just to share the Fuji shots. I have been tagging all the photos with lens information for the curious!

http://mylifeaccordingtofuji.tumblr.com/

Or you can see a larger sample of all of my photos both Canon and Fuji here on my Flickr page:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/minkypaw/

Thanks again to Steve and Brandon for giving us all such a great site to enjoy!

Ben Bird

Jan 162015
 

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Kolkata India – Shooting the streets and smiles

by Mark Seymour – His website is HERE

My photography travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse locations but I can honestly say this was unknown territory for me and before I left I really didn’t know what to expect. The little knowledge I had of India from its unique colour and spices to its religious and cultural heritage, the ornately carved temples to the lush landscapes, the fabulous history of the maharajahs to the well broadcast poverty, did not prepare me for what I was going to experience. Kolkata, once known to the English traveller as Calcutta, it is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India and is the third most populous area in India.

My opportunity to photograph the streets and people of Kolkata came from the Hope foundation and professional photographer Mark Carey who regularly runs a week-long training workshop that in addition to providing photographers like myself the most amazing opportunity to build their personal portfolios, but also enables the Hope Foundation to raise some important funding and their profile for their valuable work with the local children.

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Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata. 30,000 children are trafficked into Kolkata on an annual basis to be forced into child prostitution, child labour and child slavery. The Hope Foundation was established in 1999 by Irish Humanitarian Maureen Forrest to help these children.They provide support to over 60 projects including education, primary healthcare, child protection, children’s shelters, vocational training and drugs rehabilitation. HOPE has extended its support and now provides a holistic approach to development which includes working with the children, their families and the community in Kolkata.

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Joining four other photographers we prepared ourselves as much we could before heading out onto the streets and slums that form the living areas of the local people. I can honestly say that what confronted me was challenging and life changing. But what struck me most and what I believe I captured was the spirit of the adults and children as they lived their lives, photographing everyday moments. For me the power of the images was in the expressions on their faces, there was so much joy and laughter in such difficult circumstances.

Initially they were curious and taken aback by our presence as we wandered in and out taking photographs, but they relaxed and engaged with our cameras, smiling and welcoming us into their world. I can honestly say these people touched me in a way I was not expecting. Their sense of pride and joy was humbling.

Whilst we were there we were invited to a special event put on by Hope, a picnic for some of the projects they fund. They ate, drank, played games and enjoyed colouring activities.

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I predominantly photograph my street images in black and white, but colour is an important element of visually recording India. My photos captured the very young through to the very old, living, working and getting on with their daily lives. My favourite images are of the children at play, just like children all around the world, enjoying climbing, exploring and making up their own games. The difference was in where they were found playing, not play parks and gardens, instead railway lines and amongst the confined spaces between the homes and make-shift buildings.

I travelled all the time with my Nikon D4s and two lenses The Nikkor 35mm F1.4 and the 28 1.4 although some days I alternated with the 35 and old but superb manual focus Nikkor 58 1.2. All the shots were handheld, the light was generally really good however it got dark quite early which is where the Nikon D4s really coped well as I quite often upped the ISO to 8000 to let me continue shooting without flash. I’m a great believer that it’s not about the size of the camera more about how you conduct yourself, how you move around and communicate that gets you the best images.

For me I can say that with all my heart I will be returning to India and extending my experiences of this beautiful land of extremes.

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Jan 152015
 

2014 – My year with Leica

By Jason Boucher

Long ago I read Mike Johnston’s post on The Online Photographer about a year with Leica and it would make you a better photographer. I wanted to jump in at the time, but at that time couldn’t imagine spending that much on an “old” camera and it would force me to buy a new lens. I ended up buying a used Bessa as well as a used Voigtlander lens. While the original article suggested to commit fully, I committed to at least 1 roll of film per month. In that year I relearned so much about photography. It slowed me down. It made me intentional in my shooting. It also was my 1st experience with a rangefinder and frankly, the focusing became second nature and something I preferred over the split prism I grew up with. I was happy with my Bessa and my m43 digital and DSLR autofocus kits. That year with film and my Bessa really did help me.

A couple of years ago, things changed for me. I took a new job where I was not providing social content and digital image assets to the company I work for. This freed me a bit from photography as work. I could do photography for me and for me only. Coincidentally at the same time, my friend at my local camera store, National Camera Exchange, called me one day and said they got a used M9 in mint condition. I went in and held it in my hands. Wow. It was love and lust at first sight. But…cash was still a problem and I left instead with a used M8. Figuring I could give it a try and not loose much money. I had 1 M -mount lens at the time, a Zeiss 35 f2.8, I attached it and shot it almost exclusively for a couple of months.

Here are a few shots from my summer vacation and family visit in North Dakota with the M8

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It was a lovely set up and gave me a few images that I truly cherish. That old M8 has some quirky but special mojo. To be honest, it is still my favorite black and white, digital camera of all time and one day hope to own one alongside my newer Leica digital M camera. That missing IR filter does something amazing to skin and skin tones. But…I just could not handle the noise of shutter as well as the inability, at least with my single lens I owned, to shoot at higher ISO’s and in lower light, something I do a lot. So I put it away and shot it on special occasion.

About mid way through 2014, I took the M8 on a trip again and was reminded of both the experience and the glorious output. So…I sold everything else I owned including my new Fuji XT1 as well as the M8 and came home with a used M240. Over the course of the fall I slowly added some used M mount glass. I know much has been written about the M240 and how some folks prefer the M9 CCD sensor. I had some experience with the CCD with the M8 and in certain instances do prefer it, the overall shooting experience, capability as well as the higher ISO capabilities make the M240 an easy and preferred choice for me. It just works.

M 240 Images…

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My Leica M240 has become an extension of my hand as well as the most amazing creative tool I have ever used. I am no professional and shoot only for myself, but I am pleased with and believe the camera has in fact been a driving factor in changing my personal style and satisfaction with photography. I know that for each of us that we all respond uniquely to gear and many feel that Leica’s are a bunch of hype. I thought that too, but in the end, I feel that it did help me develop, grow and output better images.

So….Even though I really only starting using Leica cameras halfway through 2014, I still consider it my year of Leica.  Hope you enjoy them and my wish to all of you in 2015 is that you find that muse, that tool, that thing that inspires you and helps you develop your craft and art.

Cheers

Jason
www.imaginegnat.com

Jan 132015
 

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Italy, Transylvania, Austria with Sony A7s, Olympus E-M1 and Leica

by Neil Buchan-Grant – See all of his guest posts HERE

Hi Steve,

I thought it was about time to share with you some of the pictures I’ve been making over the last year. As ever my photography has been mostly made with the Olympus EM1 but following on from your enthusiastic response to the Sony A7s, I decided to trade in my A7 for one. I only use the Leica M 50mm Summilux ASPH on the A7s but its a combination that, although limited in application, has proved to be a great one.

I spent most of the summer at home in England enjoying the fine weather we had here, but I booked myself a week of shooting in a villa on Lake Como in northern Italy for the end of August. The village I stayed in was buzzing as George Clooney was in town shooting his latest coffee commercial just before his wedding in Venice. I then had a very fruitful week in the marvellous city of Sibiu in Transylvania. I was given backstage access to a fashion show there which led to some intimate low light shots made with both cameras.

This was made in the hotel Villa D’Este, in the games room, with a Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/160s, f1.4 ISO 1600 Model: Thorn

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s, f1.4 ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Another shot in the city of Sibiu made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Leica DG 25mm 1.4, 1/200, f1.4, ISO 200, available light. Model: Amalia Beksi

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In London this shot used only available light and was made with the OMD EM1 and the new 40-150mm 2.8 lens @ 45mm, 1/50s, f2.8, ISO 1600

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During a quick break in Vienna Austria, I was lucky to come across an exhibition featuring the work of a New York fashion photographer of the 1950’s called Lillian Bassman. I found her work incredibly beautiful. She was a contemporary of the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but for me she took things to new levels of artistic endeavour with her innovative printing techniques and her eye for elegance and drama. I’ve since bought her book “Women” and I now long to work with long-necked women and couture hats!

This was shot in the villa on Lake Como with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/200s f1.4 ISO 800, available light (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Donutella Viola

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This was made in the villa on Lake Como with some continuous lights I had brought with me. Shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Olympus 17mm 1.8, 1/80s, f2.8, ISO 800 (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Chiara Sgarbossa

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I made this shot in the garden in Como with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/80s, f1.4. ISO 100, available light Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Another shot of Jessica made at the edge of Lake Como. It was shot at dusk with an off camera flash through a mini softbox on the Olympus OMD EM1 and the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 lens @ 12mm, 1/250s, f3.5, ISO 200. The image is a composite of the original colour version and a black and white conversion, blended to give a dramatic effect. Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s f1.4, ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Finally the prospect of more dark winter skies was too much so I booked a week in the Spanish Canary Islands over Hogmanay. I had the new Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 PRO lens on loan, it just went back today..:( and I was dying to use it in good light. Its’s a lens which I would happily recommend to anyone with a micro four thirds camera, it’s bitingly sharp! By some ridiculously lucky chance encounter, I ended up shooting a UK model who was there on vacation. This gave me some great opportunities to test this new lens on something other than landscapes. Thanks again for the opportunity to share these pictures with your readers.

I took this shot backstage at the fashion show in Transylvania with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/60s, f1.8, ISO 3200 available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Raluca Mararu

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This was also made at the same event with the OMD EM1 + 17mm 1.8, 1/100s, f1.8, ISO 1000, available light (grain added later in Silver FX Model: Rosalinda Mihaela Zadaroinea

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This image was made in the changing rooms with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f 1.4, ISO 1000, available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Cucerzan Adelina

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During my stay in Sibiu I was lucky to work with some of the models on locations in the city. This was made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 12-40mm lens, 1/320, f2.8, ISO 200 using an off camera flash through a mini softbox (18”) Models: Amalia Beksi and Flavia Bodi

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Kind Regards
Neil

Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

A few more…

This landscape in Fuerteventura was made with the OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 40mm, 1/320s, f4, ISO 200 Polariser

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This image was made at sunrise in Fuerteventura with the OMD EM1 + 12-40 2.8 PRO @ 12mm, 1/2500s, f2.8, ISO 200, Polariser

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Another one in Fuerteventura this time with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 115mm, 1/1600s, f2.8, ISO 200 available light Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made in Fuerteventura in available light with the OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/3200s, f1.8, ISO 200 Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made during a rehearsal of the English National Opera’s Nutcracker at the Colosseum in London. It was made with the OMD EM1 + 75mm 1.8 lens, 1/400, f1.8, ISO 3200 (grain added in Silver FX)

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This photo of people watching a firework display in Winchester was made with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f1.4 ISO 25,600

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Jan 082015
 

Me and my Fuji X100 (original)

by Jonas Luis

Hi, Steve!

I have followed your website for several years, now. I always look forward to new entries especially new reviews and daily inspirations submitted by photographers all over the world.

I started photography 8 years ago and was primarily a Nikon user. Then, came the Fujifilm X100. I just fell in love with the design of that camera. It reminded me of my Dad’s Kodak Retinette. So, I pre-ordered it and read all the online previews and rumors. I kept on waiting, even after production halted in the Fujifilm factory in Sendai, Japan due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami. After almost a year of waiting, I finally received my order. I wanted to use the X100 as my travel camera, not just as my primary travel camera, but my only travel camera. Of course, I had to contend with the built-in lens. I thought having a single lens would be liberating (if you have a DSLR with multiple lenses, you know the mental anguish of choosing which lenses to bring, packing, etc.) I sold all my other Nikon DSLRs but one, and traveled with my little X100. I also put-up a group pool in Flickr called X100rumors for users of the X100 camera and its future variants. Yes, coming from DSLRs, the X100 was frustrating initially: back-focusing issues, useless manual focus, camera freezing up, etc. (all of which were vastly improved and solved by firmware updates). Still, instead of traveling with an entire system, I now travel with “a camera”. In the beginning, the limitation of having a single lens bothered me. Soon after, it became a personal challenge to obtain the best image I can with that single focal length.

Before I took photography as a hobby, I usually buy souvenirs from my travels. Now, traveling with a camera, I am more inspired to bring home photographs of a place – photographs that I could truly call my own. Before traveling to a particular place for the first time, I would Google images of that specific place – trying to see note-worthy attractions, what tourists usually photograph. Then, I would choose which attractions to photograph, and imagine how I would shoot it in a way that probably nobody has ever done before (or at least not shown in Google images, Flickr or 500px). I usually take note of the predicted sunrise, sunset and weather on each day during my travel. As you all know, aside from the Golden Hour, a lot of exquisite images can also be taken in the rain. The following images were taken by my little X100 throughout the years. They were all re-sized for this website in Lightroom.

This first image was taken when I first saw the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I noticed that the other tourists had their cameras with zoom lenses and camera phones aimed only at the bridge. I soon spotted these array of coin-operated binoculars just in a corner, seemingly neglected – seating there while time and technology just whizzed by. They were probably fascinating and a novelty during their time, but now, just a relic. Yes, I was more enchanted by these shiny binoculars than the enormous man-made achievement that everybody flocked here for. I took a photograph of the binoculars, edited the image with Fujifilm’s free SilkyPix software and a free open-source software, Gimp. I ended up calling this piece, “The Old Robot”.

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Image number two: my girlfriend and I traveled to Chicago. I wanted to have a souvenir photograph of the “Cloud Gate” like everyone else who has been there. If you Google it, you would know that this piece of art has been photographed a million times. So, I decided to have our souvenirs by putting my X100 in a Tamrac Zip-shot tripod, attached an infrared filter and with a couple of Cokin neutral-density filters to the lens. I then set the camera on long-exposure. My girlfriend and I took turns photographing each other. The shots were very long exposures, so we would take a comfortable pose while the one photographing would continually wave his or her hand like a conductor in an orchestra – letting the other know that the shutter is still open and for not to move. The image was converted to black and white and edited in Lightroom.

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The third image is a photograph of the Smithsonian garden in Washington, DC using the same tripod and infrared filter. I was carefully composing my shot one afternoon, when a gentleman just sat down on the bench at middle of my frame and unmindfuly read the day’s newspaper. Irritation turned to inspiration when I started seeing the results on my X100’s LCD screen. To me, the resulting image just exuded leisure and relaxation. My office and I ended up gifting a framed print of it to a co-worker who recently retired.

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This photograph of the beach, was taken in Cancun, Mexico. I was initially drawn by the red color of the floaters. Up close, I was amused to see a beer bottle under the lifeguards’ tall chair. Looks like they had a little “refreshment” while at work. To me, the image says, “Chill out! You’re on vacation! You are not in the USA!”. This was edited in Lightroom.

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The fourth image was taken in Richmond, Virginia. While gazing up the monuments and buildings, it reminded me of the architecture in the Eastern Bloc during the cold-war era. So, I edited this image to have a utopian look in Lightroom.

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My foray into street photography is pretty limited. Unlike other photographers, it is hard for me to find something to photograph on the street, that to me, seems worth-while. Maybe, I don’t have an eye for real street photography, or maybe, because of my little experience with a film camera as a child, that I try not to waste a photograph unless I see a potential story in the picture. In my mind, I keep on judging a potential photograph as just a regular snapshot, or a potential story that is worth telling. In this case, my girlfriend and I were crossing the street in Chicago, after a late dinner. I saw this cyclist coming towards us. It was close to midnight, it was cold, it was raining and I thought, “Why is this guy out here on such a miserable night? Is he going home? Going to see his lady, perhaps?” Granted, he could just be a regular commuter but I can’t sometimes help making up crazy stories like these. So, without thinking, I just stopped in the middle of the street and took a photograph while the cyclist and all the cars are rushing towards me. All the while, my girlfriend is shouting at me to cross the street. Until this day, whenever I look at this image, I still wonder where this night cyclist was heading to. This image was edited in Gimp.

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Image seven is a photograph of the outdoor public market in my hometown in the Philippines. During some days of the week, there is a public outdoor market, and vendors are there as early as two in morning, preparing their wares and produce. I took this photograph around sunrise. Now, I don’t know any of these people. I was only walking around taking photographs. I like this particular photograph because when I took it, I was in the middle of the crowd. But as you can see, I was nothing but invisible to everybody. Everyone had their own stance, their own gaze – as if actors on a stage and only I, could notice the play unfolding. Almost like a Renaissance painting. Edited in Lightroom.

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This colorful image of lights was taken at Disney World. I took this hand-held with the X100. I was surprised when I opened this image on my computer because it already looked perfect, straight out of the camera. The X100 has a great low-light capability. I converted it in-camera from RAW to Velvia. I only increased contrast a very tiny bit in Gimp. But you are hard-pressed to tell the difference between the edited from the original.

JonasLuis_8

This next image of a crashing wave is when my X100 nearly got nearly got killed. I was in Pebble Beach in California. I was trying to take photographs of incoming waves with a small tripod. Because the X100 doesn’t have a zoom lens, you really have to keep the camera a little close to the water, the tripod was set low and and I was almost seating on the rocks. Anyway, while composing my shot, I noticed a rather large wave coming in. I was quickly debating if I should go back and save my camera, or hold my ground and maybe, will have a helluva of a shot. I decided to hold my ground. So, as soon as the wave came crashing in, I took a single frame then immediately, raised my camera with the tripod over my head. My shorts got wet, but that little gamble paid off. Image edited in SilkyPix.

JonasLuis_9

The last image was taken in Baltimore, Maryland during one summer. There were a bunch of kids playing and running around the fountain. Like in a playground, all these kids were all chasing each other and playing despite being practically strangers to each other, all but these two boys. I saw that they were in their own little world, brothers – probably twins. Somehow, it reminded me of my brother and I, during my own childhood. So, I edited this image in Lightroom in a way that invokes a sense of nostalgia.

JonasLuis_10

All these images were taken by my beloved Fujifilm X100. It was only more than a year ago, that I upgraded my computer that I was able to embrace Lightroom and Photoshop. For more than five years, I was using a free program called Gimp and also the SilkyPix software that came with my X100. To me, having the X100, limitation became inspiration. Could I have made these shots with a DSLR, given the chance? Most definitely. But I selected a particular tool and made full use of it. Even my choice of editing software is of no importance. Coming home from a travel, I usually personally judge my photographs if they are worth the ink and paper they will be printed on, if not, I usually not bother sharing them. Years ago, I would spend more on gadgets and lenses. Now, I’d rather spend on printing and framing and decorating the house.

Finally, I continually strive for the elusive “6-second photograph”. If a stranger is able to look at a photograph for six seconds or more the first time, then I would consider that as a very successful photograph. Have I tested that silly theory? No. But it’s a lifelong goal that keeps me on clicking.

I hope I can inspire all of you, especially to those who are just starting photography, that regardless of the camera that you have, regardless of the latest editing software, the most important thing is your own vision and the stories you can tell. Only after extensive use of your camera that you will develop your own style and personal inspiration in photography. Even in music, the student plays somebody else’s music in the beginning. Only when they feel comfortable and proficient with their own instrument, when they usually feel inspired making their own tunes. Gadgets, extra lenses and accessories are fun, but most of the time, they just distract you from your own imagination.

Now, with my X100, would I be upgrading? Maybe not anytime, soon. Now unless… Fuji comes up with a X100T in graphite silver? :)
Keep on clicking!

Jonas Luis

JonasLuis.com

Dec 272014
 

Perfect and Special Shots

by Dirk Dom -See a few more posts from Dirk HERE

Hi!

I’m a mechanical engineer, specialized in machining. I never had any kind of art training. I made the switch from technically competent to artistic photographer four years ago. I’m sorry if that sounds like bragging, but to me the switch was very obvious: my productivity increased tenfold, I discovered images everywhere and my images got different. I think a lot about my work, and I put out the following to check out if this makes sense.

I wonder what impact my prints have on other people, who just see them. People get such a barrage of extremely beautiful, interesting and spectacular images during the 40,000 photorealistically engineered images they get on TV commercials every year that it’s little use trying to compete with that with just your own photographs. For me, every print is a work. I searched for it, waited for it, discovered it, shot it, went back for it, processed it, printed it, etc. To people, it’s just one of a hundred thousand nice images. Maybe I should go for images with more than just beauty. I got sent thirty images from a friend, all supposed to be the very best in the world, you know one of these typical things that get sent on the Net. Four or five I considered interesting, these had something extra. I looked at ten years’ worth of winners in a big photo contest and four images appealed to me. I think the shots I selected now for my spring portfolio all have something extra, but other people may not think so. Perfection and something extra aren’t the same. Perfection does get boring: I got the comment with my former shots that, yes, again, all just perfect and extremely beautiful, but all the same and boring.

I did a show in the Arboretum in Kalmthout, three months, with twenty-three 2 foot 8 inch prints, flowers and insects. All extremely beautiful images, but without something extra, I now see. No feedback at all. People couldn’t care less. When I took these and processed them, I wasn’t at the stage I’m at now yet. A year ago I almost stopped flower photography because there was no challenge in it anymore. I started doing flower shots with something extra this spring, and I think that now, I’m on the right track: the challenge is back.

Here’s what I mean by having a perfect shot and a shot with something extra:

This is a perfect shot. It can’t get any better, but there are thousands and thousands like it. To me, taking a shot like this is routine and boring. Put me anywhere in a place with flowers and I’ll make twenty like these, all perfect, without any effort.

image005

This is flax. I simplified the shot. Very beautiful, perfect. Although nice and pleasing, there are thousands of shots like this.

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This is a shot with something extra. The background is not what you expect, the framing is different, it reads from right to left and the middle flower isn’t perfect. Discovering it while shooting is a true surprise and the outcome is, too. I now know how to search for such a shot, I discovered it two years ago.

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Shots like this one above are extremely rare, I have maybe ten of these, but it’s also gotten routine.

Here’s another one:
Who’d shoot a stupid green flower which isn’t perfect? Yet it has a great impact to me.

image009

An insect shot I consider interesting. Such images don’t just happen. You need to discover your subject. This shot took me ten minutes of gradually improving until I got it right.

image011

My nuclear blast images fall into the interesting category I think, but they’re so rare, I shoot max. one or two a year and I only figured out how to discover and make them reliably four months ago. But here we get into another problem: although this image is made in the forest and only had minimal postprocessing, no one is going to believe that. It’s instantly dismissed as a Photoshop gimmick and so it’s worth is zero.

image010

Of course I do photoshop gimmicks. They are too much fun!! This is an image of a little seed and a flower. I call it “Alien Encounter”. It reminds me of the “Doomsday machine” episode of Star Trek. I think this is an interesting shot. It took me many minutes to discover it after I saw the plush.

image017

Perfection has its price. For four years I shot hamamelis in February, I took hundreds of shots, searching like mad amongst the hundreds of thousands of flowers, all nice, maybe close to perfect, but boring.
Then this shot happened to me:

image018

This was what I had been striving for. I never shot Hamamelis again.

But maybe I shouldn’t go for the gimmick effects but for the truly exceptional:

image019

I’ve been shooting this kind of flower for thirty years, until I discovered this one in deep shade in the forest, with just one petal remaining. That was four years ago. The shot took no effort at all. Only at home I discovered what I had. I haven’t bothered shooting this flower again because I can’t top it.

I’ll never make an image of this simplicity with this kind of light again. I consider it the best I’ve ever made.

There is no info about stuff like this at all on the Net. I don’t know where to go to get tutoring on such things. I really wish I could do art school, but that ‘ll have to wait until I’m retired.

I realize I put myself wide open to sarcasm by calling my own shots beautiful and interesting. So be it. What I’d like to know is if I’m on the right track here. What do you think about perfect and interesting shots?

Bye,

Dirk.

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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